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!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

(Operation Game Collection) Dungeons and Dragons: Original Edition and Friends!

  Ah.  The original RPG.  The game whose inception can almost be credited with creating the "Adventure" Games market as we know it today.  (I call it Hobby Gaming but the other term works fine.)

  See back in the late 60s to early 70s a bunch of miniature wargames nerds in the midwest were making their tiny niche products and sharing and evolving them as best as they could with the technology and networking available for the time as opposed to our modern and more interconnected methods where an idea from Russia can be translated into English in hours and spread all over the place to be morphed into something else in Japanese ow what have you.

  Well some guys got together, smooshed miniature wargames together with a more freeform style of play and RPGs were born!  Dungeons and Dragons is (sadly) the Alpha and the Omega of it all, largely being the main RPG of the English speaking world for about as long as I have been alive.  (Almost 41 years now.  OH GOD I AM SO OLD WHY HAVE I WASTED MY LIFE ON DUMB NERD CRAP?!)

 (No Pathfinder's short run as king doesn't count because it is basically DnD 3.5 with a couple of tweaks.  Which is the only reason anyone cared about it.  DnD players seem to have issues playing anything other than DnD ruleset RPG Fantasy genre games.  Only a massive departure like 4th edition, the previous publisher (TSR) being shut down for a year, or Games Workshop levels of customer abuse seem to make the game take any form of noticeable hit in popularity, most of which is short lived.)

So, let's see what old books full of rusting staples I have for the first RPG as we know it?

(As is my wont, feel free to click most images for a larger one.)
 It took me many moons to get my "White Box" reprint set from the late 70s-whenever they stopped printing them in the 80s for a sub 100 dollar price but I eventually got it for like 50 bucks shipped.  It merely looks like the box got ran over multiple times.

 And what you got inside of the box!  Three softback stapled books and a set of reference sheets.  So even as early as 1974 we were getting cool box sets full of goodies and books in conveniently digestible booklets as opposed to these terrible monster coffee table books we have now.  

(To be fair the Iron Kingdoms core rulebooks could probably knock someone the hell out if swung hard enough...)

 And this is what the books looked like inside.  As we generally know, the rules don't make a whole lot of sense and all but require house ruling, made worse given how few examples there are in the booklets.  Not ugly in general though.

 Well ok, the art is mostly AWFUL inside these things.  But keep that last statement next to the swordy man.  We shall see it again in this post.

 If you want a retro laugh, here is the price TSR had for things in the mid-late 70s.  Given that no ADnD books are listed this is a 1976-early 77 price list.  For inflation fun purposes as of this writing One 1977 dollar is worth 3.85.  While I do not completely agree with inflation dealies like this, it gives one a ROUGH idea of things.  So a 10 dollar set then is worth 38 bucks or so now.  Which is kind of close I guess?  But a comic book at that timeframe was about 40 cents then, or worth 1.55 now.  As opposed to how much most comic books cost now which is FOUR DOLLARS.  Yeah.  Inflation is kind of a troublesome thing.  You can't just say WELL IT WAS  X DOLLARS THEN AND SHOULD STAY THE SAME NOW but you can't go the other way either.

 The sheets have lots of the charts you would want in a suite of loose sheets inside.  

 But unlike today where expansion products are designed to be bought for your game whether tabletop or electronic from the start and nigh unusable without them, back then they were merely cool options and add ons.  Much of what would become standard core elements of DnD long term first appeared in these books, more Greyhawk than Blackmoor.  

And yet even the Thief in Greyhawk is whined about by some idiot purists as being where DnD went off the rails.  I will talk about that later in the post..

 One of the first published adventures for DnD was in Blackmoor!  The legendary Temple of the Frog which is closer to what many JRPGs on consoles do (as well as oldschool Ultima) where both Sci Fi and Fantasy were combined and worked together as opposed to the more stringent division so many nerds seem to insist on nowadays.

Because nerds are dumb.

 And the next two supplements!  Eldritch Wizardry is a collection of more epic stuff for the game.  I have the little censor thing there because while you don't actually see any nipples on this picture THAT WAS DRAWN BY A WOMAN BY ALL REPORTS some people now as back then were rather puritan and OMG TEH CHILDRENS about it all.  To be fair I don't much see the point of the image being there but nerds gonna nerd I guess.  

Swords & Spells was basically a replacement for Chainmail which was the set of miniatures wargame rules Mr. Gygax and Perrin had made that was one of the initial default combat rulesets for DnD now that they discovered not too many people were using Chainmail for their DnD games or miniatures period!

(I also do not have the fourth supplement to Original DnD as it tends to go for much more than I want to spend for a mere historical artifact I have no real desire to actually PLAY GAMES WITH.  And a semi recent deluxe ODnD rerelease WOTC did?  Yeah I wasn't paying that when I am merely missing one book, awesome box or not!)

(I would also be remiss as to say I am missing an Avalon Hill boardgame that honestly serves no real purpose other than being a map board DMs could use to run overland campaigns on.  Which is a cheap thing to buy but.. I am not sure I really WANT it, you know?)

 Eldritch Wizardry added in some now legendary magical artifacts.

 Swords & Wizardry is merely only worth getting for the really cute art in it, with the images basically being miniature models on their bases getting up to adorably amusing shenanigans.

But as the game spread throughout the English speaking world the mixture of semi amateur level writing and the sheer oddness of this new game would cause it to not just be people teaching it to others and sticking more or less to the styles of play the creators intended.  People who simply weren't into Adventure Gaming would start picking it up and trying to self teach it to themselves and then their friends.  And like the Telephone Game things would be "Lost in Translation".  So an educator named Holmes would convince TSR to let him make a set of starter rules to ease folks in.  (Again something that would basically become a fixture in the market.)

 The very first Basic Set!  This rulebook, dice, and tutorial adventure would help to introduce unconnected and antisocial nerds of the mid-late 70s how to play this weird new game!

 The hobby and industry was in fact so new that TSR couldn't even source enough of the funny dice people would need back then so they made chits you cut out and drew out of a cup to get you by!

 And even Gary Gygax got into the tutorial scheme with The Keep on the Borderlands which is a now legendary adventure module.

 The main book looks VERY similar to the design of the then in development ADnD and in fact is some weird hybrid of Original and Advanced, kind of ending up as it's own thing.

 Obviously things are evolving and the company is becoming more and more professional.

 You can see in this edition of the module it is full of things of use and help for a beginning RPG player, even including some explanations of odd terminology most people wouldn't know back then or now!  And plenty of reference material and advice through the book to help you understand how to do this game stuff.

 LOOK AT THAT FAT WIDDLE STIRGEY-WIRGEY!!  WHOSE DA FATTEST BWOOD SUCKA?  IS IT YOU?  YES IT IS!!  :3   Anyhow, you can tell this is the Holmes edit version by the stat lines you can see as in entry 64.  This module will show up again when BX/BECMI DnD would be born in the early 80s.  But that is a tale for another time..

Now we must get into a hot topic.  THE OSR which stands for Old School Renaissance/Revival.  With 3rd edition and later 4th changing much of what the Original through 2nd edition DnD rulesets had as sacred cows, these aging people who refused to move on now had access to each other through the Internet.  Add in the Open Game License which gave people the ability (with limits) to basically redo and rebuild early DnD and modern advances in desktop publishing and we had a storm of people both reviving, adding to, and enhancing the editions they preferred as they formed communities dedicated to it.

 This has lead to things like fans making free fanzines and enhancements like this small one designed to expand the Holmes Basic set into a fuller featured RPG that doesn't really require anything else for those who have decided HOLMES EDIT IS MY GAME AND THE ONE TRUE D UND DEE and want to just run it and not really go beyond.

You see, this is one thing with the OSR.  Many of them sadly have their heads shoved firmly up their own asses, insisting whatever version of DnD they grew up with is the only good one.  This has lead to such inane things as the dismissal of even the Greyhawk supplement for Original DnD, or anger over the BECMI DnD over the BX one even if they are 95% exactly the same in rules and charts.

It gets even more absurd with AD&D and 2nd edition.  This is why people keep getting into smaller and smaller niches of Internet Echo Chambers where they just encourage more "partisan" forms of thought.  And I REALLY need to cover this sort of partisan thinking on consumer products in a post all to itself.  So let's just say people like to get a bit too invested in a memory that is probably not even entirely real.

But for our purposes, ODnD got it's own rather well regarded rewrite called Swords & Wizardry.  Being three formats with varying levels of adherence to the ODnD rulebooks and expansions, it makes the original books both unnecessary but even allows people to play for FREE.  And thanks to Print on Demand services like Lulu you can have reasonably priced physical copies!

 I have more properly covered Ruins & Ronin a few years ago here: http://wargamedork.blogspot.com/2010/01/review-corner-rpg-review-of-ruins-ronin.html and a bit more about Swords & Wizardry here:  http://wargamedork.blogspot.com/2009/04/retroclones-primer-and-swords-and.html  .

Sadly I never did get the game beyond that one play session and the RPGsite became such a miserable and hateful place I have left it far behind.

For a free or inexpensively purchased physical product, Swords & Wizardry looks quite good.  I actually printed out the entire rulebook.  Of course as these ongoing projects tend to do, things have been updated and improved which almost makes buying a physical version or wasting ink and paper printing them out kind of pointless.  Luckily modern portable phones and tablets are fantastic for holding PDFs to read and use on the go.  (And laptops of course.)

 There are even a lot of great fanzines you can either download for free or buy such as this one, Knockspell!

 Knockspell is more or less for ODnD primarily, while the other big paid fanzine

 Fight On! (Told you that would come back!) is more ADnD focused but still heavily supporting the original.  Fight On! has far more issues out than Knockspell and even will release massive collated editions like the first four issues combined into that one massive book to the left.  

 Again, our modern technology makes these fan driven projects look better than even the pro ones they were inspired by.

Yet the best thing is not merely when fans remake the old rules as an excuse to shove in their house rules or make them as a way to rationalize releasing new adventures and support material for sale.
(Some claim it is because the older books are difficult or expensive to find which is honestly incorrect.  Between RPGNow/DrivethruRPG, Ebay, and WOTC's own reprints only the ODnD we are covering here is expensive to acquire in some legitimate form.)

Some folks take the OGL and make all new games, like one of my favorites:
 X-Plorers is basically retro DnD but Sci Fi oriented and with some modern touches to make it FUN.  Sadly it never seemed to take off and just got spread from publisher to publisher and mostly just farted out.

 See?  All one really needs for a quick and fun Sci Fi RPG!  It works so well I made some posts allowing you to use it instead of more complicated and boring RPGs like Mechwarrior or Prime Directive or Gurps.

If you want to see more about it and some of what I came up with:  http://wargamedork.blogspot.com/2010/01/review-corner-review-of-rpg-x-plorers.html


This ought to give you something to go on.  (I had quite a few early 2010 X Plorers posts but I think those two links are enough to start you on your path!)

  So there we go!  My Original 1974 White Box/LBB DnD collection!  Eventually I will get those two final products I mentioned above and more of those fanzines but I am mostly set!  I have the Dragon Magazine Archive CDs somewhere around here which is full of support material for early DnD and the RPG download site I mentioned above sells some of the third party support material as well such as that from Judges' Guild.

  But....  ODnD really isn't my jam.  I like it for being fast, light, and flexible but it is too confused and scattershot, plus it not being the system of my rose tinted nostalgia goggles.

  Whenever I move on to the next DnD Game Collection post I might cover it eh?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Let's Read (and maybe house rule) Warhammer 40,000 2nd Edition! Part 5: Breaking & Rallying Through Psychology

  It has been a little while but I have many projects and terrible time management.  But I am back to bring more knowledge of 40K when it wasn't the completely terrible ripoff disaster it is nowadays.  In an attempt to actually get this out I am breaking up what I said was going to be one post into two.

  First up is Breaking and Rallying.  If a squad takes 25% or more casualties off of its current number in a single turn (either in shooting or close combat) it must take a Break Test but it only has to take one of these tests in a single turn.  The squad rolls 2d6 and must score equal to or under their unit's highest Ld score or become Broken.

  If your dudes end up in this situation they can no longer do anything besides stand still if behind cover, or flee 2d6" towards the nearest cover away from enemy models at the start of their turn.  If they are attacked in close combat or enemy models with  Fear or Terror move within 8" of them they will run away again.  When they are fleeing they ignore terrain penalties besides impassible, but player agreed on super difficult terrain could cause a 1 in 6 chance of a fleeing unit to be lost.

  My issues here are the odd writing that says a unit may stand stationary when broken, but the very next paragraph (which is mentioned as MAY STAY STATIONARY OR MOVE AS DESCRIBED BELOW) says you stay stationary when you are in cover.  Its a bit iffy but I would say you only stay put if in cover because if you are messed up by a loss of morale you won't sit out in the open.  The bits saying it is up to the players if very difficult or special terrain can cause casualties and exactly if it means a single model, roll for each flee fellow, or just the unit in general isn't exactly a smart way of doing things.  I do appreciate players being allowed to figure some things out themselves but.. its a RULE BOOK.  Give us some guidelines or make it an optional box out, ala AD&D 2nd edition turning some of Gary Gygax's more annoying and less used rules into options you know?

  Broken units in close combat or charged get messed up like as mentioned in the CC section, and then if they manage to live they flee that 2D6 thang.

  During the Rally phase a unit can try to rally provided they are behind cover, were not forced to flee during this turn, and the closest other friendly unit isn't broken.  Also if the unit is 25% or less of it's starting strength it simply cannot rally and is just removed from the game.

  Space Marines have a Shaken rule which is basically that they cannot move towards the enemy but otherwise fight and move as normal.  This also includes follow up moves from winning close combat, though being so gay for their battle brothers espirity de corps for being able to use follow ups to move into close combat with models engaged with their fellow Space Marines.  So outside of ally and team games they generally can always follow up into enemies if said enemies are engaged with their bros.  If Marines have a reason to make another break test they become broken as normal, though if they rally they lose all shaken/broken status.

  There is a box out for rolling double 1s or 6s when a unit makes a rally check.  On 6s the unit is destroyed, and on 1s the unit gets to move and shoot though if they get into close combat they don't fight it out.  (Shaken Marines don't worry about this rule thankfully.)

  Sixteen color pages, most of which are Eavy Metal pictures of that era's models from various factions painted up lovely in that era's style in bright and vivid colors.  Some people with bad taste call it cartoony but these people are dumbos IMO.

  Our next big section is Psychology, covering Fear and Terror.  Like normal Morale tests you have to roll equal to or under your unit's Ld score, using the rider if it's cavalry.

  Fear tests are taken if a unit is charged by something it fears otherwise it automatically breaks if outnumbered by the charger.  If it isn't outnumbered it has half it's WS rounded up for the first turn of combat and can't overwatch shoot at them.  (This happens once the charger is found to be in range to charge.)

  You also take this test if you want to charge something you fear, but if you fail you stay stationary but can still fire.  Also a weapon that causes fear causes a break test if it hits regardless of casualties it causes and percentages of such.

  Being outnumbered by a fear causing enemy causes a break test at the end of each close combat phase regardless of the casualty percentage thing.

  Terror is basically Fear +1 and does everything fear does, including making units with fear have fear of a terror unit.  (Models with the same level of fear or terror ignore their opponent's fear/terror.)  A terror test is only taken once a game and if passed it is merely counted as fear tests from then on.

  Got that?  Well terror doesn't really do much over fear outside of the test being taken if charging or charged by the terror, and unit/characters taking the test if they start their turn within 8" of Mr Spooky.

  If you fail this minor upgrade to Fear that honestly causes minor confusion you break and flee 2D6" away even if you have cover.  I mean terror has an improved effect but not a massive one.  It just is something else to remember and then remember wrong.  Which is the POINT OF THIS LR PROJECT.  To show us the stuff we missed, did wrong, or just plain ignored because reasons.

  Next up?  Stupidity!  Basically at the start of their turn, stupid units have to roll under their Ld (unlike every other Ld based test I can tell).  If they pass they work like normal, but if they fail?  Well... in close combat on a 1-3 for each stupid creature in the failed unit they don't fight properly, not rolling attack dice or being able to parry.  If outside of CC roll a D6 and do the following as compulsory moves:  1-3:  Normal move distance in a scatter dice direction.  4-6:  stand around and do nothing.

  When under stupid effects no shooting or psychic stuff can be done by the units under it.  Sadly it is kind of unclear if you roll PER MODEL to see what these effects are or PER UNIT as you do for to see if they are stupid this turn.  I would say per unit for speed purposes.

  While under this effect no other psychology effects happen but they take break tests as normal, but while broken models don't have to test for stupid.  If a unit has a stupid cavalry critter the rider's Ld is used, and the rider may still perform actions even if their mount is going in a random direction though any mount based Attack Dice additions doesn't happen.

  Frenzy is up now.  Frenzy can be restrained by passing an Ld check for the turn and the status goes away if they break in close combat.  Otherwise they have COMPULSORY MOVEMENT into anything within their charge range which I guess means checking range even if you wouldn't normally check this until such a thing is declared.  This should have been explained better!

  Frenzied units double their A value but not doubling things like a second close combat weapon/pistol combo.  They may also not parry, and they ignore all psychology effects/things.   They also have to use follow up moves from close combat to get closer to the enemy.  This is all a little odd but ok I guess.

  We finally finish up these five pages of rather dense rules with Hatred which  gives troops a Ld value of 10 for break and rally tests if they hate their enemies.  (Not exactly well written.  AGAIN.  Cmon guys!  What if the dudes they hate are on the entire other side of the field?  It just says ADVERSARIES THEY HATE.  Is this like cops with not white people?  Republicans with the poor?  SA Goons with bronies?  The mere thought they share a vague space with them makes them mad as hell and not willing to take ANY. MORE?)  They have to follow up move into or closer to hated enemies, and in the first round of close combat they may reroll any of their attack dice though they do mention its when they attack.  I am guessing since charging/engaging wasn't brought up this is merely some fluff explanations like the manual has been using all throughout, and it is the first round of close combat no matter if they engaged/charged or vice versa.

  Wooow.  This was a long post for a tiny set of dense and poorly written rules!  But it is important rules, you know?  Luckily outside of Fear and Terror the other psychology effects aren't very common at all so it would give people time to learn the game properly.  I hope.

  Next time we will cover the other six pages I meant to cover this time but energy, enthusiasm, and the sheer denseness of the rules made me pass on this time around.  Character Stuff and Psionics.

I also have some more pickups before I forget:
After MONTHS of searching for the Battles book complete for a reasonable price I finally got it for under 20 with all the card in the back still in there. The book is like 60% battle reports but I still needed it to have a complete 2nd ed book run (almost done there!) and it is cool for a historical document.  I will cover it more if this project ever gets to that point.  (This is up to yall commenting and contributing to keep me inspired otherwise I will inevitably find some other stupid shiny to waste time and money on as I am wont to do.)

And a lead unassembled Rogue Trader era Techmarine for the Dark Angels list.  About 10 bucks shipped!  I glued him together with his original plastic RT backpack, washed my hands because LEAD IS BAD FOR YOU, then gave him a nice lovely coverage of primer.  I am so happy to have him!

See ya next time!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Let's Read (and maybe house rule) Warhammer 40,000 2nd Edition! Part 4: Close Combat (Also known as HAND TO HAND)

  It has been a little bit but now we get into the part where our toy dollies move in close and try to kill each other like they are still fighting an 18th century battle.

  But first:

  I am almost codex complete for 2nd edition!  I merely need the Codex Army Lists book that came with the Boxed Set, and the Battles expansion book that is 90% useless if not complete with cardstock in the back (if it was even useful then mind you..) and I will be 2nd ed product complete.  A handful of White Dwarf issues and I am basically official rules complete!  

(Oh the joys of my blog.  It just makes me spend more money on silly nonsense.)

  Anyhow, our Hand to Hand section starts with noting that models must have their bases touching to be in close combat, and only pistols, close combat weapons, though some fluff mention also includes just using your teeth or rifle butt in the very same section.

  You see, you may either use your pistol, a close combat weapon, or your S value to hurt a thing depending on whatever is higher.  Also facing doesn't matter.  Personally, I am now kind of used to the half inch or more leeway for close combat Warmahordes does.  This allows for fancier bases and not being too nitpicky.  

  The order of close combat works like so:

1:  Roll attack dice.  Each player rolls a number of D6s based on their Attacks (A) stat and get an extra die if they have two close combat weapons or a CCW and a pistol.

2: Calculate score.  Take WS and your highest D6 roll.  Add these together plus any modifers.

3:  Compare.  Highest score wins.  If its a tie, go with the highest I score.  If both I are the same its a draw.

4:  See hit amount.  The difference between the winner and the loser calculates the number of hits caused to the enemy.  If its a tie it is just a single hit.

5:  Roll to wound and save.  Just like shooting but the attacker can choose to use their S or weapon values to select S and armor save modifiers.

  They then box out the Parry rule which if you have such a weapon you can force the other side to make a reroll of one of their attack dice (parries cancel out on each side.  Because of the effectiveness of this most people tended to take parry only CCWs if they could.) and the Fumble & Critical Hit rule.  For Fumbles if you roll any 1s, the other player ADDS that 1 to their score per result.  For Critical Hits for every EXTRA 6 rolled after the first is a +1 to your score.

  Other score modifiers include +1 for being higher up on like a stairway or platform or Charging, and a -1 for Being Encumbered with a heavy weapon or such, or charging an enemy behind an obstacle.

For using a model's S versus armor it is -1 to the armor roll at S4, and up to a -6 maximum for S 9 and beyond.

  When Multiple Combats happen and models are ganging up on a less numerically large unit the player who outnumbers the other gets to choose which order these fights are done, and every additional fight in the same round  adds +1 to their score and 1 extra attack die.  So if you could get 4 guys on 1 foe the fourth guy fighting would get +3 to their score and 3 extra attack dice!

  As we can see these close combat rules are a little slow but.. kind of FUN.  But only for smaller model games and fights.  For horde armies or 3-7th ed 40K sized games it is.. not quite so fun honestly.  It works for the sized games 2nd ed was intended to be played at however.   Even if they made parrying HUGE.  Speaking of huge more modern 40K models with their larger base sizes might get screwed by these rules as you could possibly get more and more dudes on one.  Though to be fair the larger base might keep the model from getting surrounded so it kind of balances?  Maybe?

  Follow Up Moves are next.  If your model has eliminated its enemies it may move 2" in any direction with no penalties for obstacles, including moving into a new enemy to fight in the next close combat round next turn, though without the charge bonus.  Other terrain rules apply however.

  Outside of a 2 page example with some diagrams, we finish this section with Breaking Off.  If for whatever reason including being Broken a model may attempt to disengage from melee but their WS is ZERO, and they do not get parries.  If the model survives they and their squadmates who also survived move back 2D6" and are broken if they already weren't.  And cannot rally this turn.

  There is one more BIG section left of rules (well more than 2-3 pages worth anyhow!) but next time we will cover Breaking & Rallying, Psychology, Heroic Characters, Commanders, and (simple) Psionics.  After that we should have two more entries and the core rulebook is FINISHED.



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