Friday, September 5, 2014

Old-School Lethality

In the last few years, we've used our time machine to resurrect some of the Old School games that laid the foundation for the industry that has made our hobby what it is today.  Most of us never got to experience these old modules in the proper light, due to our late emergence into gaming.  For most of us, this was the early 1990's...and for the most part these old games and modules were in severe disuse by that time.

So, in order to qualify ourselves as "experts", we've decided to relive some of the old campaigns.  To better understand gaming's evolution, we've focused mainly on Dungeons & Dragons.  All of this, you already know.  Today, we're going to talk about something that's become apparent in playing these old adventure modules.  Namely, the sheer lethality of the old games versus the "new school" of game design that started in the 1990's.

Just to very quickly bring you up to speed, the "new school" tends to focus on character development rather than combat and adventure.  Your characters tend to last a lot longer with much less effort.  I think anyone who's been playing at the Wargate for long enough to have played games in both "schools" can see this is very apparent.  Yet no game has been more punishing to our intrepid Gatekeepers than the early editions of Dungeons & Dragons.

The old modules we've played have been designed to a different tune entirely than what we're used to with playing newer games, even Dungeons & Dragons, 3rd Edition.  Designed for challenge, rather than story, these old modules are serious about how you can die.  Moreover, this is just the basic module series, nevermind the modules actually designed for competition (such as C-Series).  The competition modules are designed to destroy everyone to the point that it's about how much of the module is finished before the party is destroyed or forced to retire.  It's an entirely different style of challenge.

A movement associated with Old School gaming, appropriately calling itself the "Old School Renaissance" has come about in the last decade or so.  The movement has created new games that are "clones" of these older versions of D&D to make sure this style of game stays in print.  We have a couple of sites dedicated to the OSR in the link list on the right.

The OSR movement has members that are linked and focused on various aspects of the old school games, but today we are talking about lethality - that is, the propensity of player characters to perish permanently.  Whether it's "save or die" situations, murderous combat or simply "die no save" attacks, we've found that player characters tend to buy the farm much quicker in these old modules - if the modules are played the way it is suggested.  The way it the modules are written is very deadly, indeed.

You know us...we like to play the way it's dictated.  We feel it gives us a better handle on the way the module was meant to be played in its native ruleset.  We have been very surprised with just how insidiously deadly all of them have been so far.

At this level of lethality, the game is very hard.  At low levels, there are precious few spells each day to recover hit points or fight magical threats.  Even worse, the spells that are available very seldom include any spells to revive dead comrades.  The rules for recovering hit points naturally are very strict, and very slow at best.  Long dungeon expeditions are not recommended for parties of less than 30 levels total.

One of the true killers is the 0-hit point mark.  Hit Points are low, even for fighters.  Hit Dice are called Hit Dice for a reason:  Hit Dice are how many dice worth of damage you can be expected to take before you die.  Once you hit 0 in AD&D 1e or D&D (BECMI), there's no coming back.  So, once hit points are low, the party has to head back to safety or risk death at every turn.  Some characters do this anyway, such as those with d4 or even d6 for hit dice.

The challenge provided by these strict rules on death will start to change the way your players approach the game.  We can definitely see D&D's wargame roots, and you know, we like it.  A lot.  Now, accomplishing modules is something the club can be proud of.

Another advantage gained by the mortality rate is a certain sense of verisimilitude.  As new characters come into the game, their stories interact with the older crew and create something entirely new.  As a Dungeon Master, I have really enjoyed seeing my players create the roleplay aspect among themselves, rather than let an overly scripted adventure dictate it.

The main drawback of this level of lethality is that it can create despair in a player group.  If the module is too hard, or the player's approach is consistently putting them on the receiving end of a pain train, then it can happen that the players revolt and demand another game.  This happened to us with The Temple of Elemental Evil - the players were generally dismayed that they had made little progress, and the terrors of the temple only got more ridiculous.

Fend off that despair by turning things only slightly in favor of the party by dangling a new clue or resource that's already in the module.  Soldiers, magic, a place to rest...just be wary.  This is a fine art, as you should not give them more than what they need to make it on their own.  Just as important is to not give anything away for free, but if the players need a break set them on a course for one.  Make them work for it, though.

In this manner, you can balance lethality without compromising the rules of the game or scenario.  All the dice still fall where they may, and the players won't feel you as the DM are holding their hand through the module.  Most modules have their own set of rules that supersedes the basic rules in some way, and each one has a variety of resources the players will be heartened to find amidst their horrific journeys.

All in all, the old modules have been a huge hit with our game group.  We've got several more to play with in several different rulesets, and they are all going to be a blast.  We'll keep a lid on what modules / adventures we're going to be playing, but if you plan on GM'ing a game you should check with the Project Coordinator and make sure that he knows what modules are on your list.  We keep a big ol' spreadsheet to make sure nothing overlaps, so you don't get a module that someone else runs.

Yet that doesn't mean we don't write our own adventures here at the Wargate, just check out the second schedule Palladium game!  Even in D&D, there will be a few curveballs that aren't modules in our upcoming campaigns.  Entire campaigns are even being designed to stitch into the larger narratives we'll experience as we continue on our journey through D&D history.  See you on Game Day!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Introductory to Miniature Painting, Lesson 1

We've started an irregular class at the Wargate designed to teach novice painters how to begin in the hobby from the ground up.  These introductory lessons will impart all the necessary techniques needed to begin painting gaming miniatures, and we've had a pretty decent turnout so far!  Today's article also begins a new section of the website:  the Painting Log!

Some of our Gatekeepers hard at work during the class.

Lesson 1 - Base Coating and Flow Control

We began today on a set of old archers for medieval battles.  The models were cleaned and basecoated, and provided to the students to practice on.  They are old sculpts, and very "open" as it were.  Not a lot of hard to reach places and very straightforward color areas.

The most important thing you will learn painting miniatures is that the water on your brush tip can drastically affect how your paint behaves.  It is very important to learn this at the very beginning to avoid silly mistakes that almost all of us make when first starting.  It was a very simple session, designed so the students could practice applying the paint more than anything else.

The entire class painted one (or two, if slightly more experienced) of these archers to practice basecoating.  Flow control (using the water on the brush) was the watchword of the day, as all the students had to do was follow an easy, step-by-step order for applying each color.  Here, the class learned that sometimes light colors go on thin over darker base coats, and that multiple layers of thin coats of paint are how to achieve opaqueness in the color.

Hey bro, do you even camera?

Forgive our blurry, out-of-focus progress picture.  We'll have more updates on the class as it progresses, and we'll see what our students generate for some awesome games!  You can bet you'll be seeing these archers again...this time, finished and based by our staff.  The picture will be much better, I promise.

Introduction to Miniature Painting is held on Monday nights at 6pm.  The weather here might actually stop our progress, so the classes are informal affairs and attendance is not required.  We're going to make sure we have the best materials for you to practice with and learn the ins and outs of painting miniatures.

In addition, there will be some nifty opportunities coming up for painters around the Wargate, and if you're a brush for hire in the Ada area let us know.  We will soon announce we're looking for contractors to paint an endless stream of models, so get a jump-start on it!  That's it for today, and I'll see you for the next lesson soon!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Texas Regiment Takes Action in X-Wing!

The Smith reports from Texas Regiment, embedded right in the middle of the ongoing Rebellion...

The  summer X-Wing campaign heats up as we cover our second and third week of competition. We began our week two game day with a bar-b-que of bratwurst and burgers.  Afterwards we discussed many things concerning our club.  Topics included: 2015 Game Schedule, Possibility of adding Flames of War, X-Wing/Star Wars RPG joint campaigns and battles, and our next game for 2014.

The Empire maintains a firm grasp on the Karthakk system.  Boba Fett has now entered the Geonosis system with Ten Numb in hot pursuit.  Horton Salm and Gray Squad double back to take the offensive against the Empire.  Vader feels a desire for revenge from the Rebels and is impressed.  He senses the Gray Squadron long before engaging them.  Horton Salm proves the Force is truly with the Gray Squad as they blast their way to victory.

Surrounded by Rebels is the last place Darth Vader expected to be today.

Deeper into the Geonosis system Ten Numb has his eyes on the Slave-One.  The Blue Squad quickly dispatches the Imperial escort and completely destroys the Slave-Ones' shields.  Once again Boba Fett manages to escape Rebel capture.  Having expended a large amount of his payload in the battle he quickly makes his way to the planet Geonosis.

Yet another crafty escape by the bounty hunter Boba Fett.

On our third week of the X-Wing campaign we crafted and painted a 3'x3' game board.  Afterwards we discussed the further delays of Robotech RPG Tactics.  Decided to fill our fall game spot previously set aside for this new game with one voted for by the members.  We fought 2 more exciting battles on our newly-crafted larger battlefield, ending this game day with a fish fry to rival the gods.  Young Country caught fresh catfish from Lake Texoma.  It was served with fries, hush puppies, baked beans, and pie.  Now on to the action of week three.

The planet Geonosis, the setting of our week three battles.

Ten Numb has his target in sight leaving the atmosphere of the planet Geonosis.  A grueling and epic battle ensues.  One by one the Rebels fall to the might of this fearsome bounty hunter.  Boba Fett cannot be denied as he shreds the Blue Squad.  This victory earns the Slave-One safe passage out of the Geonosis system and one step closer to Jabba's Palace.  The Rebels are no closer to rescuing Han Solo in this part of the campaign.

Boba Fett has no problem destroying  the Rebels and leaving for the Tatoo system.

Horton Salm stays on the offensive as they engage the Sigma Squad. T he Gray Squad find that The Force is more powerful than the Dark Side as they scrore another victory against the dreaded Darth Vader.  This win grants the rebels control over the Geonosis system.  This part of the campaign is tied with the Rebels and Empire each controlling one system.

Darth Vader was unwilling to speak with the media following his second loss.

The battles were intense and the feasts amazing.  A huge Thank You! to our favorite wookie Chewy, Young Country, and their entire family for the hospitality, fellowship and giving the The Wargate a permanent home in Texas.

Battle Reports
Week 2

Battle 3 - Sigma Squad vs. Gray Squad
                Points: 100
                Victory: Gray Squad

Battle 4 - Boba Fett vs. Blue Squad
               Victory: Blue Squad

Week 3

Battle 5 - Boba Fett vs. Blue Squad
               Victory: Boba Fett!

Battle 6 - Sigma Squad vs. Gray Squad
               Vicorty : Blue Squad          

Texas Regiment is pioneering next year's new games on the Wargate Global Schedule!  Lots of great sci-fi and steampunk action coming our way, as well as a proper historical game.We'll have an official announcement soon regarding said Schedule.  In the meantime, they will continue to fight the good fights of the Galactic Civil War! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Head Into the Megaverse with Delta Front!

It's been a while since we had enough momentum to start a 2nd Schedule.  It feels good, even amidst all this new stuff and crazy activity, to be stepping up the game.  This next Tuesday, Palladium takes over the 2nd Schedule for a huge event that will last into 2016!

Into the Megaverse, Act I:  Delta Front is meant as an introduction to the Palladium system.  However, the awesome thing about this campaign will be it's inclusiveness.  In our inaugural sessions, we dive into the world of Ninjas & Superspies as imagined by our Gatekeepers.  These characters start out as international spies, but the campaign will develop into a great deal more - we have some serious surprises and events in store!  You can check out the Delta Front campaign page for the lowdown on the setting and scenarios, just click on the State of Play to the right.

We have a great many ways to incorporate far flung Wargate Regiments (formerly known as Wargate Chapters) into our narrative and establish their own within the world.  From Facebook posts and forum threads that players can interact with in their own time all the way to joining the Home Regiment for the live sessions via intarwebz masheens!  We'll be able to integrate your group in any (or all) of the following ways:
  1. Online Operations
    • Every week there will be a new scenario posted to a special RPG Play-by-Post thread.  Each Regiment will have a different objective within the scenario.
  2. Facebook Leads
    • Clues and Bonuses will be available to those following us on Facebook, including spontaneous bonus scenarios with a live GM on chat!
  3. Video Conference during Live Session
    • For the hardcore - get your mic, cam and conference software ready!  Tuesday nights at 6pm CST are live sessions!
For each Regiment that completes their operation, the group playing during the live sessions will receive various bonuses and penalties for the rest of the agency working toward their immediate goals.  Each operation will be posted on Wednesday, and will run until Monday night.  Tuesdays are live sessions, and the following Wednesdays your Regiments new assignment will be posted.  If you'd like your Regiment to participate, simply contact me in any fashion necessary and we'll get it set up.

So, let's get some participation going!  The first scenario begins with the live session this Tuesday (8.19.2014), and the operations for Regiments begin the following Wednesday.  Make sure your Regiment is signed up by this Sunday to make sure you have your custom operation ready to go!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Can You Lend Me a Han?

Today's report is just in from a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  Star Wars is coming in force to the Wargate, and X-Wing by Fantasy Flight Games is pretty much single-handedly responsible for overturning the club's aversion to Star Wars!  The Smith lays out how they have begun their journey into the Force, submitted from our Texas Chapter!

Imperial Navy: Sigma Squadron ambushes Rebel forces in the Karthakk System
This week began our summer game season at the Texas Chapter.  Enthusiasm couldn't be higher as we breeze our way through the rules and begin the campaign.  The four game pre-season consisted of only battles using the core set miniatures.  We began with two battles with basic rules, then moved on to play two with the advanced rules.  

Our Campaign begins in the Karthakk System on the outer rim of the galaxy, during the Shadow of the Empire time period.  Boba Fett stops on Lok to pick up a heavy payload of seismic and proximity mines as he makes his way to Jabba's Palace on Tatooine.  The Rebel Alliance has activated Blue Squadron (led by Ten Numb) to pursue the Slave One.  The Gray Squadron led by Horton Salm quickly volunteered to accompany Ten.  Unbeknownst to Boba Fett (or the Rebels), the Emperor has sent the dreaded Sigma Squadron led by none other than Darth Vader himself to snuff out the Rebel threat.  Ten and the Rebels will have their hands full for sure!

We enjoyed learning the rules, the strategic aspect, and the competitive nature of the game.

Imperial Forces
  • Steven (Bounty Hunter)
    • Boba Fett in Slave-1
    • 2 TIE Fighters
  • Vincent (Sigma Squadron)
    • Darth Vader in TIE Advanced
    • TIE Phantom
    • 2 TIE Fighters
Alliance Forces
  • The Smith (Blue Squadron)
    • Ten Numb in B-Wing
    • E-Wing
    • Y-Wing
Lok: Home of the Nym Crime Syndicate
Battle Reports

Battle 1
Sigma Squadron (Tie Adavnce, Tie Phantom, Tie Fighters x2) vs. Blue Squadron (B-wing, E-wing, Y-wing)

Point Value: 100

Sigma Squadron employs cloaking technology as it delivers a crushing defeat to the rebels as they lose the opening battle of the Campaign.

Victory: Sigma Squadron

Battle 2
Blue Squadron (B-wing, E-wing, Y-wing) vs. Boba Fett (Slave One, Tie Fighterx2)

Point Value: 100

Ten Numb and Blue Squadron re-group after narrowly escaping Darth Vader's grasp. The Rebel's hold on and are able to pull a win out after Boba Fett flee's the battlefield in an attempt to deliver his bounty to Jabba.

Victory: Blue Squadron

Texas Chapter is go for lightspeed!  Next year will bring a multi-chapter X-Wing campaign that will also dovetail with a narrative established in a concurrent Star Wars D20 roleplaying game and the Star Wars Miniatures battle game.  Thanks to the Smith for updating us on the chapter's progress into this awesome new miniature game that brings starfighters back to the fore!  We'll be seeing you in a lot of familiar places, like Hoth and well as some places you've probably never heard of before.  Until then...

Stay on target!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Little Wars Adelaide

Today's article is a photo-fest brought to you by our own Drew Stearman, our correspondent from Australia.  A little over a week ago, Drew attended a convention in his home of Adelaide, South Australia and took lots of photos for us to check out the proceedings!  Big thanks to Drew for sending us these!

Little Wars Adelaide Australia Convention

Hello fellow gamers!

This is a short article of my experience (everyone loves XP) on the Little Wars convention, held on the 12th of July 2014 in little ole Adelaide.  Little Wars is run by a Melbourne group which have decided to branch out to Adelaide to build a better gaming environment.  My experience started well, the door man was very welcoming and polite (even had a few jokes for us).

Name tags were supplied to promote talking and interaction (we all know that gaming communitys can be very clique-y and shy).  The community hall was busy and a hive of activity.  People looked like they where socialising and having fun.  Majority of the gaming tables I visited acknowledged my interested and explained what the hell was going on.  There was a good mix of vendors and plenty of bargains to be bought.

Special notes of interest before i leave you to see for yourself from the photos taken:
  • (Matthew The campaigner magazine taking great photos of the event.
  • Warmachine press gangers putting on a massive game of warmahordes.
  • Dr Who local gamers with life size darleks.
  • S.A Colonial re-enacters.
  • The hobby matrix laser cut terrain. (Support your Local)
  • Carwars made from converted matchbox cars.
  • People with smiles having fun. 
Thanks, Little Wars.  Hope to see you again next year!

- Drew