Saturday, January 22, 2022

Ser Killian's Tale Begins

Introduction
Let me tell you the tale of Ser Killian, the stalwat paladin, and his companions: his squire Haiden, his confessor Brother Winston, and his retainer Gruff the Archer.

Killian is the fifth son of a minor noble. Being unable to inherit, his father has pledged Killian to serve the Church as a paladin. To enter the order, Killian must first perform a deed of chivalry. Thus, he sets out as a knight errant to the wilds of the Sword Coast, there to make a name for himself. 

Game Notes
As mentioned previously, I am starting a new campaign using the Dragon of Icespire Peak adventure in the D&D Essentials Kit.

Instead of D&D, however, I am using my latest system, which I am tentatively calling D12 Dungeon.

I am keeping a record of Killian's adventures in a journal my wife gave me. It's a Narnia journal, but close enough I guess.


In brief, here are descriptions of the heroes:
  • Ser Killian is a paladin. He is very strong, intelligent, and charismatic. He rides a warhorse, wears chain, and is armed with shield, lance, and sword.
  • Squire Haiden is a fighter. He is strong and intelligent, but a bit clumsy. He wears padded armor and wields a shield and spear.
  • Brother Winston is a priest. He is agile and very wise, but a bit sickly. He wears no armor but faith in Daeus, and wields a rod and staff.
  • Gruff serves as an archer, but he is rogue by training. He is strong and very agile, but is a tad offensive. He has no armor and carries a bow and a sword.
Finally, I am using a different pantheon. There are three "gods:" 
  • Daeus, the creator
  • Alterra, mother of nature, and 
  • Erlik, lord of death. 
Daeuans do not acknowledge the others as gods. Instead, they consider them powerful spirits of nature and evil respectively. Furthermore, both were created by Daeus.

The Story
[Scroll down for the TL;DR version]

Killian's story begins in the town of Leilon. There, he learns that a dragon has been spotted near the village of Phandalin.

"This sounds like a worthy quest for a knight errant. Come, lads, let's show this dragon what's what!"

The others look at each other nervously, but swallow their words. They are sworn to follow Killian, and so into the dragon's maw they must go.

The Trail to Phandalin
Killian decides to take a shorter, but more dangerous trail to Phandalin.

Along the way, they come across a hunter who has just bagged a deer.

"Stay away!" the hunter commands. "This is my catch!"

"Never fear, my good man!" Killian responds. "I am a knight in the service of Daeus, and these are my retainers. We are pledged to serve and protect our Lord's people. We mean you no harm."

Killian reaches into his purse, pulls out a gold coin, and tosses it to the hunter.

"In fact, here is a gift. Buy yourself a nice ale to complement your catch."

"Master, no! We will need that." his squire protests.

"Nonsense, squire. We can rough it a bit in order to bless others. And Daeus will bless us for our generosity."

"Amen," approves Brother Winston. Gruff just grimaces.

Heartened by Killian's manner, the hunter offers to guide the party to Phandalin.

In Phandalin
First thing, Killian looks for a church so he can give thanks for making it safely to the village. However, there is no church; just an untended shrine. Brother Winston tsks at the oversight.

"Never fear, good cleric. I vow that we shall rectify that situation! Why, I spy on yonder hill the ruins of a majestic structure. It would make a good church."

"But master," interrupted Haiden. "We have no money to build a house, much less a church! "How ...?"

"Never mind the hows, my good squire. Daeus shall provide the means."

Next, they visit the inn, and learn that orcs have been raiding in the area.

Afterwards, they pay a call to the townmaster. However, he is petrified of the dragon, and refuses to open the door.

Killian responds. "How am I to hunt down this beast, if you do not speak with me and provide me information for my quest?"

"Be off, you fool." the townmaster answers. "The dragon will eat you up and spit you out."

"But I must complete my quest."

"If you want a quest, try one of those on the quest board. Now be off!"

They check the quest board. There are 3 notices. All involve delivering warnings to nearby settlers.

"What? That pompous fool wants me to be a delivery boy!? Why, I never!"

"But master," Haiden interrupts. "Look at this one. We must rescue a damsel in distress!"

Killian looks at the notice. The quester must deliver a warning to Adabra, a midwife who lives a few miles from the village. Close enough.

"By Daeus, you're right! Now why didn't they make that plainer?"

And so they take on the quest.

Battle of Umbrage Hill
Adabra lives in a windmill on Umbrage Hill, which lies a few miles southeast of Phandalin.

The ground is hilly, but they make good time without incident. However, as they approach Adabra's residence, they hear roaring and cries for help.

They rush forward. Cresting a hill, they see a manticore attacking the windmill. Adabra is inside, calling for help.


Game note - really, a manticore? An 8 HD monster for a first level quest? I mean, I know that negotiation is an option, but would a paladin really do that?
Additional note - I looked back at the quests. I kind of did them out of order. I should have been 3rd level in D&D terms before tackling this one. Still kind of silly because this quest was closest to Phandalin!

Killian does not stop to think. "Charge!" he commands, and spurs his horse forward.

Haiden and Gruff follow, but Winston is frozen in fear.

The manticore is intent on its prey, and does not see the heroes attack. Killian's charge strikes home, his lance piercing the beast's hide. Simultaneously, Gruff launches an arrow that strikes deep in the manticore's neck.
Game note: both hits do 2 points of damage. The manticore is already halfway to death! Yeah, I nerfed the hit points a lot. But then, a hit only does 0-2 points of damage.

The manticore lashes out, wounding Killian's horse. The heroes attack again, but miss.

The manticore clamps it jaws into the horse's neck, killing it. Killian jumps clear, draws his sword, and attacks. The manticore knocks aside the blow. This gives Gruff a chance; he aims and fires a shot that pierces the manticore's eye. It is severely wounded, but not dead.

Bleeding profusely and beset by battle-crazed warriors, the manticore decides to escape. It grabs the horse carcass and flies off.

"Come back here, you coward!" Killian shouts after him, to no avail.

Aftermath
Adabra thanks the party for their help. She refuses to leave her home, even after hearing the warning. But she does pen a letter to the townmaster confirming that she received the warning. She also provides a healing elixir to Killian as a reward.

As the party leaves, Gruff surreptitiously flashes the moon sign with his fingers. Adabra shows surprise and alarm at this symbol of Alterra.

Gruff whispers, "yer secret is safe with me. Just be careful around these goodniks," as he points to Killian and Winston.

The heroes return to Phandalin and receive payment from the townmaster. Killian pledges his share to building a church for the village.

TL;DR Version
  • In Leilon, Killian learns of a dragon spotted near Phandalin
  • On the road, the party befriends a hunter, who guides them to Phandalin
  • In Phandalin,
    • Killian remarks on the lack of a church. He vows to build one.
    • they learn of orc raids while visiting the tavern
    • the townmaster rebuffs them as fools
    • they find the quest board, and resolve to "rescue" Adabra, a midwife who lives a few miles from the village, from the dragon.
  • At Umbrage Hill, they see Adabra's residence being attacked by a manticore.
    • Killian charges into battle, with Haiden and Gruff in support. Winston loses his nerve and freezes in place.
    • The party surprises the manticore. Killian and Gruff wound it.
    • The manticore kills Killian's horse.
    • They battle on. The manticore takes more wounds.
    • Now severely wounded, the manticore decides to flee. It grabs the corpse of Killian's horse and flies off.
    • Adabra refuses to leave her home, but she rewards the party for their help.
  • The party returns to Phandalin, and receive payment for their success. Killian donates his share to the church building fund.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

RPG Thoughts

I wanted to roll some dice last weekend but did not feel like setting up a minis battle. Instead, I decided to do an RPG session.

When last we met our heroes, they had returned from an adventure in the woods. Their master, Groombal, intimated that some great evil was afoot in the woods. I had intended a sequel, but did not have all the miniatures I needed. Well, that led to some pondering.

Back to Cards?
While I love the look of miniatures, I have concluded that they don't work well for my RPG sessions because I usually don't have painted figures for the monsters I need. As a result, months go by without a session.

I really need something I can pick up and play. This has led me back to the idea of creating monster cards. I did a little experiment.


I took the goblin picture from some paper figures I purchased from Okum Arts. The art doesn't really match the background, but this is the concept I have.

I had previously made some cards, but I had so much info on it that it was rather busy. This time, I simplified to Attack factors (to-hit/damage), armor, and health.

While I like the look, I just don't have much time to work on it, so I ginned up some quick versions on index cards so I could play an adventure. More on that later.

Back to D12?
While working on the cards, I also began to ponder the monster stats. In particular, I thought about experimenting with a D12 again. This would give some more granularity in combat.
  • With MicroQuest, which uses a D6, the target number varies depending on whether the enemy is higher level, lower, or the same level.
  • With a D12, the modifier could be the difference between levels.
My biggest problems was that my armor classifications (light, medium, or heavy) worked better with a D6. Then I thought that a system that uses D12s for to-hit rolls and D6s for damage might work.

I haven't tried it yet, but am planning on it.

New Campaign
Well, I don't want to re-stat my current characters for a new system, so I am leaning toward starting a new campaign with new characters. However, I'm feeling lazy so I don't want to think up new adventures. Solution - buy a pre-made module.

But which module? Initially, I was leaning to something old school. I even picked up the Temple of Elemental Evil on PDF. Then I remembered that I picked up D&D 5E Essentials last year. It includes a campaign (Dragon of Icespire Peak) for characters starting at level 1 and going up to level 8. I think I'll do that instead.

Converting from D&D
In general, I think I can easily convert from D&D to my rules using these guidelines.
  • Divide levels or hit dice by 2. For example, a HD 10 monster would be level 5 in my rules
  • AC 11-12 = light armor, 13-15 is medium, and 16+ is heavy
  • Generally, hit points = level (in my rules) x 2
I also expect to make changes to the campaign.
  • I don't care much for D&D's polytheistic pantheons. I'll replace it with a monotheistic one.
  • I prefer a more human-centric setting. There will be elves and dwarves but they will be more like Celtic myth - rare and mysterious. Thus, some of the non-human NPCs will become human.
  • I also prefer a lower-magic setting. There will likely be fewer magic items, and fewer spellcasters.
New Characters
For this new campaign, I'll need a new adventuring party, and it should be a full 4+ characters. Here's my thoughts so far.

My main character will be a knight errant (paladin). He is accompanied by
  • his squire (a fighter)
  • his confessor (a cleric), and
  • an archer (actually a rogue)
And a Quick Adventure!
I actually ran a quick adventure last weekend. Tweedle and Dunh ventured back into the woods, where they ran into 2 blights. Tweedle was seriously wounded (down to his last hit point) so retreated from the woods and returned home.

But stay tuned. They have an important mission, and will return to the woods.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Another Battle

I played another test battle of Blue vs. Red.

Set Up
I decided to play the Seize scenario, which requires both sides to capture something that is in the middle of the battlefield. I chose to make the objective a town comprised of some new buildings.

The Armies
  • Red - 1 cavalry, 3 heavy infantry
  • Blue - 2 light infantry (on the flanks), 2 heavy infantry
The Battle
The Red and Blue armies both approach the town of Keeno.

Red assaults Blue and pushes them back. Notice the new casualty markers. I designed them to look like trails of blood. The infantry in the town are sideways just so they would fit into the square.

Red's advance destroys a light and a heavy infantry unit.

Blue has lost 2 units so rolls for morale. It fails and must retreat. Victory for Red.


Terrain Experiments

During the battle, I experimented with some terrain. The town of Keeno was made of a couple of new buildings that I got from PicoArmor. Here are some more.

I still have quite a few I haven't painted.

I also played around with the woods. I have just been using a scouring pad. It worked great for 2mm, but the 3mm figures are a bit too tall in comparison, as you can see from this picture.


I had an idea for simple trunks. I cut out a piece of black foam. It is slightly smaller than the scouring pad.

Then I placed the scouring pad on the foam. It got a little off kilter in this photo.

The idea is to raise the "leaves" above the soldiers. Furthermore, the figures can stand under the eaves of the woods instead of standing on top. In practice, it was a bit fiddly. but that was because the tree tops were not attached to the trunks. I kept knocking the top off. I think I'll try gluing them together and seeing how it works.

And here is a test forest that I crafted after the game.

In addition to gluing the two parts together, I used light brown paint to mark tree trunks. I rather like the look and can't wait to try it out in a game.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Whew, what a week!

From the looks of things, you might think I did a lot of gaming this week. That's not exactly true. I was on vacation the prior two weeks and built up a backlog of posts. It just so happens that I spaced them out so that they covered the entire week. Just don't expect me to maintain that pace.

I have been doing some game-related stuff this week.

First up, I did some painting:

  • At the bottom, is a complete 3mm army for my mini mini project (games on a 5" x 7" board). It features a leader, 3 cavalry, 4 infantry, and 2 skirmisher units. I plan to add a couple of artillery pieces, so this can be a generic shock or horse & musket army.
  • Next are 3mm figures for my Operation Last Train project. Flanked by 2 dropships, I have infantry (blue), civilians (red), and xenos (dark green).
  • Ignore the 4 chariots at the top left. They've been sitting on my desk for months and I did nothing with them this week.
I also spent some time plotting out my Byzantine project. Now that I received the Ospreys on the Byzantines and Sassanids, I'm getting a better handle on the armies.

Here's my plan for each army:
  • Byzantines - 4 units of heavy cavalry, and 2 units each of heavy infantry, archers, and light cavalry.
  • Sassanids - 3 units each of heavy cavalry (cataphracts), levies, and archers, 2 units of light cavalry, and a unit of elephants
 Because Magister Militum's packs are so big, I'm thinking I can do double duty on some packs:
  • Order one pack of Parthian cataphracts to stand in as Sassanids and Romans. I don't think any differences are noticeable at 3mm.
  • Likewise, use Parthian horse archers as light cavalry for both sides.
  • Finally, split a pack of skirmishing archers between the two sides.
I figure my order will cost a bit over $60. I may postpone my order until after my birthday next month. Besides, I should probably wait until I finish my current projects before tackling the Byzantines.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Battle of Peirama

With this test battle, I experimented with a series of possible tweaks to MicroBattle.

Set-Up

I created random scenario, terrain, and force composition generators using a D6 roll for each.

The resulted in a force of infantry with cavalry support trying to escape from pursuing infantry.

Note - this scenario is inspired by Scenario # 13 from One Hour Wargames.

Terrain set-up is shown below. Note that I am using my mini, 5 x 7 square board.

Some Game Notes

These are some of the changes I made to MicroBattle for this experiment.

  • While the board is gridded into 1 inch squares, all measurements are made in half squares. This effectively increases the size of the units and the board.
  • Previous versions of MicroBattle allowed a unit to pivot freely within its square. With my movements modifications, a unit now effectively spans two spaces. Thus, I had to come up with some rules for turning. Essentially, I allowed a unit to use an activation to pivot 90 degrees.
  • For activation, I rolled a D6 per unit, with the following results:
    • 1 = no actions
    • 2-3 = 1 action
    • 4-5 = 2 actions
    • 6 = 3 actions
  • I did not use the S&S mechanic of giving the enemy actions for failed activations. Instead, I just rolled them as above.
  • Both units rolled in melee, with any advantages or disadvantages applied as modifiers. High roll won the melee. The loser then rolled defense as per the current MicroBattle rules.
  • A unit with damage (which I am calling Disorder), makes all Resolution Tests at a disadvantage.
  • Light infantry damaged by heavy infantry in melee may attempt to retreat instead of suffering Disorder.
  • A unit can use an activation to try to recovery from Disorder. It requires a successful Res Test.

The Backstory

A force of Gothic warriors (blue army) has raided a Roman settlement and is trying to escape with its booty. A lone unit of Roman archers blocks the path while more Roman infantry are in pursuit. 

The Goths need to get half their army to safety (off the far side of the board).

A couple of turns in. Most of the raiders have moved well onto the board. One heavy infantry unit dawdles and gets overtaken by the Romans. The Goth cavalry (right) make a break for it.

Note - The topmost warband rolled poor activations, allowing the Romans to catch up.

Roman heavy and light infantry swarm the dawdling warriors (top). The Roman archers are getting pushed off the hill.

Note - initially, I was using the standard MicroBattle melee rules, but I kept having stalemated fights. Inspired by Sellswords and Spellslingers, I tried the system outlined above. This created more interesting melees and sped up the game.

The Goths overrun the archers, drive back their pursuers, and then head for safety.

Note - It was during this fight that I instituted the rule allowing lights to try to retreat rather than suffer Disorder. It just seemed weird to me that lights would just stand and let themselves get pummeled. This has bothered me for some time but I never knew how to handle it. I came up with the rule on the spot and applied it. In this case, the lights got caught, but I can foresee times when the lights get away. Seems more plausible to me.

But the Roman light infantry catch up to the Goth warband, attack, and miraculously destroy it!

Note - This melee highlighted the benefit of the new rules. The Goth warband had a disadvantage in melee because it was disordered. It could have improved its odds by stopping to rally. I choose for the disordered warband to run for it instead, leaving it vulnerable. Still, the lights got lucky to win the melee.

I like how the new rules created a decision point. Do I use an action on movement or rallying? By moving, I left the unit disordered. However, if I stopped, the pursuing heavy infantry may have caught up. Decisions, decisions!

But the Goth lights barely manage to escape.

Technically, a narrow victory for the Goths, but the Romans are pleased to have destroyed both warbands of heavy infantry.

Thoughts on the Game
I was making adjustments on the fly, but I ended up with the rules changes described above. Overall, I think they worked well, and I will continue dabbling with them.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

3mm Miniatures Comparison

As mentioned, I am moving toward genre-specific figures for my games.

The Byzantine Project

I ordered some O8 legionnaires from PicoArmor to build a Byzantine Army. I planed to use them to supplement some Magister Militum that I currently own.

Well, I got them. Here they are (left) next to some MM pikemen.

Very disappointing.

I took some measurements. O8 figures are approximately 3mm from top of the head to the base while MM figures are 3mm from the eyes to the base. Overall, the MM figures are closer to 5mm.

There is no way I can use these together, unless I create a hobbit army with the O8. After a bit of consideration, I decided to stick with MM for my Byzantines.

Operation Last Train

I also ordered some O8 3mm sci fi, also from Pico Armor. Again, my plan is to supplement some existing figures, specifically Germy's 2mm, available from Ground Zero Games.

Here are some heavy infantry (right) next to poorly painted Germy infantry. There is an O8 dropship in the background.

The Germy figures are a bit beefier, but they are actually about the same height as the O8. I think I can mix them.

And here are some O8 xenos next to the Germy infantry. Again, I think I can mix.

Now I have two projects underway.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

S&S Experiments

Previously, I mentioned experimenting with some of the mechanics from Sellswords and Spellslingers. I wanted to give a quick update.

I had actually been writing a report where I detailed all my tweaks and experiments, but I ended up deleting it. Overall, I just did not like where they were heading, and I find myself returning to square one.

Activation
A few years ago I was using the Song of Blades & Heroes activation system but dropped it because it seemed to drag out the turn. Currently, I roll a single D6 per unit, which means I can determine my entire force's activations in a single roll of 6 dice. It moves much quicker. The S&S activation is similar to SoB&H and I encountered similar problems. 

I recently had an epiphany. I translated the S&S activation odds to a single die. Assuming activation on a 4+ on a D6, I get:
  • Roll of 1 = 0 activations for the player / 3 for the enemy
  • 2-3 = 1 player activation / 2 for the enemy
  • 4-5 = 2 player activations / 1 for the enemy
  • 6 = 3 player activations / 0 for the enemy
This roughly works out the same as 3D6 per unit.

Note that the odds for S&S are better than 50/50 in favor of the players, but I think my table is fine. I can give bonuses to the roll for units with some kind of advantage.

Melee Combat
I'm still experimenting with a hit-or-be-hit melee system. Operation Last Train uses a similar system and it seems to work well for that game - you get the bug or it'll get you.

However, I'm not sure if I buy it for man vs. man combat, for 2 reasons:
  • It seems plausible for both combatants to make ineffective attacks. For example, the attacker thrusts, the defender parries and ripostes, but the attacker parries the counter.
  • And I have seen plenty of simultaneous hits in my fencing and LARP experience.
I guess hit-or-be-hit makes more sense at a larger scale where a turn could represent an extended period of time. But for skirmishes it seems too final. Nevertheless, I think I'll give it a try.

I recently played a battle using these tweaks. Stay tuned for a full report.