Tuesday, 19 February 2013

What's on the painting table then?

It's been quite a while since we visited the old painting table, which despite efforts of a tidy up, is still looking quite cluttered. One of these days I will have to get everyone round for a painting social to try to clear some of the backlog, perhaps if I offered them lunch? There are some talented painters in my immediate gaming circle - I just need to find a way to mobilise them.

Right now, the painting table is covered in GW miniatures. I'm trying to assemble 1000 points of Tyranids for WH40K, although I realise I'm sadly lacking a suitable HQ model - the Genestealer Brood Lord is no longer a recognised HQ choice under the current Codex, but, if Kelvin and I ever get our act together to play some old Rogue Trader, the Brood Lord can stand in for a Patriarch with no problem. Still, these guys are a bit 'samey' to paint, even though I've established a colour scheme and quick paint process that seems to work quite well.

Also on the table are some Bretonnian knights and Lizardman Saurus cavalry for Warhammer. These are largely there for the kids to experiment with when the urge takes them. The knights are good for this, because they have individual colour schemes, so you can push one in the direction of a six year-old and let them go crazy. They will still require a bit of a tidy up and heraldry transfers applied, but some of the first batch are looking quite nice - and suitably random for a feudal host. The Saurus riders are being painted by one of my son's friends - he's doing them one at a time, which I'm sure he'll get bored with, but each to their own!

With my eye still on my Lord of the Rings campaign, which I kicked off last year, I'm putting the finishing touches to Frodo, Sam and Pippin for the next scenario, and further down the line I've got the Barrow Wights (and Tom Bombadil) to paint, for when the hobbits get lost on the Barrow Downs.

Two other projects are moving back onto the table this month. Firstly, my 6mm Carthaginian army, which I've based up for Impetus. I abandoned this because I was finding it quite fiddly to paint them. Some folk assure my that this should not be the case, but I can't understand how anyone manages to paint in this scale if they are painting Napoleonic troops, for example. Ridiculous! Having said that, I'm not sure I'd start any new periods in 28mm, as I find it takes way too long to paint figures for war games in this scale. I simply have not got the time these days. There must be a suitable middle ground between 6mm and 28mm and I'm increasingly coming to consider 15mm / 20mm might be it.

Secondly, I've picked up a copy of the Dux Bellorum rules for Dark Ages battles, which look quite interesting. I've still got my 15mm Picts gathering dust, originally bought for Song of Arthur & Merlin, but am thinking of basing them for Dux instead. The real question is how to base them - Dux is quite base neutral, so it might be possible to mount figures on bases for Impetus, allowing them to be used for these rules as well. The question is whether I'll have enough Picts for such an exercise!

Finally, there's the small matter of my Dystopian Wars steampunk Russian Coalition fleet. This has been unboxed and is in the cleaning / trimming stage before priming. I'm starting off with a relatively conservative fleet, as I find with games of this nature that you really need to get a feel for your army / fleet and the games system before making any additions. It is best to start with a smaller, core force, and then modify according to where you see the short comings. This is short hand for saying I won't be buying any more until the fleet has had its first outing on the high seas!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Playing the cleric in Pathfinder

As it happens, we finally managed to complete our current Pathfinder story arc, namely the second part of the Carrion Crown campaign. What, with one thing and another, I think we only managed to get a single session of Pathfinder in since New Year. Instead, we've been veering off into the likes of Lords of Waterdeep, Delta Green and Savage Worlds, but we're here now, and that's what's important.

Last night we had Ric back at the table, playing Doctor Pruce, the half-crazed alchemist. With my daughter's growing enthusiasm for RPGs, it won't be long before we have six players! It was good to have the whole gang together, and to finally finish off the current story arc. Once again our party was able to uncover the foul influence of the Whispering Way, working behind the scenes to bring madness and terror to all.

We're now all 7th level, which is fun. We've been having a bit of a debate about the so-called power curve in Pathfinder, the point at which characters become increasingly powerful and hard to contain within a pre-written environment like a published adventure.

In some Pathfinder scenarios, it becomes very clear that the author has a certain idea about the way in which encounters should play out: taking the castle of Count Caramac as a case in point, one of the dungeons we have explored in Carrion Crown, the entire castle is really just a series of buildings on rocky islets in a fast flowing river, connected by bridges. The party has to clear each house, one by one, before proceeding to the final encounters inside a cliff on the other side of the river. They have to be dealt with in sequence.

The problem with Pathfinder, is that as PCs become more experienced, with more magic under their control, it becomes harder, I believe, to contain them in such an environment. Once they break past 10th level, for example, the power at their disposal allows them to by-pass some encounters quite easily. The debate we're having at the moment is whether magic users, particularly arcane magic users, should be restricted in terms of the powers they can use. The danger here is that players will stop choosing these classes, and the party will become unbalanced and possibly unable to cope with some encounters. My impression from playing Pathfinder is that it is a finely balanced game which has undergone an enormous amount of play testing. Any changes which do get made, should be made with great care.

Which brings me on to my own role as the cleric of the party. I've been having some issues with my character, Veneticus, in the second story arc. This has been largely because many of our opponents have been constructs, often variants on the flesh golem template, with appropriate damage reduction, often DR 5 or DR 10 even. Many of the spells Veneticus has learned, while potent, have been next to useless against constructs, being reserved more for undead and evil outsiders. In addition, as a cleric his ability in melee has not been keeping up with the difficultly of the encounters.

Our paladin, Sir Erudil, is becoming the tank of the party, able to mete out a severe thrashing to many of our opponents, and last night Pruce in his bestial form was able to take down a boss in short order. While encounters are being tailored to offer the likes of Erudil a challenge, they are becoming tough enough that the party spell casters sensibly won't risk entering melee at all, and will actively seek to avoid it. Spells like bark skin can help to protect Veneticus (taking his AC up to 22), but he is still vulnerable if hit by monsters dishing out 30-40 hit points of damage per round on their targets. His most useful role is as a combat medic, supporting other characters by channeling divine energy.

I'm hopeful that the nature of the opposition will change in the next story arc, as we turn our back on Lepidstadt and its distinctly Shelleyan themes, and Veneticus might become a little more useful. On the upside, he picked up the ability to create scrolls at 7th level, and with the bounty from a greatful Count Caramac, he can start to store a few of the less widely used spells as scrolls (e.g. water breathing).