Tuesday, 27 September 2011
Sunday, 18 September 2011
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
On top of my bi-weekly game, I’ve decided to start up another campaign for Friday nights. This gives me a chance to finally convert “Tabletop” over to 4th Edition: the homebrew world I built for the last edition.
Start small, and work outwards- the guiding principle behind any new campaign
It’s a daunting undertaking, but starting a new campaign is certainly the best way to go about it. In fact, it gives me a chance to trim the world back to its barebones. With new characters (and new players!) there’s no legacy to get in the way. I can start again, and that’s liberating. I can pick the best bits, and focus on them. In Hollywood terms, it’s a reboot!
So how do you go about explaining a new campaign world to your players? Well, at work I’ve pitched a bunch of concepts to publishers, and I’ve learned that most people don’t like to read. I’ve seen the glazed look on their faces as they skim a concept doc, and fielded countless calls from bosses to “just boil this down to a one-pager”.
Not that I condemn them. In fact, they’re right - I don’t like reading either. If we sit down to play D&D, the last thing I want to do beforehand is trudge through a 100-page treatise about your world. Or a 10-page treatise, for that matter. No, if I'm to read anything at all, I want it all on a single page, damn it!
So without further ado, here’s the one-pager for my rebooted “Tabletop”, now called "The Riddle World". That’s nine points that spell out the lore of the world, all on a single side of A4.
But how does this gumpf actually affect the game? I guess, for me, back in 3rd Edition, it was heroes wielding pistols, battles atop chain-rails, and dangerous journeys into the null-magic that really defined my world. So “thaumatic power” and “fluctuating magic” were two systems I absolutely had to design before we began.
And here they are, for you. Hopefully, with a bit of imagination, you’ll find some use for them in your games!
Monday, 5 September 2011
Luckily, I had some confidence in the system I’d created – as it was inspired by another. About five years ago I worked for a video games company down in Bath. Our boss was one of the designers behind the original Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (or “Warfruppa”, as it’s colloquially known around here), and one of the perks of the job was access to his magnificent gaming table. Every Tuesday night we’d stay on for a session after work, and it was here that he introduced me to the “Piquet” war gaming system.
It’s brilliant. You see, most war games have got it all wrong. You take uniform turns, one side after the other. You choose which unit to move, and when. It’s all very clinical. Real war isn't like that.
In real war, orders get delayed or misinterpreted, opportunities arise unpredictably, and reconnaissance is unreliable: what military strategists refer to as the “Fog of War”. Piquet models this really well. However – and this is really important for D&D – it does so in an exciting, “gamey” way. Instead of choosing which troop to order, you draw cards randomly from a “sequence deck”. Each card costs an action point to draw, and lets you move just a single troop type. Moving individual units costs even more points, so you need to think carefully: move your heavy infantry now, or hold out for that perfect cavalry charge? Sometimes when units get into trouble you’ll find yourself burning points just to pull the right card – wasting opportunities for other, perhaps more valuable, actions.
I've great memories of those sessions down in Bath. Gaming on a full-sized table with proper scenery and professionally painted troops is something else. In fact, it’s possibly the catalyst to my crack-like addiction for pre-painted D&D miniatures.
For my D&D mass battle rules I mixed a bit of Piquet with a bit of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, and ended up with something fairly unique. The rules here are tailored to our Moonstair fight, but you shouldn’t have any difficulty statting up your own troops. They'll also work with any edition (or system for that matter). For the Moonstair map, I grabbed the DDI map for the module, overlaid a grid in photoshop, and printed it out over two sheets of A3. We used D&D miniatures to represent each unit, and pennies for Action Points.