sword & planet, steel and spellcraft


This little corner of the cosmos is where I record my thoughts on the pursuit of Geekery! A large portion of my ranting and raving will revolve around gaming tabletop RPGs, console and PC games, boardgames as well as fantasy and sci-fi media.

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sword & planet, steel and spellcraft

Memoir '44, Solitaire rules and other variants

After playing several rounds of Memoir '44 online using Vassal, I'll have to qualify my earlier statement. I'll now look to other games, such as Flames of War and Conflict of Heroes when I'm looking for a crunchier World War II wargaming experience. Memoir '44 provides that quick and easy fix of WW II gaming as each game can be played in less than an hour (usually half-that time). Memoir '44 is less complex than Battlelore, though I don't necessarily think that less complexity is a bad thing. Most of the game's expansions add on additional rules and flair to ratchet up the complexity just a smidgen. I'm ok with the level of abstraction though I'm always tempted to tinker with variant units and rules.

On that note, here are the add-on rules I currently use for Solitaire play when playing Memoir '44 or Battlelore:
A. At the beginning of each side's turn, randomly discard one card from their hand, then draw one new Command Card. (Remember to reveal the face-down Command Card from Rule C below).

B. When selecting a Command Card to play, choose the best card in the hand to play given the situation. If the die roll results in a Star symbol, keep the "best card" in your hand and select a different Command Card to Play amongst the other cards. I do this only once per turn.

C. At the end of a turn, draw a new Command Card (as per usual) however don't look at the card, place the Command Card face down until the start of that side's next turn.

D. Other rules for specific cards:
D1. When a unit is about to attempt a Close Assault and the defender has an Ambush card, the defender rolls a die. If the roll results in a Star Symbol, the defender keeps the Ambush card in their hand. Otherwise, the defender springs the Ambush.


I'm also trying to sell some of my RPG books and a few board games to scrounge enough cash to buy the tabletop versions of C&C Ancients and/or Battlelore. It's not that easy as it doesn't look like people have a lot of spare cash for luxuries such as games. That, and perhaps I'm not quite willing to give away everything at bargain bin prices.

I'm also looking into suitable figures in the event I'd like to replace the blocks used in C&C Ancients with something that has more visual appeal. It looks like 1/72 scale figures may meet that need optional requirement.

Next steps:
* Sell more gaming goods to get new gaming loot
* Work on Memoir 40K: I have some thoughts on this adaptation but I'm not ready to share the full write-up with the world just yet.
* Battlelore Variant Unit: I'm going to try my hand at writing up Saladin's forces and their allies. For reference, I'll be using a copy of "Field of Glory - Sword & Scimitars". I got on the cheap at one of my favourite used bookstores in Toronto when I was there on a business trip.
* Play more games!

Rule Zero, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Board Game

I've been on a boardgame kick lately.

I've played a good number games of of Descent: Journeys in the Dark. We've started a campaign using the Road to Legend expansion. We've even created some customized heroes using the Build Your Own Hero Rules up on the Fantasy Flight Games support page. I enjoy the game but damn Descent takes for-frakking-EVER to set up and even longer to play. Well, I'm getting better at setting up the game but the dungeoncrawls can be really painful. There is vritually zero Overlord/DM prep-time but heck do you pay for it in administrative stuff to do during the Campaign turns. Perhaps I haven't played enough of it to know all the rules well enough without having to stop every now and then to look up some rule or other.

I also played my first couple of Battlelore games today. Set up can take some time but the games are fun and fast. I can see myself playing a lot of Battlelore. I am also looking forward to the other games in the Command and Colors series, notably C&C: Ancients. Memoir '44 looks interesting but I'm looking to other games to take care of any World War II wargaming itches that I may have.

The Command and Colors series really needs a game with a sci-fi or sci-fantasy themeI would like to see something along the lines of Warhammer 40K which combines elements of Memoir '44 with the lore rules from Battlelore. I'm probably not the first person to come up with this idea. but hey, I'm on a roll here. The Cleric cards can be adapter for a Ecclesiarch, an Inquisitor a Commisar or heck even a Space Marine Chaplain. The Wizard could be converted to a Psyker. Warriors could be represent elite or veteran Guardsmen and the like or an Inquisitor with a more martial bent. And rogues could be your Assassins, scouts from elite recon outfits such as Gaunt's Ghosts. I'm tempted to write this up myself.

One more thought: Battlelore needs a robust campaign system. Yes, I know there is the Call to Arms expansion though a quick readthrough of the rules and the cards didn't leave me impressed at all. I could be wrong, I will give the expansion a good shake and play it. I think I can plunder some campaign rules from 40K, Warhammer and others to put something more to my liking... Great. Another project to put on my long list of Geeky things to do.

I sure like the gaming bling. The components that come with Descent, and its expansions are well-done and for the most part durable to withstand lots of play. The Battlelore components are great as well, if not a notch below that of Descent (and other Fantasy Flight bigbox games).  I also take some perverse pleasure in finding ways to organize the storage, setup and use of the components during play, sorting through pieces and tossing them them in ziploc bags, hunting for the perfect plastic tackle container or cheapo tupperware from the Dollarstore. I'm also a fan of the various reference sheets (which are kissing cousins to GM screens for RP games, I think) and take pleasure in printing them out, modifying existing ones or making up my own.

I also like miniatures. There I've said it. I've also been known to paint up a few.

I wonder what why I've gravitated to these types of games. Heck, perhaps it's saying something that I'm playing a crunchy dungeon crawling game in addition to running a 4th Edition D&D game. I guess I'm moving into more the "game" or boardgame spectrum and away from the "roleplay" side of things. *shrug* Maybe I just need some more structure in my games and let my imagination work it's way in other ways.

You don't have to buy or even own a boardgame to enjoy it. If you're fortunate enough to live near a good gaming store, they often have boardgame nights each month, some even weekly. The good game stores have copies that they offer up for play in the store, so you can try before you buy. There's also VASSAL which allows you play boardgames on your computer locally, real-time online or vie play-by-email. There a lot of Vassal modules made for wargames and boardgames. What? But I don't know the rules you say? Many companies provide free pdfs with the rules for their game. And BoardGameGeek.com has rules pdf for many an out-of-print game.

I haven't given up on roleplaying games. Far from it. My 4E campaign still has lots of room for player interaction, story and character development. I plan to run Day After Ragnarok for Savage Worlds (aka Conan 1948). I am also entertaining some ambition to run a Song of Ice and Fire campaign. Yeah, sure, Savage Worlds may appear to be another another simple or boardgamey system but I like it because it does it's job and gets out of the way, freeing up time, energy and mental space for story and character fun.

Ah heck, why even bother pigeonholing the type of fun I'm having. games They're *just* games and we're all gamers. I'm just following Rule Zero: Have Fun.

sword & planet, steel and spellcraft

Burning Blackfyre

Truth be told, I've been re-considering a noble house campaign ever since I started listening to the campaign shenanigans of the Podgecast crew. One of the Podgecasts hosts, Luke, uses Burning Wheel to run a house campaign inspired by George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series of books that begins with th "Kingdom the Next Generation" (don't look at me, I just listen to the podcast)

After a quick reading of the A Song of Ice and Fire RPG, I can't say I'm really inspired to run one based on Green Ronin's rules as is. Perhaps I need to take out the ASoIaFRPG system for a one shot and see how it really runs. And yet, the more I looked into Burning Wheel myself (there are free excerpts on the Burning Wheel wiki, the more I was convinced that Burning Wheel

My other go-to games don't really have the intrigue and social interaction mechanic I'm looking for or the level of PC Mojo is out of whack for the gritty, wheels within wheels style a Game of Thrones type game calls for.
  • Savage Worlds - Too heroic. I love you lots SW but I gotta say you're not the right one for a Blackfyre game.
  • D&D - Again, don't think a mace would be a good weapon to use when a rapier is what is being called for. And as I'm already running a 4E D&D game, I'm looking for something different.
  • FATE/Spirit of the Century - Ahhh, another one of my RPG darlings. I lurve many facets of FATE, especially the Aspect system but it's a bit too pulp for my tastes. Now I could do some tweaking but I'm just don't feel like monkeying around with the system.
Of course, I could graft FATE's Aspect system and hack the Intrigue mechanics of Green Ronin's ASoIaF RPG. Once again, I just don't want to invest that much time being monkeying around with house ruled game mechanics. While picking up a new system and reading up on the mechanics also represents a lot of work, reading and studying consumes far less of my time and creative energies. I'd rather read Burning Wheel and work on the "fluff" as I go along.
sword & planet, steel and spellcraft

The Blackfyre Rebellion Revisited

Green Ronin's A Song of Ice and Fire is out on PDF version at the Green Ronin store.

I've always wanted to run a noble house game. I'm toying with the idea of running a campaign set in (an alternate version of) the Blackyfyre Rebellion. The players will be family members and retainers of an up and coming minor noble house, either with ambitions of elevation to Great House status or as a major player in one of the factions.

Nothing is cast in stone as yet but I've posted a thread on the RPTools.net forums and sent out feelers to see if there is any interest.

I would like to limit the number of  players to around four or so to give enough spotlight time to the player characters.

I'm still running a weekly D&D Game (The Age of Might) on MapTool and that seems to be going well but I'd like to try my hand at something less map-and-miniature oriented. I'll post my thoughts on here as I develop the campaign and I'll likely compile the campaign info an another pbwiki.

Age of Might

Tonight, I'm running session #2 of my online D&D 4th Edition campaign dubbed 'Age of Might'. Here is the teaser for the game:

The Age of Might

The last Age ended as the world burned in a storm of corrupt magic, other-worldly invasion and human pride.

The last Age ended with the fall of the Thousand Cities, the Empire of Man, the Empire of Folly.

The last Age ended as dweomercrafted battlebarges fell from the sky and abominations called forth by cults of horrific gods ravaged the cities of the Old Kingdoms. A few, unfortunate humans escaped the cataclysm and found sanctuary in the young, Imperial colonies across the Sunset Sea.

The last Age ended as the Eladrin withdrew to their sanctuaries beyond the Veil and the dwarves shut their gates, laying runes of warding and hallways full of traps, and hid in their underground fortresses.

You are the descendants of the survivors of the Last War of the Empire of Man.


In the dying days of the last Age, Lady Helja, matriarch of the Bronzesinger clan, offered sanctuary to any and all who would dwell in peace within Deepwell holdfast. Dwarf, Human, Halfling, Elf and Eladrin lived together under the rule of the Dwarf Jarls. Born and raised in a Deepwell you are eager to make a name for yourself in this new Age.

The Jarl (ruling lord of the house Bronzesinger), Nilgar Ebergun, calls upon the intrepid and the enterprising folk of the holdfast to:

  • clear the route to the upper gates, unravel the seals of protection, explore the surface world, establish trade routes for Deepwell's ore and goods and learn of the changes since the last Age
  • reclaim the abandoned mines and dwarf halls to provide ore for the forges and living space for the rapidly growing population
  • explore forgotten passageways or sail beyond the dim horizon of the underground lake and re-establish contact with the other dwarven holdfasts and underworld settlements

Gold and Glory Await!

The Dresden Files

That Wizard, Harry

If I told you about I was a fan of Harry the Wizard some of you might think of the other Harry. You know who I'm talking about. Yeah, that stripling who tromps off to Wizard school (Warthogs, was it?) and goes on zany adventures with his friends. Well, I hate to tell you, I'm not really fan of Harry Potter. I'm a fan of Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden.

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files books are excellent when they are “OK”. That's only because there are a handful of Dresden books that are truly awesome. (Or as the kids say “pure win” . Whatever that means.)

The latest book, Small Favor, left me breathless. Small Favor also featured some of my favourite Dresden-verse villains and Harry was backed up by an all-star cast of his close and not-so-close comrades.

There are very few series that keep my attention for very long and very few series where I would the next book sight unseen.

I'm quite in awe at how the author manages to escalate the conflict from book to book. The stakes keep getting higher and higher: both the personal stakes for Harry and the people he cares about and the supernatural threats to the city (and the rest of the world). The escalation rarely, if ever, feels forced. Kudos to Jim Butcher for managing such an incredible feat of writing. The books come to an end that is logical given the characters, their choices and the events presented in each book. If they don't, Jim Butcher has really pulled the Major Cloak Suspension of Disbelief +5 over my head.

Is it a bit repetitive? Perhaps so, I admit the admit there's a bit of a formula in there. And, as a fan, I willingly embrace the formula but I can't wait to see what new shiny bits the author throw my way. Besides, the books' serial and formulaic nature is not necessarily a bad thing in the right hands. Fans KNOW they will be in for a treat when a new Harry Dresden book rolls off the presses.

The actions and choices of the character's are not without consequence. While there is plenty of action within the covers of each book, there is some change in the characters as one follows them from one book to another.

If I told you it's taken me about two years to go through the 10 books in the series thus far, don't be misled. It's taken me that long only because I go through two or three novels in a short period of time, then I go off to read some other things for a few months only to come back to haul back another couple of novels back from the book store. Then the Harry Mania comes back. In full force. And it doesn't stop until I've turned the last page.

Once I pick up a Dresden Files novel, I'm hooked. I tear through it at great speed (at least for me) - staying up late to read through a good chunk of the book, rub my eyes and look at the clock reminding myself I have to get up early, down the book, turn off the lights, figet in bed for a good ten minutes only to turn the lights back on, pick up the book and read on. Just one more chapter, then I'm off to bed. I promise.
sword & planet, steel and spellcraft

Thirteen Bullets - Session 2

I ran a follow-up game to the 'One Shot' Savage Worlds game tonight. We used Skype's free conference calling for voice chat and, WOW, did that make a difference in the pace of the game. Now, I still prefer to use the in-game text chat for some IC chatting as I'm don't really do NPC 'voices' that well in real life.

On another happy, note it seems like the players are still happy with the way I run games and are willing to keep going to see the story arc through. The one-shot is now a mini-series. Huzzah!
sword & planet, steel and spellcraft

More MapTools! Potential Games

Encouraged by the success of my first attempt at online Gamemastering. I'm thinking of running a mini-series: a story arc running from three to six sessions. Not a full-blown campaign yet but if there is any interest beyond the mini-series I would give a campaign some serious thought.
I wrote up some blurbrbs To give people a better flavour of types of games I would like to run.

D&D 4th Edition, Homebrew
1A. Heroes of Myth & Legend: Will you be the one to raise the shield wall against the invaders? Or will you carve out nations with the edge of your axe? Or will venture out to the Feywild, seeking out the Courts of the Eladrin? Will you forge bonds of fellowship with the Fae or will you bend them to your service? Will you stop your people's steady decline into decadence and infernal corruption? In time, perhaps? Or perhaps, you are just content to test your steel and spells against the might and magic of this new world?

The main influence for this mini-series is Dawnforge the Age of Legend . There are others but that is the main one that comes to mind.

1B. Urban Setting & Mega-Dungeon: The Great City was built on the corpses of many great Empires. Underneath the cobblestones lies warrens, catacombs and chambers filled with jewels and treasury of merchant princes and miserly kings, not to mention lost artefacts of untold power. The City is not a place for the soft-hearted nor the merciful as the gangs who rule the streets 'in the name of Law' will just as mug you than protect you from the riffraf.

This will also be a homegrown setting though I would take a page or three from Monte Cook's Ptolus. There are also shades of Fafhrd & Grey Mouser and Thieves World.

Come to think of it, I may add a dash of
Perdido Street Station, Gangs of New York and Eberron into this mix.

2. Star Wars Saga: Knights of the Old Republic: I don't have any specific, fleshed out ideas on this yet. I could go with either Heroes of the Republic or something along Privateers & Merchants.

3. Savage Worlds: We can continue with the Modern Day Monster mash as that's one of my favourite genres. Another game that really has me fired up is:
Starlords of Hadrapur! This will be a Sword and Planet mini-series in the tradition of John Carter of Mars (who doesn't want a little Barsoom in their Savage Worlds?), Flash Gordon and WizKid's Rocketmen.

In the midst of the Great Interstellar War, you and the rest of the crew, prisoners, refugees and other survivors of the Galactic Fleet Rocketship Garuda find yourself stranded on a strange world. You will fight tyrannical Star Lords, explore exotic locations, liberate the oppressed, swing on chandeliers, rescuing princes and princesses all the while searching for a way home. The first session will deal with how our heroes ended up on Hadrapur.