Monday, September 28, 2020

Combat Round Resolution

 After years of playing 3E through 5E (yes, I got back into Classic around 2006, but have still played the other editions), I've kinda gotten used to the idea of each player making their entire suite of actions at one time in the combat round. Move, attack, other miscellaneous actions all resolve at once, before others act. 

And even in Classic, using group initiative, I've often defaulted to letting the players act in any order they choose on their side's turn, telling me everything they do at once. It's easy to go around the table and just adjudicate each player's actions one by one. 

Recently, though, I've been trying to run the combat round by-the-book. And in Classic D&D, this means the sides in combat each act according to the order of actions first laid down in Chainmail.

Move. Missile Fire. Magic (Artillery in Chainmail). Melee. 

It didn't seem to be a problem for the past few sessions, using theater of the mind. But yesterday, I had a small crumbling castle full of orcs and a troll that the PCs were exploring, and I wanted to use a tactical battle map since the orcs had chances to surround the PCs (although clever play with the first cohort encountered made that moot). Using the map, and dividing up movement from other actions, especially in simultaneous initiative rounds, really seemed to mess with the players. Lots of comments like "Oh, is this still the same round?" and "I move here and do X" - "You already moved."

So I'm wondering. Part of me likes the phased initiative system. But part of me likes a more open and less restrictive system. 

Something to discuss with the players, I guess, but I think I may just ditch the phased combat round and go back to just going around the table and asking each player what they do each round.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Again, the Giants?

 My players are slowly creeping towards the more dangerous areas of the West Marches, now that the lowest level party member (my 6 year old who only sort of participates) is 3rd level, and most are in the 4 to 6 range. I've got the next ring done (although I think I still need to convert a few zones from 5E notes to Classic -- while just pulling open my monster book is often good enough, treasures are too low if I leave them at 5E levels), and they have made a few tentative in-roads into that band of challenge. So I'm working on the next ring out. 

The Giants modules are going in this region, even though they're a little tough for the intended level. But since I have at least one player who's played many of the classic modules before, I want to switch them up a bit. Rework a few things, maybe make some map changes. And no, I won't give out too many details of what I'm doing, since a few of my players read this blog. Suffice it to say they won't be exactly the same. 

Also, since West Marches is player-driven in terms of plot, I will not likely be sticking the D and Q modules anywhere. And while I'll likely retain connections between the three giant strongholds, there won't be as much metaplot to discover (maybe, I could change my mind on that). 

Today I read through Glacial Rift, and really, even if I wanted to play them straight, the upper level is a bit bland. There are some interesting encounters and situations there, but a LOT of them are similar. Want to spice things up a bit. Also, will probably switch out some of the treasures to again provide some uncertainty/discovery for my veteran players. 

Plus, as I've mentioned before, Gygax can be a bit verbose. These modules are fairly compact, but at the table, I really don't need all that level of detail for most of the areas. So I'll be spending some spare time in the next few days doing some mods to the module.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Hail the Dragonslayers

 In my West Marches game yesterday, the party was searching for a rumored dragon burial mound. They didn't find it, but they did stumble across a lake with an island housing a ruined monastery. And in that ruined monastery there was a fledgling bronze dragon atop the wall. 

After much hemming and hawing about what to do (the dragon didn't talk, and seemed to be warning the party away), they scared it with some impressive phantasmal force spells (failed save and failed morale check!), then followed it into the ruins. It went into its nest to wake its brethren (as it was on watch). But a fireball wand and a magic missile spell finished them in the surprise round. 

As the party were exploring the priory for loot, they heard a larger dragon roaring outside. Cue big battle!

Except I wasn't expecting it to be as epic as it turned out to be. The "adult" dragon (8HD 'small' bronze in my version of BECMI) had way less than average hit points, only 20 when the average is 36. It did have two more wyrmlings with it, though, so the battle could have gone south quickly. But the party had initiative in the crucial early rounds. The fireball wand took out the two wyrmlings, then the parent cast darkness while one of the party's magic users cast haste and another cast web on the entrance. 

When the dragon came in, it got stuck for a few rounds in the web. It did manage to breathe on the cleric, but even though she failed her save, she had enough hit points to survive. The party managed to then inflict some serious damage on the dragon, but it then cast hold person on four of the PCs, and three failed their saves. It managed to get off both of its remaining breath weapons, but in its damaged state they didn't do much. The party finally finished it off. 

And also, one PC has an arrow of teleportation. He drank a potion of luck to ensure that he'd hit with it and teleport the dragon away. It was a smart plan, but they managed to do so much damage to it that they called him off from using it. 

It was a pretty tense battle, and I'm happy that it went on long enough to have the dragon cast a few spells and use all of its breath weapons (although I guess I should have had it use the fear gas breath after it was damaged, might have given it time to escape the web, but I didn't think of that in the moment, and the party was so spread out only one or two would have been gassed anyway).

I really enjoyed running the encounter, and I think the players had a good time as well. And now a few PCs get to level up!

Friday, September 11, 2020

Another anniversary for the blog!

 What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse... keeps chugging along. I'm not nearly as active this year as I was last year, but most of last year my family was in the USA and I was in Korea. So plenty of time to write stuff up. This year, not so much.

I'm tinkering with ideas for Chainmail Arena. 

I'm in the middle of writing up the next adventure for d6 Star Wars. 

I'm filling in more of my West Marches map. Stocked seven or eight hexes this afternoon. Over three years into the campaign, and I still have only stocked around half of the map's hexes. But only around a quarter to a third have been explored, so I'm still ahead of my players. 

East Marches is stalled, and may become vaporware. Not sure. I did a lot of preliminary work for it, but actually starting in on describing the locations on the map, building up the home town, etc. seems daunting. Maybe I should draw a new, smaller map and expand it later? Or break things up by zones. 

On the plus side, I have decided that I'm fine with my current house rules. No converting back to race-as-class, although I might revise how multiclassing works based on my recent revision ideas. Basically, multiclass characters will get a set hit die and set XP track and advance both classes on a level up (the way BX/BECMI Elves do). It simplifies things. No more splitting XP, no worries about energy drains, no trying to remember if hit points get rounded up or down or just halves are recorded. 

Nothing going on (in my head space) at the moment with Flying Swordsmen or Chanbara, and no more paper minis projects in the works. Sales are sluggish, but then they usually are at this time of year. Maybe I need to come up with something new to revitalize them? 

Anyway, that's the state of things right now. If you were curious. Thanks as always to my readers! Expect more silliness, random thoughts on gaming, and occasionally insightful pieces in the coming year.

Friday, September 4, 2020

A small bonus

 By switching from only thinking of man-to-man and fantasy table combat in Chainmail arena, I've opened up conceptually to a hopefully cool idea. I'd read that Gygax thought fantasy rules should only be paired with man-to-man, but several examples of the game in play, as well as many notes in the fantasy supplement, suggest using fantasy creatures in mass combat. 

The mass combat rules will probably speed up games. Since I plan to play these play-by-post, that will help. Faster is always better in PbP. 

Also, with each mook-type unit representing a troop of 20 (or so) combatants, it allows each to be flavored as such. I immediately thought of Magic: The Gathering, where usually cards for weak monsters represent squads. Like the classic Mon's Goblin Raiders or the Orcs of the Iron Claw. Yes, there are some individual weaker monsters, but I like the idea of players not recruiting 20 generic "light foot" or whatever. They have to recruit Atalanta's Amazon Skirmishers. 

 And I plan to fully take advantage of pop culture/fantasy media/D&D iconic characters for heroes, antiheroes, superheroes, superantiheroes, and wizards of all stripes. Conan, Elric, Simon Belmont, Warduke, Strahd, Merlin, Circe, Melisandre, Madmartigan, and so on. Makes sense to also have some flavor for the squads of troops. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Rethinking Chainmail Arena

 It's been a year and a half since I came up with the idea to use Gygax and Perren's Chainmail for an arena combat type game. You can read about it here, here, and here

I'm reconsidering it now, as it's been in the back of my mind all this time. I printed up and re-read the man-to-man rules, and I think that those should be enough for grunt level humanoid vs humanoid combat. I also read through parts of the Grey Elf's Compleat Chainmail Combat System pdf. It's a collection of clarifications, house rules, and design notes from the Grey Elf and others for using Chainmail combat resolution in OD&D. 

The explanations in it helped me to get a better idea of how to run Chainmail Arena. 

I've still got to figure a few things out. If I use the man-to-man tables for humans/demi-humans/humanoids, that's fine. Using the fantasy table for fantasy creatures is fine. But when normies fight the fantasy creatures, it seems to require the normal Chainmail mass combat resolution. I'd like to simplify things so all rolls are 2d6. Hopefully, this pdf will help clarify things. It seems like it will. 

 So this game is closer to happening than it used to be.   

Addendum: I've watched a video with an example of play, and read more of the Grey Elf pdf. I'm thinking now that abandoning the man-to-man table might just be easier. Instead of recruiting individual goblins or whatever, players will recruit humanoids (and normal animals) as packs/squads.