Monday, 26 September 2011

40K OSR? (11)

Time at last for a proper 40K OSR? update.

It still feels fairly quiet, but with things slowly picking up again. The change of season might be part of it, but I get the impression the sense of crisis and arrival of sixth edition is bringing out more expressions of what we each feel is the essence, more reflections on past and future.

Hopefully there'll updates more often because of it, but you can still find the most recent posts and links using the 40K OSR? search label.

So then, the usual intro - what is a 40K OSR? There are some potential definitions here.

As ever, if you identify with the concept, especially if you're putting out new ideas, feel free to use Colonel Kane's logo, at the top of this post. If you do, consider crediting him and adding Tales from the Maelstrom to your roll. It's real 40K magic, and if proof were needed of that, have a good read of the thoughtful interview with Rick Priestley.

  • The biggest development of the past few days has to be the arrival of The M42 Project, SandWyrm's move to write a 40K equivalent, one that's good for competitive gaming, but with rules true to the setting and free expansion.

Three wild cards too. The first two are linked, one being this overview at Dropship Horizon of 15mm power armoured troops, even more worthy of a look if M42 will be easily compatible, as SandWyrm suggests. There's a similar post at In space no one can hear you sculpt, here, looking at developing a design for Khurasan Miniatures.

The third comes via Stargazer's World, which has a link to a supplement for Barbarians of the Aftermath called Barbarians of the Future, inspired by the 40K universe.

This is still far shorter than I imagined it would be. What have I missed? Go right ahead and leave any relevant suggestions in the comments, even links to your own posts.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Circuses and bread, or good old gamers and the dust

I've had an odd train of thought start up, helped along by the memory of Brian's ruined stadium.

First I wondered if anyone had ever taken a Blood Bowl match off the field, out of the grounds and into the wider landscape as a game of Mordheim or Warhammer, as a riot of skirmishing fans.

I've never seen that done. But in the Warhammer world defeat might see release of great energies.

Then it got all propluristemic and I wondered if anyone in a tabletop roleplaying game ever had the characters appear on the tabletop itself, among the players as if the miniatures had come to life. Had them look up at the giants, wonder how their every action is foreseen, controlled, then desperately take cover behind a mug of tea, or scramble for the edge.

I got to the thought of the soldiers in a wargame suddenly realising they were pawns of powerful figures, that the ideals they were fighting for were empty words, dismissed by many as 'fluff'. That they weren't really fighting for a God Emperor, or their country - not even for treasure or notoriety. Just for the fun of destruction. Or to see who's better.

Or maybe only because those powerful figures - the players - were in thrall to greater forces in their turn and had spent years building up the armies. After all, there's no point having an army and not using it. What a shocking waste of money that would be.

And then I thought, blimey. What if those players looked around and saw their actions foreseen, and the things they believed in revealed to be false? And they carried their knowledge of strategy and world-building away from the table? Off the designated field, to challenge those very same forces? Could the future of gaming be not gaming?

Then I thought, man, who can possibly fit something like that in?

We're either working - or looking for work - or it's hobby time.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Happy ever after

Could we be missing the point just a little when we use the label 'post-apocalyptic' for a setting, or for a type of fiction like D&D? And missing it always, regardless of specifics?

Blood of Prokopius flicked the ponder switch here, referencing a post at Grognardia.

Unless the principles shaping a setting or fiction type prevent there being successive waves of identifiable development and decline, or eventually remove any perceptible legacy of the process, a world will always evolve until recognisable to some degree as post-something, whether the end of that something was actually apocalyptic or not.

If we're talking more about the mental atmosphere in a setting or associated with a type, it's natural that in moving into a future the occupants will look into the past, for things of value like knowledge. Assuming of course there's an awareness of a future at all.

It's also natural that as creators or participants we will project our approaches onto a thing, populating it with our interests and hang-ups, and that if they think like us, the occupants will presumably also comprehend the loss and be intrigued by it. Maybe a sense there is or has been something better, proof we can have it too - or can't.

It's possible to imagine 'post-creation' fiction, in which the thing that's past is only the very beginning, and even a time which wouldn't ever become myth, legend or history if conditions didn't let it develop, leave a record or survive. It's also possible to imagine a 'pseudo-post-apocalyptic' type in which a false record is created, which would add a twist to delving and discovering - if recognising the truth is allowed by the principles.

Going beyond that, what if the possibility of successive waves of development and decline itself were prevented by the overall framework? Could a thing with no possibility of change, no time, be attractive? How would we express and experience it?

Could it be that settings are 'post-apocalyptic' in the broad sense of 'after an ending' because there isn't much choice otherwise? Because if they aren't, they don't interest us? And because if they aren't instead simply 'post-creation', we can't know them? 

Lots of questions. I feel like I'm overreaching a bit, and that I've overlooked something crucial. But I'm ready to be set right. We are fallible after all, and it seems we know it.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Piracy, slavery and crimes with no name yet

I just wrote a focused and fairly raw gaming-related rant, hopefully a transformative one; almost posted the thing too. But I'm channelling the energy elsewhere. Too much to do.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

What if..?

What if we didn't need to sleep? Ever. And we ran on batteries say? But they weren't included? And we didn't know what they were? Or they hadn't even been invented yet?

An idea for anyone who wants to run with it. Been pondering big brands. Very tired.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

RAW v RAI? Is it RAD?

Here's a quick thought on the perennial problem of understanding rulesets of a higher complexity.

For those new to the terms, 'RAW' can be 'read as written' and 'RAI' in turn 'read as intended'.

The first suggests that when we come across an unclear rule or problematic interaction we take the text literally, even if the outcome is odd or inconsistent. The second says we should look at the issue in the context of the game or setting as a whole and judge the intent of the designers.

There's naturally some disagreement on which is best to use, though RAW seems more common in what tends to be called 'competitive' play and RAI in what tends to be called 'narrative', for degree of clarity needed and willingness or space to discuss and concede.

Of course, that assumes a divide right through the hobby, splitting us into two camps, a ridiculously simple concept for a large community. Variations in approach move on more than a single sliding scale too; they're multidimensional. But that's a little off track.

So how about a new acronym for the collection? For when there's no standard approach in place I suggest 'RAD', or 'read as desired'. All the players need to decide is whether they want to tone events down or crank them up. This in my experience is an easier decision to make on the hoof, and maybe one that helps bridge the artifical divide.

When an issue comes up, the players simply choose the interpretation - RAW or RAI - with either the most spectacular immediate outcome or the least, as desired in the mood of the moment or the context. If they want a more even course of events, they choose the least spectacular; if a more undulating, the most spectacular.

In competition, players could simply go with the least spectacular, or, if they can't agree which that is, RAW. RAD could encourage interaction, add in a dash of improvisation. That could mean more 'ownership' of the gaming, and a more satisfying experience.

Thoughts are of course very welcome...

Monday, 5 September 2011

There's money in gaming

Today of course is Labor Day in the US, an old celebration of work. In an economic sense, work is an attempt to add value, but it does seem that some values can be more valuable than others.

Take NetherWerks' adventure Gathering Mold. A business will fail badly without the help of the adventurers. So how much is their work worth? The going rate? More? How much if the owner is desperate? When does a price become excessive if the work being done is essential?

Maybe the most profitable work adventurers could do in a medieval-themed fantasy or post-apocalyptic sci-fi setting is set up a relatively luxurious but highly complex system only they understand, involving pumping of waste say, or farming exotic plants and creatures, or simply an intricate money-lending operation - to build dependency.

Then all they need do then is threaten to stop, or point to an imagined or exaggerated threat on the horizon. What would the consumers not do to keep the good times rolling?

It is highly immoral after all, but hey, this is roleplaying, and when we act we make our own realities. Lucky that only happens in roleplaying, right, or where would we be?

We just have to hope imagining the worst doesn't cause it.

The problem of economics in games has come up many times, but the solution could be simple. We can spend time detailing an overarching system, using spreadsheets say, by applying clear rules to a given degree in advance. But we can also work from the ground up, applying those rules as we go, as a consequence of individual actions.

The characters escort a delivery of stone. The expense rises to include their work, a kind of insurance, but risk of loss falls; the building is finished sooner, new structures can be planned better in terms of cost and schedule, and interest grows in the benefits of stone over wood. Prices rise, suppliers look to enter the field; shipments increase and stone starts to become commonplace. Risk of fire falls, general health improves and population grows more steadily, with new tradesmen appearing. Razing is now more difficult; tactics of armed groups change. Waves of interactions rippling out.

Everything's fine so long as they don't get carried away, or take their eyes off the basics.

This sees a world evolve, begin to live in a sense, with the adventurers at the centre of it, which fits the approach of many games. We can start with arbitrary numbers, just as we start with arbitrary rules, but keep thinking and moving things on.

Worlds are built from the bottom up.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Living objectives

Static wargame objectives which aren't geographical features seem to me a missed opportunity. How about having them move and interact with the forces and each other?

Here's one possible approach, a simple homebrew example for Warhammer 40,000.

Decide which objectives are living. Each moves at the beginning of the relevant player's turn, at half usual speed in a random direction, but may not assault. If one comes into contact with another, or a unit, it stops, but may move away or through another next turn. Alternatively, a model in contact may move the objective with it without penalty.

After moving, roll 1D6; the objective activates itself on a 6, or on a 5+ if in contact with another objective. If an objective is held by one of the players, the player may opt to activate it automatically now. Roll on the table at first activation to determine nature.

  1. Specialist - the nearest friendly unit gains a +1 to its cover save or a model with a doubled range and strength and halved penetration on one weapon; decide at first activation; the effect is permanent, but a given unit may receive it once only
  2. Civilians - replace the objective marker with a unit of 2D6 citizens under the control of the friendly player; the unit as a whole is now the objective, down to the last member, and cannot be activated again
  3. Controller - the friendly player may choose the individual directions in which his or her objectives move next turn
  4. Visionary - the objective is assumed to have the parley ability and will attempt to form a new force from all sides, selecting the nearest unit each activation; control of this force is determined randomly at the beginning of each game turn
  5. Beacon - all of the players gain a +1 bonus to reserve rolls and may reroll any one die in the deep striking process; this objective cannot be activated again
  6. Annihilation - the objective destroys itself; roll 2D6 for blast radius, with the result on the higher die being the strength and that on the lower the penetration

This way we get the chance of more complex interactions, even among the objectives alone, and a few unexpected events; the landscape comes to life a little more. The only bookkeeping needed is a single die face up by each objective with the activation type. 

There are some more ideas for this kind of thing in the free Killzone and at this post.