29 December 2012

An Unusual Night

The other night, since my brother is up to visit, I thought we'd play something fun. We've both been kind of on a Wild West kick, so I suggested Dogs in the Vineyard. A fine choice, says we, and so I read up the book, get a decent grasp of how things work, when suddenly: What if we played a science fiction game instead. No wait, what if we played a Space Western?

And so we began to make everything up off the top of our heads. My brother played John "The John" Johnson, a (in his words) "Space Mexican" ex-slave who's working for the Alliance Military Federation to gain his citizenship, so there he is on Theta II. He is a devout Zeplorfian, from the planet of the same name. His mount is a trusty Thetonian slug-beast, capable of carrying both him and his friend.

The wife played a nameless space prostitute mutant with a tail and a fair bit of skill with nanotechnology and seduction. She's trying to raise some seed money to start her own brothel, tired of the discrimination because of her prehensile mutant tail and dubious genetics. How she got away with having no name is beyond me, but I blame the liquor. Which, coincidentally, is what I blame for the complete lack of purpose or direction for the game. The two of them ended up with a mission, beamed through who knows what, to catch a Thetonian who had kidnapped an important Space Colonist from the AMF, and between the Space Mexican nearly succumbing to the noon-day heat and taking a quick siesta in the blood-boiling heat of Theta II and being nearly slain by the Space Bandito's ambush, we really didn't get very far before the wife had to call it a night.

Still, I think it may have been one of the silliest experiences in recent memory and, if you know me, that's saying quite a lot.

My only real regret is that we ended up using Mini Six because all we had handy were d6s, and I'm not sure that it was the right choice. Character generation was easy enough and the rules were actually pretty good for it, and my reworked Space Inquisitor skill list was actually pretty appropriate and seemed to cover all the bases, and the extremely simple gear rules were a blessing; but the fighting and spellcasting rules just didn't do it for me. The TN system always feels a bit bloodless and where it would have been great to have some drama, instead we just rolled a handful of dice and went on our way. Seems like a minor complaint when you put it that way, but there it is.

Still, lesson learned. I'll look for another d6 oriented system in the future, or at the very least rework the system so that there's more dramatic "meat" to it. Still a positive experience, and a great way to spend a couple of hour with the people you like.

27 December 2012

Train Dreams and Bashing Lads

Last night I watched some Hell on Wheels, read the majority of Dogs in the Vinyard, and spent a lot of time making virtual fucking hotdogs, so it only makes sense that I would spent my night dreaming about ancient libraries stocked with incredible books, playgrounds from my childhood, fleeing through time with my brother and a childhood friend, eventually ending up on a train in the past that leads us to New York, and the novelty of paying for actual food (hot dogs!) with dimes and nickels and stuff. 

Makes you wonder if you're crazy, sometimes.

On more pertinent news, Bash Em Lads is about done. It's at that stage where you're just kind of putting in more stuff for the sake of addin more stuff, and there's enough on paper as it is to turn Follow Me, Men into an almost Warhammer-Light sort of system (without any of that system's obvious faults). It's really turning out well. The only thing that's really missing now are some cool themed army lists that bring BEL into a more settings-rich world, the sort of world where you'll use what I'm writing as a springboard for your own, inevitably cooler ideas. 

The real challenge will be to add flavor without adding corresponding restrictions, so that you can still field your Elf & Orc army if that's what you want, or have an army of Dwarves led by a Dragon, or a faux Roman army with Goblin auxiliaries. "Don't let me tell you what to do" is practically my motto. I've got a lot of assorted minis that don't go together, you've got a lot of assorted minis that don't go together, let's mix them together and have us a battle.

 I'll probably get a friend or two together and playtest it over some sort of virtual tabletop. Thinking about using MapTools, since it apparently has a lot of really great and easy-to-use features, it's free, it runs on Linux, and it shouldn't be too hard to cajole somebody into playing this damn game with me. 

25 December 2012

Bash 'Em, Lads

I've been conspicuously silent, but it's for a good reason- I'm putting the finishing touches on a document I like to call "Bash 'Em, Lads," based on the wonderfully simple chassis "Follow Me, Men" by Jim Wallman.

It turns out, there's really not a lot to improve upon. The basics of the ruleset remain more or less untouched- you can play the game nearly as-written if you like. Where I've made my own mark is by teasing apart the assumed math behind the scenes to get a game that's just a tad more organized. The side effect of this, of course, is that now you can tweak pretty much everything you want, as much as you want, in an almost completely modular system.

For example, instead of assuming that you have a small contingent of highly skilled, armored Knight units, you could have horse archers with little close combat value, a unit of light cavalry, and the aforementioned heavily armored Knights without feeling like you're an idiot for not just picking the Knights.

The other big thing is letting you customize your Hero. It can feel like a cop-out to just have all your Heroes have the same combat ability and equipment, so you now have some fairly simple rules for customizing your own Hero. It all feeds back into the standard equations, so by going with default values you're not gimping yourself- you're basically just using the template instead.

It's all pretty exciting. I've been working on it for hours each day for about two weeks now, so as soon as I can wrangle somebody into playing with me, I'll be able to test the rules for things like monsters, custom contingents, and expanded spell lists soon. As it stands, I've done my best to make things more or less even, but it can be hard to tell, considering the base game didn't include seige weaponry, custom Heroes, or monsters, or any sort of hint as to how one might want to make them run.

Very exciting, don't you agree? Here's to hoping the end result is something as good as the source material.

03 December 2012

01 December 2012


Two things.

1) Another article on Glitch. It's really endearing to hear the optimism in the developer's voice, but it really bugs me that somebody would hire 42 people, make a game that nobody seemed to really want to play, and then just shut down because, surprise, it didn't make money. It reminds me of another endeavor by a man with a lot of passion and next to no actual knowledge of how to make things work (38 Studios, the game company founded by a baseball player) and surprise, it didn't do so hot. Anyways.

2) After rereading Eisenhorn, the oddly well written 40k book about a member of the Inquisition, I went ahead and wrote up a quick Mini-6 based game about Inquisitors in Space. If 40k is the Decline of the (Space) Roman Empire, Space Inquisitors is set during the Pax Romana- the Republic of Man is expanding its borders, exterminating or working alongside what alien lifeforms are out there, and there is no silly grimdark. Regular grimness, maybe, and plenty of regular darkness (no flashlights in space), but no grimdark.

Also no Space Marines, god, no, never Space Marines. Genetically enhanced super-soldiers, maybe. Dudes in big powered suits, sure. But not 9 foot tall immortal perfect warriors, never. Ever. No enormous guns, either. What I'm interested in, basically, is the comings and goings (and doings) of a mixture of secret police and religious fanatics. In short, I'm looking for guys that are a lot like this:

I don't know if a suit and tie is really the best attire to go running around chasing aliens in

Reasonably attired men with or without large firearms, doing reasonable things (investigating literal illegal aliens, I presume), driving cars, and basically having a really interesting version of a regular detective. In space. You'll notice these men, while capable of achieving greatness, are not wearing spiky suits, or jetpacks, nor are they scowling at nothing in particular just to show how jaded they are. They aren't wielding flamethrowers strapped to their heads. They aren't eight feet tall. They don't wear their enormous powered armor suits everywhere they go. They don't have augmented skulls, or tentacled faces or full body scars or mohawks or chainsaw swords or whatever else this guy has :

I think I mentioned the chainsaw sword but I'd really like to mention it again

Because the base setting of 40k is actually kind of interesting. The way that the developers, in an effort to hide that they have no idea what they're talking about and haven't thought any further than "it'd be cool if these guys had chainsaw swords and were 9 feet tall in red gaudy armor" resort to "yeah well it's really cool and also it's the future we don't have to explain anything" until they do attempt to give you some technobabble as to why it all works is really stupid- BUT (and this is a huge but) the stories of things that aren't blatantly stupid are cool enough.

Like the stories of the Imperial Guard, all the places they've been and done. Could you imaging being deployed six planets over to fight some hideous aliens you'd never heard of with a two hundred year old laser rifle? Or of defending an entire planet against meaty monsters that fly through space? Or against sentient and very angry dinosaurs?

Or the stories of the Inquisition; all while the unintentionally silly Space Marines fight the obviously intentionally silly Orks on a scale that borders on absurdity for nearly no reason whatsoever using methods that were outdated in our time or things that just don't make sense (large cumbersome melee weapons, "power fists", bolter rifles, tanks that are crappier than our modern day tanks, grav cycles), the Inquisition is dealing with a mankind that hasn't fundamentally changed since we first came to be, trying to make sure that nothing is disturbing the glorious Republic's status quo and destabilizing it into thousand year long wars against ourselves. That's the good stuff, right there. That's how you have an actual story.

But I digress. Heavily. I'm making a game about religiously fanatic secret police for an intergalactic Republic and there is NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT. Hear me? Nothing!

Looking Back

They say that if you don't look back at who who were from a year ago and cringe that you haven't grown enough. What if I look back f...