Friday, December 9, 2016

40K Friday: Thinking about 2017

For 2016 I decided to focus on a single army and set a goal to turn it into a painted, use-able force over the course of the year. I took the pile of Eldar parts I had sitting around, acquired some more as the year went on and I am pretty happy with the outcome. It wasn't a 100% pure effort as I took some short side treks with the Iron Warriors and the Blood Angels but it all worked out really well.

(That's why the header for the blog is what it is - it was a theme!)

Now of course I have to decide what to tackle next year. The Eldar are handled. Leading candidates right now are:
  • Dark Eldar - take them from allies to full army. I think I have finally figured out a paint scheme I can live with for them.
  • Dark Angels - finish a completely modern space marine army. I already have the army, most of it is built, and most of it is base coated. i just need to focus in to finish it and play it.
  • Blood Angels - another partly-built army with lots of almost-ready parts. They're not as big in the current meta but I rarely let that drive my long-term decisions.
  • Iron Warriors - They're actually pretty close to done anyway. The combination of simple but effective paint scheme and limiting expansion units to stuff that's already painted means I do not have a huge backlog here. There isn't a year's worth of work here unless I go nuts with expanding the army. They may stay a "side" army.
  • CSM Nurgle - I started these guys what seems like a long time ago and I never quite finish them. 
With rumors of an 8th edition coming next year and that it will include significant changes to the rules I am not terribly concerned with game performance as much as getting an army sorted out, built, and painted. Playing it would be nice too.

Dark horse candidates:

  • I have some uncommitted marines, basically the Black Reach force plus a few extras. Do I need yet another marine army? or is it time to bring the Howling Griffons into the new era with new additions?
  • Orks? So much "almost finished" but they are so terrible under the current rules. This is the one army where the state of the game is holding me back. They are that bad, especially compared to where they were for so long.
  • "The Year of Terrain" - maybe it's time to focus on building up what we play on and around rather than one particular army.

I'll probably ponder out loud in this space for the rest of December so more to come on it for sure. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

New Ideas for 2017: Changing up the Schedule

The Pathfinder game has really hit a wall this year. By holding fast to the idea that I must have all 3 players present to run I thought I was ensuring the best game. What I ensured instead was less game - a lot less. We're in the single digits for the year for sessions played.  It's not any one persons fault either as the schedule issues have been pretty evenly spread between us. That doesn't make it better though and it's embarrassing to write it here.

I keep calling it the "main" game yet we've spent more sessions playing other games than we have my "main" game.  I've run more sessions of Star Wars  than I have my Pathfinder game in 2016. That's with two different systems but still ...

The once-a-month-game that I play in has had more sessions this year than my planned-as-twice-a-month-campaign! After talking through December schedules with my players, we won't get a chance to play again the rest of this year. We may play other stuff with a different mix of players but this particular trio is done until January.

So I have to change some things up. The plan is not working. I'm seriously thinking about cutting it back to once a month, setting a fixed weekend for it, starting earlier, and setting the player minimum to "two" instead of "three'. I spent 2016 being flexible, planning on the fly for the next game (or trying to anyway) and instead of making it easier to fit in I flexed myself right out of a campaign.

I'm looking at something like this right now:

  • 1st weekend: The Freedom City campaign. Whoever is interested and can make it can play, no player continuity required. 
  • 3rd weekend: Wrath of the Righteous

2nd and 4th weekends would be other non-gaming stuff, the once a month Kingmaker game I am playing in, and the occasional "other" game depending on which set of apprentices and friends is available and interested. Heck, I'm toying with the idea of a weeknight game again - I just have to ask each of the players if that's even an option instead of jumping on WoW or SWTOR. With one more kid graduating high school next spring it may not even be realistic but I'm still thinking about it.

If I can't run the Righteous with a two-player minimum  (They run 2 characters each. Two Mythic characters) then at some point I'm going to have to shelve it and see what else I can do. I'd hate to do it but it feels a little like I'm swimming upstream here. It's also a disappointing thought because I have other PF AP's I'd like to run. It's taken us 3 years to get to the halfway point of this one and that's with only 4 schedules to consider! 

I'm a little pessimistic now that this long term campaign format will work for us. I think a more flexible set of smaller adventures like I used to run may be the way forward - regardless of the game - instead of the sprawling epic that takes years to complete. If most of my group can really only have one regular main game - and even that is a debatable point right now - then I don't want to spend six years on one set of adventures.  I'd rather cover more ground as I have a lot of other awesome games that we could do in that time. I'd rather do six games for a year each in six years than six volumes of an AP with the same characters in that time. 

I know Savage Worlds, I know - you give a decent amount of crunch and still play way faster than Pathfinder for us.
I'd like to do something that plays a little faster too. We still spend a fair amount of time bogged down in mechanics because we don't play as often as we had planned so we don't get that sustained learning curve. It's also worse than a regular PF game as 1) They play two characters each which doubles the workload in mechanics-heavy situations like combat and 2) Mythic - it adds a whole new layer of special abilities that key off of or enable other special abilities and keeping track of those connections and abilities in play is a challenge, even  running PF Combat Manager on my side and  HeroLab for iPad on their side.  

So I don't have a great answer yet but I'm working on it. Feel free to make suggestions if you have any ideas. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

One Last Post on How Many Games Do You Need?

Thinking some more about yesterday's post I decided to make a list of what games would I most like to run if given the chance and a guarantee of some interested players. This started with the idea of a top 5 or top 10 and that pretty much failed. In no particular order:

  • Mutants and Masterminds! I've talked about three different settings for it just in the last two weeks!
  • For Pathfinder I'm still looking forward to Iron Gods, Giantslayer, The Mummy's Mask, and doing something with The Emerald Spire (beyond watching one of my kids run it).
  • Star Wars! D6? Saga? FFG? Savage Worlds? Yes please.
  • Star Trek! FASA! LUG! The new thing!
  • Savage Worlds: Deadlands! 50 Fathoms! Slipstream! Hell on Earth! Necessary Evil! Zombie Stuff! R-I-F-T-S! (note to self - really need to make Savage Worlds a regular thing next year)
  • Runequest: old school Runequest. I've never run it, therefore I must run it.
  • Dungeons & Dragons 4E: because I like it and I have 3 unfinished campaigns. The binders stare at me from the shelf , biding their time.
  • Dungeons and Dragons 5E: Seems like I should run some of this before declaring it "meh"
  • Labyrinth Lord: the Stonehell Dungeon. I like it. It's made to run. It too has a binder that lurks in the corner of the room, waiting.
  • Gamma World: I have 5 or 6 editions of it and I've had a blast every time I've run or played it, yet my kids have no idea what it's like. I should fix that.
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics seems cool and I have some adventures. I just need time to do it.
  • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: A great game, very different from D&D, worthy of a solid campaign, yet it sits on my shelf with one whole session run in the last ten years. 
  • Shadowrun: 2E or 3E; I have everything they printed for these (and 1E), it's a blast and right in some of players' wheelhouses ...  and I haven't run anything for it in ten years either. How does this happen?
  • Hero System: Champions! Fantasy Hero! Tons of published and homebrewed material going back to the 80's and yet I'm not sure the last time I asked somebody what their PD, ED,  or their SPD was. 
Now we have worked in some Star Wars and some Deadlands and some Marvel Heroic in the last year alongside the Pathfinder games but most of what I have listed here hasn't been run or played in years. And this is the stuff I actually want to play, the stuff I have written campaigns for, the stuff I think about from time to time! 

(The stuff I wonder "when I am ever going to run them" as those are all big time investments if I'm going to do them right) 

Combining two things and .. yeah, kind of like that I guess
How is a new game supposed to compete with that? Well, it is still possible:
  1. "Savage Rifts" - take two things I already like and combine them to make something better. That gets my attention.
  2. "Marvel Heroic Roleplaying" - take something familiar and come at it in a totally different way than what we've had before. It may not be to everyone's taste but it does make you think about this genre in a different way. The kids love it and you could almost use the XP system as a drinking game for the grown ups. "Do a shot every time Black Panther declares something to be a threat to Wakanda!"
  3. "FFG Star Wars" - I'm still not sure if the custom dice are a gimmick or a true innovation but it is a notably different approach to mechanics. D6 fit a certain style of game, Saga fit a different style of game, and I'm still trying to place this one as far a style. I think it wants to be more like d6 and it may get there with experience but right now it feels more like one of the d20 versions. Regardless, it has my attention.
Outside of these types of games it's tougher to pique my interest these days. Some of that is Experience Overload which is a dramatic way of saying "37 years of the same hobby". It sometimes makes me wonder about things when I see something touted as new that was part of a game in 1984 or some other far off time.   Whether it's in the OSR, some new 3rd party thing for Traveller, or yet another new supers game it's always entertaining when something I saw in a Dragon article when I was 14 turns up again as "new". 

Wow. Up next: Shouting kids off of the lawn

There's still plenty of room for new things. M&M was pretty radical when it came out and had no hit point type mechanic (a staple of RPG's in general) and no endurance type mechanic (a staple of Champions). D&D 4E was pretty radical when it came out too, unfortunately to its detriment.  Savage Worlds is a wild change for someone used to a lot of other games and cards are still an under-used mechanical option in my opinion. 

Member when these were new?
I member.
A Star Wars game! Not a D&D mish-mash or a Traveller conversion but a real published licensed Star Wars game! How cool was that going to be?
I asked over on Robb's Blog in a comment if we were becoming like elitist Cinephiles: jaded to the point that almost everything can be dismissed as tripe because it's been done before and only obscure things most people have never see or heard of are worthy of praise. I also occasionally worry that with the big pile of games upstairs and the long history in the hobby I'm becoming like the worst audiophiles: that if you don't have at least $10,000 worth of high end audio equipment your opinion isn't worth hearing.  That's not who I want to be.

Seeing new or younger gamers in the hobby is a little like being a parent. The kids get excited about something that you know is a piece of junk because you've seen it before and you have to decide whether to tell them it's a piece of junk and why -or- to keep quiet and let them get excited and have their fun with it. With where they are in their life vs. yours it's possible that yes it is a piece of junk but it is also a heckuva lot of fun for them. It's also possible they will learn the same lesson on their own. Hopefully without losing an eye.

I still like new games. Some of them anyway. More than a lot of people that have been at this for a long time judging from what I see online. That said:
  • "New" doesn't impress me just because it's new
  • "Different" doesn't impress me just because it's different
  • What's the point of your game? What does it do better? Why would I choose it over one of those games in that long list at the top of this post? Tell me. Show me.
Err ... yeah. Sorta like that. Kinda. Maybe.

 So I'll try to be more like David Tennant's Doctor Who: using years of experience to keep an eye out for both new good stuff and new bad stuff while trying to guide the next generation to the good and staying chipper and cheerful along the way. 

More like this guy, less like "The Architect" from The Matrix

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

How Many Games is Enough?

Barking Alien had a great post last week about how he really doesn't need more games. He likes new games, but that's different than needing them. I'm pretty much in the same ballpark. A current example:

If I want to run a Star Trek game I have -

  • FASA Trek
  • Last Unicorn Trek
  • Decipher Trek
  • Where No Man Has Gone Before
  • Various other options from a Savage Worlds conversion to GURPS Prime Directive
So there are at least 5 different ways to play a Trek RPG. Now we have Modiphius' new "double d20, all-era's, full support promised" line of Trek RPG goodness promised for 2017. I'm digging through the playtest rules and while I don't hate it I do start to wonder how much I need another Trek game. Granted, most of the other options are over a decade old but there hasn't been much new development in the Trek universe in that decade. The Abrams movies, sure, but those could be run with the old systems pretty easily. 

If I liked d6 Star Wars, I was good through the 90's but once the prequels started coming out there was a lot of new stuff to address in the game. If you like "official" stats for your powers and vehicles and gear then it was tough, so there was a fairly solid reason to look into a new system. 

Trek is really not in that position. 

The Super-Shelves
Superhero games are in a similar place. I have around 3 different systems each for DC and Marvel alone. Throw in multiple editions of Champions and M&M, old school classics like V&V, new school options like ICONS, Bash, and Supers, plus GURPS, various FATE kits, and Apocalypse World Engine books, well, there are a ton of ways to put on a cape. This is a fairly niche type of game even within the niche of RPG games! D&D type games are the same way, and even general sci-fi games are all over the place these days. 

I'd say there are at least 3 ways to play any genre of RPG you want. How many ways do you need?

That said I am not declaring an embargo on RPG's here. I like to see what's new. I like to see if someone has come up with something truly original. Evan a new spin on a well-known approach can be interesting. I just can't do the "freeze" and run the same game for 20 years. I've seen what that does - it turns you into the guy on the Facebook group that doesn't understand why anyone would play anything but class and level fantasy games.  Or, conversely, the guy who can't understand why anyone would ever play one of those. I have no interest in joining that crowd. So the new RPG's will continue to wander through the front door.