Wednesday, 24 May 2017

A rather spiffing idea...

It suddenly struck me today that I might be a lot closer to achieving the objective of combining wargaming and roleplaying than I initially thought. It occurred to me that it is possible to offer a tiered campaign that uses an RPG setting and adventures to also generate tabletop wargame scenarios...

Such a combination is not all that outlandish. After all, the original Dungeons and Dragons grew out of a miniatures campaign, and a read through of the original World of Greyhawk boxed set will yield plenty of data on the armies of Greyhawk which would seem of little use of a dungeon master, but of interest to someone running a Greyhawk wargames campaign.

So my idea - to run a Middle-earth campaign using The One Ring system from Cubicle 7. However, the larger fights in the campaign would not be resolved using the TOR rules, but rather with the Lord of the Rings rules from Games Workshop. I'd just need to work out a formula for porting characters from TOR to the LotR Strategy Battle Game.

Plus, another consideration. Characters taking part in a tabletop skirmish would also have to acquire experience from their feats, hence there needs to be some way of translating events in the skirmish game into experience in the RPG. LotR as a game simulates the exploits of heroic individuals very well, and can also help ensure that player characters are less likely to get hewn down in the affray.

Finally, we also have the War of the Ring rules for any particularly large battles. By this I mean battles bigger than the skirmish game could handle in a few hours; again, WotR seems to be a good way to streamline a larger battle so that it can still be completed in an evening. A campaign would feature one or two of these at most.

If you go down to the woods today...


Initially I considered just dropping skirmish and battle scenarios in as events unrelated to the main plot, but then I realised that the detailed Wilderlands setting that Cubicle 7 has been describing has so much in-depth background, that any RPG campaign will easily toss up opportunities for bigger engagements. This gives the battles a little more context within the campaign - they are happening for a reason, player characters have a personal stake in their outcome, and the miniatures game will have a bearing on the wider conflict.

One of the things RPGs have never been very good at is the simulation of mass battles, and generally rules writers are tempted to wing them via abstractions that focus on the behaviour of the heroes while the rest of the battle rushes past in a blur. Having an action on the tabletop that could go either way and that will have an impact on the larger plot seems so much more interesting, and becomes a sub-game within the campaign as well.

Finally, The One Ring has the additional attraction of its sophisticated downtime system - characters have scope to develop important relations with the communities of the Mirkwood region over a period of years, and again, miniatures battles will fit seamlessly into this saga of their ongoing story.

I will need to devote some more thought to this, particularly to how characters in the RPG port into the miniatures game(s); an easy formula will be required, but we'll get there.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Sihayo's Kraal, 1879 (The Men Who Would Be Kings)

So last night we had a go at The Men Who Would Be Kings (TMWWBK), a new set of colonial miniatures rules from the pen of Dan Mersey, who also authored Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant, to name two other games using the same system. As a scenario, we used the historical engagement of the British attack on Sihayo's kraal, really the opening engagement of the Anglo Zulu War in 1879. Full details of this scenario can be found in the scenario book published by Skirmish Campaigns.

Sihayo's Kraal is very much a skirmish battle: it was a small engagement, ordered by Lord Chelmsford, commander of the British centre column entering Zululand in January 1879. The kraal sat on Chelmsford's lines of communications with Natal, hence needed to be dealt with if still occupied by Zulus. It was sitting on top of a hard to approach plateau, and while most of Sihayo's warriors had already been dispatched to the main Zulu muster at Ulundi, a significant number of warriors remained at the kraal.

The British objective, assisted by the Natal Mounted Police (NMP) and Natal Native Contingent (NNC) is to storm up the side of the plateau, making best use of trails to navigate the slopes. The scenario is deliberately set up so that they must achieve certain objectives by certain turns. I should point out that it was originally written for The Sword and The Flame, and to convert it I increased the turn number an objective should be reached by one, aware as I was that the movement distances might be less for these rules.

TMWWBK is a relatively simple rules system, and I really wanted to use this exercise to get a feel for it. In particular, each unit has an activation score that must be rolled over on 2d6. In our game, this varied from 4+ to 7+. Activation score is based on leadership - should a unit lose its leader, it defaults to 8+. The NNC was particularly badly led and seemingly unmotivated from the beginning, making it very hard for the British players to move them off their start line. This meant that they had to rely on the NMP and the British regular soldiers of the 24th foot to do the lion's share of the fighting.

Natal Mounted Police heading up to the kraal.
 The NMP were well-suited to the task, in that they could charge straight up the side of the hill with a good chance of achieving their objectives. However, they were only one cavalry unit, and were soon taking fire from musket-armed Zulus, while the British foot sloggers struggled to keep up.

Suffice to say, the British players missed their first two objectives, but seemed close to achieving some of their next ones. However, at that stage it was getting late and becoming increasingly obvious that the distances were too great for the British side to get where they needed to go in time, and win the game.

Was the game the fault of the scenario or the fault of the rules? Personally, I blame the scenario more than the rules. It is difficult, however, to say whether it would play better using different rules. TMWWBK is a decent enough rules system for small unit colonials - there is sufficient crunch in there to inject some of the colonial flavour into the battle. However, I'm slightly disappointed that it was not able to manage Sihayo's Kraal, which ultimately is based on a real-life situation. It is an interesting battle, in that the British are being forced to assault a Zulu stronghold on top of a hill, and a substantial part of the British force is composed of native volunteers who are less than enthusiastic. This certainly did come through in our battle. However, the fact that poor rolling meant that the NNC held back early in the game really made life harder for the British regulars.

The question remains as to whether I'll attempt a walkthrough of the scenario using some other rules. I'm leaning towards Death in a Dark Continent as I write this post, and may well give that a try to see how it fares. DiaDC is specifically intended for African colonial battles of the smaller kind, which fits the bill very well indeed. More on this as I progress with my reading.

NMP coming under fire from Zulu muskets on the ridge line.


The other issue this throws up is the question of the projected fantasy battle, Green Dragon Bridge, and whether we bother using Dragon Rampant for that...it can be frustrating for players to see units failing to respond due to poor activation rolls, even though this probably reflects real life combat situations more accurately. In Dragon Rampant, I think this is even more punitive. I will likely mull this one over and see where it takes me.

I also failed to print out cheat sheets for players in time - while players did have their briefings and unit stats, they weren't given the rules digest for the game, which might have helped to move things along a little faster. I will need to pay more attention to this next time.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Dragon Rampant - the Battle of Green Dragon Bridge

So here I am keen to fight a multi-player fantasy battle using Dragon Rampant. Before I get to that, however, I'm hoping to umpire a colonial battle using The Men Who Would Be Kings, by the same author, just to get a bit of a feel for the system. Dragon Rampant is the fantasy variant of TMWWBK, and includes some generic scenarios in the back of the book, but I have been looking around for something a little more...meaty.

The idea here is also to use the existing collection of miniatures of my gaming group, which is gradually expanding the number of available painted miniatures to choose from. While by no means massive, this collection is looking respectable, and there is enough metal and plastic here to put on a decent-sized battle. However, we need something that can be resolved in an evening's play of no more than 3-4 hours maximum, and can take place on a table no bigger than 8' x 6' or smaller. And it can't be too complex, or slow the game down too much. Dragon Rampant seems to fit the bill, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

The Battle

I'm just going to sketch this out briefly. It is largely inspired by the excellent scenario from page 25 of Scenarios For All Ages by Charles Grant and Stuart Asquith (CSG Publications, 1996). The Green Dragon Inn sits on the main north-south highway bisecting the wilderness region known only as the Lonely Hallows. Nearby is a ruined stronghold, built by the ancestors of the inn's owner, Grubble Sticklebottom.

Old Grubble has been running the inn for as long as anyone can remember. Rumour has it the place was once a toll house for the king's revenue men, collecting money for people using the bridge across the nearby river Havoc. Now, with war brewing in the north between rival lords, claimants to the throne, the bridge has become a little more important. Armies loyal to the royal line would need to use it to cross the Havoc and bring up supplies from the south. The Black Baron of Kress, the dastardly mind thought to be assembling a coalition of rebels to seize the throne, has bribed the orc warlord, Gaz the Ghastly, to grab the bridge and hold it against anyone seeking to interfere in the succession crisis.

Having delivered their bribe to Gaz, the Black Baron's agents were on their way homewards, but spent the night at the Green Dragon Inn on the way back. They over-imbibed on Grubble's Ruddy Fox, his latest brew, and inadvertently told the innkeeper of the plot. The next morning, with the agents safely on their way, Grubble made all haste to the manor of the local lord, Cout Larkey of Dunsmashn, a fanatical loyalist to the crown. Dunshmashn has quickly rallied all the troops he has readily to hand, and has set out for the bridge, sending word - and money - to a nearby group of barbarian freebooters to assist him.

Count Larkey of Dunsmashn

  • Count Larkey with small retinue of household knights - reduced model unit, Elite Riders, 6pts
  • 2 units of feudal levy archers - Light Missiles, 8pts
  • A hill giant - Elite Foot, 6pts
  • A unit of rangers - Scouts, 2pts
  • A unit of war dogs -  Lesser Warbeasts, 4pts

Barbarian Mercenaries From Cold Places

  • Brandigan, mercenary captain - single model unit, Elite Rider, 6pts
  •  2 units of Northmen - Bellicose Foot, Mixed Weapons, 12pts
  • 2 units of Northmen outriders - Light Riders, Short Range Missiles, 6pts
  • 2 Werebears - Lesser Warbeasts, 4pts

Gaz the Ghastly, the Bane of Barrockdown

  •  Gaz the Ghastly with armored bodyguard - reduced model unit, Leader, Offensive, Orc Heavy Foot, 6pts
  • 2 units of forest goblins - Light Foot, Mixed Weapons, 10pts
  • 2 units of Orc raiders - Light Foot, Short Range Missiles, 6pts
  • 2 units of Orc warriors - Bellicose Foot, Mixed Weapons, 12pts
Also entering the fray is the Chaos Necromancer, Daskard Kell. Exactly why Daskard has chosen to enter the fight on the side of Gaz is unknown, but it is suspected that he has cut a deal of some kind with the Black Baron, who has sent him south to assist Gaz at Green Dragon Bridge.

Daskard Kell, Chaos Sorceror, the Unlooked For One, or "Hoohee?"
  •  Daskard Kell, Chaos Sorceror - single model unit, Summoner, Leader, Heavy Artillery (lightning bolts), 7pts
  • 1 unit of goblins - Light Foot, Mixed Weapons, 5pts
  • Fell Chaos Demon - Greater Warbeast, 10pts
  • 2 units of Mummies - Lesser Warbeasts, Undead (No Feelings), 8pts
As the various forces converge on the bridge, who will hold it by sundown...?


Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Frostgrave: it's Elementary my dear Watson

Having cooked up one warband for Frostgrave without breaking a sweat, I have decided to have a go at another. I envisage at some point that we can organise a multi-player game, perhaps with four, even five groups on a single table. This could be quite interesting. Who knows, perhaps even a campaign might be in the offing?

My second warband is that of the Elementalist, Gost Woodlight. Having created one warband relatively easily, I have decided to be a little more experimental. Key to the Frostgrave warband is your wizard and in the early stages, his selection of spells. I must confess that I have not read through the very extensive list of spells in the core rules, but in the interests of learning the game, and keeping things interesting, I'm going to to seek not to duplicate the spells chosen for Ragner MacDervish.

Gost Woodlight - Elementalist

Gost is an Elementalist, which in Frostgrave terms, means, "the most outwardly powerful type of wizard." Excellent. Gost gets to pick three Elemental spells, one each from his Aligned schools (Summoner, Enchanter, Chronomancer) and two from the neutral schools (Thaumaturge, Soothsayer, Sigilist, Witch and Necromancer). It is at this point that I realise I've given Ragner too many spells, with FIVE from his neutral schools, when he should have only had TWO. Hence, I decide to revise Ragner's neutral spells to Furious Quill and Imp.

Getting back to Gost, then, we decide to go with the following:

  • Call Storm (Elemental)
  • Elemental Bolt (Elemental)
  • Wall (Elemental) - was one of Ragner's
  • Raise Zombie (Necromancy) - was one of Ragner's
  • Plane Walk (Summoner)
  • Grenade (Enchanter)
  • Petrify (Chronomancer)
  • Will Power (Soothsayer)
As you will see with my picks for the rest of the warband, this group of adventurers is going to be a little light on ranged attacks. Thus, several of Gost's spells have a ranged component, allowing him to really range across the field of battle.

Gost has a staff already, and eschews a dagger. He hires an apprentice, this time a halfling called Bagbo Biggins, a former purveyor of pricey pickles now fallen on hard times, and resolved to start a new career as an apprenticee Elementalist, as out of luck hobbits do. Bagbo carries a staff.

Los soldados

So here is my thinking on Woodlight's retinue of scoundrels. I'm going to keep this group small, but dangerous. It will also incentivise me to paint up a couple of Bretonnian men at arms. Gost hires the following:
  1. Sir Gristle of Weevilhaven - a Knight, he carries a sword and shield, and is clad in plate mail armour. He is clean cut and a hit with the ladies. Cost - 100gps (ouch!)
  2. Masket - a man at arms, and formerly Sir Gristle's butler, he is equipped with shield, spear and leather armour. Cost - 80gps.
  3. Bozrik - another man at arms, he is Masket's cousin and was Sir Gristle's stable boy at one stage. He is armed and equipped like Masket. Cost - 80gps.
  4. Bindlebough - a hobbit thief, a bit of a good for nothing, he has a dagger to defend himself with and seems to really be there to make up the numbers. Gost does not expect him to survive for long in Frostgrave. Cost - 20gps.
  5. Gnar - a thug, Gnar is a violent wretch of dubious morals and Bindlebough's drinking buddy. Cost - 20gps. 
So there you go. In conclusion, it is still possible to build a respectable warband with seven members for 500gps. Bindlebough and Gnar are really only there to make up the numbers, as they are cheap hirelings, badly armed, and likely to die horribly.

Next time - we take a look at what's cooking in the cauldron of the Witch, Jessica, the Mad Hag of Hangmorton...

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Frostgrave warbands: the Soothsayer

I'm in the process of concocting a number of warbands for Frostgrave, with a view to potentially launching a campaign at some stage. The great thing about Frostgrave is that you don't need many miniatures, and the game is not wedded to a particular range. Hence, it is quite easy to slot in figures you already own in your collection. I'm sure this has played a large role in its commercial success.

I'm going to start by generating a number of warbands using figures I own. In each case, I'll be taking you through the decision making process as each warband is assembled. Much of this will be dictated by the availability of my own figures, and because I've never played the game, it may be obvious to veterans that I'm making some schoolboy errors. We'll have to see as we go along whether drastic mistakes have been made.

Frostgrave requires that first you choose your wizard. Your wizard is a bit like a quarterback in [American] football: it is hard to win with a poor one! Hence, it bears spending some time on mulling this one over.

The Soothsayer: Ragner MacDervish

Ragner wears a kilt, and little else apart from his prized tatoos. Anyone who asks him whether he might be a little chilly will be treated to a diatribe about "wee southern jessies".

All new wizards begin with eight spells, of which three must come from the wizard's own school of magic, one must come from each of his aligned schools, and the final two may come from any of the five neutral schools. Each of these latter spells must come from a different school of magic.

Starting with his own spells then, Ragner picks Awareness, Reveal Invisible (largely because I HATE people sneaking around with some form of cloaking, be it Harry Potter or the Predator), and Combat Awareness.

Ragner's aligned schools are Thaumaturge, Chronomancer and Illusionist. I'm aware that these are going to be harder for him to cast, so best pick ones which are quite easy: Heal for Thaumaturge, Fast Act for Chronomancer (this looks rather good on paper, but we'll have to see how it works in practice), and Fool's Gold for Illusionism (because it looks rather fun).

Now Ragner comes to his neutral schools, which are Enchanter, Summoner, Necromancer, Elementalist and Sigilist. Again, he has a +4 penalty on these spells, so may be worth going for the easier ones...Wall (Elementalist), Animate Construct (Enchanter - I like this one, he needs to roll pre-game to see if he can bring it with him and it counts as a warband slot regardless), Raise Zombie (Necromancy - nice and easy, and it gives him a zombie without filling a warband slot), Furious Quill (Sigilism - amusing) and Imp (Summonor - not too testing).

Ragner has a staff and decides to buy a dagger (5gp) from his budget of 500.

Next we move to the apprentice. The rules say that "while it is not strictly necessary for a wizard to have an apprentice, it would be both unusual and probably unwise to go without." An apprentice costs 200gps to hire, which is a BIG slice of the total budget, but heck, I'll go with the game designer's advice. Ragner is joined by his nephew, Nordgrint, who is interested in becoming a soothsayer himself. Nordgrint also carries a staff. He has flowing blond hair and seems to have left his trousers at home, but eschews his uncle's kilt.

Nordgrint knows all Ragner's spells, but casts them with a -2 penalty, being an apprentice. It seems an apprentice is just like a back up quarterback in [American] football.

The Soldiers

So who it is that is mad enough to follow Ragner and Nordgrint to Frostgrave, eh? Ragner now has 295gp left, which is not much.

Ragner recruits Skeggi Boozehound, a dwarf adventurer who will count as a man-at-arms, as he has a hand axe and a shield. Skeggi does not suffer penalties for being a dwarf - in the basic rules, there do not seem to be additional rules for adventurers from other races, so Skeggi collects his 80gp signing fee.

I quite fancy giving Ragner a couple of trackers as well - this will cost him 80gp each, but I think they're worth it, as they also have bows. He hires Gosted and Lumbard, two trackers from the north country. He now has 55gp left to spend.

Ragner now has a decision to make - he could either spend some money on an archer or a crossbowman, or add a few hounds to his retinue. He decides to go with the hounds. Bear in mind he has now filled four slots, plus his construct, which makes it five. A warband can have a maximum of 10 members, counting the wizard. He pays 40gp and gets himself four hounds.

Thus, the final warband looks like this:

  • Ragner MacDervish, Soothsayer
  • Nordgrint, Apprentice Soothsayer
  • Skeggi Boozehound, Dwarf Man At Arms
  • Gosted, Tracker
  • Lumbard, Tracker
  • Hounds (x4)
Ragner keeps 15gp in the bank for a rainy day.

Next time: We look at the warband of the Elementalist, Gost Woodlight...

Skeggi is nopw

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Modifications to Point Blank rules

At some point this summer, I'd like to run a game of Point Blank. I've been casting around looking for a game which can support WW2 skirmish battles, using multiple players per side. The ideal rules would let a player use 1-2 squads as part of a bigger, platoon level operation. I'm hoping to organise a game with a couple of players per side, and see how this goes.

Regular readers of this blog will recall we have had an attempt at Point Blank before. Thus far it is the best simulation I've found for modern small unit combat, where the player is styled in the role of the squad leader. I did have some reservations about the game we played, which you can learn about by reading my battle report. Hence, I've added some changes to the game below, to make it more easy to use in a multi-player environment, and perhaps make it a little more fun too!

In this version, the game uses a stack of playing cards. Each squad / player has a different suit. The cards activate units under the command of the squad leader. Each squad will activate on a draw of between two and 10. The Aces are kept for special events, which I will go into in a future post.

Veteran squads will also be able to use the Jack in their suit, which will allow them to activate TWO soldiers. Elite squads can use the Jack AND the Queen. In each case, court cards allow the player to activate two soldiers, or support weapons, or vehicles.

Conscripts REMOVE one card from their suit; Poor troops remove two, thus a Poor squad will only have seven cards in the deck.

The Joker brings the turn to its end, rather than players using up all their activation counters.

Aces are used to generate special events. I will go into more detail on these later, but basically they can be good or bad, depending on a roll of a d10. Aces can also be used to trigger scenario-specific events as well, should the umpire require them.

Typical examples include the onset of poor visibility (e.g. a snow storm), the unit running low on ammo, a wounded soldier shaking off his injury, the sudden discovery that one of your men is a pacifist, etc.

Kings are kept as special purpose cards for other events, as determined by the GM.

Hidden Movement

I'm also a fan of hidden movement in wargames, but really these systems need to be workable ones that will not slow a game down to a crawl. On pages 85-86 of Point Blank, there is a good hidden movement system, but I'd propose modifying it in the following ways.

  1. Unspotted soldiers are represented by counters. Some of these are dummy counters. The number of these can either be linked to the level of training of the unit, or the conditions prevailing during a given scenario (e.g. at night). I'd suggest no more than three dummy counters per squad.
  2. Counters are activated and moved like normal soldiers, regardless of their status. They only become flipped once a successful spot check is made against them, as per the rules on page 85.
  3. Spending three action points (i.e. moving more than 6") will automatically cause that counter to be revealed.
  4. Only counters that are actually soldiers may fire; once they do, while they remain hidden - i.e. no model is placed on the table - they do pick up a muzzle flash counter, which provides a +1 spotting bonus to the enemy.
  5. Once a soldier is spotted, he stays spotted unless an event roll allows him to hide again.
  6. Vehicles are never hidden under these rules, unless beginning a scenario in stationary concealment. Troops de-busing from a moving vehicle cannot go hidden.
In a future post, I'll look at my proposed random events table, which is triggered with the draw of an Ace card.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Waterloo campaign: now the problems start

Prussian artillery near Charleroi, morning of 16 June
South of Charleroi, 0545 June 16, 1815

Well, here we are, encamped with the bulk of the Prussian II Corp south of Charleroi. To my front is the French I Corps under Ney. Prussian artillery is still arriving and my opinion is we will need to hold here and stop the French getting across the river Sambre at Charleroi.

Finally heard back from Wellington - it sounds as if the British are currently as much in the dark as I am. Neither of us is sure of where Napoleon's main thrust will be. I think it would be prudent to keep II Corps here, and see if Ney would like to try the issue.

To my right Zeithen and I Corps are facing Van Damme and the French III Corps. Again, Van Damme has yet to cross the Sambre and Zeithen has wisely put out overnight cavalry pickets on the north bank of the river to keep an eye on any French efforts to get across.

However, the real problem, and one Dutch partisans have been warning me about, is the presence of French cavalry over in the Ciney/Huy area. As it turns out, large numbers of unidentified enemy horse have swept into Huy, getting across the Meuse and severing communications with Prussia, damn their eyes!

Priority must now be to get rid of them. To this end I am sending most of IV Corps' cavalry to sort this out. Intelligence indicates more French on the move to the south and east of III Corps, so it could well be that Napoleon is aiming to direct his main thrust againt me in the east. We just need to be able to confirm this. I have taken the liberty of sending a single division under Hacke due north out of Namur to secure Hannut, as I'm worried now.

Right now we must ensure the French do not get into Namur, and we free up our supply lines back to Prussia. I must admit, it is starting to look like Napleon already has the upper hand.

Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher, Furst von Wahlstatt, Charleroi, 16 June

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Dracula Dossier - the final analysis

I've not been keeping up to date with my Dracula Dossier posts, which perhaps I should have done, as it would have helped me with my analysis of what exactly was going on. The Dracula Dossier, written by Kenneth Hite and published by Pelgrane, is a large, sprawling investigative sand box of a campaign. Like a number of other Pelgrane offerings, it is not a linear campaign: it relies heavily on the abilities of an experienced referee to mould the plot to his own requirements. As such, it may not be described as a 'plug and play' option for GMs of Night's Black Agents, the rules system it was originally written for.

We didn't play it with NBA either - we used a homebew mish-mash of Call of Cthulhu and the new Delta Green. As a player, it is difficult to deduce what events and characters stemmed from the imagination of the aforesaid Hite, and what hailed from the fevered mind of our GM. Hence, anything I say needs to be taken with a substantial pinch of salt.

Dracula Dossier took us almost a year to play, although with several periods of hiatus when a full complement of players was not available. While I enjoyed it immensely, I think for me two consistent difficulties emerged from it, one early on, and one roughly mid-way through the plot, which should be raised for those wondering whether to run this.

We had a good bunch of characters, and one aspect you do notice during any campaign is how the characters migrate from being two dimensional facades to well-rounded, consistent personalities. Hence, we had the cold-blooded GRU assassin who never left her agency, and was covertly aiding the Russian vampire project; the initially idealistic German counter-intel specialist who lost his bearings and became focused on purely eradicating the undead at any cost; the Israeli hacker cursed with bad luck and a dubious relationship with her journalist ex-husband; and the meticulous English ladies' man with an amoral streak.

I don't think the team represented a pleasant group of personalities, and they were more than capable of torturing and executing a London antiques dealer, making some student interns 'vanish' in a Russian forest, and exposing a group of underwear models to a firefight with werewolves that got them all killed. In the process a prestigious Belgravia mansion in London was blown up, the top floors of an office block in Rotterdam were destroyed, the parliament building in Bucharest was set on fire, German security personnel were framed for drug dealing, and an elderly Austrian security guard was roughed up in a museum. I could go on.

So we had characters with drives, with motivations behind their personalities. And in the system we were using, drives could be used to a degree to help restore lost Sanity. But as players we could probably have done more with this, I'm just not sure how. One particular issue was why the agents were putting themselves in harm's way, because this influenced their involvement in the plot. We began the story as members of Redline Corporate Solutions, a small industrial espionage outfit based in Zurich, that decided to 'go have a look' when a group of competitors in Malaga went missing. This led to the early discovery that Dracula was in fact real, as was evidenced by watching him carve up an SAS hit squad in graphic technicolour.

I can see now that the character of Natasha, the GRU agent, was motivated by the need the Russians had to gather material on the vampires and the British vampire program. My character, the Israeli hacker Carmel, was already disillusioned by her years in Mossad, and wanted to eventually expose the vampires to the world. To this end she uploaded all the evidence the team gathered to a secure FTP server on a regular basis, with a dead hand activation protocol that would distribute it to select media if something happened to her. I'm not entirely clear on what kept the other agents going - Max, our German comrade, eventually switched his drive to simply eliminating the vampires wherever he found them. But there was no central team goal or objective, other than an early decision to take down Dracula, something we only achieved by realising how keen he was on his brides, and doing for them first.

We also were not entirely clear on what Dracula was up to. A raid on the HQ of EDOM, the British government's vampire handling unit, led us to the conclusion that they were under-resourced and largely just interested in using Dracula as some kind of weapon against terrorists. Yet their control / knowledge of him was limited at best, and our team's knowledge of the European vampire network quickly outstripped theirs. It was also apparent that Dracula's brides were involved in some form of vampire tourism / VIP country club plot, but it didn't seem exactly world threatening and more an excuse to hang out with celebrities like Jeremy Clarkson.

While we celebrated our victory over Dracula eventually, we were still none the wiser on his plans, other than to keep running Romania as his private fiefdom. We provoked his eventual attack by simply assassinating those he cared about (who seemed to be off doing their own thing), leading him into a carefully prepared trap in Russia.

Dracula Dossier is a big and impressive sandbox investigation, and should not be embarked upon lightly. It can take agents the length and breadth of Europe. Think in terms of the epic Call of Cthulhu campaign Masks of Nyarlathotep, but make it more fragmented, more granular. Obviously there are key locations, like London, Bucharest and Munich, but it is down to the players to collate and regularly review an enormous amount of intelligence in every session, which requires focus from them and a helping hand from the GM.

Much has been said by Pelgrane and Hite especially about the unredacted copy of the novel Dracula, which was published alongside the campaign. The premise here is that the novel is the after action report of EDOM's first attempt to recruit Dracula for their purposes in the 1890s, and if you have read the original, the changes and additions are indeed entertaining. I enjoyed revisiting the book and its characters after more than 20 years since I first read it. But players need to be VERY dedicated to read this as a handout for a game, because it requires a high level of concentration to go through it looking for clues / evidence to support the ongoing investigation. GM's will have to judge the capabilities of their own group: if most of you are undergraduates reading English Literature, you should be fine. I don't think it is necessary for playing DD, however, and should be regarded as an additional embellishment for the uber-dedicated.

Dracula Dossier represents a new level of sophistication for the investigative sandbox campaign in RPGs. While I have bought it myself, and will read it, I remain of two minds as to whether I would ever try to run it. Like Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, it is one of those epics that should be attempted by ambitious groups looking for a career-defining challenge, but it is really not for the beginning to intermediate group.

Our GM, in his own ruminations on the campaign, has wondered whether Savage Worlds might not have been a better system for this game, and owners of Agents of Oblivion are advised to take a look at that supplement for a possible basis for running DD. It may also be worth cooking up a customised deck of adventure cards for the players. But that will probably be for a different post. Our campaign did result in a number of major battles which tested the homebrew rules system we were using to its limits, but that may also be because our group has a preference for action and combat to keep them awake of a Friday evening!

Friday, 7 April 2017

Just one vacancy left at UK Games Expo

In June I will be running three RPGs at UK Games Expo. Two of them have been written about on this blog previously, while a third could be a new run out for a scenario, unless I get a chance to play test it first in May at some point.

At the time of writing there is still one vacancy left for Project Prospero, my Delta Green game. This involves a scratch team of agents dispatched to a Caribbean island in the path of a massive hurricane. Their mission is to find out what is going on at a covert research facility on the island, destroy it, and make it look as if the storm was responsible. As they get into their helicopter, they only have a vague idea of what awaits them.

The game happens in real time - i.e. the agents have approximately four hours to get in and out of the research facility before the storm hits. This will probably be the last time I run this adventure, after which I will likely post it with full DG stats this site. It has already had an outing at Dragonmeet in 2015.

The following games are also now fully booked up: one is the final outing for Looking For Lucy, an adventure that began life as a starter for a Deadlands Noir campaign, but which I'll be running using Trail of Cthulhu this time.

The other is the first outing at a con of Fuel Stop, my Achtung Cthulhu scenario involving the crew of a stricken B29 bomber trying to make it back from a raid on Japan in 1945. I may run this at Free RPG Day this year, if I get my act together in time.

As I say, both these games are now fully booked up. If you are going to be at Games Expo and want to play Delta Green there is one seat left at that table. I hope to see you there.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Farewell to the Mighty Greblord

One of those false senses of security one tends to get lulled into as a human being is the assumption that you have decades ahead of you, including for gaming and everything else you want to get done before your existence on this planet finally comes to a conclusion. That is not, however, always the case. I'm still getting over the passing of Pete Armstrong, aka the Mighty Greblord, one of my gaming buddies. He and I had been planning to get together to play some Dystopian Wars in the very near future, but given how busy I was on the business front, there never seemed to be the right time to set something up. I was also aware he was juggling child care duties, which were keeping him busy.

The Greblord first introduced himself to me when I was umpiring a game of the Battle of the Nile at Salute. Myself and game organiser Mark had advertised ourselves as Brighton-based wargamers and he stopped by to say hello. Following that, we went on to be part of the same RPG group and also played numerous miniature battles games as part of the Hove Area Wargames Society, including Warhammer 40,000, Victory At Sea, Song of Arthur and Merlin, and Fear & Faith.

Pete was a keen collector and painter of miniatures and used his blog to promote his interest in vintage Games Workshop figures as well as some highly sophisticated modelling projects, including an Antarctic fortress for Dystopian Wars. His painting efforts always put mine to shame - I recall being quite pleased with my Necron fleet for Battlefleet Gothic before they went onto the table to take on his Chaos ships, next to which they looked awfully bland, such was his ability to make a Nurgle-infested battleship look truly rancid.

I came to realise that the Greblord was also a walking piece of Games Workshop history (and knowledge) as well as more widely gaming history, and had worked as a store manager for GW in Hammersmith in the late 1980s. He is even cited by Marcus Rowland as the inspiration for a Paranoia scenario in an early White Dwarf magazine.

Greblord was a Yorkshireman, too. I know he was an active member of the Sheffield wargaming scene before he moved south and regularly made the effort to go up to Sheffield for the Triples show. Salute was another high point in the annual war gaming calendar for him. Like many Yorkshiremen, including my own grandfather, he said what he meant. For many other English people, this can come across as a bit abrasive, but the Greblord was someone who did not believe in pussy-footing around or the habitual double-speak embraced by much of the nation.

Greblord's death was sudden and shocking. When, now, will I have the opportunity to pit my 6mm Carthaginians against his gorgeous army of Spartans? And my Russian Dystopian Wars fleet will not get its opportunity to sail - and no doubt be decimated by - his Covenant ships.

His loss has convinced me that I must spend more time doing what I enjoy today. Too often we put things off for when we have more time or more money. But those circumstances may not arrive. While it often seems there is never enough time in the day, we need to make time to see friends and play games with them.

Greblord's spirit lives on - you can view his blog here, with many examples of his collection of classic Citadel miniatures and gaming/modelling projects. Farewell my friend. We'll miss you.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Cypher System - first impressions

New Beginnings - d101 Games
So here's a useful way to learn a new rules system. First, sit in on a game as a player, then generate some player characters, and finally convert an existing adventure. This is exactly what I've been doing, using the core rules of Monte Cook's Cypher System, which are now available in a generic format. Wise connoissuers of Mister Cook's output will be aware that this system underpins his Numenera and The Strange offerings.

Last year I took the opportunity to sit in on a game of Numenera, as part of the BURPS RPG get-together at Brighton's Dice Saloon in September. I went away with a favourable impression. Since returning from India last month, I've been teaching myself the generic version of the rules system. I am using a copy of Gloranthan Adventures - New Beginnings, from d101 Games, which I've had for a while, but have never used. This series of adventures set in Dragon Pass is written for HeroQuest, but up until now I've had problems getting my head around the system.

Using New Beginnings as a template, I have generated five pre-gens for Cypher, based on the characters in the back of the d101 Games supplement. It has proved remarkably simple to do this, and each character really only took about 20 - 30 minutes to make. Even though the characters are Tier 1 (out of six), they are still relatively potent. Although there are four 'classes' in generic Cypher (as opposed to three in Numenera), they are so highly customisable with the other aspects of their backgrounds, that each appears a unique personality in their own right.

Each character is composed of three elements, a class, a description, and what they do. So, for example, the character of Oldra Rainwarrior, an initiate of Helamakt and a shepherd who has had his steading destroyed by Lunars, has been created as a Sharp-Eyed Adept Who Speaks For The Land. This aptly describes what he is, an adept, what he does, he is sharp-eyed (a good skill for a shepherd), and what he does (speaks for the land). His devotion to the warrior aspect of the Heortling rain god Heler is covered by a mix of his adept class and his speaks for the land.

The core classes bring most of the practical skills including the critical attribute pools, while the other features add further flesh with skill specialisations and personality traits. What I like about Cypher is that it brings character into the mechanics. Characters are not simply a combat matrix. There are rules that enforce behaviour. There is also an opportunity to tie characters to other characters via relationships.

So, taking Oldra as an example again, part of his background is that he has lost his sheep. In the confusion of the Lunar raid, he suspects the sibling of one of the other characters took the opportunity to steal them. The player gets to choose which character it is, and the players between them are left to work out the rest. It is a great little sub-plot, it is introduced right at the beginning, in the character generation phase, and adds context to the relations between the characters.

Ease of conversion and customization

Overall, the Gloranthan characters have been easy to convert to Cypher. I have also added XP rewards within their backgrounds to reflect their devotion to their gods, and also to reinforce some personality traits. If I travel further down this road, it might be worth looking at attaching XP to successful emulation of the core values of a deity, and possibly also to the successful completion of Heroquests.

I have converted two adventures into Cypher from New Beginnings. They are traditional sword and sorcery adventures, but also good as introductions to Glorantha. I've held off converting a third, largely because it is a little different from the first two, involving more politics, social interaction, and scope for mass combat. Currently I remain unsure how successful Cypher would be with a densely political scenario. That's not to say it can't manage intrigue, just that I've not attempted it yet.

I will just finish this post by saying that there are probably some settings / situations that Cypher will not work for. Because of its reliance on the discovery and use of cyphers, which play an important role in the game, some genres, like investigation, probably won't work so well. Cypher came out of Numenera, the central plot of which is the discovery of, and interaction with lost technology. It is difficult to see how the game would work in an environment where there was not scope for the cyphers to be there to be discovered and implemented by the characters. Doing this seamlessly is one of the key elements of converting existing adventures or settings to the system.

Thus far Gloranthan encounters have been relatively easy to manufacture using the template encounters in the Cypher book. There is no big Cypher bestiary to my knowledge, and some of the encounters in New Beginnings are fairly unique, even for Glorantha. But I think I've captured them adequately. The flexibility of Cypher is such that it takes less time to port them over than it would do converting these same NPCs into RuneQuest, which would be a much more complex task.

Stay tuned for more on this project as it progresses.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Icons of Yext - The Merchant

Given that I'm not completely blown away by the default Dragon Empire setting for 13th Age, and with the lack of a psionics rules package to allow for play in Eberron, I am writing a series of alternative icon profiles for a campaign setting I've got cooking on the back burner. Yext is a large continent which may play host to my 13th Age games at some point in the future, hence there is a need for icons that suit its unique character. A map of Yext may be forthcoming on this site in the near future, which will hopefully provide a little more context.

The Merchant

The powerful trading guilds that regulate maritime commerce and traffic down the vital Flowroute all report in to a single individual, responsible for directing the policy of the independent city states that flourish as a result of long distance trade. The Merchant is the master of all Guildmasters, the man or woman tasked with ensuring that no one city or guild rises to a position of dominance on Yext.

Quote: "I would love to be able to accommodate you, but as you can see from these figures, you have already exceeded your annual wool quota."

Usual location: He/she will move from place to place, although generally to be found in one of the big trading ports along the Flowroute.

Common Knowledge:

Free navigation through the Flowroute, and back across the continent via Portage, is considered essential for trade between the cities and kingdoms of Man. Costly wars were one way of trying to control this, but after the expenditure of much blood and treasure, it was decided that peaceful, regulated trade might be achieved for the benefit of all. The rise of powerful trading and craft guilds has helped to achieve this state of affairs. They now enjoy an iron grip on the movement of people and goods between the major ports along the Flowroute and through Portage.

The Merchant is elected every five years from among the senior Guildmasters. The process is lengthy, and dogged with back room politicking and favour-trading between the major mercantile factions, with the odd prince or duke getting involved from time to time. A great deal of money and power is at stake at election time. The guild that provides the next Merchant can be sure they will prosper for the next five years.

The Merchant sometimes dies in office, not always of natural causes. In this case, his deputy usually takes over. Again, this latter position is also an elected one, and the identity of the deputy, also known as the Right Hand, is determined in the same election. By tradition the role falls to the Guildmaster with the second highest number of votes.

The Merchant has to navigate a tricky path - with power comes responsibility. His authority is underpinned by his ability to function in as unbiased and neutral a fashion as possible. The Merchant cannot afford to play favourites. His ability to command the military and political weight that accrues to his position stems from his ability to act properly within the remit of his office. Those Merchants that have enjoyed the highest respect historically have been individuals that have acted against the caprices of their home guild. 

Adventurers and the Icon

While fleets, armies and economic sanctions are just some of the tools available to the Merchant, he also frequently has need for more covert assets. Adventurers are often employed to carry out missions for the Merchant, be it helping to safeguard the flow of commerce, investigating abuses on the part of a guild, or providing vital intelligence to help safeguard his position.

Adventurers who make themselves unpopular with one or more of the trading guilds, or who act to interfere with shipping or the flow of trade, can quickly find themselves on the wrong side of the Merchant, and he has the resources to make the lives of adventurers very difficult, particularly north of the Flowroute.

Allies

The Merchant is most closely aligned with the Five, as while his power extends mostly to the large urban centres, the Five control much of northern Yext. They frequently work to together to meet any major threats to the security and prosperity of the northern realms. The Five know they need to stay in the good graces of the Merchant for their land-bound kingdoms to prosper. The Merchant also needs to stay friendly with the Sand Khan in order to ensure the Portage Way continues to function: he is reliant on the slaves and security provided by the nomads. It is also rumoured that the Beggar Prince provides the Merchant with a valuable flow of information, and that on occasion the assassins of the Old Man of the Mountain have worked for the Merchant.

Enemies

First and foremost of his enemies is the Corsair. The pirate fleets are a constant thorn in the Merchant's side, and despite his efforts, the Corsair continues to prey on shipping in the eastern seas. The Scaled One and the Jester are continual threats to the peace and stability of humankind, and the Merchant will oppose them when and where he can.

History

The role of the Merchant has been established now for over a century. While some individuals have been able to serve multiple terms as Merchant, the peaceful passage of power has underpinned the strength and prosperity of the civilized realms of northern Yext. The Merchant may not have access to the flying castles and military power of the Five, but his wealth has grown to far exceed theirs, and he has plenty of options should he ever need to curtail their arrogance.

The True Danger

Everything will be all right provided that no Merchant decides he can avoid his responsibilities, becoming convinced that he can operate without accountability to the guilds or the citizens of the ports. Should the authority of the office be undermined, warfare and famine could consume the north. 


Monday, 16 January 2017

Back to Apple Lane - Part III



Last time our heroes discovered that the crystal they had been assigned to guard had gone missing. There seemed to be little they could do at this stage than wait for the return of Gringle and Quackjohn to Apple Lane in the morning.

Gringle returned to survey the damage - the kitchen door bashed down, most of the kitchen furniture matchwood, a pile of bodies in his temple room, many of his roof tiles broken...and some sheepish adventurers unable to explain how the crystal they were meant to be guarding, disappeared in the night. Gringle was himself at a loss to explain where the centaur and the dragon newts had come from, given that he had told the party to expect an attack from baboons.

Still, a missing crystal was a missing crystal. Gringle pronounced himself unable to pay bounty on baboon heads unless the characters could find it. He and Quackjohn did not have the name of the adventurer who had sold it to them, and no idea where the baboons laired up. If the adventurers wanted to be paid, he said, then they would have to go get it back.

He agreed to buy some of the equipment of the fallen attackers (e.g. the centaur's lance), and sold a Haste scroll to Quilliam. He also bought the Fertility runestone they had taken from one of the dead dragon newts for 200 silver pieces (Rothgar's player, despite being a mean haggler in Indian street markets, does not seem inclined to haggle in-game!)

Rothgar and Quilliam dragged the bodies outside, gave them another search, and debated whether to skin the centaur for its hide, with a view to making armour from it. Quilliam in the end decided the result would not be superior to what they were already wearing, and Maria again declined to have armour made for her. Finally, the set fire to them, and headed over to the Tin Inn to see if anyone could remember the mysterious adventurer who had come through a week earlier.

At the Tin Inn, across the street from the pawn shop, Quilliam had a chat with the landlady Bertha, who could remember the stranger but not his name or where he was going. He did not stay at the inn.Quilliam and Rothgar eventually eye-balled a somewhat disheveled man, sitting down and writing in one corner of the common room. They struck up a conversation with him, and discovered him to be a poet, called Pramble.

Pramble, a man struggling to make ends meet as a part-time poet and part-time scullion, was questioned fruitlessly about the adventurer, but this led on to a conversation about last night's fight at the pawn shop. Pramble was naturally keen to hear about the outcome, as he had watched it all from the inn and wanted to compose a ditty about the action. Rothgar was under-impressed with the fact that Pramble had not helped when they needed it, but Pramble professed he was not a man of action, but of words. He had, however, spotted the centaur, which he identified as Biglaugh Bigclub, a known bandit and part of a group that had been making a nuisance of itself in eastern Sartar recently.

Quilliam questioned Pramble on whether he was aware of any bandit lairs in the vicinity, and while the poet held out for some money before revealing the information, intimidation from Rothgar quickly changed his mind: he said that a troll called White Eye was rumoured to have set up a base near the Rainbow Mounds, about a day's hard march from Apple Lane.

Deciding that this was as good a place as any  to start, the adventurers bought some provisions and set off, deciding to make it an easy two day hike to the ancient monoliths on the Rainbow Mounds. Camping under the stars in the arid wilderness, Zariah rolled a critical while foraging for roots and rabbits, and discovered the tracks of four baboons, also heading in the same direction as the party, and seemingly carrying something heavy...

The next day they pressed on, and came upon the giant megalith called the Giants' Table. Beneath it, they discovered a cave entrance leading down. The party began quietly stacking rocks to form a small wall across the entrance, and then started a fire. The wind blew the smoke down into the cave, and the group waited patiently. Eventually they were rewarded by the unexpected sally of four rock lizards, which came pounding up out of the smoke and the darkness. Smiling grimly, Rothgar readied his axe...

Monday, 9 January 2017

100 Days Campaign: it's all kicking off!

June 15, 17.55 in the evening, Charleroi

It looks like it is kicking off at Laneffe...!
 News is flooding in fast from all over the theatre. The French seem to be coming at us from all directions. To my right, Zeithen and the Prussian I Corps have been attacked by the French III Corps under Van Damme at Thuin. To the south, at Laneffe, it looks like the three divisions I left there have been assaulted by that rogue Marshal Ney, with D'Erlon and the French I Corps. I'm not exactly sure where Napoleon is right now, and I am trying to identify which of these attacks represents the main French thrust. However, two entire corps are starting to look more than a little convincing!

On my left, at Yvoir, another French corps has materialised from the direction of Dinant under the command of Lobau, with six brigades. Heavy fighting is being reported in that direction.

Spies have come in from Marche, reporting that French cavalry were seen there, heading north. This could mean some form of outflanking maneuver, either towards Ciney or Bomal, but this looks like a long way round. If there IS a major French formation out there, it would be heading towards Huy or Liege and might therefore require further investigation. The question is whether I can spare the cavalry for a foray in that direction...?

At the moment the most potent threat seems to be from Ney. I am leaving Zeithen to take care of the situation at Thuin, while I concentrate the Prussian IV corps south of Chaleroi. It looks to me as if a big battle is brewing here. I may need to support my troops at Laneffe, or assist Zeithen, depending on what happens there. We look to have another couple of hours of daylight left, after which we may have a chance to consolidate our position.

What is also worrisome is that the French are reported at Mons. This is a bit out of my 'sector' so to speak, but there are British troops at Seneffe and Ath, so with luck Wellington will be able to deal with that little trouble. Still no dispatches from Wellington's headquarters. I wonder what he is up to?

Generalfeldmarschall von Blucher

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Gaming plans for 2017

Fuel Stop - coming to a gaming table in 2017.
I'm now back from a very enjoyable break in India. about which I may post further in the near future. Suffice to say, it was a wonderful opportunity to return to the country of my childhood, from which I had been away for far too long.

It seems to be de rigeur on many of the blogs I currently follow to outline some gaming plans for the New Year. I anticipate that I'm going to be extremely busy this year on the work front, so will therefore be keeping any ambitions within conservative limits.

Tabletop roleplaying games

On the RPG front, I quite enjoyed running Deadlands Noir at Dragonmeet last month, so plan to run some more homebrew scenarions at cons in the future. In particular, I will continue to fine tune 'Looking For Lucy', perhaps migrating it from the Deadlands universe to Call of Cthulhu. Although originally written to launch a Deadlands Noir campaign, it seems to work quite well in a con environment, and may also be published on this site at some point for use by others.

My 'Operation Prospero' spec ops adventure, which I ran using Night's Black Agents at Dragonmeet 2015, has been submitted to the Delta Green shotgun scenario contest at Kelvin's suggestion, and I plan to convert it wholeheartedly over to the new DG rules, again for use as a one shot at cons.

I'm also working on a couple of new ideas for adventures: 'Fuel Stop' is a WW2 adventure in the Pacific theatre, which features the crew of a B29 bomber that has sustained damage during a raid on Tokyo in 1945. Running out of fuel over the Pacific Ocean and nearly a thousand miles from the nearest Allied base, the crew are desperately looking for somewhere to land, other than in the sea! I'm probably going to be working on this over the next 3-4 months when I get the chance. This may either use Savage Worlds or Call of Cthulhu.

Finally, at a very early stage in a fourth adventure, currently without working title, that takes place in Malaya in the 1920s. The investigators are all locally interested parties that respond to the suicide of an English manager on a rubber plantation in Perak during monsoon season. This is still very much on the drawing board, but like 'Fuel Stop', is beginning to take shape.

Apart from this, I'm dabbling in a few new systems at the moment. In particular, I've become quite focused on Glorantha in recent weeks and have been running some RuneQuest while in India over the Christmas break. This is something I'd quite like to continue with going forward, perhaps migrating the campaign from its beginnings in Apple Lane to New Pavis. Further updates to this campaign will appear on this site.

 Miniatures

I achieved very little with this in 2016, and expect little better in 2017 due to the amount of work involved in managing three growing companies. I shall be keeping my ambitions very conservative, with perhaps some Blood Bowl, X-Wing and Warhammer 40,000. If time, I may experiment with some other games, like Dragon Rampant and The Men Who Would Be Kings. I'd also like to try out some Vietnam War company-level scenarios if there is the opportunity. I suspect miniatures gaming will be conducted on a very ad hoc basis this year.

I'm also meant to be putting together the next issue of the Battlefleet newsletter for the Naval Wargames Society, but not much progress has been made on this yet. Hopefully I will be able to make some more progress in the next couple of months, when time allows...

Megagames

As I mentioned in a previous post, I may see if I can organise a couple of megagames in Brighton this year. There are a number of logistical obstacles involved, the two primary ones being an appropriate venue and attracting enough players. It may be we try out one of the established scenarios first, before venturing into brand new events. Again, for the time being, updates on these projects will be on this blog. 

In summary, I'm taking a very cautious approach to 2017, with very few ambitious projects on the horizon. The question will be how this sits with a very busy work schedule.

Monday, 2 January 2017

RuneQuest - more from Apple Lane!

Last time we left our heroes defending Gringle's Pawn Shop in Apple Lane from a determined assault by a pack of baboons. Thanks mainly to the efforts of Rothgar, a barbarian clad in sack cloth, several baboons have been slain/incapacitated in a most brutal manner. Quilliam, a somewhat ineffectual sorceror, has investigated the sound of someone trying to bash down the kitchen door...

Inevitably, the kitchen door was battered down, and there came the tumult of something/someone stumbling through the pots and pans Quilliam had thoughtfully strewn across the kitchen floor. Before long, the inner kitchen door burst open, and an armoured centaur charged through into the temple. By this stage, Rothgar had appeared in the opposite doorway, and he charged the centaur, while Quilliam, with scimitars drawn, attacked from its left.

At the top of the stairs leading to the kitchen, Zariah had rolled one of the barrels from the upstairs storeroom into position, and now nocked an arrow to her bow, sighting on the centaur (we duly pondered the friendly fire rules for RQ, as, while the centaur was partly hidden from Zariah behind a door, if she missed, there was a good chance of hitting Quilliam or Rothgar).

The centaur fought hard to defend itself against the two men, but was quickly wounded in several locations, and brought down. While Quilliam focused on finishing off the beast, Rothgar charged into the kitchen, tackling two dragon newts that had been standing behind the centaur with bows ready, only to now be faced with the blood-smeared apparition of Rothgar, while behind him the sorceror gleefully hacked away at their fallen centaur comrade.

Rothgar used his tower shield to charge straight into one dragon newt, driving it to the ground and then finishing it off with his short sword. Meanwhile, Maria charged into the kitchen wielding her rapier, and got a lucky critical hit in on the other dragon newt, dispatching it on the sport. Rothgar now ran over to the back door, which had been bashed off its hinges, and almost ran straight into a larger dragon newt armed with an odd-looking serrated club. The creature had a swipe at Rothgar, unsuccessfully, before the barbarian struck back, injuring it. Seeing two of its comrades down already, it chose the better part of valour, and fled into the night.

With the battle over, the adventurers paused for breath. Checking outside the front of the pawn shop, they found the body of one of the baboons, the leader who had fallen from the roof, was missing, presumably dragged away by someone else. The door to the kitchen was locked and barred, while the remaining bodies were moved into the Issaries temple and stripped of weapons and armour. They found two Disorder runes on the dead baboons and a Fertility rune on one of the dead dragon newts.

As thre night drew on, the two male heroes bedded down in the temple area while the girls slept upstairs. Rothgar managed to integrate one of the Disorder runes before falling asleep. In the morning the adventurers arose, only for Rothgar to discover that Gringle's crystal was missing...

What really happened - one of the female baboons on the roof took cover behind a chimney to avoid being shot by Zariah. It then decided to slip down the chimney into the kitchen, where Quilliam heard it descending, and lit the fire. The chimney has two flues, however, so the baboon used the second one to slide down into the living room, then unoccupied, and hide under the snooker table (!). Here it cowered until everything went quiet, whereupon it sneaked out. Despite having a sneak score of only 15% it made four consecutive rolls - one to sneak past Quilliam, one to filch the crystal from Rothgar, one to avoid waking Rothgar, and a final roll to sneak past Quilliam again. I was quite prepared to have it waken one of the duo, but given its amazing fortune, I allowed the result to stand.

The baboons have been left in a perilous situation, however; while the crystal has been recovered, they are down to the senior female, one adult female, a young male, and the current leader, who is badly wounded and must be carried. The bandits who they teamed up with have fled, after their primary warrior, the centaur Big Laugh, was slain along with two dragon newts.