Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Broken Dice Games of Bastion


These games rely heavily on luck, bluffing, pushing luck, and other things that work well in a bar or alleyway. 

The most popular ones are often the least fair.

Of course Bastion has far too many of this type of game to document, so the following are merely a selection.

You need some six sided dice and maybe a scrap of paper or a good memory. 



The Boar Game AKA The Dog Game / Spurs / Trough / Sleighride

Has its origins around the ancient tradition of Boar Racing, now a rarity in Bastion. 

One player rolls five dice. These are the boars, and the boar with the highest score is leading the race. 

A round of betting occurs, where players can place up to one coin on a single boar. 

One player rerolls each die, adding the new score to the previous score. If the roll is a 6 their total score is unchanged.

If this takes the boar above 6 they have "Snouted Out" and are out of the race. 

If there is ever just one Boar in the race then they immediately win. Otherwise, a second round of betting occurs, then each die is rolled one more time and added to the boars running score, with 6s still leaving them unchanged.

The race ends after this third set of rolls. 

The highest remaining boar wins the race. 

If there is a draw, or all of the boars snouted out, then the pot rolls over to the next round. 

If there is a winning boar then the pot is split proportionally based on each player's stake on the winner. Remainders are rolled over into the pot.

This game has a habit of rolling the pot over and producing inconclusive results. When the game ends, any remaining pot is traditionally spent on shared food.



Egg AKA Big Stones / Messy Facey / Mister Facey / Scratch

Take three dice, designating one as the Egg. Commonly white. 

All players must keep their hands behind the edge of the table until all dice have hit the table. 

One player rolls all three dice. 

If the Egg is not the highest or joint highest die they add its value to their total score and pass play to their left. 

If the Egg is the highest, or joint highest, then the first player to grab the egg gets that many points and play continues with them. 

If all dice show the same result the first player to touch the thrower's face takes the dice and adds the value of all three to their total.

First player to reach 24 points wins. 

This game has a reputation for causing eye injuries and pub brawls. Some versions eschew the face-touching rule, but enthusiasts say that something is lost. 

Thirty Sticks AKA Country Snooker / Green Rider / Horsebox

Take three dice. Play is based around forfeits, often taking a drink.

The first player rolls three dice and freezes one of them in the centre of the table, then passes to any other player of their choice. If at least two dice match they can choose to pass without freezing a die.

When only two dice remain, players continue with the same process, again they can always choose to pass without freezing a die if the two dice match, and passes 

When only one die remains the active player must roll the single die and score a value equal or between the two values frozen in the centre of the table. If they fail they must pay the forfeit. If they succeed, both adjacent players pay the forfeit. 

If the player succeeds on this final roll when the two frozen dice show the same value then all other players must pay the forfeit, traditionally the active player hitting them all with a stick. 


Honest Judge AKA Guillotine / Hot Pickle / Pastor's Dice

Each player takes two dice and rolls them, revealing one and keeping the other secret.

The first player states their bid, between 2-12. Play moves to the left, with each player announcing a higher bid. 

Any player can shout GUILTY to doubt another player's bid. If they do this, that player reveals their dice.

If their total on both dice equals or beats their bid, the player calling GUILTY is eliminated from the game and scorned for lack of trust. 

If their total on both dice is lower than their bid they are eliminated from the game and scorned for lying. 

Instead of bidding, a player may reveal both of their dice. They do not bid any further in this round. 

If only one player remains in the round they choose one player to eliminate from the game.

There are so many more interesting, strategic lying dice games than this, but Bastiards apparently get a real kick out of loudly scorning each other while pretending to be completely honest, so this is one of the more popular.


Cut the Tail Off AKA Anchovies / Cannery / Lunch Line 

Players take turns being the Cutter. The other players are the Crowd.

The Cutter takes six dice and rolls them all. They choose one to keep aside, then roll the remaining five dice and repeat this sequence until they have have one die of each number 1-6.

There are three special actions they can perform once each per attempt. 

"Cut the Tail Off" to reduce a die by 1.

"Pull the Stomach Out" to reduce a die by 2.

"Put a Hat on It" to increase a die by 3. 

Immediately after the third die has been set aside, players in the Crowd must decide whether or not to place their support on the Cutter succeeding.

If the Cutter succeeds, all of the Crowd that failed to support them face a forfeit.

If the Cutter fails, they and all of the Crowd that  supported them face a forfeit.






Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Project 10 - Distilling Units

Project 10 has really been keeping me busy.

And looks like these little guys will be doing the same for my evenings.



Order and Chaos

I explained the basics of the system in the previous post, and the tests that I've done so far have really highlighted the weird mix of order and chaos that exists in this game. 

There's no explicit command and control or morale in here. Lots of wargames simulate the fact that a commander doesn't have total control over their units, so sometimes they just won't do what you want, and in the heat of battle they might turn and run or freeze up.

I get this from a simulation point of view, but it's never appealed to me in gameplay. The systems can feel a bit fiddly for me, and I find them more frustrating than interesting. So in this game there are still times you'll want to withdraw a unit so that they can regroup, but that's all in your control. For movement and positioning, units always do what you want them to.

It's a different story once the fighting gets started. 

The Combat Dice you roll for attacks (imagine d6s with the 4, 5, and 6s changed to 0s) really deliver those moments where you line up the perfect flank charge and roll a handful of zeros, or your peasant levies get a sudden surge of bloodlust and cut through an entire unit of knights in two turns. 

Even something small like rolling for first-turn each Round can make the whole battle flip because of chance. You knew that there was a chance the enemy would get a double-turn, but you just didn't want it to happen right now when they've got everything lined up. Now that two-turn peasant-on-knight bloodbath is happening before you even get a chance to respond. 

You get moments that feel great, and moments that feel like you've been cursed, and this is very much by design. Manoeuvres and strategizing feels orderly, but then the bloodshed provides spikes of chaos. 

For now I'm happy with that, but it'll be interesting to see how more players respond. 

The Units

I've always been interested in how mass-battle games handle different unit types. At this scale it's common to have a few unit archetypes with quite specific rules for how they interact with the battlefield and each other. 

Pikes can't move through woods but get advantage vs cavalry. Swords get advantage vs Pikes etc. 

One Hour Wargames, which was the catalyst for this game, has some units that work this way, but most units are just specialised at doing one or two things, rather than being explicitly designed as counters to another unit type. 

On the one hand, this sort of game is often based around a web of hard and soft counters, but I prefer a more subtle guiding hand. Some unit types are made to excel against others, but I don't want it to be an outright paper-beats-rock situation. 

The chaos mentioned above helps with that, but the unit design is really where it comes in.

Units are now defined entirely by Traits, of which there are currently sixteen (and I'm always looking to chop this list down). A typical unit might have two Traits, three if they're fancy or elite, with four being restricted to those that need some weird restrictions to feel right (typically artillery and chariots). 

So let's look at the current list and see if they all justify their place on the page. We'll split them into a few broad categories to help with comparisons. 


Movement

Agile: Each pivot may be up to 180°. You can perform your Movement phase at any point in your turn. 
This is here for your loose units that can't gallop around like cavalry, but get a lot more flexibility for how they use their movement, allowing for some clever manoeuvring. 

Fast: Move 2 Measures in open terrain.
Other than Fly, this is the only way to move further than 1 measure, and works as an all-purpose Trait for cavalry and chariots. The limitation to open terrain is easy to remember and adds a nice little bit of terrain impact. 

Fly: Move 2 Measures, ignoring terrain and enemies.
Super niche trait that sort of needs to exist, but it really is just a better version of Fast. I wanted to avoid complex systems with different types of flight, soaring, landing etc, so this works as a simple approach for your eagles, harpies etc. 

Clumsy: Cannot enter Rough Terrain or Support allies.
This one emerged out of a playtest this weekend, where a catapult unit potentially ended up supporting an infantry unit, which didn't make any sense at a range where their catapult couldn't even fire. It also keeps Chariots from crashing through forests. 

Rigid: Cannot disengage from Melee.
Another one that arose out of necessity to stop artillery crews from fleeing melee with their cannons in tow. Wish I could roll this and clumsy together, but Rigid doesn't apply to chariots, so afraid they both have to stay for now. Could be used for things like Dwarf Slayers, but decided not to for simplicity.



Shooting

Short X: Shoot X CD at up to 2 Measures. Moving and one pivot allowed.
For this game I'm using tight firing lines, rather than a more typical 45 degree arc, so pivoting your ranged units to line up with their targets is key. This really helped me in making the three different ranges feel different. Short is for units with a limited range, but they're able to move and pivot before shooting, keeping them much more mobile than their long ranged counterparts. Great for getting at enemy flanks. 

Long X: Shoot X CD at up to 3 Measures. Moving or a single pivot is allowed, but not both.
This is the one for your blocks of archers and gunners. They're not quite as restricted as artillery, but you'll have to think carefully about positioning them to be able fire most effectively. 

Artillery X: Shoot X CD between 3-6 Measures. One pivot is permitted.
Sometimes feels like this should be able to fire over hills and forests, but for the sake of simplicity we're keeping the regular line of sight rules here. They can be devastating, but so far in testing they've worked as more of a threat, forcing the enemy to break formation to stay out of their sight. 

Breach X: Shooting CD of 1-3 cause X extra Damage.
Essentially, when you do damage you do even more damage, so it's great for cannons, units with guns, or even magical attacks. Works as a soft-counter to Shield, but the Shield still dampens the effect slightly. 

Volley X: Shooting CD of 4-6 cause X Damage.
Sort of an opposite to Breach. You get a guaranteed minimum amount of damage, but it doesn't do much to boost your overall output. Good for softening up a target before sending in a charge, or finishing off a unit that's badly hurt. Soft-countered by Shield, especially when rolling just one Combat Die. In fact, with 1CD it could be considered a hard counter, but you can turn it around if you get at their flanks. 



Melee

Fight X: Roll +X CD in Melee if you have not moved or pivoted this turn.
The Fight/Impact split is working pretty nicely at the moment. Fight is for any unit that's generally designed to form up, stand and fight. Impact is flashy, but Fight wins you the long brawls. It suffers when you get charged in the flank, as you have to use a pivot to turn and face your charger, meaning you have to wait another turn to benefit. Good for blocks of spearmen or other heavy infantry. 

Impact X: +X CD on the turn you charged.
Impact units have the advantage on the charge, so it's great for cavalry, berserkers, anything that you want to hit hard and then flounder slightly after that first hit. It can feel weaker than Fight at times, but if you avoid getting bogged down, and remember to hit the flanks, you'll see the advantages it has. 

Brutal X: Melee CD CD of 1-3 cause X extra Damage.
See above under Breach. Exactly the same, but for Melee instead of shooting. Having them as one trait caused weird issues when ranged units got into melee, so the split was necessary. This is used for line-breakers carrying big two-handed weapons, and monstrous attackers like ogres.

Vicious X : Melee CD of 4-6 cause X Damage.
As with Brutal, this is here as a Melee version of Volley. I chose similar-sounding names for these two pairs to help keep them together in your memory. Used for hounds, hordes, and attackers that go for a sort of "death by a thousand cuts" approach. 


Defence

Shield X: Ignore X damage from each attack to your front.
A very simple rule that's gone through a lot of changes, many relating to the now defunct Armour Trait (largely replaced by Tough below). Originally I didn't want it to only apply to the front, as it felt like a sort of double-reward for flank charges. However, having that counter of a flank attack means that any unit can potentially bypass a Shield if they can get into the right position. 

Tough X: Automatically recover X CD of Damage at the end of your turn.
The other side of the coin to Shield, and still not quite proven on the field yet. This is for units that can shrug off piecemeal attacks and need to be focused on. Works for hordes of orcs, monstrous ogres, and is especially relevant for trolls. Compared to Shield they don't have anything to protect them from just getting wiped out by focused fire or a precision strike, but they're much more well equipped to avoid getting chipped away across a number of turns, or recovering from an early onslaught. 


No Hard Counters

So you do still have counters in here, but they're generally soft. 

Fast units can run down those shortbow archers, and chariots are great at slamming into the flanks of shielded infantry, but those matchups are just one third of the game alongside manoeuvring and the luck of the dice.  

A good example is that Shield previously only protected against ranged attacks, with Armour (now cut) protecting against melee. This was a nice little split, forcing you to think about which units to send against which targets, but then I ran a playtest where I had three Shielded infantry units up against an enemy force of entirely melee units. Now the Shields would have literally zero impact on the battle.

Now things are designed so that every Trait has the potential to impact every battle. Even if you get matched up against an enemy army full of your soft counters, your units will still all be able to do the thing they do. You might be fighting uphill, but you'll still have your sword. 




Distillation in Action

With such broad strokes there's no room for subtle details. You can't give this specialist unit a +10% boost to something because it represents a specific historical factor. You've got to distil those units right down to their essence. Forget the tiny individuals. What does this unit, as a whole, do in a battle.

I'm using Warhammer units to test this out on Tabletop Simulator, but the miniatures I've bought from Pendraken are somewhat more grounded medieval troops, albeit with a suitably anachronistic span of equipment. 

Let's look at how these could be built. Bonus points if you can spot each unit in the image at the top of this post. 

Infantry

Mixed bases of men-at-arms and crossbowmen. I've actually split these further, with one unit's men-at-arms being more heavily armoured and carrying shields, while the other carry mainly spears and other polearms.

Again, let's think about what this unit's purpose is on the field. Clearly the crossbows are providing long ranged fire, so we'll give both units Long 1.

The unit with shields might seem like an obvious choice for Shield 1, but remember we have to think about the unit as a whole, not just the individuals. Is this unit designed to withstand damage from its front? I think you could go either way on this, but on balance I'll say yes and give them Shield 1.

Polearms are generally designed to withstand a charge or counter cavalry. We don't have such hard counters in this game, so giving them Fight 1 means that they can stand up to a charge and apply ongoing pressure to an enemy unit, hopefully forcing them to withdraw. Cavalry are usually Impact units, so we're getting a bit of soft countering in there. 

Shield Infantry: Long 1, Shield 1
Spear Infantry: Long 1, Fight 1

Foot Knights

So I said that most units had two Traits, but remember we're not chasing perfect balance here. It's fine to give a unit three or even four positive traits, just be aware that you're essentially creating an elite unit, and it's good to avoid creating good all-rounders in this way.

With these Foot Knights they're heavily armoured, carrying shields and mostly swords, and they look fancy enough that we can roll out an extra trait for them.

I like to start with any unit by considering how they attack, as most units will be getting one of the attack Traits. They certainly aren't set up for charging in that heavy armour, so giving them Fight seems like the best fit. But I'd argue that these are purpose made for engaging in standing combat with an enemy, so let's give them the full Fight 2. 

Shield protects from the front, but this unit's defensive prowess looks like it would come more from their heavy armour and general hardiness. Tough is a good way to represent this, so we'll give them Tough 1. Now they're really a unit that the enemy won't want to get stuck into a prolonged fight with. 

Foot Knights: Fight 2, Tough 1

Mounted Knights

Pretty much all cavalry starts with Fast. Then a common addition is Impact. These knights are modelled mostly with swords and axes, unarmoured horses, and large shields, so even without heavy armour or lances I think Impact makes the most  sense as an attacking trait. You could make an argument for Fight, but really a cavalry charge is always going to carry a degree of impact. 

Standard charge-focused cavalry could end here, but their large shields do seem to suggest the Shield Trait. However, on balance I don't think this unit is built to withstand damage from the front with their unarmoured horses. We could make them Tough like the Foot Knights, but again I think this smaller unit is best reflected as somewhat less resilient. They're for hitting flanks and weak targets, not standing up to a prolonged brawl.

Knights: Fast, Impact 1

Outriders (Mounted Arquebusiers)

Again we'll go for Fast, as this is a cavalry unit. They're carrying guns, which might feel like they should be Long, perhaps even having Breach to give them extra punching power, but this unit is definitely meant to be more of a mobile threat than a gunline. For that reason we'll give them Short 1. 

If we wanted them to feel like a more elite unit of outriders we could give them Agile, letting them dance around enemy units after firing their guns, but we'll keep them simple for this army.

Outriders: Fast, Short 1

Organ Guns

I can't believe it's taken me this long to realise that organ guns are so named because their barrels look like a pipe organ. I just assumed it was from some bastardised French word. 

So these are artillery pieces, which are slightly awkward in that you really need to give them Rigid and Clumsy so that they can't just act like a regular infantry unit.

These are definitely not built for Artillery range, so we'll give them Long 1.

Volley is a clear fit here, so we'll throw that on there. 

Now because Rigid and Clumsy are both negative, and we only have two positive Traits on there, we'll want to give this thing a boost to avoid it just feeling like a more inconvenient unit of archers. 

Here it's worth remembering that not all Traits are equal. An extra point of Long is generally better than an extra point of Volley (mean damage of 2 vs 1.5). But I'd argue that Volley better represents what this unit is for. I mean it's basically a Volley Gun. 

Organ Gun: Long 1, Volley 2, Rigid, Clumsy. 

Best of all, this entire army fits on an index card.

The Anachronistic Order

Shield Infantry: Long 1, Shield 1
Spear Infantry: Long 1, Fight 1
Foot Knights: Fight 2, Tough 1
Knights: Fast, Impact 1
Outriders: Fast, Short 1
Organ Gun: Long 1, Volley 2, Rigid, Clumsy. 

Clearly not all units are equal here, but every one is specialist in some way. The Foot Knights probably have the most raw power, but they won't stand up to focused fire or a decisive strike. The Organ Gun is arguably a touch weak compared to a more traditional missile unit, but when you absolutely need to cause damage to an enemy it'll do the job. Loose it onto an exposed flank and a near-guaranteed 4 damage is nothing to scoff at. 

You could make any number of match ups using these units and I feel like things would hold together. Obviously lots depends on the Scenarios, and I spoke out against pitched battles for this project, but let's imagine. 

Matchup 1

The Green Band: 3 x Shield Infantry, 2x Outriders, 1x Organ Gun
vs
The Red Order: 3x Spear Infantry, 2x Foot Knights, 1x Knights

Aiming for a relatively balanced matchup here, the main imbalance is the Green Band's ranged advantage vs the Red Order's better melee ability. I think this would come down to how effectively the Outriders and Organ Guns could target the Knights and Foot Knights. 

Matchup 2

The Cerulean Company: 3x Outriders, 2x Spear Infantry, 1x Foot Knights
vs
The Amber Guild: 3x Knights, 2x Organ Guns, 1x Shield Infantry

Putting so much on the cavalry here risks the infantry feeling left out, but there's plenty of shooting to be done. Amber has some real damage potential in the Knights and Organ Guns, so it all comes down to whether Cerulean can counter them with clever manoeuvring. 

Matchup 3

The Indigo Legion: 3x Foot Knights, 2x Knights, 1x Outriders
vs
The Ochre Militia: 3x Spear Infantry, 2x Shield Infantry, 1x Organ Gun

Ochre might feel like the odds are stacked against them at first, but those Foot Knights are going to have a tough time facing so much Long Ranged fire. If the Knights and Outriders can break up the infantry blocks enough to allow the Foot Knights to engage then it might be all over, but I don't think it'll be that simple. 

All three sound pretty interesting to me! I suspect they aren't perfectly balanced, but I'd happily take a swing at playing either side in any of them. 

Units are important, but a lot of the flavour of an army comes from it's Commander and their unique abilities. Next time we'll look at how they're coming along.

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Project 10

In this week's Bastionland Editorial I wrote about following the muse. Working on the idea that's currently inspiring me wherever possible. Making the thing I want to have, rather than what I think other people will like.

Well this is a good example. 

I got my start in serious tabletop gaming through Warhammer Fantasy Battles. I've said that I chose Fantasy over 40k because swords are cooler than guns, but I think I'd underestimated the appeal of seeing a regiment formed up into a block, with banner, musician, and leader in the front. 

Dipping into Warhammer: Total War brought it all back for me. Rock Lobbers, Cold One Riders, Handgunners. I've made my peace with Age of Sigmar, but those bands of high-fantasy heroes in loose-formation just don't strike the same notes. 

Also, I want to go big. I've already got a skirmish game cooking away, so let's go to the other end of the spectrum. But I certainly don't want to spend hundreds of pounds on plastic, then months getting them painted. Where would I even store a full-sized army these days? Time to consider another way.

Last year I picked up One Hour Wargames because it's exactly the sort of minimalist, creativity-through-limitation idea that I love. It's a very simple set of core rules (3 digest pages) that's rewritten for eight historical eras from Ancient to WW2. Each era gets four unit types, and that's it. Battles are based on 4-6 units on each side, smallish board, quick resolution. 

Ran a few test games. It's fun, but I realised what I was missing. 

It needed more chaos. 

So I guess I'm hacking this into my own thing. It's already beyond the point of recognition. You can see me testing out an early version here but as with all games in this early stage, things are constantly changing.

The document isn't ready for sharing yet, mostly being written in note-form that won't make sense to anybody else, but here's the plan. 


Chunky Armies, Smooth Rules

Lots of wargames represent their units as a single multi-figure base, rather than a block of individuals. It's something I'd love to try out, as it's a nice abstraction that also opens up some cool modelling opportunities. I like the idea of treating each unit like its own mini-diorama. 


Lots of cool stuff in the Pendraken Fantasy range. I quite like their Warband rules, too.


I fell deep into the 10mm rabbit hole when I realised I could get a unit of thirty soldiers for just over £5. I'm awaiting delivery of what will be 7 bases of troops. That's a full army with infantry, cavalry, artillery, command units, even a general. Around 130 little guys for less than £40. 

I've gone for big bases. 100x50mm. I want these blocks to feel chunky on the battlefield, sometimes even rigid and inflexible. Embracing the feel of manoeuvring your big regiments around the board. Sort of the opposite of the free-running movement of GRIMLITE. 

But this will be managed through a simple movement system. I don't want lots of order-types, terrain charts or complex command and control stuff that needs cross-referencing during play.

Units can move 10cm. They can also do 2 Pivots of up to 90 degrees, each before or after the move. You can't charge after your second pivot. 

Rough Terrain halts movement when a unit enters. 

Fast units move 20cm across Open Terrain. 

Skirmishers ignore Rough Terrain and their Pivots can each be up to 180 degrees.

Shooting is limited to targets at least partially within a firing-lane directly ahead of the attacker, the width of their base, and limits your movement:

Short Range allows a Move and 1 Pivot.
Long Range allows a Move or 1 Pivot.
Artillery allows 1 Pivot only. 

And that's sort of it for movement. No forced marching or charging or changes of formation. It's loose, but in play you still have to think carefully about your facing and positioning. 


No Points, No Pitched Battles

I had a similar goal to this with GRIMLITE, but the game grew in a way that points were eventually needed. 

Still, I think as soon as you put points costs next to your units you're changing something fundamental about the game. Sure, you can say "they're just guidelines of the relative power of each side" but it still feels like a major change of game philosophy to me.

So I don't intend for this game to have points, but then I also don't want it to have battles that are especially fair.

I've enjoyed reading through the Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game, especially the way that it presents some of the units and scenarios. It's obviously a fantasy setting, but being such a rigorously defined one makes everything feel a little like a historical wargame.

This isn't just a siege scenario, this is a very specific moment from Helm's Deep where the walls are first breached. 

Flaming Arrows don't appear in the Orc entry, but they come equipped as part of the Last March of the Ents because they're the only real hope they have in that battle.

The Quest of the Ringbearer book is filled with scenarios where the Fellowship should win most of the time. The forces of Evil can only really hope to grind them down bit by bit across the greater campaign. 

I want moments like this, not another pitched battle where we line up our carefully constructed 2000pt armies. Our forces are built for the scenarios in a way that makes sense. Maybe one side is outmatched, but let's embrace that. Every battle is part of something bigger. 

It doesn't need to be complex. Just a broad stroke of narrative with some interesting twists on army composition, deployment, and objectives can make a world of difference.


Drama from Chaos

The system of One Hour Wargames is pretty solid, but it's also relatively deterministic. It has attacks do d6 damage with either +2 or -2 for especially strong/weak units. Flank and rear attacks do double damage, tough units take half damage. Fifteen total damage wipes a unit out. No morale, that's all abstracted into the damage taken. 

It creates a clear rock-paper-scissors situation, which can be a fun tactical challenge. But that's not really what I want with this game, especially if I'm embracing imbalanced scenarios.

I want moments of drama to emerge from chaos.

So I'm using this Combat Dice system for damage. This is just a name for d6s used in this specific way. 

Roll a number of Combat Dice (CD) indicated by your unit type (1-3). 

Flank and Rear attacks roll twice as many CD after all other modifiers.

Discard the dice showing 4+ and total up the values on the remaining dice as Damage.

i.e. a roll of 1, 3, and 5 causes 4 Damage (1+3). 

Units that have taken 7 Damage are destroyed

It's swingy by design. Your average unit is attacking with 2 Combat Dice, which could cause anywhere from 0-6 Damage. But the nice thing is that each die averages to 1 Damage. You've got a combination of a very clear average, with a wide swing of results for those dramatic moments.

First-turn is also randomised each Round, so there are going to be times when a player gets a double turn. More dramatic moments born out of chaos.

I want those Goblins to stand a chance of wiping out those Grail Knights with a devastating roll.

If I'm going to create underdogs with the whole No Points, No Pitched Battles thing, then I at least owe them a glimmer of hope that the dice will favour them, and if you're winning I never want things to feel like a foregone conclusion. 


Big Armies, Small Lists

I'm very excited to work with these big bases, especially as the units I've written up so far imply far less homogeny than you'd see on a WHFB table.

The High Elf Infantry unit assumes archers protected by spearmen.

The Orc Warband unit is mostly hand weapons but they have some arrers that they can shoot if the Boss reminds them.

The Plague Monk unit is delicate but potentially hard hitting, representing a block of monks with behind censer bearers, surging ahead for those damage spikes. 

I've not managed to go as far as One Hour Wargames with its four units per era, but aiming for around seven per faction, with three special one-shot Command abilities, has really been a fun exercise in distilling an army down to its essence. 



Project 10

So I'm calling this Project 10 for now, because it's 10mm scale, using 10cm bases, and a 10 decimetre board. If only I could get it to play in 10 minutes. 

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Primeval Bastionland - IRON

The thing with Deep Country is you can always go deeper.

Beyond the knotted vastness of Massiff Country.

Who knows what lies even further than the Old Country of Auldskunterroy.

Forever deeper in both distance and time. 

A sort of Primeval Bastionland.

Past the point where people haven't heard of Bastion, but to a place where Bastion cannot exist, because it's already a dream.

The promise of Baztium. A beacon of civilisation that will rise from this bleak existence. 

But it doesn't exist. This place isn't there yet. It's stuck in the past. 

Pinned in place with heavy iron.

The Way and the Word

The Way is the world as it is, a natural order of things. Fire, Stone, and Sky into Iron, Trees, and Stars. 

Demons are manifestations of the Way, sent to deliver a message or challenge. We have Iron to strengthen us, Trees to protect us, and Stars to warn us.

The Word are the tricks we use to survive. Small crimes against the Way. Stories that hide lessons and lost knowledge. Secrets that put us above the horses and hounds, the thuzzards and leozards. 

Charms, Curses, Callings.

Of all the interweaving threads of the Way, some say we'd be dead if not for Iron alone. 



IRON

In Bastion, weapons can feel obsolete when you're competing with bureaucrats, journalists, and politicians. Of course there are innovations and variations but it's as much about fashion as function.

Out here you don't have that luxury. 

The tools you carry are your means of both survival and staking a place in society. 

You already know the general tools. The sword, the axe, the bow. 

There are more specialist options if you can find those that know the right methods of fire and stone.




Specialist Weapons

Back in Bastion, a small group of niche scholars have spent much time piecing together their limited knowledge of the weapons of the deep Deep Country. Complex categorisations and sub-categorisations are debated and bickered-about. The below is considered a fraction of an outdated taxonomy, but nobody has completed their proposed alternatives yet.

These weapons all have the following in common:
  • They can be used as a normal weapon, typically equivalent to a Crude or Hand Weapon.
  • They receive a Bonus when used in a specific situation. 
  • They tell you something about the sort of person that is carrying one.

Murder Arms - For enemies unworthy.
  • Rods: Simple weapons designed to concuss and break bones.
    • Bellrod (d6, +d8 when at least one Monk is chanting alongside you)
    • Marshersrod (d6, +d8 vs unmounted opponents while you are mounted)
    • Bullsrod (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs a target with a lower STR than you)
  • Stakes: Weapons designed to stab with a single piercing wound.
    • Kannecstake (d6, +d8 vs a disarmed target)
    • Chaserstake (Thrown, d6, +d8 vs a fleeing target)
    • Witchiestake (d6, +d8 in a tunnel or other cramped environment)
  • Biters: Weapons designed to deliver wide, slashing wounds.
    • Muttbiter (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs doglike enemies)
    • Cloffbiter (Bulky, d6, can attack two unarmed humanoid opponents)
    • Vagabiter (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs humanoid opponents that are fighting unarmed or with a small improvised weapon)

Battle Arms - For enemies with iron.
  • Hooks: Weapons designed to hook or drag opponents.
    • Catahook (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs mounted opponents)
    • Lunderhook (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs opponents wielding a shield)
    • Torniehook (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs opponents with STR lower than your DEX)
  • Mauls: Weapons designed to apply heavy impact to burst through armour.
    • Splittermaul (d6, +d8 vs opponents with Armour 2 or higher)
    • Buldersmaul (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs targets with DEX lower than your STR)
    • Brekermaul (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs targets without a fully-metal shield or weapon to parry)
  • Forks: Weapons with a split blade or spike to trap incoming attacks.
    • Brotesfork (d6, +d8 vs opponents wielding a one-handed weapon)
    • Shafferfork (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs opponents wielding two-handed weapons)
    • Mekenfork (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs opponents that attacked you on their last turn)

Slaying Arms - For inhuman enemies.
  • Hurlers: Weighted spears and javelins designed for launching forcefully. 
    • Shuckerhurler (Ranged, d6, +d8 vs opponents with a shell or other natural armour)
    • Underhurler (Ranged, d6, +d8 vs an opponent that is charging you)
    • Palleyhurler (Ranged, d6, +d8 vs opponents with 0hp)
  • Poles: Weapons mounted on long poles.
    • Heftpole (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs opponents that cannot move next to you)
    • Braccenpole (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs opponents taller than you)
    • Thistlepole (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs opponents you attacked last turn)
  • Chains: Weapons that whip or ensnare opponents.
    • Sherdchain (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs opponents that are trying to fight on the move)
    • Duffschain (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs opponents with wings)
    • Mawchain (Bulky, d6, +d10 vs opponents with jaws large enough to crush a person)







Tuesday, 2 March 2021

400 Types of Pathetic Jerk

Anybody that runs enough games will start to notice recurring themes and patterns. It's even worse when you have twelve years of blogposts to look back on.

It's been almost ten years since I wrote this, but it reminded me that my NPCs far too often fall into one of three categories.

  • Pathetic losers
  • Detestable jerks
  • Both of the above
So why fight it? Let's embrace it. 


The bridge between those two archetypes is often an Insecurity. This is something that eats away at them. Maybe they overcompensate and do everything they can to prove themselves, maybe they withdraw into self-defeatism, or maybe they lash out against anybody else that tries to thrive in this area. 

Those truly memorable Jerks usually have some sort of Leverage that they can weaponise in defence of their insecurity. 

Let's put that into a Spark Table.

Roll 2d20 and combine.

d20

Insecurity

Leverage

1

Rhetoric

Family Connections

2

Physical Strength

Natural Talent

3

Professional Skill

Technology

4

Wealth

Good Education

5

Appearance

Unnatural Ability

6

Peer Respect

Personal Wealth

7

Artistic Talent

Celebrity

8

Authenticity

Protective Siblings

9

Morality

Cosmic Blessing

10

Humbleness

Raw Confidence

11

Place in Community

Hired Muscle

12

Drinking Capacity

Press Contacts

13

Popularity

Wealthy Benefactor

14

Book Smarts

Employees

15

Personal Struggle

Animal Magnetism

16

Worldliness

Hidden Oddity

17

Groundedness

Secrets

18

Politeness

Society Connections

19

Modernity

Martial Ability

20

Faith

Crime Connections


Examples

4+3: Wealth / Technology
Wealth is a common insecurity. It can be reflected by somebody flaunting their money around, but in this case let's take a different angle and say that this is the opposite. Somebody that comes from money, but is insecure about the benefits that it has granted them, so they're doing everything to show how they had to fight for every penny they've earned. 

Their leverage is technology, so let's say they're a factory owner. This ultra-modern factory basically runs itself, but the NPC claims to have built it by hand. Of course, it was passed down from a parent, but they'll take issue with anybody that points that out. 

The inherited-billionaire that claims to be self-made is pretty archetypal, but I think it resonates really strongly in creating a character you can hate. 

19+1: Modernity / Family Connections
Another way to read the insecurity is to have the jerk focus it outward, deflecting their own shortcomings outward onto others. So let's say this person just doesn't get modernity, and is sick of hearing about it. They want things to go back to how they were.

This ties into the Family Connections if we imagine an aristocrat type, fearful that the world is moving beyond the point where they can get a free ride on their family name. Yes, I can see them as a politician that's going to make sure that tradition is upheld and unfettered progress checked against our cultural values at every step, which just so coincidentally helps them cling onto their anachronistic life of luxury.

1+15: Rhetoric / Animal Magnetism
This one's easy. Somebody that people just seem to like, but if you disagree with them they just have to prove themselves to you by aggressively debating you until it's crystal clear that you were wrong

Perhaps she's a socialite that's so used to having people fawn over her, but we'll place her in a position where the players are going to have to get on her bad side.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Patreon Shuffle

This blog has been supported by my generous Patreon supporters for a number of years now, but the focus on blogposts no longer fully represents what I do, with video and podcasts (news on that one soon...) featuring as much as written content.

So I've moved the Patreon over to a new model with a single monthly payment that supports the full package. 

The rewards have been tweaked too, with extra content and voting privileges unlocked for patrons.

You can get the full information here and I want to give a huge thank you to those of you that have supported me from the very start, and to those of you who are just coming aboard.