Friday, June 2, 2023

40k's new 10e rules now available, for free (with some comments on tactical stratagems)

 GW have just posted a .pdf of the rules for their new, upcoming 10th edition of Warhammer: 40,000. They can be downloaded for FREE at the bottom of this page

The tagline for the new edition is "simplified, not simple" - on the heels of a 9th edition that earned a reputation as a bloated, stultifying mass of excess complexity. In recent years I haven't bothered playing the official rules at all - not when there were much simpler but still satisfying rules-systems out there. Xenos Rampant, Rogue Hammer, and Grimdark Future caught my eye instead. 

Having a flip through the new free rules this morning, I'm pleasantly surprised and optimistic at first blush. The certainly offer a more robust experience than, say, Grimdark Future, but they look like they might be a fair bit of fun to play. 

I'm especially intrigued by the new approach to stratagems - key tactical practices you can activate by paying Command Points. Each faction will have its own short list (I believe they'll be capped at 6 faction/detachment-specific stratagems) that look like they'll make each type of army play very differently from the others. The core rules, however, include a list of 11 stratagems that any army can use. If my understanding of the 9th edition stratagems is accurate, this is much simpler but also feels like it covers a lot of no-nonsense practical stuff that ought to be normal in small-unit tactical firefights: snap-firing at moving enemies, popping smoke or dropping to ground for cover, stirring up the troops to stand resolute just a bit longer, etc. - but all handled in a rather straightforward mechanical way. I particularly like the really dirt-simple but effective way to model troops' use of frag and smoke grenades via the short list of core stratagems. 

To be honest, reading that section made me think of Space Weirdos' use of command points - something I've praised elsewhere in these terms: 

In other words, every one of your figures is ALWAYS potentially on overwatch, as long as you've got command points left to spend that turn. This keeps an important tactical element in play, without any need to sit around thinking, umm, should I put this guy on overwatch, or that guy? But it's a tradeoff, because those command points are good for lots of other things, too. Dodging into cover; pushing to move just a little bit faster; shooting a little straighter; etc. Or, if you've finished the turn and never found the right way to spend 'em, you can cash in any remaining command points to better your chances at seizing the initiative on the next turn. Your pool of command points is quite small, making each use a deliberate and precious statement about your tactical priorities. All this means a really simple, one-brain-cell command and control system that nonetheless keeps the player engaged in meaningful decision-making throughout every part of the turn.

Perhaps a deeper look into the new rules will disabuse me of the comparison -- but, for now, if the new 40k is going to remind me mechanically of Space Weirdos, then the circle is complete! [Of course, I'm not sure how long 40k has used stratagems, or how much they might have influenced Garske's Weirdos design. But I'm liking what I see here]. 


Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Epic-scale Chaos scout Titan (Battletech kitbash) - painted proof-of-concept figure

 The Epic-scale Chaos Scout Titan introduced in my previous post - kitbashed from a Battletech mini and various GW pieces from the bits box - is now painted! (Well, at least to 'tabletop standard'). I also added a few extra doo-dads, including some big spikes welded to the looted shield and a one-shoulder shoulderpad that I think both reinforces the 40kish look and adds a certain gladiatorial vibe. I'm happy with how this proof-of-concept turned out: for smaller, scout titans, I think the Battletech minis make a fine proxy. For 3rd ed. Epic 40,000, I'll likely run this fella as a Subjugator Chaos scout Titan. Time to pick some close-range fights with Warhounds. 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Kitbashing Battlemech-Titans for Epic 40k

 Man, I love it when a kitbash comes together well! 

As I mentioned last time, I've been tinkering with Epic 40,000 (the old 3rd edition of GW's tinier space battles game) after many years. I noted that 'proper' GW titans (for Adeptus Titanicus) cost a pretty penny, but one can offer a nice and much cheaper proxy - at least for the smaller range of titans. A box of Battletech plastic mechs comes already built and costs far less per mini. Having said that, some Battletech mechs look more suited than others to 40k, and many really call for judicious application of Ye Olde Bits Box. 

But I think it is really paying off! Today, I spent some time kitbashing the most visually boring 'mech in the box I got. Here he is when all I'd done was add a more 40k-suitable head: 

The head is from a 40k Chaos Marines sprue; I trimmed it down and affixed it to a flat spot on the 'mech's chest, giving the 'titan' the requisite 40k hunchbacked look...

And then I got really busy, sawing off a hand for replacement with a chainsword, adding various spiky bits, and giving "him" an assault Terminator shield (maybe it's plunder?). I think the end result looks pretty legit!

Here he is with some buddies from Team Tiny Iron Warriors (scratch-built Land Raiders and another converted battlemech). Look at that, he's making friends already!

We did get the wee legions on the table for a test battle last weekend, even though almost everything needs (re-)painted. Here's a shot of my Chaos tanks advancing gloriously toward a devastating firing position overlooking my kids' Ultramarines. 

I don't think I'll talk about what happened when their fast attack assault troops swept the ridge, though... :-) 

Monday, May 8, 2023

EPIC scratchbuilt 40k tanks (Land Raiders, Rhinos)

What is Gundobad scratch-building? Something tiny? Or something EPIC?!

Four Land Raiders and two Rhino transports. The back pair are still WIP.
I am going for several different Marks/styles of Land Raider, rather than insisting on uniformity. 

Like many, I was very excited about the recent hint-hint-hint that Games Workshop may be re-releasing a version of Epic 40k, the (formerly) 6mm large-battle ruleset for really big 40k conflicts. A good friend picked up Space Marine (that's Epic's 2nd edition) back when we were teens, and I've spent much of my life wishing I was a proper Epic player, too. So the recent maybe-announcement had me excited.

There previously have been four separate editions of Epic. The first two were relatively crunchy; the third (Epic 40,000) was much more streamlined - far too streamlined for the tastes of many fans -  but the designers considered it their best ruleset ever. 4th edition, Epic Armageddon, was sort of a hybrid combining some of 3rd's streamlining with some of 2nd's detail. As it happens, I think I'm most interested in the streamlined but tactical 3rd edition. FWIW, the rumor mill suggests that GW's pending re-release will follow the mold of 4th edition, Epic: Armageddon. 

But I've already got rules I can play with now! They were allowed on the interwebs for a long time (there are, also, fairly active online communities that still tweak and provide rules based on 2nd and 4th editions in particular). So, rules - check; but what about an army? 

The next event in my wee epic saga: I checked in at the friendly local game store, and discovered a stash of Epic minis in the used-minis consignment cabinet. So I cashed in some store credit and came home with a ridiculously stuffed bag of Space Marines, all in 6mm. Lots of Space Marines. So many Space Marines! No, really: I think it's about 174 bases. 

But nobody wants to play Epic with only infantry. And I didn't have the budget to just buy everything right now! So I got busy scratchbuilding, and I have to say I'm pretty pleased overall with the results so far. 

These are made primarily out of EVA foam - the jigsaw-puzzle, interlocking foam floor mats you find in toddler playrooms or gyms. It's the same stuff I used in my recent terrain-making posts; in fact, these tanks are made out of the 'puzzle piece' border edging that would otherwise mostly just become scrap. 

Just a bit larger than the originals, but I think they should be fine.

That's a Rhino at top left, and a Land raider on the right. These vehicles are just a bit larger than they should be - a byproduct of the dimensions of the formed EVA I'm working with (I can shape it, but I'm not going out of my to pursue exactitude). I'm looking forward to painting these up (and making more) - they've really been relatively quick to build, after some trial and error with the initial prototype for each type of vehicle. 

Of course, an Epic battle really calls for TITANS. Except, err, umm, I'd have to pay $90 Canadian for a pair of roughly two-inch-tall Warhounds that I've have to put together myself. Ugh. 

Or just buy pre-assembled Battletech minis for much less money!!! Try telling me this doesn't look at least passable as a Warhound titan (I believe it's no more than a cm at most shorter than it 'should' be). 

I got five relatively-suitably-sized 'mechs for less than half the cost of two GW Adeptus Titanicus Warhounds. I think that if I paint these little guys up in the garish style of old-school Epic titans, and give them some heraldic banners and spiky bits, they should look great. 

Friday, April 28, 2023

Post 4 (of 4) Let's Read: Knave 2e Kickstarter Preview

 This has been a long and tiring week (I just finished grading exams and papers) but I'll leave you for now with just a few more thoughts about the Knave 2e Kickstarter preview document. I don't have too much more to say, so I'll list some bullets with brief thoughts and then point you to a source for even more information if you're still keen on all this. 

+ TRAVELING and WEATHER - the travel rules rely on what is essentially an Overloaded Encounter Die. That's a popular and good system. I like the way information and secrecy are handled -- in general. However, I think that mixing 6-mile hexes with 4-hour watches, and allowing a party to "search" a hex in a single watch, is wildly unrealistic. This is a common issue in similar games. What I might prefer is to say that for every 4-hour watch spent searching inside a 6-mile hex, the GM reveals ONE area of interest within the hex - rather than all of them. 

The weather system looks fun and will add plentiful texture to overland travels. The level of mechanical heft given to different kinds of inclement weather is a bit uneven, but some good ol' "rulings not rules" should work here. 

+ ENCOUNTERS - there is a really fun d100 chart here with activities the monsters are engaged in when the party meets them. This is kind of like a universal d100 version of the similar charts that the d4 Caltrops blog has been making thematically tuned for different encounter types. This is nice to have handy. 


I'm sorry I haven't got much brain-goo left for in-depth comments beyond that, folks - at least for now! 

Thanks for checking out my impressions of Ben's new Knave 2e. As I go, let me signal that "Professor Dungeon Master" on YouTube has got a Knave 2e preview video of his own - but he got access to a much more complete preview document! If you check out his video, you can already see a number of additional sections of the rulebook that I didn't comment on in this little series.

Thanks for reading, and happy gaming. Have a great weekend, folks...

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Let's Read: Knave 2e Kickstarter Preview (Post #3: Inventory, Wounds, Advancement, Rolling Checks)

 Ok, let's keep going with this Let's Read for the new Kickstarter Preview of Knave's forthcoming 2nd edition. There are several subtle but consequential changes to the core Knave 'engine' to note here. 


These two are in the same category now, by design. We'll see why shortly. 

I've noticed that the "new Knave" contains some small but helpful quality-of-life/"user interface" improvements. These are just little tweaks to the way some rules are worded that should only save you half a second of time, but will save that half-second over and over again. We hit one immediately in the inventory section. Whereas 1e says PCs have inventory slots equal to their "Constitution Defense" (which = 10 + CON modifier), 2e just says "PCs have 10 + CON item slots" - Boom. Done. You may skip the half-second to try to remember what the Defense means. 

In other ways, more than the phrasing has changed. I am pedantically glad to see that 1e's "100 coins fill an inventory slot" policy has now made way to "500 coins fill a slot." I believe I've ranted about this issue before, probably on Reddit somewhere. For one thing, OSR modules end up throwing a LOAD of coins at parties, so a more liberal allowance for hauling off treasure is just helpful. Secondly, in many historical periods, the more common precious-metal coins were so small that treating 100 of them as an inventory slot just seems ridiculous (if I remember correctly, I think I ran games for a while where 1,000 coins would fill an inventory slot. Most late Roman/early medieval western coins are lightweight, yo!). So. Dr. Nerdbrain is happy about this tiny change. 

DAMAGE - here comes a really interesting change from 1e to 2e. In Knave 1e, you fall unconscious at 0 hp and then die at -1 hp. In 2e, characters will be sticking around longer, but players will have to make more interesting and meaningful choices to deal with harm. 2e now says that once damage drops your hp to 0, each additional point of damage beyond 0 instead "fills an item slot with an appropriate wound (stabbed, frozen, burned, etc.) from the highest slot to the lowest. Items in a wounded slot must be dropped, or the PC will be immobilized." PCs die not at -1 hp, now, but once their inventory slots have ALL been filled up with Wounds. Because monsters don't track initiative, they just die at 0 hp the good ol' fashioned way. The rules also allow for "Direct Damage" - which bypasses HP and just adds Wound tags directly. As the rules note, a GM might apply Direct Damage in cases like a bad fall, a sneak attack, etc. (Direct Damage can target monsters, too, but the Direct Damage deals 3x the usual HP damage instead of inventory slot effects). Oh, and PCs can recover all their hp whenever they get a solid, single night's rest; you also heal 1 Wound if your good night's rest was in a Safe Haven (like back in town). 

I will have to see this in play, but on first glance I really dig this new approach! 

Presumably, the inspiration here is from Into the Odd/Electric Bastionland, which makes damage past 0 hp apply directly to character Stats. ItO tends to produce a play arc with characters getting in scrapes that they can bounce back from quickly - but as they start to take more serious damage, it snowballs, so that characters get a little more desperate as each session progresses. Even so, however, ItO PCs can still do their normal damage and can still fight if they need to risk it, even when wounded. 

I think the new Knave damage rules allow for something very similar, albeit fine-tuned more towards the 'OSR resource management game' and less toward 'desperate survival horror now.' Knave really puts ability score modifiers front and center - you depend on them as your bonuses to every kind of check - so damaging ability scores (as ItO does) would nerf knaves too quickly. By adopting a similar dynamic to ItO, but relocating the damage on the inventory table, these rules should allow characters to stay fit and able to keep fighting if they really need to - but they'll get less and less able to perform with the peak gear they like using the most. Characters will ablate gradually in their ability to toss off that extra spell, wear that heavy armor (oooh! it presses on the wound...take it off!). 

I'm looking forward to trying the new version of these rules. 


By default, 1e used accomplishment-/milestone-based advancment. 2e defaults to gp-for-xp (you gain experience by returning treasure from dungeons to settlements). Notably, the xp costs for advancement have changed - for the better. 1e granted a new level every time any PC gained 1000 xp. This can lead to a problem in campaign play - since the cost to advance is flat, if a PC dies and is replaced by a starting character during a campaign, the new character will never, ever catch up to the rest of the party. In 2e - as in B/X and most OG old school campaign systems - there is now a progressive/graduated scale of xp needed to advance to each level. There's one scale for all characters, who will need (e.g.) 2000 xp to reach level 2, but a fresh 8,000 to move from level 4 up to 5. 


These were 'Saving Throws' but have been renamed. By my read, the rules haven't really changed, but we do get one of those little quality-of-life improvements I mentioned. In 1e, you generate a target number for a saving throw, and then the player has to roll ABOVE the target number. Target numbers (or Defenses) were 10 plus an opponent's relevant modifier, or 15 for default situations. Now, in 2e, the rules haven't changed but they are presented in a way that looks different - and simpler. Instead of adding 10 to a modifer and then rolling over the result, you now add 11 - and roll EQUAL TO OR ABOVE the target number. The math hasn't changed, but the new rules save you that constant half-second (this happened sooooo often when I ran a Knave campaign) of saying, "ok, you need a 15. No, wait, I mean you need to roll over a 15, so I guess you really need a 16." By moving up the baseline from 10 to 11, that's done away with. Nice. 

Advantage and Disadvantage is a thing, but instead of rolling more dice, you add +5 or -5 for each relevant Adv/Disadv (which of course means that pairs of contrary factors cancel each other out). 

This page closes with a few "how to handle ____" paragraphs that offer simple and helpful advice. The game clarifies that a Lore check should never, ever be necessary; PCs should know lots and have ready access to common information - or they should have to dig around in the setting to find someone/thing with the knowledge they need. A similar philosophy, it seems, will inform the game's approach to searching in dungeons, though I don't think we have those rules yet in this preview. 

Still more to come. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Let's Read Knave 2e Kickstarter Preview - Post #2: new features in 2e, Stats, Character Generation

 Ok, let's dive into this "Let's Read" for Knave 2e's Kickstarter Preview document! See my wordy series intro here, and the actual preview document here or here


This page lists some of the things to be added in the full - over 90-pages long - 2e document (the preview document only shows 17 of those pages). Described:

+ "75+ random tables (d100) for generating any feature of a fantasy world, including NPCs, regions, dungeons, monsters, spells, cities, and items." Knave's author, Ben Milton, earlier wrote Maze Rats - a 2d6-based game, not as short as Knave, and not as OSR-compatible as Knave - but distinguished by the many useful random tables crammed into its short space. It sounds like Knave 2e is taking the random-table-heavy approach of Maze Rats, super-sizing it, and then cramming that into the much more OSR-compatible chassis of Knave. That's a very cool thing. We'll need to wait to see just how useful the various tables are, but the few that are included in this Preview will allow some comment on their apparent utility. 

+ Dungeon-Crawling and wilderness procedures. The preview includes the Wilderness travel rules, which we can comment on below. 

+ Principles for GM and Players. Hopefully this will offer helpful articulation for newer groups, at least. This dovetails (for game-hackers, too!) with:

+ Designer's commentary explaining the rules. I enjoyed these in 1e. 

+ "Dozens of illustrations by legendary OSR artist Peter Mullen." I have to say, the art included so far in the preview document is really nice; evocative, fun, and resonant with OSR traditions. 

+ "Rules for constructing your own buildings, resolving mass battles, carousing, recruiting followers, gambling, training, and much more." None of that stuff is here in the preview document (at least in detail, yet), but this is getting interesting

Despite its simplicity, Knave offers certain advantages compared to many other OSR rulesets. On the one hand - let's be honest - Knave is a bit generic. Therein lies its utility; it is genuinely easy to run with almost any mainstream OSR product, like an old TSR module or a modern 3rd-party OSR adventure. On the other hand, Knave borrows from more modern game design, offering a unified core roll-high mechanic that scales well as PCs advance. This is much cleaner - in my opinion - than the mish-mash of rules you get in most of the genuine OSR 'retroclones.'  I can't remember where online I read the opinion that Old School Essentials offers "incredibly well-laid-out rules that are really unappealing." Without intending any disrespect to Necrotic Gnome's great achievement with OSE, I really have a hard time getting into the actual B/X rules framework!!! Knave feels much cleaner and simpler to run. 

But...there remains that generic feeling - even more generic than B/X (Knave, for example, is classless). I quite like having some decent classes (actually, the rather dull baseline classes in OSE - especially the Fighter - are part of my antipathy to it and other retroclones). By omitting classes, Knave offloads most of the construction of interesting characters into diegetic achievements during play: what gear do you carry? what magic spells did you learn out in the world? what crazy things happened to you after Level 1? what crap did you drink in the dungeon? what title did the Duke of Fourth Everskull grant you last week? 

The generic framework, by remaining highly compatible, also allows you to bolt on your own preferred retroclone or homebrew content. That's really good - class-free but not OSR-compatible is asking for trouble, but Knave allows as much tweaking as you'd like. Too much tweaking, however, and you might as well write your own retroclone heartbreaker. What did that solve?

That's where the many pages of new content coming in Knave 2e MIGHT prove really cool. Ben has described this content as 'modular.' It should all work with the game's core mechanic, but you can also sample to taste; don't like whatever his mass battle rules turn out to be? Then scrap 'em. 

When I was running a bunch of Knave for a campaign rather than just a one-shot, I did start tiring of constantly tweaking and fiddling with my preferred houserules. The way Ben has described what's coming in 2e makes me hope that we're looking at something like the "Advanced OSE" version of Knave - not in terms of classes, of course, but in terms of rules for a lot of other common D&D-ish situations. Having rules ready to hand for most of those things should make an already powerful simple toolkit - at least potentially - a really powerful alternative to some of the larger retroclones. 

That's my hope, at least. Of course, most of that content isn't visible yet, so we'll see. 

PAGE TWO-THREE/Ability Scores and Character Creation

Right off the start-line, there are a few interesting tweaks to the core rules since 1e. The game still has the famous 6 Stats but - as in 1e - each of them is still important, warding off 'dump stat' syndrome. Roll +Strength for melee attacks, for example, but +Wisdom for missile attacks (it's like Perception). Everything is useful for something; your highest scores, the rules note, can determine what kind of character you are (a slight nod to Class, here). 

How you get your ability scores is now different. In 1e, you roll 3d6 for each ability score, and take the LOWEST rolled result as your ability score modifier. As 1e noted, this means most scores will have a +1 modifier; it is possible - though very unlikely - to luck out massively, and get a quite high starting modifier (in the Knave campaign that I ran, we had a character who did, in fact, start out with a very high combat modifier - Strength, IIRC - which always made the rest of the party jealous from the get-go). In 2e, however, the method has changed. A brand-new PC has 3 points - just 3! - to allocate to ability scores. There's a fun method presented for randomly allocating them, if you wish, but the game also blesses letting players assign the points as they wish. 

I really like this. It's point-buy, sure, but it's ONLY 3 POINTS! You're probably not going to spend too many hours agonizing over that allocation. This sweeps detailed 3.0+ min-maxing off the table, but still gives players agency to prioritize what they want to be good at. Feel like dumping all three points into melee-heavy Strength? No problem. You'll shine in a scrum, but not enough to break the game, and you'll feel the pinch everywhere else, but not so much that you should have stayed home from adventuring. 

New PCs also "roll or pick" two careers from a list of 100 (!) background occupations. The game will later make allowance for granting advantage on Checks due to a relevant career background, so these are more than window-dressing. They also grant some starting equipment (for example, career #91 is: "Spy - caltrops, poison, forged papers"). Each character then has access to a small list of universal starting equipment which is, essentially, adventuring gear plus armor and weapon of your choice - if you can carry it. Recall that in Knave, your Constitution modifies how much you can carry. As we'll see in due course, tracking inventory is still simple, but has become even more central to the core rules in Knave 2e. 

There is a note that "If the GM permits you to play a non-human character, they may grant you a special ability in place of one of your careers (e.g., Elves only have to sleep one watch per night)." Hmmm. That certainly makes sense. I can get behind the underlying assumption about human-only or human-centric settings. However, given the ubiquity of at least being able to play an elf, dwarf, or halfling/gnome in OSR circles, I'd appreciate seeing more explicit mechanical guidelines for the standard kinfolk types (no doubt someone will be along shortly to provide them once the game takes off). This is one area where a 'super-sized Knave" feels like, maybe, it should offer juuuuust that little bit more. 

Having said that, the game notes that a player stuck for character inspiration might want to consult the various NPC-building random tables. We can't see these yet, but if they are expanded versions of the stuff that we had in Maze Rats, they should be very useful. 

Let's Read: KNAVE 2nd edition Kickstarter Preview Document (Post #1)

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
    Are full of passionate intensity." 

So wrote Yeats, famously, in his "The Second Coming." Pardon my cheek in invoking such imagery as I turn your attention to ... the ever-expanding field of OSR(-adjacent) heartbreaker rulesets. Are we in an age of renaissance, with better and better options proliferating each season? Adding to an existing tradition of rules-multiplication, the WotC OGL fiasco has spawned a New Wave of creative projects. Time will tell which new rule-systems really shine (though I wish all the creators involved well!). But more does not innately mean better. Might Yeats' critique of human beings also apply to our rule-set creations? Do even the best lack conviction, and are the worst yet full of passionate (and niche) intensity? 

Well. Ahem. Not even a full glass of wine was needed for that intro, so I'm blaming this one on the season: I've been neck-deep in paper- and exam-grading. Caveat lector.

Further complicating the spread of rules on the market is the 2nd edition phenomenon. Yeats, of course, described this aspect of modern rules design, too: 

    "Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
    Is moving its slow thighs ...  

    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

In recent years, we've seen a number of systems that originally stood out for their brevity and elegant simplicity - games which then returned in a much-expanded format. Black Hack 1e was lean and mean. I'm sorry to say it, but I actually like 1e over the expanded BH2e. Over in PbtA-world, (or should that be PbtA World?) we have Freebooters on the Frontier, a very nice OSR-emulating Dungeon World-esque game. A Freebooters 2e is in the works - and has been for quite a while; I will admit that I lost interest in it after seeing just how much was being added to its bones. In each of these cases, I'm sorry to say, I felt that the proposed expansions weakened the strong appeal of the very product itself (Others may feel differently. YMMV. Past results do not guarantee future performance. Void where prohibited). 

And then, along comes ... a much-expanded Knave, 2nd edition. 

! That's a nave, not Knave,_Nave,_Paris_20140515_1.jpg

For all the reasons stated and implied above, I was skeptical ... at first. Is beefing up something made explicitly as a light, flexible, cross-OSR-compatible template ruleset really a good idea? Or is it as silly and presumptious as starting a discussion of Knave with extended reference to Yeats' poetry? (Umm...). But the Kickstarter draws nigh, and author Ben Milton has offered a glimpse of the forthcoming K2e in a free, 17-page preview document on Having read over the content there, and after watching Ben's video about the upcoming release, I am ... feeling pleasantly optimistic!

In fact, what we can see so far suggests that the new edition might be very appealing. Ben is adding lots and lots and lots and lots of random-roll tables that look - so far - mostly genuinely useful for play. He's made some subtle changes to the lean rules engine of Knave 1e, too, and I (mostly) like what I can see so far of those changes.

Now, I ran Knave 1e for a while -- we used it through Black Wyrm of Brandonsford and about half of The Evils of Illmire, along with some one-shot action. So I've got some street cred with the original system. After looking over the 2e preview document today, I decided that I'd like to do a little "let's read" commenting on this early glimpse at the revised game. 

So I will. And rather than dawdling and poking at this forever, I'll plan to release this as a series of little mini-posts over the coming day or so, as time permits (and grading. O tempora!). And, in case it's not clear, this post's melodrama notwithstanding - I am excited to dig into Knave 2e. :-) 

Thursday, April 13, 2023

[No Spoilers] So I watched that new Dungeon World movie (ahem)

Nope, that blog title isn't a typo. ;-) 

I got to go see Dungeons & Dragons: Honor among Thieves in the local movie house today. One of my kids had been sick for a while recently, which delayed our viewing until now. It was lots of fun, and we all liked it. If you enjoy the Guardians of the Galaxy films, you'll like Honor among Thieves; if you don't, you won't (but if you don't like the Guardians movies...what the hey!?!?). 

At this point there are already loads of posts, videos, reviews, etc., all clamoring to offer their two cents on the film. I thought I'd mainly point out one reflection. As others have noted over the past few weeks, the movie does a good job evoking that feeling of a bunch of goofy player-characters who keep bumbling their way forward, not always un-heroically, pulling off wild shenanigans and rolling with the punches and the plans that don't work. All good. However, despite the general community consensus that the film captures the D&D experience, while watching and enjoying the movie, I kept thinking: this doesn't feel like D&D to me. 

It feels like Dungeon World! 

The movie's fight and action scenes are big, flashy, exciting, and often staged in interesting, interactive, and dynamic environments (duh, it's a movie). It's that cinematic dynamism that caught my eye. Something about seeing explicitly D&D characters having such fluid and dynamic encounters on screen really clashed with, say, the recent PF2e hyper-tactical battles I've been running this year. :-) [Yeah, sure, PF2e ain't D&D, but bear with me here]. The old take-turns-rolling-your-d20-and-missing-each-other fests ... certainly have their moments of tension and drama, but the overall pace and flow isn't what I'd routinely call dynamic or cinematic -- certainly not in comparison with times I've run PbtA combat. 

Of course, a big part of the reason I've been running Pathfinder this year is because I wanted more granular and tactical combat as a change from PbtA stuff. So the grass is always greener, etc. But today's viewing did make me think again about PbtA combat; running that has its own problems, but it's certainly produced the most dynamic fights I've ever GM'd. 

Anyway. I think the new movie should be very successful as PR outreach for WotC to new players, and it's a very fun movie for old players too. But I found it ironic, as someone familiar with a fair number of different games and playstyles, that when 'they finally made a GOOD D&D movie' - the game it made me itch to play wasn't, in fact, D&D. 


Saturday, April 1, 2023

Imperial Fist

 Fear not - I haven't decided to convert this to an art blog or anything - but I am mid-storm of trying out a repeating series of similar drawings to try to develop my drawing skills (hey, at least it's still gaming stuff). I am a little painfully aware of some issues with this one, but I also think I'm making progress as I work on these. 

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Spess Muhreeen

 More art that nobody asked for - there went most of my morning. :-) Got a bit carried away here. The recent announcement of a new edition for Warhammer 40k has far-future lobster-shell marines back on my mind. This guy has some issues but I drew him from memory with no visual reference, so I'm pleased overall. 

[EDIT: I later went back and added a chapter/legion logo, as seen below].

The earlier version, pre-logo:

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Swordsman sketch and Song of Ice and Fire minis

 We recently designated Wednesday evenings as 'family art night' chez Gundobad. Although my sketches won't be winning prizes anytime soon, I enjoy developing my drawing eye/hand. I decided to use a recent miniature purchase as a posed model - that sure helps!

The dude's left foot is ... a big plaster cast? Yeah, um, moving on. But I am pleased with him overall. I am starting to experiment with inking fine-liner over a pencil sketch, and then using the ink for shading via hatching. 

Worth mentioning, since this fella is guest-starring: this is an "Unsullied Swordsman" from the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones, yo) miniatures wargame. We discovered these box sets a few months ago - some of the sets in this line make great proxies for various Warhammer or other fantasy minis, at a decently lower cost. And they're already assembled... 

Monday, March 13, 2023

EVA foam DIY terrain ruins


Wow! I recently watched a Youtube tutorial on making 'corner ruins' wargaming terrain out of EVA foam - not that 'pink stuff' but the even more accessible, if a bit less rigid, material used in 'jigsaw-puzzle' interlocking floor tiles (for gyms, baby rooms, etc.). I have really had a hankering to try it out, and I took the plunge yesterday. Although this took me a while (most of the afternoon), I aimed to be more ambitious than the tutorial video, and produced something that I absolutely love for a first-time product. This is light, resilient, and stays just fine if dropped. It lacks the fine detail of some of my other (= 'more expensive') terrain, and it isn't painted yet, but I already like it a lot. 

I may just whip up a table's worth of this stuff...and since making this only took up about $2 CAD of the supplies I bought (from a $16 pack at Wal-Mart), I have lots more cheap stuff on hand. That's good, as I have more ambitious designs in mind (along with some more basic scatter terrain). 

These ruffians approve.

If you enjoy making wargaming terrain, I heartily recommend you check out this method. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Party Stances for Dungeon Turns (a Dungeon Procedure idea)

 I've been noodling at some thoughts about dungeoncrawl procedures, turn tracking, resource management, etc. The recent hubbub around the new Shadowdark game, which uses 1 hour of real-world time to track each torch, got me thinking. I don't think that's a solution I favor, but it's not a bad idea to keep thinking about creative ways to handle some of the ol' sacred cows in dungeoneering. 

So I've been scratching at some new (to me, at least) combinations. I haven't tested these out yet and I suspect they still need some work, but I like this approach in concept. There are a few key ideas mashed together here. One is that resource management is important in dungeoncrawling, but I don't really see a TON of regular utility in tracking torches and rations; it's more like a tax to keep the threat of running out part of the game. But actually having the players just sit there in the dark doesn't sound as fun. :-) Are there any simpler ways to handle all this, without giving up resource management completely?

The other idea I'm working with is inspired by Pathfinder 2e's dungeon exploration activities (of all things!). This is an idea that caught my fancy when I started running PF2e, though in practice I'm finding them a bit less awesome than I'd hoped. My intent here is to salvage something of the core approach, while hopefully improving a bit on the experience. 

Again, this is all a bit work-in-progress, but here goes. 


You know how some games let players choose a combat stance, usually applying Advantage to attacks and Disadvantages to defense (or the opposite)? This is kind of like that; each dungeon turn, while exploring, the party chooses a posture. This commits them to excelling at a particular kind of dungeon activity, while imposing some liabilities in other areas. It's important to note that this shouldn't prevent players from attempting certain kinds of activities; this just makes them a bit better at X than Y. Also, I thought about allowing a 'Neutral' base stance, but I kind of like the idea that dungeoncrawling is always risky, and every moment requires you to gamble focusing on something over other things. There is no 'casual tourist mode' in a lethal dungeon. 

In what follows, I'm thinking in Into the Odd-ish terms, albeit with room for standard fantasy class/heritage hacked in, so adjust accordingly to suit your favored mechanics. 

First: the party carries Supplies, an abstract measurement of their consumables (water, torches, and rations). The assumption is that every available inventory slot not filled with something else at the session's start is filled with Supplies, but no more. 

Each (approx.) 10-minute turn, the party (by default, as a whole, but see below) chooses to operate in one of the following stances. To switch to a different stance (usually at the beginning of the turn), somebody in the party must spend one slot of Supplies (this incentivizes staying in a stance longer, so players have to push their luck and think about their options). 

The stances are:

+ ALERT: The party automatically wins initiative rolls and passes WIS Saves against being surprised. But, DOWNSIDE: the party's militant demeanor imposes a penalty on NPC reaction rolls! 

+ HASTY: The party moves twice as fast, but DOWNSIDE: the hurried party loses Initiative rolls and automatically fails Saves against being surprised. 

+ DECLAMATORY: Now is a time for bold and encouraging words! The party gets advantage on NPC reaction rolls, and the encouraging pats-on-the-back and dramatic pep talks give each PC Advantage on their first Save rolled this turn. But, DOWNSIDE: the party automatically loses Initiative. 

+ STEALTHY: players get +Advantage to rolls to be sneaky. Anyone who would already get +Adv for such rolls due to some cool class hack gets an EXTRA bonus roll. Yowza! But, DOWNSIDE: if you're in a dark area, lugging a lit torch around will instantly give away your position, so sustaining a STEALTHY posture requires accepting some low-light consequences: penalty to NPC reaction rolls if discovered, and PCs inflict Impaired damage if they get in a fight. 

+ INVESTIGATIVE: the party slows down to check out an area in more detail. Each PC automatically detects their class/heritage detection items (see below), but DOWNSIDE: it costs TWO Supplies to enter this Stance instead of one. 

+ RESTING: The party may hunker down and take a Short Rest, gaining its benefits, but DOWNSIDE: it ain't a rest if you aren't resting, and if you're resting when something goes wrong... the party automatically loses Surprise Saves AND Initiative when in this posture. 

+ STAND GUARD: the stances above apply to the entire party. For an additional cost of one Supply per PC, one or more PCs may pay to adopt a separate individual stance of ALERT or STEALTHY, although the rest of the party is in some other stance. The PC standing guard gains the benefits and drawbacks of ALERT or STEALTHY and does NOT gain whatever benefits the rest of the party is enjoying (a party might use this rule to have a healthy PC stand guard on ALERT while the rest of the party takes a short rest, for example). 

+ RUNNING OUT OF SUPPLY: if the party has run out of points of Supply, then we can assume that either they are actually groping in the dark, or (let's say instead) they are down to a few desperate candle nubs, burning sheets of paper and spare socks to keep the fire going, etc. This means we don't have to disrupt play massively at this point - but there is still a real cost to mis-managing the resource game. When a party has run out of supply while operating in a dark underground environment, the following apply to all PCs: PCs inflict Impaired damage, penalty to NPC reaction rolls, and ... maybe ... Disadvantage on all Saves? For a mechanically interesting but perhaps too generous alternative, just say that the party can (and MUST) still select a Dungeon Stance, but they ONLY get that stance's DOWNSIDE - none of the benefits. This option means the players keep having to make choices about the least of all evil options as they try to get out of the dungeon (you'd have to say you can't choose Investigative stance in this context, of course). 


I may really be out to lunch here, but how about...

When the party enters a new room, every player rolls 1d6. On a 1-2, the following happens:

+ Fighters and Halflings detect any ambushers present

+ Thieves and Dwarves detect any traps or secret doors

+ Magic-Users (all kinds) and Elves detect magic 

When in Investigative Stance, the above detections happen whatever the player rolled. 

The idea here is to hand the players more information, inviting them to focus on the bits that really push toward choices in play. So secret doors should still require some engagement - as I've suggested before, make the door easy to find but challenging to open. Traps should follow Chris M's suggestions: easy to spot, but trickier to circumvent if you need to do so in a hurry. 

With all these stances, of course, it's important not to nerf an action that any PC should be able to do at any time. So Investigative stance isn't the only stance in which, say, a PC can mess with a treasure chest for information: it's a way to mechanically make the players more confident about certain pieces of information, but at a known mechanical cost. 

Anyway. Whaddaya think? Any thoughts on the potential utility (or otherwise) of such a system?



Thursday, February 2, 2023

A map (WIP) - my "Fauxhammer" project

 This is a work in progress (WIP), a thing I've been noodling at for fun. It needs more work (and the work already done needs more cleaning and processing) - but I'm having a great time with this big map spread. 

This is an alternate, homebrew setting for my own Warhammer battles - a place closer to really old sword and sorcery Oldhammer, with its Moorcockian, Appendix-N, almost science-fantasy vibes, instead of the faux Renaissance feel of WFRP - or the almost mindbogglingly large scale of the current Age of Sigmar setting. It's a nod to the vague but deeply evocative thing that Warhammer once was - during my youth, and to the many "jeweled thrones" of Conan's Hyboria. The setting, as presented here, also draws on some of the "Middle Earth/Warhammer" mashup I toyed with last year, along with a bit of inspiration from the "howling emptiness" of parts of the old Greyhawk setting. I'm having lots of fun imagining the various petty rivalries and histories that have shaped this map. It's a setting not threatened by one Dark Lord, but by many (who wage jealous war upon each other, too); defended not by one alliance of the free, but by many, who just as often suspiciously eye their neighbors' ambitions (if they're lucky enough to have neighbors). The central subcontinent was once three kingdoms, then one great realm, and then -- after shocking betrayals and setbacks -- it became the fragmented (and in some regions the really points-of-light) setting represented here. 

One thing's for sure: I've got loads of ideas for narrative-based fights on this map, from mass battles pitching cursed (but still 'good') undead against the deceptive Enchanter's hordes, or the Silver Legion's greedy mercenaries against trade-rich Toharon ... to small-scale skirmishes -- perhaps a band of funeral singers holding off cultists in the Azure Necropolis, dwarves trying once again to infiltrate the Darkmount so they can pacify its feral elemental energies, or rival adventuring bands squabbling over treasure in the shattered ruins of the once-mighty central capital.