Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Am Not A Wargamer

A few weeks ago, when the regular group(s) couldn't get together, I got together with a couple of friends and we played a round of Tomorrow's War which is a pretty neat little squad based near-future sci-fi wargame, generally played with 15mm minis. It has a neat action-reaction mechanic to handle initiative and such, and generally seems like a really well thought out game. I had a good time and I'd like to play it again some time.

So why is this entry titled "I am not a wargamer?" Because I realized that night that while I enjoy the occasional miniatures wargame and certainly appreciate a lot of elements of them (I enjoy 4th Edition D&D combat for example) it's not really my thing. I had a good time, but it was clear my two friends were a bit more into it than I was. They had a lot more experience with wargaming than I did and so were able to grok the rules to the game a lot quicker than I was. There was a little bit of terminology that they both were clearly comfortable with that I had to kind of stop and think about to follow. This wasn't a huge problem mind you, I was able to figure out the rules and I think I did pretty well in my game. I certainly didn't feel like I was being excluded or anything, but there was a little while before we started playing, when were going over the rules and my eyes kind of glazed over. I didn't get the impression this happened for my friends.

There are certain aspects to some wargame rule systems that just don't really interest me all that much, but they clearly get other people going. Tomorrow's War is not a super complicated game, but there are other more complicated games I've played bits of before (or even just attempted to read) that have intricate rules for things like movement that just don't really interest me much. It just doesn't feel like the sort of hobby I'll ever get really into.

And all of that's alright. Wargaming is something I enjoy well enough in small doses, and something I hope to do more of in the future, but I don't think it's ever going to become a major hobby of mine. I have bought a lot of mini's to use in my rpg's, and just because I think they're neat, but I don't imagine I'll be one to spend too much time and money on a big complicated wargame. (Luckily I have other friends who will spend more time and money than me so I can just play with them when the urge strikes me).

Anyway, nothing earth shattering here but I just thought I'd talk about a realization I've recently had about my interests as a gamer.

Good gaming!
-The Duke of Brandonshire

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

System Hopping

First of all, sorry for the long stretch between posts. November ended up being very busy for me in a number of different ways that made writing blog entries, even during my lunch breaks at work, a lower priority. December is also looking busy but in different ways, so I'm hoping it'll leave more time for writing. Anyway on to the content!

So in my main gaming group we've been trying a number of different systems for the Sci-Fi game we've been playing for the past few months. It's been an interesting way to compare systems and an even better way to to figure out what kind of games work best for our group.

We started this whole crazy affair by playing Mongoose's most recent version of Traveller. We created our own version of the setting, generated out characters (which is super fun) and then we were off. Or so we thought. Something about the Traveller system just didn't quite work for us. We tended to get bogged down in the economic and business aspects of the game, and for whatever reason we all had a lot of trouble remembering exactly how the different systems worked. ("First you need to roll on this skill, then roll on this chart, then roll this other skill, now add this and that up and you get the cost of the goods you have to sell"). I have no doubt that if you really have those systems down and your group has the right mindset this is a lot of fun. But for us it just didn't quite work. Things moved very slowly and I don't think any of us were having as much fun as we had anticipated.

So we moved on and our GM put together a really neat hack of Apocalypse World and gave us all versions of our Traveller characters in the new system. It was fun to try to boil down the essence of the previous incarnation in to a very different system. We had a lot of fun playing our AW hack for a few months or so, but eventually realize it wasn't quite working for us either. Apocalypse World really thrives on interpersonal relationships between the characters but that's just not really the focus for our group most of the time. We're more interested in exploring and dealing with external threats and situations. Additionally, the people that are available to play any given week is pretty variable for our group, so building up those relationships becomes difficult even if we had wanted to.

Again, I have no doubt at all that this would have worked marvelously for some groups, and honestly we had a lot of fun with it, but it still just wasn't quite all the right notes for us. So we've switched it up again.

We've gone back to an old favorite and I really think it's probably going to finally be the right system for us for this game.

We're playing Savage Worlds now. As a group we tend to like tactical combat, but we also want it to be pretty fast; Savage Worlds delivers on that really well. We want to be able to create unique and varied characters and it delivers on that too. We also want a system that gives us just enough structure to do complicated exploration or social interactions with some tension from the dice but gets out of the way when we want it to. Again, Savage Worlds delivers on this pretty well.

Our last game with Savage Worlds was set in Ancient Greece (and was a blast) so this'll be quite a change in genre, but I think the system is definitely up it. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the space combat looks like. Our GM is really excited about it. (It's too bad the player who was playing the "brash pilot" in the last incarnation of the game isn't available nearly as often anymore. I think his character would have a lot of cool stuff to do in this incarnation. Hopefully he can make it to the occasional session going forward.)

I could certainly see us using other kinds of games (I'd still like to play some Adventurer Conqueror King some time soonish, and I've been trying to schedule some sessions of Dungeon Crawl Classics with a few people for a while now), and we might even go back to the systems above (or variants of them, like Dungeon World which I'm pretty excited about) for short games, but I think we have a clearer vision of what our group enjoys most and what works for us best long-term now. Hopefully that'll mean we'll look at future games and systems with a little clearer vision of what our particular group needs and wants.

Have you ever had a campaign change systems? How did it go? Why did you make the switch?

Thanks for reading!

-The Duke of Brandonshire

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gamma World and Group Creativity

This was an entry I was thinking about writing years ago when I first played the most recent version of Gamma World with some friends during a few off-nights in our 4e D&D campaign.

We had had one session which involved character creation and a short part of the intro adventure the comes with the boxed set. We had a lot of fun as all the players looked at what traits they had received and tried to make some sense of them. I had a lot of fun and I think everyone else did but I didn't think too terribly much on why.

This was also the session that spawned the infamous inside joke wherein every time you say "Gamma World" you need to follow it up with "Lisa Needs Braces." This mostly doesn't make any sense, but it references the classic Simpsons episode Last Exit to Springfield in which the phrase "Dental plan! Lisa needs braces!" is repeated over and over (sorry about the repetitive clip, there doesn't seem to be a simple clip of the actual sequence from the episode available). For some reason at some point one of us started saying "Gamma World! Lisa needs braces!" and it just sort of stuck because we're all Simpsons nerds like that.

A few weeks later we had another session and had an out of town friend in as a guest player. We quickly rolled up a character for him and threw in a few options from a (then) upcoming expansion. I don't quite recall exactly what he rolled up but he did get the "time traveler" origin as one of his two. We figured this was perfect for dropping him into an ongoing scene. He had some sort of time traveling accident and just dropped right into the scene. Someone asked about his time machine and we placed a small beer bottle (I think it was an empty Red Stripe) and said that that was about where it was. Then it struck me that that's actually what it should be. So we decided that his time machine was actually a huge bottle that had just dropped out of the sky suddenly. We talked a bit more and decided that it was not just a giant bottle but it was a giant bottle with a ship inside of it, which just seemed like a fun weird sort of thing to be a time machine. The session went on from there and it was generally a situation where everyone's creative juices were flowing. It was a lot of fun.

Thinking and talking about it afterward my friend and I were commenting on how much we enjoyed the way the game encourages you to make up so much about your characters and the world and how much fun that is. He even commented on how much he enjoyed Gamma World even though he's generally kind of luke-warm on 4E D&D.

On my way home I was thinking about all of the different ways that Gamma World encourages you as a GM and the group to get really creative. First you get a couple of origins, that may not seem to have much of anything to do with one another and you have to try to come up with how this makes a coherent character. Then there's the way weapons are handled. You get broad categories, with general stats for damage and accuracy and such, but you fill in the blanks on what they actually are. So a heavy melee weapon might be a parking meter, or chair, or a war hammer you found in a museum or that your tribe created. I think once you get into that mode of thinking everyone starts to come up with a lot of ideas they might not otherwise, and people start thinking very creatively. Most of the "treasure" in the game is just random junk pulled from a chart (I like to use the Junk-u-lator), but once everyone is thinking creatively it's easy to start to come up with innovative ways to use these things.

On my way home that night it also struck me that the fiction of the game (at least as presented in the boxed set, you're obviously free to alter as you will) also encourages this sort of collaborative creativity and thinking. In the most recent version of the game it's not a nuclear war that creates the insane world you play in it's a mistake at the Large Hadron Collider that causes a bunch of different realities to collapse in on one another and create a "consensus" reality that alters and changes frequently. Not only does this explain the random mutations that happen in the game (via a card mechanic that I actually rather like) but it also implies that reality in this world is basically whatever everyone agrees it is.

This feels like a nod to the way you're likely to end up playing the game too: The game world is whatever everyone at the table agrees it is. There may be a number of competing ideas thrown out by the group, but the group (and the GM of course) decides which to use, and how to combine them.

Both mechanically and in terms of the implied fiction of the game it feels like Gamma World really encourages group story telling and creativity. Does that make it a sort of story game? I'm not sure, but I think that's a big part of why I like it so much.

Well, that and the mutant bugs and killer robots.

Thanks for reading!

-The Duke of Brandonshire

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A little cleanup

The entry that was here is now over on my new blog here:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Warp Riders 3

The entry that used to be here has been moved over to my new blog: Hope to see you over there!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Warp Riders 2

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Warp Riders

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Some Older Entries Added

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Randomness And Me

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Monday, September 10, 2012


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Friday, September 7, 2012


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Friday, August 31, 2012

Current Interests

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

We'll be right back!

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I've moved my blogging over to a new site hosted on It's more of a general blog, but I still talk about gaming there too. I've moved my posts over there.

In a state of flux

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Welcome to the Duchy of Brandonshire!

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