Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend Lightsaber Action

Today finished up the Thanksgiving Holiday season for us.  We were at my brother's house, eating waaaay too much and, of course, playing boardgames.

Today I decided to bring Star Wars Epic Duels, which my wife got for me at our garage sale last summer, still in shrinkwrap, for nothing or next to nothing.  (SCORE!)  I'd seen a lot of chatter around this game on BoardgameGeek, and had read some recent blog posts about it, but had never played it.  

My nephew, Austin, my brother, Al and I set up.  Austin had Darth Vader and his Stormtrooper lackeys, I had the Emperor and the Royal Guard, and Al fielded Obi-Wan and a pair of clones on the Geonosis Arena board.  The fracas got hot immediately, with everyone using the "close and hose" strategy, even though nobody had really drawn a lot of cards yet.  My Guards went out immediately, and then Vader and Obi-Wan started concentrating on each other while the Emperor withdrew to the shadows, building up his hand of cards.  Finally, after Vader and Kenobi had whittled each other down to naught, I swept in with Palpatine and Force Lightninged the lot of the them.  End Game 1.

However, we had just gotten the hang of this game, and so we moved onto the Kamino Landing Platform board, with Austin bringing Master Yoda and his Clones, Al with Han Solo and Chewbacca, and myself with Mace Windu and his Clones.  I immediately became hemmed into a corner on this board, which rendered a lot of Mace's movement cards non-effective.  This game engendered a lot more give and take, as we had all learned from the last game to try to be a little more tactical.  The clone troopers had a very short lifespan in this session, but in the end both Yoda and Mace fell victim to Han Solo's deadly rain of blaster fire.  End Game 2.

This game definitely deserves the hype it seems to get on the 'Geek.  Even though the mechanics are dirt simple, there is enough variety in the different decks to really make the combats interesting.  I suspected the maps were too small for 3 players, but that really did not seem to hurt the game at all.  Overall, I am very impressed with it and will have to bust it out far more often.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Into the Belly of the Beast

The Beast

Three weeks ago, I started playing 4th ed Dungeons & Dragons.

Now, I know that with some of you, this will ruin some of my old-school cred.  But hear me out.

The group that I play with and I have been together going on 6 years now, and we've all become very good friends from mere acquaintances.  I think the world of these people; otherwise I don't think I would have hung around so long.  We play together on a weeknight, which right now is on Thursdays.  We've played lots of different games and different systems, but rarely D&D.

Most of my group had been playing D&D 4th on a different night for about 2 years, and they were antsy to get back to it.  I had the books in a pile since they came out, but had never touched them.  All the Essentials talk out there got me curious, so I decided to suggest we play 4th ed, which was heartily agreed to by everyone.

I'd heard a lot of nasty things about 4th on the blogosphere, but my group loves it.  And they are pretty smart people; most much smarter than me.  So, I figured there had to be something in this game that was worth playing.

I was right.  4th, despite the errata and confusion with Essentials and all, is a pretty good game.  Is it my "favorite" D&D?  No, probably not, but then it doesn't play like that game either.  It's its own beast, and after three really fun sessions, I'm seeing the appeal of it.  Will it destroy my love of the old school?  Undoubtedly not, but it will get me interested in seeing what can be ported in from that style of play into this one.

Despite the edition, adventure awaits!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Armor/Weapon Breakage for Labyrinth Lord/ D&D Basic

These are some rules I use to help low-level player characters to survive a little longer, and also to help soak up some of that treasure that they are always carting around.

Players buy armor for their characters at character creation and then to upgrade it, but you never see them buying replacement armor or paying upkeep for what they have.  Instead of coming up with a rule to reflect upkeep and maintenance costs, I thought to adapt the “Shields be Splintered” rule I've seen on various blogs and in old-school publications, though I've expanded it to cover all armor.  

The same is true for weapon maintenance, and so I've tacked on a rule to allow weapons to fill the same role as well.

Sacrificing Shields & Armor

After a hit has been declared on a character by a melee attack, the player may decide to take the damage to his shield or armor instead of his hit points.  This must be declared before damage is rolled, so the hit might be for 10 points or only 1, but will still have the same effect on shields and armor. 

A wooden shield so struck is destroyed (all shields are assumed to be wooden unless specially purchased otherwise), while a metal shield is useless until repaired and counts as double encumbrance to carry around.  Metal shields also have other benefits (see below).

Armor so struck is reduced in effectiveness by 2 AC ranks. (Leather Armor of AC 8 is rendered useless, Chain is reduced to AC7, and so forth) Armor so damaged counts as double encumbrance and imposes a -2 to all attack throws by the wearer until removed or repaired.  Armor that still has a AC below 9 may take yet another hit, but then is rendered completely useless and cannot be repaired or worn effectively.

Missiles, Magical attacks and Breath Weapons are not affected by this rule.

A metal shield, however, may be used to halve damage from a breath weapon (except chlorine gas or lightning).  This can be declared after a successful Save vs. Dragon Breath, and halves damage yet again.  However, the shield is rendered useless afterwards.  This defense may also be used against Fireball spells, but not against Lightning bolts.

Weapon Breakage

If a character has elected to use the Parry option (see Advanced Editon Companion or Holmes Basic) to defend themselves, the player may elect to take a successful hit on his weapon.  This breaks the weapon, rendering it useless until repaired or replaced.  Magical weapons may take hits equal to their bonus without breaking, but are then rendered completely non-magical and will break on the next hit absorbed.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chaos! (Caves of Chaos. that is...)

I don't know what's in the water in the OSR blogging community, but module B2: The Keep on the Borderlands is having a strong showing this weekend.  

First thing I came across today was Jeff Sparks' video blog, which is about the module, and why he's using it for his Labyrinth Lord game.  Then, I find B/X Blackrazor's accounts of his players adventures in the Caves of Chaos, which are just priceless.

Anyone who knows me knows I am highly suggestible.  So, who's up for cave crawling??

Saturday, September 18, 2010

D&D for me

James Maliszewski on Grognardia posted a question yesterday: What image sums up D&D for you?  Telecanter had this image posted on his blog, and I am in complete agreement with him.  I, too, spent a lot of time looking at the PHB when I was young, and I was always drawn to this image.  It may have been for the reasons Telecanter cites, but I think it reminded me of The Hobbit, with Bilbo and the Dwarves descending to find Smaug's treasure.  Maybe Thorin's fathers had placed a magic mouth in the secret tunnel to guide anyone going that way.

I also notice that this image has influenced me more than I thought, because nearly all of my dungeon drawings seem to resemble this image in terms of lighting and architecture.   Weird how something like that sinks into the back of your brain and just stays there.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Traitor

Today was the GAMES! Event at the Blair Ridge Baptist Church, which is always a fun time.  I had a chance to play the Ninja Burger card game, Command & Colors: Ancients and Shadows Over Camelot.

The last is always a mixed bag for me when I play it.  I am a big fan of cooperative games, where all the players are trying to beat the game and not each other.  Lord of the Rings, Arkham Horror, even the new Ravenloft game are all a lot of fun for me, as the group has to pitch in with their resources and strategy.

Shadows pales a bit for me, and to a greater extent the Battlestar Galactica game, because of the Traitor.  In these games, one (or possibly more) players may secretly be working against the group.  A lot of people enjoy the extra level of challenge and suspicion this adds. (Did he use that card up this early for a good reason, or is he the traitor??)  I, however, do not.  This mechanic just feels like the D&D thief who steals from his own group to me.  Plus these games are already hard enough to play without having to add someone actually working against you!

This is just my opinion.  What do you think?  Do you enjoy/dislike traitor mechanics?  Why?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Back to Mars

Remember when I was talking about Warriors of Mars a few posts back?  Well, there is a wonderful fan-made supplement based off of it, pretty much compatible with your favorite variety of D&D retro-clone, and did I mention it is free?  This is a pretty slick little booklet that draws it's inspiration directly from the Gygax/Blume work,  and even has used the Greg Bell illustrations and Gygax's map of the Red Planet.
(I noticed that this work attributes the artwork to Dave Sutherland, Tracy Lesch & Gary Kwapisz, which contradicts the TSR Warriors of Mars. I'm going to back up the latter, though I mean no disrespect to the authors of this work!)
You can find it here!

Return to Skull Mountain

Last night's play of the Castle Ravenloft board game has left me hungering to run an old school dungeon campaign.  Sure, I've run some one shots for cons and things here and there, but it's been awhile since I ran an honest to goodness dungeoneering campaign.  The obvious candidate for rules would be Labyrinth Lord  with the Advanced Edition Companion. (Not merely because I helped illustrate them, but because they are really good rules!)  The obvious setting?  You might garner a clue from the illustration above: Skull Mountain!

I ran my players through a crawl in another version of Skull Mountain, also by Jeff Sparks, about 5 years ago now.  And every now and again, my players will still comment about something that happened in that game (usually to do with owlbears..) with a sound of fondness in their voices.  So, the new version of this classic dungeon sounds like it will fit the bill nicely!  And, I might have drawn something for this too….but it still has nothing to do with that!  I am not a shill!  (I'm not!)

Right now, our groups rpg activities have been on hold as various members (usually me) have been absent from one time or another,but when we have been playing we've been having an awesome time with Steve Kenson's Icons (which I will rave on about at a later time) in the Marvel Universe.  So, I'm in no hurry to start up a new campaign, because I'm having fun with that.  But when a need for a new game emerges, the call of the dungeon will once again cry out!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Death in Castle Ravenloft

Tonight, our game group played the new Dungeons & Dragons Castle Ravenloft boardgame.  Our party delved into the dungeon looking for a holy relic in the Chapel.  Unfortunately, the hordes of monsters lurking there did us in before we could actually lay hands on the thing, even as we had it in sight.  

This game is a slick package, that's for sure.  From the really detailed minis to the heavy, thick tokens and dungeon tiles, the game is very cool looking.  The players take turns exploring the dungeon, adding new random dungeon tiles as they do, encountering monsters, traps and other awful effects.  Defeating monsters gains you treasure cards, which can vary in helpful effects,  and experience points.  5 xp can be spent to "level up" your hero, which can be done only once,  or can be spent to cancel an encounter that has been drawn by any player.

The game was fun, even though we were slaughtered.  The rules are pretty simple and easily grasped by anyone who has played a d20 game of any variety.    In fact, the whole game is a simpled up version of D&D 4, with each character having a variety of at will, utility and daily powers that they can pick from and use during the game.  While I'm not a fan of D&D 4th, I did have fun playing this game.  Plus the tiles and minis could be used for any D&D style game.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mini Six Bare Bones Edition!

Okay, let's go from a game that you can't find anywhere to a game you can get for free!  Antipaladin Games has released "Mini Six", which is derived from D6 System used in such games as Star Wars and Ghostbusters.  This is a game for those of us who like to tinker, and it contains lots of examples of how to use it with various genres of sci fi and fantasy.  Plus it's just beautifully done.  You can get it here!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Warriors of Mars

Last week, a guy at work asked me if I had ever read any of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars novels, of which I had, and that has since derailed my brain from other topics to that of Barsoom. And when my flights of fancy turn in that direction, I do two things; 1: reread a ERB Mars novel, usually "A Princess of Mars" and 2: Bust out my copy of "Warriors of Mars" and flip through it.

"Warriors of Mars" was a miniatures rules set put out by the then fledgling game company, TSR, in 1974, written by Gary Gygax and Brian Blume. It was intended to act as a ruleset to fight out battles set on Burrough's Barsoom., complete with radium rifles, flyers and white apes. The only problem with this ruleset was that TSR had no permission from the Burroughs estate to produce it, and even though they were a small company at the time, the game did not go unnoticed. A cease and desist order came to TSR's mailbox, and they pulled the game from distribution quickly after it's release.

I, in fact, had never even heard of the game until I saw it in the used section of a game store some years ago, priced at $20, which was a steal if you've tried looking for a copy of this game on E-bay. I saw the name "Gygax" on the cover, and it was a surefire buy for me. With no creases, writing or even staple rust, this booklet is the prize of my gaming collection.

"Warriors of Mars" is a 56 page booklet produced in the style of the original Dungeons & Dragons booklets, and even shares the same artist, Greg Bell, for the cover and interior artwork. Though it bears such similarity to the D&D booklets, it was not intended to be a roleplaying game but a mass battles game. And for the majority of the time I have owned it, I looked at it that way.

But it always helps when you actually READ something instead of just flip through looking at the pictures (which have a lot of character, by the way). The mass battle system is very simple and not hard to grasp, even with the addition of Martian airships in the mix, but then you have the rules for 1:1 skirmishes. Here are things that look familiar; there is a level system for individual warriors, where warriors take hits equal to their level +1. There is an experience chart for increasing levels, and experience rewards for defeating foes, rescuing princesses, capturing airships and finding lost treasures. You have movement rates for crossing the dead sea bottoms and encounter charts for what you find (or what finds you!). In essence, there is a little proto rpg hidden in this game.

Sure, the characters are just defined by their name, level number and experience points, (there are no other stats, except maybe their movement score) and the booklet is sparse about details on Barsoom, (Here the referee is directed to reread his ERB novels for details and inspiration) but you have a very playable little game. Referees are even advised to purchase the then new Dungeons & Dragons game for more information on how to run games in the black pits below ancient Martian cities.

Gary Gygax was an immense fan of Burroughs, and his enthusiasm for the subject matter comes through in his writing here. "Warriors of Mars" is an wonderful little nugget of old-school goodness that, if you can find one, should not be overlooked. Kaor!

Another Gaming Blog???

Hi! My name is Steve Zieser, and I'm a part-time gaming illustrator and a full time game geek. Most of you probably know me from my art-blog, Curmudgeons & Dragons.

So, what is the deal with yet another game blog on the internet? Hasn't all this stuff been blogged to death already? What is Iron Rationales about?

I'm using Iron Rationales to write about the games I'm interested in at the moment. I have a huge case of gamer A.D.D., and I hop from game to game to game weekly or even daily. I can start the week thinking about superhero games, then someone will mention Edgar Rice Burroughs and my brain is on Barsoom, and then I'll read someone else's old school blog and get thinking about dungeons by the weekend. And if I have to pick a game to play or run, it gets even worse!

Sp, therefore, I'm going to write about what I'm reading, playing or tinkering with at the moment. There will be no pretense of an overall theme, nor am I necessarily reviewing the games I write about. It'll just be what strikes my fancy today.

So there we go! Happy reading and hope you can find something here someday you can use, or at least get a chuckle out of!