Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Phased Combat Round

I'm not sure why I keep the phased combat round from BX/BECMI in TS&R. I mean, I put it in the books because that's what the rules are supposed to be. But I rarely ever follow it. For a few sessions in my West Marches campaign, I tried using it strictly. I got lots of pushback from the players. And I felt it was more of a hassle than an aid to combat. So, I went back to my usual method of ignoring it.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, in Classic D&D, the combat round actions for a side are supposed to be resolved in the following order: 


Missile Fire



Now, this presents some interesting tactical/logistical challenges. If you don't move at the start of the side's turn, you don't get to move. Missile fire or a charge are the only ways to disrupt a spellcaster. You can't fire a missile and then duck back behind full cover. 

I suppose it would be easier if I did a Declarations phase with more detailed actions. But after years of playing newer editions, where each player has full reign on their PC's action to do all the moves, maneuvers, attacks, and bonus actions they like, players feel like when they state their intention, that's their action. 

If I have players make Declarations at all, it's just something simple like "I'll cast a spell" or "I'll run up and attack the ogre in melee" rather than their whole detailed plan of action. If I had them give more detailed plans, and took notes each round, then resolved things in the order above, that might make it seem more worthwhile. As it is, though, all that extra note-taking and adjudicating phases seems like a needless hold-over from D&D's wargame roots, where the referee was often given hand-written orders by the players for each turn, and then had time to sort things all out. 

At the D&D table, I'd rather keep things moving. 

I was thinking that the above phases would be useful for rounds where initiative between the monsters and the players is tied. If things are tied, all sides move (including charge attacks, attacks with spears set for charge, fighting withdrawal, and parting shots/attacks of opportunity on those that retreat rather than withdraw). Then all sides fire missiles. Then all sides cast magic (including magic items and specials like breath weapons or gaze attacks). Finally, all engaged characters that haven't taken an action yet can make their melee attacks. 

On rounds where initiative isn't a tie, each side just goes in the order they please. 

This is sort of like the AD&D system, where weapon speed factors (and maybe spellcasting segments?) are only supposed to come into play if initiative is tied. 

Next session, I'll maybe try this out and see how it goes. In the meantime, I'm considering if I should edit my TS&R books to get rid of the outdated Declarations and combat phases, and just write it up the way I actually play the game instead. It wouldn't be a big change, especially since people can download the rules for free.

Monday, September 18, 2023

I've been banned!

Yes, I have been banned. This is not an exaggeration to get clicks. But what I was banned from and why is pretty funny. 

I know I've mentioned it before, but I play play-by-post games on Role Play Online ( My new Gamma World game is there. 

So there's this guy who's been for years trying to get new players into his d20 Star Wars game. Years ago I sent him a request to join, but it was ignored (first red flag!). But he kept asking for new players to join, so recently I decided to try again.

This time, he responded, but he was pretty condescending towards me, thinking my request from three years ago (which was still there) was my current request to join. Three years ago, he was looking for a level 3 or 4 character to join an existing game. Now, he was starting over at level 1. I figured hey, no big deal. He may not be a native English speaker, and gamers can be quirky anyway. We got past that when I explained that he'd ignored me before. (This was the second red flag, but I pressed on.)

So he says he is basing this Star Wars game at the end of the Clone Wars, off of some video game I'd never even heard of. Dark something or other. It's Star Wars. The enemies use The Dark Side. There are Dark Troopers. Dark Jedi. Dark this, dark that. Pretty par for the course. I didn't bother to Google the game.

So he posted that he wanted players, and specifically, the party could use a Jedi Guardian, a Soldier, or a Fringer. 

My first idea was to play a Fringer (Outer Rim survival/tinkerer type class). He said a Guardian or Soldier would be better. 

So I thought, how about a Mandalorian soldier? He said no, because there is a Jedi in the party, and as far as he knew, Mandos and Jedi are old enemies, so they wouldn't fit together. I suggested that there's plenty of precedent in Clone Wars, Rebels (the whole series has two Jedi and a Mando as leads!), The Mandalorian... He hasn't seen any of that. He's seen the movies, and played some games. That's his Star Wars. Well, fine. No worries.

He suggests I play a Jedi Guardian instead. I don't really want to mess around with the d20 Force rules (which are clever in a way, but kinda suck in actual play) and just not in the mood for a Jedi PC anyway. I tell him that I'd rather stick to a Soldier. So he suggests I play a Wookiee or some other big strong alien type. 

I've never played a Wookiee before. I think, not being able to directly communicate with the others and having to use descriptions of my gestures/mood might be kinda fun. So I make a Wookiee Soldier, and I'm accepted into the game. 

But then he says, hey, why not play a Wookiee Jedi Guardian? Wouldn't that be cool? No thanks.

Then, I've made my PC. I take one of those useless but flavorful +2 to two skills feats. He's like, hey, why not take a combat feat? I say I'll get plenty of feats as a Soldier. This gives me a bit of flavor. He is dismissive, but whatever. Then he's complaining that I'm playing a Wookiee but didn't take a bowcaster. Honestly, the d20 rules for them are a bit suboptimal, and NOW he's worried about me going for an optimization choice instead of a flavor choice. Weird, but OK. 

Remember, I'd wanted to play a Fringer, a sort of jury-rigging rogue type PC, in the first place. 

Then I find out that EVERY PC and the DM PC (yeah, another red flag) can speak Shyriiwook (the Wookiee language). So my idea to have to play this guy who understands everyone but has trouble making himself understood is out the window.

So, my Wookiee is introduced, having been captured and frozen in carbonite, then rescued by the PCs. So I'm blind at first. Luckily, that doesn't last too long. But we're on an abandoned Star Destroyer (Venator I guess?) and there are bloody trails and remains of clones everywhere. Our DM PC is trying to lead us here or there, but players being players, we're trying to explore and investigate this. 

We finally get the GM to allow us to move where we want to go, and we're attacked by clone zombies. 

I am instantly turned off. I wanted to play Star Wars, not zombie survival horror. But I press on for a bit. 

First round of combat, one of the zombies bites my PC. It's a critical hit, meaning it goes to my Wound Points (actual damage hit points) instead of my Vitality (luck/wits/skill hit points). It's only 2 damage, though, and I'm a big tough Wookiee with 14 WP. But the GM is asking me, "Hey, you could take the 2 damage, or you could lose a limb. Wouldn't that be cool? You could get a cybernetic replacement."

Really? He wants me to gimp my character in the first round of combat, in a format where just getting through a round of combat can take days, in the off chance that some where down the line I'll be able to get a cybernetic replacement? Instead of just taking 2 damage? Weird. 

I didn't post for a bit because I was busy (it's a pretty slow game, the other players are equally slow to post), but he made a comment to me asking if I was still interested in playing. And I decided I'd had enough. I posted (publicly so everyone would know I was leaving) that I wasn't really interested in playing a zombie horror Star Wars game, and than I think I'll politely bow out. 

He replies in a derisive manner, saying that I must have known it was a zombie game because whatever Dark Something game he'd based this on is a zombie game. Remember that? Yeah. Still have no idea what that game is, and still no desire to Google it. And he was complaining that I'd wasted his time. Remember how he'd been trying to get players in this game for a long time? I replied privately that no, actually, I didn't know the game he was referencing, and that there was no hint at all in the game advertising he'd made that it was zombies in space. I tried to stay polite, and even thanked him for giving me the chance to play in his game.

This morning, I saw there was a private message reply. But I couldn't read it, because he'd banned me from the game. 

No loss there, though. I probably should have bailed during the weird demands of character creation. But I can say I've been banned from a game!

Monday, September 11, 2023

14 Years

Yeah, it's blog-versary day again. I started the blog 14 years ago. Recently, my posting has been erratic. Life is just too busy, and sometimes I feel like I've pretty much discussed all I need to discuss. But I want to keep plugging my games, and talking about my process for developing them. And I enjoy talking about my campaigns. And every once in a while, I think of something that might actually be useful to my readers. 

So I'm going to keep at it. But no promises about consistent posting. 

Yesterday, my TS&R Jade campaign had a session. It went well. The party realized they could follow up a rumor and also get close to an area of the map where one PC could try to achieve a personal goal, so they did both. They followed up the rumor and got some information about how to deal with a problem, and the player got part of what they wanted for their personal vanity project. So I think the players were happy. And with the "quest" lined up for next session, I think there will be some anticipation for it. But we've got to wait maybe 3 weeks for the next session. 

My PbP Gamma World game also started over the weekend. One or two players are much more frequent posters than others, and the slow posters took a while to get their characters created. But now we're off and running...well, it's PbP so not really running. But we're off. 

And my boys and I are enjoying Star Wars: Ahsoka, so that will likely get me to work on the Star Wars campaign soon. But real life is not giving me much time for that.