Friday, July 14, 2017

The New Campaign

Vader voice: "... and these so-called 'Beastie Boys' will not be able to help you this time."

40K Friday: 8th Edition Upgrades - Iron Warriors

We've played a fair amount of 8th edition at this point and we really like it. The rules are cleaner, run faster, and there is a ton of flexibility in army composition without breaking the game. I expect some things to get cleaned up - the recent FAQ gives me a lot of hope for an "active" GW in this edition - and some significant changes in the imminent tidal wave of codices to keep thing interesting for quite a while.

I started off focused on the Iron Warriors and they have undergone quite a few changes over the last six months. I had a plan for them for the old Chaos Codex, I then revised it for the Traitor Legions book and now I am changing it up again for the Index book. With an actual full Chaos Codex coming I have slowed down a bit on coming up with a "permanent" force organization for them and I am just trying out different groups of units to see how they play under the new rules. The main outcome of this is that I now have about 6000 points of IW's under the new system - a dread here, a squad there ... it adds up quick. I've added a ridiculous number of Chaos Marine bits as well as sometimes when you have a very specific plan you need very specific bits to build those units. Some highlights of my meandering plans:

Work is in Progress

  •  I was going to go with 6 Rhinos for them. I think that's probably overkill now as I want to spend those points on other things, particularly if 2000 points is the new standard. The original plan was chosen, possessed, and 4 marine squads in those rhinos. Now I'm thinking 2 chosen squads in one rhino - one melta-shooty and one with power swords and pistols, and 3 marine squads. I'm not sure the possessed really belong in this army.
  • I also have considered a completely different approach to troops by taking 4x five-man squads each with a heavy bolter. Set these up in ruins with a few havoc squads and you have a pretty stout gunline for the backfield.
  • Triple predators is a lot of points but is looking pretty solid in this edition. I'm glad I built them up
  • I'm up to five helbrutes for these guys. With the loss of the deep strike option they are not quite as mobile as before but if I take all of them ... that's a lot of fairly tough targets on the field. 
  • I'm seriously considering adding Havoc launchers to the Rhinos. It's not terribly expensive  - comparable to a Heavy Bolter Razorback - but it makes them more of a threat on the table and so might convince someone to shoot at them rather than a predator or a havoc squad or a helbrute. Also it's cool to have a decent gun and still have a ten-man transport capacity. 
  • For HQ's I have pretty much settled on Daemon Prince + Terminator Lord + Terminator Sorcerer. The biker sorcerer is still an option but I may not use him as much as I thought I would. 
  • Fast Attack and Heavy support are unchanged though I am a lot less impressed with Obliterators right now than in the last few editions. 
The more general feeling I am dealing with right now is that 2000 points still feels "tight" when ti comes to taking what I want to play. I am thinking 2500 might be a better fit for us, or some odd number like 2250. Ah well it's all about "interesting choices" right?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Star Wars: The Next Campaign

So Friday night I am starting up a new Star Wars game. I got the itch to run some more Star Wars a while back but it's been tricky to line up the boys for our Red Sabers campaign. So I decided to put together a "limited campaign" for FFG Star Wars.

Now I've talked about my feelings on the game in general before and about our last experience of playing the Jedi Beginner Box. I see some potential but I'm not sure it's really our thing. That said I want to find out and the best way is to finally create our own characters and run through a longer adventure. I am taking one of the published adventures as a base, making some adjustments based on published reviews/notes/after action reports and we will see how it goes. It's mainly "Edge of the Empire" so I'm going to try and keep characters focused on that book but I'm not going to shut the door on everything else if someone has a strong concept they want to play. Well, other than full-on Jedi - we're not doing that just yet. It's a rebellion-era game so that shouldn't really be a problem anyway.

My approach here is the limited campaign or "The Movie" - it's not open-ended, it has a definite beginning and a defined end point. What happens in between is pretty flexible. The end point is somewhat variable as well - it might be "villain X is slain", "the imperial operation is stopped", or "the players run away to lick their wounds and plot revenge". The "movie" description to me means that it has a limited amount of running time or sessions, it has a single major story arc, it's cinematic as all get-out, and the stakes are high. Mechanically it means that no, we're not going to worry much about things like food and encumbrance but heroic character death is completely acceptable. We don't have to worry about keeping the ship intact. Locations and relationships with NPCs that are important in this adventure may never appear again. In general, continuity is not the primary goal - making a memorable adventure is. I don't want anything to be "routine".

My best previous example of this is documented here. That was a fun campaign.

Why do I do Star Wars this way? Well, most of my attempts at ongoing campaigns involve a gradual build-up to the big stuff like dragons or demon lords. It works in D&D but for Star Wars when I have tried this it just doesn't seem to excite anyone. No one wants to "fight kobolds" in a Star Wars game and in a non-level based system why should you have to? Why not dive right into the action and the epic plot? Why not get right to the good stuff? To facilitate this, I run them in bursts and think of each burst as a movie. This helps my players too I think so they think of "whats the most cinematic thing I can do here" and not "preservation".

So how does this work long term? Well, I'm going to run this one all the way through and figure it should take a few sessions. Once we're done, if everyone liked it, we will try another "movie" in the fall after school starts and everyone's schedule adjusts. If you like your existing character then you can bring them along for the "sequel". If you want to try something new or your character died then you can make a new one with all of the XP you earned in the prior adventure applied to the new character.  This avoids penalizing people for the heroic sacrifice or an interest in something new. I've found some players really like continuity and others like variety and I don't want to punish either one.

For now though, we have session #1 of the new game Friday night. I'll let you know how that goes.

Monday, July 10, 2017

RPG Updates for July

Well I didn't post that much in June because there was just too much going on. With cars and college mostly sorted out things should settle down for the rest of July. I figured I would take a minute to post my thoughts on what I've been doing and on some hopes for the rest of the year.

  • All I've run the past month is D&D 5th edition and we just finished Session #3. I am happy with both the rules and my choice of campaign so things are moving along quite nicely now. We have a rotating cast of players and even added one new player, so that's been fun as well. 
  • As far as new players I've been playing with mostly the same group of people for quite a few years now so I decided a few weeks ago to look for some fresh faces to mix things up. I do appreciate that having a steady group can be a rare thing but I also don't want to sink into a rut and have everything become routine. Adding someone new to the group can help avoid that. Also, with all of the schedule issues people have at times - including me - having a larger pool of players makes it that much more likely we will have enough people to pull a game together on any given weekend. 
  • The Deadlands game has suffered somewhat. There's still interest but anytime my 3 players have been available other people have been available as well and we have opted to play D&D instead. I'm going to call this "a good problem to have" rather than an emergency. We will pick it back up soon enough.
  • Mutants and Masterminds has suffered as well due to being unable to sync up all of the college crowd's summer schedules. I suppose it's the downside of adding some new players but the sessions we had were a lot of fun. We will probably have to leave the "crisis" hanging for a few more weeks at least. In the meantime we may just have to run some side stories if we want to get in some M&M time.
    I have also resolved to pick up the books I have not yet acquired. M&M was running at a pace of about a book a year, but with 2017 shaping up to have three books released (Hero High, Atlas of Earth Prime, and Freedom City 3E) I decided it was time to get current. I am almost there.
  • The other side games like our Star Wars campaign have been quiet too as whenever the boys have been here we've been playing the new edition of 40K or doing other things. I expect we will get back to them at some point before school starts back up but they are not on any particular schedule so it's not a big concern. I'd like to play them more but there's only so much time in each week.

  • New Stuff!
    • The new Star Trek is officially out. Still not all that thrilled with the system but I will probably pick up the PDF at least to see the final official version and to see if we want to try it out. With some renewed interest in Trek on my part I also managed to complete my collection of Last Unicorn Trek books so now I have all of those, all of the Decipher books, and everything for FASA minus a few of the adventures and honestly those are not a high priority for me.
    • DCC has a kickstarter going for scratch-off character sheets for zero-level characters. I think it's a great idea and I will be a part of this one.
    • There's a new version of Top Secret for the modern era on Kickstarter. The system looks interesting and the print version is a good deal. With the original creator involved I am also jumping on to this one. I've never had a ton of success sustaining an espionage type campaign but it's also been a long time since I tried to run one. 

  • Plans for the Future
    • Starfinder still looks interesting but I might look at this one more as a player than a DM. I think it's a good opportunity to see if someone else wants to run rather than assuming I will be that guy.
    • Really looking forward to the new Freedom City book. That may turn out to be the biggest one this year for me personally. Well, other than catching up on 5th edition D&D. As far as new books released in 2017 though I think this is the big one. 
    • The rest of "the plan" is to stay on a steady schedule and keep running and playing games - that's it!