Monday, September 20, 2010

Coming Soon: Wargames Illustrated Does Chariots

I'm eagerly awaiting my copy of WI 276 with its chariot-era theme. Now I don't collect chariot armies, but I have enjoyed a biblical period game or two in the past. Mostly, I just want to learn a little more about the period and how it translates onto the table. There are plenty of cool periods that I rarely get to experience, and this is one that deserves more coverage.

Here's a link to the WI website preview. One thing that jumps out is that Jim Graham is doing the intro piece on the chariots theme. Jim did a great job with the Greeks a few issues back and I expect even old hands at chariot gaming will discover something new. 

Another thing that intrigues me is the modeling article on constructing chariots. I'm hoping this will involve a little bit of balsa wood. After researching chariots from later periods (ie. Classical Antiquity), I think gamers could do with some more variety than might be found in manufacturer offerings - especially in the 25mm/28mm scale. I'm hoping we see some widely applicable tips here. 

UPDATE (Sept 25)
I received my copy the other day and have been working my way through the articles after the usual skimming of the entire issue. Jim Graham does a top-notch job on several chariot articles. Some good modeling advice on the chariot construction using a manufacturer kit and Paul Davies really scores with a how-to article on field defenses.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

D&D 3rd Edition Epiphanies: Kobolds, Charisma, and Sorcerers

It just occurred to me that me that it's the 10th anniversary of the launch of D&D 3rd Edition (the core rulebooks - Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual - were released between August and October 2000). For a year I had been grooving on the interesting revamps of a game that I dearly loved, eagerly reading the preview tidbits published in Dragon magazine. The d20 mechanic - "one rule to rule them all" - replaced pretty much every system and gave the game a universal structure for just about everything - combat, saving throws, and skill checks. The concept was simple - roll high.

There was a lot more done to the game than that, some of it seemingly cosmetic, some of it simply interesting evolutions all their own or derived from the flow of the literally game-changing d20 system. Spell systems took a big change and even monsters became codified by type. It was revolutionary in many ways.

For me, the it comes down to kobolds, Charisma, and sorcerers. These items embody the core concepts of how the game had changed for the better in my mind. I suppose I should explain...

The 3rd edition of the game actually made Charisma a useful ability to have. It played a stronger role in certain classes - especially the sorcerer, bard, and paladin - but also the cleric. For too long it was the dump ability for too many players - the place to put a low score. It did not readily lend itself to quantifiable benefits - especially in combat. With 3e, Charisma powered a lot of  skills and, er, powers.

The sorcerer was a new alternate to the studious wizard, an arcane spellcaster who based his powers on Charisma instead of Intelligence. For years I had read articles and letters to the editor that wanted an alternate magic system in place. In some ways, this was a good answer to that kind of thinking. As far as that goes, the bard received some much-needed focus that put the class squarely in the spellcaster realm; it used a spell acquisition system very similar to the one used by the sorcerer.

And, finally, there's the lowly kobold, who might happen to be a sorcerer! The kobolds in past editions were such weenies that even 1st-level heroes didn't have much problem with them. Now the little nuisances could be quite nasty, especially with leaders and champions that had class levels like any player character. 

That's it for game design appreciation class today!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hollow's Last Hope Hits High Marks - And It's FREE!

Paizo gave D&D (and future Pathfinder) players a really great introductory adventure with module D0: Hollow's Last Hope, their offering for Free RPG Day 2007. In fact, this great item is still free as a PDF. 

It's got the right mix of altruistic, monetary, and magic rewards. It engages players with  doses of combat and skill challenges. The foes are varied and interesting - hobgoblin hunter, a guardian cauldron, and tricky worg are just the highlights - and I almost forgot the creepy tatzelwyrm! It's also got both wilderness and dungeon settings - enough to get everyone's feet wet. Honestly, it gives new players a taste of what the best fantasy RPG games are about, 
kind of in the way that CS Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle gently brought their readers into contact with strange new worlds that would soon prove much, much more scary and exciting.

Hollow's Last Hope serves as a prelude to the D1: Crown of the Kobold King. It's hardly necessary to enjoy the Crown, but the monastery illustration and map feature in Hollow's Last Hope might come in handy for some extra encounters.

You can go to and download this free PDF on this page.

Friday, September 10, 2010

New Forest Flip-Mat from Paizo

I've mentioned Paizo's great two-sided tabletop accessories before (click on the just-added Flip-Mats label for more) - they are durable and have a great amount of utility. I have used their old forest flip-mat for years now - and will continue to do so after I purchase the newer version - but I know that the new one will look great with our RPG minis and monsters moving across them. The forest has got to be the quintessential terrain of any fantasy RPG I've played or ran - I mean, it's right on the way to the dungeons and caves, right? It's right up there with the cheerless meal by campfire and trying to sort out the night watch as far as fantasy gaming goes. 

Anyway - check out that meandering set of paths to the right! I don't think you could expect more curvy ambush spots in a cavern. 

Click here to see Paizo's description of the product and get a look at the sample sides. I could be wrong, but in the past, the sample sides of any flip-mats I've purchased had no detectable changes in graphics.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How to Explore A New Wargaming Period (or Revisit an Old Favorite)

I've talked about some epiphany moments in regards to fantasy role-playing games before on the blog. Today I thought it would be cool to mention something about diving into a new wargaming period with the right kind of spirit. 

Chris Scott's article, "The Sneak of the Sudan," found in Miniature Wargames #137 (October 1994) still makes me think to this day. I couldn't find a digital image of the cover, but I did find that they used part of the cover in a digital collection available here and pictured above. You don't have to be a fan of 19th Century colonials to appreciate the content - Mr. Scott sets a good example to follow.

One of the things that is right up front is the element of fun. It's obvious that the author and his chums are having a good time researching the period, collecting figures, playing the games, and creating/tweaking rules. Their efforts make a richer experience for all parties - they learn something and get into a friendly competition of out-sneaking the other. 

I love the way the guys go about building their forces. In addition to new figures and models, they hunt the bring & buy/flea markets at conventions to create hodgepodge armies of manufacturer ranges. Mr. Scott goes so far as to draft plastic toy camels into his army (adding supply bags and a paint jobs). He and his friend even make some conversions of just out-of-period artillery and boats - you get the idea. Their armies had a lot of character.

I don't know if they used a published set of rules or not, but they certainly felt free to add in scenario rules for fatigue, movement, etc to make the rules fit historical accounts. This is the right kind of attitude to have. If a historical game can't be played with the rules as written, then change them for that game. 

That's it for the inspirational soapbox today...