Johann’s Talomir Nights, episode 1

The best way to learn the game being to play it, I did that.

I’d just finished re-reading the WFRP Old World Bestiary, and was taken with the example NPC in the Slaughter Margin section; so decided to make a Warrior adventurer from Altengard, called Johann.

  • I select a home of the heart of Altengard, alignment of the Setting Sun, and decide that Johann is a melee type armed and equipped like Altengard infantry, giving him a polearm (halberd) and AC4 (chain with some plate).
  • I take the recommended Rep 4 and Hardiness 1. I roll 1d6-1 for Social Status and get a 2, reduced to 1.
  • Johann’s CV is thus (4 + 4+ 0) x (1 + 1) / 6 = 16 / 6 = 2. He rolls to recruit followers, and gets two fellow infantrymen.
  • I decide to be self-employed and so convert one of these to a healer, and one to a thief. I ponder for a while on what their Rep, equipment and so on should be, then I notice that the Random NPC table for caravans has a healer and a thief on it, and decide to use those as both have the same Rep as the infantry they were converted from. The thief’s weapon is “various”, so I select dagger. I take their alignments from the same table (otherwise I would have used the same as Johann’s) and roll for their SS, as I shall try out the option of giving these fellows advancement rolls.
Johann’s Company – Initial Status
Name Reputation Hardiness Weapon Body Armour Class Social Standing Align
Johann (Star) 4 1 Halberd AC 4 Melee 1 SS
Alexa 4 0 Sword AC 2 Healer 5 SS
Gottfried 4 0 Dagger AC 2 Thief 2 RM

Goodness only knows what Alexa is doing with the rest of us. Slumming, possibly.

March 986

Johann’s Company starts in the heart of Altengard, as I’m thinking about signing on as a caravan guard, and I’ve already decided that’s where his home is.

Since I haven’t downloaded the ER by country table I use the basic ER 5 for Encounter Rating and roll 4, 5: Pass 2d6 (i.e., both dice roll the ER or less) so there is an encounter. A roll of 3 tells me it’s with locals, and a roll of 3 followed by 1 for “Where Are They?” tells me it’s a farm in clear terrain; the Company is probably buying food.

Rolls on the Terrain Generator create a map like this; I used the generator for the terrain, and placed the actual farmhouse randomly in one of the clear areas. (Each area would be 12″ square on the tabletop.)

Clear (with farmhouse) Woods Hill
Hill Hill Clear
Hill Woods Woods

The terrain generator is clunky, since it uses 1d6 to place terrain, and duplicates shift along until every area is full. I see no real advantage in this other than allowing you to play the whole game with d6, so I shall use a d10 in future.

A roll of 4 on the Adventurers Encounter Table says that this is a raid; since we are native to Altengard, we are the defenders. The other side pass 1d6 on the Alertness Table so are aware.

The intruders are equal to us in strength, namely CV4; rolls on the Altengard Army List give me three infantry and a skirmisher. We’re all fellow Altengarders so we go to Talk The Talk, and the intruder leader passes 1d6 more than Johann.

Now I’m stuck, because that doesn’t seem to match any of the descriptions in the Talk The Talk table. However, I have a number of other THW games, and the description is closest to “pass 1d6” in the older games; plus, neither side has scored twice more successes, and they haven’t passed the same number, so that seems to be the one. (Later confirmed via the helpful THW Yahoo group.)

So, I have a choice between lending them one figure to help until the adventure is over, in which case I get them back later, or forfeiting one advancement roll. Again, I’m not sure how long an adventure is, so I treat it as an encounter. Since they seem basically friendly, I decide they want to borrow the healer as one of their group has been injured in an accident and is OOF (“Out Of the Fight”, i.e. injured). The healing rules on p 39 say that I move the healer into base to base contact and roll 2d6 vs OOF Rep on the Recovery Table. He passes 2d6 and recovers. (The Yahoo group advises me that an “adventure” is deliberately left vague so that you can pick what makes sense in the circumstances.)

Not what I expected, but then that is sort of the point for a GM-less fantasy campaign. Having survived the encounter, we roll for advancement; this is done by rolling 1d6 against the current levels of Rep, Hardiness and Social Standing – if the score exceeds the current value, or on a natural 6, the attribute increases by one. There’s also an option to increase skills, but that requires the Adventurer’s Handbook, which I don’t have yet, so I’ll ignore it and use Rep for skills as per the basic rules.

Johann’s Company – March 986
Name Reputation Hardiness Weapon Body Armour Class Social Standing Align
Johann (Star) 4 1 Halberd AC 4 Melee 2 SS
Alexa 4 1 Sword AC 2 Healer 6 SS
Gottfried 4 1 Dagger AC 2 Thief 2 RM

Alexa and Gottfried have become more Hardy, and Johann and Alexa both gain Social Standing. Talking nicely to people is clearly underrated. Maybe next time there will be a fight, and I can try out the combat rules.

Solo Wargaming

I’m looking into solo (and same-side) gaming again. There are a number of reasons for this…

  • It’s getting harder and harder to make any regular commitment to a night out at the club.
  • My internet link is browning out with increasing regularity, and when it is working there are generally two kids playing MMORPGs upstairs, which rules out net gaming.
  • A system that works solo should also work for two players on the same side, which would mean I can play with Nick instead of against him.
  • I’m starting to think about what to do with my time when I retire; that will be in Italy (don’t much fancy being old in the UK, but that’s a whole other topic), so opponents are likely to be hard to come by.

Rummaging through my pile of games dormant and active, I’ve come up with several possibilities. I plan to try them in turn, and see which works best; I suspect each will be good for a different type of game.

  • Two Hour Wargames has a number of options. The background for 5150 doesn’t appeal, but All Things Zombie, Legends of Araby and Warrior Heroes are languishing next to it on my hard drive in PDF format. If you go to the site you can download a couple of their games free, as samplers. My mind immediately raced off into possibilities of hybrid games with the THW reaction and campaign systems driving the game, but using the rules for Savage Worlds or Warhammer 40,000 outside of that. However, I shall try the THW system first, as I should understand the game before I meddle with it. Looks like it will work best for skirmish wargaming (which is where RPGs came from originally).
  • Mythic is designed from the ground up as a roleplaying game without a Game Master, and (sensibly) is split into the RPG itself and a “game master emulator” which can be applied to any system. Looks like it will work best for mystery type scenarios, but could work well for face to face or PBEM RPGs as well.
  • A hybrid Warhammer Quest / Savage Worlds dungeon crawl game looks like it would be quick and easy.
  • Considered but rejected: Solo dungeons using D&D 4th edition or Dungeon Bash (D&D 3.5 add-on). The latter in particular is good, but the complexity is off-putting – until I retire, at least, whatever game I pick needs to be something I can set up, play, and pack away again within a maximum of two hours.

Watch this space for adventures in solo gaming. First up, Warrior Heroes, under the Talomir category.

SG-13 Episode 3

In which our heroes finally recover what’s left of SG-26, and meet a new friend…

While the survivors of SG-13 were recovering from their Wounds, SGC was not idle. On their return to duty, they were advised that UAV reconnaissance had found something looking like a giant termite mound, made out of debris and ichor (or “bug snot”, as Anna charmingly described it), wherein the giant cockroaches (which you and I know as kafers, though the team does not) lurked.

Tactical sense kicked in, and the team hoofed it through the forest (so that the noise of the quadbikes wouldn’t give them away) to lie in wait outside the mound and gather intelligence. Their patience was rewarded when the bugs emerged, bringing forth prisoners for exercise: One SGC survivor, and a feline humanoid (Giulia’s PC). Grenades and burst fire dealt with most of the bugs, leaving two for Giulia (who has put almost all her skill points into Fighting, took the Two-Fisted edge, and is therefore quite brutal in hand to hand). With no more ado, they retired through the stargate and sent back a bomb-laden UAV to deal with the mound.

Giulia’s PC, which is essentially a Space Pirate Amazon Ninja Catgirl, then persuaded SGC to let her join the team, on the basis that her race is powerful and advanced, and would look more kindly on Earth if she were not dissected in Area 51. Who knows, this may even be true.

The scenario went much more quickly than expected, since based on their past approach I thought they would enter the mound in person. (Can you say dungeon crawl? I knew you could.)

Quote of the mission: Giulia, who introduced her character by saying: “I’m a pirate monster! Rarrgh! Arrrgh!” (To see why this reduced us to hysterics, you need to see The Tiefling and the Gnome.)

SG-13: The Next Generation

A couple of days after the last D&D trip, Nick decided he wanted to roleplay “something futuristic”. Since the late 1970s I’ve felt that the main challenge in running SF games is that players lack the instinctive grasp of the setting which they soak up at the mothers’ knees for the mediaeval period thanks to fairy tales; so the first question was, what was the SF setting we jointly knew best? That turned out to be Stargate SG-1, so out came my Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition rulebook (never travel without it) and some dice.

This, you see, is the thing I like best about Savage Worlds; you can run it with almost no preparation at all. While Anna created Dr Benjamin Brightman, archaeologist with the Jack Of All Trades and McGyver edges (and that turns out to be a scarily effective combination), and Nick created The Captain (team leader, ace driver and pilot, who may someday get a name as well as a rank), I was musing on two things: The recurring enemy and the immediate plot.

Every SGC team needs their own unique recurring enemy. After a few minutes thought I settled on the Kafers, from the 2300AD RPG. These will give Nick something to shoot at, as they are implacable foes of humanity, and Anna something to puzzle over, namely why are they implacable foes of someone they’ve only just met? It was the work of seconds to file the serial numbers off Orcs, give them laser rifles and Barrett .50 rifles (described differently, of course), and determine that to mimic the well-known stupidity of Kafers at the start of each encounter, they should begin each combat Shaken until they recover. Job done.

As for a plot, well, 95% of all SF episodes begin with a response to a distress call. So I decided that SG-26 had gone missing some while back, but that now the village where they were last seen on a mediaeval-level world had been burned down and the inhabitants massacred.

Not just the first few sessions, you notice, but a complete campaign and characters created in less than half an hour. I love this game.

A quick Persuasion roll allowed them to take quadbikes through the stargate, to a planet looking like a stretch of Canadian forest (because they all do). A certain amount of thrashing around and significant casualties on both sides ensued. Nick quickly learned that Kafers are a problem easily solved with grenades and automatic weapons, so long as you lay the groundwork early; Anna is still puzzling over how they speak English and why they hate her so much.

Surprisingly, I found that giving the NPC team members a tag characteristic and a couple of edges, and placing them under the players’ control, gave them an almost instant, but genuine, emotional bond to said NPCs – there was genuine regret when the first couple died.

Dr Brightman also has the Arcane Background (Weird Science) edge, which Anna decided represents the half-understood Ancient devices he tinkers with; and that since he doesn’t really know what they do, we should determine their powers randomly when they’re first used. Surrounded by Kafers at the end of the second trip through the gate, she pressed the button, and a quick die roll gave us the Stun power in her first device, which was probably the best one for the job, as it set them up nicely for the NPC team members to shoot.

The party are now resting up while they recover from their wounds, as they still haven’t recovered the missing team (although they suspect that the Kafers have something to do with it). In the next session they should meet Giulia’s character – she has of course created a “furry”, which gives the team what I consider to be the optimum genre trope for its membership: One warrior/team leader, one scientist, one honourable good-guy alien and one expendable red shirt to show them how the monster works.

D&D in Sicily

No, so far as I know there is no huge underground cult of D&D players in Sicily, more’s the pity; but while we were there, and visited both by Giulia’s boyfriend (errm, fiance now) and Nick’s friend Buster, the dice came out for a few sessions.

Under the Village of Harken, Part 3 (28 July)
As you’ll recall, Nick and the girls were last seen just bursting into the lair of the Big Bad. Who should they find in there but Buster’s Drow PC, arguing with the Big Bad? In true pulp fashion, they recognised each other instantly as natural allies and set about the underground minions with a will, with the Drow joining the party. (“We are the good guys, right?”)

Tomb of the Novirate Council (30-31 July)
Not having much else in the way of scenarios with me, I made up a small dungeon (the titular tomb) and off we went.

The party made its way past a nest Kruthiks (which nearly ate them), and found the old puzzle of the two guard statues guarding a T junction (one of which always lies and the other always tells the truth); this they got wrong, but Drow infravision gave them disturbing clues of the nature of the trap down the “naughty” corridor, and they went down the “nice” one instead.

Here they found a selection of statues of various gods (which they vandalised), and the puzzle from Die Hard 3 about using 3 and 5 gallon jugs to  make a 4 gallon weight. This they did get right; not in the way I expected, but the solution worked, so fair enough.

Beyond the door opened by this puzzle they found more than enough giant spiders, which would have resulted in another TPK (Total Party Kill) except for the heroic actions of Giulia’s cleric (crawling round healing her webbed colleagues one by one despite a total lack of Stealth) and the inspired knifework of Tenchi’s rogue.

However, Anna’s ranger was dead of poison by this point, so pausing only to collect 64 spider legs (in the hope of selling them to alchemists) they crawled off to the nearest large city (Holyport) for resurrection.

Holyport (3 August)
The Temple of Bahamut in Holyport agreed to raise Anna in exchange for certain financial considerations and on condition the party did one little job for them, namely recover a relic stolen from pilgrim caravan by minions of their old nemesis Szartharax the white dragon.

The kobold minions and their rockslide trap at the cave entrance were dealt with swiftly and pitilessly, and they charged on into the lair just behind the alarm.

They’re learning. The NPC wizard, Veon, was parked outside the range of the dragon’s breath weapon with orders to keep zapping it until it dropped. The drow and the rogue, both of whom have at-will powers that slide their foes, ran to diagonally opposite “corners” of the dragon and started a game of impromptu dragon ping pong – fighters attack, rogues attack and slide it back past the fighters who then hit it again with attacks of opportunity, lather, rinse, repeat. That was a clever enough idea that I thought they deserved to get away with it at least once.

Packing up, I decided to change the campaign name from Holyport to Nentir Vale. The reality is that I have limited time to play, and I’d rather use it playing than designing scenarios; until I know D&D 4E well enough to play it off the cuff, that most likely means using the published scenarios, so really it is yet another Nentir Vale campaign, at least for the moment.

I had considered running the Treasure of Talon Pass module next, but doing three modules in a row where the end of scenario boss is a young dragon seemed a bit repetitive. So, next up is H1, The Keep on the Shadowfell, which has the advantage of being a free download from Wizards.