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 emplores 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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rulebook Ruminations: Dungeons & Dragons Basic

Earlier this month, the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules for what is essentially 5th Edition is up for download at the Wizards of the Coast website.  Seems like a great time to talk about the actual rules we are using right now at the Wargate, which happens to be a copy of 1981's Basic Rules.  There's a lot of material that today's gamers might find interesting, and I know not everyone is familiar with some of this old stuff.  So in today's rumination, I'm going to run down a list of some of the old rules you may not be familiar with.

Our copy of D&D Basic that is currently being run at the Wargate is none other than the 1981 printing of the red book above.  We also have the "blue" book and introductory boxed set, but this current campaign focuses on a different set of modules than what I want to run using only that box.  To that end, we have the Basic, Expert, and Companion sets from this era, with the Rules Cyclopedia to top it off.  The gist of it is - you only get access to each set when you level up.  So at the beginning of the campaign, this Basic rulebook is literally all you have to start with.

Ability scores with a straight 3d6 roll, straight down the list.  No rolling and placing scores in the Ability you like most - the only customization you can do at this point is that some classes can reduce certain Abilities to gain a point in their Prime Requisite, at a 2 to 1 ratio.  So you get what you get.  Makes the scores a lot more relevant, and it makes rolling them much more exciting a prospect.

Next, there are only 7 classes.  Four of these - Fighter, Thief, Cleric and Magic-User - are human.  The remaining three - Dwarf, Elf and Halfling - are races.  So there you go - one of the biggest differences lie in the streamlining of choices, especially prevalent at the Basic level.  One way this manifests is in how the demihumans are presented, which are as entirely separate classes.  

One thing about older versions of D&D is that each class has a different value of XP needed to advance a level.  A Fighter needs 2,000 points to advance to level 2, but a Magic-User needs 2,500 XP.  Likewise, a Cleric needs 1,500, and an Elf needs 3,000.  Why the disparity?

There are no skills / proficiencies is Basic.  However, each of the classes has a lot of things only its' members can do, and for certain classes (especially demihumans) they come loaded for bear on these special skills.  Elves are basically what would come to be known in later editions as Fighter/Mages, and since they combine the abilities of both require the most XP to advance a level.

Spells are very simple and limited.  Most don't have overthought rules, and simply apply to "groups" of monsters when cast.  The silliest thing I've seen are Killer Bees put to Sleep, which wouldn't happen under more advanced rules.  Actually, that's not bad considering how stripped down Basic is compared to 3e and everything that came after.

A very basic equipment list will help complete you character, but the old layout makes you suffer.  It's a good thing it's a small manual.  Combat and weapon information is in 3 different places - it's almost as if they didn't know people would need to reference a weapons' damage, weight and cost at the same time.

Encounters and adventures are explained well - in fact this is one of the better examples in all of RPG-dom.  The breakdown of Turns and Rounds keep the "game" aspect quite clear.  All in all, Basic is still one of my favorite manuals, and has been indispensable throughout my tenure as Dungeon Master.

The game is balanced very differently from it's descendants.  There is a complete lack of Thac0 and saving throw progression throughout, although some rules for higher level characters are presented.  Still, it won't be until you hit 4th level that it will get easier to hit monsters.

Yet, monster HD scaling is absolutely on par with later editions.  Monsters get Thac0 and save bonuses right out of the gate, so be warned - a 3 HD monster has Thac0 17, while a 3rd level Fighter languishes at 19.  They have the same amount of hit points (on average) but that 10% attack difference means that the monster will hit more often.  At 3rd level, don't expect to be able to take more than 3 dice of damage (that's why they are called Hit Dice)!

Basic treasure tables do actually contain quite a bit, but the amount of magical items described might be fewer than you expect.  However, it does cover a lot of the basics, from magical weapons and armor to potions, scrolls, rings, staves and even more esoteric kit.  Very strange magical items are not included, but there's more than enough here to get your adventurers started.

So, the delay in posting has been in part due to the release of the new rules, which I started devouring immediately upon release.  I followed and partook in the playtest, and have a vested interest in D&D Next.  I was going to do a comparison piece, but it really deserves it's own review.  I would take this task gladly, but we're going to be in Mystara for quite some time to come.  Suffice it to say, I actually like this new version.

At first glance, the new D&D seems to combine design aspects from both 3e and 4e.  I like a lot of what I see, but I'm going to hold off a full opinion until I get my hands on a Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide.  I've been reading those since 1991, and I know what goes in them.  Oh well, I guess we have to wait even longer.

I don't think we'll notice the wait, though.  We have tons of stuff to work through, and by the time we're done in Mystara all this new stuff will be out.  Who knows?  Maybe we'll jump ahead to 5e.  Until then, good luck gamers!  See you on Game Day!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Explore the Face of Mystara!

We're a few sessions into the new Dungeons & Dragons Basic game, and already we're managed to change a few of the club's perceptions about D&D, potentially changing several of our fundamental approaches to gaming across the board.  The schedule has changed, and now we're focused on a single, larger scale game than we have before.  Our battle games and roleplay games are folding into each other in very pleasant manner.

Some interesting new activities are going to be born of our infatuation with retro-gaming, and I know everyone here at the Wargate is pleased with most of the proposed changes to how we approach our narratives as well.  You can check out the current situation on Mystara by visiting the State of Play, to your right.  The log will soon be expanded with more detailed character information and some more interesting bits that will be necessary for our players to conquer Mystara.

Incidentally, none of this buzz about D&D has to do with the impending new edition - honestly our club couldn't be bothered to care less, I believe.  I spoke to our players about 5th Edition but received a lukewarm response, coupled with "what about all this other great stuff we have that we haven't used yet?" - so naturally we've focused on what we already had.  Just this, by my calculations, will keep us gaming well into our retirement homes.

So, lets talk about how we're going to handle certain aspects of this game.  The particulars:

  1. Most Players start with two Player Characters.
    • If you lose one PC, you may not make a new character to replace it.
    • Lose both characters, and you may make a new one at an XP penalty.
  2. If you are absent, your PC's are taken over by a member of the party that is present.
    • Time no longer stops for any man.  Or Dwarf.  Or Cleric.
    • You gain no XP from missed sessions.
    • Your characters are in just as much peril as if you were here.
    • A character that is killed while their player is not here will not be interred into the Death Roll.
  3. The Player retains the total number of earned XP throughout the campaign.
    • However, penalties can be levied against your total.
    • Each time you generate a new character (because you have perished) a 10% penalty will apply.
  4. New Players create 1 PC.
    • New players use the lowest XP score among active players as their entry level XP.

We have elected to enact some new policies here, but rest assured it's truly in the group's interest.  Due to time constraints and the sheer scope of what we have planned, we can no longer allow characters to pop in and out of existence all willy-nilly.  For the sake of continuity, it's better to just get them planted.

Whether it's the nostalgic resonance on the part of these ancient game books or it's the sheer freedom we have with how we use them, it's safe to say there's quite a bit of interest in the old warhorse that is D&D.  We have some more cool surprises to drop here during the rest of the year, which has henceforth been declared D&D season.  Just rest assured, we're going to get a lot more use out of our miniature collection than was previously allowed in certain rulesets.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Clan Strife: Island of Lies Campaign Log

Island of Lies
Clan Strife Campaign 2014

Sea of Lord Sun, 1170-1199 (Isawa Calendar)

Yogo Satsu was a unique leader among the Scorpion Clan.  He chose life at sea instead of the shadowy intrigue of the mainland, and soon many bushi from several clans joined the crew of his ship, Tatsuharu.  Over the last half of the 12th century, he plied the Umi Yakamo (Sea of Lord Sun) traveling far and wide to bring much needed trade to the lands of the Scorpion.

Satsu had two sons - one by a Scorpion woman, one by a Lion.  His first son, Yogo Teratsu, grew up in the lands of the Scorpion in the house of his grandfather.  Teratsu's mother died when he was very young, and soon after he learned of her death, Satsu took another wife as he traveled through Lion lands.  Ikoma Jensei was Satsu's son, though he (like his unknown brother Teratsu) grew up in the house of his grandfather in Lion lands as his father traveled Rokugan and beyond.  The brothers lived their lives never knowing of the other.

Then came the Destroyer War.  Yogo Satsu built a warfleet of kobune to aid in the reconstuction of the Ruined Kingdoms and build stronger clan relations with the Mantis.  To this end, for the first time he gathered his two sons in one place and they swore fealty to him.  By this time, Jinsei and Teratsu were accomplished bushi with great honor, and had gathered many followers themselves.

As they sailed for the Ruined Kingdoms of the Ivory Coast, disaster struck.  The fleet was blown off course by a powerful storm from the Shadowlands, and was nearly destroyed before landing on a peculiar island somewhere in the Umi Yakomo.  It was large, fertile and seemed as if no man had ever set foot upon it.  They would soon find that their island was south of the Ruined Kingdoms, and Satsu set about creating the first Rokugani settlement upon the island.

Under Satsu's guidance, the fleet was repaired.  However, he wanted to keep a garrison at his new settlement, so could not set sail to the north to find the mainland with all of them.  To this end, he appointed Teratsu as overseer of his coastal camp.  Satsu intended to return to the mainland to consolidate sea routes to the island, and knew that time was of the essence.

On the eve of his voyage, he brought together his two sons to speak of life, and of death.  He bade them keep watch over the island, so increase their efforts so their settlement could grow to be useful to the Empress.  He also spoke of their inheritances, including his possession of a powerful nemuranai called the Golden Kabuto.  They spoke long into the night, eventually deciding what would happen next.  Jinsei would accompany their father north, and Teratsu would stay on the island to develop the settlement.

The voyage north was a fateful one.  A storm once again brewed on the sea, and with it came bune filled with oni.  Jinsei was separated from his father during the tumult as the bune began to drift apart in the storm.  When he hacked the last of the monstrous oni from his deck, Jinsei learned they had lost half the fleet.  He continued north, and found the mainland of the Ivory Coast.  Though he tried, he could not find Satsu.  He completed his father's business, as discussed, and then returned to the island.

Teratsu was enraged when he learned of what he considered to be gross negligence in the case of his father's death.  With this news came Jinsei's assertion of Lion dominance on the island, which pushed Teratsu over the edge.  He declared that the island was the domain of the Scorpion Clan and it's allies exclusively.  Jinsei was rebuffed, and gathered his men and moved to the north shore of the island.  There, he established a settlement and began to reach out to the mainland.

Hanakawa is the Lion alliance settlement on the island.  The Phoenix, Crane and Dragon all have representatives here.  Jinsei is focusing on bringing military might to the island in an effort to crush out his older brother, and soon the brothers (along with their allies) will come to blows over control of the island.  In Hanakawa, a large naval port is being built with the intention of controlling the sea south of the Ruined Kingdoms.

The original settlement is much quieter and more peaceful.  Now called Satsu-ji, the settlement is growing in stature and power.  Shrines to the Fortunes, Kami and all manner of spirits dot the idyllic landscape.  The Crab, Unicorn and Mantis all have representatives here as well.  Teratsu has built a mighty fortress, and has many disciples of the spirits in his settlement.  Some few of those shugenja are beginning to suspect there may be more to the island than they suspect.

Every day, knowledge of the existence of the island spreads across Rokugan by agents of both sides.  Spring Dragon Island, as it is now called, will be the focal point of an internecine conflict between the clans.  Even now, the enmity between the half-brothers grows to a point of murderous rage.  The singing of blades draws near...

Campaign Rules

The campaign will be decided by each Clan's Honor score at the end of the campaign, which is calculated from participating in battles.  The highest Clan Honor will be the overall victor of the campaign.  The highest alliance Honor (sum of Honor scores in each alliance) will determine which alliance holds sway on the Island of Lies!

In addition, experience will be gained as in the Ronin rulebook.  No additional special rules are required this game, as this is the first campaign we've used this system with.  We're going to put it through it's paces!

Team games are encouraged where multiple clans take part.  For each of these, count the rival buntai as separate engagements on the battle record.  However, your fates are bound to one another, so the loss is counted toward both clans!

Campaign Updates

  1. (4/27/14) - Hostilities between the Scorpion and the Phoenix finally come to blows in a slaughter near one of the shrines along the southern shore, which ran slick with Phoenix blood.  Thereafter, the Unicorn and Lion fell upon one another, resulting in a bloody stalemate after a day of carnage.
  2. (5/25/14) - Yogo Teratsu's forces attack Ikoma Jensei's in force.  After a bitter fight in the woods near the Shrine of the Mended Knee, the Scorpions were driven back to Satsu-ji.

The campaign is a draw!  Neither alliance managed to get the better of the other in the long term.  However, Ikoma Jensei secured much honor in the name of his Clan...and Dirty Greg is easily this year's Warden of the Empire with 8 points!  Congratulations to Greg, who will be reaping the benefits of those honor points with some nifty perks here at the Wargate.

All is quiet on the Island of Lies, thanks to Ikoma Jensei's vigilance.  When next we return to Rokugan, we'll have a longer and more in-depth, multi-level campaign for you.  We will continue to develop the Clan Strife blog and add new units for our games.  This weekend will see the en-action of a new schedule for us, which will put several layers on each campaign going forward.  Ronin:  Clan Strife and Legend of the Five Rings are foremost in these designs and will be with us for the next several years.

Thanks to everyone who helped out with the samurai flavor:  Skim, Captain Video, Dirty Greg, Jerry Wargate and Joe Kool.  You guys were great, and until next campaign the Lion will have it's share!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Legend of the Five Rings: The Long Road Campaign Log

Today's campaign log comes directly from Dungeon Lord Skim, who has crafted a Legend of the Five Rings adventure to fill some down time and dovetail with Clan Strife.  Big thanks to Skim for taking the helm of the table for a few weeks, and for the awesome tale of mystical samurai!

Akodo Lands, 1200 I.C.

The snow has melted and the roads have become clear enough for safe travel. Winter Courts all across the Empire have come to a close. Court attendees and their retinues have made their journeys home or to where their next political battles will take place. Imperial Messengers across the Empire are beginning their springtime duties traveling throughout the lands of Rokugan delivering important messages to the lords and champions of clans great and small. Samurai all over the Empire are busily attending the needs of their lords.

Three weeks after spring began various lords in the Empire of Rokugan received letters from Emerald Magistrate Ikoma Hajime requesting their assistance. The lords were asked to dispatch a worthy samurai of their choice to the military barracks in the Village of the Reinstated Hero. The village is located in lands owned by the Lion Clan and known to contain a famous shrine to Duty, which honors long-ago hero Ikoma Teidei. The message gave no indications as to why the samurai were requested and only asked that the samurai report in on the 25th Day of the Dragon.

There have been rumors that suggest an unnamed Emerald Magistrate in the Lion territories is working closely with the Jade Champion, Asako Heishi, who resides in Pale Oak Castle in the Phoenix Lands. As to what exactly they are trying to accomplish and why they would be joining forces, one can only guess. Though, for an alliance such as this, it must be of the utmost importance.

The Companions
  • Bayushi Kamazaki, Bushi
  • Ide Itsuo, Courtier
  • Yoritomo Emika, Bushi
  • Daidoji Daisuke, Bushi
  • Akodo Yumiro, Shugenja

Campaign Log  
Total Time11.5 hrs  (5.25.14)

  1. The Long Road (5.11.14 to 5.25.14) Total Time11.5 hrs - The samurai attempt to traverse a long a treacherous road and deliver an important message to a Lion lord far away.  In addition, they must protect the Lady Asako Ryoko, a young shugenja.
    • The summoned samurai all meet in the barracks in the Village of the Reinstated Hero located in the Lion lands. They are introduced to Emerald Magistrate Ikoma Hajime, Asako Kato Acolyte of Air, and Asako Ryoko Apprentice Inquisitor. After introductions, Ikoma Hajime informs the assembled samurai that they are appointed as Yoriki that now work for him. He gives them their first duty as Yoriki, to travel with Asako Ryoko to Pale Oak Castle in the Phoenix lands as her protectors.  (3 hrs)
    • Tonbo Ukiya becomes a concern for the party as it is noticed that he staring intently at Asako Ryoko. On the road to Oiku Village, the party meets with Hitomi Fuguki a Kikage Zumi initiate from the Dragon Clan. In Oiku Village, Kakita Umasu is met and joins the group on their travel north. That night Tonbo Ukiya makes an appeal for Ryoko's hand in marriage. The group intervenes and Ukiya leaves very angry. A merchant named Toru is questioned about staring in the direction of the group. He denies doing any wrong doing.  At the Bridge of Lion's Might a strange fog rolls in and Ryoko and Akodo Yumiro fall unconscious. It is surmised the party is being attacked. Tonbo Ukiya tries to separate Ryoko from the group by flying above them to grab her. He is ultimately killed for his insolence.  After the fog clears, screams are heard as the merchant known as Toru appears. He is covered in blood and seems to be swelled in size. A battle ensues with Toru dying quickly to three katana strikes from the party.  Hitomi Fuguki seems maddened by all the drama. The party keeps him calm and the next morning he seems back to normal. He and Kakita Umasu depart the group. At a shrine to Bishamon the Fortune of Strength, Bayushi Kamazaki and Doji Fusashi have words.  (5 hrs)
    • A bad storm rolls in and the party gets invited to use a merchants wagon which they gladly accept. The party travels to Nanashi Mura (No Name Village). They spend the night and travel on.  After many days travel the party encounters a man sitting on a stool in the middle of the road. He asks for “donations.” Battle ensues. All but one bandit is cut down and killed. Unfortunately, Akodo Yumiro takes a grievous wound while bravely fighting and perishes during the battle. The group travels on to Pale Oak Castle where they are given rest and told to await their lord.  (3.5 hrs)

    The funeral had entered it's second week of mourning as Akodo Setsumi sat in front of the family altar praying silently. Her prayers came to her haltingly as her concentration was broken over and over again by the recurring pain of the loss of her husband. They had been fortunate that they had so easily come to love each other. Not many marriages in the empire could be said to be as joyful and as happy as her and Akodo Yumiro's marriage.

    It pained her even more that she had chosen to leave on the following morning and not stay to pay proper respects. It was a decision that didn't come easy but she felt it was the right one. Rumors of Yumiro's death stated that one of the bandits had escaped with his life during the battle due to his cowardice. Not much was known about the bandit, though the vague description given by the honorable group of samurai that traveled with him was more than enough for Setsumi to make her decision.

    Before her marriage she had been Hiruma Setsumi and learned the ways of the Hiruma Bushi as a samurai-ko. She spent some time along the Kaiu Wall and used her skills many times to help her fellow comrades. When the marriage proposal was accepted she had been very apprehensive about the match. She had always assumed she would stay in the Crab lands protecting the empire from the constant threat of Shadowlands invasions. Instead she was to travel to the Lion lands to marry, have children and manage a household. Her apprehensions were short lived though. Akodo Yumiro was an honorable samurai that seemed to understand what she was giving up, and she had soon come to love him.

    Now her future was uncertain. Her new life and her beloved husband were taken from her. All she could think of now was avenging his untimely death. She had spoken with her lord Akodo Hirotsugu about her unconventional plans. At first he seemed wary and she feared that he would not give his permission. Ultimately though, he gave her leave to go. Now all that was left was to finish her prayers and hope her husbands spirit would understand why she had to leave.
    The next morning before the sunrise, Akodo Setsumi donned her armor along with her dead husbands daisho and walked out of the house possibly for the last time.