Friday, September 17, 2010

The image that says "D&D" to me

I came to D&D late in my gaming career, only acquiring a copy of the AD&D Players Handbook last year, at the ripe age of 27. Thus this image, while dazzling to my adult self, didn't have near the impact that it would have had on my 12-year-old self had I seen it back then.

Anyway, this is the image that says "D&D" to me. Part of me wants to yell "Don't look at that freakin' mouth, there's some glowing eyes at the end of the hallway! Get your shields up!"

Anytime I want to get juiced up for fantasy gaming, I take a look at this image. And whenever I need to get in the right mindset for D&D in particular (what with its adventuring parties, hirelings, 10-foot poles, secret doors and the like) I take a look at the following image.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My ever-changing gaming interests

It's been months since I've run a roleplaying game, mainly because I've been spending lots of time painting miniatures — and consequently I've been gravitating toward games that will give me an opportunity to actually use those painted miniatures!

Lately I've found a group of guys in Chicago who play Song of Blades & Heroes, the excellent little fantasy skirmish game that I discovered earlier this year. We've been meeting twice a month, or thereabouts, to talk trash and move our little fantasy figures around the table. It doesn't hurt that the game shop where we meet is just 4 blocks from my apartment in Chicago!

The thing with Song of Blades & Heroes is that it's almost a roleplaying game. You can choose unique-looking miniatures, name your characters, send them on specific tasks, etc. The game mechanic is simple enough that it can be adapted to handle typical roleplaying tasks.

For our most recent game, we set up some dungeon blocks to create a full-on tabletop labyrinth, and then we rolled up a "quest for the magic item" scenario that pitted a squad of dark elves against a marauding crew of gladiators and a patrol of evil snakemen. Badass!

Since GenCon, I've become enamored with sci-fi miniatures gaming — starships in particular, probably a direct result of me sitting in on an excellent demo of War Rocket, the pulp sci-fi starship game from Hydra Miniatures.

During the drive back to Chicago, I realized that I loved the War Rocket ruleset, but I decided to collect a more "generic" looking set of starships, so I could potentially use them for Full Thrust, Starmada or any of the other fleet-action rulesets out there. Full Thrust, by the way, is available for free on the web from Ground Zero Games.

I'm just a week or so away from trying out my first game of Full Thrust (or War Rocket, depending on the group). For now, I'm trying to create my own sci-fi milieu, rather than use a published setting. (Aside: Starship minis games seem to have this disturbing tendency to make all their factions into fascimiles of political blocs that exist today on Earth. So we have space Russians, space Japanese, space Germans, space Americans, etc. Weird, that. How about some aliens?)

I'm also deliberately building my starship fleets using a variety of models from different manufacturers. This is explicitly encouraged in Full Thrust, much to my delight. So far, I'm using models from Silent Death, Firestorm Armada, Star Fleet Battles and AeroTech. Check back for photos soon!

My sci-fi bug hasn't stopped with starships, though...I'm contemplating getting some old MechWarrior click-base figures to rebase and use with Future War Commander or Dirtside. I priced out some pieces last night, and it looks like I can get two armies for $30 or so. And of course, they're prepainted...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Flying Blind Down the Railroad Tracks

We played our second session of ICONS last night, and I was not a fully prepared GM. I had miscalculated. I was completely ready to finish the previous (published) adventure (The Skeletron Key), to simply show up and play Heroclix, or to play some combination of the two. But throughout the day before the game, I started to get the feeling that the players who showed up for this game wouldn't have a strong overlap with players from the first game. So, I downloaded the second (published) adventure for ICONS (Sins of the Past) and read/skimmed about 3/4 of it on the el on the way home from work.

Surely enough, we had four players, but only one from the original game. So, we played the new adventure. Like the first adventure, Sins of the Past was a real railroad. I'm generally not into railroading my players, but I understand that non-sandbox adventures tend to be railroads, and the GM just has to deal. When I've run railroady adventures in the past, I feel like I've done well on the fly modifying the adventure to fit what the players do. But this time was different: I simply didn't know the adventure well, and I hadn't read the ending before we started playing.

I think I did alright at the beginning. Within literally the first 10 minutes, the players had left the tracks. They were supposed to form a friendly relationship with the Golden Agents - a classic superhero group from the WWII era - and the Golden Agents would help lead them through the adventure. But the relationship didn't work out this way. This was partially because of my actions. In the earlier game, one of the characters threw a helicopter into a skyscraper, and the one repeat player wasn't very popular as a result. The Golden Agents reacted accordingly. For the most part, this worked out fine, and we managed to progress through set scenes in the adventure with a plot reconstructed on the fly.

But I made a bad decision at the end, right as we got into the part that I had quickly skimmed/not read at all. The characters by all rights should've captured a super villain (a talking monkey with a tommie gun!), and I didn't let them. My actions were a little believable, given the capacities the villains had shown in the past, but they were way too facile - a probability controlling teleporter snatched the hostage away in a single turn. In retrospect, I realize that I did this out of desperation - I simply didn't know what was coming next, and a hostage was the railroaded outcome of the scene (which in turn would lead the PCs to the next scene). Now that I've thought about it and read the full adventure, I know that I clearly didn't need to do this. So, I'm thinking about a retcon to even things out in the next game.

But I still feel like I made a rookie mistake: I railroaded the players with a bs move to further the pre-existing plot. I know that kind of thing can grind. Just goes to show that you shouldn't fly blind down the railroad tracks.