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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mail Call 29 JUN 2011

Pics from EBay, you all know the drill.

I already had some of these, but I got them pretty darned cheap and can always use more OA minis.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mail Call 28 JUN 2011

Once again the picture is from the EBay auction.

Honestly, I don't even know if I already have a copy of this. I saw an absurdly low minimum bid with low shipping and figured I'd give it a shot. I won. I am pretty sure I don't already own it, but I have scored a lot of d6 Star Wars stuff cheap over the last few months.

Also, I know I promised my take on shield walls for today, but I had to take advantage of the good weather today and get some outdoor work done. Soon, when I get the time to sit and think on it. I haven't forgotten my B/X WW2 project either, more is forthcoming on that front too.

Monday, June 27, 2011

In which I finally weigh in on the Great Shield Controversy of 2011

Pictured- Myself in the red and white fleurs-de-lys about to lose in the quarter-final round of Aethelmearc's fall 2004 Crown Tourney to Duncan Von Halstern.

But first a story about why I don't generally tinker too much with rules. When I was a kid and just started gaming one of my best friends was Darryl C. Jr., his dad was Darryl C. Sr. and he was an old school wargamer. When Darryl and I became friends it was right around the time D&D was hitting it big, and since we were both nerdy smart kids, we started playing at roughly the same time. I actually met him when I organized my school's D&D club when I was in 7th grade.

This cautionary tale revolves around his dad though, Big Darryl. Big Darryl was a wargamer and actually really hated the abstract nature of D&D combat. He wasn't thrilled with the Vancian magic system either. He was an early seeker of other RPG systems and a big adopter of house rules, often adapted from other RPGs. He tried on numerous occasions to get us to abandon D&D for Dragonquest, because it was far superior in his opinion. He also tweaked and house-ruled that system.

Ultimately, his hatred of D&D led to him buying pretty much every alternative system that came along down the pike while he designed his own medieval fantasy RPG so he could mine them for ideas. This led to weirdly incompatible systems being grafted together GURPS and DQ and Harnmaster and Rolemaster and Twilight:2000 and FASA Star Trek and a dozen other games all provided systems and subsystems along with his own, often quite brilliant ideas, as he sought the Holy Grail of medieval fantasy RPGs; and it was never going to happen, just because lightning struck and it shambled forth you couldn't call Frankenstein's creation life. He never realized he wasn't after the Grail. He was after the Questing Beast.

I don't know how many times we sat down at his table over the course of decades making characters and trying to playtest because after a year or five he was ready to give it another go. There would be a stack of reference books covering the center of the table and several of us, usually at least Darryl and I, would have been coached on how the new, improved version works, so we could help out the other playtesters. Then, usually, the playtest will fall apart because some essential part of character generation was dictated to me on a car trip when I was twelve and we can't find the napkin it was written on and never transcribed onto anything else, or we realize that the magic system we thought we were using got revised out two revisions ago and he didn't think that was important enough to mention during our training seminars.

So I think long and hard before I decide to mess around with the rules as written, they either have to be ambiguous enough that a clarification is definitely needed or just bad. Changing rules for the sake of making a fantasy game's abstract combat system more realistic just leads to madness, a madness that I have been experiencing on and off for three decades.

Now lets talk about shields. It has already been bandied about the blogosphere that Gary and Dave and the rest of the guys that designed D&D and played it in the early days didn't really have any experience with either armor or shields, or weapons for that matter.

Well I do. I have fought heavy in the SCA since I was in my twenties. I don't fight as much now as I used to, but I am getting older; I'll be 42 next month. I will tell you all that there are a few caveats to what I have to say about shields with regards to my SCA experience, but largely what I have to say holds true according to both ancient and medieval accounts.

First- All shields should just give a pretty awesome cover bonus to missile attacks. "Shields Up!" didn't come from Star Trek first, it's the command to raise your shields against missile fire, and it's pretty easy for even an inexperienced person to throw their shield between them self and incoming arrows. This I would base on the size of the shield. A small shield would give you a +1 AC bonus vs Missiles, a medium shield +3 and a large shield +5; providing you were unsurprised, otherwise the shield is practically useless.

As to the use of shields in mêlée, here's where it gets tricky; if you want to model my real life experience as a sword and shield fighter you need to know a couple of things. First, I am tall and strong, which is a huge advantage in combat. Second, training and experience are more valuable than size and strength. So, to model the first part I would give everyone the +1 AC bonus for using a shield AND then give them their STR bonus (Strength Damage Adjustment in AD&D) as an AC bonus added to their shield too. This models their ability to use their brute force to push and maneuver their opponents weapons with their shield in a manner advantageous to themselves. Then add their to hit bonus to their AC, which is admittedly easier to model in 3e where it is explicitly written that you get +1/every so often; but you can figure it out from the attack tables in the DMG or using THAC0 too. This models their superior ability to deflect blows and anticipate strikes. Plus they stop making all the mistakes that inexperienced Fighters make, like stepping out from the cover of their shield to attack or opening up to look or just dropping their guard because they thought they were out of threat range (or their shield arm got tired). "That makes higher level Fighters damned near impossible to hit when they have a shield then!" you say, and you are correct; except against other high level Fighters or big-ass monsters or missile weapons or anyone that rolls a 20.

Missile weapons already got covered and high level Fighters are pretty obviously well matched against each other so I'll move on to big-ass monsters. D&D has done a pretty suck job of modeling the advantage I have as a 6'6" man versus a smaller man of similar experience, reach and stature just don't come into play, nor does mass; so I am going to fix it for the big monsters anyway. One of the things I did like about 3e was the size classes. I am not thrilled that "Man-Sized" or "Medium" still covered a range from Tall Halflings to Tall Half-Orcs but I'll take what I can get. Anyway, I figure the size and mass of a creature that is a size class larger than you negates 1/2 of your mêlée shield bonus, go one more size class up and you back down to it being it's base +1 and holding.

Now, anyone rolling a natural 20. A natural 20 as far as I can remember is always a hit in pretty much every edition of D&D right? So that's not a problem, even your 0-level torchbearer can hit Mr. 20th level Fighter with a 20. Next, and I stress that this is a pretty easy optional rule to add to the Fighters with Shields are nigh invincible stuff that I have written here; on a natural 20* make a save vs crushing blow for the shield every single time. If the shield fails, it becomes useless. Not necessarily destroyed, maybe it's repairable. Could be as simple as a broken strap. Or maybe it was shattered. Whatever. You're the DM.

Now let me wrap up a couple of loose ideas here, siege engines and giant hurled rocks should not be treated like normal missiles, at best a shield user should get a +1 AC bonus. Next shield walls, I have never seen real shield wall tactics in use in D&D, so I wasn't inclined to think it through too much, but I will if anyone really wants to know what I think.

*Option 2- make 2 handed bludgeoning/hacking weapons do this on a 19-20. For magic weapons increase the shield destroying threat range by their +. Let people deliberately target the shield for destruction if they are armed with axes or halberds or mauls, then assume the shield is AC 10 (9) + DX bonus of wielder and has however many hit points you think a shield of it's size, type and state of use should have. Magic shields should get a serious bonus on this, maybe get a save vs crushing blow every time they get hit to see whether or not they take any damage at all.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mail Call 25 JUN 2011

Once again picture from EBay auction.

Yep, I got a second nearly pristine first printing of the D20 Star Wars RPG. In my defense, I really didn't think I'd get one for the minimum bid, much less both. I guess when we decide to play it can't hurt to have two books at the table, right?

Graduation II: The Pictures

These pictures were taken by my friend Michael P. who came up from New Jersey on vacation to be here for Ashli's graduation.

My lovely daughter Ashli, winner of many awards and honors, gamer, nerd girl.

Her mom, AKA my lovely wife Mona, Ashli, and me.

Ashli, standing next to some normal sized men. Joe L. her fellow graduate, was the cadet commander of the MCJROTC unit; and the Lt. Col. here is their instructor.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mail Call 24 JUN 2011

Pics from EBay auctions. This stuff was waiting for me when I returned from the barber shop today.

Ashli will be driven into at least a slight fit of nerd rage by having both Star Wars and Star Trek in the same post. I used to do the same thing to her by putting Star Wars aliens or items into her Star Trek neighborhoods on the Sims 2. Or vice versa, it drives her a little crazy to mix different shows/movies together so every now and again we get a Klingon Jedi or a Twilek in Starfleet.

Prime Directive was a game I was always kind of interested in because I was a Star Fleet Battles player, but never actually got around to buying. The announcement of the new Mongoose Traveller Prime Directive piqued my interest, so I sought out a copy of the original for comparison, because you know, I haven't got anything else I am doing right now.

This I got pretty wicked cheap despite it being a near pristine copy of the first printing. I have a copy of the Saga edition, but never really gave it a go. This is the only D20 edition I ever had any experience with and it didn't really go well. None of us were really familiar with the rules, despite being 3e D&D players at the time. We only had one book for the whole group to use, it just didn't really work out. Still, I have a lot of D20 Star Wars stuff if you count every issue of Star Wars Gamer,and now this and Secrets of Naboo and the Saga edition book. I still think I like D6 better but maybe I'm just being a dick about it. Plus I bought all those Star Wars minis from WotC, I was using them as a lure to get John to game with me; it was semi-successful.


Ashli graduates from high school later today.

Between the overdue yard work and the graduation preparation, we haven't really had a lot of extra time for too much else and that has adversely affected my blogging.

I do have some gaming coming up on Sunday though.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mail Call 21 JUN 2011

Secrets of Naboo picture is from Ebay auction, Van Richten's Guide pic is from the internet.

Technically this one didn't come in the mail, but my non-gaming buddy Scott W. and his lady found this one at a yardsale for a buck and thought of me. I am not a big Ravenloft fan, but it's the thought that counts here; they saw a D&D product and thought "Hey, Will would probably like that.", so who am I to discourage such behavior.

This one did come in the mail, slightly mangled on one corner by the US postal service because they apparently hate me. I thought pretty long and hard before I even bothered to bid on this one. It's for D20 Star Wars, which isn't my favorite iteration of the game; plus it focuses completely on Naboo, which feature most prominently in the worst of the prequel trilogy films which are already vastly inferior to the original trilogy. What won me over was the price of $.99 and the fact that I bought every single issue of Star Wars Gamer that was published and I still have them, it might be nice to buy some of the game material the magazine was written to support.

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Daughter Ember

Her middle school awards ceremony was today. She received the Teacher's Award presented to the student "who consistently displays a positive attitude, consideration for others, is well mannered, hard working, displays characteristics of a 'model student', and makes teaching a joy." for 7th grade. She also received the Certificate of Award for Honor, which is presumably for being an honor student all year; and the Certificate of Award for Outstanding Character- Perseverance, for which she really had no explanation. She was also given the pin for Academic Athletes, which we both assume is because she is an honor student and an athlete (track). It didn't really come with any paperwork or an explanation. These awards come as no surprise to me, she is good worker.

She has also received the super citizen award and honor roll award every quarter this year and got a 99% on her German final. Soon the school year will be over for her too.

Regular Blogging?

Maybe I was a little ambitious when I said I'd be back to my regular blogging schedule today. I have been taking advantage of the fact that the weather is good and my two oldest children, Ashli and John, are done with school now to get some much needed work done outside. We are clearing more land, mostly taking down dead and dying trees right now and processing them into smaller bits. My parents heat with wood, so whatever is good for burning will probably get cut into firewood for them and trucked over there. I need to buy a chain saw, I am getting too old to do this with axes anymore.

I did see Game of Thrones though. I hadn't read the books, so I didn't know what to expect. I am a pretty big fantasy snob, but I was pretty impressed with this first season. I bought the books for my wife Mona for her birthday in May, but she isn't done with them yet, and I have tons of other stuff to read, plus my B/X WW2 project.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Wishing a very happy father's day to all the dads out there.

My wife and kids made me a nice breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon; then I went to visit my dad and give him a card with a train on it (he is an avid model railroader), soon my wife and eldest daughter will have prepared the central NY standard summer feast consisting of Hamburgers (ordinarily this would also include Hoffman's Hotdogs, but we didn't get any this time), Salt Potatoes, Grandma Brown's Baked Beans and Tossed Salad*; and we will settle in to watching season one of Hogans Heroes and, perhaps, season one of Stargate SG-1.

On a personal note, my illness seems to be mostly gone now with just a few lingering, annoying effects so I will be resuming my regular blogging probably tomorrow.

*Potato Salad, Macaroni Salad, Coleslaw, Corn on the Cob, and Steamed Clams are also common for the CNY summer feast, but it's too early for Corn or Clams and with Salt Potatoes we usually opt out of the Potato and Macaroni Salads except in cases of large gatherings; I think we just overlooked the Coleslaw. Everyone loves Mona's Coleslaw.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Happy Birthday US Army

Before the date changes here I want to say happy 236th birthday to the US Army. My family has a long tradition of service with the US army dating back to when we got here in the 19th century. Both of my grandfathers were US Army veterans, as was my father and most of my uncles on both sides(although one great uncle and one uncle were in the Air Force and one uncle was in the Navy). Now my oldest daughter is in the Army reserve, she leaves for basic training in a little over three weeks.

Mail Call 14 JUN 2011

As always the pics are from the EBay auctions. I continue my inexplicable addiction of buying multiple editions of a game I don't play, just because I started buying the miniatures for the game so I would have them available for my own OA/R&R hybrid game.

So, now I have both of the core books for the second edition of the game.

And another of Rokugan's clans is detailed for me here.

My shame at buying so much Rokugan/L5R stuff after so many6 years of being a Kara-Tur partisan is almost palpable, but at least it's new Asian fantasy stuff for me to mine for ideas right?

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Son John

Today John came home with a gold medal for being a Scholar Athlete, which is apparently awarded to students that play at least two sports and are honor students. It's pretty cool looking, kind of looks like an Olympic gold medal, only not solid gold; what do you want, it's public school?

He plays Football and is on the weightlifting team and maintained a 93.8% average for the year in advanced courses. He is just finishing his sophomore year of high school.

Next year he will be starting JROTC and is considering Wrestling and Track.

Just an observation...

...but apparently I need to get sick and NOT post to my blog more often; apparently it piques interest and really drives up traffic to the blog.

In other news- I am slowly recovering from the plague that my children inflicted upon my household, but sadly, now my lovely wife has been afflicted.

The kids are all fine now, although John missed a week of school. They have another two days of regular school left and some days of tests. Ashli graduates next week. Hopefully we'll all be fine by then.

Oh, they had the awards ceremony for seniors too. John and I accompanied Ashli, Mom stayed home because she was far too sick to go and Em stayed behind to help take care of mom (and probably screw around on Facebook or play video games or whatever). I was still pretty sick and it was kind of a blur for me, but I know Ashli got Awards for Honors over all and High Honors in French; she also received 3 scholarships- one from the VFW, and I can't recall the other two.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Some More CNY Love

Manowar. Possibly the most D&D metal band of all time. They come from Auburn NY, maybe an hour or so south west of Oswego, where I was born. They used to be, and for all I know maybe still are, the loudest band in the world. I have never seen them in a real concert, but have seen them play local bars a bunch of times because that's what they like to do to "warm-up" for tours. I got a bunch of cool stories about them and hanging out with them from time to time; I even have a semi-familial connection to them since Scott Columbus (RIP), their multiple time drummer was married to my cousins cousin.

Good Manowar videos are remarkably hard to find, you either get someone just posting the audio track with the album cover to Youtube, which gives great audio; or a bootleg video from a concert or club show with suck audio. The possibly official video footage of a Bulgarian concert in 2007 was the best I could do for sound/video quality, but you lose their 1980's awesomness.

Anyway, since I am sick still and can't really form decent posts, I thought I'd just seek out some of what makes my home interesting and share it with the rest of the blogosphere.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mail Call 08 JUN 2011

Once again I am a sucker for a great EBay deal. This book is in pretty rough shape, but I got it for less than $4.00 with shipping, so I can't complain. I don't really have any of the 2nd edition WEG D6 Star Wars stuff, but for the price I figured I could give it a look. Being sick at least is giving me a chance to look through all of these bargain gaming materials I have been collecting over the last few months.

Mail Call 08 JUN 2011

Once again I am a sucker for a great EBay deal. This book is in pretty rough shape, but I got it for less than $4.00 with shipping, so I can't complain. I don't really have any of the 2nd edition WEG D6 Star Wars stuff, but for the price I figured I could give it a look. Being sick at least is giving me a chance to look through all of these bargain gaming materials I have been collecting over the last few months.

Totally Got Beat to the Punch...

...on this. This sickness made me miss the anniversary of D-Day, and now I've been beat to recognizing the anniversary of the beginning of the Viking age, and I was sure I'd be the only one to catch that.

Paul at the Man Cave- My hat is off to you sir!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Some CNY Love

I figure with A Paladin In Citadel throwing all that love towards obscure Canadian musicians, I should start showing what we have here in Central NY. I start with Benny Mardones, who was not born here but came to call Syracuse, NY home. This is his 2 time hit "Into the Night" which charted in 1980 and again in 1989. As a former Syracuse NY radio DJ and just having lived here in central NY most of my life I have met him on numerous occasions.

The song never had an official video, so I found a pretty good fan edit of the original recording with recent concert footage.

Still Plague-Ridden...

Saw a Doctor today, got some antibiotics because apparently it's turned into some kind of lung infection. I probably won't be posting much here until I start feeling better. I got this in the mail the other day, I can't remember if I showed everybody yet.

Just another L5R adventure I found on EBay pretty cheap.