Tuesday, February 26, 2013

[Solo GPC] 538: It's May

With squire Graid having distinguished himself at the Rochester Tournament the previous year, we entered this year wondering if he would soon earn his spurs as a knight. Graid did indeed continue to prove that he was his father's son, not only in mettle but also in his ability to surprise us and take things in unexpected directions.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

[The Miniatures Corner] Migration

My first game-related blog, and my first blog on Blogger, was The Miniatures Corner, started to chronicle my "other" hobby of tabletop miniatures wargaming. It was from the get-go a particularly dusty blog and only got dustier over time. In 2009 I decided to migrate all the posts from that blog over here and try to centralize all my gaming-related content under the banner of The RPG Corner.

I've decided that I'm going to reactivate The Miniatures Corner and once again separate minis and RPG posts into their respective blogs. My goal for 2013 is to actually start playing more miniatures games, and I think running a blog devoted exclusively to that pursuit will be a good motivator.

At any rate, this will be the last miniatures-wargaming-related post on this blog. If you're an old-fashioned freak like me and see RPGs and miniatures wargaming as two sides of the same hobby coin, feel free to hop on over to The Miniatures Corner and follow me there as well!

Friday, February 15, 2013

[Solo GPC] 537: Up from the Buttery

That's "buttery" as in "butts of beer," not "dairy product."
With the death of Loholt last year, we once again found ourselves back in the company of a lowly squire as primary PC: young Graid, son of Herringdale, squire to the Butler of Sarum Castle.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hitting That Campaign Sweet Spot

During last night's session of my Cthulhu by Gaslight campaign, four-fifths of the characters in the party voluntarily got stoned on opium at one point, so anxious were they to ease their addled minds. And that was before one of them woke up to having his teeth pulled out by a clutch of charcoal imps (poor Dr. Hume is now missing four chompers from his grill) and another character nearly had his eyes clawed out and was left with terrible facial scars.

Reflecting after the session, I couldn't help but smile. My campaign had hit the Cthulhu "sweet spot."

Every RPG has them, and they're all different. It's what makes the RPG campaign such an enjoyable format of gameplay. (And why I don't particularly care for systems that try to spread the sweet spot over the entire course of play.) Initially, the party is still coalescing, the players are still getting a feel for the world and the way their characters interact with it, and larger themes or arcs have yet to organically emerge. Then, all of a sudden, a switch is flipped and the whole tenor of the campaign changes. You're playing D&D and suddenly you can mow through goblins and orcs with aplomb or successfully plumb that dungeon level that's been so deadly up til now. You start thinking about tracking down those rumors of a nearby dragon's lair. Or you're playing Call of Cthulhu and all of a sudden everyone is paranoid, cynical, and (in my campaigns at least) mutilated in some way, either mentally or physically. These two sweet spot examples couldn't be fixed at more extreme polarities, yet they are equally thrilling once you reach them.

Of course, eventually you pass out of the sweet spot too. The half-ogre fighter with the magical zweihander starts soloing remorhazes. Nothing feels challenging anymore. Or else your intrepid investigator is just too run down, too used up, to be of much use and everyone's running around with Cthulhu Mythos scores well into the double digits. It's just not quite the same once you've read the Necronomicon cover to cover or joined the Round Table.

But by that point, you're already thinking about starting it all over again...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

An Open Request to Chaosium

Can we make this the cover art to 7th edition Call of Cthulhu, please?

It's Virgil Finlay. I'm pretty sure he'd be cool with it. Hell, it might even be in the public domain at this point.

Friday, February 8, 2013

[Solo GPC] 536: Low Hangs the Head Who Wears It

We left off the previous year with Sir Loholt, in effect, "winning the game" - it doesn't get much better in Pendragon than making the Round Table and being crowned king of your own kingdom, much less both events taking place in the same year! Loholt's glory tally for 535 was, I believe, an all-time record for a single year's award: 2,993 points! (And that's not counting Loholt's annual glory. In the final tally, he was only about 300 points shy of racking up a whopping four Bonus Points in a single year.)

Both the achievement of the Round Table and ascension to high nobility have been put forth in the rules as logical end-points for a character's story. So where to from here? As it turned out, the events of this session would provide all the answer we needed.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Savage Worlds Combat: How Swingy Is Too Swingy?

With Savage Worlds being one of my three purported "go-to" systems of the moment, I've been endeavoring to run more of it. Previous experience with the system had been limited to one-shots, and I wanted to take the system for a longer spin, something I was able to do over the holidays with a brief fantasy campaign set in S. John Ross's Uresia: Grave of Heaven setting.

Now, I've read about the "swingy-ness" of the SW combat system--that combats can and do either end really quickly or drag on for a long time. It wasn't until the third session of the campaign that I experienced this for myself. I posted this tangential comment in response to a post on RPG Blog II, but I thought I'd put it up here as well to open things up to any Savage Worlds afficionada who might be reading and care to comment:
I was running a two-player fantasy genre campaign (a rogue-type and a mad scientist, so granted they weren't combat monsters). In the first combat against four zombies, the mad scientist's "magic missile launcher" took out three in one shot, but it then took about 15 rounds to finish off the last one. The second zombie fight was easily the most excrutiating combat I've experienced in recent memory--I believe it took 28 rounds to kill three zombies. That pretty much killed interest in the campaign for all of us right there.

Out of curiosity, we ran through the "boss fight"--an evil priest who was going to summon a giant undead spider on the first round. The first combat, the rogue one-shotted the priest on round one (before he could summon the spider) and it was all over! We did another refight and this time the priest was able to summon his spider and the PCs went down to defeat in 11 rounds.

All in all, that's two "average length" combats (one victory, one defeat), one excrutiatingly long combat, and one ridiculously short combat. Granted, it was a small party and not one optimized for combat, but the extreme nature of the swingyness in both directions bothered us greatly.

I really love the SW system and what you can do with it (did I mention the rocket-launching mad scientist was a talking rat?), but if such swingy combats are a regular occurance, that might be a deal-breaker for me.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Solo GPC: Three Years On

Normally I like to post these retrospectives around the anniversary of launching this whole Solo GPC venture, but this year I'm a month late. Happily, this is largely owing to the massive amount of gaming I've been doing, including lots of Solo GPC sessions!

The first year, propelled both by our naive enthusiasm and our interest in the developing arc of Sir Herringdale, we covered 30 game-years. Years Two and Three each saw a comparitively paltry ten game-years go by. This has produced some interesting math, as we started this year precisely 30 game-years out from the end of the Great Campaign. Knowing that it's quite possible to cover such an amount of time in the span of a single year, Des and I have set out to cross the finish line before the end of 2013.

Needless to say, I'm woefully behind on updates - the last dating from 535 and us just having played 541 last night - but I'm recording the sessions and, now that my other campaigns are off the ground and flying under their own power, I anticipate more free time available to get back into writing the updates.

Had I written this update a month ago, my evaluation of the Solo GPC would have been somewhat guarded. Now that I feel we're firmly back in the swing (and really enjoying where events are taking us), I can confidently say that the end is in sight. Thirty game-years is still a long time, however, and I can't wait to see what sort of events transpire in those three decades. The scripted events alone touch on some of the most memorable elements of the Arthurian mythos, and that's to say nothing of how Des's character(s) might interact with same, much less whatever personal story arcs may arise.

Even after three years of play, Des and I are both very much in love with this game. In fact, we've been talking lately about proposing running the GPC with our weekly tabletop group. The idea is that Des, having been through it already, would sit in as a sort of co-GM, playing key NPCs and generally assisting with the task of keeping a larger group humming along. It would be great to finally have someone playing the adversary, and for such a potentially epic exercise no less! I wouldn't be insane enough to attempt write-ups for that campaign, although an actual play podcast would be a very real possibility. I know we've got a couple Pendragon fans in the group, but I haven't pitched the idea yet, so I have no clue if it would fly or not. If it does, I'll be sure to crow about it here, I have a feeling.

Oh, one other take-away observation from this last year's game-play: when I say Des has "been through" the GPC, that's only true to a certain extent. Those of you who have been keeping up with the updates and following along in your own copies of the book will have no doubt realized that there's a lot of material going untapped. And that's just in the actual Great Pendragon Campaign book itself, to say nothing of the many other scenario books and free online adventures. There's just so much damn material available for Pendragon, it boggles the mind - one more reason I'm hot to trot on starting it all over again.

I'll leave things off with another annual tradition. Ever since the close of our first year, I've painted up a miniature of Des's current character at the time. This year was no exception. I felt it only fitting to tap the spirit of the Romance period and the great, star-crossed affair of Loholt and Orlande, by selecting this outstanding Valdemar figure:

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