Category Archives: Tabletop

THE IMPREGNABLE FORTRESS – ALLTHING

Slowly returning to blogging now that my broken wrist is mending. Just now able to type well again without pain.

 

Prepared!: The Impregnable Fortress of Dib

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The Impregnable Fortress of Dib
Cartography by Meshon Cantrill

We were traveling the old trade road up near the Blind Hills when we found it: an overturned wagon in the ditch. Evas took to the shadows, scouted ahead, and returned with strange details. The wagon had been transformed—such that it appeared to be a fierce fortress. Signs of goblin-work were apparent: broken shields reinforcing the walls, crude arrow slits cut into the driver’s bench, a makeshift flag hanging limply atop the whole affair. We left it alone, but even at a distance the smell of the odd fortress’s unfinished moat made us wretch…

The Impregnable Fortress of Dib is a location designed to offer a medium/easy challenge to four 1st- to 2nd-level characters.

The Exterior

Before you stands an unusual makeshift fortress. A large wooden wagon has been overturned a few feet from the road. An incomplete moat of sorts rings the structure; the vapors from its gelatinous contents reaching your nose even at fifty paces. The wagon has been reinforced with broken shields and scavenged planks; an unfortunate dead fox has been nailed unceremoniously atop a crude doorway. Slits and holes of various sizes have been bored and carved into the walls, and you hear wicked whispering and rustling coming from within. A flag made from cloth scraps hangs unmoving in the still air.

Dib Halfling-Chewer rules the fortress. Several months back, Dib and his cronies were ejected from a nearby goblin clan for indiscriminate wrestling. Since their expulsion from the clan, Dib and his minions have transformed a trade wagon into a dangerous roadside obstacle. The goblins retreat into the throne room when it is clear the fortress is breached. Assaulting the fortress is run as a combat encounter, with the fortress taking two actions on its initiative (+0). The fortress may:

  • Arrow Barrage. Ranged weapon attack. +4 to hit, range 80/320 ft., two targets. Hit: 5 piercing damage.
  • Spear Thrusts. Melee weapon attacks. +4 to hit, range 10 ft., two targets. Hit: 5 piercing damage.Spear thrusts have advantage against PCs attempting to lift the wagon.
  • Warmed Oil (Recharge 5–6) Spray blobs of warmed oil at all creatures within 20 ft. Each creature must make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or take 2 fire damage; a successful save halves the damage.

A general guide to assaulting the fortress is provided below.

Kicking in the Door. Forcing the door takes three solid kicks. Each kick uses an action and requires a DC 14 Strength (Athletics) check. Successfully kicking in the door allows the party to enter the area under the wagon (see below).

Lifting the Whole Damn Thing Up. Lifting and tipping the fortress over takes 2 rounds. Each round requires a successful DC 17 Strength (Athletics) check made by one PC. The DC of this check is reduced by one for each PC assisting. PCs involved in lifting the wagon may take no other actions that round. Failing the check on the second round results in the lifting PC(s) having to start over. Successfully lifting the wagon allows the PCs to enter the area under the wagon (see below).

Smashing a Hole. The fortress can simply be attacked with the aim of making an opening. The fortress (AC 12, HP 40) is considered defeated at zero hit points. Defeating the fortress allows the party to enter the area under the wagon.

Under the Wagon

Inside the makeshift stronghold, you find a dank and foul-smelling place. A small cauldron of rendered animal fat approaches boiling over a smoky fire. Two poorly made spears sit abandoned on the ground. A ladder suggests the wagon’s inhabitants have dug into the ground below.

Once their fortress is breached, the five goblins inside retreat into the throne room. A DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check uncovers an oily sack with 25 sp and some shiny rocks.

The Tunnel and Throne Room

You crouch and descend into the goblin’s burrow. The tunnel, precariously carved and shored up with planking, runs straight for 30 feet before turning sharply. Peering around the corner, you see the goblin’s living quarters. A single sputtering torch illuminates the small chamber and the makeshift throne at the far end. Evil eyes blink from behind five small mounds of dirt. Suddenly, you hear the sound of bow strings being drawn…

The goblins make ranged attacks from behind half-cover until forced into melee. At the entrance to the chamber is a simple spike trap. Noticing the trap requires a Perception (Wisdom) check of 12. Disarming the trap requires a DC 12 Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check. Failure to notice or disarm the trap causes six sharp spikes to spring out of the ground. PCs within 5 feet of the trap must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw or take 1d6 (4) piercing damage; a successful save halves the damage. The throne hides Dib’s treasure hoard. A DC 12 Wisdom (Perception) check reveals the seat of the throne is loose and offset. Inside the throne is a small wooden chest containing 60 sp, 15 gp, and a scrap of cloth with Dib’s fortress design notes scribbled in smudged ink.

D&D ON STEAM

D&D now on Steam, complete with dice and a Dungeon Master

Fantasy Grounds, one of the leading virtual tabletop platforms, now offers officially licensed Dungeons & Dragons content from Wizards of the Coast. Available through Steam, the software can allow players to virtually recreate the 5th edition D&D tabletop experience complete with dice rolling, 2D maps and a play experience completely controlled by a dungeon master.

Anyone who’s been playing D&D over the last decade remembers the promise of Wizard’s Virtual Table. First publicized in the back pages of 4th edition core rulebooks, it promised a fully-realized, 3D tabletop roleplaying experience. But over the lifecycle of 4th edition the vision wavered, and in 2012 the Virtual Table beta was officially cancelled.

In the meantime, a number of virtual tabletop solutions cropped up organically online, allowing players to come together from remote locations around the world and have an experience very similar to playing at a table together in the same room.

fantasy_grounds_phandelver

One of the most capable solutions is Fantasy Grounds, which has a bewildering assortment of features and flexibilities that allow game masters to create everything from homebrew games, to Pathfinder and other established tabletop systems. Add to that the officially licensed D&D modules available for download, including add-on classes and monster collections, as well as entire campaigns.

The first set of products, including the D&D Complete Core Class Pack, D&D Complete Core Monster Pack, and The Lost Mine of Phandelver went on sale last week. Polygon has spent some time checking out the content in The Lost Mine module. Believe it or not, the entire experience, page-for-page, of the physical 5th edition D&D Starter Set is represented there. Beyond that, Fantasy Ground’s modules even include annotated maps hotlinked to spawn enemies onto the grid, ready to roll initiative.

We talked to the president and owner of Fantasy Grounds, Doug Davison, who said that more products are already in the pipeline.

“We have a queue that we’re working through right now,” Davison told Polygon. “We just finished up the preliminary work on the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure module, and so that’s currently in review right now. We’ve already conducted our internal reviews, and now it’s out in the hands of a few folks at Wizards of the Coast. So depending on how much needs to be changed during that process, I think you’re looking at a matter of maybe weeks before that’s available.”

Greg Tito, Wizard’s communications manager, confirmed for Polygon that other campaigns, including Rise of Tiamat and the recently released Princes of the Apocalypse, are on the way for Fantasy Grounds.

It’s interesting that Wizards is partnering with a tool which, for all intents and purposes, allows users to scrape content off the internet for free and easily insert it into their games. Fantasy Grounds’ own online tutorials give step-by-step instructions on how to grab maps and art from Google Images and drop it directly into user-generated games.

But Tito says players have been doing this sort of thing for generations, so why not support a tool that lets them do it easily? Furthermore, he hopes that fans will see the value in the for-pay Fantasy Grounds modules, as they leverage the strong work that the Wizards research and development team, as well as their publishing partners, produce in the physical books.

“It goes down to everything that we’ve been excited about in this partnership withFantasy Grounds,” Tito said. “It’s just another tool to allow people to play D&D the way they want to play it.”

DIGITAL MAPPING – GAMEPLAY

Dungeons and Dragons comes to life on digital maps

 

By Dennis Scimeca Feb 2, 2015, 9:01am CT
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A projector combined with a Web-based tabletop role playing game tool make for a new and really cool way to play Dungeons and Dragons.

Reddit user Silverlight is a developer for Roll20, an online tool for virtual tabletop role playing game sessions, so he knows a thing or two about blending technology into traditional RPG play. By pairing Roll20 with a projector mounted on the ceiling, Silverlight is able to display digital maps on the tabletop for a home session of D&D.

And the coolest thing about these digital maps is the ability to show characters’ actual line of sight as they explore. Discussing the setup on Reddit, Silverlight says that this functionality is built into Roll20, and he made the cones of vision possible by manually revealing portions of the map to the players.

This isn’t really a practical setup to replicate. Silverlight used an Epson brand projector to make the digital maps, and a cheap Epson projector should run you about $300 on Amazon. Still, it demonstrates new possibilities for playing tabletop role playing games. Roll20 runs in a Web browser. Maybe someone can figure out how to make this setup work using a much more affordable smartphone projector.

Photo via Silverlight/imgur

OPEN CHOICE IN GAMING – THE FORGE

Today’s entry for The Forge is based upon a correspondence between me and an old friend over the idea of exactly how much of a game can and should be programmed (pre-designed), how much should be flexible and open to ad hoc manipulation, and what the consequences of these conflicting deign principles really mean.

Of course in tabletop and role play games (non-electronic versions) the ad hoc and “open” elements are much easier to develop and fully exploit in comparison to exactly how much of a computer or electronic or video game must be pre-programmed. But in my opinion the ultimate goal even of computer and video and even virtual reality games is not just to mimic or emulate open choice, but to actually develop program parameters than allow a sort of “open interface” with the gaming world in the same way that an individual can interact with the Real World. That is to say game should not merely simulate “open choice and open exploration” they should actually provide it.

And since today’s entry is for the Forge I also briefly discuss the Design and operational Tools I call the Terra Incognito and Esoteric Distribution Principles, as well as Hard and Soft Backgrounds/Milieus.

 

 

Since all games are programmed (to some extent) I think that it is very unusual for most game designers (who think in a programmed fashion- that is they try to project onto the game the same basic methods of thought which they themselves use for the logical design of the game) to attempt to program into the game the elements you described.

When maps are drawn and given to the player they are almost invariably accurate.

Why, most all game designers think, give a player an inaccurate map as that will only anger him and look shoddy, as if it were the fault of the game designer, as if it were a bug. Most players have become conditioned to think in exactly this same fashion as regards games. They see that something does not function properly and they automatically assume it is a bug. But much of life is exactly that- Terra Incognito, you get no real map to most things in life, especially things you have never encountered before and it is ridiculous to assume that any map you ever receive will be absolutely accurate. As a matter of fact much information we receive and much education is similarly either erroneous or at the least tainted by bias, or by ignorance or by mistake, intentional or unintentional.

Then you have to consider that often times things we receive as information from any particular source may also be purposely misleading.

Therefore if a game is to mimic life in many respects it has to incorporate this “unknown and unexpected” territory and it must also incorporate intentional deceit. For instance in many games i have played when one receives informant information it is just assumed to be accurate or truthful. This is not the way real informant information works. It is partially correct, partially misleading, purposely misleading, it is second or third hand information, it is misinterpreted, or disinformation, etc… Games should reflect this. As a matter of fact this puts me to the mind to create all sorts of intentional bug parameters that reflect real life, not randomness, but actual error. Error that is reflective of living error.

So I’m gonna incorporate both aspects into my game designs. The unknown, uncharted, unmapped or incorrectly mapped territories, of whatever kind I’m gonna call the Terra Incognito principal. The other, the misleading or incomplete information principle I think I’m gonna call
the Esoteric Distribution principle.

Both principles will function as a sort of basic background of functionality, that a game, like life itself is not just about the data but the quality and nature of that data and how accurately that data reflects upon the overall gaming environment. Then the player, like a living person, will have to determine not only the gaming parameters, but the functional parameters and whether any information received is of any actual value, whether it is valid or invalid.

I suspect that current principles only exist because they are reflective of the basically mathematical mindset of software and game designers.

That is perfectly appropriate for the development of a Hard Background, or environment in a game, but it is completely superficial and childlike in naivete as regards a Soft, or Human, Background. Soft Backgrounds are full of error, deceit, and ignorance. Unlike present games, soft backgrounds fail to function properly, or one could say function in error about as often as they function successfully and accurately. Soft Backgrounds are not just mere isolated plot devices, but should be a vital and ongoing principle of making any game or skill simulation function correctly.

D20 MODERN AND URBAN FANTASY – DESIGN OF THINGS TO COME

I’m a longtime D&D player, but I’m also a sucker for urban fantasy. With the Dungeon Master’s Guide and some tweaking, I’ve begun to use the fifth edition rules to explore the possibilities of gunplay in a modern fantasy setting.

When Wizards of the Coast released the d20 Modern roleplaying game in 2002, I was in heaven. Gnolls in crushed velvet! Ogres decked out in London Fog overcoats! Living dumpsters that ate people!

I was crazy about the Urban Arcana campaign setting in particular. The scenario was a familiar one, seemingly plucked from my own daydreams. D&D monsters and magic (called “Shadow” within the setting) are finding their way into our world. The vast majority of humankind remains largely ignorant of this development, thanks to our awesome capacity for denial. Only a small number of humans and friendly Shadowkind races can even perceive—much less combat—the threats that such an incursion brings.

I ran my Urban Arcana campaign for six years. By that point, other games had clamored for my attention, but I never forgot how interested I was in the marriage of D&D to urban fantasy. When the fifth edition Dungeon Master’s Guide was released last December, I knew without a doubt that my first homebrew setting using the new rules would be an updated take on Urban Arcana, adapting firearms and modern armor for use in an urban fantasy game.

Rules of Engagement

The Dungeon Master’s Guide provides optional rules for firearms in D&D—including modern and even futuristic weapons. However, this left me in a quandary regarding character defenses. In a typical fantasy setting, adventurers, guards, and other possible combatants are fully expected to wear armor. There are no social penalties when characters are observed in full armor while going about their business. Modern settings are a different animal in this regard.

Using the old d20 Modern Core Rulebook as a guide, and tweaking the math for fifth edition, I created armor options for my “5e Modern” campaign. Because it can be assumed that most characters operate undercover, incognito, or simply in an unobtrusive manner for at least part of the time, I made sure that those options included concealable armor. More obvious armor—whether riot armor, flak jackets, or Land Warrior milspec armor—will likely have an affect on characters’ social ability checks and their ability to move freely in your campaign. By that same token, armor might afford bonuses to Charisma (Intimidation) checks.

Modern Armor
Armor Armor Class (AC) Strength Stealth Properties Weight
Light Armor
Heavy coat 11 + Dex modifier Disadvantage 6 lb.
Leather jacket 11 + Dex modifier 4 lb.
Light undercover shirt 11 + Dex modifier DR/2 ballistic 2 lb.
Kevlar-lined coat 12 + Dex modifier DR/2 ballistic 8 lb.
Undercover vest 13 + Dex modifier DR/2 ballistic 3 lb.
Medium Armor
Concealable vest 13 + Dex modifier (max 2) DR/3 ballistic 4 lb.
Light-duty vest 14 + Dex modifier (max 3) DR/3 ballistic 8 lb.
Tactical vest 15 + Dex modifier (max 2) Str 10 Disadvantage Resistance: ballistic 10 lb.
Heavy Armor
Special response vest 15 Str 10 Disadvantage Resistance: ballistic 15 lb.
Land Warrior armor 17 Str 13 Disadvantage DR/5 ballistic/slashing 10 lb.
Forced entry unit 18 Str 13 Disadvantage Resistance: ballistic/slashing 20 lb.

As you can see from the table, many of the heavier armors grant damage reduction (DR) or resistance to several damage types, including a new damage type: ballistic damage. In game terms, ballistic damage is the type of damage that firearms inflict, and is a subset of piercing damage. This means that all ballistic damage counts as piercing damage, but not all piercing damage counts as ballistic damage. Magical effects or creature properties that grant resistance to piercing damage also apply to ballistic damage, but effects or properties reducing ballistic damage do not automatically apply to piercing damage.

(Armor in my game currently has no price because my modern ruleset uses a wealth system for characters, similar to that used in d20 Modern. Characters gain equipment based on their wealth, rather than tracking income and expenses. I won’t get into the full system here, but it might make a good topic for a later installment of Behind the Screens.)

Who Gets What?

Because of the high potential damage granted to firearms, it was also necessary to introduce a complication or condition in order to balance their use with more traditional modes of attack. In my campaign, a character proficient with a firearm does not automatically add any proficiency bonus to the attack roll. Rather, proficiency with a firearm allows a character to use a bonus action to take the aim action, which adds the character’s proficiency bonus to the attack roll. Without taking the aim action (or if a character is using a firearm without proficiency), the shooter receives only the benefit of a Dexterity bonus on the attack roll.

When it came to weapon proficiencies, I decided that several classes would enjoy proficiency with firearms, while others would have to earn their proficiency with multiclassing or by training through the use of downtime days (see the Player’s Handbook). I divided firearms into two basic classes: sidearms (for anything up to a submachine gun) and long arms (for anything up to a light machine gun.) Anything heavier—such as a heavy machine gun, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, or a flamethrower—is given special dispensation according to the in-game situation. In my own campaign, I created a feat called Heavy Weapon Specialist that allows proficiency in all modern weapons heavier than a medium machine gun wielded by an unassisted individual on foot. I also made this feat available as a fighting style for the fighter class.

Firearm Proficiencies by Class
Class Firearm Proficiency
Bard Sidearms
Barbarian Long arms
Cleric None (though possibly granted through domains such as City or War)
Druid None
Fighter Long arms and sidearms
Monk Sidearms
Paladin Long arms and sidearms
Ranger Long arms and sidearms
Rogue Long arms or sidearms (chosen at character creation)
Sorcerer None
Warlock None (though sidearms and long arms can be created through the Pact of the Blade class feature)
Wizard None (though sidearm proficiency might be granted through the School of Technomancy)

Hold up! City Domain? School of Technomancy? I’ll get into those next time!

About the Author

Daniel Helmick is a contractor attached to the Dungeons & Dragons R&D department, formerly of the D&D Insider studio at Wizards of the Coast. He has contributed numerous articles and adventures to Dungeon and Dragon magazines, as well as the Tyranny of Dragons and Elemental Evil Adventurers League programs. He’s thinking about getting a cat, but he’s torn between the names Trapspringer and Dragonbait.

REVIEW OF THE CODEX MARTIALIS – GAMEPLAY

This is an older review I did for the Codex Martialis, a role-playing game supplement that heavily concentrates upon the way Real World weapons behave in actual combat. At least as closely as it is possible for imaginary games to truly emulate such weapon characteristics. That being said here is my review.

 

First of all, let me begin my review by saying that the Codex Martialis is simply one of the best-written gaming supplements I have ever read. It displays a high degree of professionalism in the effort.

As an example of this let me quote from the work itself:

Thanks to the unique weapon characteristics the choice of weapons becomes a major tactical consideration rather than a cosmetic adornment for a character. Weapons are not just rated for damage, but also for reach, defensive value, speed in follow-up attacks, effectiveness against armor and suitability for different types of attacks. The selection of weapons becomes another major aspect of the basic combat strategy.

I have now had the opportunity to read through the entire work and to play test it several times. What follows is my review.

One of the great advantages of the supplement, once you become familiar with the basic concepts involved, is fluidity. It creates a sort of underlying fluidity by imposing a substratum of combat techniques which, once mastered, allows fluidity by changing the outcomes of in-game combat scenarios from being merely an attrition play of hit points into a play of weapon mastery and combat employment techniques. This does take getting used to in comparison to standard D&D combat practices, but the outcome is well worth the effort. Once one becomes accustomed to the work then it is possible to use it to create and display a large variety of effective attack and counter-attack measures in rapid succession which gives the feel of an intense, hotly contested combat, rather than a mere stale exercise in die-rolling and numbers crunching “fight or flight of the calculators.” And I guess this is what I like best about the entire supplement, it is geared less to constricting combat into an imaginary “clash of the Geeky Die Titans,” where game combat is a boringly insipid mathematical exercise, and is instead designed to imply that combat is really about tactical skill, flexibility, fluidity (in the sense of moving fluidly from one applicable and effective technique or maneuver to another), training, and innovative use of resources, capabilities, and tactics. The supplement implies by both design and technique, that combat is far less about bonuses and more about training, thought, innovation, and adaptability. That combat is a matter of the mind as well of the body, of tactic as well as blind chance, and of skill in battle and not just habitual bonus accumulation. Or in other words even in a game in which certain elements are determined by mechanisms of tempered chance, by no better method than a “roll of the die” it is still skill, training, innovation, cleverness, and persistence that overcomes the seemingly impossible obstacles of a dangerous combat and wins the day before sunset. Die rolls may hinder, or assist, but they are no real match for skill and capability and brilliance in determining actual outcomes. A well trained man with a host of options and inherent capabilities will make his own luck, and he who relies merely upon the fickle grace of fortune would do well to learn that wisdom is a far greater god in combat than chance. Fortune favors the well-prepared man, and it is easy to be brave when you are sure of your own adaptability in any situation. The idea behind the Codex implies that the game combatant does not have to rely upon chance, luck, the die, or even magic to turn the tides of battle. The combatant may turn the tide of battle by skill, training, tactic, and cunning. And that is the way things are, and should be. Chance turns the tide of the moment, good tactics, on both the part of the group, and the part of the individual, turn the tide of the battle.

The degree of relative realism in the work is highly evolved given the natural limitations of role play gaming combat (which can be “only so-real”) and given the fact that most role play games resolve combat and tactical issues by emulating friction and chance through die roll. But one thing I really, really enjoy about this work is that given those natural limitations the Codex takes away much of the chance element and returns tactical skill to combat encounter as a measure of training, accomplishment, perseverance, and maneuver. In a manner of speaking the Codex is attempting to bring “Role-Play” to combat rather than saying it is just an exercise of chance, or a practice of powers.

The Codex Combat System can also be rather easily modified to fit most other gaming systems which rely upon die-rolling as a reflection of how to resolve combat practices, and the whole work interjects some very creative and interesting ideas for how to resolve the actual process of in-game combat elements. I refer to both the Martial Pool as a determination of how to enhance speed and flexibility to group combat, and to the various maneuver and practical engagement techniques such as the Martial Feats (I was particularly impressed by Feats such as Feint) that add a rich depth of combat possibilities. But to me the greatest strength of the entire work is that it takes combat away, whether this was the intention or not, from being merely an exercise in bootless chance and transforms combat into an interesting and varied practice in tactical choice, training, and personal player and character “fighting expression.”

The historical background presented within the work is also rather fascinating. A depth of historical material as well as pragmatic technique analogies are examined in detail, not as an historical work, but as reflective of how historical and real world elements of personal and tactical combat can be inter-woven into a fantasy game to create a far more rewarding experience than a mere combat re-enactment of, “magical boom-boom,” or “what power gives me the highest to-hit bonus.” In fact the supplement seems to purposely steer away from over reliance upon magic in game-combat fantasy tropes so as to intentionally explore the real potential of combat-fighters. It is not so much a work filled with trick maneuvers and rather unrealistic combat techniques that would be useless in an actual combat situation, but rather a thoughtful and measured examination of the “idea of real hand to hand combat as applied to a tactical wargaming paradigm.” A sort of well-imagined and cleverly constructed game interpretation of what really happens when men come to close quarters and grapple with each other, including aspects of why they move as they do, how they strike and defend as they do, why weapons behave as they do when yielded in such and such a manner, and so forth and so on. In short it is a well-conceived examination of both how to exploit trained character strengths and abilities, and of how to take advantage of built in limitations regarding the actualities of human (and by extension humanoid/non-human) weaponry and fighting capabilities in game combat situations.

To close my review let me briefly mention a few other points. Such as the Aescetics of the work. I especially liked the simple line drawings presented throughout the book. They matched the overall tone of the nature of the work, as well as allowing one to visualize basic points being discussed at issue. The illustrations matched the tone and atmosphere of the work as presenting realistic depictions of combat in game terms. They were “fitting” in my opinion. As were the historical references, which gave the work the feel of a more ancient text of advice about how to tactically overcome certain enemies. The references taken together with the various illustrations gave the entire Codex the feel of being “illuminated.”

Simplistically, but effectively.

The Appendixes were also valuable and useful, and much could be made of them in relation to the larger ideas presented in the Codex. The work even came with a Character Sheet specifically designed towards making good use of the various game combat advantages offered and described in the Codex.
As a suggestion for future works of this kind I would very much like to see the author and his team of co-designers develop a similar system for use in large-scale warfare, both on the tactical and strategic level. On the tactical level as an expression of maneuver and technique, similar in construction to the present work, but aimed more at small group combat and skirmishing encounters as applied to the battlefield. On the strategic level as a work that addresses matters of training, capability, and execution of large-scale group combat engagements. For instance in such a supplement geared to warfare-gaming, rather than to role play combat-gaming one might take the basic components and ideas of the Codex Martialis and expound upon them as they relate to issues such as logistics, technological advantage (due to armies possessing certain types of weapons, armor, and transport, and therefore possessing corresponding combat formations and techniques to accompany such advantages or disadvantages), tactical control of the battlefield (or lack thereof), terrain, unit and formation maneuver, espionage, morale, and so forth and so on. In other words I view the Codex Martialis as a sort of Gaming version of the Tacticon. I’d also suggest and would like to see a gaming version of the Strategicon.

If you would like more information on the Codex then I suggest purchasing the newest version of the work. There is also a good link on EN World where the author and others discuss various elements and implications of the work. That link can be found here: Martial Pool. I should also mention as a matter for those interested that the author has another brilliant thread dealing with historical matters and which can give one some idea of the research involved in developing the Codex. That other link can be found here: History, Mythology, Art.

I hope my review was useful to you.
Jack.

 

http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-rules-discussion/241602-martial-pool-new-combat-mechanic.html

http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/242110-history-mythology-art-rpgs.html

ON MEET-N-UP FOR D&D

On using Meetup to play D&D with a group of strangers

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Fate robbed me of an important rite of passage for dorks and nerds. Growing up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the 1980’s, I never got to play Dungeons & Dragons. Sure, I played lots of dorky video games with friends, watched the Saturday morning Dungeons & Dragons TV series, and read whichever trashy fantasy novel I could find at the library. I would always see the D&D rule books, with their beautiful cover art depicting scenes such as a wizard with an octopus face firing crimson rays at female barbarian clad in a bone bikini, at bookstores and toy stores, but I never knew anyone my age who played the game. The closest I ever came to dungeoneering in earnest, was a board game called Hero Quest (which is now worth $400! Why did you throw it away, Mommy?), a sort of D&D lite which came with plastic miniatures. Though, the only person I could convince to read the 40-plus page rulebook was my cousin Chris. A few times, we played the six-player game with two-players. Sad, but fun.

Aside from its status as a game only for the biggest dorks, this was long before George R.R. Martin and HBO had made dark fantasy mainstream, D&D has also suffered from a stigma brought on by religious groups and lazy journalists (cough-cough) alike in the 1980s. References to demons and the occult within the game as well as a well-publicized suicide of James Dallas Egbert III caused an international stir. Egbert was a severely, clinically depressed individual who happened to enjoy playing D&D. The press ran with it as they’re wont to do and, as a result, many children, such as my 9-year-old self, were denied the pleasure of invading Castle Ravenloft to defeat its vampiric lord.

Then there was Christopher “Chris” W. Pritchard, convicted of the murder of his stepfather and the attempted murder of his mother. He, along with his three cronies, happened to play D&D and they also happened to covet Pritchard’s $2 million inheritance. Even the film industry got in on the act. Three movies about the purported dangers of Dungeons & Dragons were made in the ’80s with Mazes and Monsters (1982) starring Tom Hanks and based on the novel by Rona Jaffe, taking honors as most silly. The Dungeonmaster (1984) is a close second with its dazzling special effects and memorable dialogue: “I reject your reality and substitute my own!”

“You’re not getting that. It’s bad,” our mother’s would say. It didn’t matter how cool that undead castle looked or how intense the need to fight a weretiger , “…they said on TV it’s bad.”

Time went on and, for me, D&D became little more than unrealized nostalgia. Sex (or rather, the pursuit thereof) and getting high tend to replace the lust for simulated goblin slaughter. Yet, the love of fantasy persisted. Once a dork always a dork. Laughing friends would always deride my choice of fiction. Frankly, I think they’re just jealous of the cover art. Perhaps Mitch Albom would move more copies if his covers depicted a shrieking owl-bear eviscerating a hapless halfling rogue.

Then, one day, it happened again. Strolling through a Barnes & Noble while waiting for a companion, that gorgeous cover art got to me. A beholder, a creature made out of teeth, tentacles and eyes menacing a heavily armored dwarf fighter wielding a jewel encrusted maul. All the years of deferred quests came through the mists of time. Before I could make an intelligence check, I was the proud owner of the Fifth Edition of D&D’s Starter Set and Monster Manual.

After several unsuccessful attempts to convince friends and family to indulge me in my hunger for arcane warfare and pop and chips, I was forced to Google, “How to find people to play D&D.” I’d come too far and waited too long to give up twice. By all the gods I would have satisfaction! The search led me to a site called Meetup. A popular bit of social media, new to me, but used by many to meet others with similar interests: rock climbing, quilting, support groups and dungeon crawling.

Once the obligatory practice of testing the cyber waters for serial killers was complete, I agreed to meet at a stranger’s home to finally play Dungeons & Dragons. Pop and chips in tow, I expected a human horror show from which I would politely excuse myself after an hour. Instead, I pretended I was a necromancer with a heart of gold for five hours. I actually closed my damned eyes and imagined (for the first time in ages) myself creating a crew of zombies to man our seafaring vessel. Zombies work for cheap. My necromancer’s staff featured a human skull with ruby eyes that totally lit up when conjuring skeletons. The skull, by the way, belonged to a former slave master. (I may practice dark arts, but I don’t go in for that human bondage business.)

A more friendly and diverse group of adventurers would be hard to find. The owner of the house, we’ll call him Kumai from the equivalent Japanese culture in the Forbidden Realms (the setting for D&D), had prepared delicious burgers with homemade buns, tomato salad with mint, and freshly baked, crusty Irish soda bread paired with imported aged Irish cheddar. There was Gmorg, the Dragonborn raider who also repairs cars alongside computer systems and a 70-year-old “dark gnome” cleric and retired school teacher who remembered when one had to trade sci-fi and fantasy novels at book fairs and in “back alleys.” They cost 50 cents back then. Our dungeon master was a former Marine with an uncanny ability for doing silly voices and drowning careless adventurers in pools of boiling blood. The use of miniatures and game maps, which adds a board game element to D & D, was too new-fangled for this group. One had to use their imagination with a little help from the gorgeous artwork in the player’s guide.

It didn’t matter that I was clueless to the process of rolling polyhedral dice to determine character stats such as dexterity, charisma. Nor did it matter we were five completely different people of vary ages, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds, who, truth be told, would have never uttered a word to one another outside of this gathering. We had a fucking blast and we’re doing it again next week.

Mostly, social media gives one a depressing glimpse into the cesspool of humanity. A scrying pool into a lich’s jerk-off session where you can witness a grown man refer to a group of first graders in a Christmas pageant as “bitch-ass faggots.” But this time, perhaps the only time in my memory, cyberia came through for me. I played Dungeons & Dragons with a group of strangers and it reaffirmed my faith in humanity.

“It sounds ridiculous, but it’s like a mental vacation,” said the dark gnome cleric. “You’d be surprised by how a spot of imagination can do you well.”

CONVERSION GUIDES

moldvay basic dungeons and dragons

Those Dungeons & Dragons conversion documents have to wait until Wizards of the Coast’s approvals person wraps up a real-world courtroom drama.

Dungeons & Dragons‘ Fifth Edition has been out for half a year, and has all kinds of new adventures still on the way. But for many fans, the really exciting release will be conversion documents, helping Game Masters bring countless adventures and campaigns to the new system. The only problem is most of these were supposed to be out last fall. What’s the delay? It’s actually beyond Wizards of the Coast’s control – the responsible party rolled a one on the jury duty table.

The detail was revealed earlier this week when D&D Lead Designer Mike Mearls was asked about the matter on Twitter. “The person who needs to do the final approvals on them is serving on a jury that will take another 4 or so months,” Mearls confirmed. “Sorry!”

That’s a completely reasonable hiccup in development, even though four months feels like a long time to wait. At least releases like the Eberron update guide will give players a place to start for now. Hopefully by the time we’re all finished with the Elemental Evil campaign we’ll be able to dive into some classic D&D worlds.

Well, unless your GM gets called away as well.

Source: Twitter

ROLE PLAY TO THE RESCUE

Yeah, no duff

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

 

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

When you hear about role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, you probably picture a dimly-lit basement filled with people in silly robes rolling dice, but there’s much more to it than that. Not only are role-playing games incredibly fun, but they can actually teach you skills you’ll use in the real world.

When I first heard about role-playing games, I immediately thought it was something that was just for the nerdiest of nerds out there. I could only imagine how ridiculous it would feel to sit around a table with other people and act like someone—or something—else, pretending to fight goblins and dragons. The entire premise just sounded way “too geeky” for me—even as someone who was way into video games and other “nerdy” things.

Fast forward a couple years, and I found that I was completely wrong. As soon as I took a moment to strip away the facade of monsters and swords, role-playing games revealed themselves to be something far more interesting than other traditional games. Behind the fantasy adventures was a fun social gathering that required you to think on your toes, solve problems, be creative, and ultimately learn how to become a team player. Sound familiar? Yeah, that’s because it’s like every job out there. It turned out that it really wasn’t about the dungeons or the dragons at all—it’s about thinking critically and working like a team.

Now I indulge in role-playing games as often as I can. It’s nice to have an escape from the toils and troubles of the real world, but with every game session I play, I find that I actually learn something as well. Maybe it’s about myself and the way I think, maybe it’s something about one of my friends that brings us closer together, or maybe I just find a new way to look at something that I hadn’t thought of. I’ve learned that role-playing games are about more than playing a game, and more importantly, that they are for everybody.

The Benefits

Playing Cultivates Creativity

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

Creativity is the bread and butter of role-playing games. They have a certain quality that allows you to transcend typical game interactions. You have real freedom and the ability to move the story forward how you see fit. There are rules for each game, but they are merely the skeleton to whatever story you and your team want to create.

Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to activate our brains, and role-playing games do this incredibly well. When we tell stories—or experience them—our brains have to process language, the cause and effect of events, and also relate it to our own pre-existing experiences. While you’re playing a role-playing game, your brain is firing on all cylinders.

It’s good for you, the same way socializing or reading a book is good for you. In fact, as Jon Michaud of The New Yorker explains, reading comes with the territory:

…D. & D. is a textual, storytelling, world-creating experience, a great apprenticeship for a budding author. But, more fundamentally, you cannot play D. & D. without reading—a lot. Ed Park, in an essay on D. & D. (included in the anthology “Bound to Last”), celebrates the magnificent vocabulary of the game… Combined, the player’s manual, the Dungeon Master’s guide, and the monster manual (the core books of advanced D. & D.) add up to four hundred and sixty-eight pages of small-print, double-column text. I read them with studious devotion and headlong glee. Almost immediately, television all but disappeared from my life.

Before Michaud started playing, he spent his days watching TV while his grades were plummeting. As soon as the fantasy of D&D came into his life, however, that all changed. Michaud even goes so far as to say that Dungeons & Dragons “saved his life” because it got him on a better life track after reading more and finding something that excited him. Perhaps it won’t save your life, but it can still enhance it. As you play, you’ll develop creativity in a way you might not have experienced before. Whether you’re running the game as the “Dungeon Master”—controlling what happens to the players—or simply playing as one of the characters, your storytelling ability will increase.

Dungeon Masters—also called Game Masters in some games—must be particularly good storytellers. Even if you’re using a pre-made adventure with most of the work already done, you still have to be ready to come up with dialogue and personalities for the non-player characters, and be able to vividly describe the world your players explore. As a player, you have to find ways to make your character more interesting by creating personality quirks or a rich backstory.

Role-playing games force you to draw from what you know and create something that you and others can enjoy. A lot of famous creators have been influenced by Dungeons & Dragons as well. Comedian Stephen Colbert, writer George R. R. Martin, comedian Robin Williams, Simpsons creator Matt Groening, and Community creator Dan Harmon all played at one time or another. Storytelling is the one of the most basic creative skills that you can draw on for so many other skills, and being a good storyteller can even make you a more charismatic person. Dive in to another world and see what kind of cool stuff you can come up. You might surprise yourself with what you come up with.

Playing Levels Up Your Social Skills1

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

When you think Dungeons & Dragons, you probably don’t think social skills—but once again, that’s a stereotype that doesn’t necessarily hold true. Role-playing games are 100% social. You need to be able to talk to other people, express how you feel about certain situations, all in a group of people. Role-playing games come with a social network built directly into them.

Sure, to an extent, video games do the same thing—but it isn’t quite the same. Role-playing games bring the interaction right to your face, no screens between you. Plus, you get to hang out with your friends. Before and after a play session, you can catch up with what they’ve been up to and share what’s going on in your life. Once you know the rules for a particular game, you can easily make new friends too. You can hop into other game groups and make new friends; the process being easier because a giant plot of common ground is right out in the open. Making friends when you move can be really tough, but you can hit up a local game and hobby shop to see if there are any groups looking for more players.

This engrained social network can be particularly helpful for kids too. Making new friends can be more difficult for some people, and the forced social interaction of role-playing games can help them find people that share their interests. Additionally, kids and adults alike can use role-playing games to combat shyness. Players are given a mask in the form of their character that allows them to feel less vulnerable. Using my characters as a vehicle helped me feel more comfortable talking to others. Over time I got over shyness and felt comfortable cracking jokes and starting conversations on my own. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being shy, but for those that do want to get out of their comfort zone a bit, role-playing games can offer some help.

Playing Encourages Teamwork and Cooperation

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

Most role playing games don’t end in a “win” or a “loss”, but they still require teamwork. The events depend on players’ actions, just like any other game, and failure to work with other players will guarantee a not-so-fun time. Role-playing games are designed from the ground up to be cooperative and it can be a lot of fun to play a game where there are no winners and losers.

A lot of games strive to be competitive, but life can be competitive enough, and role-playing games provide a refreshing change of pace. Additionally, learning to be a team player is highly important in the professional world. You take on a role at work and do the things that you’ve trained to do, and it works the same way in a role-playing game. Your character normally has a particular skillset, and that fills a role on a diverse team. Just like at work, if you don’t do your job, the whole team can suffer for it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that role-playing games are as serious as work. They can just help you learn the basics of working with others. You get a feel for how you handle interactions in stressful settings. Maybe you’ll find that you’re a good leader, choreographing a perfect battle where nobody gets too hurt. Or maybe you’ll find that you’re more of a support-type, ready to jump to someone’s aid when they need it. Perhaps you can just think outside the box better than your peers, and figure your way out of complex situations. There are no good or bad roles, just the roles you can fill. By learning to play with a team, you can learn how to work with one.

Playing Teaches Problem Solving Skills2

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

Problem solving is what makes the world go ’round and role-playing games are filled to the brim with it. Layers upon layers of problems stand in front of you and your fellow party members. You could be trying to solve a riddle, while navigating a labyrinth, while deciding the best way to take out a band of goblins, while trying to solve a murder mystery, all while preventing a dark lord from taking over the kingdom. Talk about problems.

Role-playing games and their campaigns are problem after problem, all just barely solvable. As each event of your game unfolds, you’re forced to think on your feet and react. You develop some improvisation skill and feel a rush whenever your group finds a clever way to tackle a tough problem. In fact, some of your most memorable moments will likely end up being times that you felt like your back was against the wall, but you managed to pull through using your wit.

Learning how to solve problems develops your critical thinking and can help you approach problems in the future with the right mindset. In role-playing games you’re simultaneously the chess player and the chess piece. You learn to see problems from multiple perspectives and realize that there’s always a light at the end of the dark, goblin-filled cave.

Playing Is Fun

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

Seriously, playing role-playing games is an absolute blast. Try this: Imagine a time in your past that you did something that felt a little silly. Maybe you were at a party, or maybe you had a couple drinks and hit the dance floor at a wedding. Something you were worried about being embarrassed about it at first, but as soon as you gave in, it was some of the most fun you’ve ever had. That’s what role-playing games are like.

Half the fun is letting go of the heavy world around you and playing like you’re a kid again. You sit down at that table and suddenly you’re running around the playground, having adventures and saving the world. Can you honestly say that fun like that isn’t for everybody?

How to Get Started

The Surprising Benefits of Role-Playing Games (and How to Get Started)

Getting started can be the toughest part, but there are some things you can do to make it a lot easier. Unfortunately, there’s no way I could even come close to explaining how to play all of the role-playing games out there, but I can point you in the right direction.

First, you want to find a game that would interest you. The world of role-playing games can be very overwhelming, but it also means that there is literally something for everyone. If you like sci-fi, there’s plenty of that. If you like fantasy, there’s plenty of that too. Vampires? Check. Werewolves? Check. Super heroes, Lovecraft, zombies, aliens, Star Wars, wrestling… You name it, there’s probably a role-playing game for it. Heck, I’ve even played a role-playing game based around the movie Mean Girls (and it was, like, so fetch). So don’t worry if Dungeons & Dragons doesn’t sound like your cup of tea.

Do some research and see what you can dig up. Google “[thing you like] role-playing game” and you might be surprised at what you find. Certain games are going to be more popular, however—which means it might be easier to join or start one of those game types—but see what you can find that excites you. If you’re not into the world the game is portraying, you’re probably not going to enjoy yourself. As far as recommendations go, check out Fate, Pathfinder, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, Call of Cthulhu, and (of course) Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition. You can even get a large taste of what D&D is like without paying a cent. If you’re still lost, hit up a game and hobby store and ask around. You’re sure to get more recommendations than you’ll what to do with.

When you find something that interests you, see what materials you need. Most role-playing games require that you at least own a copy of its player’s manual. Some games may require additional books as well, so make sure you’re getting what you need. These books can be very expensive—usually $40 and up—and the go-to, Amazon, won’t necessarily hook you up. Shop around online and check local game and hobby stores to find the best deals. You can also find digital versions of almost every current game and those can be significantly cheaper. There are a few other things you’ll need to play as well:

  • DM or GM guide: The Dungeon Master (DM) or Game Master (GM) usually can benefit from having this additional book.

Dice: You’ll usually need more than the standard six-sided (d6) dice. Some games require sets of their own special dice. Always check to see what you need.Character Sheets: You can normally find these in the back of the player’s manuals, but you can also find them on each game’s web site for free.Pencils: Not pens—especially if you’re just starting out.A table: The more space you have for books and character sheets the better. Some people like to use grid mats and figurines, but they aren’t completely necessary.People: Alas, you cannot play these games alone. Trust me, I’ve tried. It’s not nearly as fun. Two people will work in a pinch, but a group of four or five tends to be way more fun.

Once you have all of those things, you need to read. A lot. Role-playing games require some investment. The rules for each game can be complicated, and even though you shouldn’t let rules be the focus of your game sessions, you should get a basic idea of how they work. If you know someone that knows how to play, ask them to teach you! They’ll likely be glad to show you the ropes. They may even have their own group and invite you to join, even if it’s just for a few sessions so you can learn.

In the same vein, it doesn’t hurt to ask around if you’re looking for a group to play with. If none of your current friends play, ask around your local gaming stores. A lot of stores have regularly scheduled sessions in-store, and it’s a great way to learn to play without having to buy a rulebook or convince your current friends to come play with you. At the very least, someone might be able to point you in the right direction. You can also find playgroups online. Web sites like Meetup.com can help you find other people in your area that are interested in playing the games you want to play. It never hurts to check out the forums of big role-playing game publisher web sites—like Wizards of the Coast or Fantasy Flight Games—in search of players, either.

Lastly, if you’re having trouble understanding how things work, YouTube is your friend. You can find countless videos of real gameplay and rules explanation for whatever game you’re interested in. Watch a few games and you’ll start to see how the flow of a game should feel. This can be especially helpful if you want to run the game too.


Role-playing games are fun, exciting, and can actually help you learn a thing or two. So get out there, find a group, and don’t let the concept overwhelm you. Ease into the games and you may even make some new friends along the way. Role-playing games really are for everyone, especially you.

Photos by PublicDomainPictures, OpenClips, Dan Catchpole, Michael Harrison, Benny Mazur, potential past, Benny Mazur, Sean Ellis.

 

THE PROJECTED GAME

Actually I’m working on an invention that would replace this altogether for all kinds of tabletop games, not just Role Play but Wargaming, Board Games, etc. Anything imaginable played on a tabletop.

But I still like the general set-up described/displayed here.

DnD_DigitalMap.jpg (1300×975)

Dungeons and Dragons comes to life on digital maps

A projector combined with a Web-based tabletop role playing game tool make for a new and really cool way to play Dungeons and Dragons.

Reddit user Silverlight is a developer for Roll20, an online tool for virtual tabletop role playing game sessions, so he knows a thing or two about blending technology into traditional RPG play. By pairing Roll20 with a projector mounted on the ceiling, Silverlight is able to display digital maps on the tabletop for a home session of D&D.

And the coolest thing about these digital maps is the ability to show characters’ actual line of sight as they explore. Discussing the setup on Reddit, Silverlight says that this functionality is built into Roll20, and he made the cones of vision possible by manually revealing portions of the map to the players.

This isn’t really a practical setup to replicate. Silverlight used an Epson brand projector to make the digital maps, and a cheap Epson projector should run you about $300 on Amazon. Still, it demonstrates new possibilities for playing tabletop role playing games. Roll20 runs in a Web browser. Maybe someone can figure out how to make this setup work using a much more affordable smartphone projector.

Photo via Silverlight/imgur

MILITARY ANTIQUITIES

William Roy’s ‘Military Antiquities of the Romans in North Britain’ (1793) Online

Jan 30, 2015

630

William Roy’s ‘Military Antiquities of the Romans in North Britain’ (1793) is a classic work on the military conquest of Scotland by the Romans.

Plan shewing the course of the Roman wall called Grime's Dyke? - from NLS website

One of the earliest detailed descriptions of Roman antiquities in Scotland, with 51 map plates and 174 pages of supporting text.

This website is a complete electronic facsimile of the original. Many newly-discovered Roman remains were recorded in the volume for the first time. As a record of early archaeology in Scotland and of related topographical information regarding Roman sites, it can never be entirely superseded.

Its author, William Roy, is better known for his work on the Military Survey of Scotland (1747-1755), and in founding what became the Ordnance Survey, but he was also a keen antiquarian and man of science, and this splendid volume is also a lasting monument to these interests.

http://maps.nls.uk/roy/antiquities/index.html

SOME OF THE BEST

36 of the Best Roleplaying Games

“I love video games, but you can’t beat the magic in the personal interaction around a table.” — Filamena Young


Just as there really is no such thing as a best book or movie, there is no best roleplaying game, or even best in a particular category. But if you’re looking for something new to try, this selection of games will help. The games were selected to cover a wide spectrum of game mechanics, settings, and play styles. Some are well known, others relatively obscure. Some are licensed from video games, movies, TV shows, or books. Some are free for download, and several provide free quickstart PDFs.

Select an image to read a full page writeup about that game, including overview information, three of the things that make the game stand out out, purchasing information, and links to reviews and community sites.


13th Age
All Flesh Must Be Eaten
Apocalypse World
Atlantis: The Second Age

Basic Roleplaying
Burning Wheel
Doctor Who
Dragon Age

Dread
Dungeon Crawl Classics
Dungeon World
Dungeons and Dragons

Eclipse Phase
Fate Core
Fiasco
Firefly

Godlike
GURPS
Lady Blackbird
Microscope

Mindjammer
Mini Six
Misspent Youth
Mutants and Masterminds

Night's Black Agents
Numenera
Pathfinder
Pendragon

RuneQuest
Savage Worlds
Shadowrun
A Song of Ice and Fire

Star Wars
Swords & Wizardry
Traveller
Valiant Universe
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