Sunday, October 17, 2010


We played Fiasco as a quick pick-up game at Magpie Night after the planned session of My Life With Master sort of melted down due to GM burn out. I totally understand how that happens as it's what happened to me with the last session of our Dresden Files mini-arc.

I have to say that Fiasco pretty much works as advertised, which is a GM-less storytelling game that takes around two hours to play. We had four players with myself as the only one that had read the book and the session took just a little over the advertised two hours.

We used the Lucky Strike playset and created a story involving a hulking goldbricking bully, a fresh faced recruit with a gambling addiction, a conniving supply sergeant and a French prostitute. We basically ended up with two parallel scams going on, one involving the supply sergeant and the recruit trying to steal from the locals and the other involving the bully and the prostitute attempting to recover a cache of stolen goods hidden behind enemy lines. Connecting the two threads were a case of cognac and a truck that was needed to pull off both scams.

Of course, both plans ended in near disaster, but somewhat surprisingly everyone made it out alive. The bully ended up getting a medal after nearly getting shot to death while going after the cache. The prostitute ended up marrying the bully and moving to the states after having managed to secret away part of the cache, something she never bothered to tell her new husband. The fresh raced recruit also got shot up, but survived and went on with his life neither better off nor worse off than he began the story. Only the supply sergeant ended up with a bad ending. A final twist at the end revealed him as a German agent, but it turned out that his superiors weren't happy with his performance and threw him in prison where he stayed until "liberated" by Americans, one of which recognized him as the "supply sergeant" allowing him to go free, albeit without job or prospects.

This is definitely a storytelling game more than an RPG, but everyone enjoyed it so I'm sure we'll play it again before too long. One player has expressed interest in using "The Ice" playset included in the book, while another player is already working on their own playset!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Kingmaker Session 1

We had our first session of the Pathfinder Kingmaker campaign last week, and it went well. I was pleased with how smoothly everything ran, especially considering that three of the four players have more experience with D&D 3.5/Pathfinder than I do.

Of course, I probably put more prep time into this game than all the others I've run for Magpie Night combined, so that most likely had a bit to do with it. Most of that prep time was spent reading books. The Core Rules, the first Kingmaker module, and bits and pieces of a lot of other Pathfinder books.

I also spent some time putting together information for the campaign wiki on Obsidian Portal. So far that seems to be a worthwhile tool, if only for providing a convenient means to message the players about game issues. I don't think I even have email addresses for everyone playing, but they all have accounts on Obsidian Portal, so I can just PM them about anything that needs to be handled.

Another tool that's working out well so far is Hero Lab. Entering characters into it uncovered a couple of errors that probably wouldn't have been caught otherwise. I'm not making full use of it yet, but may try using it during sessions in the future. So far every "error" we've caught in the program has turned out to be either an error we made in understanding the rules, or an error I made in data entry.

One thing I won't be doing is using this blog to document the progress of the campaign. I'll be using the Adventure Log on Obsidian Portal for that. Any discussion of the campaign here will be like this post, discussing the tools and process involved rather than the campaign itself.

I will say that I'm looking forward to the next session!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing

I've taken a glance at the new 8th Edition Warhammer Fantasy Battles rules and they look good. I'm especially pleased that guess ranges are gone. Guess ranges are the dumbest idea ever introduced to miniatures gaming and I'm glad to see them finally gone from Warhammer Fantasy Battles. All hail pre-measuring!

I could do a whole essay on why pre-measuring is a good thing, but there's no real need now since guess measurements are finally on the way out. That's not what this post is about. This post is about why despite really liking the directions being taken by Games Workshop in 8th Edition, I'll probably never play it.

I had high hopes. I totally planned on putting together 500 points and taking it to the release event at the FLGS. Then, the night before the event, I had the realization: it was scheduled for the afternoon. See, I can't do afternoons anymore, not even on weekends. This is the primary thing keeping me from having played more than a couple miniatures games since moving back to Arkansas. The people playing around here more often than not get together in the afternoons for pickup games, whether on weekends or on weekdays, and the events are always held in the afternoons.

This is understandable. Most people are available on weekend afternoons. It's just my bad luck that I'm not usually one of them. It's my worse luck that I keep forgetting that I'm not usually one of them.

I've semi-committed myself to at least two or three miniatures events only to back out at the last minute when I realize that I can't actually be there at the required time because I'd have to leave half way through it.

If this is starting to sound like a whinge about my inability to play miniatures games, it's not meant to be. Well, not really. I know that if I really wanted to play miniatures games that I could find a way to do so, but I've also come to realize that while I'm an omnivorous gamer, I do have a definite preference hierarchy amongst my hobby games. At the top of that hierarchy are board games. Next on the list are RPGs, and only after that are miniatures games.

My preference hierarchy hasn't always been ordered like this. Playing miniatures was at the top of my list for the larger part of the past decade, but that simply isn't the case anymore.

If I have to give up the miniatures in order to keep playing the board games and RPGs then so be it. I still hope to eventually get some miniatures games back into my schedule, but I'm not going to worry about it too much if it doesn't happen. I'll still follow the trends online, and read the rules, because that's what I do, but for now I more or less accept that is probably all that I'll be doing.

If I do get to play more miniatures games it will most likely be with skirmish games like Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game or Malifaux, not with the big army games like Warhammer Fantasy Battles. Like all day roleplaying sessions, or a solid weekend playing a MMOG, those big games are just too much of a good thing.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Magpie Kingmaker

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Magpie RPG group is starting a Kingmaker campaign for Pathfinder. A Magpie campaign is a bit of a contradiction in terms, but it sticks with our theme of trying a little bit of everything, even if that includes a full campaign.

We're actually just committed to the first scenario or two. After that we'll judge how everyone liked it, and continue if the consensus is that it's worth going forward. I'm really excited about it so far. The Pathfinder rules seem to be a solid evolution of the Advanced D&D lineage, and Kingmaker's combination of sandbox play and empire building is pretty close to my ideal campaign.

I'm also pleased with the group of characters that the players have decided on. Some of the details are still being fleshed out, but so far we have the following: Neutral Good Gnome Oracle of Heavens, Lawful Good Elven Alchemist, Chaotic Neutral Elven Air Wizard (although I believe this is being changed to a Half-Elven Sorcerer with an Elemental bloodline), and Chaotic Good Human Ranger (I believe he's planning to multi-class with Fighter). Most are still tweaking their characters, so the exact composition is still up in the air.

We've got three of the four classic roles filled, and the fourth role of rogue doesn't appear to be that important in the Kingmaker campaign. The only question mark for me is the Alchemist, as I'm just not sure how he is going to fit into combat, but it should be interesting to find out!

I've already put more preparation into this game than any of my previous Magpie undertakings, even if you just count reading the massive Core Rulebook. In addition to that I've read the first Kingmaker module and assembled a collection of tools, including the following (note that this is a list of assembled stuff, not necessarily stuff that I went out and bought just for this game, although there's a lot of that in the list as well):

The Pathfinder hardcover books: Core Rules, Gamemastery Guide, Bestiary, and Advanced Players Guide
Pathfinder Gamemaster's Screen
Gamemastery Flip-Mats: River Crossing, Forest, and Bandit Outpost
Gamemastery Map Packs: Ruins and Ancient Forest
Gamemastery Item Cards: Kingmaker
Gamemastery Combat Pad
Pathfinder Adventure Paths: 31, 32, and 33
Pathfinder Chronicles: Guide to the River Kingdoms and Kingmaker Poster Map Folio
Chessex Battlemat
Staedtler Lumocolor non-permanent markers
Dungeon Tiles Master Set: The Dungeon
Dungeon Tiles: Harrowing Halls, Streets of Shadows, and Caves of Carnage
Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set (for the tokens)
Hero Lab software
Index Cards
A small netbook

In retrospect, that's a lot of stuff for something I'm not even sure is going to go beyond a few sessions, but some of it I already had (for example, the battlemat is something I've had for over a decade, yet has seen very little use), and most of the rest is stuff that I'll eventually find other uses for if this doesn't work out.

I plan to enter all the characters, and possibly NPCs, into Hero Lab so I can at least print out pretty character sheets for everyone, and possibly use the software on the netbook to keep track of NPCs during the game.

The netbook may end up becoming my control center for the campaign, as I'm thinking of playing some with theme music run from it as well. We'll see about that though, as my previous experiments with using music in RPGs just tended to annoy and distract the players. I'm thinking for now of just using an opening theme to let everyone know that we're starting and leaving it at that.

I've also created a campaign wiki on Obsidian Portal. I've been wanting to try out this tool for a while, and this gives me an excuse to do so. I don't know how much we'll end up using it, but I've had fun putting together the background material on it.