Seeing it through, building up, it’s the most fun #DnD #RPG

If I really think about it, the thing I enjoy most about a lot of the ‘gamer’ hobbies is when I get a chance to build something. From building a character from low level. To assembling an army or team. Heck, the only video game I really enjoy is about building something. That is what I enjoy doing in the hobby. For some people it is the game itself, the battles, the interaction, but for me it is the building.

Which is probably why I go back to role playing so much. Because the build up is really an integral part of role playing, at least for me. I love coming up with a character to start, and then gradually acquiring the stuff, and skills, to become what I want that character to be. And in a good game that never ends, I am always tinkering. In my Pathfinder game I have a document where I write down what Feats and Skills I will improve next, as well as what magic items I want. I remember in one Shadowrun game I played I drove my GM nuts with all the tinkering and planning, figuring out new tech items to buy, skills to improve. And it is fun when the DM asks if anyone can do something, expecting the answer of no, and you can say yes, my character has that skill covered, or the magic item to counter that bad guy.

And in this current setting for the boys I am beginning to really get into that part of it. Sure I had to alter things a little after the last session. But I have a plan, and I am enjoying writing the adventure that will take the players to that stage. And part of this is what I talked about yesterday. I am slowly building out the overall setting from the small village they started in. With each arc of the campaign they will learn a little more about the world around them and increase what they know of the world. Which is a fun exercise for me.

When I was into table top miniature games the thing I enjoyed most was constructing a force or an army. Getting an army book or rule book, deciding how I would construct the force. Buying the desired miniatures, and then assembling and painting them. And then playing the game almost became secondary. Which is probably one of the reasons I enjoyed the Blood Bowl league I was in a few years back, because that game and style lend themselves to that idea of developing a team from a starting point, who gets what skills etc.

If I go really far back, I can remember when I used to buy little army men and tanks and build model airplanes. I remember my interest and goal was in assembling an order of battle that would resemble a historical unit. Playing with them was fun, but trying to create that force was more interesting. Most of my friends probably thought I was weird when I talked about orders of battle etc.

And when it comes to video games the only one I have ever really enjoyed is Civilization. Which is the ultimate building game. Game play interested me far less than being able to build that successful Empire.

If I had more time I might turn this into other things, crafts. But that is not really where my interests lie. I prefer the more intellectual planning to the actual building.

So if you asked me what the ‘gaming’ hobby means to me, what do I really like about it, it would be the chance to build something. To create worlds and characters out of nothing. To construct armies from a few figures. It is where the real joy of the hobby comes from.

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The concept of symbolism is important in #DnD & #RPG

With the boys game returning to 5E I moved to just using an open table, with some war game terrain and miniatures for combats. This weekend the boys had a hard time with that , because they were expecting the distances to be exact, and I got responses like:

‘How come it takes me a full round to move here, but the monster got there in less?’

Or

‘How come it takes me a whole turn to climb up a cliff that is only twice as tall as my figure?’

So I explained that the figures, terrain and distances were really only symbolic. They are not meant to be exact distances or sizes. Which is not the easiest concept for teenagers to get, but I am trying.

But it is an idea. concept and skill to master. To recognize that something is symbolic. That it is taking the place of the real thing. And that’s a big deal in D&D.

What is the most important stat in the game? Your Hit Points, right? Well Hit points don’t really measure how many sword blows you can take for example. Hit points are symbolic of things like endurance, fatigue, and yes some measure of wounds. But a 10th level fighter is not somehow so much bigger than a 1st level one that he can take being hit by 9 more sword hits. Your hit points are a symbol of your increased ability to endure punishment, ignore pain, ignore fatigue. They are the ultimate symbol for your character. Otherwise at the end of every combat every character would look like the Black Knight in Holy Grail.

That’s a big reason to play role playing games in the first place. Allowing things like the numbers on a piece of paper, and the results of a dice roll, to represent a living person or creature and their luck. And really it is not much different than playing a first person shooter video game.  As a player you are accepting that your ‘character’ is defined by certain arbitrary numbers. And I think that the whole thing is a good exercise.

I realize that not everyone finds this easy. They want to treat everything as tangibly real. And find their entertainment in that fashion. And that is fine. But I do think it is important to give it a shot, to let your imagination go for a while.

I think the boys are getting a good taste of that in the game. It helps expand their mental and emotional horizons. To be forced to think about

‘Why would my character care that her father is disappointed?’

Because thinking in those symbolic terms also helps subconsciously develop a little empathy.

To bring it back to the games. I like using props, miniatures and terrain. But I use them as symbols, not exact representations. Like I wrote about last week, I want to give the game 3 dimensions. Encourage the players to think beyond the board. And so I use the board merely to symbolize what is happening, not give it an exact representation. If they want a more precise sense of representation, I can teach them to play wargames and they can play those. Role playing is about thinking beyond the board. I am not the best at flowery descriptions, although I am working on it. But if I can fill in some of the gaps with the figures and terrain then I can still get the job done of taking them into an alternate world.

More and more progress, the campaign is coming together #DnD #RPG

This has been a good week for progress on the campaign and hobbies in general. I have made some real progress with my campaign planning for the boys. I also took a step back on the painting and yet managed to make some outstanding progress on that front at the same time.

I stuck with my plan to put down the brushes for a little while. I just did not like how that last set of figures looked, and decided that there were a couple of reasons. First, as cool as the miniatures looked to me at one time, they just aren’t that good looking, so any painted work will not turn out well. Second, I probably needed a break from painting, to get my head and eyes a break.

Yesterday I concentrated on one project. I assembled and put on stands all of the remaining Skaven from the Isle of Blood set. Except those that I will have no reason to use in role playing, given that I am not settling into a wholly Warhammer world, there will be no gunpowder weapons. So I am also not putting together the Skaven mortar and warpfire thrower miniatures for my game. That said I now have plenty of figures to paint, and use for what could be some epic battles:

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I decided to just say screw it, and call them Skaven in the boys game. The Spanish word for rats is not very cool sounding, and I did not want to just refer to them as ratfolk or ratlings. It’s not like my campaign is intended for publication or anything that will bring the GW lawyers knocking at my door (knock on wood.)

I also did some work on the campaign, mapping out the floors of the ‘dungeon’ that the boys will begin to deal with next week. I actually enjoyed this. It has been a long time since I actually mapped anything like this. And it gave me some fun mental flashbacks. And keying it all will be next. I am actually feeling pretty ambitious about all this.

The problem is that in the scope of the game I initially planned for one more short adventure that will get them all a level up to third level, which is a big step in D&D 5E. Then alter the campaign after that. But what I have put together could very easily push them well past that point. And the last thing I want to do is have them do the crest to a new level in the middle of the arc.

That brings up an interesting discussion. When do the characters level up? And if they do, how do you handle it. While moving from 2 to 3 is not the jump that say 4 to 5 is, it is still a jump. And from a pure role playing perspective I want the boys to understand the choices they all make when they make that change. One of the problems our Denver game is running into is timing that level up. Our last one took place in the middle of a dungeon, so characters got some of what they earned, but not all of it because they didn’t really have the chance to re-rack their spells they way the would have if they were between adventures.

So I am trying my best to be cognizant of all this, and create games that will track their earnings and not get a surprise level change like that.

Now I know where everything is, which makes it easier to design #DnD #RPG @TheAngryGM

A year ago, when I was first getting started with the boys game it was after a long lay off of most gaming. I had been playing in a Blood Bowl league, but that required all of one case of figures, and one box of rules. So I didn’t really know where things were. And I didn’t really know the rules of D&D all that well.

Since then a few things have happened. I learned the systems through pure experience. I refreshed my ability to deep dive into a rule set and really figure out how to play a game. And I got back into painting miniatures, so I could use them. Last, I really began to absorb some of the resources on the Internet. It is only now, a year later that I think I am really beginning to get the hang of being a Dungeon Master.

Nothing helps learn a system than to just play it, and try to run a game with it. When I got all my books last year I was marveling at how good they all were. What a great resource and how happy I was with the game. But I didn’t really begin to dig into them. They were resources that I referenced during a game, not something that I absorbed. And it took me a while to begin to really absorb some knowledge from them.

Then I started playing up in Denver, playing Pathfinder. Which I admit satisfied my thirst for ‘crunchy’ rules versatility. You can really do just about anything in Pathfinder, and there are rules for it. So I switched the boys over to that for the remainder of that game. Which was not universally enjoyed. But that time did do one important thing for me. It reawakened my latent skills for absorbing game mechanics. At one time I could pick up a new rule book and grok the mechanics pretty easily. But that skill was dormant a year ago, so there were a number of things that I did not catch or grasp. But that ability is slowly returning, mechanics are beginning to come back to me.

When I started to introduce miniatures into the boys game I just kind of rummaged around in my many boxes for what I wanted. And I confess to spending a lot of time looking in case after case, sometimes looking at the same case multiple times for the same miniature. Then I decided to take the plunge and really start painting again, if only for role playing. That spurred me to move my miniatures to a location that was easier to access. And then this past weekend I finally went through each case, figured out what was in them, labeled them correctly, and then stacked them correctly. Now I can find the miniature I want, when I want it.

Last, I began fumbling around the Internet for blogs and articles on role playing. I found a number of resources. Read through them. And gradually winnowed out what was consistent and what wasn’t. And now I can really begin to get good information from them. Those posts are often best at helping me understand things in the books that even I cannot quite put together. In particular I have to thank @TheAngryGM, who is very good at making things clear, and pulling together the big picture in ways I am slowly beginning to grasp.

I’m not saying I have it all together perfectly yet. No one really does, if they did they wouldn’t need rule books. But I can say that I at least know where everything is that I need to design and run a game. And I can better grasp how the pieces can fit together to make a complete game. And with this new campaign for the boys I will run a much better, more consistent, and enjoyable game for all of us. And that is really all I can ask, it has taken some time and work to get here, but I am pleased with the result so far.

Making Monsters, based on what I have #DND #RPG (also a hat tip to @TheAngryGM)

(Excerpt from ‘Humanoid races of the Western Tortugan Frontier’)

The Gente Ratta were first discovered during the time of Count Vilpiano, the third Count of Rosaroca. Initially they were found in an exploration of ancient ruins from the Cataclysm Era. While not initially thought of as a threat, it was only after further exploration in the region, particularly in a number of the ancient ruin complexes that exist in the middle elevations of the DragonWall mountains, that their true nature and size of the race was determined.

The first Rats that were found were just simple soldiers. While large in number it was determined that they were not that much of a threat. Attacking in packs, equipped with piece meal armor, and using mostly pole arms, they were ferocious and willing to take large losses. But their lack of strength and skill limited their actual real effectiveness. Thus it was first thought that they were no more of a threat than some Goblin tribes, or Kobold tribes.

As their numbers grew they became a bigger problem. Often creeping in and taking over areas that had already been explored and deemed safe. But it was not until the first of their larger kin appeared that the race began to be considered a viable threat to the settlements in the region. The Rat Ogres frightened the settlers when they first appeared among a pack of the rat soldiers, large, tough, with strange markings and occasionally odd mechanical devices connected to them. These terrible creatures often broke the lines of the first human warriors to face them in battle.

But the tipping point for the threat of the Rats was the appearance of their dread Sorcerers. These beings, blessed with infernal blood, and wielding spells gifted them from their Abyssal lords, brought an intelligence and fanaticism to the Rat ranks. Where a pack of rats might initially be broken by a strong defense or a Rat Ogre might be brought down by massed arrow fire these creatures magic was a great equalizer. 

It was only the Chaotic nature of the Rats that kep them from becoming a larger threat to the region. Keeping different groups from banding together. And in some cases even fighting between different groups over a set of ruins. This was what led the forces of the County to develop a plan of battle that was eventually successful against them.

Continue reading “Making Monsters, based on what I have #DND #RPG (also a hat tip to @TheAngryGM)”

Why miniatures are important to my role playing #DnD #Roleplaying

I can still remember the first figure I ever bought. It was a Ral Partha barbarian figure, purchased not long after I got my first D&D books. If I painted it, it was with terrible oil based airplane model paint, and it never played a big role in what I was doing as a player. But that was a long time ago, and now things have evolved.

At one time, when I was living in North Carolina I bought and painted a figure that I then worked to create in my game. It was an Arabian Knights type of swordsman, that I gave a blue tinted skin. And then I declared that he was a sea elf, and was working as a bard. That was the first time I really got into the idea of using a miniature as inspiration for making a character.

I got into actual table top war games after that. And I had a great time taking a figure and fitting him into my armies, and then creating stories behind my armies. Probably my best example of this was when I was playing in a Warhammer Fantasy battle campaign, and using the mercenary army rules as a background for a Middle Eastern style empire. I was having a great time with that, and the trash talk was a lot of fun, right up to 9/11, then it ceased to be fun. Soon after I began to lose interest, and then time to play table top war games.

Anyway I painted in fits and starts after that. And played in various role playing games where miniatures were just not used. Not a big deal, it was just the style of the games, there was no real reason to illustrate the few battles we had.

And now I am back in the thick of it. When I started the Denver game I mad a point to go out and find a figure for my character, and then his animal companion. And I used some of my existing Warhammer figures for the boys in their game.

But when I was talking about the new game I came up with an idea. I would let the boys pick a figure from the store that fit their idea for their character, then buy it and paint it for them. I did the first one with Jimmy this week. I like his choice, but he wants to paint it. which I will let him do.

But, interestingly I came across a figure for myself that better fits the way my Denver character has evolved. So that is what I will be painting for myself. With the goal of using him up there soon.

I think that for good, experienced players in less combat oriented games miniatures are not necessary. But, for me, and I think the boys, it will actually help them to have that figure to represent them. To help them visualize what there character is. I know it helps me, seeing that archer reminded me of what I was doing. And now the new snake man will fit the way my character has changed.

And the fact that I have access to Lizardmen and Skaven instead of Orcs, Goblins etc. will definitely affect my style of campaign. This new campaign will be ruled by those races as the ‘bad guys’ and adversary races, rather than the more traditional High Fantasy races.

As you can see, miniatures are linked to my role playing for the most part. And that is why they are one of my favorite tools. And help me in playing and running my games.

Yeah, that’s right, I’m gonna go rogue #DnD

Here’s the deal. While D&D 5E is not as miniatures based as Pathfinder I do like to use figures. And I do think it helps the boys to picture what they are doing. So I am planning out the new campaign for the boys and I have a problem. I have been getting away with proxies for a while now. And that is cool. And will certainly be the case if they run into something unusual, like a Giant Spider, or some odd creature like that.

But while it won’t be the case right away I would like to be able to represent the bad guys they see most often accurately. And I do have a pretty large collection of miniatures from my days playing Warhammer. But you know what I never elected to keep or play as an army? Orks and Goblins. And what are the most common bad guys in many games? Orks and Goblins.

Well I had been thinking about this for a while. And I do have some options. But I don’t want to go back to the well of a Japanese themed setting again, as the boys just had not interest in it. So that cuts out my collection of Clan War miniatures. But then it came to me, why not just go rogue? Do some different stuff with the bad guys?

Continue reading “Yeah, that’s right, I’m gonna go rogue #DnD”

Excited by the new worlds and directions #StarWars #Warzone #Roleplaying

Okay, I got a little carried away this week. The gaming budget took a serious hit. But I am excited about it all. I got some new things to share with the boys and other folks who might be interested. And while I have lots of cool games to play with, some times something new is fun just for the sake of new. Now it is time to share a little of what I got.

Continue reading “Excited by the new worlds and directions #StarWars #Warzone #Roleplaying”

This is Viper #DnD #Miniatures

Viper didn’t plan to be a hero. In fact he is surprised he is even alive. A war orphan raised in the woods mostly on his own, an outcast from birth due to his parentage, he didn’t have a promising beginning. And his early life was mostly spent on his own. learning the skills of a Ranger, hunting and trapping in the hills around Clermont. It wasn’t until he was summoned by the Count to join the Sheriff’s group that he began to come into his own.

Now he has come into his own, a truly dangerous person. A masterful archer, swordsman, learning more and more about the world around him. He has now begun to truly explore the realm of alchemy and potion brewing, in the hopes of making the lives of those around him better. While he still prefers the company of his snakes, he has learned how to fight beyond those limits.

Continue reading “This is Viper #DnD #Miniatures”

I’ll admit it didn’t start out how I hoped #Miniatures #Painting

Miniature Painting

Here is the link to my Flickr album containing pictures of my work so far. For now I am not going to insert any pictures of my progress here. I will eventually, but first 2 things have to happen.

Continue reading “I’ll admit it didn’t start out how I hoped #Miniatures #Painting”