A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Palladium Game System: How I Would Redo it! Part 1: Palladium as it is.

There has been constant talk over the years about Palladium. I am gonna start (yet another) project (that I will probably never complete) dealing with them. I would like to preface this with the understanding that I LIKE Palladium and have enjoyed their products over the years. However, they do many things that are not only counterproductive, but have actually HURT them. This project series will talk about the company, its games, the fanbase (or anti fanbase as the case may be!) and what I would do if I was in their shoes. But I will get more into it as we go!

They are a once big RPG company who used to advertise in comics who have now mostly retreated to a small but dedicated fanbase, with their biggest known game being Rifts. Largely the company is under the creative control of one man, Kevin Siembieda.

On the upside almost everything they have released in the last 20 years or so is compatible with what they release now. I can pretty much take my old 80s era Teenage Mutant Ninjas & Other Strangeness book and use it without much effort with more recent releases of theirs such as Dead Reign or Robotech Shadow Chronicles. Also their stuff is really fairly priced given the current ridiculous prices the gaming market seems to think are standard, being a "cottage industry" and all.

The downside of this is their system is REALLY pretty dire, being an insanely house ruled version of AD&D that barely resembles it anymore. This is also seen in that today's Palladium games look almost exactly like their releases of 20 years ago. In many cases the same art is used and entire sections of their books are cut and pasted (with errors and all!) from game to game.

Their games are almost exclusively black and white softcovers using a 2 column layout that as mentioned, is pretty much the same layout (and typeface!) as they have used for 20 years or more.

The game system itself is a D20 and percentile system, the D20 used to determine most combat results, and the percentiles being used for skills. Characters are based off of a character class (known as an OCC or RCC, Occupational or Racial Character Class) with an alignment and a pile of basic attributes that rarely have any direct effect on active gameplay.

Many of the classes are totally out of imbalance with each other, and many of the abilities and skills players can choose can even make things worse. In the Palladium games almost every single character concept has its own unique class. It is incredibly unwieldy and in many cases pointless. Do we really need a dozen or so classes of powered armor or giant robot pilot? About the same for Spellcasters? Instead of players making their characters unique, its based off picking a class and not much else.

Combat has multiple options and actions some of which are close combat only, others are ranged, others spell or psionic. Hit points are divvied up into HP and SDC (Structural Damage Capacity), and armor has a rating to ablate the damage. However you then add in MDC (Mega Damage Capacity) which has no armor values, but 1 point of MDC is equivalent to 100 points of SDC, (And if an SDC attack cannot do 100 points in a single attack it cannot do anything to MDC armor. Meaning a modern tank can possibly be an irritant to a light set of MDC combat armor. Maybe.) giving us hand pistols capable of making the extremely powerful sidearms of Star Trek look wimpy and that make armor in MDC worlds a virtual requirement unless you want an extremely short PC life. And the armor does meet this requirement. There are player character suits that have HUNDREDS of MDC points and weapons that do around the same.

Weapon and armor inflation is pretty bad. Back in their first MDC game (Robotech), a 200+ ton giant robot had around 300 MDC. In Rifts, a player character powered armor suit that was roughly 9 feet tall had over 700, and a cannon capable of averaging 100 MDC damage a shot. Yeah. The current version of Robotech brings their MDC closer in line to Rifts. And the 700 MDC power armor still has more points than the 200+ ton giant robot.

Numbers simply get entirely too high in this game, and usually for little gameplay gain. Its like a console RPG in numbers inflation. Do games really need numbers in the 100s or 1000s for life points? It just adds in extra math to deal with, slowing things down.

Overall your average Palladium product is like this: The book opens warning about how none of this is real and the game deals with violence and the supernatural. Its kind of stupid. Nobody cares about RPGs any more. Patricia Pulling has passed away, and the THINK OF THE CHILDREN! types are too busy freaking out over videogames which tens if not hundreds of millions of people play instead of a hobby mostly centered around virginal nerds in a basement with maybe a million active players total.

The next section is usually the fluff. This is the BEST section of the book and the reason many people will buy the game even if they wouldn't use the Palladium rules if their lives depended on it. While rarely full of hard data, the fluff is evocative, interesting, and invests you in the setting, firing off lots of neurons for campaigns and adventures.

This is followed by the character class section. Its 1/3rd ideas on the class, then 2/3rds more powers and skills that either break the game balance (most seen in expansion books) or could just be a variant of another class. But I have already mentioned the folly of the Palladium class system so that still stands.

Its cousin is usually up next, the NEW STUFF FOR EVERYONE section. This is full of weapons and toys, which like the classes are usually imbalanced and just take up space. Its made extra bad given that almost every machine has multiple MDC locations for called shots few people even bother with most of the time. In a tightly designed game, a suit of robot power armor could have its pictures, game data, and fluff done on 1 or 2 pages. In Palladium its generally 3 or more, and full of numbers. The good part is there is lots of hard data so as to convert it over to a better game. The bad is that its Gear Porn for technofetishists and NRA type gun nuts. Sometimes there will be a few interesting non combat items, but generally not much. Compared to GURPS its positively simple, but Gear Porn is still Gear Porn.

If its a core book the cut and pasted rules go here. As mentioned above its kinda janky and wierd, and if you are lucky it will have a minor tweak or two to it which may or may not help it make sense.

The last section is usually a mixture of new monster and NPC types to kill, some harder setting information, some open plot threads you can work with, and possibly some GM advice.

This covers the games of Palladium. However there is another insidious side to the company. (Most of what is to follow is based on hearsay and rumor, albeit ones that have multiple sources.)

The main man himself, Kevin S.

One would think the lead owner and writer for the company would playtest and use his own game system as written, right? WRONG. He hardly even plays RPGs these days, though given his insistence on self editing, doing artwork, and writing entire rulesbooks in a month's time from scratch it is somewhat understandable.

This leads to serious problems not just with game balance and design, but with editing and freelance relations. Take a current release of theirs, Dead Reign. Its a zombie RPG that had a preview version in their house bookazine/freelancer test bed, "The Rifter". A couple freelancers wrote a proposal, got the aforementioned preview version in Rifter, and were then tasked with writing up a full RPG. They did this. Once the manuscript was received, Kevin, who self admitted to not even really being a zombie fan decided he did not like the manuscript. Instead of either sending it back for a rewrite, cancelling the project, or actually guiding the new freelancers towards what he might have been wanting during the writing process, he dropped whatever project he was working on, threw out a good 60-80% of what had already been written, and spent a good 6 weeks redoing the thing himself, making himself the lead writer and merely giving the freelancers secondary credit.

No time for playtest, no real outside viewpoints, just a mass rewrite, and a public posting basically calling the original manuscript junk in so many words.

This is NOT a way to make a product.

This sort of behavior is something Mr. Siembieda is infamous for doing, and leads to their constantly missed product release deadlines, numerous typos and other editing mistakes, and lead to two well known and respected writers (CJ Carella and Bill Coffin) leaving the company and refusing to do anything else for them.

Except his quibbles go beyond just that. Palladium's web policies are the most paranoid about IP rights ones ever seen to the point that they will throw cease and desist orders around if you even DARE post say "A Star Wars light saber in Palladium system will do 1d6x10+Character level in MDC" to a public forum, or to a blog. I in fact, would not be too surprised if I get one for posting my example. Almost everything that can have a trademark sort of symbol in a Palladium product has so, and numerous sites have been shut down, or just stopped playing Palladium games entirely because of this overly paranoid IP mindset. They have even sued game companies for putting conversion charts in their books, as if it will cause them to lose all rights to their creations if they don't.

One reason they never got on the D20 bandwagon was an insistence Wizards of the Coast would then own everything they did. Well, clearly history has proven that one to be completely and totally WRONG.

All its accomplished is bad blood and cost Palladium most of its fanbase.

Yet the fanbase that remains tends to be ONLY Palladium system players with the kind of THERE ARE OTHER GAMES? NEVER! mindset Games Workshop can't even get. They are loyal to the point of rampaging over to RPGnet any time the inevitable threads bashing Palladium come up and even bailed the company out of going out of business when various financial things happened. (Which may or may not have actually been because an employee stole from the company.)

Outside of Palladium's own forums their games and system are largely looked at as crap. This even in spite of the largely negative stuff I have written above isn't really fair. Yet no criticism is allowed, and people who say negative things about the games and the company are called "haters" in official postings if not press releases.

This is a damned shame. Palladium has some wonderful game settings and ideas. What it needs is for Kevin Siembieda to give up his overwhelming control over everything and get some marketing and editing people to tell him NO, reign him in, and learn that all the bad PR over the years plus the abuse of talent and non fanboy customers has pretty much killed the company outside of a small insular fanbase.

Because like every product that just aims to please a small fanbase and doesn't try to get new blood, its doomed in the long run as the audience eventually leaves for other interests or decides they have all they need.

Things like their yearly holiday grab bag sale are great. The problem is they have done so much wrong few people are even willing to buy the stuff in the first place.

Its telling when you look for Palladium products in stores. Borders doesn't carry anything of theirs, nor do the 4 big comic shops in the area. (One store has 3-4 books with clearance stickers in them, and had a couple clearance Rifter issues before I bought them.) Not even the new manga sized Robotech RPG which you think would be a shoe in at the various manga shelves. Nope. And the one dedicated gaming store that does carry Palladium stuff is more getting it to service the few people buying it. Which isn't many given some of the books were 20 year old OOP releases, and Rifter issues you cannot even get from Palladium's own webstore anymore. Clearly its not exactly flying off the shelves, and its one store servicing an entire region!

Also telling was their book availability at Connecticon. The only books I saw were in half off or clearance bins. Also most of the books on Ebay were at massively discounted prices even in Buy it Now categories. I checked Amazon.com, and most of the Amazon sellers (known for jacking the price up of anything with even a HINT of being rare, out of print, or desired) have the books new and used for 50-80% off cover price. Talking with other gamers has brought up anecdotal evidence of most Palladium stuff selling for a buck a book at used bookstores as well.

That is NOT evidence of a healthy gameline to me. Not at all folks.

I am sure if any Palladium forums poster sees this I will just be considered another hater and my thoughts dismissed. But I love the writing and art and concepts in the Palladium RPG books. However the game system and treatment of fans, talent, and critics is just too extreme and I fear will lead to the premature end of what could be a great company.

And given how badly RPGs are doing in general, any mistake a company makes can be the beginning of the end.

And I care enough that I do not want to see it happen.

In part 2 I will begin my Palladium inspired game system overview as an idea of how I would revamp the system from the top. Look forward to it!

Oath Update!

Today, merely one day after the official start of the December oath cycle, and my sorry paint hating ass already has my 2 tanks 60% complete!

100_1083

Still to do: Either black with silver drybrush (or silver with black wash) the wheels and treads, same to the Demolisher Cannon on the Vindie, the the barrels on the Razorback's Lascannon, the whole of the Storm Bolter, the bottom of the Dozer Blade, and the smokestacks.

Should I finish this next week and complete my oath well ahead of schedule I shall add in a brown wash to the treads and wheels, possibly to the Dozer Blade, and maybe experiment with some black wash here and there to make the model stick out a little more. Plus a second coat of Foundation Blue where the blue is, to cover the tiny missed spots.

If I reach that level I will then ask for assistance to do some weathering and mud effects.

Yeah, it isn't half the paint awesomeness many people in this thread can do, but it works for me. But the oath is getting me to paint something at least. And it even caused me to add some yellow wash to my 2nd edition Space Hulk Terminators' chest eagles, and a black wash to their knee pad symbols. (I may add some black wash to the shoulder Crux thingie too. I'm mulling it over right now.)

So what did I accomplish in 5 hours or so of painting? Mostly freehanded Foundation Mordian Blue all over the place as seen. Yellow wash on the headlights, targeting thingies, and eagle symbols. Brown wash on the skulls. (Its my easy way to do bone. Its not as good as anything a real painter can do, but its the closest thing I can come to having for acceptable boney ness.) Some black wash in the fans and vents and my tanks are good to go.

I don't have the really smooth and straight lines I want to paint, but its not too awful overall. The problem with painting over white is its REALLY easy to see mistakes. But it is the colors of the pre Heresy World Eaters so it is how it must be done.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Painting Oath.

Hmm.. I may regret this, but I guess I will call a painting oath. An easy one. One I could probably do in a single 3 hour timespan. But I am lazy and hate painting. So if I call an easy one I can have it completed and give my newest army a couple ok looking tanks.

My new army you (nobody really since as far as I know I am mostly only read by myself and the odd ex friend E stalking me in case I say something about him he doesn't like..) ask?

What, you didn't see my post in October about it? Well then, I TOLD YOU nobody reads my blabbering. (Its a good creative outlet if nothing else.)

Yeah, thanks to the Battle for Black Reach bought at 50% off thanks to Arkham Asylums 5th anniversary sale I had the core of a Marine army cheap. A couple cheap purchases and trades plus the odd wrangling of spare minis and my bits box plus 3 actual MSRP purchases and I have a 2000 point Blood Angels (cuz the army codex is free) army for around 140 dollars. Its pre Horus Heresy World Eaters as the theme and scheme, which works out given how they have angry psychotics just like the BA's Death Company. Except its not due to dreams of a dead primarch, but due to psycho surgeries performed on their soldiers.

Currently they are 3 and 0 for victories, though one of the wins was my Halloween house battle and I am not sure if an odd multiplayer game counts as a win.

Well over at the massive Warhammer 40K threads at Something Awful they have this Oath Project going on. If you fail at your painting oath, you may have your avatar replaced with a picture of a fat naked dwarf. One person who completes their oath gets a 20 dollar gift certificate. I don't really care about winning anything. I just need inspiration to get my lazy butt to some paint!

My oath is to have my Pre Heresy World Eaters using the Blood Angels army list Razorback and Vindicator painted to a simple 4 color standard (shading, washes, and highlights optional) by December 31st.

I just built the Vindicator Wednesday, and the Razorback is assembled and has one color on it.

How I will accomplish this feat of actually painting some goddanged miniatures for once:

Core color is white, done with Krylon Fusion White spraypaint. Razorback has this part taken care of already. The Vindie has just gotten its first pass of spraypaint 5 minutes ago. 2 more passes (flipped on a side for these two follow up passes) and it will have its core color by tonight too.

I don't thin and generally do one coat per color painting so making the tanks look nice but not too clean will be my challenge. Most of my tanks are extremely dark colors or metallics with panel lines done in. This little oath involves learning how to do bright Marine style tanks and make them look decent.

Color 2 is Foundation Blue paint. Probably 1 large area per side of each tank not counting the bottom. Something big to break up the white that is logical. The recessed area on the front is a given. Possibly the access points on the tanks, and maybe the smokestacks. Possibly the sides and teeth of the Vindie's Dozer Blade too.

Color 3 is Chainmail Silver on weapon barrels and other bits that obviously need to be more metallic. I may try some drybrushing here and there to simulate chipped paint. The Silver will be followed up with an Armor Wash coat. The tread wheels get this treatment too.

Color 4 is black on the treads, followed with silver drybrushing, and then Brown Wash overcoat, or possibly Snakebite Leather drybrushing.

Should I have time and the above looks fairly pleasing by my honestly weak and lazy ass standards I may investigate (By asking how in this thread, which by that point should be up to page 60 or so at the speeds we are posting at! Or I could just ask folks in #tinypewtermen on IRC.) putting some mud and dirt marks on the lower sections of the models and maybe practicing with some blood splatters here and there. (Just because they are loyal to the Emperor and quite pissed at coming out of the Warp and realizing their primarch betrayed his Thronieness, they are still World Eaters and violently killing things is what they do and all!) Maybe a couple smoke or carbon emission type effects too.

If I even get past that I will do some gold and yellow trim on things like Imperial Eagles and Heraldry type devices. Sadly, my non Chaos symboled World Eaters transfers are entirely too small to be put on such large tanks. It would actually make the tanks look WORSE.

And I will also put my own penalty on myself. Until these two tanks are at least up to the Color 4 stage, I MAY NOT buy any new miniatures gaming models that require painting.

If I complete my minor and easy oath I may reward myself via buying the Apocalypse rules via an online discounter because while the book is neat, it is a massive ripoff. And doing something worthwhile is a good way to reward myself. By spending my own money I shouldn't spend on a book I will rarely ever even have a use for.

But the goal is worthy. Setting goals and forcing myself to complete them is good for me. Hell, its the reason I lost 60 pounds in less than 2 years and outside of Zoloft putting 5 pounds back on (which I have since stopped taking and have gotten 3 back. Course the weight threat has also caused me to drop a good 1000-1500 calories a week out of my diet plus get back on the exercise train. I even have little notes of my progress on my calendar!) I have kept it off.

Keeping myself honest and giving my otherwise aimless self a goal makes me do the impossible and see the invisible.

ROW ROW FIGHT THE POWAH!!! :P

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My AD&D 2nd House Rules Part 8 - Combat Appendix

Due to various whines I have gotten over too many details elsewhere, and just some other ideas I have, this part 8 will be my Appendix section. An ever evolving area for short term errata and ideas other places and games have given me.

(Updated on 20 November 08)

Over at James M.'s Grognardia a discussion of the overly detailed and unfun Weapon Type vs Armor Type came up. The discussion lead to a brainstorm that is my first installment here.

Though I guess if you wanted a quick and dirty weapon effect system you could go Cutting, Bashing, and Penalizing. (Obviously counting things like ranged, polearm, or normal.)

(Bonuses are in general, not just against what's reduced.)

Cutting gets improved damage but reduced to hit against any armored target. (-1 / +1)
Bashing has improved chances to hit, but reduced damage. (+1 / -1)
Penalizing does less damage and is hard to hit with, but causes lots of saving throw or attribute check type effects. (Stunning blackjacks, blocking attacks with a Sai or Main Gauche, tangling with Nets or Bolas.) (-1 / -1)

Sure my idea is just generalizing things (An Axe, Sword, and Spear all hit and hurt differently after all!), but its a quick and dirty way to make different weapon types appealing. Technically an arrow is gonna have little trouble with most armor, but abstractly it could be affected, and its pointy bleedyness shouldn't be any stronger, but its a neat quick way of doing it.

Do you have armor or something armor like? Ok, the most popular weapons have a harder time hitting you, but now they all do more damage. However, the mace and warhammer are gonna hit you more often, but in general aren't quite as deadly though it hurts. Penalizing weapons have a harder time causing actual hits and the damage is reduced, but they can SERIOUSLY mess you up.

I really like this quick idea and may implement it into the big houserules list.

IDEA 2: Unarmored AC. Sadly, most versions of D&D really penalize anyone dumb enough to go without armor. Here is an idea to fix it. If a character shuns armor of any sort (this includes Armor, Helmets, Bracers, and Shields, along with any sort of spell that physically gives the character armor like Barkskin or Stoneskin) outside of magic jewelry or spells that do not physically alter the character, they get DOUBLE their DEX AC bonus. This is in addition to any bonuses certain classes or kits gain. Thus an unarmored character with a +2 AC bonus for DEX would have a +4 AC bonus instead.

We can even add some neat perks to help this. Unarmored Shield Fighting allows Shields to not be counted as being armor, while Unarmored Helmet Fighting would do the same for helmets. A character could rock out Gladiator or "300" Spartan style.

Ya know, I really like this idea too. Its neat! I can't possibly be the only person to think of this.

IDEA 3: Simplified Diagonals Movement. Putting this into my actual text would be a pain and require a couple hours of rewrites, but a quick and dirty thing I houseruled into a Tunnels & Trolls game was an epiphany. If you move any diagonals in a turn your movement is reduced by 1 for every bracket of 12 movement you have rounded up but you may always move 1 square, even diagonal. (So a MV 1-12 loses 1 square of MV. A 13-24 loses 2 for doing 1 diagonal, a 25-36 loses 3 and so on. No fractional accounting needed. It would be fine for weapon ranges too. Just increase the actual distance by 1 for the same distance bands. So if you fire at a 25-36 distance target and its diagonally its really 3 squares further away!)

IDEA 4: Improved Starting Hit Points. This is an easy one! At first level PCs can either take their maximum Level 1 HP + CON modifier, or their CON score with no modifiers. Whichever is higher.

For most characters this increases low level survivability immensely. It probably won't do much for D10 or D12 HP characters, but for everyone else its pretty huge. I would still keep max HP rolls for level 2 and 3 though!

IDEA 5: Character Generation Dice. Instead of the 4d6 take 3 highest approach, its 2d6+6.

This lessens the really crappy characters that just don't belong in a middle fantasy game as PCs anyhow. 8 becomes the new minimum, and 13 becomes the average. For a slightly weaker game, do 2+2d8, but any rolled 1 becomes a 2. Minimum becomes 6 and average scores will be 11. Actually I would probably use this over the 2d6+6 to tell you the truth, especially if Idea 4 is used as well.

ERRATA: Firearms Backfire Damage. Looking back I seem to be saying if you roll a 1 for damage you do 8 damage to yourself. This is incorrect. You do maximum basic die rolled damage for that firearm to yourself, ignoring any bonuses or penalties. Also it seems I forgot to give a bonus to damage for close range firing to Mr Runtherd in one of the examples.

See kids, this is what happens when you don't have an editor looking over your work, and you just blat out your ideas with only a couple quick reskims over what you wrote. This sort of thing needs to be done, lest you be like a certain game designer from Michigan. (OOOH! I MUST BE A HATER NOW! Then again, compared to what some sites say about the dude, I am being nice about it. He sure writes some infectious fluff though! :P )

Monday, November 17, 2008

This is why I love mecha!

http://www.crunchyroll.com/media-411742/Tengen-Toppa-Gurren-Lagann-AMV-Be-a-Man.html?h264=1

Just watch this.

(Or try this direct download link if the video gets removed for whatever dumb internet reason: http://www.animemusicvideos.org/members/members_videoinfo.php?v=158077)

This is awesome, not even counting the fact they took yet another stupid song from yet another dumb Disney musical and made it fit perfectly to the beginning parts of this show.

See, this is why mechs rule. Heroic bravery, insane stunts, and just generally UNSTOPPABLE FIGHTING SPIRIT.

Your sword and sorcery RPG campaigns will NEVER reach this level of greatness.

A good mecha campaign could, with the right players.

And as I mentioned, this video only covers the early parts of the show. It gets MORE AWESOME AND MANLY.

Did Drizzt or Raistlin ever get into a fight where they were using ENTIRE GALAXIES as throwing stars?

I didn't think so.

And one day I will run a mecha RPG campaign for the right group of people and it will have this level of unadulterated awesomeness in it.

One day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Saturday Changeling LARP Report: Rufus' War Journal Part 2

I have been lax on these! Now I have two game sessions worth to report on. Unlike last time, bold is ST stuff, and Italics is out of game bits, and normal text is in character text. Cuz I felt like doing it this way!

OCTOBER
Teaser: "Join the Loyalist Army! Turn your friends in today! All traitors
will be spared!"
This is what greeted the Lost of Willimantic when they entered the Thread
City Cafe last month. Letters were delivered to the Lost, secret notes were
left, all pointing fingers at others saying they were a loyalist. Who can
you trust? The traditional Summer King, Sid, was killed in August and the
new King, Rufus, is still new and untried. The Spring Queen, April, has
been kidnapped and is being being tortured by a new force in town called the
Scorpion. As Autumn approaches, will the traditional Queen, Maude, be up to
the task of setting things to right in the city or will she meet with a
similar fate as the other two monarchs?


It has been a troubling time for us in the Lost. The Loyalists are trying to confuse us and throw us into disarray.

Its working well.

We had some folks from Virginia here to help us, a rather strange trio who seemed to have a thing for "efficiency". Between them and the regulars getting this group organized is proving to be a difficult task!

We came up with a plan to rescue April from Scorpion's bar hideout. One of us was sent to get April ready by morphing herself into a coin that our mirror visaged friend David dropped into the room after he transformed himself into a ganger type. I believe the coinformer was named Nothing. As I said, the Virginia folks were a little... odd.

As we needed an Autumn king I nominated David to run things at least in the short term, and the other local members of the Lost agreed enough and it was done.

This is sort of coming back to bite me though. We do not exactly see eye to eye even though we have similar objectives and ideas on how to take care of things.

We split up into two teams, one of which went to confront Scorpion who was within the Hedge, and I backed up our blacksmith as we sent Scorpion's den of evil into the dust, albeit with a few dead gang members along the way besides the ones now buried under rubble. No matter. Criminal scum like that shouldn't be left alive anyhow.

The other team confronted Scorpion and killed him, rescuing April. He thought we were the loyalists alongside April! But what kind of sick monster would do the things he did to her regardless of her actual allegiance and actions?

Nobody who deserves to live.

NOVEMBER
Last month the Lost formed a plan to go rescue the Spring Queen April from
the clutches of a sinister figure known as the Scorpion. Dog sized scorpions
and a building falling down on top of them were not enough to stop them and
April was brought to safety.
The long reigning Autumn Queen Maude is nowhere to be found. Her shop is
boarded up and abandoned. Has she left the Lost to deal with the loyalist on
their own or has something else happened to her? In her absence the Lost
elected the Mirrorskin David as the new Autumn King.
What was the connection between the Scorpion and the loyalist? Were they
allies or enemies? Why did the Scorpion kidnap April in the first place?
While Autumn is still the reigning season, Winter is just around the corner.
Why has the Winter King not made an appearance yet? Is he responsible for
what is going on in the city or has he also suffered some dire fate?


Some new people showed up this time while friends from the previous months were nowhere to be seen. An annoying duo named Vicks and Wedge accused myself and David as being Loyalists. They would believe nothing we said, even refusing a handgun I handed them. David tried to be a bit more political than myself in dealing with them as I was ready and willing to throw them out a window.

He eventually took an oath to fight against the loyalists lest he be striked down, and a little spirit frog appeared on his shoulder to make sure he kept that oath.

We are given a map, and find out information about Maude's hut within the Hedge. A few of us go to ask for some spirit frogs resting within some stone frog statues for help, but none of us having any real way to contact them meet with no success. I actually talk and inform these stone frogs of what is going on, which mostly just has people looking at us funny. Oh well, it was worth a shot, right?

And more bad news. After all the work we went to rescue April, a woman named Mia who was tasked with getting her to the hospital reported she was taken. AGAIN. This is not good, not at all, especially with the Winter king missing.

Given our lack of cohesiveness I came up with a list of objectives, based roughly on the seasons we seem to follow.

Summer would be the objective of investigating the Goblin patrols within the Hedge, and battling them off when needed.

Autumn would be finding out where our missing monarchs went off to.

Winter would be the fortifying of our stronghold.

Spring would be a catchall, going where needed.

It took me some time to explain using the seasons was largely symbolic and a little bit of yelling and force to get things going, but as I explained, all the Lost are my brothers and sisters and we have to work together. We have been constantly arguing and doubting each other. I have to nip this in the bud. I do not care what season king is in session. As far as I am concerned I am the main person in charge of this Freehold and the men and women within it. They are always my concern and always my responsibility. And I will fight for them to my last breath! I will lead by example and prepare others for command as well. David and I are butting heads a bit, but we will work it out, and a fellow from "Across the Pond" as they like to say who was there for the Sid incident is my tentative nominee for Winter king.

As repeated by Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction: "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and goodwill shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."

This is how I must live and lead. It will be done. Perhaps I will be loved. Maybe hated. Maybe I will die, but I WILL fight for my brothers and sisters with everything I have to give!

We are given a parchment mentioning a contract made between a loyalist known as Red Johnny, Maude, and Sid. The very contract used to sacrifice one of us to go back. Proof has been found of their evil.

I send out an investigative team with our prospective Winter king. They return with 2 loyalists, one living, one dead. The area they were guarding was none other than Maude's hut within the Hedge! She was known to them as "The Evil Queen".

David organizes a strikeforce to investigate, and yet again leaves me at the Freehold. I have a chat with the living loyalist who lets us know he was told we were loyalists ourselves. He has no name, only called by Red Johnny as "325". I rename him "Doug" until we can find his original name. He tries walking out, but we stop him.

I now wait for my brothers and sisters to return...

At game's end I find out that Maude is within her hut, and that David has apparently defected to the Loyalist side, though it may be to keep himself alive.

Overall I am really enjoying the LARP games and am even getting sorta used to the lack of sleep one Saturday a month. I need to work on my outfit a bit more though. Right now a Navy ballcap and a pair of faux spiked leather fingerless gloves form my total outfit, excepting my normal clothes of course! Some folks really have kickass costumes! Of course I head off to work afterwards so I can't exactly go too out there to begin with, but it is making me want to step up my game. And both times I was invited to stay on for Vampire, but again, work. Yay.

The end of Wizkids

I'm sure most folks have already heard, but Wizkids' owner Topps has decided to pull the plug on the company that kickstarted the prepainted miniatures genre into what we know it as today.

Here are some thoughts on their games, mostly focusing on Heroclix as it was their biggest success. I am assuming some basic understanding of their core game system here, if not their website should still have the rules PDFs to download for more info. (I may also go back and add more to this post later. But its past my bedtime. Its been a while since I updated and time got the best of me!)

I'm an ex Heroclix player and even when I still played I knew Topps taking them over was a bad thing.

But that's not what really did the game in for me and why I quit it. It may be the reason others did as well.

The Clix game engine has pretty much been flawed from the get go, at least for me as a general minis game player.

The death spiral, colored icons to cross reference on a chart, having to pick up the model to move the base, the clix base making it a pain in the ass to even figure out what your models do for army building, the Magic like combo system, the activation system making weenie armies pretty hard to pull off, the vast majority of local play being tournament only, increased prices, and of course blind buy in general.

I originally bought Heroclix just for minis to use in RPGs. Ive got the old TSR Marvel RPG, the Mayfair DC game, and a couple generic systems. I mostly just bought cheap commons online of favorite characters and rarely bothered with boosters. My gamegroup had its usual falling out time and the comic shop was starting to carry and run the game with weekly tournaments.

Well anyone who has listened to me talk about hobby gaming (Been playing them actively since 1988) knows I think tournaments can take the fun out of everything up to and including an orgy.)

But that's what everyone played so I had to buck up or go elsewhere. I won quite a few tournies, though never actually enjoying myself to any real level. Theme teams were generally pointless, and certain combos were near broken, and for the most part your builds all but required certain powers to stand a chance over other model powers. It never actually felt like I was playing a superhero wargame. It was more an abstract math game with superhero figures on the top that never really acted like they should. For whatever dumb reason I started brick buying and all that too. But I was never really happy with the game. Not the way Warhammer 40K did, where even when dealing with complete tools I still loved the game.

Eventually I slowed down to just buying for the sealed games and after 2 of those dropped out entirely. I haven't bought a booster since a couple at Connecticon 07 when I was spending a little silly and hoping to get the Young Avengers figures.

Heroclix seems to be the only Clix engine game that had any legs. Halo was a non starter, Mechwarrior was doomed from the Battletech fanbase's nerd rage regardless of the game's actual qualities, Mage Knight was killed by an incompatible revision, and Horrorclix was doomed because people wanted iconic movie horror figures instead of generic horror, made even worse with expansions that weren't even good generic horror stuff.

For the non Clix games Pirates was a great concept with a god awful game system, and their Star Wars game is good light fun, but it hardly requires the cardstock models at all. I mostly buy it for cheap ships to use for Silent Death, which has been reduced since the ground models are in and I only need starfighters.

Of course the biggest problem is the blind buy deal. I am not a gambler. I do not like gambling. I like knowing what I pay for and getting a fair price. In a game like Heroclix where you really only need 1 of a miniature (Unlike the FAR better Star Wars Miniatures where outside of the rares and super rares you can never really have too many of most of the commons and uncommons. Of course the Rs and SRs have insanely high prices and I have so many minis from that line that in most new sets I really only want the Rs and SRs meaning I don't buy that game anymore either...) it can be really annoying, especially when the figures you want are packed 1 in every 4 boosters or something.

Blind buy is starting to die off in minis gaming. The new Mutant Chronicles game decided not to go blind, and D&D minis are going visible buy since WoTC realizes few people actually play the attached wargame anyhow. (And changing the rule system didn't help matters either.) Rackham's AT 43 and Confrontation both have gorgeous prepainted models, a fun game system, and are non blind buy for prepaints. WoTC's Heroscape and Marvelscape are non blind buy, have overall better paint apps than Wizkids, and are generally cheaper and far more fun to play games with.

This isn't even getting into build and paint miniatures games. I can get 48 Roman soldiers for 30 dollars MSRP for really high grade plastics, or even cheaper ones with still better than Wizkids sculpts. In the long run, even an expensive beast of a game like Warhammer 40K is cheaper. For the cost of 2 bricks you can have a decently sized army and rulesbooks if you like the 2 starter box armies.

I feel sorry for those of you who really enjoyed Heroclix, but Wizkids made more mistakes than successes, and never really had a compelling game system for many people.

It did lead the way though. They really were the first company to get prepainted miniatures wargames out on the market, and for that they have my thanks as a card carrying hater of painting models.

(Note: This post was edited to remove something I probably shouldn't have posted because the person in question is apparently E stalking my blog posts looking for me saying things even though I don't use anyone's real name anyhow. Though to be honest I never meant to post the comment for public consumption anyhow. Its what I get writing from the hip at 6 in the morning when I should be in bed. But I don't feel too bad given some of the things this person has said to me in front of other people in the past. However it was uncalled for and is thus stricken for the moment. )

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Southeastern CT, United States
I like to play nerd games! I am a nerd! Join our nerd ways at http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/SECTRPG/ Say hi to me on Xbox Live with the same name!