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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

43 AD Begins at Last -

I didn't want to mention starting the 43 AD campaign for fear that I'd bring down the curse upon it again, but we started it yesterday. Since this is a mini-review of the game system as well as a play report, I'll try and remember to mention what was good and bad about the game system as opposed to just what was good and bad about playing it.

Right out of the gate Murphy's Law struck and I didn't have access to a full copy of the rules, which I brought with me on a flash drive, because Dalton didn't bring his laptop, which he ordinarily brings with him everywhere. That was no big deal though because I had printed out four player packets and a GM packet, which included all of the stuff from the player packets and some extra stuff that I thought might be useful, but never actually came into play. Printing out the entire action and encounters section would have been more useful for me as a GM, but when I was printing those sections out three weeks ago or more I just added one more copy to the ones I was printing for the players without really considering that I might need access to the entire section, as opposed to what was probably prudent for the players to see.

Then one player, my son John, was already committed to working over at my parent's house yesterday, so he wasn't going to be there. Then Darryl was late getting to his dad's house. Then Big Darryl's grandson David was invited into the game, which I didn't really mind, but I did have to tone down the gritty military tone and watch my language because he's only ten years old; that said this was his introduction to RPGs and he had a great time. Then one of the player packs just disappeared, before Darryl Jr. even got there and I had to hand out part of my GM pack. Damn that Murphy and his laws.

I also made the foolish assumption that character generation and the "basic training" exercises I had planned for them would take longer than they did. Character generation went by quick and easy, although not everyone was thrilled with their random rolls - Big Darryl ended up with a Syrian Freedman who was a cursed coward, not really the type of character that suits his personality at all. David and Darryl Jr. both got characters from Hispania, David's a craftsman and Darryl's a farmer; Dalton ended up with a hulking Gaulish craftsman with dreams of heroism, dreams he can fulfill.

David got kind of short-shrift on character generation and from me, I had Dalton overseeing him while I caught Darryl Jr. up to where the rest of the players were at, so I was not as aware of how to weave him into the story; plus, it being his first time, I wasn't really sure how much I should push him to role play. I shouldn't have worried, because as soon as the dice started rolling he was all about the game, he didn't even seem to mind when his shots got blocked by armor, but I'll get to that in a bit.

For the "Basic Training" bit, to bring everyone up to speed on how the game works, I worked in Dalton's character's enemy the unit's Centurion, who has decided to make his life hell because he can, but is doing it in a way that is legal; he is forcing them to take extra weapons and unarmed combat training because he thinks that their unit has been looking pretty lackluster. I decided that they were an ad hoc unit of scouts for the Century, because it kind of fits the campaign I have in mind and I had three out of four PCs pick the Archer gear, the 4th wanted to too, but realized that his burly Gaul would "be a better tank", and picked the Assault Trooper gear.

The combat system itself is simple and fast playing and very similar to one that Darryl and I designed back in the mid 1990's when we were looking for a better system than 2nd edition AD&D. It runs pretty smooth and is pretty realistic, while maintaining an abstract nature; which means that it is deadly. Characters are never going to be superheroes in this game. Armor works in a way that you are either going to really like or really hate, because for each point of armor you have you get 1d6 to try and save versus the damage that a given attack causes, you save on a 6. I like it, Darryl hates it, but he has his reasons that I'll get to.

Now, before I go any further, I'll address a couple of issues with the character sections of the book that we were dealing with. There are two different prices for slings, one on the "Spending Money on Kit" page and one on the very next page. I am assuming that the spending money on kit is something that can only be done with your starting money at character creation, and that it then becomes part of your kit, but it's not explicitly stated. Also, the quiver for Javelins is stated as having a capacity of 5, but Skirmishers are only issued 3; is one of these numbers a typo? The "Hard to Kill" trait states that it gives on point of natural Armor Value to a PC, but also states that they need to roll a 1 on a d6 instead of a 6 on a d6, which can be interpreted as getting a second saving throw for that trait versus damage; I assume that's a typo and it merely adds the extra point of armor, but that did become a minor point of contention. It is also stated that all characters start with their native language at 1, which is described as "basic understanding", rather than fluent and foreign (non-Italian) characters have to spend their one free Learning point on Latin, which is OK, I just think you should start out fluent in your mother tongue. Having found a few issues in just one session's worth of play I think it likely that we'll find more along the way.

On the plus side, since Zozer has only released this as a pdf so far, they have the ability to edit the master pdf and update it, then everyone who bought it can download it again for free from drivethrurpg.

Pictured- Legio II Augusta

OK, I then decided, despite the fact that my adventure plan was only half baked and wholly stolen from Simon Scarrow, right down to the fact that I put the players in the Legio II Augusta; and I didn't have my battlemat or any of my miniatures that we would start the real campaign, since we had so much time left in the day. I had them go from their camp on the Rhine to a rebellious German village that had mutilated a Roman tax-collector. I departed from Scarrow quite a bit in the size of the town and the forces there, because only four scouts were leading the Century. I issued the scouts horses so they could ride on ahead of the rest of the Century and report back. Big Darryl's character Lucius was in command of the detachment. They got to the edge of the woods and got a look at the village, it was on a hill overlooking the Rhine to the east with gates to the north and south and a wooden palisade around the rest of the village. Both gates were open, but guarded by a pair of young Spearmen each.

Lucius considered a stealthy approach, but the daylight and couple of hundred yards of cleared fields around the village made him decide to have the men ride together to hailing distance and be the voice of Rome come seeking retribution for their wronged official. I reasoned that these German boys, being from a hostile village, probably weren't Latin speakers to any degree; so one of them ran inside and started calling for their leader and the other stood there and spit on the ground when Roma got mentioned one too many times. Darryl Jr.'s character Gaius Marcellus Cicero, the poor Hispanian farmer with the fancy name, decided that this indicated that the tribe was in fact in open revolt against Rome and charged the poor lad.

Lucius fired his bow at the boy and dropped him before Gaius could get to him, but Dalton's war mad Gaul Vergix had backed Gaius and charged too. Lucius ordered Titus to ride back to the Century and tell them what was going on. Gaius and Vergix followed the other boy through the gate at a charge and Vergix ended him and his German caterwauling by shattering his skull with his sword. They stopped short though when they saw a force of Germans assembling in the village center, some armed with javelins and one a fairly richly appointed warrior. Lucius rode up within bow shot, but Gaius took over negotiations. I am guessing that after two easy kills and seeing only thirteen other warriors, half of whom were unarmored Spearmen, he figured this would be an easy fight and he did mention wanting a chance to loot this village some before the rest of the Century got there. This was well within character because he had a starving family back home in Hispania. He goaded the richly appointed warrior into saying that it was German land and he was the King there, so then he was legally in open revolt against Rome.

The German King issued a challenge for personal combat to Gaius and stepped forward, but Gaius decided that fighting fair was for suckers and charged him on horseback, Vergix and Lucius followed his lead and attacked too, Vergix with a charge into the unprepared German Spearmen and Lucius firing an arrow into the mass of Germans. I don't remember all of the details of the fighting, it was fast and furious, I think Gaius took down the King with a tremendous blow to the head that left him unconscious, then I know he died the next round when he was struck by two javelins thrown from the back rank of Germans. Titus decided to turn around when he reached the edge of the woods and saw that his friends were inside the German town and heard the sounds of battle. Vergix danced his horse around and kept the Germans engaged on the street while Lucius and, eventually, Titus shot them up with arrows; not that he wasn't an effective killer too. His might of 6 while mounted was a huge advantage and his Assault Trooper armor kept him virtually unwounded, a couple of nicks made it through is all.

Pictured-Germanic Tribesmen, probably the very boxed set I would have used for this game.

Eventually a German made it past Vergix though and charged the Archers, and while both archers concentrated fire on him for two rounds, his helmet and shield saved him from death. He then managed to deal a serious leg wound to Lucius, then Lucius cut him open pretty bad and ordered a retreat from the village. The Germans initially charged the retreating horsemen, but after a round of getting peppered by arrows realized they could never catch them and ran back towards their village, the Romans charged them and finished them off just inside the gate.

Now, what I liked about this skirmish: It was pretty fast, despite the fact that we had never tried archery and we were all new to the system, so it's only going to get quicker. I just have to figure out how to remember my total "add" to my 2d6 roll, and to roll for armor every time an NPC gets hit, also that they have Fate too. The King could have spent 2 Fate points to "shrug off" the knock out effect of his head wound and stay in the battle, and another 1 to "shrug off" the incapacitation, then he'd have just been down 10 Hits, a bad wound, but he'd have still been in the game and their best fighter. I also liked that most of the downed enemy weren't dead, merely incapacitated or unconscious or both, that's far more realistic than D&D's flood of corpses. A lot of these Germans could survive, they're in their own village with their own women and healers to tend them, now that the three surviving Romans are firmly in charge they don't want them dead. They are probably going to crucify the King, but they're waiting for the Centurion for that decision.

What I didn't like: Arrows. Holy crap are they deadly. This seems anachronistic to the setting really. One arrow every round is a pretty good rate of fire, and you are going to run out pretty quick, since you only get twelve shots a piece, but Slingers were more common as Auxiliary troops than Archers, so I just assumed that the bows of the era weren't as good or something; but these guys were pin-cushioning my poor bloody Germans; and the rule about fighting with an arrow stuck in you means that if you stop to pull the arrow out, you cause a further 2 Hits on yourself, but if you don't you suffer a combat penalty equal to the damage that the arrow caused 1d6+2. So if you are hit by an arrow and pull it out so you can keep fighting, you suffer a minimum of 5 Hits and a maximum of 10 Hits, given that I was using an average guy template based on the Legionary Character Creation Example - Tiberius - for the bulk of my Germans, since I hadn't printed out the NPC portion of the book and Dalton didn't bring his laptop, that guy has 12 Hits. The Archers kept rolling 5s and 6s for damage, when you drop to 3 Hits (or less) you are incapacitated, dead at 0 Hits, I had a bunch of battle mad Germans take themselves out of the fight trying to pull arrows, it was either that or fight at -7 or worse, which is a real killer. This may just be sour grapes on my part though, I don't know.

What the players and the characters don't know yet: They failed a fate check on the road and missed a blocking force waiting to ambush their main column, also there is a reserve force of allied Germans moving in from the north. I did this so I could stress test the battle rules that came in the Warband supplement, but we had to leave because Ashli needed her medication. That's the real reason there were so few men in the village.

Pros about the game- Doesn't need miniatures, simple and fast paced. Could be played as a miniature skirmish game, if you were so inclined.

Cons about the game- Some poor editing, and a few unclear spots in the rules require interpretation.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

As Requested, My Curriculum Vitae-

Pictured - Mona and I at our big SCA wedding with the kids, Ash was had turned 12 then and Em had just turned 7 earlier in the month, John was still 9.

My name is William Dowie. I am a 43 year old white man from the rural northern edge of central New York state, on Lake Ontario. I am a giant history nerd, in college I majored in history with a focus on Classical Antiquity and the European Middle Ages, I minored in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. I also took a bunch of Anthropology courses, but not enough to count as a second major. I am 6'6" tall and I have worked as a substitute teacher, short order cook, bouncer, machinist and convenience store clerk, just to name a few. I speak French passably well, Spanish slightly less so, and can usually guess my way through written Italian or Latin. I have tried to teach myself Scots Gaelic, much less successfully, but can pick out a number of written words on sight and sometimes recognize words when I hear them. Oddly enough I can pick out Welsh words now just as easily when they are cognates to the Scots Gaelic words I know, I see patterns in language easily.

I am married to a wonderful woman named Mona and we have three children; Ashli (19), John (17) and Ember (14), who were literally left on our doorstep when they were 11, 9 and 6 respectively. We live on a small, mostly forested plot of land in New Haven, New York - which is north of Syracuse and east of Rochester, nearest to the smaller city of Oswego, NY - where I continue to scheme ways to homestead and get off the grid, mostly because I hate the high cost of electricity in a county with three nuclear power plants, and I want healthier food than I can buy from the store, with the bonus that it'll be cheaper too. I have been frustrated in my attempts to clear my land because it's a lot harder to do than you would think, I have a lot more respect for pioneers now, especially since they did it with no power tools at all. I also have some valuable lumber that I can't seem to get anyone to harvest because my lot is too small and the presence of my house and the power lines along the edge of the road make it too difficult to be worth it, so apparently I need the price of Cherry to rise back to the level it was before our economic collapse to attract loggers.

I have been playing board wargames and D&D since 1980, when my friend Chris introduced me to both the week that we went to see Excalibur together with my dad. We played SPI's Sorcerer that weekend, because he had brought it over to my house and played D&D with him DMing before the week was out using the Holmes Basic rules. I went out and bought a set as soon as I could save up the money, maybe a month later. For a long time after that pretty much all of my money went into my D&D habit in some way or another, books, modules, Dragon Magazine, "official" Grenadier miniatures.

I found the SCA while the local group was doing a demo at the Sterling Renaissance Festival in Sterling, NY back in 1983 when I was 14, I have drifted in and out of the SCA ever since. I am currently missing Pennsic for my 41st time in a row. Something always comes up. Not that it matters anymore, I have passed my fighting prime and I don't think it's coming back no matter how hard I try. I keep resolving to make it to fighter practice more often and get back into my "Crown Tourney" rhythm, but that just isn't going to happen at my age anymore. I don't heal quick enough to fight six days a week anymore. That and I can't afford the gas money for the hundreds of extra miles per week I'd be putting on my minivan to go to all of the extra fighter practices and events. Still, I have made a lot of good friends in the SCA over the years and some great memories, I am happy to have been there for what I did and I wish I could do more still.

1985 was the year of the release of the 1st edition AD&D Oriental Adventures book, it's one of those books that you either love despite it's warts or you hate because of them. I love that book and it's probably because it's the only AD&D book I ever pre-ordered at Twilight Book & Game Emporium in Syracuse, NY - a sadly long gone FLGS. Despite the fact that the glue cracked on the binding causing several pages to become loose literally the first time I opened it, I was determined to get my money's worth out of it. Before my friend Tim left for Basic training in the US army the next year I took over DMing duties from him, which I had only rarely done before, and we played an epic OA campaign. I have played in one pretty epic OA campaign, as a Steppe Barbarian named Chanar Ilkhan, and DMed a few more since. One of my current projects is rewriting the OA book as I think it should have been.

As a side note, I was really anti-Rokugan because they changed the default setting in the 3e version of the Oriental Adventures book to Rokugan from Kara-Tur, and that made me, by default, anti-Legend of the Five Rings. I had been strongly attracted to the setting through AEG's Clan War miniature battle game prior to that, but hadn't bought into it at the time because I could not find at least one other person that was willing to also jump on board with me and had been burned by miniature games that way in the past. Now I am happy to say I have come full circle because I started buying old Clan War miniatures on EBay for my OA campaign and ended up getting the rules, which made me interested in the setting, which made me interested in the RPG, which got me to buy the new board game, which led me to buy some CCG cards too. I have even read through some of the published fiction, and, until it was shut down recently, was playing in a Facebook app version of the RPG called Emerald Empire. I really hated the 3e version of Oriental Adventures.

I played (A)D&D, tried out some other RPGs and wargamed a lot through the 1980s and into the 1990s. Wargaming kind of died in the 1990s (except on the PC, it boomed there), and I concentrated on just RPGs, then just D&D. Sometime after 3rd edition D&D came out, after the novelty wore off for me, I realized I disliked DMing it rather intensely. I was a little late coming to the 3rd edition party, because my D&D group was happy with 2nd edition and we didn't switch over until that campaign died. At the time, I had grown bored with 2nd edition AD&D and welcomed the change, although several things bothered me from the beginning; the faster rate of rising in level was a big one and I missed real multi-classing. I took me a while though, and DMing for several different groups, to realize the worst part was that it neutered the DM. My original AD&D groups, who were familiar with my fast and loose, shoot from the hip DMing style were OK with me making rules calls on the fly when none of us had any idea how something was supposed to work in the new system; we'd keep the game moving and I could look it up later. We might even like my way better. The other groups had people who STUDIED the rules though; at first, every time I made a ruling I'd see disapproving looks, eventually they got brave enough to start offering suggestions as to the right way to handle the situation.

So I quit DMing and let one of them DM in each group. Neither group lasted much longer. One started a new campaign and it was just too railroad-ey, I actually started stress testing that campaign to see what would happen if my character deliberately did things that were contrary to the predestined storyline. My character got punished, he made minor alterations to his storyline, but nothing seriously bad could ever happen to us, so, eventually, as a group we got bored and quit. The other guy just took over my game where I left off and had me make a character that would take his place. He had been unlucky in my game and died several times, but I assume that was because he kept making wuss characters, Rogues and Bards. I made a Barbarian, it was fun while it lasted, we went from 8th to 11th level with him at the helm, then he TPKed the party.

I took a break for a while, despaired over playing D&D again, then picked up Hackmaster. I ran a pretty fun Hackmaster game for a while and that was what led me to realize that I should just go back to playing 1st edition AD&D. That was the year we got the kids though, so I wasn't done with 3rd edition - when they decided they were interested in learning to play D&D, they wanted to play the newest version, 3.5 at the time. I gritted my teeth and went with it, anything to get kids into gaming. I have been walking them back in home games for years now, and have only recently discovered the Moldvay Basic half of B/X myself. Back in the day I bought the Expert Boxed Set when it came out, but I never got the Moldvay Basic Set that matched it because I already had a Basic Set, the Holmes Basic Set. So we've been playing that a bit lately, but my home games are pretty much at a stand-still right now, almost everyone that doesn't live here is too busy to come over and play, and everyone that does live here doesn't want to play with just their mom and dad, brother and/or sister. John is still gaming this summer, he's in a regular 4th edition D&D game with some guys he goes to school with and I am playing Dawn Patrol semi-regularly with Darryl & his dad, John and Dalton. We also recently tried out the Legend of the Five Rings 1st edition RPG here at the house. I am trying to start a game of 43 AD and it's supplement Warband, but the start has been plagued by bad luck and poor coordination of schedules.

I have always run my D&D games in my own "World of Garnia" fantasy setting as a default. It's my Greyhawk, my buddy Darryl and I have been working on this on and off for decades, we're doing a serious reboot of the entire setting and discussing it on my other blog. The primary idea for the campaign is that a group of Celts fled the Roman onslaught to this new world, the world of the Sidhe (Elves) where magic works. The main campaign area is one where their culture has flourished. I designed it originally using the core 1st edition AD&D rules, so there are a lot of 1st edition AD&D assumptions in the setting, but I am trying to make the setting system neutral so that it can be played with any FRPG system. When we have finished the maps and gazetteers they'll be released for use. Currently we're working on the whole world, then we plan to "drill down" and do specific regions. I will also most likely release the adventures that I have written for the setting over the years, it's just finding and transcribing all of the stuff, then updating it to match the current standard is going to be a chore.

By now you are probably wondering where all this "Great Khan" stuff comes from, right? Well back in 1996 my buddy Darryl and I were living most of a continent apart and wanted to play some D&D together. He had played a lot of the SSI Gold Box D&D games starting with "Pool of Radiance" when it came out and we were both new to the internet and on AOL at the time where they had a game called "Neverwinter Nights" that ran using the same engine, but was multi-player, up to 300 I think it was. I guess that makes it the first MMORPG, it was great fun anyway. Darryl was more savvy than me and figured out the best way to advance in the game was through guild membership, so we duly joined a guild together. ERS, the Explorers of the Rising Sun, who made us create new Screen Names, because that was your character's name in the game, and everyone in the guild was named ERS something. I was ERS Garn, Darryl was ERS Frodal, we were named after deities I had created for my Garnia campaign world.

But then we realized, being ambitious adventurers, that ERS was there to help newbies find their bearings and, in general, be nice; and we wanted to move up the food chain in NWN. So we decided to create our own guild, which would, even though it was a gamble, make us guild leaders and let us take charge of our destinies and how we wanted to play the game. We needed a hook though, and that's where our collective history nerdity took over, we decided to play as Mongols, because we wanted to send out a strong challenge to the status quo in all of the guilds and it was unique in NWN to play a culturally oriented guild, unless that culture was a fantasy one. Mostly I think we chose the Mongols though because I was playing them at the time in Civilization. Partly I think we picked them because we both loved the NES game Genghis Khan*, Darryl and I used to spend weekends playing that game together. We also both liked the Mongol reputation for ass-kickery and conquest. Then we studied and studied some more, at this point I think that our kids could hold their own at a conference of Mongol Medieval History scholars.

Anyway, the Steppe Warriors were born. Technically, since NWN is in the Forgotten Realms, we were members of the, at the time, recently defeated Tuigan Horde that decided to march west rather than return east. Darryl was our first Khakhan with his character SW Ogotai, named after one of the sons of Genghis Khan, the reasoning was that he could afford to be online more often (remember this was when you paid/minute of use) because I was in school at the time, and he was a better recruiter. My character was named SW Jagatai, also after a son of Genghis Khan. Ultimately Darryl resigned the position of Khakhan and I was elected to fill it. We've had our highs and lows as a group, and we're pretty dormant now, but I have been Jagatai, Khakhan of the Steppe Warriors since 1997 on the internet, so when I named the blog and when I created my initial Blogger account, I just naturally went with the same motif. My Yahoo email address is still SWJagatai at yahoo dot com, created in the same era. Back when I was sure we were going to leap from AOL's NWN into the expanding universe of MMOs I registered three domain names,, and; I used to joke that they would soon be followed by and Clearly things didn't turn out as well for the Steppe Warriors as I had anticipated in the late 1990s.

Ultimately, I am pretty pleased with my alternate persona. In doing the research to properly play a Mongol character I have learned a great many things about the Mongols and other steppe peoples. I have eaten a bunch of Mongol food, drank Kumiss, shot arrows from a composite bow (not while mounted though), been in a yurt and made friends with a bunch of people that I otherwise probably never would have met. When I think about how it could have gone another way, if I'd been playing a different Civilization that day when Darryl and I were talking on the phone, or if he and I hadn't played so much of Koei's Genghis Khan together and he hadn't been as receptive to the idea, or maybe it was the fact that he had played in one of my epic Oriental Adventures campaigns that made him cool with the idea. If Darryl hadn't signed on for Mongols, we might have been a Samurai guild or a Viking guild or a Celt guild, they were all infinitely more familiar to both of us at the time; or maybe we'd have gone with something lame like a Dark Elf Ranger guild, who knows?

At any given time I usually have more irons in the fire than is wise, so many of my projects get back-burnered until I get back around to them. Currently I have on hold an Oriental Adventures campaign that just kind of fizzled when it was starting to get good, I had converted the Temple of Elemental Evil for OA and made it the Black Temple from OA1. I have a B/X Viking campaign that stopped when two of my regular adult players got new jobs. I have a B/X conversion for WW II that I spent a lot of time working on last summer, but my regular group, which is mostly my wife and kids and family friends, was lukewarm about play-testing it. I'd say it's an early alpha level right now. I am working on a total rewrite of the 1st edition OA book, kind of recasting it in a form I find more desirable. I just started learning the L5R RPG, I am GMing and the party is about 1/2 way through the adventure in the back of the book, I still haven't found the fumble rule. I have announced several times, prematurely, the start of my 43 AD campaign, so while that should be starting soon, I am going to not say when just in case something happens again. Mostly though, right now, getting a lot of my time behind the scenes, is the reworking of my old Garnia campaign world. We've made some interesting progress on it. I also have a bunch of OSR stuff piling up on my to read list, making me wish I had bought hard copies rather than pdfs because I mostly hate reading off my monitor, but that's where my copies of "Lamentations of the Flame Princess", "Carcosa", "Vornheim", "Adventurer, Conqueror, King", and several other major releases are sitting waiting to be read.

*Out of all of Koei's strategy games for the NES, Genghis Khan had the best multi-player play, Nobunaga's Ambition and Romance of the Three Kingdoms were too slow, and Nobunaga's Ambition II had the annoying "siege mode" in battle.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Some New Stuff

I still haven't had a chance to start 43 AD, because my wife is still sick, but I got this gaming stuff in the mail recently-

I was actually thinking of Mona when I bid on this Dragon Army Expansion, because that's the clan she got when she took the Clan test on the AEG website. The test appears to be gone now, but it's been an amusing point of contention between us because her Clan and mine, the Lion, were at war in the online L5R RPG I was playing on Facebook - Emerald Empire - until Facebook shut down all the games that didn't meet certain criteria. Her clan actually burned my clan's stronghold to the ground with magical fire. Anyway, this and the next one were both still in the shrink wrap, sweet deal.

I always figured that as a Mongol enthusiast I'd end up being a Unicorn Clan player in L5R,  since they are the most Mongol like. They even have a Khan, but apparently they don't match my personality. Still, with this set I can make four different clan armies to field once they get painted up.

I don't think I have anything else from the Last Unicorn Games Star Trek game system, but I figured since it was going cheap and I was getting the two boxes of Clan War miniatures (probably, you never know when you might get sniped), I'd save on shipping anyway; so I gave it a shot. I thought it would be more of a "Rogues Gallery" for this system, but it's actually a detailed system for playing non-Star Fleet characters. It's got some stuff I can use in it and I got it cheap.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Happy Gygax Day

All I can say is that I never knew his birthday was four days after mine until after he was already dead, I kind of wish we had thought to celebrate it while he was still alive to appreciate it. That being said, I like celebrating the day of his birth a lot better than commemorating the day of his death, it just seems a more respectful way to remember him and his life. We celebrate the end of a war, not the end of an individual life, you know? All of our national holidays in the US are based around the end of a war, harvest, the Declaration of Independence or a national hero's or religious figure's birthday- Sol Invictus, Mithras, Jesus Christ,  Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President's Day rolled Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays into one holiday because February was getting too crowded apparently. Actually that's not true, they just renamed Washington's birthday and Lincoln's birthday was never a federal holiday, I just looked it up, when they created Martin Luther King Jr. Day most states got rid of a separate Lincoln's birthday holiday. You learn something new everyday.

Anyway, happy Gary Gygax day. Roll a D20 for the original DM tonight.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Art Showcase

I found a bunch of my wife Mona's art scans on a flash drive today, so I thought I'd share.

Two of the more chaste fairies are based on my daughter Ashli and her friend Machele, and the Valkyrie is also my daughter Ashli. The Full Tilt is our SCA baronial newsletter and that cover was nominated for a Blackfox award, the only newsletter in our kingdom so honored that year. The Mermaid is a real crowd pleaser. Freyja was drawn for a Norse Pagan magazine I think. The slutty chick with the whip was on a bet. The Dragon was her first, just to see if she could. Slutty Red Riding Hood just amused her. She is sick today, apparently an allergic reaction to her antibiotics; so I didn't get to start my 43 AD game today like I planned. Now it's looking like Sunday if she's feeling better.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

43 AD

It looks like we'll finally start the 43 AD campaign this coming Thursday. I still haven't been able to find any fumble rule in the 1st edition Legend of the Five Rings RPG book and I've spent hours searching and rereading through that book. My mom made me another birthday dinner today, so that was nice; I apparently get to stretch my birthday out into a grand multi-day celebration. Mostly though, I am posting today to show you what I got in the mail-

Age of Heroes puts me a little closer to my goal of owning the complete set of Historical Reference Series books. Now I only need the Crusades and A Mighty Fortress.

These L5R CCG cards were an impulse buy, but they do mark the first time I have ever intentionally bought the cards for the game by themselves, instead of having them come with some other RPG product or be mislabeled as Clan War cards. I bought them to go with my "War of Honor" game, because I realized that the game uses the same cards as the L5R CCG.

Monday, July 23, 2012

I Zigged When You All Thought I Was Gonna Zag

Purely not by design, but rather through a twist of fate, rather than start my 43 AD game this past week, I ended up starting a Legend of the Five Rings 1st edition RPG campaign. I had a bad feeling that 43 AD/Warband was going to suffer when Big Darryl informed me he was going to Virginia to visit his other son and grandchildren the morning of the day I wanted to start the campaign, but I figured we could switch out and play Lady Blackbird. Little Darryl has run that a number of times and he'd have an entirely new group of players willing to try it out.

It was only then that the comedy of errors really set in, my wife Mona got an infection in her leg through a cut on her foot and had to go to the Emergency Room on Sunday, the 15th*, and had a follow up with her doctor on Thursday morning, the day we were supposed to play. Her doctor was alarmed at the infection and sent us to another medical facility, in Syracuse, for some other tests, which kept us away all day. Thursday was the only weekday I had open for gaming, so that eliminated gaming during the week for my group. I'd also like to point out that Mona's tests came back fine, it's a minor infection at this point and she has another follow up appointment next Tuesday, I realized I was coming across there as something of a callous bastard, and just wanted to clear that up. Plus I took her to the Comix Zone that day, although she didn't find anything she wanted.

That left Saturday or Sunday, I needed to go with Saturday, because my dad tore his rotator-cuff in his right arm and he's right handed and we're still not done with all the finishing work on his garage that we started last summer, but he won't work or allow us to work on Saturdays because my parents are Seventh Day Adventists. Unfortunately, Dalton had a job interview that day and Mona and I needed to go grocery shopping. Darryl had also mentioned he was having trouble with both his car and his back, so I started rereading the L5R core rulebook, because that was one of the games I had put on the table as an option for a one-shot, just because Dalton and I particularly, were interested in checking the game system out.

So, we didn't end up getting a start on things until fairly late in the afternoon on Saturday, Dalton and I figured out character generation with relatively few hiccups along the way, since we're the "rules guys" in the group. To my surprise, my son John wanted to play, and he wanted to play a Shugenja, a Phoenix. My wife Mona also decided to play a Shugenja, a Dragon, and Dalton made two characters, a Unicorn Bushi and a Scorpion Shugenja, just so he'd know how to make both, he played the Bushi though. My daughter Ashli made a Crab Bushi. I tried to entice Darryl to come out and play, but it was to no avail.

We got about half way through the introductory adventure in the book with only one major problem and one minor mistake. The major problem, which stopped the game for something like twenty minutes and I still haven't figured out the answer to, is - What exactly constitutes a fumble? That came up during the drinking contest when John's Shugenja Isawa Haku rolled a one when he was down to one die in the contest with Hida Fujizaka; that was one of the "sidebar add-ons" I thought would be fun to use, I didn't think it would turn out to be a game stopper where everyone started looking for the fumble rule for twenty minutes. I even looked through later editions of the game, because I assumed they would at least be similar and probably about the same place in their respective books, fumble is not in the index for 1st-3rd editions and it's not readily seen under the "using skills" sections either, I didn't see an example of a fumble anywhere, or any reference except in the text of the adventure. I actually thought fumbles might have been removed from the game, but then I checked and saw references to them in a couple of modules that date as late as "Living Rokugan" era.

So anyone reading this who is familiar with the Legend of the Five Rings RPG, especially the 1st edition, but any will do, please point me to a rules reference.

The second minor rules glitch was one I caught myself part way through, I was just running opposed rolls against each other instead of against the opposing character's Trait. My bad, I don't think it really affected the outcome of anything in the Topaz Championship Tournament. As it stands, we finished day one before we had to quit and Dalton had to go home, the two Bushi each have 3 out of the 5 necessary points to complete their Gempukku, the Shugenja are both sweating it at 1. John's character should have had 2, but he ended up losing the footrace because of the wasp trap.

Now, I think the adventure itself is super railroad-ey, but I guess you'll get that in an adventure that's specifically designed to do the things it does - teach you the setting and the rules. Now, it was my intention, if I ever ran an L5R RPG campaign, to make use of my "City of Lies" boxed set and run the traditional "Imperial Magistrates" campaign, so they'd get to be detectives and clean up the city, all the while getting manipulated by wily Scorpions and outmaneuvered by the horror element, the Maho-Tsukai. The drug smugglers and and everything else are just so much more corrupt background there. I haven't read through it extensively though, more like skimmed it and liked what I saw.

So now I am hoping that all of the pre-prepared modules and campaign supplements for L5R are NOT as big a railroad as the introductory adventure, because prior to play, I had only skimmed it too and thought it looked like a good introduction to the system without noticing that it was completely on rails. Nothing the PCs do will alter the flow of events, they're just along for the ride. Sure, they're entered in the championship, and the "sidequests" are available to give some variety to the adventure, but a lot of it is like a travelogue with the occasional skill check thrown in. I don't think it needed to be that way.

Next, today is my birthday. I am 43 years old, meaning this is the last year I can legitimately claim to be in my early 40s and I'll be moving into my mid 40s. My birthday often makes me reflect on what I've done, what I've accomplished over the last year, or at least see what goals I have achieved or New Years resolutions I've lived up to; that often leaves me a little depressed after my contemplation, because, for very good reasons, I have often given up on a goal I set or whatever. I am sick of doing that, that's kind of a defeatist attitude, beating myself up for whatever I didn't get done rather than concentrating on what I DID get done or what I made significant progress on.

I am older now, I am out of shape and I did this to myself; I am OK with that. The road back is harder than road here was, and a lot less fun. I don't heal as fast as I did when I was 30, much less 20, and I still occasionally overindulge out of habit or pride** or something. Don't get me started on the "growing up poor - competitive eating"*** thing, that made for some interesting habits that stuck with me for a long time too. I occasionally still find myself fighting the urge to eat as fast as I can so I can get seconds, even though I know there will be enough food for me to have seconds (and probably thirds) if I want them.

On top of that, I don't really like to limit my food intake or exercise all that much. I have bad knees and a bad back, I am overweight and I hate being outside when it's too hot; which is pretty much all the time since we broke the weather. I remember being a kid and playing outside all day during the Summer here in upstate NY, the hottest days were in the 80s, you might break 90 once or twice a year. Now we get entire months of 80s and weeks at a time of 90s and it starts pretty much as soon as Winter ends. We used to have four seasons, now we're down to just the two suckiest; too damn hot and too damned cold, with about a week of transition in between. We're also experiencing a drought in upstate NY. That never used to happen. My lawn is brown and dead. Fields of corn are dead. I wish I could say this is the first time I'd seen this but over the last decade and a half or so, it's actually become a fairly frequent sight. I have to wonder if this is a factor in why all the orchards where I had my first jobs as a kid picking apples and cherries are gone now too.

Anyway, enough about global climate change, you either believe in it and the fact that it's caused by man or you are an idiot who has allowed himself to be manipulated by the people who have everything to gain by maintaining the status quo. I just got an email from Darryl the younger and his dad is back in town and wants to play a game this week, probably Dawn Patrol. I am going to push for starting the 43 AD game too though, because I am afraid that if I don't get it started all of my prep work and buying all those extra source materials and miniatures will have been wasted because we will never get around to it. When it comes right down to it the L5R RPG game was supposed to be a one-shot, just to try the system out and see if we liked it, like we suspected we would. We do, and everyone who played wants to continue playing, despite the railroading of the adventure they are in right now.

I think I can run two distinctly different campaigns using two very different game systems and it will be a challenge because neither of them is in my comfort zone of being old school (A)D&D, so that'll keep me sharp too, right? Do I lose OSR cred if I am not currently running or playing in an old school (A)D&D game? Honestly, I am just looking forward to when Darryl the younger takes over and starts running the Warband half of the Dual 43AD/Warband campaign we've talked a little bit about the set up; but mainly I like the idea of getting to play instead of DM all the time. Don't get me wrong, I love to DM, but sometimes it's nice to only be one person too; to throw all of your creative energies into one single character, eh? Am I right?

*The same day I had to put down our beloved and elderly English Mastiff Harmony because she tripped and fell off the porch going down the stairs and broke her right foreleg. There's no way a 12 year old Mastiff was coming back from that injury, particularly with the arthritis she already had in her hips, she already had trouble standing on bad days. Sunday the 15th was a rough day for me and my family, and it was the day of my niece Savana's graduation party, which we missed entirely, so I also missed seeing my brother and sister and my nieces and nephew, whom I rarely see since they all moved so far away.

**When you are literally bigger than everyone else, like you are a different scale, people just expect that you are going to eat more or drink more. Sometimes they'll be insulted if you don't, sometimes they'll challenge your manhood if you don't. I am a sucker for a challenge to my pride/honor.

***My dad was a Longshoreman. He got hurt unloading a ship in November of 1978, less than two years after he and my grandfather had finished building my parent's house. That would have made me 9 years old and was 2 months before my brother was born. My dad couldn't walk for almost a year, the injury was caused by a fall when a crane knocked him from the deck into the hold when the load shifted that it was lifting. The fall crushed three disks in his back and cracked two of the vertebrae, but the Social Security Administration and Workers Compensation Board here in NY still held up his getting any benefits until 1983, fortunately, his union had his back, and supported us through those dark times. My grandfather, a retired Longshoreman himself, also helped us with his pension as much as he could. I was young, so the details were not really apparent to me at the time, but I am pretty sure if it hadn't been for the Union and my grandfather, my parents would have lost their house.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Wee Update for Today

I spent most of my day at doctors appointments for myself and Ashli, so not a whole lot got done here today. I got some cool stuff in the mail though.

This Crab Army Expansion, for instance, is pristine; the shrink wrap was taken off but the miniatures are still in their protective plastic wrapper, and the seller included an extra copy of the rulebook, which is nice.

Same seller, I already had one of these, but I figured if I got it on the minimum bid and saved on shipping it'd be worth it. I did and it is. Also in pristine condition, better than my other one.

These guys I am actually a little worried might be beyond my ability to put together. My hands are huge and manual dexterity is not one of my great strengths, great strength is. Fortunately, my lovely wife Mona has volunteered to do the job for me, although if it goes like her volunteering to paint my miniatures this may take a while.

I also got this from Amazon, I may be over-preparing for my 43 AD/Warband dual campaign. My busy appointment schedule this week means I'll have plenty of reading time while I am in waiting rooms though, so I guess that's a plus...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Spending more energy elsewhere

I have been spending a lot more creative energy on my other blog lately than this one. I am going to be starting a campaign, hopefully on Thursday, that is play-testing rules (43 AD/Warband) that I may port over for use in my Garnia campaign world, and, given the history of that world, the events of that campaign could provide some more back-story for the entire setting.

I don't have anything else to say on that topic, so here's some stuff I got in the mail over the past few days that I forgot to show you all when it came in.

These guys are just "Arcane Legions" miniatures, they were labeled on EBay as "28mm hard plastic Roman sprue w/shields no bases"; why the deception? I don't know. I got them for $1.00 though and I should have known since I actually have the "Arcane Legions" starter set, I just never found anyone to play with. I did think they looked familiar.

"Creatures of Rokugan" for the 3rd edition of the Legend of the Five Rings RPG, I'd been waiting to get an inexpensive copy of this for a while, I was pleased with the result; although it inexplicably came with about 120 of the CCG cards too. I have now got two different two-player starter decks, a couple of one player starter decks and now these loose cards, maybe I should learn to play. You know, despite my disdain for CCGs. I mean if people are going to keep throwing them in as freebies with my wins on EBay...  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Some Old School Art

I found this piece posted on the Facebook group for Old School Gamers today and thought I'd share. I asked the artist's permission, so it's cool.

The artist's name is Diogo Nogueira, he's from Brazil. He didn't name it until I asked him what the name of the piece was, so it was Christened "At the end of the Tunnel". I think it captures the essence of Old School pretty darned well.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It's a good thing my Mail Carrier has a car.

To be fair, growing up in the country mail carriers always did, but for the years I lived in the city they had a car, but walked the block delivering the mail anyway, and I am pretty sure I'd have been left off the route today. Here's why-

OK, Greyhawk Adventures is post Gygax TSR, but it is still 1st edition and I didn't have a copy. I have read it before, back in the day, my buddy Darryl's dad used to buy him all the new books for birthdays and Christmas and stuff. My parents got religion though and cut me off, so I had to buy my own stuff, TSR quality dropped after Oriental Adventures (some might say before), so I spent my allowance money on stuff I could use; like Dragon Magazine and miniatures and new games.

I actually already owned a copy of this 2nd edition AD&D Celts book, but it was given to my by a friend who had bought it used and the douche-bag he bought it from kept the map and cut the monster section out of the book. Now I have a pristine copy, and I'll be passing this copy on to my buddy Darryl, who might use it as a resource for the Warband 1/2 of our dual 43 AD/Warband campaign.

OK, I know I swore off Legend of the Five Rings RPG stuff because no one else wants to play, but I already have the 2nd module in this series.

And these 2 books were $4.99 each.

These 2 came wrapped in a glittery cotton or polyester protective coat. I got the 1st edition book for Dalton, since I already have 3 and he was interested in the game maybe for his own group.

And this is a board/card game, so I can play it with my friends and family; it's only tangentially related to the RPG I want them to play with me. Plus, at 59.99 on the website, it's probably the most expensive game I own, via the MSRP. I got it for less than 1/2 that with free shipping!