Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Storyboarding for NPCs

On Free RPG Day this year I ran a scenario for the Star Wars Edge Of The Empire RPG.  I really need a shorthand version of this name!  SWEotE?.

As part of that I developed (and stole in places) a quick and dirty way of developing a storyboard for NPCs and Pre-Gen PCs.  This is something I'd used on and off during the 1st Chapter but I've refined it over time.

It's not hugely detailed but for a "one and done" game like at Free RPG Day or indeed at a Convention the approach gives the characters more flavour.  My approach is to share these with the players rather than the character sheets that sit behind them.  Once all the players have settled on their characters I would then supply the character sheet to complement it.

This storyboard approach gives the players a chance to review the characters without seeing the character sheets enabling them to select the character that appeals to them most rather than necessary the stats that they want.

Now the storyboard itself gives clues as to what the character's stats may be but given that a lot of the content is based on the perception of those around the character and indeed their self-perception it can be misleading.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

How I develop my ideas.

In this 2nd Chapter I find myself having ideas for scenarios and settings for RPGs.  This used to happen a lot during the early parts of the 1st Chapter although the frequency reduced towards the end to the point of nothing being produced.

Thankfully I now have ideas and in-particular of late setting ideas.  The one that seems to be sticking with me just now is one that I may use either as a campaign premise or as a location for a D&D Next game that I'm looking at running (more on that in a future post).

Without breaking any metagaming rules for my players I am going to share the process I went through to develop one of those settings here.  Some of this relates to new learnings (or perhaps more accurately re-learnings) I've had from reading the Game Master "self help" book Never Unprepared.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who currently is running or plans to run games in the future.  I plan to pick up the companion book on campaign development, Odyssey, when I find a copy in print.

An idea can come to you in a variety of ways and given that inspiration is not always a resource you can channel it's important to take note of the core of the idea when it comes to you so that you can explore it further.

This particular idea had 3 specific triggers -

Krull: I hadn't seen it recently or anything but I gto to thinking how the "Black Fortress" aka mountain that moves could be an interesting device in a fantasy campaign.
Stargate Atlantis: Again hadn't seen it recently but the "hidden city" especially when combined with the "Black Fortress" from Krull could be used in a variety of ways.
The 3rd trigger wasn't a movie but was based on things like standing stones and Tiberium from the Command & Conquer computer games.  An object that could hold mystical / spiritual power.

From those 3 elements I came up with the following -

Location - Grallis is an island in the middle of the Barlaxo Sea and it sits approximately 3 weeks sail from the mainland of Duthallia and as such it tends to operate separately.  The last time there was any regular contact was during the Pyreon War some 120 years ago.  A war that destroyed the only Astara Stone on Grallis.

Brief History - Astara Stones are thought to have been the tools of the gods according to the lore of Grallis and Duthallia. Huge rock / crystalline formations which look like the blades of tools but all of them so vast that no man or creature known to roam the land could wield it.
They are a source of magic (arcane and divine) and when in close proximity they were said to increase the potency of any spell.  Whilst a lot of this is lore it was also found that warrior wizards and warrior clerics of various factions sought out to destroy or capture those remaining Astara Stones to ensure their dominance.
The inhabitants of Grallis were largely innocent bystanders during the Pyreon War with the majority of the chaos happening on Duthallia.  One of the side effects of the destruction of the Astara Stone on Grallis though was to make the weather / seasons more unpredictable.  Whilst this caused significant problems during the first 20-30 years after the war the way of life on Grallis adjusted to their new world.
Those from Grallis who participated in the war were primarily involved in the defence of the Astara Stone, which was named Khalas-Grallia.  These defenders couldn’t stop the horde from Duthallia and ultimately Khalas-Grallia was destroyed.  The remains of the stone are where the village of Khalas-Ormin now sits.

Location Premise - The quiet village of Khalas-Ormin sits on the Eastern shores of the Ormenia region of Grallis is wakened from its slumber by the unexpected arrival of a new land mass off the Eastern coast…
The new land mass is home to a group Marid, "water djinni", and a group of Dao, "earth djinni". The djnni are acting as servants to Slarkrethel, the Kraken Wizard.  Slarkrethel wants the power of the Astara stones for himself and manipulates the tectonic plates across the world to create landmasses to create islands when necessary.  Slarkrethel believes that with the aid of the djinni that he can control the Astara stone on Grallis to further his own plans.  The stone itself whilst thought destroyed is in fact regenerating.  Indeed all of the stones that were destroyed are regenerating…
The only change noticed by the inhabitants over the last few weeks has been minor changes in the weather and some seismic disturbance.  Minor for now that is.  Fishermen also start to report spotting unusual sea life in the days and weeks before the arrival of the island. Once it does arrive however things change and Slarkrethel will execute his plan.

So.  From 3 basic triggers I decided upon an island that had some sort mystical rock of power albeit thought destroyed.  Reason for the setting to exist is that the power is not destroyed and obviously someone wants that power which leads to the arrival of some big-bad Water beastie.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Birthday Post

2 posts in 1 day?  Well today is my birthday and with that in mind I wanted to talk about what I look forward to from my hobby over the next year.

Edge Of The Empire.  The new Star Wars RPG from Fantasy Flight Games.
There are some good looking (well it is FFG so they will be pretty) expansions / accessories for EotE.  I will likely get all of these when they come out.  In typical FFG fashion they are releasing high quality products and in particular are releasing scenarios.  Given the quality of the ones I've seen so far in the Beginner Game, FFG website and the Free RPG Day scenario I have no doubt that they will produce something worth buying.
In addition to the scenarios there will be a number of "archetype" expansions.  In general terms these will be books that give more detail and options for each of the archetypes.
Given that this game is looking like a key part of my 2nd Chapter I suspect that I will get all of the expansions and look forward to the 2 other core RPG books that FFG plan for release.
Some context - FFG plan to release 3 RPGs in the Star Wars universe.
The first of which is Edge Of The Empire - a "smugglers, bounty hunters, scum & villainy" RPG set in the Star Wars universe just after the Battle Of Yavin.
The second of which is due in 2014 - Age of Rebellion where characters will be rebel soldiers and freedom fighters working to defeat the Empire.
The third and final RPG is due in 2015 - Force and Destiny where characters will be Jedi Knights.

Sentinels Of The Multiverse.  The superhero card game from Greater Than Games.
Another game that has been a large part of enabling the 2nd Chapter.
There are new expansions planned for SotM but interestingly there's also a Sci-Fi themed companion game called Galactic Strike Force which is due out in December/January which given the strength of the SotM gameplay I have high hopes that GSF will deliver the same.

Star Wars LCG.
There are a number of Deluxe Expansions planned for this one of which is named Balance Of The Force due out before the end of 2013.  This expansion will deliver further gameplay options including a "true" multi-player option which will expand the playability and I believe the appeal of the game.

What else?  Loads.  See the Tabletop Games market is something that is constantly refreshing and renewing it's suite of games.  This refresh is geared towards a number of different showcase events/conventions on the Tabletop Games calendar.
Origins in June, Gencon in August and of particular significance in the Board Game market there is SPIEL in October.  There will be more games coming out that I will want to buy and I might just post about those too.

When can you play Tabletop Games?

May as well continue the What, Who, Where theme!

When can you play Tabletop Games?  Well that very much depends on the game and what available time you have to be able to play them.  You also have to consider any prep time that a game may need.  That prep time usually takes the form of "deck building" for CCGs and "army painting/construction" for War Games.  These elements are very much a large part of the hobby for each of these formats.

How long do these games actually take to play though?

For the majority of CCGs a game take 45-60 minutes; this is based on a "best of 3" series of games in a tournament.  Some games will take longer and some shorter as it really depends on how the games go but on average we're talking 45-60 minutes.
For War Games it depends on the size of the forces involved.  For the majority of non-historical based War Games and in particular those that have a tournament scene the average play time of 1.5 to 2.5 hours.
When it comes to RPGs the length of the game is controlled by the players and the "game master".  The average RPG takes 4 hours but some games can be completed in 2 hours whereas others last 6+ hours.  As I said the length of time can be controlled by the players and the game master so in many respects it depends on how long they want to play for.

For everything else especially Board Games it really varies by the specific game played.  These can be anything from 15 minute "pickup games" to 6+ hour epics.

So, finding the right Tabletop Game can in many respects be down to how much time you can spend playing it.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Where can you play Tabletop Games?

You can play Tabletop Games pretty much anywhere that there's enough table space to play the game.  I suppose the question is probably more likely to be tied to 2 other questions.

Where can I find other people who play Tabletop Games? and Where can I buy Tabletop Games?

Both of these questions can have the same answer when it comes to what's classed as the FLGS.  Friendly Local Game Shop.  Ah but everything's cheaper on the internet even these games why should I buy from a FLGS?  The first question above is why.

FLGS' specialise in selling Tabletop Games, many of these shops also specialise in having events to support Tabletop Games and in turn have developed communities around them to support these events.  It is in these FLGS' and their communities that you will find other people who play Tabletop Games.
In the UK (where I am) you can find out where your nearer FLGS is by visiting the Find Your Game Store website.

In addition to the FLGS environment though there are many many clubs across the world who promote the hobby of Tabletop Games.  These tend to be predominantly War Games related clubs, at least within the UK that is the case anyway.  The Gaming Club Network is a voluntary organisation which helps and supports clubs throughout the UK. Majority of it's member clubs are War Games clubs although you will find that a number of those clubs also support and play other Tabletop Games.

Going back to my original statement about where you can play Tabletop Games, the answer remains anywhere. A lot of people, indeed perhaps the majority, play their Tabletop Games at home with friends.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Why play Tabletop Games?

See this has a lot of different answers. Some of which are simple and others which are a bit more complex.

Also, with this post being a "the hobby" post rather than a "my hobby" post I have to lean on more general reasons.

Let's take this for a walk.

Tabletop Games are a social hobby.  They are played face to face with other people around a table.

That interaction and social experience is key to the hobby as a whole as it helps to demonstrate the benefits of the games and not least of all remind everyone that the games are a lot of fun.  After all they are games!

Tabletop Games are also a fantastic family past time.  Non-competitive games in particular are great for families to play together but the hobby aspect of competitive games can be very strong activities for families to participate in together, in particular when it comes to War Games where the miniatures require painting.

All in all the hobby of tabletop games is about sitting down with likeminded people and having fun playing those games.  It's also not necessarily always friends as in some environments it can be commonplace to play with strangers too; strangers who may in time become friends.

Clubs, stores and conventions all give people the opportunity to participate in the hobby with friends and strangers alike which adds to the social and community elements of the hobby.

So why play Tabletop Games?  To have fun whether that's with friends or with complete strangers sharing the hobby together in a social situation.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Who plays Tabletop Games? Part 2

But who are these people who play these games?

I'm a Project Manager in the Financial Services industry although have worked in Public Sector and for Technology companies.

People I know who play tabletop games come from all sorts of backgrounds and professions.
Doctors, Security Guards, Technology Techies, Historians, Joiners, Librarians, Nurses, Retail Workers, Telecommunications Workers and people who work in the Military.  So it's all sorts really.

That statement in the previous post about the demographic being "everyone" is probably better represented by "anyone" instead as really anyone could be a player of tabletop games.

Isn't it just a guy thing though?


Ok so it's mainly guys, especially here in the UK it is anyway, but it's not just a guy thing.  In my experience of the hobby, women tends to be least drawn to miniatures games, I don't know why.
In saying that though there are plenty of women who play wargames and collectible miniature games so my experience doesn't necessarily reflect the hobby as a whole.  It's safe to say though that this isn't just a guy thing.

Are these games just for kids?

Again, no.

The age bracket of people I know who play tabletop games is 8 to late 50s.  As someone about to enter his 40s I find it refreshing to see the age bracket being so big.  Given that I started when I was 11/12 it's good to see that so many people are still getting into the hobby at a young age.

If the question was Are these games just for big kids? then my answer is probably Yes!
Why?  Simply because these games are supposed to be fun!  I mean they wouldn't be games otherwise if they weren't fun.  Plus there's nothing wrong with letting that inner child out from time to time to make sure you're not taking things too seriously.

Are these games just for geeks?

In simple terms the answer is No.  As I've said previously, tabletop games are for anyone.
It is true that some people who play Tabletop Games fit into the stereotype of "geek".  By that I mean those stereotypes listed here.
However, the majority of people who play Tabletop Games don't fit into that list of stereotypes but instead fit into the positive categories list here under Positive Stereotypes.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Who plays Tabletop Games? Part 1

Who plays Tabletop Games?  Everyone.

Ok so maybe not everyone but the demographic for tabletop games is essentially everyone.

Breaking it down a little.
If you enjoy sci-fi, fantasy or any other fiction based entertainment (including TV) then there's likely a tabletop game for you.  Towards the end of the 1st Chapter part of my job was to help identify what games would appeal to what people as after all I was trying to sell them.

Do they not cost lots of money though? Well that depends on what you want to play and how you measure value for money.

If you're only going to play a game, any game of any format including video games, just once then yes it's probably not value for money.
Part of the barrier of entry with tabletop games is knowing that you'll play the games more than once.  By getting the right advice from people who know what they are talking about (and in the main I mean people who own shops dedicated to these products) you'll find a game that suits you.

Let me pick on a couple of examples.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

What are Tabletop Games?

Well I did say that "the hobby" was probably a post all on it's own.  Before I get to my musings on the hobby  in any detail I need to lay out some definitions.

Tabletop Games come in all shapes and sizes.  For the purposes of this blog these are the defintions I'll use.

Board Games (BG) - Any game that uses a shared board for the purposes of play. e.g. Settlers Of Catan.
Card Games (CG) - Any game that uses cards as the core mechanic without having a collectible or trading element at that core. e.g. Sentinels Of The Multiverse or Munchkin
Collectible Card Games (CCG) - A card game that has at the core of its design the nature of customising and collecting cards to build variant decks using random packs of cards. e.g. Magic The Gathering
Living Card Games (LCG) - I struggle with how to categorise these so will keep them separate for now. LCGs are the same as CCGs except that the variant decks are built using static packs of cards. e.g. Star Wars The Card Game
Dice Games (DG) - Any game that uses dice as the sole element of play. e.g. Zombie Dice
Collectible Miniature Games (CMG) - A miniatures game that has at the core of its design the building of lists using randomly collected miniatures. e.g. Heroclix
Roleplaying Games (RPG) - A game where the action is largely taking place within the imagination of the players and interaction is more abstract than in most of the other formats.  e.g. Dungeons & Dragons
War Games (WG) - Also could be classed as Non-Collectible Miniature Games.  A miniatures game that has at the core of its design the building of lists using static collected miniatures. e.g. Warhammer 40,000

All of these roll up into the top level definition of Tabletop Games for me.  They are all played on a table and they are all games.

Simple enough?

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

So what's the point?

Why am I making this blog?

For probably 3 reasons.

1) I enjoy talking about the hobby.  After all that's kinda why the 1st Chapter happened.  So the blog won't be just about my experiences of the hobby of tabletop games but will also talk about "the hobby of tabletop games".  What's the difference?  Well that's probably a post in itself...  Posts about "the hobby" will be labelled with "the hobby" simple huh?

2) I am broadening my interest in the hobby.  For a long time I was just a Roleplayer.  If I've taken anything from the 1st Chapter it's that I am now interested in other formats of tabletop gaming.  Whether that be board games, card games or who knows maybe even war games although I think that's unlikely!  Of course there's also a lot about Roleplaying Games that I could write but they're no longer the sole part of the hobby that I enjoy.  Posts about "my hobby" will be labelled with "my hobby".

3) I can see me using this as a brainstorming zone for RPG storylines.  I have been generating a lot of ideas over the past few months for campaigns, something that hasn't happened in a long time which I've put down to how the 1st Chapter ended.  Those ideas are D&D-style and Star Wars settings but not limited to those and I can see me using the blog to share some of those ideas.  Posts about my ideas will be labelled with "ideas".

There are probably more reasons but those are the 3 that stick out.  If I detour from any of those 3 topics I'll tag it differently.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Small moves...

So it started to re-take shape through playing the new Star Wars RPG from FFG.

The main difference I was finding at this point what that I was looking forward to the games and I don't just mean the Star Wars RPG.

The Star Wars LCG game had been sitting on my shelf for several months and I'd got a couple of the Force Packs by this time and yet had never played it.

So enlisting my trusty fellow gamer Erik we set about playing this.  I really enjoyed it despite Erik beating me both times we played.  It certainly takes a little getting used to as the only real card game of that ilk (2-Player competitive) I've played is Magic.

The deck construction rules are a little strange at first but given we were only using the cards from the core set it didn't really come up.  Your deck consists of 10 objective sets or 8 if you're using the core set only. These are blocks of 6 cards with 1 of them being the objective and the other 5 being cards you use to attack your opponent (command deck).

My only grumble is the name "objective" as I don't actually see them as objectives.  They're resources and buffs and all sorts of other things but not objectives. An objective is something you try to succeed at achieving.  The objective of the game is fairly simple and while these sets are used to help you to achieve the overall objective they are not objectives themselves.
If you're the Dark Side you win by having the Death Star dial reach 12 or by the Light Side player running out of cards.
If you're the Light Side you win by destroying 3 Dark Side objectives or by the Dark Side player running out of cards.

So a better name?  I dunno, I'm not a game designer ;-)  In saying that though given that the other deck is called Command Deck could the objectives not be the Conflict or Control Deck?  Nah doesn't sound right either, plus as I say it's a grumble nothing more and certainly doesn't detract from the game.

If you want to learn more about the game then FFG have good video intro on their website -

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Are we there yet?

In the run up to Christmas 2012 Fantasy Flight Games released their Star Wars: Edge Of The Empire Beginner Game RPG.

At the same time Star Wars The Card Game LCG came out.  Having looked at the LCG offerings from FFG previously during the 1st Chapter I had never really been that interested in them.  Largely because none of the themes really grabbed me.  Star Wars however is completely different and so I picked that up too.

Back to the RPG though.  The Beginner Game is everything you need to play the new RPG.  Note I say play as you can't create characters with it however FFG supplied 4 pre-generated characters in the Beginner Game and also supplied 2 other pre-generated characters in PDF format on their website.

I've owned every version of Star Wars in RPG format from the original West End Games editions through all of the editions produced by Wizards Of The Coast and I've enjoyed all of them for different reasons.  The primary reason though is that I find the Star Wars universe is easy to come up with story ideas.

The FFG version of the game is very different at first glance, not least of all the dice.  Once you get your head around them though it's really not that different after all especially if you're used to using dice pool mechanics.
I managed to get a group together at my Friday night gaming and we were off.  This was it.  This was what I needed.  Relaxed gaming with a mix of people I knew well and some I really didn't know that well at all, as a group though it worked.

6 months of gaming later and the full edition of the RPG is now out.  The players want to play it more and I'm keen to run it more so we're going to go through the character creation process in a couple of weeks time.  Some of the players want to migrate their Beginner Game character over but others want to start from scratch.  To maintain balance across the party I'm going to give them the XP earned as additional points to create their characters.  If nothing else it'll give them a connection to the storyline already played through.

So am I back to enjoying my gaming and is the 2nd Chapter up and running?  Almost.  Almost...

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Try something new

So, after trying something a little different and then trying to go with what I knew I could easily have opted for giving up or taking an extended break.

But that's really not what you do with a hobby that has been an integral part of your life now is it?

What I needed was a catalyst to really kick start my hobby.

It started with board games, namely Sentinels Of The Multiverse, Star Wars : X-Wing and some Magic: The Gathering.

I bought a deck builders toolkit for M13 and met up with my good friend Erik to play some friendly Magic.  Largely using a random assortment of cards from the M13 DBT and other cards I had left over from the 1st Chapter.

From there I started to try other things and stumbled upon Sentinels Of The Multiverse -
The Enhanced Edition had just been released and I picked it up after reading some reviews.  This game was the spark I needed and I've since played it about 10 times with a variety of people.

I quickly followed it with Star Wars : X-Wing which gave me a Star Wars gaming "fix".  Now I've only played this 2 or 3 times but it was enough.  Whether I play it again it doesn't matter as it served its purpose.

So we're getting there but I wouldn't quite say we're up and running with the 2nd Chapter.  Not just yet.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Go with what you know

Now by "Go with what you know" I mean RPGs.

*there's a sequel to this post coming so bear with me if you're someone I play with currently*

It's a safe option with me.  Trouble was I didn't want to just leap into a D&D Campaign or similar.  I mean I could have done that but I felt like I needed to try something different.

I decided to complement the Battletech miniatures game with the RPG -

This made a lot of sense.  After all I knew that I liked the setting for Battletech, had people that were interested in the Battletech universe given that they wanted to play the miniatures game and had fond memories of the setting from "my youth".

It kinda worked too, for the players at least...  I got the impression that they liked the game and the scenarios I was running but I wasn't really getting into it.  Most of that was definitely down to where my head was at the time but some of it was down to the game.

Don't get me wrong A Time Of War looks like a great RPG both setting wise and mechanically.  I just think that it was the wrong time and place for me to be trying something completely new.  I wasn't in the comfort zone of my comfort zone if you know what I mean.

So I binned the game (not the book!  It's on my shelf).  Well...  it's more complicated than that as my Friday nights became harder to commit to for a while due to work but ultimately I binned the game.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Something a little different

When you try to rediscover what drove you to enjoy your hobby many people go back to basics.

I kinda did that but instead of going for my "comfort zone" of RPGs I decided to try a game I hadn't played for 20 years or so.

Battletech -

Now I was well aware of the relaunch of Battletech and I remember playing that and the RPG Mechwarrior back in the 80s but I hadn't been anywhere near that universe for a long, long time.  Seeing this as a completely different game from what I'd played in recent years I decided to take the plunge.

Catalyst Game Labs have done a fantastic job with the new starter set.  Everything you need is there and the Value For Money out of the game is also fantastic.  Lots of re-play value and 26 classic mech miniatures to boot.

Miniatures....  Yep that meant I had to paint them.  As I've said previously I don't really enjoy painting miniatures.  I've tried to enjoy it but well that phrase of "try to enjoy" kinda settles it really.  It's not for me.
However when it came to Battletech and to give it a really really good chance I decided to paint them.

I don't have photos of the minis and no I won't be taking any to post them.

So I played what I think was 3 games of Battletech using the simple rules in the space of 2 months.  I think I enjoyed it but the game just felt a bit nothing... Now that might be because it was the first game attempted in the 2nd Chapter (this took place over a year ago) but it might also be because I was the only one who knew the rules...

I can see me re-trying it in the future but at the same time I've no idea when that will be.

Monday, 15 July 2013

I'm Dave and I'm a Roleplayer

and a board gamer, a card gamer and every so often a CCG (well Magic anyway) gamer.

When I decided to close the 1st Chapter I knew that rediscovering my hobby was something that I'd struggle with.

This was more about reminding myself why I enjoyed it than it was about finding people I wanted to enjoy it with but at the same time I had to find those people with whom I'd be comfortable doing that with.

Closing the 1st Chapter was not easy and it was fairly traumatic emotionally and because of that I couldn't bring myself to re-engage with a lot of the people I associated with it's closure.

What I chose to do was to not give up my hobby and so I set myself on a plan to rediscover what I loved about it.  To do that I opted to go for a few different approaches - "Something a little bit different", "Go with what you know" and "Try something new".

Each of these are covered in their own posts.