Monday, 8 December 2014

Althean Story Dolls (ruleset)

I'm involved with a big Melbourne larp combat group called Swordcraft (300-400+ players per week). They have weekend events called Quests in a land they call Althea.

Before the last Quest, somebody said they wanted to run a 4th ed D&D game in the tavern at some stage.

I advised maybe using a different system, maybe one that Altheans may have created. What kind of roleplaying system might be created by people of a medieval fantasy world, and what would the culture around it be like? And how can we make it without compromising the immersion of the Quest environment?

Here's my suggestion.

Althean Story Dolls

Though chess is a popular game throughout much of the world, bards have found another use for the pieces. About fifty years ago, a mediocre bard called Syrus the Storyteller realised that his memory was too poor to memorise the great epics popular at the time and sought for a way to tell quick tales with little study. Realising that audience-participation made his work even easier, he grabbed some chess pieces and invented an improvised process now called Storyplaying.

A Storygame comprises one Storyteller, and from one to four players (though more is not uncommon). Each player has a piece (either a rook, bishop or knight) in one of the three popular chess colours (red, white or black). Both the type of piece and its colour determine certain characteristics of the piece in question.

Players follow the adventures of the characters symbolised by their pieces (or “dolls”) as they cross a chess board. Each rank determines an aspect of the story (such as Call to Adventure in the second rank, the River (an obstacle dividing the middle of the board and story) or the Confrontation (second last rank). The Storyteller helps guide the tale, and sometimes adds pawns, queens or other pieces to the board to symbolise important story elements.

Rules tend to be simple, though some very complex varieties exist, and though most games last no more than 90mins, marathon sessions have been known to occur. Some keen players sculpt their own painted and decorated pieces and an attractive doll is usually the sign of an experienced Storygamer.

As a rule, Bishops symbolise learned people, Knights are warriors, and Rooks are pillars of their community. White characters stive for noble ideals, red dolls are wild at heart, and black figures are outcasts (touched by darkness). A black bishop may be a sorcerer hunted by demonic forces, while a red knight may be a dangerous barbarian. A white rook may be a wise king or a skilled smith, but a red rook might be a pirate captain, while a black rook may be a famed and dreaded executioner.

Figures tend to move across ranks of the board as the story dictates.

·         Rank 1: Meeting. The players introduce their characters to each other and find common reason to be together. The Storyteller establishes a common location.
·         Rank 2: Call to Adventure. The Storyteller introduces a plot device to begin the tale. Once each of the characters have accepted the Call, they move onto this rank.
·         Rank 3: The Bond. Each character explains why the adventure is important for them or what they hope to achieve. This can result in oaths, agreements or deals.
·         Rank 4: The Journey. The characters travel and learn of the world around them and the danger to come. A small difficulty, easily resolved, may be included.
·         Middle line of board: The River. A perilous obstacle hindering the characters from reaching the other side of the board. It may not actually be a river, but a mountain range, or rickety bridge, or a guardian. The characters must overcome the River to proceed and it should be obvious that there is no coming back. The River is the first major conflict and some characters may not proceed further, though this is uncommon.
·         Rank 5: the Trial. The second major conflict. This event always establishes the nature of the Foe.
·         Rank 6: the Burden. The characters suffer loss, disability or suffering. This symbolises what they are sacrificing to complete their task. Crises of faith, greivous wounds or moral conflict are common examples.
·         Rank 7: the Foe. The major conflict of the story. Success must be justified and the Storyteller never makes it easy. Sometimes the longest part of the story and always intended to be the most dramatic.
·         Rank 8: Reward. The characters gain from their endeavours, accentuated by their Bond and following experiences.
·         Removal from board: Homecoming. The story ends. Usually very short, though the Storyteller may use license.

Some Storytellers use coins, dice or even darts to adjudicate succesful tasks and others use whim. Every Storyteller is different and adusts the rules to suit their preferred playstyle. Some Storytellers run multiple games over months or years progressing their tales.

Storygamers enjoy bringing their dolls from one game to another and many are dedicated to a few different characters. The personal journeys of their dolls can bring them great delight.

Convention states that the players keep the Storyteller’s cup full throughout the game. At the end of the game the players always reward a Storyteller with drinks or coin as befits their pleasure with the tale.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Current Writing Projects (list)

I've got a lot of writing projects on the burner at the moment and would love to give them all more time. Here's a rundown.

Intellectual Property
A sci-fi novel I've been working on. 10K words plus and I'm partway into Chapter 2.

Stubby Buddy Vol 5
A beer 'zine I collaborate on with a drinking buddy. There'll be 6 all up and we're really not in a hurry. previous volumes can be downloaded for free at

Freiberg: City of Adventure (conditions apply)
A comedy fantasy roleplaying setting for D&D5. I've run a couple of sessions and it's proved to be a good laugh.

Briarwolf Mythos
Stories and legends for my Swordcraft warband, the Briarwolf Pact. Very tribal with a touch of the old Werewolf flavour, but a beast all its own.

Beltane Springs
A roleplay game (and possible TV show) focusing on the Stepford Witches of Salem Gardens.

Outpost One
TV proposal for a TV series set on a lunar base.

LARP Magic proposal
Most larp combat games have poor magic. I wanna make something good.

The Module
A Theatrical Roleplay satirising the tropes of a dungeoneering party.

Wraith: Beyond the Threshold
A Theatrical Roleplay based on Wraith: the Oblivion.

A card game about managing a kickball club in the city of Freiberg.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

PAX Aus and the sad state of roleplaying (article)

I volunteered at PAX Aus last weekend and it was awesome. Exhausting, but awesome.

However, I can't help but feel that the area I was in was a tack-on. Supporting cast. Ballast on a ship that would be happy to offload us for more tech. We're a holdover Easter Egg given a wink by the die-hard players.

In short, we're obsolete technology given as much respect as the archaic 8-bit consoles in the retro gaming area. A museum relic of bygone times with only the goodwill of sage gamers keeping us alive.

It's sad, but it is so.

Don't get me wrong; I had a blast and PAX staff were wonderful! The venue was great, too.

I got my ticket for free because I was volunteering running edible minis games in the Tabletop area, which was great fun. And I'd happily donate my time again in exchange for free entry, and hope to do so again next year. But I'd like to see the Tabletop area get more focus.

It's an understandable problem, and nobody could blame PAX for it. Tabletop games just aren't as flashy as the latest Call of Duty booth, or Oculus Rift, or ZOMG there's Hex from Good Game dressed as a Jedi hold my bag I've gotta ask her if she'll take a selfie with me! We don't have that level of impact.

Money's a part of it.

PAX basically has five areas; the big flashy digital games area; the low-key digital games area; the spot where all the people talk about stuff; the place where you queue up to watch people talk about stuff; and the tabletop area right up the back.

It's an awesome environment full of great stuff and awesome people. But there's nobody chucking t-shirts into the crowd for a Roborally game, or showing a Settlers of Catan championship on a big screen. The larper (Chimera?) intro to D&D5 was gorgeous, as was Swordcraft's Polly Woodside battle. Board games hit the mark with jumbo sized Jenga and some cog game or other, while a round of Werewolves nearby was a perfect way to turn a convention into a festival. (I'd like to think that Tiny Teddies Go To War was also a highlight of the weekend.)

We don't have a local games industry. Not with money to flash about. So nobody gives a fuck about us.

And before anybody responds, check the opening section of the PAX booklet with an introduction from some politician giving support for the convention and games in general. Not once in the whole intro did she mention gaming (nor the local gaming industry) in any context other than in digital format. She doesn't give a shit about the Tabletop area. I guess it's only fair that I've forgotten her name, position and everything else in response, seeing as that she doesn't feel the need to represent me and my hobby. And I can't blame her; we're not doing anything to make her notice.

But I don't want PAX to follow that fashion. I don't want to have our hobby ignored and forgotten due to the power of digital gaming, and I'm sure digital gamers agree with me. So we need to step up and get noticed.

Question: How do we get Tabletop gaming noticed?

In short, we need to make our hobby accessible to spectators. And that's a post for another day.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Northmen LARP proposal (ruleset)

(Some time ago a mate was looking for advice on a Viking-esque larp. I went for a narrative approach which was different to his vision, but I still think there are elements which are still useful. This remains a high concept system that I would like to see work, though I recognise the difficulty of focusing the common gaming agenda among participants in this style of game.

For further reference, the particular mate in question is a talented fellow of particular interest to larpers and cosplayers, among others, and I recommend his website

This ruleset is intended for use in a weekend LARP environment. It attempts to follow the destinies of Viking-style noble lines. Inspired by an idea by Peter “Konga” Conversano, using elements from Houses of the Blooded by John Wick and the CLASH! battle system by Michael Edwards and Ivan Nevill.

Overview: Players take on the persona of a Skandian warrior (loosely modelled on Vikings). Every four weekend events the character will age a Season, meaning that no character can last longer than 16 weekend events. A Skandian’s life is brutal and they must protect their clans from trolls, giants, evil spirits and raiders. A Skandian’s hope is to die a noble death and have their children honour their memory. Various cultural issues will be elaborated upon when necessary.

Most of the modern conventions apply.
·         No head, groin or hand shots permitted
·         Pull your blows
·         Code Red in an emergency

Most characters will have 3 Wounds, meaning they can be hit three times before being Downed. A Downed player cannot do anything for the remainder of the scene apart from moan gently. Wearing armour may grant you extra Wounds.

Wounds use the “bubble system” meaning that a hit to any body location is knocked from the total Wounds tally. However, individual locations may be relevant to characters with Battle Scars (see Battle Scars).

Weapons tend to inflict 1 Wound, with the exception of arrows which inflict 2 Wounds. All characters are competent in wielding a one-handed weapon and using throwing weapons. Talents are required to master other weapons.

Weapons and Armour
·         Any warrior may use a 1H (one-handed) weapon. They inflict 1 Wound.
·         Any warrior may throw throwing weapons. They inflict 1 Wound.
·         A warrior with the Crusher Talent may use 2H (two-handed) weapons. These inflict 1 Wound, even if they strike a shield.
·         A warrior with the Frenzy Talent may use two 1H weapons at once (dual-wielding).
·         A warrior with the Archery Talent may use a bow and arrows. Arrows inflict 2 Wounds.
·         A Warrior with the Stalwart Talent may use a Shield. Shields may block any strike apart from those from a 2H Weapon.
·         Armour is either Light (leather, +1 Wound), Medium (chain, +2 Wounds), or Heavy (plate, +3 Wounds). The Sturdy Talent doubles the benefit of each armour type.

Character Creation
All characters are assumed to be Skandian. You may pick your Season (age).
·         Spring: Spring characters are young, most having just come of age. They are inexperienced but have their whole life ahead of them. They have 3 Wounds and 2 Talents total.
·         Summer: Summer characters are in the prime of their life. They have 3 Wounds and 3 Talents total.
·         Autumn: Autumn characters have aged into their middle years. They have much experience, but their body is starting to weaken. They have 2 Wounds and 4 Talents.
·         Winter: Winter characters are old and venerable. It will not be long until they die. They have only 1 Wound but 5 Talents
As characters age they will proceed into the next Season of their lives, gaining Talents and losing Wounds as necessary.

Talents are skills, affinities, training and abilities that make your character unique. The number of Talents you may have is limited by your Season.

The first Talent you choose must be one passed down to you from your parents. This is your Family Talent and is linked to your name. Other Talents are chosen as your character ages.

It is possible to have other Talents, some of a unique nature. This may be accomplished through Titles, performing mighty quests, or by wielding magical items.

Talents are grouped by the five virtues that Skandians admire most: Strength, Cunning, Passion, Honour, and Wyrd.

Strength Talents
·         Crusher: This warrior may use 2H (two-handed) weapons.
·         Might (1): +1 Wound.
·         Might (2): +1 Wound. A warrior must have already have Might (1) to take this Talent.
·         Might (3): +1 Wound. A warrior must have already have Might (2) to take this Talent.
·         Sturdy: Double the benefit of wearing armour.

Cunning Talents
·         Archery: This warrior may use a bow.
·         Backstab: If this warrior takes an enemy completely by surprise and announces, “Backstab!” then the victim is immediately Downed.
·         Play Dead: This warrior may pretend to have lost all of their Wounds when they are still able to act. Enemies that carefully inspect the warrior will quickly discover the ruse.
·         Slippery: Once per scene, this warrior can gain an advantage to escape a dire predicament. They may escape their rope bindings, or unlock a cell, or even slip out of a room. Marshalls have final say.
·         Sneaky: NPCs will find it difficult to detect you when you are actively sneaking. Put a finger in front of your lips and pantomime sneaking. Be careful.

Passion Talents
·         Frenzy: This warrior may dual-wield (use two 1H weapons at once.
·         Inspire: Give a rousing speech. Your allies may ignore the first hit they take this scene.
·         Roar: Once per scene, this warrior may bellow an impressive war cry/roar/banshee shriek. Until they are finished roaring, they may ignore all hits against them. Running out of breath/sound ends the Roar.
·         Romantic: If two characters have Romantic they can begin a Romance, allowing each to have access to one Talent of the partner’s choosing. This continues until the Romance is mutually ended by both parties, or by one only. If only one ends the Romance, the spurning partner is free to begin a new Romance but the spurned character is Heartbroken and cannot start a new Romance until their former lover is made to truly suffer.
·         Unstoppable: Once per scene, this warrior may stand again after being Downed with 3 Wounds exactly. Regardless of whether this warrior is downed again or not, this warrior receives 2 Battle Scars at the end of the scene rather than the regular 1.

Honour Talents
·         Challenge: This warrior may offer a formal Challenge to an opponent. If the opponent accepts, the loser of the fight gains one extra Battle Scar at the end of the fight.
·         Command: Once per scene, a warrior loyal to this character must obey a Command or lose the ability to use their Family Talent until redeemed.
·         Oathbound: Two characters with Oathbound may make a blood pact. If either breaks the pact, the oathbreaker suffers an immediate Battle Scar.
·         Peaceful: This warrior must be unarmed and acting non-aggressively to use this Talent. This character must make their peaceful intention known; eg. “I come in peace to parlay with Thane Horthgrim.” Anyone who kills this character while Peaceful immediately loses their Family Talent until redeemed.
·         Stalwart: This warrior may use a shield.

Wyrd Talents (require Marshall permission)
·         Augury: Augurs use divination to learn the hidden knowledge of the Fates. They can see the future and past by casting bones and watching the patterns of the stars.
·         Blood Magic: The power of mortal life and death is held in blood. Though blood sorcerers are renowned for their skills at midwifery, fertility rites and oathbonding, it is known that darker powers can be harnessed by blood. Those whose desire extends to sacrifices and curses seek blood sorcerers for assistance.
·         Godspeaker: The gods are fickle and strange, but some know their ways and wills. Godspeakers relate the nature of the gods and appease them in rituals.
·         Herbalism: The power of herbs can heal or kill. Poisons, potions and poultices are the domains of the herbalist.
·         Shaman: The world is filled with spirits, of beast and bird, of mountain, tree and breeze. Shamans speak with these spirits and make deals with them. Many take on a patron spirit as their Totem.

A Scene is a short period of time ranging from a minute to anywhere up to an hour. Examples of scenes include:
·         A battle.
·         An encounter with a merchant
·         Having dinner.
·         Spending half an hour healing an ally.
·         Marching to the field of conflict.
·         A riddle contest.

Some Talents can only be used once per scene. Warriors regain lost Wounds (Natural, Talents and armour) at the end of a scene, provided they have someone to tend their injuries.

Downed warriors regain lost Wounds at the end of a scene, provided they have some form of medical assistance. Otherwise they need to hobble off and find assistance.

A warrior that has been Downed may choose to die or gain a Battle Scar.

Battle Scars
A warrior who has been Downed may choose to die or obtain a Battle Scar. A Battle Scar is a terrible injury that weakens the character.

The warrior must choose one location of their body (an arm, a leg, front of torso, or back of the torso). An obvious bloody bandage must be wrapped around that body part to make it clear that the location has a Battle Scar. If at any time the warrior is hit in an area suffering a Battle Scar, the warrior is immediately Downed regardless of remaining Wounds.

Once an area has a Battle Scar it cannot receive another. A warrior with 6 Battle Scars has thus achieved the maximum and will find combat difficult when any one hit will take them out.

Battle Scars last for the remainder of a weekend event.

 More rules
Rules about the Wyrd Talents, cultural events (such as marriage and childbirth), Titles and more are yet to be elaborated upon. But for now, this should be enough to work with.

(This is as far as I have worked on this idea. You're welcome to salvage whatever you find useful.)

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Magic: the Gathering free review (review)

I got the cards for free, so I'd better do my due diligence and write a free review. It's either that or buy cards and I'll be fucked if I get suckered back into paying money for Magic cards. I've got a liquor priority that wasn't around when I was fifteen which gives us some perspective.

How did I get free Magic cards? I'm glad you asked, Mr Hutton.

I volunteered for PAX last weekend running edible miniatures games. The main one was Tiny Teddies Go To War (rules are in a previous blog post) and my new invention Entree Invaders (rules are in a future post). I was thankfully assisted by the wildly creative Phroggie Puddles (net name, not birth name) and PAX kindly reimbursed us for our expenditure on miniatures and scenery (ie. food). Special thanks to Andrew, Travis and all the Enforcers. It was a good weekend.

And, long story short, PAX were giving out showbags, like you'll get at most conventions. It's a handy place to put stuff you'll pick up at the con and comes pre-packed with advertising to whet your consumer appetite.

But you dig through anyway, right? 'Cause there's bound to be something cool. Like a little bag of mints or jelly beans. Or one application of sunscreen.  A d20 would be mega-cool. Hopefully a pen; maybe some post-it notes. Maybe a little drink bottle of water, or even a (gasp) usb!

You're grateful for anything, really.

The cool thing in this showbag was Magic cards.

Elegant little pack of 30 Blue cards with some kinda important IP Blue character looking serious on the cover. Not bad. I was interested in checking out the flashy new Magic.

But I fucking hate Blue! I'm a Red player at heart. Anything's better than Blue and their you-can't-cast-your-lightning-bolt smugness!

My suspicions that more colours were available in different bags was aroused when dodgily discarded showbags began to appear in piles and confirmed when I picked up another showbag for my mate, Phroggie. He got a Black deck, and I wondered if he'd notice if I swapped his Black deck for my accursed Blue one. Probably not, and I smiled in satisfaction.

And that greed took a step further when I realised that it might be possible to get all five decks. Suddenly, I understood why someone would dump these bags.

But who was I fooling? If I did that I'd be no better than the greedy toads who had flopped up to the showbag booth, lapped up their fill, and then vomited the unwanted waste in some squatting hole of a corner where the same bloke who gave you the showbag now has to clean.

Was I really this kind of guy? Is this what getting all five Magic decks means to me? Is that the level I'd stoop to? What kind of power does this game have over me?

There's a reason why Pokemon's slogan is "Gotta catch 'em all".

No. If I'm gonna get free Magic cards I'm gonna get them with some sense of dignity.

So I waited until the end of PAX when they were desperate to give away bags and asked for a Red, White and Green set very politely. And the kind man helped me get them, happy that I was so polite, and mentioned that he had gotten himself a full set already, wink, wink, happy gaming bro, now get out because I'm fanging for a beer, nudge, nudge.

If we were greedy, we probably could have pushed it and gotten a second set so Phroggie and I had one each, but that would be greedy. Seriously, am I so desperate to own this that I need my own set?

This fucking game is an addiction! I remember when I first saw it, just over twenty years ago. Twenty years! I was a kid in high school, and it's still dragging them in today. I got in around the end of Antiquities, developed a passion for Red, was there for the Dark and Ice Age, but then bowed out of the money-laundering power of Magic and went on a White Wolf binge instead. I always maintained a wary distance to CCGs ever since. I do have a load of Jyhad cards, though.

So I'm really not wanting to be bitten again. I don't trust CCGs and I don't like the spirit of this Living Card Game format. I was very suspicious of Dominion, but have learnt that's a different, tamer beast.

I haven't even opened the pack and I've already gone out of my way to ensure that I've gotten all five colours. This thing is dangerous! It better be worth my embarrassment and not get me hooked again!

Right, so the game...?
It is worth the embarrassment. And I'm not hooked. And I'm glad to say I've got a simple, playable set of the new Magic. You can pick two colours and shuffle 'em, I'll do the same, and we can have a bit of fun without having to go crazy.

This is how Magic should be sold to beginners. Thirty cards of each colour, mash 'em up and play with your mate. All for that. I'd pay my $25 for that, I guess. But I wouldn't go further unless I were really serious about getting into it. What did I say before about getting greedy?

Magic has had a resurgence recently, and they seem to be actively marketing to old and lapsed players, which might be why they caught my eye. Looking through the cards was revealing. All the crazy powers introduced while I was away are efficiently explained on the card. Symbols are classic and the card designs are familiar and functional.

It's all very familiar, actually. Basic lands are almost as ubiquitous as polyhedral dice. There's a big critter for each deck, with welcome appearances by Shivan Dragon, Nightmare, and Serra Angel. And, most pleasantly, the decks feel right. They seem balanced, with a decent card in each deck worthwhile to a veteran. Red chucks fireballs and direct damage. Green has big monsters and enchantments. White protects, Black is evil, and Blue is the fucking counterspelling killjoy it's always been, the fucker.

And it's good. Magic was always a brilliant idea and inspired an entire gaming phenomenon, often copied and rarely bettered or even matched. Clever game design matched with a portable interface that you can attribute personal touches to. Building a deck is like creating a robot you'll send to fight in the next Recess Arena, but in your pocket!

(Note: design card game around the idea of building robots to fight. Contains different phases for Building and Arena Fights. Negotiations for Arena rules and endorsements can prolong or shorten time til the event. Workshops are hidden. May be possible to sabotage rival Workshops. Mad Scientist workshops? Put a pin in it.)

 It's a good, core game system; it always has been. But the paraphernalia can blow out of control, and it always does that. Whenever it does, it costs you a lot of money and then the sheer number of cards, possible expenditure and human quality of fellow players disenchants you from the spell. These are the kinda drug addicts who dive through showbags for more cards, ya know.

I'll remain a recreational user. I don't even have my own set. I share it with a friend. And isn't that the right way to do it, man? Is magic not measured by the company of fellow wizards, or rather should it be hoarded up for cold, impersonal satisfaction?

A mate of mine had some good advice when I mentioned interest in the new Magic. He said, "Don't do it. Pay eight bucks for the Steam game if you have to and that'll get you over it." I prefer this version and I've saved eight bucks. If you're desperate to try Magic, this is the ideal set of five promo decks to do it. If you're currently playing or not interested in Magic, then you probably don't give a shit about my opinion, I guess.

Style 3, Substance 4 (like your favourite cigarette brand has just changed recipe to a really nice flavour. Great, but it's still gonna kill you.)

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Tiny Teddies Go To War (ruleset)

(Note: this article was written for PAX Aus 2014. For the updated rules as played at PAX Aus 2015 you should go here.)

I'm running this for Pax this year. The following is verbatim cut/paste from the Word doc.

Tiny Teddies Go To War!
By Ivan Nevill
This set of rules is designed to aid you in playing a tabletop war game involving yummy confectionary that you get to eat as casualties are incurred. The objective of the game is primarily to have a lot of fun, and alternatively to destroy the base(s) of your opposition.

Important point number one: I am not the first person to create a set of rules for this concept, and I hope not to be the last. Though I don’t know who originally came up with the Tiny Teddies Go To War (TTGTW) concept, I was introduced to the game by Nicole Eckersley, Tom Wark, and Cameron Stone (apologies to any I have missed). These rules are rather different to the ones they used and probably not as good. I am indebted to their creativity and energy.
Important point number two: Throughout this ruleset there will be references to various products of different companies. These products are registered trademarks of those various companies. Their use in this ruleset is neither a challenge nor endorsement. The products we mention are simply our personal preference, though we encourage you to allow your own preferences to take precedence.

 A three-way battle at PAX Australia between honey, choc-chip and chocolate armies. A gingerbread ghost house was added as terrain for a centrepiece.

Number of players: 2 or more. We recommend having multiple people to a team. For the purposes of this ruleset we will assume that there are three teams, with two or three people to a team. More teams or players are entirely possible.

What you will need:
·         A large table to conduct the battle
·         A large snake lolly of various colours to act as a measuring ruler (we use Killer Pythons)
·         A packet of various coloured Gummi Bears (any brand of jelly lolly bears will do)
·         A packet of Teddy Bear Biscuits (we use Arnotts)
·         A bunch of dice. You will need about ten six-sided dice and a few other funky dice of various other sizes, like d4s, d8s, and a d20. (For those of you who aren’t savvy with gamer slang, a d4 is a four-sided die that looks like a pyramid. A d8 is an eight-sided die, and so on. If you are asked to roll 3d6, that means you roll three six-sided dice. You can pick up polyhedral dice from gaming stores.)
·         A deck of regular playing cards, including both Jokers.
·         Some pencils.
·         Four donuts per team. You may use large biscuits instead. Note that this ruleset uses the term “Biscuit” as opposed to “Cookie”.
·         A pack of Tim Tams per player. (You may use other chocolate biscuits as preferred.)
·         Enough Tiny Teddy Biscuits for each team. Make sure to use different flavours for each team, noting that Tiny Teddies currently come in honey, chocolate, choc chip, and sprinkles. There are also puppies and cows to add variety. Each team will need about three dozen teddies, so a box each should do the trick, however I found a big variety pack containing ten small packs (four of chocolate and three each of honey and choc chip). Three small “drop pod” packs per team worked out perfectly.
·         (Optional) Distinctive lollies to use as Bombs. We like using sherbet bombs or Starburst chews. You may also need some other lollies (check Special Events rules).

Overview of play
Each player is trying to destroy the base of the other players. Units are dealt one or more cards at the start of each round and units act in card order. On their turn a unit may move and/or attack. The game ends when one team loses their base.

You will need a fairly large table to play on; a dining table works fine for two or three teams, but larger games need more space. The teams set up their bases (four donuts in a tight group) equally distant to each other. Around their bases they may set up their army
Each team’s army should consist of:
·         Three squads of Teddy Troopers, known as Alpha, Bravo and Charlie (feel free to personalise the names of these squads). There should be about a dozen troopers to each squad and you should try to keep a squad together. Your Troopers should all be the same flavour, and different to the flavours of your opponent(s).
·         One squad of six to ten Gummi Commandoes. Try to give each team a colour to keep them individual.
·         One squad of three Giant Tedd-Naughts (Teddy Bear Biscuits). You may wish to place 3 regular Teddy Trooper on top of each of your Tedd-Naughts to act as hit points and show their allegiance. If so, remove 1 trooper each time a Tedd-Naught is damaged and kill it when the last trooper is removed instead of biting off legs. If you do so, remove 3 troopers from each of your 3 squads to do this.
·         Three to six Tim Tam Towers. These act as barriers to block your enemies.

At the beginning of a round, the cards are shuffled and a card is dealt to every squad. In other words, your Alpha Teddies get a card, your Bravo Teddies get another card, your Charlie Teddies get a card, your Tedd-naughts get a card, and your Gummis get two cards (they have a special ability which lets them choose the better of two cards).
Card precedence is from highest to lowest, with the Jokers going first, then Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks, tens, and so on down to two. The Red Joker goes before the Black Joker. For all other ties, preference is Spades first, then Hearts, Diamonds, and finally Clubs.
When your squad is up for their action, put the card back on the deck.

Turns, Moving and Attacking
When it is time for one of your squads to act, they may move, attack, or move and then attack. They may not attack and then move.
·         Moving: A soldier may only move up to as far as its Movement allows. Lay down the Snake Ruler in front of the soldier and move it that many colours on the snake.
·         Attacking: If the soldier is in contact with a structure or enemy soldier, it rolls its attack die (Tedd-Naughts may attack twice, either on different targets or both on the same one). If it rolls a result equal to or higher than the opponent’s Parry, then it hits successfully and may try to injure the enemy.
·         Injuring: After successfully hitting an opponent, roll the soldier’s damage die and try to obtain a result equal to or higher than their Armour value. If successful, the enemy is removed from the table and eaten by the team that commands it.
·         Note that a soldier may not leave combat if engaged with an enemy Trooper, Commado, or Tedd-Naught. The soldier may move away from structures if not otherwise engaged.

In a grand final game, the ghosthouse was allowed to be attacked, resulting in some marshmallow "ghosts" with icing faces coming out to attack all nearby teddies. These rules were made up on the fly.

Random Events (recommended optional rule)
Random Events are crazy occurrences that happen under two different conditions:
·         At the start of a round, before cards are dealt, roll 1d6 and randomly place that many bombs on the table. We like using sherbet bombs for our Bombs, but you can use whatever you enjoy most. These Bombs have the same statistics as Donut Bases and Tim Tam Towers. If a Bomb is destroyed by a soldier, their commander rolls on the Special Events table.
·         If a squad is dealt a Joker, that squad rolls on the Special Events table before taking any actions.

To use the table, roll 1d20 and check the result. Results that state “this squad” refers to all units in the squad that caused the roll and sometimes the players controlling them.

Nomenclature: A Marshall is a person acting as a referee to keep the game fair, or simply helping teach the game. Dice steps simply refer to the die sizes (a d4 increases one step to a d6, then a d8, then a d10.

Army Roster

Teddy Infantry Alpha
Movement – 3 colours
Fighting d6    Parry (3)
Damage d6    Armour (3)
Edges: None
Teddy Infantry Bravo
Movement – 3 colours
Fighting d6    Parry (3)
Damage d6    Armour (3)
Edges: None
Teddy Infantry Charlie
Movement – 3 colours
Fighting d6    Parry (3)
Damage d6    Armour (3)
Edges: None
Tim Tam Turrets/Donut Base/Bombs
Parry (2) Armour (6)
Edges: None

Giant Tedd-naughts
Movement – 4 colours
Fighting d6    Parry (4)
Damage d8    Armour (6)
Edges: Construct (Tedd-naughts can be Injured 3 times before dying. The first and second times they are hit, eat a leg. They die the next time they are Injured)
Frenzied (Tedd-naughts get an extra attack every time they fight)
Teddy Commandos
Movement – 5 colours
Fighting d8    Parry (5)
Damage d8    Armour (4)
Edges: Fast (Teddy commandos draw two cards for initiative and use the better one)

 Random Events

1 Sugar Bombs! 1d6 more Bombs fall onto the field. If destroyed, they automatically trigger a Random Event.
2 Snakes! 1d6 snakes enter the field. They have the same stats as Infantry and attack the closest troops.
3 Blizzard! 1d6+4 snowballs fall on the field. They have the same stats as Tim Tam Towers
4 Suicide Squad! If this squad hits an enemy this turn, they may choose to sacrifice themselves to automatically injure the opponent, rather than rolling.
5 Bear-zerkers! The squad that drew the Joker now may perform +1 attack every time they fight.
6 Claws! This squad adds an extra d4 to all damage rolls from now on. If they roll this event again, increase the die type one step.
7 Superior Tactics! This troop gets to act twice this turn
8 Artillery Barrage! All troops in combat roll 1d6. If they roll a 1 they are eaten
9 Roller Skates! This troop adds +1 to their Movement. This can be taken multiple times
10 Rallying Cry! Roll twice more on this chart, ignoring any more of this result.
11 Picnic Peace. This squad loses its actions this turn. However, they may also ignore all attacks and effects against them this turn
12 Hibernation. All squads drawing an 8 or less lose their actions this turn
13 Assault! This squad gains +2 Movement and +2 to all rolls this turn only
14 Land Mines! All models who are hit this turn lose a leg. if they have no more legs they are eaten
15 Infection! All models who are hit in this turn lose an arm. If they haveno more arms they are eaten
16 No Prisoners! All models who are hit this turn immediately die
17 Air Strike! This squad’s player selects one enemy squad. All models in that squad receive an immediate d8 strike to hit and damage
18 Fog of War. This squad’s player chooses one enemy squad. That squad loses their action this turn
19 Blitzkrieg! As of next turn, this squad always draws an extra card and chooses the best.
20 Teddy-geddon! The Marshal may immediately request anybody nearby to eat whatever they want from the table for 10 seconds

Thursday, 2 October 2014

D&D5 Monster Manual (review)

What do you expect from a Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual?

A whole bunch of monsters, preferably in alphabetical order, with rules to help a DM use them against players, with some flavour text to inspire you to use them.

That's it. That's all it is. That's what a Monster Manual is. An encyclopedia of challenges to throw at the players. The DM provides the excitement and the storytelling. This is a tool to make that easier. It's pretty hard to screw up.

You shouldn't actually need a book like this if you're a decent DM. But if you're a decent DM you'll know that a good reference book can be handy if done well.

We've seen bad Monstrous Manuals. 1st ed was primitive and 4th was great for statistics, but gave no background. 2nd ed had a good solid page for each monster, though the text got repetitive. 3rd seemed functional, and helped a grateful DM by having attribute scores.

So my simple verdict is that the 5th ed Monster Manual is perfectly fine. It does its thing. Sure, grab it if you're running 5th.

There's nothing wrong with it. But does that make it great? Can it be improved?

Hang on; lets give it a fair go. Good art, loving the tactile covers, clearly laid out with generally a monster for each page. The stats seem okay and the flavour gives me ideas. Good work.I can't complain. Duty served.

The one thing we're missing is innovation. So I'd advise a different strategy next time.

Keep the stats, illustrations and storybuilding text, but change the order. Instead of an alphebetical order make use of a geographical/categorical one. Group sections as to terrain or landscape, so that the reader proceeds from one environment to another. We might have sections divided into Forests, Mountains, the Underdark, Dragons, Undead, Goblinoids Planar Beings, and so forth.

A good template? Probably Enemies of Empire for Legend of the 5 Rings 5th ed. That grouped a host of fascinating antagonists together in a book that was great to read, partly because each section was dedicated to story.

Imagine opening a Monster Manual and opening it to the Undead section. Everything within a few pages of each other.

That's what I wanna see next time.

This time, fine. Good, even. I bought it because it had a goblin joke and haven't regretted it so far.