Tas’ rats vs. Tur’s lizards 3:2 (4:1)

A couple of Saturdays ago we had a great game of Bloodbowl! This is just a short description of the game, to keep it recorded. If you have any specific question, just ask!

Tas played with a skaven team:

  • Gutter Runner x4
  • Strong Vermin x2
  • Lineman x6
  • Rerolls x3

While I chose the mighty lizards:

  • Kroxigor x1
  • Saurus x5
  • Skink x5
  • Rerolls x2

It was supposed to be a blocking fest for the lizards, and dodge & run game for the rats, but my luck with dice had something to say… If you check the casualties result, ¡I suffered 4 casualties! while the rats just 1. I kept rolling skulls, and Tas just kept rolling 11s and 12s in the armor and injury rolls :( .

The lizards try to keep the ball in a terrible cage

The lizards try to keep the ball in a terrible cage

I’m not a great BloodBowl player, but I learnt a few things from the trial. The first one is to never play a Both Down result against Tas. It doesn’t really matter my player is a Saurus and his a skaven lineman. I lost two saurus this way.

Another important lesson is not to play with Big Guys, unless my luck with dice changes dramatically. The Kroxigor was pretty useless and was almost injured by the rats. They teamed up on him once my team was decimated!

Lizards team completely outnumbered

Lizards team completely outnumbered

We had fun and practiced the rules, which we don’t know enough. Not many more teams to try, it seems I need to finish painting my Humans…

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In the heroes we trust

Modeling reputation of a party in any role playing game is tricky. You can give it a number, and use it for interaction with any faction, but then it is not the same a good reputation or a bad reputation, being famous or unknown, being known for your strength feats or for your magical skills. When all is said and done, we DMs need a stat to track the reaction of NPCs, or set a standard for the effects of the party fame in the village they just arrived to.

So how could we handle it? A good option is tracking trust. Apart from the difficult social interaction trust involves, the neurobiological structure of the brain and the chemicals inside may also play an important part. So modeling trust into a role playing game seems like a terrible idea, a cumbersome bookkeeping work with little benefit… let’s give it a try!

Guluk and Treb were exhausted. The two barbarians had finally found a nomadic settlement after several days wandering through the dessert. They didn’t really expect to be welcomed as heroes, although killing that nasty chaos beast which ate shamans for dinner certainly had made them famous in the region. Those goat riders however seemed to be in a less than friendly mood…

You can obviously simplify trust to the minimum (following the KISS principle), and treat it like any other ranked stat. This approach seems to have pleased many readers of ENWorld (http://www.enworld.org/forum/content.php?825-Steal-This-Rule-Trust), and it has some ideas worth mentioning. The article is very weak, the ideas being the usual ones for a reputation system, but I will try to squeeze some juice from them.

Circus man throwing knives at a tied woman

Trust me!

A goal in itself: Trust is a bidirectional relationship, so you just need to keep track of the trust of each NPC or organization. Before meeting, any NPC will have a standard trust rating according to the reputation of the party, higher if it is in line with the NPC moral, or lower if it is against it. In addition, if the party does not show trust to a NPC, that NPC will lower its trust rating towards the party.

Guluk and Treb were sated. Their god Orlanth should be really pleased to treat them with those servile nomads. Scaring a few predators of the dessert was the job of the day, got their unfair part of the share, and now they were sleeping with all their belongings tied to their bodies, just in case…

Stay where you are trusted: There are some benefits to a trusted hero. You know… discounts, free meals, friendly guides, and those kind of things. Getting trust may be a goal itself for the party, but after all the effort it takes, the party will be willing to get some return on their investment. This helps the DM to develop a community and recurring NPCs to give more depth to the campaign.

With a great trust comes a great responsibility: People who trust the party will ask them for help, try to get their services, or even choose them to rule their organizations! If they refuse, they will lose part of that trust…

Guluk and Treb were exhausted once again. Those ungrateful goat riders on their hideous mounts were hunting them! Did they really thought the two barbarians could take on a full broo raiding party? What if a couple of tirbesmen were killed, Guluk and Treb had saved all of them several times!

Well, I know, you can obviously do all this without a trust rating. As the good DMs all of you are, I’m sure you have already implemented some of these ideas. So what’s the point of this article? For me, the key part is to remember all the things that make the villagers begin to think in hiring some trolls to fight the adventurers out of their home.

Distrust generates distrust, ignoring people needs generates distrust, and boredom in small villages generates huge amounts of distrust towards everybody else… Players are usually do-gooders and expect everybody to love them. Offer them the benefits of trust, and begin to turn it against them if they grow too comfortable.

The shaman sat in silence. His people trusted him, his spirits would haunt the barbarians, their cries of pain would be heard from miles of distance, they would pay. Fair or not, it is what the tribe trusted him to do, and he knew trust is a dangerous thing to test…

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Worlds colliding

I’ve been busy at work, and shooting my bow, so my 15mm terrain project goes too slowly. I did buy some 6cm trees in eBay (N HO scale), which are now glued to cents and waiting for a decent basing job.

I got 20 of them for less than 10€ including shipment costs, so I think they were a good investment. If you want the name of the seller, just leave me a comment ;) .

miniature trees

N HO 6cm trees with marine from RebelMinis

Like with the marines before, good basing tips for those trees will be welcomed :) . I need something easy, cheap and good-looking… I know, that’s too much.

 

Patrick Rothfuss + Numenera + Planescape

In addition to a bad photo of my trees, and begging for advice, I need to share something I found out today. Three worlds surprisingly close…

Patrick Rothfuss is a fantasy writer, author of two books of great success, part of an unfinished trilogy: The Name of the Wind, and The Wise Man’s Fear. I strongly recommend you to read them, great story with great characters. I’m eagerly waiting for the last volume of the trilogy which is already behind schedule, but nothing as painful as Mr. Martin’s neverending Game of Thrones…

I wrote about Numenera, one of the other worlds colliding, and how I missed its Kickstarter. It’s a new RPG by Monte Cook, which looks very good, although some of the last illustrations released were too ordinary fantasy. The setting describes a future world with lost technology which is similar to magic for those without the knowledge.

Planescape: Torment, the last of the three, was a computer RPG published in 1999, and had some of the best dialogues and stories every written for a computer game. From Wikipedia:

Planescape: Torment is primarily story-driven; combat is given less prominence than in most contemporary role-playing games. The protagonist, known as The Nameless One, is an immortal who has lived many lives but has forgotten all about them, even forgetting his own name. The game focuses on his journey through the city of Sigil and other planes to reclaim his memories of these previous lives. [...]

The game was not a significant commercial success but received widespread critical praise and has since become a cult classic. It was lauded for its immersive dialogue, for the dark and relatively obscure Planescape setting, and for the protagonist’s unique persona, which shirked many characteristics of traditional role-playing games.

Three worlds which are colliding in the new game Torment: Tides of Numenera, a new computer RPG being developed as a Kickstarter.

Torment game capture

Your quest will take you to alternate dimensions and distant worlds under strange suns…

Of these three worlds, the one I’m more interested is in Patrick Rothfuss finishing his trilogy :) . You could think it upsets me to read that he is working in this computer game instead of finishing my trilogy, but according to his blog, it may be speeding up the writing :D . Good news!

Which world do you prefer?

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Games incoming…

I wouldn’t like to turn this gaming blog into a news blog, and copying articles written by other people is not my style. So posts like this will be rare.

Today I just try to point you to a few things I’ve read about this week, some exciting news and some interesting information or thoughts. If you like them, tell their respective authors ;-)  and let me know we share an interest :-) .

D&D Next – Big headed halflings

It is easy to see drawing concept art as a purely artistic profession. When Wizards released their initial illustrations of halflings for D&D Next, they raised a lot of crticism.

Father and son with mushrooms

Concept art for D&D Next halflings

These illustrations didn’t match the “hobbit” look fans were expecting, and many believed the heads were too big.

For me they were a great improvement over “small humans”. A different anatomy and no more hairy huge feet. I couldn’t tell what made these halflings an improvement over previous editions fo me, but then I read a column by Jon Schindehette, the creative director of D&D.

Please read his view on designing halflings. It is not only a technical explanation of anatomy and concept design, it also explains the reasons why the halflings look the way they look now. And believe me you cannot disagree with him.

Conflict of Heroes – AI to play against

The Conflict of Heroes series are tactical squad level wargames, winners of many important awards. Wargames played on a board with an hex grid are usually rules-heavy neverending bardgames. It seems only grognards have the patience and skill to play them.

However, the Conflict of Heroes series display the perfect balance between rules with historical accuracy and playability. Games are usually below the 2 hours playing time, and counters are big and colorful. Rules are easy to grasp and you don’t need a huge tome at your side all the time.

Storm of Steel! game contents

Storm of Steel! contents (photo courtesy of Nambawan in the BGG)

I buyed the Storms of Steel! game, and is one of my favourites. The only problem is finding opponents :) . And it seems I’m not the only one with this problem, so I got very excited when they announced they were developing a set of rules to play solo. Something like an artificial intelligence (AI) which decides what to do in each case.

You can obviously play with both sides, but hiding information to yourself is a bit too much. Back in 2009 people were already asking for rules to play solo, and the designer answered that they were working with a famous designer in a set of rules for playing solo. That was 4 years ago!

Now it seems they are almost finished. In the official web page there is no news, but you can read on facebook and the BGG that the game is planned for this year! Great news I wanted to share!

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How to build intrigue

All the credit for these suggestions go to Chris Perkins, senior producer of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, and experienced Dungeon Master. He publishes a column in wizards.com about his experience as DM, and it is usually worth a read.

In one of his columns this month he talked about Ulterior Motives. You can go read his words, but as many will be discouraged by the length of the text (you lazy readers ;) ), I want to highlight some parts of it. They are basic ideas, but sometimes it is hard to realize how important they are when  you build a campaign or just a story. I loved his column, so I will try to add some examples and give you what most impressed me.

DM’s secrets

When a DM thinks a plot, or an interesting story for a campaign, we all love to add surprising twists and terrible secrets. We write our mischievous plans, well hidden from the characters, and see if any player can outwit us. We know we should build adventure and entertainment for the group, but there is an irresistible force which makes us enjoy the fun of secret threats and plots they will never uncover.

Secrets may be revealed in dramatic scene, or never, but they don’t build intrigue. The players are not expecting anything, or making guesses about NPCs because they probably don’t even know there is a secret to be revealed. The key question is…

What should be secret in order to build intrigue? Ulterior motives!

Intriguing character

It is obvious some NPCs have secrets…

Motives

These are just what other people see, or infere from the NPC actions. They are not usually kept secret for very long, because when we talk about intrigue, aparent motives are not the real motives.

Perkins recommends to put on the plot several NPCs who want the same, and give them different motives. For example, the jewels of Queen Ervigia have been stolen. The characters are to find them, and after some investigation it seems there are three suspects…

  • Mirthas, the wizard, has been looking for a strange kind of gem to try his own version of a ioun stone. No merchant in the city trades with those gems, but the jewels of Queen Ervigia have some.
  • Lord Brum has being recently rejected as Commander of the Royal Guard, what publicly embarrased him.
  • Dinnera, the merchant, has debts that no honest man can pay. She is in desperate need of money to pay the criminal organization known as The Hooded Wolves.

It will take some time to find and investigate these motives, and they will not lead to the solution, as the three of them have alibis for these motives. When the characters are looking for information, the DM should use a big success or an interesting approach to suggest there is something beyond… ulterior motives.

Ulterior Motives

These are the real motives of each character. These are secret, and the NPCs don’t have good alibis for them because they think nobody knows about them.

  • Mirthas, the wizard, wants to summon a demon to help him take over the kingdom. For the ritual he needs the gems in the jewels, but as he couldn’t get them he is working in a substitute. It will take longer than desired, but he will the get the ritual done one way or another.
  • Lord Brum feels rejected by the king, but he has many other things to worry about being an important noble of the kingdom. One of those other important things is to hide that he has lost all his wealth. Stealing the queen’s jewels is not hard for someone with access to the palace, and he would get the money he needs in the black market.
  • Dinnera, the merchant, is the secret leader of The Hooded Wolves. The rumours of her debts were spreaded by other merchants to get her out of the business. However, her criminal organization has been hired by some other kingdom to steal the jewels of the queen.

The Best Part of It

And now I must quote Chris Perkins…

Once players begin to realize there’s more to your NPCs than superficial motives, they begin to see mysteries and conspiracies and ulterior motives everywhere (sometimes where none exist), and in that exhilarating and terrifying moment, you see the intrigue begin to take on a life of its own, and you realize how readily it feeds on itself and grows, and how little effort it takes to keep it alive.

It sounds great! Have you tried it? Do you think it may work?

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