Monday, January 4, 2021


 I started work on East Marches again over the weekend. I did a bit of editing to the map (fixing a few errors in numbering, recoloring to make it easier on the eyes on screen but still looking good printed). I also went through and organized the type and terrain of each encounter area on the map. I had used symbols for each type of encounter, and colors for terrain -- but I also have a classic B&W map with the symbols used by BX/BECMI maps too. In my notes, I jotted down each along with the number for the encounter. 

Now, I remembered having gone through and brainstormed ideas for what to put in the encounters for the first difficulty band (up to 6 hexes from the home base). They included a name, ideas for monsters, types of treasures, and connections. But I couldn't find it anywhere. I figured it must have been thrown out. So last night, I jotted down some ideas for the first two zones, very basic ones. 

Today at work I found a pocket notebook in my office, and looking inside, there it was. I'd actually made notes for the same areas in the first two zones many months ago. 

So, now I've got two sets of ideas for each encounter in these first two zones. One set is more detailed, but looking over them, I will probably save some for later zones. Also, there are some similarities among the two lists, although not always at the same locations. 

So, now I get to go through both and evaluate which ones to keep, which to move to further areas out, and which I can drop. I think this is going to be sort of fun. 

I'm also going to try and keep the module as system agnostic as possible, so that I can run it with TSR-East, Chanbara, Flying Swordsmen (maybe)
, AD&D OA, Ruins & Ronin, or what have you.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Star Wars! Give me those Star Wars!

In the last three weeks or so, the boys and I have watched Episodes 4, 7, 8, and 9. [Plus Ender's Game -- which while watching, my six year old, upon seeing Col. Graff, commented, "He looks like Han Solo!" and he was right!]

Also, the boys have been heavily into Star Wars themed games on ROBLOX. Yesterday, asking me about various SW games on computer, I mentioned that I used to play Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds a lot. And I still have the disks. So at their urging we loaded it up and I showed it to them. 

Needless to say, they loved it and wanted to play it, too. In fact, they wanted to play it together. So I found it for sale on for $2 per copy, and got us each one. And this morning we played together. 

I set it up for all three of us to be allied against three Easy mode NPCs. My 6-year-old really enjoyed it at first, just tooling around and experimenting with building stuff and controlling his workers. My 12-year-old was busy building up his forces, but not advancing his Tech level, and when the NPCs got up to Level 3 and attacked, he was at a loss. 6yo got frustrated and rage quit (but came back a little later after he'd calmed down, and I'd sent all my forces to rescue his base). 

In the end, we won thanks to my superior hovertank/droideka/bounty hunter with some air support strategy. 

12yo spend some time this afternoon with the tutorial mode and was full of questions about strategy and tactics all evening. 6yo watched the tutorial play, and should probably do it too, with some adult supervision and guidance. 

We still need to watch Episode 1, and then Rogue 1 and Solo. 

I'm nearly through Season 2 of the Clone Wars on my lunch break viewing. In fact, I'll probably wrap it tomorrow (Monday) and go on to Season 3. Will rewatch select portions of it with the boys later. Not because there's anything in it I think they shouldn't see, just because it's the kind of show where you don't have to watch the whole thing. 

Anyway, as can be seen, Star Wars fever is strong in this household. [And my boys have a healthy critical eye to J.J.'s work as it compares to that of Favreau/Filoni.]

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Year in Review

 I was sure on the blog a lot more this year than I have been in recent years! And without going through all my old posts for the year, here are my gaming related remembrances from 2020.

Started off the year high on The Mandalorian and running some WEG d6 Star Wars along with my ongoing Classic D&D West Marches game. Both games are still going. West Marches is pretty regular, Star Wars is pretty irregular, but the players are enthusiastic whenever we play it. Need to get the next SW adventure prepped...

As a player, Dean and Jeremy ran a few games here and there, but the big game for me as a player was Nate's (one of my West Marches players) 5E Lost Mines of Phandelver game. He got a bunch of WotC's free giveaway stuff, and decided to run this online for us. And while I have my dislikes about the 5E system, this was a really fun game to play in. Especially challenging was that I purposefully chose only one weak cantrip that could cause damage for my Conjurer Wizard character (infestation, 1d6 poison damage), although by the end I had cast a fireball from a scroll and had a wand of magic missiles. Still, spent most of the time using my spells to make things easier for the party/harder for the monsters, and I really enjoyed it!

As a game designer, this was a dud year. Well, I had a lot of ideas, but when my wife and kids returned to Korea from the US in the spring because of covid, my game design time was limited. And pretty unfocused. I started the year excited about finally doing something with Krynn, having picked up the Dragonlance Adventures hardback, and reading through the Immortals Set. Quickly lost interest in both of those. 

East Marches is still something I want to work on, but my TSR-East houserules are a bit of a mess right now, and I'd like to get them in a satisfactory form before working on East Marches in earnest. Or maybe I should give up on that and just make EM for Chanbara. Sales have been sluggish lately, may want to put something out for it next year (like my Ghost Castle Hasegawa adventure!). I did spend a LOT of time working on (redundant) GM rules for TSR-East in case I ever release it. I've decided not to mess with phased initiative anymore after it just complicated my West Marches game, though, so they will need a small rewrite there.

And these days, I keep fiddling around with Chainmail combat, and trying to figure out how to make sense of it for D&D. I guess I need to just play it that way, but it seems like played straight, it will be very deadly and very arbitrary. But fiddling around with numbers has been a headache. I should just give up on it, I guess.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Reconceptualizing Chainmail Troop Type meanings

 Yes, one more post about adapting Chainmail combat systems for D&D combat. Yesterday I told myself to give up on this and just play D&D, but this morning I'm thinking about it again.

One thing that the fantasy supplement makes clear is that while in normal Chainmail mass combat a troop's armor and mounted status determines their total combat effectiveness for melee, both offensively and defensively, that doesn't have to be locked solid. There are some fantasy troop types, like Dwarves/Gnomes and Goblins/Kobolds that attack as Heavy Foot but defend as Light Foot (why? I have no idea, especially when the stereotypical Dwarf is in at least chainmail). 

So if I do ditch man-to-man combat (which I'm again considering), weapon choice could still matter. We just need to reconceptualize Chainmail mass combat offense as tied to weapon class, not armor type. 

Light weapons (daggers, clubs, and so on) -- Light Foot

Medium weapons (swords, maces, axes, etc.) -- Heavy Foot

Heavy weapons (great swords, polearms, etc.) -- Armored Foot

Now, things get interesting. A plate mail & shield armored knight forced to fight with a dagger because he lost is sword is now rolling to attack as Light Foot, but opponents still need to roll to hit him as if he's Armored Foot. A naked barbarian with a greataxe rolls to attack as Armored Foot, but monsters only need to roll to hit Light Foot to damage him. 

This means Magic-Users are pretty much always going to be Light for both attack and damage, unless they have a Shield spell or something. Clerics and Thieves will be Light or Medium to attack. Clerics will most often be Heavy or Armored for defense, but Thieves will be stuck with Light. Fighters will be whatever they want, but mostly will be Medium or Heavy to attack, and Heavy or Armored for defense. 

Another possibility, considering how some monsters attack as if cavalry (like Wights/Ghouls) even though they are on foot. In a D&D type game, maybe a good way to make the Fighter better without lots of special abilities like feats and combat maneuvers would be to let them fight as cavalry (light, medium, or heavy depending on their weaponry/armor) instead of foot, even when they're not mounted. This would be a BIG boost for the Fighter. And it would only be applied to characters of the Fighter class, not NPC men-at-arms. Men-at-arms would still need to be mounted to count as cavalry if I went this way. 

This might be something for me to play test with my boys over the winter break and see how it works.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

"Now, I am the master."

 Well, my WEG Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game 30th Anniversary edition arrived yesterday. I have to say, the rule book and sourcebook are both nicely printed, hardback books with a sturdy slip case. They look like they'll hold up to some heavy flipping back and forth. 

I was busy yesterday, and had my D&D game this afternoon, so I'm only now starting to flip through the rule book. But already, I can tell that the easy reference charts at the back are going to speed up my games immensely. The pdf I've been using will still be useful for stuff like aliens, gear, and ships from the prequels and expanded universe (I don't think there's anything from the sequel series in there, but if I want anything, I can easily improvise it). But the books are going to be my go-to references from now on. 

And yes, this is the first edition of the game, so there will be some differences from what we've been playing, but if it's a rule we've had to deal with already (like increasing attributes) we'll go with what's in the REUP pdf. 

Recently, watching Season 2 of the Mandalorian, and having watched episodes 2 through 7 with my boys (1, 8 and 9, plus Rogue One and Solo, and episodes of Clone Wars, will be coming soon), the boys want to change from Mandalorian characters to Jedi characters. I've already got one Alien Student of the Force, one Minor Jedi, and one Young Jedi (who doesn't always show). I think that's enough Force users for a game set during the Rebellion. Before the battle of Hoth even! My older boy suggested I run a separate game just for them so that they could play Jedi. I may just have to do that. 

They've also been playing Star Wars games on Roblox, and want me to play with them. They spent some of their Christmas money on Robux so they could purchase Jedi/Sith characters in the Roblox version of Battlefront, and I think that influenced their desires to ditch their Mando characters. 

They also were asking why they couldn't play as Sith/Dark Jedi. I explained that the rules said you had to give up your PC if you got too many Dark Side points, but they've played enough D&D now to not buy that. "Couldn't you run that kind of game if you wanted to?" Well, yes, yes I could. So, we may be in for an interesting ride with this.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

And it hit me this morning

 I don't know if I'm just slow, but I finally realized why the Dungeon! game's combat system is so different from the man-to-man system. It's because it's the Fantasy combat system, extended to everything from skeletons and goblins up to purple worms and vampires. Not sure why it took me so long to see this. Or maybe I did before, but forgot about it. 

I also got on Google last night, and read some people's reports of playing OD&D with Chainmail combat. Some were very positive, some very negative. Apparently, according to one account which claimed to be of a discussion with Rob Kuntz, Gygax never intended for anyone to play D&D with Chainmail combat except in the endgame when armies were clashing. The references to Chainmail, according to Kuntz as reported by a 3rd party, were just cross marketing. 

Still, though, Arneson used Chainmail for his Blackmoor campaign, and Megarry used the Fantasy Combat rules for Dungeon! which was supposedly his take on how Dave A. ran Blackmoor. So I'm still curious as to how D&D with Chainmail combat would play. And I'd really just need to add the Cleric and Thief to the Fantasy combat table (maybe at high and low level values like the Hero/Superhero?). 

Combat with mundane opponents would be Mass Combat by default, but breaking out Man-to-Man for special battles with human/humanoid opponents (but using D&D initiative instead of Chainmail's complicated version). When fantastic monsters are encountered, players could use Mass Combat or the Fantasy Combat table as they like.

Aside from the realization about Dungeon! just being the Fantasy Combat system, this morning I also thought about this idea. Any PC in the game will automatically get a squad of men-at-arms (or monster mercenaries if Chaotic?) with a Chainmail point value equal to their Charisma score. They would be able to add dice to Mass Combat rolls or help in Man-to-Man combat but not Fantasy combat, and absorb hits in any combat mode.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Yet Another Chainmail Combat in D&D Thought

One problem with using Chainmail's man-to-man combat in D&D is that many monsters don't use manufactured weapons and armor. For those that do -- orcs, goblins, ogres, and so on -- it's easy enough to use. For those that don't, we either need to assign their natural weapons as a weapon class or else come up with some numbers just for them. And I don't think a generic "claw" or "bite" attack line makes much sense when you have everything from giant rats to dragons using them. So each monster would have to be evaluated as to what weapon is closest to its natural attacks, and how they compare against different types of armor.

Then again, if we're still using weapon damage, then maybe it's fine to have one "claw" attack line or what have you. My friends and I mistakenly used the 1st level hit roll numbers for all monsters and even for higher level PCs for the first few years we played, since they were printed on the character sheet on the back of the Mentzer book. So dragons and giants and rocs had the same hit probability as those giant rats in our early games. Dragons and rocs just did a LOT more damage when they hit with their claws and bites. Maybe having numbers for any "claw" or "bite" or "tail slap" or whatever would work. I'd still need to assign those numbers vs each armor type, though. Or decide that all tail slaps count as morning stars and all claws as daggers, something like that.

And then we turn to armor. D&D of course abstracts thick hides, quick movement, large or small size, etc. as part of a generic AC, while Chainmail man-to-man specifies the type of manufactured armor worn by an opponent. AD&D of course kept the weapon vs armor table which is based on Chainmail man-to-man (I assume, never checked the numbers to see if they more or less match). It's one of the things I never liked about AD&D and never used when I ran it, so I don't remember if it's just hand-waved for creatures with a certain AC but not assumed to be armored, or just ignored. For this system I'm developing, though, I can't really ignore it if man-to-man combat is going to be a big part of the game. 

Alternately, when fighting animals, bestial monsters, etc. we only use the mass combat rules, or Fantasy Combat if the creature is on the list (or equivalent to something on the list). 

Of course, if I do simplify the man-to-man tables to match the mass combat armor types instead of the detailed breakdown given in Chainmail, that might make it more manageable. But it's making me think more and more that the system in the Dungeon! board game might be simpler than Chainmail's system. Especially if monsters are just given a general chance to hit. While Dungeon! gives the same attack roll for all monsters, I could give some variety so that bigger, faster, or just more dangerous monsters hit more easily. But then it would negate the bonus that Fighters and Clerics get of wearing the best armors. So I'd need either numbers for armor types, or numbers vs class (the way Dungeon! gives each class different numbers vs monster type).

Or, to make a long blog post short, I understand why the "alternative" combat system using a d20 vs AC became the standard. Many fewer headaches. I'm not quite ready to ditch Chainmail, though, as I think it might make combat interesting.