Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Universal Creature Profile

It was fun playing around with another type of Universal Profile last week, so let's keep it rolling. Can we make this work for creatures?

Roll 5d6, drop the highest, then read the remaining dice in order as:

Bone: How much hard structure does this thing have?
Flesh: How much soft stuff does this thing have?
Senses: How acute are its senses?
Brain: How intelligent is it?

1=1: A Bit
2=2: Some
3=3: Lots
4=N: Null, actively none, perhaps by design
5=H: Hazardous, not through lack or excess but the nature of the thing
6=S: Super, off the scale. Think big then go bigger.


32H2 - Chitinous bug creature. It hijacks the senses of nearby creatures, severely limiting the victims own senses during this time, causing permanent damage if the bug isn't hunted down and driven out of the victim's head. 

211H - Scrawny little wretches, fumbling around in the light of their hazardous lanterns, but crafty enough to have learned to use local wildlife to their advantage. If you find yourself beset by hostile encounters, perhaps one of these is pulling the strings in the shadows.

HN21 - A monster made entirely of bristling bone spines, tipped with paralysing  venom. Simple minded scavenger that generally wants leaving alone, but won't hesitate to drive away competition for its carrion.

3S33 - Hulking ogre-like creature, as big as their mountain. They understand their realm better than anybody else, but more content to delegate work to their minions while they enjoy the fruits of their success. Frustrated by being surrounded by idiots. 

Art by Midjourney


This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Universal Borough Profile

I've had a week off, enjoying/surviving Paris, one of my favourite cities to visit. To go full cliché, it's a city of many halves, each one beautiful and terrifying in its own way. Shades of Bastion everywhere. 

Looking back at my Universal Hex Profile, let's see if we can refit it to generate a Borough of Bastion. 


Roll 5d6, drop the highest, then read the remaining dice in order as:

Climb: How wrecked are your legs after a day walking here?
Code: How screwed are outsiders without a guide?
Crush: How tightly packed is everyone/everything?
Crap: How much filth is lying around?

1=1: A Bit
2=2: Some
3=3: Lots
4=N: Null, actively none, perhaps by design
5=H: Hazardous, not through lack or excess but the nature of the thing
6=S: Super, off the scale. Think big then go bigger.


S132 - The ultra-vertical high-stacked Borough taken to its extreme, pushing through the smog and the clouds, mostly welcoming for the tightly packed crowds of tourists, leaving piles of rubbish in their wake. 

3NN3 - Residential buildings and heaps of industrial waste both piled high, but now walled up as an insurance write-off. Nobody can live here anymore, and visitors only permitted under armed escort. Any valuables found within are used to help pay off the Borough's debts. Perhaps one day it'll break even again. 

H212 - Built on the broken ground of a failed urban mine, getting from one street to another often requires ropes and spikes. Because of that, most of the residents came from mountainous regions of Deep Country, bringing their spiky dialect with them. Not much in the way of public services, but nice to escape the crowds. 

311N - Concentric spirals of paved steps, or funicular if you can afford it. The streets are clean, spacious, and well signed. When you see a Borough like this you have to ask why more people don't live here. Cost might be a factor, but there's usually something more sinister too. 


Art by Midjourney

This post was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site the week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon. 

Wednesday, 8 March 2023

Rolling Back a Decade

This week's post has been largely replaced by being away on holiday. I'm back now but putting things up a week early on Patreon really messes with the post-time continuum. 

So while I'm (not) away, let's break time even further by travelling back ten years, when Into the Odd was being playtested, unaware of its bright future. 

Two old posts condensed into one. 

In Favour of Static Saves

You might notice a big change in the current edition of Into the Odd.

Saves are now "roll equal or under the appropriate stat". Nothing modifies this roll.

Here's my reasoning.

I want players to be fully informed of the risks they take.

A character with DEX 7 now knows that they'll have to roll 7 or less on a d20 to pass a DEX Save. No matter what. They won't be asking you what number they'd have to Save against when considering their actions. All the data they need to make an informed choice is on their own character sheet.

The game advises Referees to warn players when their actions will lead to a Save. Saves occur as a result of a choice or action.

These factors should combine to make the DEX 7 player do whatever they can to avoid DEX Saves. No leaping across that pit unless it's a safe jump. Better yet, let's find a way to bridge the gap or go in another direction.

The changes should also eliminate the unpleasant surprise a Save can bring. Imagine this.

A STR 12 character is fighting a corrupt guard. They take a big hit, run out of HP and find out their opponent has STR 17.

The Referee said the guy looked burly, but STR 17?

Using the old system, the player must now roll 15 or more to avoid being incapacitated and possible killed. I love deadly combat, but this could come out of nowhere.

I don't want players to be thinking about the STR score of their opponents or working out probabilities during combat. Having static Saves greatly reduces the amount of numeric data you're factoring into the decision and lets you focus on the situation.

D&D was pretty close to having static saves all the way up to third edition, and that seemed to work just fine. Of course, saves were often modified for tougher circumstances, which I won't be doing.

So, let's get this straight. A STR 10 character has a 50% chance to avoid Critical Damage from both a stick-waving street urchin and a Timeless Horror from Beyond?


The Urchin is beating his stick for d4 damage. He has a handful of hp and you can knock him down without much thought.

The Astral Horror is lashing out for d12 damage, warps your form into a tortured abomination with each hit and constantly barrages you with mind control effects. Your swords and bullets glean off its shadowy hide, turning your weapons ice cold. Even if you find something that can hurt it, it has dozens of hp and is going to make a few Saves before you can bring it down.

I'm not worried about the Astral Horror not being scary.

Why Don't I Get Better At Fighting?

For the mundane Into the Odd character, not interested in Arcana, you hit a peak of offensive ability quite early on.

Get yourself a set of Modern Armour and a Field Weapon. Congratulations, you're dishing out 1d6+1 damage and ignoring a point of damage against you from each attack. That's about as good as things get. No, you don't get an attack bonus as you level. No, your high STR doesn't give you a damage bonus. No, you don't gain feats and powers.

Sucks, right?

What advancement really does is give you the opportunity to fight smarter. There are a few ways this works. 

  • You have more hitpoints, letting you stay in the fight for longer. You can't fight if you're dead.
  • Your Ability Scores will increase a little. This lets you pass Saves to avoid nasty monster effects and makes risky combat manoeuvres more viable.
  • If you're on a battlefield, and of any real importance, you should be on a horse. The armour and damage bonus here is quite a big deal.
  • You've been gathering riches this whole time. Even if you don't carry your cannon everywhere, you might have a small army or a galleon that can fire broadsides at your more persistent enemies. At the very least you should know when to take your elephant gun, fire oil and bombs with you on expeditions.
  • Even if you aren't using Arcana to cast Spells, you'll have gathered a bunch of weird stuff along the way. You have a potion that turns you into the Hulk, a thermal detonator and a glass jar containing some sort of intelligent lightning bolt. When things get tough, each one of these could save you. 

These are all very deliberate design decisions. One of the main goals of Into the Odd is to take the focus away from the character sheet. There really isn't much on there. Three Ability Scores that you only use for Saves, your hitpoints, and a bunch of gear. 

But you want to be Legolas with Flintlock Pistols, blasting away dozens of foes each turn. I'm not saying you can't make your mark on the battlefield, but it isn't all about damage output.

Legolas was only able to fight like that because he had five times the hitpoints of Joe Averagelf and rolled well on his STR and DEX scores. Joe can stab an orc with twin daggers just as easily, but gets an axe buried in his back on the next turn. Legolas has the luxury of surviving long enough to look cool before shield-surfing to safety. He's grabbing a short rest off-camera while his hp recover.

Shooting guys with his bow while he shield-surfs? Good job he has such a high DEX, or he'd have found himself plummeting into the orc horde for trying something so stupid.

Advancement in Into the Odd doesn't give you huge damage output and cinematic combat abilities. It gives you the survivability that you need to be able to act heroically.

Just remember, you're still going to fail Saves. Is climbing on top of the elephant really worth what will happen if you fall down into the beast's path?

Monday, 27 February 2023

MAC Attack Playthrough

This week I've done a little run-through of MAC Attack. An ideal place to jump in if you're curious about Mech fighting games. 

And now I'm off on holiday for a week! Next week we'll get back to normal. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2023

Why are you still here?

I've spoken about this before, but I like to periodically look through a game and ask each individual rule "why are you still here?"

But don't get complacent. Even if a rule has justified its place before, things have probably changed. 

BUT also don't get bloodthirsty. I know I've boasted of my love of ludocide, but I've been guilty of going too far. Sometimes the situation has changed, but the rule still has a place.

Bastiard newspapers with a bias toward rigorous rulesetting often depict me as an executioner, butcher, or assassin.

 Less theory, more practice. Here are a couple of recent examples from the workshop. 

Mythic Bastionland - Burden Exposure

Burdens are one of Mythic Bastionland's big rules changes from EB and ITO. You'll sometimes gain a Burden because things went badly, or as the cost to perform a heroic feat. Each has a specific way to remove it, so Fatigue is removed when you get a hot meal and proper rest. If you have the maximum 3 Burdens then you're Exposed, acting as if you had 0 Guard (equivalent to HP in this game). 

The idea is that Burdens are bad, but they're going to happen, so the Knights should have one eye on ways to remove those that they take on, and consider when it's worth exerting themselves. 

So what's changed since I wrote the Burden rules?

There's now greater focus on Feats, things that Knights can do to give themselves an advantage in combat, or protect themselves from death, at the cost of a Burden. They can only do these if they aren't already at full Burden capacity. 

It's created a bit of a double jeopardy situation, where the idea of "you're vulnerable when fully Burdened" is applied in two different ways:

Firstly through being Exposed when you have 3 Burdens.

Secondly through being unable to use the Endure Feat when you have 3 Burdens, a common way of cheating death. 

I haven't drawn a verdict on this one yet, as these double jeopardy situations aren't  innately a bad thing, it's just worth sticking a flag in it. 

MAC Attack - Preferred  Weapon Ranges

Weapons in MAC Attack typically looked like this: Cannon (K): S2 L1

This shows the Attack Value of the weapon at each of its effective ranges. Here it has AV2 at Short Range and AV1 at Long Range. These range categories are universal for all weapons. The K notes that it's a Kinetic weapon, which grants a special rule for that weapon type.

This was written at a time when all weapons generated 1 Heat when fired. Bigger MACs could carry more weapons and the heatsinks that allowed them to keep firing, so tended to have a bigger output. 

So what's changed since then?

I added bigger versions of each weapon, typically boosting their AV at the cost of generating more Heat. I also cut down on the number of range categories in the game, so now there was just Short, Long, and Arc for indirect fire. 

Crucially, MACs were also standardised with 6 module slots. Bigger models got their advantages through better heat management and resilience. To give some options for these big MACs I added further tiers of "big gun" that could be equipped, giving greater damage for a higher heat cost. 

So you might  have that Cannon (K): S2 L1 from before alongside an XL-Cannon (K): S3 L2 and even an Ultra-Cannon (K): S4 L3. 

Here it's not so much a case of any one of those rules clashing with the existing system, but with an increasing number of options to differentiate weapons, did they really need to list how effective they were at two different range bands? 

The range bands were tweaked to be a little less restrictive, and now weapons simply listed the single range at which they can attack, the type of damage it causes, and its Calibre which dictates both AV and Heat usage. 

So that Cannon becomes Cannon: LK2. Long range, Kinetic Weapon, Calibre 2. 

Side benefit, this reads like a Battletech style model-number, so can be written as LK2 Heavy Cannon or ST3 Macro-Burner instead. You can give it whatever name you like as long as the code is there. 

One rule lives for now, another is reborn in a new form. Who says I'm not fair to these poor blighters.

Wednesday, 15 February 2023

The Battle of Bastionland

I've been jumping around between various wargames lately, so it's perhaps a good time to take stock of where we're at:

The Doomed

Pre-orders are cropping up for this now, so I'm doing various articles and podcasts in anticipation for the launch. Expect to be sick of seeing and hearing me very soon. 

1x1 Horse & Musket

Last week I recorded this playthrough of the rules, though I should note the specifics have changed slightly since then. 

Great clickbait title, right?

In practical terms I've sort of got what I wanted out of this. Everything needed for a big battle fits in a tiny box and I'm looking forward to dropping it on unsuspecting opponents.

Not to say I won't keep messing with it. I've got Medieval and Modern versions on my workbench but they don't quite work just yet. 

MAC Attack

This one had a big change recently, essentially overhauling the weapon system. I'm really happy with how this one's going, and looking forward to running some more playtests. 

Project 10

Arrgh... my pile of shame!

I've been pretty well disciplined in not buying loads of miniatures until I've painted my current lot, but the 10mm units I bought for Project 10 are the clear exception. Years later I have 5 units completed out of... 14 that I need to actually run a game. 

I have a good handful of little 10mm medieval guys just waiting to join the fray, but for now they're going to have to sit tight. 

Still, the system works, and I enjoyed playtesting it with cards last year, but for now this one holds a degree of shame. 

Battle of Bastionland

Okay, so this one is new, and it's what you clicked onto this post for, so what's the deal?

Looking over the wargames I had in various stages of completion I had:
  • The Doomed for warband level skirmishes and monster fighting
  • Project 10 for classic fantasy regiments wheeling around the field
  • 1x1 for grand scale battles on a tiny board
  • MAC Attack for 6mm sci-fi with mechs, tanks, and infantry squads
There's an obvious gap there for something involving a handful of squads, but still basing each soldier individually. Perhaps something with a bit more Morale and Command & Control than my other efforts. I think those in the know would call it large skirmish

I mean I could just play a pre-existing game but where's the fun in that?

But let me wear my influences on my sleeve:
  • NUTS! really grabbed me in its back-and-forth combat flow and feel of having a toolbox full of toys, but it's also a little obtuse for me to fully grok. I fear it's doomed to be one of those games that I love the idea of rather than the reality. 
  • Turnip28 wallows in the grime of gunpowder era war and has a nice simple core. 
  • Xenos Rampant has been great fun the few times I've played. I like the modular units and the way morale is handled, but there's a lingering dissatisfaction in how some of the specific units perform. Careful choice of armies and scenarios can remedy this, but it feels like a missed opportunity.
  • I'm on a real binge for just about anything from Nordic Weasel right now. 
And of course I wanted to try and fit all of the actual rules of play on a single page which... I kinda did? Okay give me two pages then so we can keep the line breaks. 

So some of the specifics of Battle for Bastionland?
  • It's all about Smoke, Mud, and Blood. Your squads will amass all three as the war wears away at their humanity, if they started with any. 
  • You pick 3 squads from the list, each having 6 or 12 individual members depending on how big a battle you want to do. This means your full Company is either 18 or 36 miniatures in total.
  • Oh, but that's their full strength and not all of them will actually show up for battle. Latecomers might appear later, but don't bank on it. 
  • Squad type gives you a fancy ability, and each squad leader is a Corporal who chooses their own individual advantage.
  • EXCEPT one squad leader is actually your overall Captain, and they choose an ability that's actually a disadvantage. Who put this donkey in command?
  • Kitbash Attitude is in full effect, with all of Bastion's variety on show. You'll probably want a gun that looks like it's from WW2 or earlier, but other than that go wild. Bring muskets, helmets, and the tallest hats you can muster. 
  • Order Dice are rolled at the start of your turn, meaning you won't always be able to achieve exactly what you want. You get some Reaction Dice on your opponent's turn too, so pay attention to their movements. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2023

Making 2mm Scale Even Smaller

EDIT: If you read this on Patreon last week, be aware there are some changes as I've worked on the game a bit.

There's a meme somewhere about how miniature wargamers move to increasingly smaller scales as their eyesight worsens with age.

Well I've written about my history with 28mm miniatures.

Then I started messing around with 10mm scale.

Recently I made a dip into the long-admired 6mm via Battletech and Epic.

For scale these unit bases are 25mm (1") square

So of course I've gone and bought myself some 2mm scale Napoleonic nonsense to try out. 

(I always feel like I should apologise to all the RPG people when I end up writing a post about wargames, but today's the day I stop beating myself up)

I originally picked up a pair of 2mm armies and set of terrain thinking I could quickly paint up some units to use with One Hour Wargames, creating an ultra-portable wargame in a box, or maybe use something like Rebels and Patriots since I've been enjoying the Rampant family of games recently. 

Then I stumbled onto 2x2 Napoleonics by Rod Humble and I felt the click. This quick reference sheet is particularly nice.  

Something about this system grabbed me. It feels very purposeful, focused in on a few specific elements of the era at hand (here the Glue of War and the Evolving Battlefield. Units mostly behave in the same manner with a few major exceptions where appropriate. There's a bit of "+1/-1 overload" (for me) in the combat resolution, but overall things are decisive and simple. 

I'm keen to try this system out as written, but of course I wanted to see if I could strip it back even further.

Here's what I'm calling the 1x1 Wargame, in honour of cramming hundreds of soldiers onto a 1x1" base.  

I'm not sure if this game can be understood on its own yet, so you might need to read through 2x2 Napoleonics if something doesn't make sense, though remember I've cut a lot of that system away too.   

I've replaced all of the +1/-1 modifiers with a clause where the player gains Edge on their roll (rolling two dice and keeping the highest) if they meet a certain requirement. There's just one of these clauses for each of the four types of roll in the game.

Everything else is just a straight d6 roll, no +1s or -1s to be found. Threshold for success is also 4+ across the board. 

Working within these self-imposed restrictions forces some lateral thinking in modelling expected combat effects. Here's how some of the modifiers from 2x2 Napoleonics have been modelled into this system in other ways:

  • In assaults ties normally go to the defender, but charging cavalry always win ties. Their speed also means they're able to run down retreating enemies, giving them a further boost in assaults.
  • Hills let you fire over other units, so you'll still want to put your cannons up there even if there's not a numerical benefit.
  • Walls break ties for the defender on Firing attacks, and cavalry just can't enter. 
  • Elite troops get an Edge on Rally rolls.
  • Everybody gets an Edge when assaulting Disrupted/Light/HQ units.
  • Everybody gets an Edge firing at Cavalry, so you'll want yours to charge infantry in a way that prevents them shooting you first, typically by disrupting them or charging the flank.
  • Artillery are automatically Broken when Assaulted, so don't let this happen. 
  • Assaulting a target with multiple units is less about maximising your roll and more about gaining some much needed protection from the somewhat unpredictable assault roll. Having that second unit engaged prevents the enemy from chasing you down if your first unit retreats. If you can get around the back then you can cut off their retreat too. Assaults are less about piling in from all angles and more about disrupting the enemy with fire before moving in with the bayonets or sabres.  

So while this sounds like a lot when I go into it, it's all there on a single page of A4. 

Why am I doing this? Is this really better just having a list of +1s and -1s? It feels better for me, and I've always said that games should be selfishly designed, rather than trying to make something somebody else would like. Maybe I'll see if this same structure can work for something more Medieval just by changing around the units, edges, and combat tables. 

So let me know if this selfish design has the side effect of being fun for anybody else!