Saturday, December 21, 2019

Pulp Adventures and a general update

Inside Baseball
The contract that keeps the lights on was not renewed so I have been looking for a new contract/gig/job. Unfortunately, blogging suffers first. Sorry for the light posting

In General
We have continued to play the Seaward and Blackstone campaigns (updates coming) and Champions. The big reveal from Seaward?
The Men of Varied Colors are a type of genie!

Pulp Champions
  When I started the Atlantaverse back in 2013 all I wanted was a setting for my sons and their friends to play Champions. Two of the kids were from a family that thinks D&D is iffy but superheroes are cool and I appreciate but dislike the official Champions Universe (Why? Status quo).
  Well, things got out of hand since all 9 players wanted to jazz band so we quickly had a ton of backstories. I had made a pseudo-history for the alternate dimension of the Atlantaverse (where the US has a commonwealth-style parliamentary system, BTW) that touched on numerous topics ranging from alien invasions to secret cabals to where socks go when they vanish from the dryer (yes, really).
The the crew wanted to play street-level guys in Hudson City so I stole the map, made new hereoes, villains, and groups, and off we went. And then....
  Well, you get the idea. Long story short I signed a license with HERO (God bless them and their business) and am writing the basic setting down in a presentable format.
(Artists I hope to Kickstart a future full art version).

  So what did the hardcore central 3 players demand?
  Pulp adventures in the past! They wanted to be in the Atlantaverse back when radio was king so they can be at ground zero for the Secret History of my superhero universe.

My reply?

Monday, November 4, 2019

DM Report: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

  As I have mentioned before, over the years I have very rarely used a published module and, when I do, I heavily modify it. The exception has been that over the last few years at Halloween the players all make one-shot characters and I run a classic module.
  Then there is Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.
  For a variety of reasons that could fill a novella in the Winter of 1980 through the Summer of 1985 I DMed Expedition to the Barrier Peaks about 8 times, never for my own "main group" and never canonical in my own setting. Just one of those things.
  So this year the Halloween adventure was Expedition!
  The players all took last Friday off of work and we started Thursday night and played 4 hours. Then 6 on Friday, 6 on Saturday, and 4 on Sunday, wrapping up the module in a grand total of 20 hours that included breaks for meals (I got a new smoker and we blew through a LOT of meat).

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Scaling and Threats: DM Insights

We all know the player where we aren't sure what the heck they're doing at the table. Here's my favorite example, from my old friend Mike Nevala's d6 Star Wars game.

  The young Jedi, hotshot pilot, young senatorial, and smuggler were separated in the Imperial base. The Jedi (me) found the young senatorial (now my wife on what was our first real date a looooooong time ago) pinned down by blaster fire and rescued her. The smuggler (my wife's best pal) had already stolen a shuttle and was waiting for us at a side exit. The hotshot pilot (Dave, in his first game with us) was on top of a lift when this occurred.
  Mike: "Above you you see a metal grate about 4 meters square - the top of the lift shaft. Above it you see the lift machinery. The elevator will be at the top soon, if you don't do something you'll be crushed."
  Dave: "Uhhhhhh. I pray."
  Mike: "Wha?"
  Dave: " I kneel in the corner and pray for the Force to save me."
  Mike: "Ummmm. OK, as you raise your eyes in prayer you see that in the very center of the grate the grill has a different pattern, an area about a meter on the side."
  Dave: "Does the Force tell me what to do?"
  Mike: "....noooo. But that square area could be an access hatch or something."
  Dave: "I don't move."
  Mike: "OK, well. You die."

  Dave never played with us again. I saw him 2 years later and he was still complaining bitterly that Mike was a killer GM.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Play Report: Dragon Heist

  I get to write a play report!
  For my birthday everyone promised to get me at the table in front of the screen more often.
  Jack picked up the adventure Dragon Heist.

  Me: 1st level dwarven wizard Don Jose Francisco Diego Bernardino Mateo Marco Maria Mateo de la Chula Vista, Conde de San Luis Obispo. Noble, bon vivant, and natural philosopher.
  Sam: 1st level skeleton bard Mr. Skeleton. A good, decent man who loved music so much he returned from the grave to play. Can't speak.
  Nick: 1st level half-elven cleric of war Elendil the Blackhearted. Formerly a pirate notorious for his viciousness, he had an epiphany, changed his ways forever, and is now a mighty force for Good and foe of injustice.

Monday, September 30, 2019

DM Report: the trip to Robias

  Over the weekend we had a bookkeeping session/mini-adventure/investigation mission.
  The Party:
  Jennifer = Fiona, half-elven Fighter/Magic-user
  Jack = Athanasius, human Cleric
  Alex = the Sparrow, half-elven Fighter/Thief
  Sam = Clarence, Human Fighter/Ninja (books, wishes, and such involved)
  Nick = Thoren, half-orc Fighter/Thief

Sunday, September 22, 2019

DM Report: Return to the haunted Tower - with guest player

  The players have not been back to the village of Richacre and the Haunted Tower in 5 years (real time). First level characters on their first adventure played.

Jack - a half-elven thief
Sam - an elven fighter
Nick - a human cleric
David - a dwarven fighter

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Worldbuilding: Precision or Atmosphere?

  The Fun Lads Four (who will soon be the Fun Lads Five as the youngest is rapidly joining the nerdery) and I were going over campaign notes last night and we were discussing how very subtle shifts in tone result is massive changes in perception. We think we came up with some insights:

Saturday, September 14, 2019

DM Notes: Seaward, the Celestial Bureaucracy, Genies, and Cambions

  As I have written about extensively, clerics, religious brothers, and all 'good guy human/semi-human/demi-human/etc.' NPCs/PCs in the Seward area are essentially Medieval Catholics. I vaguely mention that druids, Oriental Adventures PCs/NPCs, my guys from Arabialand, cultists, and humanoids aren't.
  But what are they?

Monday, September 2, 2019

In Universe: Seeker's Proposal

This is for Seaward:

"The Case for Establishing a Permanent Company Presence at Skull Mountain
An in- and out-of-universe whitepaper

The contiguous region consisting of the Briars, Skull Mountain, the Greywall Mountains, and their associated outliers and landmarks (hereafter, "The Greywall Hazard Sphere.") represents one of the single greatest barriers to the expansion of civilization in the Seaward region. Besides the innately inhospitable terrain and territory of the Sphere, it has served as an attractor for evil forces for millennia. However, the establishment of a permanent defensive and scholarly presence in and around the heart of this area, Skull Mountain, could serve as a powerful deterrent to hostile forces, a unique opportunity to pacify the terrain, and a chance to exploit the rich resources, both mundane and extraordinary, of the entire area.

A permanent presence in Skull Mountain overseen by the Company of the Dark Moon would return a multitude of benefits.
     Chief among these would be the early warning and first strike capabilities against any additional evil actors that are drawn to the Hazard Sphere. The introduction of our own traps and defenses, including the introduction of good-aligned magic, as well as our own intelligence gathering positions, would give us a potent edge against any new evils arriving in the area.
     Similarly, use of the Briars and the Greywalls as a security buffer against hostile invaders from the south or the west would sharply improve the Kingdom of Seaward's defensive posture. Going above and beyond the existing ability to stage military forces through the Briars into use of the Sphere as a manned border would result in superior national security against everything from the Duke of Freetown to Baron Samedi himself.
     A simple manned position and personal headquarters would not be able to support deeper incursion into Skull Mountain alone. However, continuous access to fully cleared areas, as well as a finger on the pulse of the Sphere's internal politics, would have the potential to seriously increase our knowledge of what lies within the Mountain.
     To expand the above point, the Hazard Sphere does indeed have its own internal politics. With no less than five active, contemporary wizards, an archbishopric, continuous monitoring by extraterrestrial actors, and the enigmatic Harruhoth, the potential for political fallout that could extend even to Seaward directly is clear and present.
     Finally, on a less critical note, the exploitable resources contained within the Sphere are clearly extensive. The supernatural aside, the Company has already surveyed a garnet mine and a silver mine, in addition to a variety of valuable plants and animals, and has already developed a proposal to create what would be the shortest direct trade route between Seaward and the Southern Kingdoms. Harvesting even a fraction of the region's wealth would be of great value to us and to Seaward as a whole.

Despite the obvious drivers for this project, a number of critical obstacles exist that must be addressed before it can be seriously contemplated.
     Chief among these is our lack of information. Skull Mountain alone can be described, in a scholarly sense, as a mystery wrapped in a riddle and tied with enigmas. Even with our recently gained information, we know so little that we don't even know what we don't know. This must be rectified, at least partially, before we risk committing serious resources to the project.
     Similarly, the aforementioned political situation remains unknown to us, and may present an obstacle. Blundering into a complex geopolitical stratum could be enough to doom the entire effort, necessitating significant information gathering before we begin.
     Another critical issue is that we cannot allow small groups of Company officers, or non-Company assets, to explore the Hazard Sphere unaccompanied. Skull Mountain alone is clearly littered with the remains of previous intruders who were bold enough to enter unaccompanied. Areas already explored can be traveled through with only men-at-arms for escort, but, no matter how safe an unfamiliar zone may appear, we cannot permit anything short of a full incursion party to explore it.
     Counterintuitive as it may seem, logistics, construction cost, and security are not issues to the expedition. However, travel time to and from is a concern. Committing significant Company assets to a location that is five to nine days from civilization by foot travel could become a frightening act of self-sabotage if we're not cautious. 

The Proposal
Establishing a permanent presence within Skull Mountain, in order to begin a permanent use of the entire Greywall Hazard Sphere, must be done in discrete stages. To wit:
     Phase I: When the Spelljammer mission to gather sage information on Baron Samedi is complete, Lieutenant Seeker will take a secondary party to gather sage information on Skull Mountain, and to seek information in the Four Counties about various factors.
     Phase II: This is a simple stage of logistical planning and an additional survey of the area around Skull Mountain.
     Phase III: A low-level field expedition to map the ventilation and service shafts of the upper levels, as well as any additional minor areas that we have so far passed by.
     Phase IV: Next, we must gain political stability. This will entail meeting with Francmir, the Bishop, some of the hermits and monks in the Briars, the Snyads, and Harruhoth, as well as gathering intelligence on Kyodai and the Grandfather. Some we will seek alliance with, others we will bargain with, and still others we need to learn how to avoid.
     Phase V: The main proposal. Using the elemental gem taken from Lady Jacinth, Lieutenant Seeker will construct a new, small sublevel outside of Skull Mountain, opening up at separate points into Level I, the Cavern of Herds, and the High Briars. All openings will be disguised using help purchased from the Four Counties. The sublevel will be sufficiently sized to serve as personal quarters for Seeker, a field armory for the Company, a bunk for expedition parties and hired help, and a vault to reserve treasure or magic. Installation of traps and alarms will complete this phase.
     Phase VI: In this phase, we will base a small band of hired outside help inside the Mountain. These will be men at arms, farmers, and surveyors that will observe Skull Mountain and the surrounding area using long-range reconnaissance, and cultivate the Cavern of Herds and the Garden to be self-sustaining. A case can be made to base them in the Company sublevel, or in the Mountain itself. This is subject to change. In any case, one way or another, we must permanently man the Mountain with both Seeker and his retainers and an additional presence beyond them.
     Phase VII: To extend our intelligence network through the Briars, Seeker will re-engineer the eyes of the Mountain to serve as an ideal raven nest, charm a large number of ravens to take residence there, and carefully gather the most ideal large, intelligent, good-aligned, and trainable ravens to create an ideal breeding stock in the eyes, that will also serve as spies through the entire Briars. Combined with the overwhelming victory of the War in the Walls, this will give us first warning against threats from all directions except the Empty Level.
     At this point, barring any unforeseen exigencies, the main part of the project will be accomplished. The subsequent phases can be delayed, and taken in any order. Our immediate, primary objects will be accomplished here, and we will have a major information network established over the heart of the Greywall Hazard Sphere.
     Phase VIII: We must overthrow the evil Wizard in the Briars. His continued presence is intolerable, as we know he draws power from and evil to the entire Briars.
     Phase IX: If there is a way to induce Baba Yaga to leave the Briars, we must take it here, if we can. However, I doubt that this can be accomplished.
     Phase X: Another important step is to destroy the Spider Wood discovered in the Briars. A hazard on its own, it also acts as a breeding point that can spread dangerous and wicked creatures to the entire Sphere.
     Phase XI: At this point, the Low Briars should be fairly secure. We should encourage the people of the surrounding areas to exploit their resources even further, and enter in larger numbers, in order to stabilize the region. Assuming, of course, that we've established it as at least somewhat secure.
     Phase XII: This is the most difficult to plan of all phases. We will seek out sage information and the assistance of various, obscure parties in order to rebuild the overthrown paraelemental altars as bastions of good. Hopefully, this should secure the upper levels of Skull Mountain for us, and spread good creatures through the High Briars. Possibilities for lightning and nature focus points also exist.
     Phase XIII: We have already moved several families of Brownies into the Briars, and should have established a locus of good inside Skull Mountain by this point. Therefore, any additional steps we can take to make the High Brairs a sylvan locale of natural magic will be executed here. The terrain is likely too rough for unicorns or dryads, but grigs, nymphs, snyads, fauns, and blink dogs are all good candidates. 
     Phase XIV: To take a side path to previous points, we should here survey the Greywall Mountains. We must locate secrets and threats laying between Skull Mountain and the Coast. This phase may be undertaken at basically any time during the preceding exercises. Additional steps necessary to clear the Mountains may be added after this is completed.
     Phase XV: Slaying the wizard who lairs at the far end of the Hobgoblin Highway is a low priority for us due to his limited influence outside of Morath and High Banath. However, we must eventually do it, even if this may put us further into Baron Samedi's schemes.
     Phase XVI: Full resource exploitation. There will certainly be other challenges to face first, but establishing the appropriate mines and potential trade routes represents the end game of our plan. Beyond the wealth this would give us, if we can provide a source of wealth to civilization, it will inevitably be drawn back.

This exercise will be difficult, will take up a long span of time, and may be interrupted by our other obligations. However, if accomplished, it would pay dividends to us and to Seaward, possibly for centuries. With Baron Whitehill and Lady Jacinth slain, the Orcs in disarray, and Baron Samedi currently not displaying a hand in our affairs, I think that the time is now ripe for us to accomplish this. With a methodical approach and the strength of the Company, I am certain that this is an achievable goal.

If the Company accepts, I propose that we begin in a matter of weeks. With the spelljammer returning any day now, an immediate commencement would enable us to synchronize the beginning of the plan with Midsummer's Day at the Mountain. In any case, however, I submit the proposal to the wisdom of my fellow officers.

-Seeker, Lieutenant of the Company of the Dark Moon
[printed in both Common and Elvish, and distributed to all Company members]"

Friday, August 30, 2019

More Fortieth Anniversary Adventure

  The crew returned to Skull Mountain, re-established base camp in the Garden, and went through the Trap Maze (finding that every single trap was reset except for the one on the secret entrance to the wizard's study) and were soon in the teleporter room in the hidden niche on Level One. With some careful experimentation the following happened.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Fortieth Anniversary Adventure

  Which continues this weekend, naturally.

  The main party headed through the Briars to Skull Mountain. On the way they met stragglers from Whitehill's army and killed them all. A dozen or so large spiders had taken up residence in the Entrance Cavern; the party shooed them back with fire and entered the North Door, checking the areas for disturbances.
  All was in order so they entered the Pilgrims' Hall and travelled the long way to the Pilgrims' Stairs. In the Chapel they found the body of a female verbeeg, dead no more than 2 weeks. She had been cut down by a hobgoblin's poisoned dart.In her pouch was a message asking the company to assist them as they were besieged by hobgoblins.
  The party immediately struck out to the Garden Level and set all the hirelings and supplies with the 'camp guards' henchman team and struck out through the Cavern of Herds (finding another dead verbeeg messenger) and the Trog Tunnels. After the almost 4 mile trek they spotted a hobgoblin camp at the junction with Hobgoblin Highway. A force of 80 hobgoblin warriors with onagers and ballistae were behind a barrier and firing on the verbeeg wall and about 120 hobgoblin females, slaves (mainly goblins with a handful of kobolds), and such were in the main camp.
  The party hit the main camp like a thunderbolt, cutting their way through them rapidly and engaging the warriors with a strong frontline and spells. The verbeeg sortied out and the hobgoblin warriors, surrounded, were cut down to the last.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

My Campaign Turns 40 Years Old

    There is a bit of an argument; I thought I started Seaward on August 18, 1979 but my old friend George (who played a ranger) insists it was the 11th.
  Either way, we're celebrating today!

  The party is trying to get to (what they call) Level Four in Skull Mountain. I think they'll clear it easily. Then (what they will probably call) Level Five - which might kill them all. If so they will join about 17 other PCs that have died there.

  We are also, naturally, having adult beverages and a cake as well as a LOT of beef.

  My keen insight on running a long campaign? Try here.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Long-term Campaigns and Growth

  In a very short period of time my AD&D campaign will be 40 years old. I want to take the time to discuss how a campaign can last that long.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Warhammer 40k Roundup: Other Guns and Stuff

From Jack

In a recent article, my father gave his summary of our recent Warhammer 40,000 gaming, and the takeaways about the game that he derived from it. I agree about some of his points, and disagree on others. Now, obviously, neither one of us is an expert or veteran player (in particular, I think I'm the worst player in my group), so these insights are probably going to nearly all be some combination of wrong and obvious. 

To restate what was covered in the prior article:
     There are four of us who play. I settled on the forces of Chaos as my army pretty early, but whether I favor Daemons or Chaos Marines remains uncertain, and I plan on playing the Sisters of Battle as a secondary army once they're finished. Dad plays all Imperial forces, but mostly the Guard and the Mechanicus. Sam plays T'au and Thousand Sons (he's the lore player in our group). Nick still hasn't settled on an army, but mostly favors the Tyranids, and, to a lesser extent, the Necron so far.
     We've been playing for less than a year. We use tokens and chits to mark models that we don't yet have. We cycled through various armies and builds early while trying to find what suited us. We use a variety of terrain and missions, put probably still aren't quite playing "normal" games. We were never exposed to editions prior to 8th, but have vague information about their rules.

Now, my points:

Places where I agree with my father

Board control matters
...but not for the reasons he listed. In a game with objectives, and especially a game with tactical objectives, being able to seize a portion of the board quickly, or prevent your opponent from doing so, can decide the game. Leaving 10 cultists with a heavy stubber way in the back field in case they need to advance on an objective, or sticking 5 flayed ones in deepstrike in case you suddenly need a unit in the opponent's deployment zone, is key. Preventing deepstrike and reacting to enemy assault is also nice, but not as important as scoring.

Strength is everything
The way the math works out, every possible strength or toughness value is totally different S3, S4, and S5 are all totally different values, and they're not even close to the disparity between S7, S8, and S9. Lasguns and boltguns may be the same against a gorkanaut for some strange reason, but they're radically different against yer comm'n boyz. Similarly, S9 is one of the most valuable things you can get. Higher is always better. Get as much strength as you can.

Places where I disagree with my father

Real world tactics don't win
Early on, my instincts were to treat this like a real war, where ordinary infantry in a combined arms assault win nearly every engagement, while special assets are off doing special things. But this ain't a real war. Tactical marines serve a purpose, but they are incapable of finishing the enemy off. A balance of real-world forces is often effective, but sometimes a mix of disposable swarms and magic super-weapons is much better. The effective thing to do is always to maximize your number and proportion of really good super-tactics, regardless of how this would look in real life.

Cool and good go together
One of my favorite things about Warhammer is that they really do bring fluff and crunch into line, at least in 8th. Sure, there are some things that should be better than they are, like Necron Monoliths or Heralds of Tzeentch, and some things that are better than they should be, like Ogryn, but overall, things that are cool in lore are cool on the tabletop, and vice versa. Assault terminators? Daemon princes? Avatars of Khaine? Onager Dunecrawlers? All awesome in fluff and in crunch.

My own points

Probability is on your side
One of the beauties of the 40K rules is that they're highly dependent on very random rolling, but you roll so many individual dice that averages usually prevail. This is good, because it means that there's minimal variation in overall effectiveness, so your 30 boyz or your wedge of guard tanks should have similar performance every game; but there's also room for cool swings of fortune, like your Space Marine Captain surviving a daemon prince's charge and killing him in the ensuing duel. You can have cinematically random moments in your otherwise standard game. Most of the time, anyway. Also, this breaks down in certain situations, such as very small games, or games featuring lords of war.

Get your money's worth
As far as I can tell, the path to victory is to make sure you get the maximum return on your points invested in each unit. If you buy a gun, make sure you shoot it, shoot it well, and shoot it at the right target. If you buy a bike, make sure it carries you to the objective, the enemy's heavy support, or both. Don't buy anything you don't use, at least in matched play terms.

So, what do you think? Am I right? Am I playing the game wrong? What do we have left to learn? Let me know!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Warhammer 40K Roundup: Guns and Stuff

  Starting a series on my insights into Warhammer 40k.
  To start with, please understand that to a lot of hardcore Warhammer 40K players my insights will probably seem ridiculously obvious -we've only been playing less than a year and we largely avoid online forums, etc. This is much more of a "newbie learns the obvious" series I am starting, not a "deep delve into forbidden lore" series

Weekend Mania
  Over the weekend we played 4 games, all at 1,500 points-

  • Adeptus Mechanicus vs Space Marines
  • Imperial Guard vs Necrons
  • T'au vs Chaos Space Marines
  • Orks vs. T'au

Monday, July 15, 2019

DM Report: Seaward - The South Ford of the White River and Pirate Port

  In anticipation of the 40th anniversary of my 1e campaign next month we started a cycle again.

  The South Ford of the White River: The evil Lord Whitehill, formerly a noble warrior of the grand Duchy of High Morath, has completed his fortress in the Bandit Lands south of the capitol city. Only the foul magics of his consort, Lady Jacinth, allowed him to do so over the winter.
  The king has hastily erected a line of towers and rushed reinforcements to Longnor Fell, the walled town that protects the norther ford over the White River. he also sent out the word - all noblemen and knights of the realm must prepare for war. The nobles of Ekull must guard the Briars, Eagle Valley, and the Stone Hills;  Timberlake the North and the border with Eastford; and this frees royal forces to muster against Whitehill.
  The paladins of the Shining Keep also are mustering to the king and, for the first time, the monks of the Order of the Way are sending members to war under the banner of Seaward.
  Also summoned? The Company of the Dark Moon.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Atlantaverse: Psychotronic World Building

  When I am doing worldbuilding for fantasy games I may spend too much time on verisimilitude - making the world at least internally consistent. Seaward, Blackstone, the Patchwork Lands - I work to make them sensible, consistent and familiar without being boring. But there are always little things, like the steam-powered war moose construct.

  Now that I am making a Champions setting I am in full-on Psychotronics mode!

  Psychotronic is a slang term used in parts of the movie buff community to describe a certain sort of movie. I've never found a good universal definition of what 'Psychotronic' means that covers all the bases, but here I go with my own idiosyncratic one;

Psychotronic: 1) the blending of genres, typically with low budgets
                       2) Low-budget exploitation films
                       3) Films with very non-traditional manner of storytelling

Monday, June 17, 2019

To-Do Lists, Making Friends and Influencing People, and Ruling the World

  One thing that I can struggle with is making sure NPCs stay dynamic. They aren't just animatronic puppets that sit in their castles, inns, and lairs waiting for the PCs to do something.

  I mean, that is a TON easier - everything remains in a stasis-like status quo until the characters get to it = no work for Rick so that is OBVIOUSLY the best, right?

Unfortunately, this makes the game(from OD&D to Champions to any other RPG) predictable and booooooorriiiiiiiiiiing. So how do I solve it?

Friday, June 7, 2019

Champions: The Atlantaverse - WASP



Classification: WASP is a Criminal Terrorist organizetion and is believed to be the largest and most powerful criminal terrorist organization in the world.

Confirmed Origins: ICICLE can confirm that as of 1981 WASP existed as a mature, global organization.

Unconfirmed Origins: The Strangers claim that WASP is an outgrowth of the fabled International Crime League founded in London in 1887. Various superheroes claim to have fought WASP as WASP as early as 1968.

Name and Meaning: WASP is no longer considered to be an acronym; various internal leaders assign local backronyms (such as 'War, Assassination, Strength, and Power', 'We Always Stand Proud', etc.). The meaning is ultimately unknown.

Estimated Members: Non-combatant: ~1 million. Combatant: ~200,000

Confirmed Structure: WASP is organized into Nests, Cities, Areas, Zones, Regions, Spheres, and the Globe.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Champions: The Atlantaverse - StarWatch

  because what kind of superhero universe doesn't have spacecops?


History of the Watch
120,000 years ago a group of civilizations near the galactic core were saved by the actions of a member of the Galaxars. Formerly rivals these three races banded together to create a group for the Milky Way similar to the Galaxars. The Galaxars themselves, always willing to assist such efforts, helped create the technology for the StarRods and train the first members of the Watch.
Within 10,000 years StarWatch had grown to cover the Milky Way.

Members of the Watch
StarRanger- The backbone of the Watch they are armed with StarRods, protected by their uniforms, and have individual bases with support staff. There are slightly more than 300,000 StarRangers at this time.
StarRangers have ranks: regular, 'sergeant', 'lieutenant', 'captain', and 'major'. Sergeants are senior Rangers and while they formally supervise no one regular rangers obey them on joint missions. Lieutenants supervise groups of 10 rangers (including themselves); Captains supervise groups of 100 (including themselves); Majors supervise groups of 1,000 (including themselves).

StarMarshal- These members of the Watch specialize in battle; they have more weapons and better defenses. Each StarRanger major commands a detachment of 10 StarMarshals.

StarScout- Specialists in stealth and speed, these members of the Watch are less heavily armed but are much faster and have sophisticated stealth capabilities. Each StarRanger major commands 10 StarScouts.

StarMedic- These members have advanced skills in care and medicine at the expense of attacks. Each StarRanger major commands 10 StarMedics.

StarWarden- Often semi-retired StarRangers, the Wardens maintain and guard the Watch's various prisons. Each major has 10 StarWardens.

StarCommander- These are the leaders of the Watch based in one of the three StarWatch Command centers. There are 30 'colonels' and 3 'generals' each split evenly between the 3 bases. Each of them has his own commands of 30 StarRangers, 3 StarMarshals, 3 StarScouts, and 3 StarMedics. Each base also has 30 StarWardens.

Others- StarWatch has a fair number of support staff that are not members of the Watch itself but still are loyal employees. Each base has a minimum of 3 staff; pilot, mechanic, communications. Some bases (in busy sectors; the base of a Captain; etc.) have up to 30 staff doing everything up to public relations and charity coordination. The three Bases each have an average of 1,000 staff members. All told the Watch has more than 1,000,000 staff members.
Staff positions, especially in remote areas, often serve as a recruiting ground for new StarRangers.

Regions- StarWatch divides the galaxy into 4 regions. The Core Region consists of the 20,000 light year diameter center of the entire galaxy. The thee bases are placed equidistantly around the perimeter of the Core and they share responsibility for the region. The rest of the galaxy is evenly divided into wedge-shaped regions, the inner edge of which is centered on the base responsible for it. These outer regions have what a human would call 'letter designators' that roughly correspond to D Region, R Region, and U Region; these are based on the names of the founding races. 1/3rd of StarWatch is assigned to each region.
[Note: the solar system is less than 100 light years spinward ['clockwise'] inside R Region from the boundary with U Region.]

Sectors- Each region is divided into 100,000 sectors. These are designated in such a way that would translate into English as 'U-9357' or 'R-84231'. While each sector averages about 1,000,000 stars each this can vary greatly – a sector on the galactic rim halfway between two arms that holds no spacefaring race may be vast in distance and have 2,000,000 stars or more while a sector close to the core on the main of an arm with a handful of spacefaring races might have 500,000 stars and be a fraction of the volume.
Earth is at the almost-center of Sector R-77975.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Champions: The Atlantaverse

I have been running a Champions campaign for about 4-5 years, now, and am making it 'more official'.
Since the campaign grew from 'dead average points heroes in Atlanta' to add 'street level in Hudson City (i.e., Jersey), 'high points in Vibora Bay' and now my 4th son is running 'mid level in San Mateo' we're calling it the Atlantaverse.

Here's some background!

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Blackstone Campaign: The Cult That Waits

One of the overarching plots in my AD&D 2e S&P campaign (which is 13 years old already) is about M'Andry V'Heve've, a term in an ancient, almost forgotten language, that means She Who Waits.

Spoilers Follow: My Players Stop Here

Saturday, April 27, 2019

A Host of Swords

  I infrequently post about magic items unique to my games (see Magic Item under labels) but I rarely talk about swords, especially powerful ones.

  But I have them! Here are a few:

Seaward Weapons
A almost 40 year old AD&D 1e campaign

Mor Altach: Long sword of Wounding. +1 to hit (only). Intelligence of 12-14, Chaotic Good. Speaks a few languages. Can be used by barbarians. Doubles the chances of a barbarian that wields it to go berserk. Can emit light as a lantern (this can be varied or turned off). The following special powers are 'secret' and must be learned through use and experience.
  Once a person that wields it as their primary weapon has leveled up twice it acts as a Ring of Free Action. Once its wielder has used it to kill a Devil it is +4 to hit devils. Once its wielder has fallen 21' or more while holding it, it acts as a Ring of Feather Fall. Once a person that wields it as a primary weapon has leveled up 6 levels it becomes +4 to hit and damage (if the Devil ability is activated, it is a total of +7 to hit vs devils). Once its wielder has failed a Petrification save while holding it, it grants a +4 on all saves vs Petrification.

Rupert's Blade: +3 broad sword. Wielder can boost their strength to 18/00 once a day - this lasts 5 rounds. Wielder also has a +2 save vs poison while holding it. Anyone wielding Rupert's Blade can instantly recognize an undead on viewing by type and kind (i.e., a master vampire, a frost zombie, etc.) and are immune to characteristic loss, level drain, etc. from any undead they can see.

Lawbringer: +4 longsword. LG, Int 13, can communicate with emotions and vague imagery.  The wielder can Detect Evil as a paladin. It is a holy weapon: in the hands of a paladin it is +6 and doubles the range of the paladin's Detect Evil ability and grants all powers of a holy sword as listed in the PHB. Lawbringer cannot be Cancelled, Disjoined, or otherwise disenchanted unless the being doing so is a Lawful Good cleric of 18th or higher level.

Thresher: Two-handed sword. +3 to hit, +6 to damage. It doubles the number of attacks versus low hit dice creatures to a maximum of 30 attacks/round.

Drachenbane: +3 two-handed sword. It does double damage to all drakes, dragons, and such creatures and versus chromatic dragons it does increased die as well (i.e., versus a dragon turtle it would do 6d6, but against a red dragon it would do 6d8).

Blackstone Weapons
From my 12+ year old 2e campaign.

The Seven- seven two handers of unmatched power. The ones seen by players-

Gatekeeper: +4, +5 versus extra-planar/summoned creatures. Once a month it can automatically permanently seal any Gate by touch. Wielder has a +1 on all saves, +2 versus Summoned or extra-planar creatures.

The Paradigm: +7. It's pluses do not get reduced by planar travel, etc.

Staredge: +4 to hit only. On a natural 18 or 19 to hit it does double damage. On a natural 20 it does double damage and will sever an extremity as a Sword of Sharpness.

Swords that are not of the Seven.

Death's Sting: +7 long sword, does double damage. (Destroyed).

Magekiller: +3, +5 versus arcane spellcasters or creatures with spell-like powers that mimic arcane spells. Grants anyone holding or carrying it a +2 on all saves versus spells or magic items and reduces damage from all magical attacks by -1 h.p. per die (minimum of 1). When in-hand it gives it wielder a 50% Magic Resistance. While intelligent and strong-willed, it rarely communicates. It can Detect Magic within 10' (automatic), Detect Arcane Spellcasters (and if they are good, neutral, or evil) within 60' (automatic), and can Dispel Magic at 18th level once a day. It will pass along what it senses to its wielder telepathically.
  Magekiller was forged to slay evil arcane spellcasters. It grants an additional +2 to save/-1 h.p. per die against spells cast by arcane spellcasters.
Once per week Magekiller can act as a Rod of Cancellation; the sword will decide when this power is used.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

My Clone Book, Old School by Rick: Crusaders & Catacombs

  As some may know this year my primary AD&D 1e campaign turns 40 years old. After years of cajoling by players and family about 4 months ago I started making my own OSR/Clone rules book to incorporate all the various rules and rules sets we have been using.

  I have a full-time contract position AND run my own small business with 3 employees AND have 5 kids, so it is moving along faster than anyone could expect! But people are asking questions and after the excellent idea of 'blog about it!' here I am.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Appendix N: Andre Norton, Witch World, and My Campaign

  When I finished reading the Barsoom books when I was 9 (My father had the entire series from his own youth, including a first printing of Thuvia) I read Daybreak 2250 (also called Starman's Son) by Andre Norton. I loved it. I read Tarzan books for about a year then found Norton's Crystal Gryphon. Then I read Witch World.

  Shortly thereafter I started making Seaward, my own AD&D campaign.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Battle Report: Warhammer 40K, Guards v. Orks

  As we continue the odyssey of learning W40k live Jack and I fought mano a mano where he had Orks and I had the IG.

We decided to leave doctrines and stratagems off the table one more time.
Rough army breakdowns-

2 groups of 30 gretchin
a runt herder
3 war bikes
a boss on a war trike (warlord)
3 x groups of 20 Boyz and Nobs
2 battle wagons

Platoon Commander (warlord)
Techpriest Enginseer
5 Taurox
Heavy weapons squad with lascannons
4 squads of infantry
2 squads of ratlings

We started by alternating terrain and ended up with forest at each end of neutral ground and some low walls in a far corner.

Knowing the Orks had initiative I deployed with all troops inside Tauroxes - 3 tauroxes, the wyvern and the hydra on my right flank, the other 2 tauroxes on the left.  The orks set up with their mobs, runt herder, and a battle wagon opposite my left everything else opposite my right. One group of Boyz was on foot, the others were in battle wagons.

Jack had initiative and did everything in his power to get his bikes to the wyvern immediately, juuuuust barely pulling off a charge to engage it. Everything approaching heavy he had he fired at ome of the tauroxes on my left, then everything else in range after the mobs moved up fired at it, too, damaging it.
  The Wyvern withdrew with no damage, a squad deployed, and a taurox charged the war bikes and the Ork warlord, tying them up. The other two tauroxes on the right moved forward and fired on the opposing battle wagon, chewing it up with autocannons.
  On my left the characters and heavy weapons piled out of the heavily damaged taurox, the other one also deployed its squad, the general shooting began. the hydra got lucky and tore up one group of Boyz; infantry did well against the Orks; the ratlings annihilated the runt herder; the astropath smote the leftmost mob; and the heavy weapons squad began a legacy of missing with every shot.
  The taurox on the right that charged actually damaged a warbike. The one on the left managed to charge into the mob of Gretchin and squish one before they fell on it with meat cleavers. It took its last wound and with a shout of,
  "For the emperor!"
  It exploded, causing a surprising amount of damage to the two gretchin mobs.

  The Orks then had a ton of fun - the rightmost battle wagon deployed one group og Boyz and the one I had been shooting embarked on it. They shot up one of the untouched tauroxes on the right and the gretchin kept coming. The warbikes and chief pounded on the taurox tying them up and, with a shout of,
  "For the emperor!" also exploded, killing a bike, wounding another, and wounding the war boss.
  Assorted fire from Orks took out a trooper and damaged a vehicle or two.

  On the right another squad deployed and fired into the Boyz, hurting them. The three surviving tauroxes poured fire into the battle wagons, crippling one. The troops on the left (plus the ratlings) were cutting down Gretchin like wheat. The Wyvern got a shot off and TORE UP some Boyz.

  The Orks were undaunted; the bikes and chief again engaged the Wyvern  and the Hydra; the Boyz on foot charged the deployed infantry in the 'northeast' and wiped them out in a single rush (although not without casualties). The gretchin mobs swarmed the troops and leaders on the left, taking out a fair number of troops and wounding a heavy weapons team (although gretchin vs. chainswords, servo arms, etc. was not in their favor!)

The ratlings did better than expected vs. the leftmost battle wagon, but not good enough. More troops deployed on the right and the tauroxes fired, finally destroying a battle wagon. The infantry squad near the hydra and wyvern charged the bikes - and took two of them out!!

The pistols of the gretchin hurt; the vehicle on vehicle combat continued; The last 'northeast' sqaud took casualties, but dished two out on overwatch. The northeast squad also went down in initial impact. The standard sqaud on the left made them pay, but only the sergeant survived melee. the leaders types prevailed and the surviving heavy weapons squad was actually freed from fighting hand to hand. The last men on the right went down and a mob of Boyz assaulted the damaged taurox. With a cry of,
  "or the emperor!"
  It actually freakin' exploded, wiping out one of the groups of Boyz nearby (they'd been mauled by squads, melee, and taurox fire already).

  he Boyz turned and fired at another taurox, then charged it. The gretchin kept fighting, killing the lone sergeant and getting everyone in command to wounded pretty badly. The wyvern and the war boss were still fighting, as were the last biker and the hydra. The ratlings were still pinging the lone, damaged, smoking battle wagon.
  The Guard fought back and the few survivng gretchin finally broke completely. Firing and fighting were almost anti-climactic, at this point.

Jack won handily on points, having control of the objectives.

Stuff Jack Learned, per him:
- Orks are stabby, not shooty. He was so frustrated with Orks trying to shoot things he doesn't think it is worth the effort. They are very good at stabbing however....
- Toughness matters more than newbies think.
- Speed matters more than newbies think
- gretchin mobs are exactly what he thought - damage sponges you can't ignore
- Orks are cool

Stuff I learned
- the Guard is shooty, not stabby.
- Flak armor works
- Sweet merciful heavens I now love the taurox.
- Keep people away from your artillery.
- concentrate your infantry.
- ratlings in cover are amazing

Two key mistakes I made were not deploying infantry immediately and letting the Orks get to the wyvern. Jack is convinced if the wyvern had been free he would have lost. Also, the three turns they were free to fire my heavy weapons team missed with all nine lascannon shots; very, very bad luck.

The entire family had a ton of fun. Next is more of the same but with doctrines, stratagems, etc.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Back from the Holidays: Battle Report for Warhammer 40k

I am busy writing my own AD&D 1e clone book: it is going very well and we are having a ton of fun. But with 5 kids, a new business (taking off! we did our first payroll this month!), close friends getting married, and the holidays, I took some time off from blogging.

A New Interest
At Christmas my darling wife bought some Warhammer 40k books (Imperial Guard and Space Marines) for the boys who asked for them. I used one of the gift cards to buy the Core Rules.
We read them. The last time I read the rules was version 2, we got 8th ed.
By Thursday we had purchsed about all the Codices (mainly as PDFs)! We got the dining room ready and we played a game this last weekend, our first as a family.

Warhammer 40k Battle Report
From Jack

"After finding the starter rules free online and receiving the Imperial Guard Codex as a very welcome Christmas present, two of us, me and Sam, decided to try our hands at a game of Warhammer 40,000.

 For our test game, we used simply tokens in place of painted models (don't judge us; we're new), and did a more-or-less matched play game at 500 points with no stratagems or army doctrines, on an empty field with no terrain modifiers.

We planned and reviewed for several days, then fielded the following forces:

 Me: using a
    Platoon Commander as warlord
    2 infantry squads, each with a lascannon team.
    A command squad, with regimental banner and voxcaster, all armed with pistols and chainswords.      A team of 3 ogryn. A commissar.
    A minimum size wyrdvane psyker choir.
    3 armored sentinel walkers, each equipped with a missile launcher.

   Techpriest as warlord
    4 servitors, 2 with heavy bolters, accompanying the Techpriest.
    A commissar.
    A command squad.
    2 scout sentinel walkers, each with a multilaser and a sentinel chainsaw.
    An infantry squad.
    A minimum size wyrdvane psyker choir.
    A Leman Russ battle tank, with 2 additional heavy bolters.

   My plan was to use the sentinels to counter any deployed vehicles while the rest of the force moved up so the ogryn and command squad could close to meele combat.
  Sam's plan was to use a storm of heavy bolter fire and the tank's battle cannon to obliterate opposition, while the Techpriest kept the vehicle alive.

  This was complicated by our using the scenario Only War, and rolling that the objective was a relic, which was on the other side of the field from where our lines were drawn.

 I won initiative by a single point of power and mostly stuck to plan, moving my force up and doing good damage with lucky initial infantry fire, although I diverted one of the missiles to a scout sentinel, doing brutal damage to it but leaving the Leman Russ only moderately wounded.
  Sam countered with scathing fire, which suffered from an initial bout of bad luck that rapidly evened out, and used the Techpriest to continuously repair the tank, leaving it in the fight for the whole battle.

   The resulting battle was a meat grinder, as is to be expected from new players. The bulk of our forces met in the middle, where concentrated fire from both sides eventually killed everyone after my poor understanding of the charge rules coupled with Sam putting his commissar in exactly the right space blunted the ogryn's charge.

  By the final round, only our two commissars were left on the middle of the table surrounded by a lot of dead infantry. The commissars fought in an epic duel in which mine won the final fight phase with only 1 wound remaining.

  Meanwhile, the Techpriest's prayers and Sam's constant shouts of,
  "Praise the Omnissiah!"
  kept the Leman Russ alive in spite of constant missile fire.

  Too late did I realize that I should've targeted the servitors immediately; they are weak units, but their heavy bolter fire chewed through my infantry ranks, and taking them out of the fight might've saved me.

  Meanwhile, Sam realized too late that with our sentinels set up facing each other head on, the obvious move was to have the scouts charge. Once they did, my armored sentinels were occupied and could no longer fire, crippling my heavy weapons capacity.

  Contrary to our expectations, even a team of 3 wyrdvane psykers, basically the weakest psychic unit in the whole game, seriously influenced the flow of battle. Their ability to deny the witch meant that they largely neutralized each other, but well placed smites did take out some of my infantry and contribute to downing one of his scout sentinels, with fascinating effects on the flow of gameplay.
 Moreover, a lucky roll that nightshrouded the Leman Russ on turn two took its survivability from high to outright guaranteed.

  Finally, by pivoting and sending one of my squads to hold the relic, where they miraculously made every morale check even outside of the range of all my officers, I was able to hold the objective the whole game. On the final turn, heavy bolter fire finally wiped them out, but by having the platoon commander advance by himself to its position, I won on a technicality. With my armored sentinels tied up, the Leman Russ near full health, and my officers scattered, Sam would've certainly won if it went even one more turn, so in the end, we called it a tie.

   Everyone involved, even the spectators, had no prior experience in the game. With that in mind, a few notable things leapt out.

In no particular order:
    1) The game is actually very simple. The rules are straightforward and easy to understand. The only trick is that the correct sequence needs to be followed. If you get the firing process and the flow of melee combat in order, it's not a difficult game at all.
     2) The dynamic between ranged and hand-to-hand combat is fascinating, and probably a big part of the longevity of the rules. Ranged combat gives you much more tactical flexibility and adaptability, but not only does going hand-to-hand kill models faster, but it locks the target down so they can't do anything else. The dynamic this puts between ranged infantry, melee infantry, ranged vehicles, and melee vehicles is enormously deep.
     3) On that note, the dynamic between infantry and vehicles is enormous in and of itself! I hesitate to make further statements until we're experienced in other armies, since the Astra Militarum are so vehicle-focused.
     4) Contrary to our fears, setup and gameplay were both fast. There are plenty of tabletop games where just getting ready to play is an investment, but this is not one of them. Furthermore, while the actual gameplay does take a while, it's downright short compared to even a quick game of D&D. I can definitely anticipate slipping in a game after work on a weekday!
     5) Characters are actually quite survivable. Even without the fact that they can't be targeted normally, they're tough enough and good enough hand-to-hand that they tend to survive. This is good, since so much of any given strategy revolves around them.
     6) Perusing the other codices, it really seems like most overall judgments should be reserved for now until we can play more with other factions. As near as I can tell, one of the best things about this game is that every army has its own unique feel and playstyle without being pigeonholed into a single strategy, and I can't wait to make use of that.

   In any case, we very much liked the game, and are looking forward to playing it more. Some of us have since fought small battles of Necron vs. Space Marines and Necron vs. Thousand Sons, but I wasn't really there for those, and can't vouch for them (it doesn't sound like they went as well, anyway).
  [Note from Rick: we were trying out the unusual rules to see how they worked on the table, so - not much to say.]

  I've got Orks vs. Imperial Guard, Imperial Guard vs. Space Marines, and Orks vs. Space Marines all lined up with different members of the family, so we'll see how that goes. Right now, it seems like Space Marines aren't good enough to justify their high point cost per unit, but only time will tell if that holds true in gameplay.

  More reports to come! Wish us luck!