Friday, 27 May 2016

Dueling Samurai + Edo Jidai

Dueling Samurai. 
Richard is a fine fellow living in Thames, New Zealand. Over the last few years he has been building an exciting new board game in his shed. Dueling Samurai: A vicious and epic Samurai Era board game! I met Richard at the MindSports Festival and he told me of his time in Japan and how his friends wanted to play Risk but it wasn't his cup of sake. It occurred to him that he would rather have a more engaging and interactive game, inspired by both the historical and mythical Japan.

Well, it's all in here! Spying, Assassination, Ninja Attacks, Navy, Snipers, Brothels, Festivals, Ceremony, Religious Conversion, Sumo, Ronin, Pirates, Bandits, Bribery, Hostages, Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Tsunami, Typhoons, and Flooding. You play a legendary clan leader in Feudal Japan, a war torn and blood soaked nation. You must defeat your rivals. Command and conquer. Forge the Edo Jidai with your Dueling Samurai!

After hosting tournaments with vigorous (and thoroughly enjoyable) play-testing, Richi has decided it's time to take his game to the world. He is also releasing the game in multiple languages, including French, German and of course, Japanese!

Ritchie's project is live:

Any help to spread the word would be appreciated. Better yet, back it!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Return to Blackhawk + Dungeons & Dragons

A real treasure. 
We started off Monday night (game night) with a trip down the road to help herd a couple of rogue cows out of a back garden and back into the paddock. Lewis was away, so I wasn't expecting a call for help from the Morgans. Anyway, the Tamahere Officers Club came to the rescue!

I was back in the DM seat this week, after a couple of sessions as a player (with Lewis running Dungeon Crawl Classics). It was a slow start but our group of Cowherders were in a good mood and there was an enthusiastic rummage through the character sheet pile to find the surviving members of the D&D Blackhawk campaign.

Dave and Blair's characters leapt at the opportunity to leave Lolth's lair via a mysterious shimmering golden door. Thus they were transported back in the surrounding area of Shallow Water. Or to be more precise, brought to a ledge halfway up the mountain, beneath the ruined city of Blackhawk. A glorious sunset greeted them. In the distance a pair of dragons danced above the clouds, then decended towards the cliff face.

During the evening there were nostalgic moments. Greg had missed a few sessions, so there was some tying up of loose threads and sharing details about the journey so far. Also apparent were the many different unresolved quests (for want of a better word). It's great that there are still some things left undone.

The aforementioned dragons brought the characters swiftly down the mountain, over the ramshackle town of Shallow Water and across the lake, to Sorcerers Isle. Although the druid decided to transform into a hawk and fly under his own power.

Upon landing there was a brief reunion with the magi and covenfolk (3 days of healing and identifying magic items). They then gathered together a small group and embarked upon a quick reconnaissance mission to determine the nature of the mysterious attackers that had continued to harass the Covenant in their absence. The players are not ones to rest on their laurels.

Greg and Blair also picked some new characters to play from the NPC roster, bolstering the party with a cleric and another magic-user. Grim Eustace and Nickleback, both 7th level characters, will no doubt make themselves useful during the campaign. Dave's dwarven cleric Helgon also made a comeback. Last seen disappearing into a crevasse on the back of a falling ettin, the dwarf was previously missing and presumed terminally flat.

Not mine but the cover speaks to me. 
The night ended in a cliff cavern after an encounter with frog men and a weird frog boy with a green dagger. The later mysteriously disappeared before the battle began. And what of the red frogs that sprang from the rune-carved cauldron, leaping through a crack in the wall?

So it really has been RPG month. Playing and DMing in a fine fellowship. What more could one ask for?

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Dungeon Crawl Classics + Funnel Adventure

Zero Charisma. 
On Monday night we completed the funnel adventure for our first game of Dungeon Crawl Classics. Lewis again was in fine form as our DM and despite sacrificing more characters for the greater good (to avoid Total Party Kill), spirits were high. The final encounters were the stuff of a high-cthulhu-fantasy epic.

However, as we sat at the table leveling up to 1st level, choosing a class for the surviving characters and rolling new hit dice, I asked myself the question, "Is the Dungeon Crawl Classics funnel system any different from what we do normally?" Or is it a knee jerk reaction to the level creep that has existed since Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was released? I mean who would want to play a mere Fighter when the superior 'sub-classes' Ranger and Paladin are on offer?

Henchman = Meatshield
The funnel adventure is a meat grinder module for zero level characters. It's reminiscent of how we played back in the day with henchmen supporting our first 1st level characters. Each character could hire as many as allowed by their Charisma attribute. Those henchmen were often non-player character 'meatshields' but could be promoted to player characters when the need arose; essentially giving the players a chance to keep playing during a session if their character died. However, most henchmen were 1st level fighters. Preferably strong ones if we were following the rules for encumbrance.

My early days of D&D in the 80's often involved large groups of players to begin with. The first character I played was a hobbit, at primary school, with around twenty classmates. Later on, the library sessions at high school often had a dozen kids at the table. I recall the game where everyone died except Claris the Cleric. We were travelling down a dungeon corridor and opened a door to discover a solitary Orc. One by one our characters fell, slain by the Orc who held the doorway. Claris was at the tail end of the party with his trusty mace. Victory (and a costly lesson in tactics), was ours! Alex wrote down the experience points on his character sheet while the rest of us rolled up new characters.

Normal Humans = DCC Zero Level Characters
During those days of sudden character death it was just as common for a new character to be rolled up quickly while other players continued the game. The dead character would be quickly looted and out of the bushes, or around the next corner of the dungeon, a friendly fresh-faced adventurer would join the party.

Those early games were run using the early D&D rules. Not Advanced Dungeons & Dragons but the Mentzer boxed sets that came out in the early eighties. Our DM had the earlier (Whitebox and Moldvay) sets and hallowed AD&D rules, which we would soon progress to anyway.

The Moldvay Basic Set (page 40) told us that any Normal Human gaining Experience Points via adventuring must choose a character class. Normal Humans were listed in the monster section of the rules and were non-player characters run by the Dungeon Master. The player action began at 1st level. Unless you were playing in that quirky AD&D module that began with a shipwreck: Treasure Hunt.

Treasure Hunt 
Treasure Hunt (1986) was my first ever 'zero-level' adventure, where player characters earn their way to 1st level. The DM takes notes during play and player actions determine what class each character will evolve into; Fighters will have spent time fighting, Magic-Users investigating magic, Thieves being sneaky, etc. Everyone begins as a zero level shipwreck survivor and must equip and do the best they can with what they have. This was probably best exhibited by Geoff's homosexual half-orc but perhaps that's best left for another post?

The only other time I played a zero level character before Dungeon Crawl Classics was as a Cavalier (AD&D). It needs to be said that despite the continued (and massive) level creep inherent in the Unearthed Arcana character classes, like the (incredibly overpowered) Barbarian and Cavalier, the later had some really cool ideas; like a percentile mechanic for increasing attributes each level.

The Cavalier also had not one but two 'zero' levels (Horseman and Lancer) before reaching 1st level (Gallant). Of course a zero level Cavalier is not a Normal Human! They begin with the trappings of wealth and privilege. A far cry from the pitiful yet lovable characters we played in the funnel adventure. A Cavalier in our party would have stood out like proverbial dog's balls. In the spirit of DCC, we would have jumped him (while he slept) and dolled out his equipment to our jeweler, cheesemaker, forester, gambler, trapper, herbalist, sage, merchant, locksmith, cobbler, farmer and jester!

Sailors of the Starless Sea
So, how did our party fare as Sailors of the Starless Sea? Just under half made 1st Level! For the other less fortunate characters, even a great name or the occasional attribute bonus did not save them from random and senseless tragic endings. Hit Points are the only stat that matters on a character sheet.

Alys the Jeweler + Death by spear
Farold 'the Blessed' Winterborn + Death by mace
Bryndwr the Elven Forester + Death by flail
Lucky Brolt the Gambling Man - Thief 1st Lvl
John the Trapper + Death by Sea creature? 
Herbie Sweetleaf the Herbalist - Cleric 1st Lvl
Megan Fox the Elven Sage - Elf  1st Lvl
Honesty Jones the Merchant - Fighter 1st Lvl
Irasmus Oggon the Locksmith + Death by chest trap
Chuu Murcot the Cobbler - Fighter 1st Lvl
Enion Gug the Farmer + Death by drowning
Eibur Japthon the Jester + Death by cudgel

I am comparing DCC to D&D and not the other (numerous and varied) RPG's I have played because this is House Rules D&D with the roof set on fire. The zero level funnel is a gimmick and one that works. Why? It's in the spirit of the game. It really is no different to the attrition rate suffered in the first few levels of any D&D game. The first time I ran 3rd Edition D&D, the players lost half their characters in an ambush they set for a Troll. Their characters were tough and the traps they set were effective but they clearly underestimated the 3rd Edition Troll's new special abilities. Grievous the barbarian was torn in half!

In the immortal words of an INXS song, "Sometimes you kick, sometimes you get kicked," It's a learning experience.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Dungeon Crawl Classics + Creatures of Chaos

Happy Camper Lewis. Our DM.
Thanks to Lewis, our group had it's first foray into the depths of Dungeon Crawl Classics on Monday night. Each player rolled up some decidedly old school D&D characters and we launched straight into the adventure funnel; basically the old 'zero level' idea of earning your way from peasant (apprentice, neophyte or squire) to 1st level in a character class.

Blair, Dave and I had four characters each. This is part of the funnel experience. So who did we have in this party of ruffians?

Alys the Jeweler
Farold 'the Blessed' Winterborn
Bryndwr the Elven Forester
Lucky Brolt the Gambling Man
John the Trapper
Herbie Sweetleaf  (a Herbalist)
Megan Fox the Elven Sage
Honesty Jones the Merchant
Irasmus Oggon the Locksmith
Chuu Murcot the Cobbler
Enion Gug  (a Farmer)
Eibur Japthon the Jester

All the characters were created following the following steps.

1. Roll ability scores (3d6 each) and Hit Points (1d4)
2. Roll for Birth Auger (Luck Table)
3. Roll 1d30 for zero level occupation
4. Roll 1d24 for extra item

Four characters on one sheet.

Of the character list above, the first four were mine. Unfortunately, having rolled poorly for the luck attribute on all their sheets, a random gift from the glorious luck table during character generation provided no bonus except an opportunity for backstory (a reward in and of itself). Oh well, better luck next time?

For example, Lucky Brolt has 7 Luck and according to his augur, was conceived on horseback. Due to a low Luck score, he will receive a penalty when riding. With an Intelligence of 5, it's more likely he fell from a horse as a baby. Already this guy has chutzpah! Even his grating 8 Personality doesn't stop him from being a lovable rogue, born under a bad sign!

I have always found the most important stat on a character sheet to be Hit Points. These determine the sliding scale between life and death. Hey, I even named this blog Hits To Kill! Given that zero level characters have 1d4 hit points, death is only going to be a hit roll away. This is truely old school gaming. This is how we roll!

So let's get to the game then! A random rumor table at the local tavern catapulted the party off to a nearby castle ruins in search of missing villagers. There were warnings about a 'well of lost souls' and such, that were obviously magnets for our intrepid (or tepid?) explorers.

Look at the hand drawn map. Miniatures for party order.

Lewis put pen to paper, drawing a map as he described what our characters discovered as they explored the ruined stronghold. No stone was left unturned or fallen foe unsearched. Anything not tied down, even somethings securely fastened, were looted. Sigils and runes were examined and speculations made. Problem solving by trail and error. This was theater of the mind stuff. It took me back to my first games of Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon Warriors, Rune Quest and Warhammer (Fantasy Roleplay) when I was a younger seeker of adventure.

I don't want to give away too much but a semi-sentient black goo and broody miasma were never far from our characters. Oft times too close for comfort. Farold was burnt to a crispy, toast-like death in the roofless temple while trying to best black tendrils with his flaming torch. Irasmus found a censer, which when refreshed with a new lit cone of incense, proved to be a bane against the goo.

We also found the missing villagers, now marked by Chaos and rather more bestiary versions of their former selves. Oops. That was a major spoiler. Perhaps the wonderful and varied beastmen we encountered had merely eaten the villagers and donned their clothing?

Elven Gymnast?

Each battle was a terror to behold, as can be expected with non-skilled combatants. Alys went down suddenly and hard, losing her solitary Hit Point to a spear wielding, parrot-headed humanoid. More horrific was the immediate hurried looting of her sputtering corpse by her own party.

This was a fun game. Lewis is a professional storyteller by trade (when he's not gaming). One of his loves is the fabled Minotaur. So when Honesty John, purveyor of fine wares, opened the door to a snorting bull-headed axeman with mighty thews, a cheer went up from the players!

Previous victims of the beastmen,

A sliver of light sped from Lucky Brolt's left hand, over Honesty John's merchant cap, leaving Alys' dagger deep in the bull-man's neck. 20! A grevious wound! Like a bolt of lightning, Bryndwr hurled a spear from across the room. Fatality! With a mournful moo, the horned beast fell, clutching at the spear protruding from his chest. The menagerie of beastmen routed. Huzzah!

This encouraged the party even more than the destruction of the well and the slaughter above the gatehouse. They descended the stairs with grim determination. The players (and the DM)? Grinning from ear to ear.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Sculpting Fantasy Miniatures + Ninja Warrior

Ninja Warrior. 
I knocked out another assignment this week for my Bachelor of Ministries. I also sculpted this miniature of a Ninja Warrior. My inspiration came from the games of Bushido and AD&D Oriental Adventures I played in the 80s with my school friends in Te Kuiti.

In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons the Ninja was a class you chose to play, like Thief or Fighter. Bushido was more subtle: the Ninja had a cover class. So if you rolled high enough during character creation to play a Ninja, you rolled again for another class. This other class was the role of your character during daylight, when they weren't up to more covert activities.

Deathtrap Dungeon Ninja. 
This miniature also brings back memories of watching a swag of classic ninja videos, an encounter in Deathtrap Dungeon, the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Talisman of Death and the adventure game book series called The Way of the Tiger (by Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson).

Sculpting from a wire frame with Tamiya Epoxy Putty. 

God bless you and enjoy your week!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

May The Fourth Be With You!

Yes, it's Monday night, game night. Celebrating 4th May this week with a game of Star Wars X-Wing. Dave brought his fantastic miniature collection and Lewis supplied the fabulous terrain.

Greg and I were the X-Wing fighter pilots, while Dave had Chewbacca piloting the Millenium Falcon (while Han was fixing the turret?), in a mad dash to collect the stranded BB-8 Droid.

Lewis and Blair were on the Dark-side, with a bunch of Tie-fighters, also after the droid. The table and ideas based loosely on scenes from The Force Awakens. I also had the movie soundtrack playing as mood music. A great game that saw a victory for the Empire. The Millenium Falcon sustaining too many hits before the X-Wings could provide support. A great game! May the fourth be with you!

That's not right! Hand me the hydrospanner!