Thursday, November 27, 2008

Comparative Review: Castles & Crusades, Runequest II and Warhammer FRP Part IIb

Comparative Review: Castles & Crusades, Runequest II and Warhammer FRP.

Part II b Equipment and Encumbrance
This second section of this part features equipment and encumbrance. In C&C, RQ and WFRP characters need to specify their equipment including weapons, armour and clothing.

Equipment - do the Arms maketh the Man?
C&C core rules do not mention a character having any equipment such as clothing or common accoutrements and each class has a different randomly determined amount of starting money. This starting money is based on the costs that a first level character would have so a cleric or fighter who will need to buy armour has a higher amount than a wizard. There is no background per se with the characters in terms of class apart from the knight's implied background with the birthright mount. Like most GMs that I know I allow for characters to have basic set of clothing for free in C&C or D&D, but everything else is paid for from their starting funds. Like most D&D based games there is an assortment of goods and services in the equipment lists. Usually a starting character will need to buy weapons, basic adventuring equipment and depending on class, armour.

RQ characters do recive a set of clothing and items appropriate to their background (peasant, townsman, barbarian or noble), in addition to a random sum of money where the dice rolled are dependent on the background. The money recieved can be used to buy additional equipment which is important for peasants and townsmen who will need weapons and armour to go adventuring. Peasants start with the least equipment and cash so would be prime candidates to use the prior experience system. A noble will normally start with armour and weapons as well as cash so is already set for adventuring, but will have obligations tied to their income. Barbarians will normally have basic armour and weapons with a strong likelihood of a riding animal too.

Warhammer Characters start with a normal set of clothing for their first career, a hand weapon (sword, axe, mace as appropriate), dagger, basic living items and the trappings of their first career with a small amount of cash (2d10 gold crowns). Equipment in WFRP has an importance that does not exist in the other two games because it is necessary to have the trappings before a new career can be entered. This is different to the assumptions about wealth in 3e D&D where a character of a given level would be expected to have equipment of a certain value including magic items, etc. There would be no problem about a D&D character reaching that level without the equipment. A D&D character without the expected equipment would be ineffective within the game unless the same situation applied to all characters and encounters were scaled to meet the absence of magical equipment expected of higher levels in 3e D&D.

Encumbrance
Encumbrance is probably the most ignored set of rules in any RPG as very few GM or Players like the book keeping involved. I've got to admit that this has been pretty much the case in most groups I've gamed with. I've got examples with the characters that I published for C&C, RQII and WFRP. In WFRP it is clear that encumbrance is an optional set of rules. The treatment of encumbrance is roughly the same in all three sets of rules with characters carrying heavier than normal loads having reduced movement and reduced dexterity based bonuses as the main mechanical penalties. I'm not going into an extended discussion of this, largely because of the ratity of it being used.

This review includes the other parts listed below:
Part 1 Settings, Characters and Advancement

Part 1a Character Creation

Part 1b Characters and Careers

Part 3 Melee

Part 4 Magic

Part 5 Conclusions

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Comparative Review: Castles & Crusades, Runequest II and Warhammer FRP. Part IIa

Comparative Review: Castles & Crusades, Runequest II and Warhammer FRP.

Part II a Classes and Careers
This part will also feature equipment and many other things too, around the theme of characters being fleshed out.

Castles & Crusades
C&C uses a D&D style class and level system with strongly niche based classes. The core game includes 13 classes with the organisation of the book being based on the prime characteristics. The classes and their primes are:
  1. Fighter - strength. The straightforward combat specialist.
  2. Ranger - strength. The typical D&D style mobile fighter type.
  3. Assassin - dexterity
  4. Rogue - dexterity. A relatively weak class at low levels, but their low XP requirements to gain levels mean that the rogue character in a party can advance much faster than the spellcasters.
  5. Barbarian -constitution. A class that I often feel is hard to do well, like many other barbarian classes this is a berserker with a few concessions to the tribal background. This is a class in practice I'd replace with another version.
  6. Monk - constitution. One of my least favourite classes in D&D from Blackmoor onwards and something that I often try to avoid using in my games.
  7. Illusionist - intelligence. This has always been a class that I've liked since early D&D and I've often played the iconic gnome illusionist when I get a chance. The differentiation between this and the Wizard is largely based on the spell list and a few other class abilities in C&C.
  8. Wizard -intelligence. The classic D&D style magic user with limited ability with weapons and weak at low levels, but very powerful at high levels.
  9. Cleric - wisdom. The cleric is like the old D&D clerics a combination of spellcaster and melee fighter, but with no ability to use edged or missile weapons. They are part of a normal adventuring group as a healer.
  10. Druid - wisdom.
  11. Bard - charisma. The bard is useful more in larger parties where their ability to inspire can aid the other members.
  12. Knight - charisma. The knight gives a good candidate for a party leader particularly with their class ability to boost other's combat abilities.
  13. Paladin - charisma.

Each class has its own abilities with these either increasing by level, such as the spellcasters getting more spells, or having additional abilities at higher levels. A common critcism of this D&D style advancement is that character's ability progression has little relevance to what they have done in game. For example if a cleric spends most of his time in melee and gains enough XP to level from combat and treasure he will still gain additional spells even if he'd not cast any since he'd reached the previous level.

Warhammer FRP
The Careers system in Warhammer FRP is seen as a strength of the game. It does give a good handle for linking a set of skills and talents for a character rather than just having randomly selected options. As there are over 60 basic and 50 advanced careers in all in WFRP2 I will not list them all, but just discuss the approach to careers and advancement. There are also additional basic and advanced careers in the other WFRP books such as Sigmar's Heirs or the WFRP Companion.

The careers can be tied to character race as only Elves can be Kithband Warriors, Dwarves Trollslayers, etc. There are only 7 basic careers open to all four races: Entertainer, Hunter, Mercenary, Outlaw, Student, Thief and Tradesman. A character can either be assigned a career by rolling dice against a table of races and careers or be allowed to choose their career by the GM. Personally I prefer the random allocation method with two rolls on the table and the character choosing between the two choices.

For many the iconic WFRP career is the Rat Catcher with a small, but vicious dog amongst his trappings or for a Dwarf the Troll Slayer. The career does define what a character does in WFRP with it being how they would make a living if they weren't adventuring, unlike C&C where characters are 'pure' adventurers whose niche only has meaning in game terms rather than in the wider world. There does become the question of how a character can still be in his career and adventuring in WFRP, but this can be worked around by creative players and GM.

Each career has an advance scheme which allows a character to improve their attributes or gain skills and talents. This means that a character will be limited in their choices of what to spend their XP on. A character in their first career will get the skills and talents, though they can only choose one skill or talent where a choice is indicated and a free advance to one attribute. The free advance is particularly necessary for an inexperienced spell caster to give them a magic attribute of 1 so that they can actually cast spells.

In my example characters for WFRP I've shown the advance scheme with one character advanced to a second career. Each career has exits which are the next career that can be taken with this usually being a mix of basic and advanced careers. For a higher XP cost a character can enter any basic career allowing for changes in status and players' wanting to take a new direction.

RuneQuest
There is not a class or career system in RQII in the same way as C&C or WFRP, but the characters have backgrounds that affect their starting money, equipment and skills. The prior experience system does fit characters into careers less rigidly than WFRP and allows a starting character to have a wider range of skills and better scores in their skills than the normal 16 year old from straight RQ character generation. The characters do have a background, but this does not affect their skills so much as experience.

The prior experience system allows a peasant or townsman character to join a guild to get training in their skills and also to join the militia to gain combat skills. This option is not open to nobles and barbarians, but there are prior experience rules for them too, with barbarians having different skills and weapons for foot or mounted tribes. Characters can join the mercenaries to gain experience with there being different types of unit, so light or heavy infantry or cavalry is possible. From being a guild apprentice a character can have skills that would be the basis of how they live other than by making money adventuring and this is a useful feature for RQ rather than just starting all the characters out as 16 year olds with limited skills and no other option than adventuring. In Appendix F I've shown how it works in practice.

Characters in RQ advance by using their skills or training, this is the most realistic of these three games as the improvement clearly links to what the character has done or experienced. The increase by experience mechanic requires rolling D100 with the current skill level deducted from 100 to give the target meaning that inexperienced characters improve more quickly than highly able characters which again is more realistic that a novice can improve more rapidly than a capable warrior or guildmember. There is a limit on advancing skills due to training with experience being needed over 75%.

Summing Up
The class and level system used in C&C has a strength in simplicity and ease of use, but it does mean that characters are less mechanically differentiated than in say D&D 3.5, WFRP or RQII. In WFRP all characters that complete the same career will have advanced their attributes and obtained roughly the same skills and talents, but at an intermediate stage they can choose what to maximise and which next career to follow. RQII is the most realistic system with skill and attribute use or training giving rise to advancement, but it means that it is harder to design adventures for publication as experienced groups of characters will tend to have widely different skills apart from their combat abilities.

The rest of the review can be found in the following posts:
Part 1 Settings, Characters and Advancement

Part 1a Character Creation

Part 2b Equipment and Encumbrance

Part 3 Melee

Part 4 Magic

Part 5 Conclusions

Sunday, October 26, 2008

C&C, WFRP, RQ Review: Appendix D. Creating Warhammer FRP characters

With Warhammer more of the character generation process is driven by the dice than the D20 games as a characters' career and personal characteristics can be almost entirely generated using the charts in the start of the book. This is an example to go with my comparative review of Castles & Crusades, Warhammer FRP 2 and Runequest II.

Name: Udo
Race: Halfling
WSBSSTAgIntWPFel
Original2542251638273248
Adjusted2137
Advance+5%+10%+5%+5%+10%
Advance Used+5%
AWSBTBMMagIPFP
Original110214002
Adjusted112
Advance+2
Advance Used

Applying Shallya's mercy to his Toughness gives him an average score of 21, this will also increase his TB to 2 on the secondard characteristics.

Skills: Based on race in WFRP
Academic Knowledge(Geneology/Heraldry), Common Knowledge(Halflings), Gossip, Speak Language(Halfling), Speak Language(Reikspiel), Trade (Cook)
Career Skills:Animal Care, Charm, Gossip, Haggle, Perception, Search, Speak Language (Brettonian) - so his final skills end up with Gossip (+10%)

Talents: Mostly racial features in WFRP
Night Vision, Resistance to Chaos, Specialist Weapon Group(Sling)
Randomly rolled: Savvy +5% to Int
Career Talents: Dealmaker, Flee!, Seasoned Traveller, Hardy (+1 wound) - a better choice than Suave as a +5 to fellowship would reinforce an already very good characteristic

Starting Career: I rolled 10 for a Camp Follower and 25 for a Grave Robber and selected Camp Follower with Udo being a cook following the armies to look for plunder. As a career this concentrates on the social and intellectual development of a character meaning that Udo will generally talk rather than fight and if he has to fight it'd be at a distance with his sling.

Physical Features (as there are tables for them I'm rolling them):
Height: base 3' 4" roll 8 so add 8 inches to get 4 feet 0 inches - a tall halfling
Weight: percentile roll - 88 on the table gets me 120 pounds so Udo is big and tall in halfling terms - able to look a dwarf in the eye!
Hair colour: Eye colour:
Distinguishing Marks: only one roll I've decided - Missing nail
Siblings: 5
Star Sign: The Big Cross Age: 26
Birthplace: The Moot Name: Udo
Purse: 12GC - 4GC for sling gives 8GC
Trappings: Clothes (worn shirt, breeches, boots and cloak), Pack containing Blanket, Wooden tankard, Wooden utensils, Trade Tools(cook), Tent, Pouch, Cleaver (Handweapon), Dagger, Purse

Weapons:
Handweapon (Cleaver) Damage SB(2)
Dagger Damage SB-3(-1) only the damage die will actually give any damage
Sling Damage 3

For purchase one thing stands out: a sling as his high ballistic skill and specialist weapon group talent mean he's going to be a lot more effective with that than going into melee with a sword. I made his handweapon a cleaver as being appropriate for a cook.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

C&C, RQ, WFRP review: Appendix B Creating C&C Characters part 2

C&C Character 2 again has his stats assigned by the player.
Alfar "the average"
Human Wizard Level 1
AC: 10

Strength:9+0
Dexterity:9Prime+0
Constitution:9+1
Intelligence:13Prime+1
Wisdom11Prime+0
Charisma9+0


Abilities: Spells - Alfar will get a bonus first level spell for having an intelligence of 13. His spell book will contain spells to match the number he can cast per day of 4 for level 0 and 2 plus 1 for level 1. I actually selected these rather than rolled for them to avoid making his list too weak.
Level 0: Detect Magic, Mending, Detect Poison, Dancing Lights
Level 1: Read Magic, Sleep, Magic Missile

Attacks:
Staff +0 1D6
Dagger +0 1D4
Thrown Dagger +0 1D4 10ft range increment

Move: 90ft(120ft base minus 25% for light encumbrance)

Equipment:
Starting gold 90 good for a Wizard, but they have still plenty of options on equipment.
ItemCostEncumbrance ValueLocationComments
Staff-4carried
Dagger2gp1Belt
Spell Component belt pouch10gp1worn
Backpack2gp2(w)worn
Bedroll1sp3pack
Map or scroll case1gp1pack
10 sheets paper10gp-scroll case
Robe1gp2(w)worn
Belt6sp-worn
Cape8sp-worn
Shoes2sp1(w)worn
1 oz ink8gp-pack
Quill1sp-pack
Waterskin1gp3
Bar soap5sp1pack
Bullseye Lantern12gp2pack
2 oil flasks2gp2pack
Flint and steel1gp-pack


Alfar has 35gp 7sp left after buying his equipment
To work out Alfar's Encumbrance Rating the base value of 10 is not adjusted for Strength modifier or primes so remains 10.

The Encumbrance Value of the items with a (w) suffix is reduced by 1 when worn so this means that Alfar's clothes are ignored and as an Wizard he has no armour to worry about. The items in the pack and belt pouch have their total EV reduced by 2 so the pack containing a bedroll (EV3), Scroll case (EV1), Soap (EV1) and lantern oil(EV2) has a total encumbrance of 5 for contents (7-2) and 1 for the pack itself (2-1) giving an EV of 6. Alfar's total EV then is 16:
  • Staff 4
  • Dagger 1
  • Pack 6
  • Component Pouch 1
  • Robe 1
  • Waterskin 3

As this is greater than his ER, but less than twice his ER he is lightly encumbered and has his move reduced by 1 quarter and a +1 to the challenge level on all dexterity based tests.

C&C, RQ, WFRP review: Appendix A Creating C&C Characters

A Tale of two characters...

Rolling the dice and then assigning the numbers as per the core rules I got two sets to work with.
Character 1Character 2
911
912
1315
1110
99
99

I'll do Character 2 as a separate post to avoid these becoming too long.
Geoffrey Borecutt
Dwarf Fighter Level 1
AC: 14

Strength:15Prime+1
Dexterity:(10-1) 9+0
Constitution:(12+1) 13Prime+1
Intelligence:11+0
Wisdom9+0
Charisma9+0

By putting the die roll of 12 into a demi-human's characteristic that has a positive modifier I'm able to boost a second characteristic into having a positive modifier.

Abilities: Weapon Specialisation - this gets a +1 to hit and to damage with a selected weapon. I'm going to go with the fearsome bearded axe though that does mean not being able to use a shield. Because of the +1 to hit and damage from his strength, Geoffrey will have a +3 to hit from his BAB, Strength and Weapon Specialisation and +2 to damage. With the bearded axe he'll do 3d4+2 damage giving a minimum of 5 and an average of 9.5 which in C&C will be lethal to low level opposition like Orc's and Hobgoblins.

Attacks
Bearded Axe +3 to hit Damage: 3d4 +2
Dagger +2 to hit Damage 1D4+1
Sling +1 to hit Damage 1D4 Range 50 ft

Movement: 20 ft

Equipment:
Starting gold 110 - not great for a fighter who will always need armour and weapons at first level.
ItemCostEncumbrance ValueLocationComments
Bearded Axe20gp4carried
Scale Mail50gp4(w)wornIncludes a Leather Coif
Dagger2gp1Belt
Sling-1Belt pouch
Armour and Weapon oil1gp2pack
Backpack2gp2(w)worn
Bedroll1sp3pack
Large Belt Pouch1gp1(w)worn
4 Bandages2sp-Belt pouch
Crowbar2gp2pack
Canteen2gp1pack
Pipe5gpBelt pouch
1 lb tobacco5sp1Belt pouch
Flint and steel1gp-Belt pouch
Belt6spp-worn
Heavy Boots1gp1(w)worn
Cloak5sp1(w)worn
Trousers4sp1(w)worn
Tunic3sp1(w)worn


So Geoffrey ends up with a few GP remaining: (110gp - 89gp 6sp) 20gp 4sp

His total encumbrance is not the sum of the encumbrance values of his equipment, armour and weapons as putting items into the Belt Pouch and Pack reduces the total EV and the items with a (w) have the encumbrance reduced when worn.

To work out Geoffrey's encumbrance his Encumbrance Rating has to be calculated which has a base 10 with any Strength modifier applied and with plus 2 for either of Strength or Constitution being a Prime. So Geoffrey with a Strength modifier of +1 and both of those attributes as Primes has an ER of 15. The maximum possible would be an ER17 with a Strength modifier of +3.

The Encumbrance Value of the items with a (w) suffix is reduced by 1 when worn so this means that Geoffrey's clothes are ignored and hsi armour only has an EV of 3. The items in the pack and belt pouch have their total EV reduced by 2 so the pack containing a bedroll (EV3), crowbar (EV2), canteen (EV1) and armour and weapon oil(EV1) has a total encumbrance of 5 for contents (7-2) and 1 for the pack itself (2-1) giving an EV of 6. The pouch with two items with an EV of 1 in it, sling and 1lb of tobacco has an EV of 0 (2-2 for contents, 1-1 for pouch). Geoffrey's total EV then is 14:
  • Bearded Axe 4
  • Armour 3
  • Pack 6
  • Dagger 1

As this is less than his ER he is not encumbered and moves normally.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Podcast Review: Security Now

Security Now is a IT security podcast presented by Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte. There is some controversy about Steve Gibson in the IT security community, but I'll discuss that as a separate issue once I get my IT blog running.

Content
There are two main types of show: Listener Feedback and Themed podcasts, the split is 50/50 between these. Listener feedback includes a lot of Question and Answer content often related to the previous podcasts. The themed podcasts are usually about a few topics, such as the Phorm behaviour tracking software, Microsoft's Windows Steady State, Open ID and TruCrypt. There is a reasonable level of IT knowledge assumed which is appropriate for the content.

Leo Laporte acts as the facilitator for the show with Steve Gibson explaining issues and replying to the listener feedback that Leo reads out. This works well and Leo plays the role of an informed layman on the show.

There are a fair number of plugs for the companies that support the show, such as Astaro and Steve Gibson's company GRC with its product SpinRite. These are not too intrusive and reflect the reality of needing to support a podcast commercially unlike many of the others that I've reviewed.

Technical
At the GRC site there is an option to download a low bit rate version that is small and of a listenable quality. The high quality version can be downloaded from iTunes and the other usual sites such as Feedburner.

Overall
This is a useful podcast with plenty of sound advice amongst the product promotion. If you do dislike frequent mentions of sponsors or the presenters' own products you may not like it. I do listen regularly to this which shows that I do consider it worthwhile, but remember to look at other useful sources of security information like Bruce Schneier's blog.

Monday, October 13, 2008

An Excellent Old School D&D Blog

The Grognardia blog is an excellent one for players of old school D&D or its many similar games like Castles & Crusades, Osric, Basic Fantasy Role Playing, Labrynth Lord or Swords and Wizardry

This post in particular shows many ways of how I like D&D to be played, I'm going to return with more detailed thoughts about it sometime soon.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Podcast Review: Digital Planet

Digital Planet is an IT and digital technology podcast from the BBC.

Content
The main presenter Gareth Mitchell introduces the items which will normally cover a range of technology topics with the main regular guest presenter being Bill Thompson, who also writes for the BBC's websites. The discussion is clear and accessible for a layman, but due to the constraints of the format can not be particularly in depth.

Examples of topics covered would be the launch of the Google Android phone, how analysis of politicians' voices can reveal their personalities, effects of social networking in games and an entire episode devoted to technology in Brazil.

This does not attempt to be a comprehensive news podcast with the BBC having Science in Action to cover news topics.

Technical
Sound quality is high as you would expect from a BBC podcast and downloads from iTunes or other websites seem reliable with file sizes kept down.

Overview
This is another useful podcast for keeping up with technology news and I do listen to it regularly. Recommended.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Comparative Review of C&C, RQII and WFRP Part Ia

Comparative Review of C&C, RQII and WFRP
Part Ia Character Creation compared


In this additional part I'll discuss character creation in more detail including the variant methods in RQII. I'll also compare the differences in how the three games treat character attributes.

Comparison
The use of 2D10 plus a fixed number that is used by WFRP gives a smaller effect even though it has a slightly wider range of results than the 3d6 used in C&C and RQII, given the WFRP's use of attribute scores as percentage amounts to be rolled.

The way that attributes affect resolution in C&C and RQ is stepped, e.g. if you have an attribute score of 12 in C&C it brings no positive modifier, but a 13 will give a +1 and a 16 +2 and an 18 +3. These are lower than the equivalent in 3rd edition D&D and base D20 games and in play are probably not quite so important though obviously having a positive modifier on any check helps.

Likewise in RQ a stat of 12 will normally bring no modifiers, but a 13 might bring a +5% and a 17 a +10%, in RQ these are not global modifiers for that statistic, but based on the particular application of the skill, e.g. Intelligence helps on attack, defence and knowledge rolls, but not on parrying. The Power statistic in RQ has a mixture of positive and negative effects for a high value, generally a power above 17 gives a +5% on most things, but makes a character harder to conceal because of their aura.

The difference between a score of 23 and 24 in WFRP is minimal (literally 1%), however for the derived values in the secondary profile of Strength Bonus and Toughness Bonus the main stat does make a difference as a score of 29 gives a SB or TB of 2, while a 30 gives a SB/TB of 3. This will affect the damage done in combat or the ability of a character to deal with wounds.

Comparing the three games and the degree of randomness in their character generation systems is fairly simple as RQ and C&C use 3d6 which gives the following bell curve/probabilities.

Warhammers 2D10 system gives a nice clean list of percentages, so for a human character any attribute can have the following values:




221%276%329%374%
232%287%338%383%
243%298%347%392%
254%309%356%401%
265%3110%365%


Shallya's mercy does mean that the average of attributes for characters is slightly higher than would happen if all rolls were taken as they fell, but only slightly as it raises a roll to the average for that character's race.

All three systems produce a bell curve so an "average" character is not outstandingly good at anything, but the most likely outcome with a random generation system is of a character having good and bad points which I personally like as creating scope for roleplay and determining the character using what has come out of the die rolling rather than starting with a concept and using a point buy system to try and make that character.

For in game effects Warhammer tends to be more granular with the percentage point differences on an Will or similar check while in C&C there will be the effect of the modifier giving a 5% step with each +/-1 and the very significant effect of primes which with the 6 point difference in the resolution score gives a +30% difference between a prime and non-prime attribute. RQ does not have the same tendency to make checks directly on attribute scores, but uses a stepped method with +/-5% increments on the resolution. On the whole I tend to prefer the RQ system, but all of these systems do work well in practice and these are not particularly big points of difference between these games and I'd need to compare to a very different mechanism like Savage Worlds or HeroQuest to see a major difference.

As a supplement to these first couple of posts I'm going to show character creation using the default method for all three sets of rules with each in an individual post.

RQ variant systems
The most significant of these is the points buy system which uses a flat value of 20 for the unallocated points with a base value of 8, so buying an 18 uses 10 points while a 14 takes 6 points. This was the first point buy character generation system I remember finding in an RPG, but I don't really remember using it as I preferred taking my chances with the dice. The other alternative systems still use some randomisation such as 2d6+6 or roll d20, though there is an option to use whatever system the GM wishes. I prefer the BRP system in Call of Cthulhu and RQIII with Intelligence and size as 2d6+6 as it avoids the hard to play low intelligence characters, unless the player and GM agree to use one for particular reasons.

The rest of the review can be found in these posts:
Part 1 Settings, Characters and Advancement

Part 1b Characters and Careers

Part 2 Equipment and Encumbrance

Part 3 Melee

Part 4 Magic

Part 5 Conclusions

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Podcast Review: Guardian Tech Weekly

Tech Weekly is a regular podcast from theGuardian

Content
There are a floating group of regular presenters from the Guardian's journalists with Aleks Krotoski the regular host with Charles Arthur, Jemima Kiss and Bobby Johnson all appearing regularly. There are interviews with a wide range of people that relate to each podcast's theme, with an understandable bias towards British contributors.

The regular content will relate to recent technology news and also has regular features like the Elevator Pitch, where start ups explain what their company or product is about in only the time to ride in an elevator. This show is aimed at the general listener rather than the technology specialist so the content does not go into deep technical discussion and tends to feature social impacts of the issues.

Technical
The sound quality is good as you would expect from a professionally produced podcast and downloads from the Guardian's own website or iTunes are reliable and fast.


Overall
This is a worthwhile podcast to keep abrest of technology news, though it would ideally be supplemented with other podcasts such as the BBC's Digital Planet.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Podcast Review: In Our Time

In Our Time is a podcast from the BBC about the history of ideas presented by Melvin Bragg or to be formal Lord Bragg of Wigton. The other presenters are usually academics from various British institutions with a speciality in the area being discussed.


Content
The topic and guest presenters will be introduced by Melvin Bragg who will then act as a moderator and interested layperson with the discussion between the academics. This usually produces a clear and interesting discussion of the idea being featured. I have heard shows about probability, the Arab Conquests, the Riddle of the Sands and Lysenko. The themes from the BBC's website are Science, Religion, Philosophy, History and Culture.

There is an archive, but it only allows streamed content to be accessed rather than downloaded and only the latest weeks podcast can be downloaded from iTunes or other aggregation sites.

Technical
The audio quality is excellent which is not really surprising with a podcast from a major broadcast organisation. Streaming from the BBC website or downloads via iTunes are reliable and quick


Overall
I do like this podcast a lot as it is interesting and very good at explaining complex issues. Highly recommended, though it hardly needs my endorsement to be successful.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Avast me hearties its Talk like a Pirate Day

Talk like a Pirate day annually on September 19th.

This meme has lasted a long time now and I say full ahead and board any lily-livered swabs that aint willin' to play!

Monday, September 15, 2008

HotT Teddy Bear army thoughts

For when my finances improve I think I've seen the next Hordes of the Things army that I want to purchase. Even though it is in 28mm rather than my preferred 15mm or 6mm. It's Eureka's 7 Year Picnic range with Teddy Bears in 18th Century military uniforms available in the UK from Fighting 15s. I'm not sure which army to base the colours on as the Austrians and Prussians were the main participants, but Russia is traditionally the bear and a Russian army would allow the use of a hero in terms of Bearon von Muenchhausen. The other more fantasy/whimsical options could be making a jack in the box as a lurker. The stronghold could be a picnic blanket with hamper, bottles of ginger ale and cakes on it.

Army List
UnitNumberAPTotal AP
Rider General122
Artillery236
Cavalry (Riders)224
Grenadiers (Blades)224
Line Infantry (Shooters)428
Options
LurkerJack in the Box11
HeroBearon von Muenchhausen14
Warband or ShootersPandours22
AirboatBalloon13

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Gaming Podcast Review 21 Yog-Radio 29 and 30

Just as my regular slot got established I ran into enough RW problems to stop it, I'm now going to relaunch Wednesdays as a reviews wednesday for all types of media and products not just pocasts.

To start I'll cover the two latest Yog-Radio episodes which will conclude season 1 of Yog-Radio. As I've already reviewed Yog-Radio before I won't cover much except the specific content. Yog-Radio 29 has an interview with S.T. Joshi which was interesting, particularly about the versions of the stories that he has restored to match Lovecraft's originals. And 30 has a shout out to me. Yay! The Dan Harms interview is interesting too and I think Paul of Cthulhu has become a good interviewer now with the RPG authors. These episodes keep up the ususl high standards of Yog-Radio and I look forward to season 2. As an aside please try and support them either by buying products through their site, becoming a patron or donating.

I'll be back next wednesday with another review and will probably get on with my comparative review of Castles & Crusades, RQII and Warhammer FRP2 soon.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gaming Podcast Review 20 The Vintage Gamer

The Vintage Gamer is a podcast about older games in a variety of genres including wargames, computer games and card games as well as boardgames.

Content
The presenter Jim Van Verth has an easy manner anc clearly explains the games being discussed. In addition to discusssion of the individual games there are interviews with game designers and publishers like Eric Goldberg and Greg Costikyan and these have been interesting. The games I've heard reviewed and discussed including playing tips were: Ace of Aces, Illuminati and Diplomacy and the Halloween special roundup edition.

Technical
The episodes that I listened to were clear and easy to hear the voice and audio on. Downloads via iTunes and direct from the website were easy and quick. The file size is reasonable for an MP3.

Overall
I enjoy this podcast, particularly the interviews with Eric Goldberg and Greg Costikyan and hope that Jim Van Verth will be able to continue with them despite other commitments. I will be fair in saying that I probably won't listen to every episode as I will tend to stick to games I know or am interested in getting, but I still recommend this podcast highly all the same.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Gaming Podcast Review 19 This Week in Wargaming

This Week in Wargaming is a new podcast with the presenters coming from a number of established wargames podcasts like Podhammer, The Drop, D6 Generation, Samurai Gunslinger and 40K Radio.

Content
The content is based on discussion of various wargames including the Games Workshop and Privateer press games and general topics like pre painted miniatures and using miniatures painting services. There is also gaming news and discussion related to the news items. This is useful for giving a wider range of opinions and comment than the usual podcasts.

The presenters vary from show to show, but do have a steady core it appears. It hasn't yet been long enough to create a huge interplay between them, but I think this will develop over time.

Technical
The downloads from iTunes and the website are pretty fast and reliable. Sound quality suffers from the need to have contributors linked in by Skype or other internet telephone and this is a problem for every podcast that does it, even BBC ones, so it is not a major problem and most of the time it doesn't affect the audibility too badly.

Overall
I think this is a welcome addition to the wargaming podcasts out there and I'll probably listen pretty regularly.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Comparative review: Castles & Crusades, Runequest II and Warhammer FRP part I

Comparative Review: Castles & Crusades, RuneQuest II and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2

Part I: Settings, Characters and Advancement

Introduction
I was originally planning to do a comparative review of D&D3.5, Conan RPG (Atlantean Edition), Castles & Crusades and Warhammer FRP 2.0, but as there is now a second edition of Conan and D&D 4th edition I've shelved that project to replace it with a comparative review of C&C, WFRP 2 and RuneQuest II. Why RQII? Because it was an outstanding design at the time it was released and it will be interesting to see how it compares to much more recent designs.

In looking at the three rulesets I'll start with the 'fluff' and then move on into the detailed rules comparison at a later stage. This part will have the detail about character statistics and races and advancement mechanisms. I'm going to consider Classes and Careers in a later installment.

The intended list of parts to this comparative review is as follows:

  1. Setting, Basics, Characters and Advancement
  2. Classes & Careers, Equipment
  3. Melee
  4. Magic
  5. Conclusions


Setting
Castles and Crusades does not have the degree of setting content that is in either RQII or WFRP2, though Troll Lord Games do have a world setting of Erde that they use for their own products this is not included in the Players Handbook (PHB) or Monsters & Treasure (M&T) books. Both RQII and Warhammer FRP are strongly linked to their settings and I'll discuss each in turn.

Runequest is set in the world of Glorantha, which was created by Greg Stafford originally and used as the setting for the White Bear Red Moon boardgame. This has several features which were unusual at the time it was published and it is still a distinctive setting with a different approach to many of the usual fantasy tropes. The actual rule book has little setting information other than a general overview of the world and map of Glorantha with a timeline. There is a more detailed map of the Dragon Pass region in the back of the book with encounter tables and the sections in the rules on magic and creatures do help to add to the setting information included. The section on cults with the details of the Orlanth and Kyger Litor cults bring in quite a large part of the background from this book.

The Warhammer Fantasy world is used for both the miniatures wargame and the roleplaying game with relatively few differences in WFRP 2.0 which has been set to match the miniatures game world after the Storm of Chaos. This means that many parts of the north or east in the Empire have been devastated by war and depoplulated. In the Warhammer world many of the standard fantasy setting items are there like orcs, elves, trolls and vampires, with relatively conventional descriptions. The world is set in an early renaissance level of technology with firearms and cannon in use. A map of the old world and a chapter on the Empire and its neighbours is included meaning that there is much more setting detail in WFRP than the other two games here. There is also setting detail in the introduction and the chapter on religion and belief.

Basics
C&C and RQ both use a range of polyhedral dice for different things, for example weapon damage, but use an intrenally consistent type for the rolls to resolve combat and skills checks. With C&C this is a twenty sided dice (D20) and RQ uses a percentile roll using 2D20 as 10s and units. WFRP only uses 2 ten-sided dice (D10) for resolution with many rolls being percentages using both, but others like damage in combat will normally be done using a single D10. C&C uses a roll high mechanism of achieving or beating a target number, while RQ and WFRP use a roll under mechanism. I'll discuss these in more detail in the combat section and the conclusions.

Characters and Advancement

Castles & Crusades
C&C uses a system of rolling 3d6 six times and then the scores are assigned by the player for the six primary characteristics used. The maximum and minimum values are allowed to be greater than 18 or lower than 3, but the attribute modifiers table only goes from 1 to 18-19. Usually if a attribute reaches 0 due to a drain a character will be dead. A character will have some of these attributes noted as primes which I will discuss in a later part.

  • Strength - this affects a character's ability in melee combat, ability to carry loads and perform other feats of strength.
  • Dexterity - this affects a character's ability to hit with missile weapons and to dodge blows.
  • Constitution - a character's hit points will be adjusted for a high score on constitution.
  • Intelligence - for a wizard or illusionist this affects the number of spells they can cast per day.
  • Wisdom - the willpower of a character. For a cleric or druid this affects the number of spells they can cast per day.
  • Charisma - the charm and leadership of a character.


Characteristics will be adjusted for a non human character's race which, depending on the GM, can be any of the following:

  • Dwarf - these are the classic dwarves of fantasy literature
  • Elf - classical style elves with a slight build and an affinity for nature
  • Gnome - these have special abilities linked to their affinity for nature and illusion magic
  • Half-elf - a halfway point between humans and elves with players needing to decide which heritage is favoured in the character as it affects their in game stats.
  • Halfling - a common race in games since D&D and of course nothing like any race in a book by JRR Tolkien.
  • Half-orc - the classic strong and ugly half orc race.


Hit points are based on the character's class and level with a modifier for constituion, therefore increase rapidly with level until level 11 where a fixed amount per level is added, e.g. +3 HP at level 11 or above for a cleric.

RuneQuest
RQII has 7 characteristics generated by rolling 3d6 in order, unlike later BRP games there are not any primary characteristics generated by using dice and adding a specified number to give a narrower range of options. Some secondary characteristics of the strike rank and various bonuses derived from the rolled ones.

  • Strength
  • Constitution
  • Size
  • Intelligence
  • Power
  • Dexterity
  • Charisma

Hit points in RQ are the character's constitution score modified for the Size and Power characteristics. This gives a much narrower range than C&C as an experienced character is unlikely to have a much greater score than a novice. When I discuss combat I'll cover the effects of this in detail. The maximum for any characteristic is the maximum dice score plus the number of dice rolled which for humans gives 21 as the highest value.

Warhammer
WFRP has eight primary characteristics generated using 2d10 plus a base value, which is 20 on all attributes for humans, with secondary characteristics derived from other stats or based on values cross referencing a die result against a table.

  • Weapon Skill - Melee ability
  • Ballistic Skill - Ranged combat ability
  • Strength
  • Toughness
  • Agility
  • Intelligence
  • Willpower
  • Fellowship - ability to interact with others, similar to charisma in other games


The secondary characteristics are:

  • Attacks - how many attacks per melee round, which always starts at 1
  • Wounds - the equivalent of Hit Points in WFRP and usually in a limited range between about 8-14, found by referencing a die roll on a chart for the character's race and can have limited advances from their career
  • Strength Bonus - derived from the first digit of strength, used in determining damage in melee
  • Toughness Bonus - derived from the first digit of toughness, used to determine how a character can reduce damage suffered.
  • Movement
  • Magic Points - always starts as 0, the magic system will be explained in detail in another part. This can be advanced if the character's career allows it. Usually a character in a spellcasting class will use their free advance to put this to 1.
  • Insanity Points - starting at 0 it reflects characters exposure to the insanity of the Warhammer world.
  • Fate Points - Used to save a character from certain death, there are also fortune points that can be used for less important situations.


Character race needs to be selected before rolling for the characteristics with only four races available: Dwarf; Elf; Halfling and Human. In the base rules player choice is allowed, but some GM only allow human characters or use a dice roll to resolve the race. Unlike the first edition of WFRP Elves do not have a massive power advantage over other character races, but are still strong.

Advancement
Advancement in C&C and WFRP is achieved by earning Experience Points (XP) by overcoming challenges, winning in combats and depending on the GM by story awards for successful completion of missions. In C&C each character class has a different number of XP required to reach the next level. Increasing level will give improvements in the classes' special abilities such as more abilities or greater performance in an ability. Hit points increase by level with either an extra hit dice, or once 11th level is reached a fixed number. The Base Attack Bonus (BAB) will increase with level, more rapidly for combat oriented classes like fighters or clerics and slowly for wizards and rogues. For the spellcasting classes the number of spells per day and level of the spells available increases with character level.

RQ advancement is by a mixture of experience and training. A character can increase a skill they possess by making a successful skill roll then rolling less than their current skill level deducted from 100 on percentile dice, e.g. Morgan has a 25% skill in broadsword, but is successful in hitting in combat, so after the combat she if she can roll less than 75% on percentage dice (100-25) then her skill will increase by 5%. A character can also purchase training in a skill from an appropriate guild, with this being the only way of learning a skill that they do not possess, e.g. read/write other language. Characteristics can be improved by training and experience, except none can exceed the racial maximum and Strength, Size and Constitution cannot be increased past the highest of these three characteristic's starting value.

Warhammer characters can use XP to buy an advance from their career's advance scheme and once they have completed their advances in the current career change to a different career (either basic or advanced) by collecting the necessary trappings. In the basic career that a character starts in they will recieve all the skills and talents, but once into a second career they need to purchase each skill or talent as well as the characteristic increases. The maximum values for characteristics depend on the career and the starting values, a career will give the highest amount that a characteristic can be raised by and the starting value establishes the baseline.

This review continues in these posts:
Part 1a Character Creation

Part 1b Characters and Careers

Part 2 Equipment and Encumbrance

Part 3 Melee

Part 4 Magic

Part 5 Conclusions

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Gaming Podcast Review 18 The D6 Generation

The D6 generation is a gaming podcast mainly focusing on miniatures gaming, particularly Games Workshop and Privateer press's products, but also boardgames and computer games with occasional discussion of RPGs.

Content
Three regular presenters appear on this podcast: Craig Gallant, Russ Wakelin and Raef "Hollywood" Granger. There is a good interplay between the presenters which is important when you are trying to have humorous content.

There are quite a number of regular features on this podcast including the opening humour segment, Rapid fire; the Hollywood minute; Achievements in gaming; What's in the news and D'ya ever notice. As well as these reviews come up as a pretty significant part of the content with these having included Tannhauser, Descent and Shadows over Camelot. The reviews are good and in depth, particularly the one of Shadows over Camelot. RPG content has been reviews and comments on Dark Heresy, not too surprising given it is WH40K the RPG, and D&D 4e.

Technical
Like most of the amateur podcasts the technical quality has improved and I think is pretty good now. It downloads easily from their own site or iTunes.

Overall
This is a podcast that I enjoy listening to, but its more one of the ones that I'll dip into rather than listen to every episode as I don't play the WH40K or Privateer Press games so I'm more likely to listen if there is a review I'm interested in.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Gaming Podcast Review 17 Dungeons and Dragons

This is the official Wizards of the Coast podcast for D&D, so its now based on 4e. I've had ambivalent feelings about another edition of D&D being released which I've previously discussed so I'll just concentrate on the podcast itself.

The regular presenters are Mike Mearls and Dave Noonan, both from WotC D&D division. Mike Mearls is well known as a scenario designer for many different companies including Necromancer Games and Goodman Games. Dave Noonan is another member of the design team whose work I don't know so well. There is a good interplay between the presenters with Mike Mearls tending to deal with answering most of the questions in the mailbag episodes.

Content
The content is mainly discussion of 4e D&D which is hardly surprising, but there have been episodes talking to Wizard's other designers from products like Star Wars SAGA edition. The discussions with other designers are to highlight how 4e D&D doesn't stand in isolation from the development of games like Star Wars SAGA edition or earlier versions of D&D. There have been a number of episodes solely focused on answering questions from listeners and the latest podcasts feature a game being played with the crew from the Penny Arcade webcomic.

Technical
The sound quality is excellent, but given that WotC has a major corporate parent in Hasbro I'd expect them to invest the time and resources to make this work well. It downloads easily from iTunes store and the WotC site.

Overall
If you are playing 4e D&D I'd rank this as pretty essential, if you are interested and want to find out more then it would definitely be a useful information source though with a clear bias towards 4e. Obviously if you have no intention of

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Love is....

... beer and free Wi-Fi internet

Maybe not love, but certainly enjoyment as Weatherspoons not only sell decent real ale cheaply, but also have free wi-fi which I've used to make this post. :)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

All the boardgames I own part 3

Yet more lazy blogging. ;)


  1. ASL Starter Kit #1 Well I'd looked at ASL for a long time and thought that the necessary investment was too high before trying so the Starter Kit had to be a godsend. So far I've only played a few scenarios and it can be tricky coming from Squad Leader itself due to the important differences for example with support weapon ROF. I've now finally downloaded VASSAL so I will try and get set up and play some games online now.
  2. ASL Starter Kit #2 This was a must buy as it includes the British, but I've always liked having the minor nations as well. The cover has the iconic German 88 in silhouette and is nice and clean in design. So far I've only played the infantry scenarios including the Sicily campaign one against my brother. I'm glad that this included one of the iconic British artillery pieces in terms of the 25 pounder and though it doesn't include the British 6lbs anti-tank gun the American 57mm is virtually identical so would be usable for it allowing for the British not using HE much from AT guns.
  3. ASL Starter Kit #3 Completing the set. I've still not had a chance to play any of the scenarios from this one yet, so I've been spared the complexity of the armour rules so far. The scenarios are a nice mix including Arras with British Matilda tanks against Rommel's German forces and a scenario in Crete with Vickers Light Tanks and New Zealanders against German paras. There are early war scenarios with the Russians and Germans so there is a mix of armour supplied. The cover of this box has a Tiger I in profile, but this is less distinctive than the other two games.
  4. Statis Pro Football - as sports games go a strong simulation one, but less fun than Football Strategy to me as it is too detailed and long running with certain teams much more likely to win due to their stats. The evenly matched teams in Football Strategy make it all about the gameplay and outthinking your opponent which I prefer.
  5. Invasion of the Air Eaters a Metagaming microgame that I've probably underappreciated and one that I might try and run again sometime. I remember the rules being fairly complex for a microgame which may have put me off in the old days.
  6. Illuminati - New World OrderIncluding card games in the list may be a bit of a cheat, but there is a fair cross over and BoardGameGeek includes miniatures rules like Hordes of the Things so I'm going to go ahead with this. Like the original Illuminiati game from Steve Jackson this is a fun game of building a secret power structure to rule the world. Like any CCG a lot of work needs to go into hand construction, but as I bought the complete set box it isn't that hard to do.
  7. Artifact A metagaming microgame set in the near future with an alien artefact found on the moon and conflict between US and Soviet forces and also an alien race that has been summoned by the 'dingus' found on the moon. A long time since I've played this and from what I remember a decent if not particularly exciting wargame.
  8. Cry Havoc This is a tactical combat game for mediaeval Britain with named counters representing knights, men at arms, peasants and other individuals. It is playable solo as well as with 2 players, but tends to work better with two. The rules are reasonably simple and its an enjoyable game and lends itself to use with miniatures on the hex maps. The scenarios are reasonable and include a peasant revolt and fight between peasant gangs.
  9. Siege Siege develops the Cry Havoc game by adding fortifications and rules for assaulting them. The counters include additional units for the necessary items like siege engines and scaling ladders together with more characters. The parts are completely interchangeable with Cry Havoc allowing larger scale games to be played if you own both. I found this one best for solo play as a siege obviously has a more limited set of likely tactical options to decide on.
  10. Outremer This takes the Cry Havoc rules and applies it to the Crusades with counters for crusaders and saracens. It includes campaign rules and a few scenarios with a scenario generator. Like the earlier games the components are completely compatible allowing large games.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Podcast Review: Dateline Jasoom

Dateline Jasoom is a podcast devoted to the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs (ERB for short). This includes Tarzan, John Carter of Mars and everything else that the prolific Burroughs produced. The main presenter is Jeff "Elmo" Long and his huge enthusiasm for his subject shows in these podcasts. I haven't seen any updates since February 2008 at time of writing and I'm trying to find out the reason for the hiatus.

Content
The content varies from episode to episode, but includes interviews with writers and academics that are interested in ERB, fan fiction, archive interviews with ERB, Johnny Weismuller and other related parties. The tone is humorous and I suspect that listeners reaction would depend on how this strikes them. Personally as a British person I like it as it tends to be a national habit to be pretty light hearted and this matches this.

Technical
The recording quality is clear and I've not had any problems downloading from Panthan Press or iTunes.

Overall
This is recommended to fans of pulp fiction in general and strongly to fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gaming Podcast Review 16 The 2 Half Squads

The 2 half squads is an Advanced Squad Leader podcast which has only recently started and seems to be coming out pretty regularly as we've now had 5 episodes.


Content
The two regular presenters, Jeff Hallett and Dave Kleinschmidt, have an excellent interplay. There are a number of regular items now in these podcasts including tactical tips for both newcomers and experienced players, favourite scenarios, and "what's in the box". What's in the box reviews the contents of a module for ASL, the favorite scenarios discusses pretty much what it says and the tactical tips include the ASL Starter Kits, which is important for me. There are pretty frequent guests from the ASL community which helps keep things interesting. I'd rate the content highly for players of ASL,


Technical
This is a bit of a weak area, the first episode had a distinct echo and sound quality can be a bit variable,

Overall
I like this podcast and it is interesting if you are interested in Advanced Squad Leader. I'd say for ASL players this is pretty much essential, but if you are not interested in the game then you could probably give it a miss for one of the more general wargames or boardgames podcasts.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Gaming Podcast Review 15 RolePlaying Public Radio

Podcast review #15 hopefully the first of the series of Wednesday reviews on my podcast

Roleplaying Public Radio is an established RPG podcast that started out largely as a humourous podcast, but has moved into having more serious discussions and reviews. I've not spent that much time listening to the actual play sessions due to time pressures


Content
The two main presenters are Ross Payton and Tom Church, with occasional guests for round table sessions or one off episodes. There is a good interplay between the main presenters and this is definitely one of the chattier podcasts that I listen to. There is a pretty high humour level in the podcasts and this is pretty appealing as it doesn't feel too forced or excessive. I like the use of group discussions on topics in the same way that The Game's The Thing uses regular roundtables on reviews. The length is usually around 1 hour which makes it an easy podcast to listen to in one sitting unlike some lengthy podcasts.

Regular sections are the Gaming Anecdote, the letter to..., and listener feedback. Topics have included keeping things feeling fresh for long running games and players, the role of rules, dealing with bad players and these have been pretty useful for ideas coming from active gamers.

Technical
The audio quality is pretty clear and it is easy to hear the presenter's voices. The file sizes are reasonable and the downloads seem fairly reliable.

Overall
This is actually a podcast that I've found enough value and enjoyment in to be worth actually downloading regularly and it goes on my recommendations list.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Coming up in June

I'm going to try using the scheduled posting feature to make Wednesday a regular review day with a new review published each week. I have got plenty of content to do this with so I hope I'll keep that schedule up and be able to squeeze in some more podcasts. It's been interesting to look at my stats on Google Analytics and see that I do have some repeat visitors out there and a thank you to them for loyalty and I hope to keep good content coming.

Please leave comments about my posts if you feel like it as its nice to get feedback.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gaming Podcast review 14 Contact with the Enemy

Contact with the Enemy takes its name from Helmut Von Moltke's aphorism that "no battle plan survives contact with the enemy". This is a new podcast on board wargames presented by Martin Burke and Paul Glenn.

Content
The content so far has been in depth discussion of wargames, so far the games covered are Hannibal: Rome v Carthage, Here I Stand, Up Front and Attack Sub. This is very useful if you are looking to buy or already play one of these games. For me it is likely to mean that I tend to listen to only a proportion of the episodes as I don't always have time to listen to content about games of marginal interest to me.

Technical
Like most new amateur podcasts the technical quality has been a bit rough as they are needing to record with Skype as the two presenters are in different regions of the USA. I think this will improve with time and experience, but it can make parts of the speech unclear. The downloads are pretty smooth and the podcast is available through iTunes.

Overall
This is a useful podcast for players of board wargames and I would recommend trying it even though technically it still needs work.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Creating C&C Character part #4 Knight

I went with physical rather than mental primes as a warrior knight rather than a courtier.

Character Name: Owain Llandwyr
Rank/Position/Concept: Minor nobles' son
Sex: Male
Species: Human (Tharbrian)
Homeland: CSIO
Age: 19
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 150lbs
Colour of - Hair: Black Eyes: Pale Blue Skin: Ruddy
Appearance: Tall, slim, Athletic
Clothing: armour and green cloak, unarmoured white shirt, black trousers and boots
Demeanour: Energetic, commanding, arrogant
Motivations:
Martial glory - Owain longs to be spoken of in the bards' songs
Father's approval - as an unwise youth Owain has recieved much approbrium from his father and seeks redress

Background:
As the youngest son of the laird of the hamlet of Bridale Owain sought adventure joining the Knights of the Pegasus to protect travellers on the Rorystone Road knowing his 3 brothers would be ahead of him for inheritance. As a junior knight he has been sent from Haghill to find out what is happening in Winkdale with the priests of Nepthlys sending Alwyn to represent them fearing disruption of the valuable lead mining around Gaehill.

Contacts:
Cumail Llandower, laird of Bridale - father Fighter 2?
Jovan Mizic, commander of the Knights of the Pegasus in Haghill (only an area commander - l3-4 Knight most likely)
Lodrin - NPC from Gaehill - captain of guard

Class: Knight Level: 1 XP: 0

Stats / Skills & Saves, inc +6 Prime bonus:
Str 14 (+1)/P (+8)
Dex 12 (+0)/ (+1)
Con 8 (-1)/P (+6)
Int 11 (+0)/(+1)
Wis 8 (-1)/(+0)
Cha 15 (+1)/ P (+8)

GP 19 SP 6 CP 4
Prime Characteristics: Charisma, Strength, Constitution

Background, Race & Profession:
HP: 4
AC: 15 (+4 scale, +1 Shield)
Class Abilities: Horsemanship, Inspire

Armour:
Scale
Large wooden shield
Leather Coif

Weapons:
Heavy Lance +1 1D8+1
Broadsword +1 2D4+1
Dagger +1 1D4+1
Shortbow +0 1D6

Equipment:
Riding horse 'Shadow', tack and saddle
Shortbow, 20 Arrows in case
Signet ring and sealing wax
Backpack
Bedroll
Blanket
Tankard
1 weeks rations
Armour and weapon oil
Whetstone
Waterskin
Canteen
Cloak
High boots
Shirt
Jerkin
Trousers
Small belt pouch
Razor
Soap
bandages (4 wounds)
Tankard
Tinderbox
Hooded lantern
5 flasks oil
1 weeks horse fodder

Creating C&C Character part #3 Rogue

A Rogue where I went with the prime on intelligence because of the class skills linked to it, which would have been a reason for also selecting Wisdom, but I decided on Constitution to match my concept of a hardy peasant background.

Character Name: Meurig Parry
Rank/Position/Concept: Servant to Owain LLandwyr
Sex: Male
Species: Human (Tharbrian)
Homeland: CSIO
Age: 22
Height: 5'7"
Weight: 150lbs
Colour of - Hair: Brown Eyes: Brown Skin: Ruddy
Appearance: non descript
Clothing: leather armour/jerkin, green shirt, brown breeches and brown leather boots
Demeanour: Meurig is cheeful with a tendency to mutter under his breath,
Motivations:
Earn money not to have to toil in the fields like his family
Send money back for family to own their farm

Background:
Servant from the household of Cumail Llandower, sent with Owain to redeem himself after found stealing apples, Meurig is a quick wittted, but foolish individual that grew up as a peasant's son and managed to get himself hired as a servant rather than being stuck in the fields. For being suspected as the culprit of some petty household thieving Meurig was sent out into the wilds with Owain as his servant.

Contacts:
Brydon Stone - thieves' guild master in Gaehill and fence

Class: Rogue Level: 1 XP: 0

Stats / Skills & Saves, inc +6 Prime bonus: .
Str 10 (+0)/(+1)
Dex 14 (+1)/P (+8)
Con 10 (+0)/P (+6)
Int 12 (+0)/P(+8)
Wis 6 (-1)/(+0)
Cha 11 (+0)/ (+1)
GP 4 SP - CP -
Prime Characteristics: Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence

Class skills: Back Attack, Cant, Climb, Decipher script, Hide, Listen, Move Silently, Open Lock, Pick Pocket, Traps
Background, Race & Profession:
HP: 2
AC: 13 (+2 Leather, +1 Dex)

Armour:
Leather

Weapons:
Club +0 1D6
Sling +1 1D6 50ft
Dagger +0 1D4 10ft

Equipment:
Rogues tools
Backpack
Bedroll
Cloak
Waterskin
Flint & steel
Small belt pouch
50 ft hemp rope
Canteen
Tankard
Crowbar
5 spikes
hammer
1 weeks rations

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gaming Podcast review 13 The Games The Thing

Lucky thirteen is going to be The Games The Thing.

This is a fairly long running podcast, though it has not had the sheer frequency of production that some of the other long running shows have, but 30+ episodes in 2 years is pretty frequent. There is a tendency to split shows by content, so there are RPG and boardgames episodes. This probably is good for listeners as it means that they are not forced to skip or listen to content that they are not interested in.

Content
The two regular hosts at the moment are Ron and Veronica Blessing, but there are plenty of additional contributors and interviews in the podcasts. I tend to be more interested in the RPG podcasts, though there is a bit of a bias towards the Savage Worlds game. Well with some podcasts you sometimes feel that the presenters are married, here they are for sure! I've liked the roundtable feature of the reviews as it helps to hear a range of opinions and brings out more points in the discussion. Listening to the interview with Dave Blewer about the Sundered Skies setting has made me interested in both that setting and Savage Worlds now, so it can be guilty for hurting my wallet.

Technical
Most of the episodes I've heard have been clear and easy to listen to, including what I suspect have been interviews using Skype so this passes muster.

Overview
I like this podcast and will be picking up the episodes that contain the content I'm interested in on a pretty regular basis now. This podcast is highly recommended to players of Savage Worlds as it looks like one of the top sources for interviews and discussion of this game.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Creating C&C Character part #2

This proved to be a much quicker exercise than the Conan characters, as there was not the need to work out all the skills and feats for the characters and this is why I managed to get 4 done in only a few days.

This character is a cleric, as the Wilderlands setting has a huge number of possible go ds it took me sometime to decide which one he should follow. In the end I had a concept that made me choose Nephtlys, goddess of wealth. Unlike 3e D&D there is no need to identify the domains of the god though it is nice to have appropriate spells as I don't see a cleric of Poseidon having too many flame spells.

The tricky part with C&C characters tends to be identifying which attributes to make primes, which is in some ways harder with humans as you are able to have two more on top of the class prime. With characters with less high quality stats there is no longer the desire to min-max by putting all the primes on attributes with positive bonuses and this could lead to better characterisation and role play. In this case I've gone with Intelligence as a prime, despite it being a poor stat to reflect a shrewd if unintelligent character.

The character concept as being more of a talkative priest rather than a warrior priest means I've made the three primes on the mental stats of intelligence, wisdom and charisma for this character.

Character Name: Alwyn
Rank/Position/Concept: Acolyte (trainee) cleric of Nephtlys.
Sex: Male
Species: Human (Alryan)
Homeland: CSIO (Haghill)
Age: 20
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 170lbs
Colour of - Hair: Black Eyes: Brown Skin: Ruddy
Appearance: Portly, unremarkable appearance, scar on left hand
Clothing: In town Alwyn wears the green robes of the priests of Nephtlys, while travelling usually he wears his armour more openly due to the dangers of the Rorystone Road.
Demeanour: Gregarious, talkative,
Motivations:
Wealth, spreading the worship of Nephtlys, encouraging merchants and trade, becoming rich

Background:
Growing up as the son of a merchant in Haghill with its frequent visits from the caravans trading between the City State and Thunderhold Alwyn regarded trade and wealth as important and he became an acolyte of the temple of Nephtlys goddess of wealth as a teenager. He regards growing wealthy and acquiring its trappings as important making money from tithes from merchants, selling healing and other spells to other parties and acting as a scribe. He has spent much time talking to travellers and joining caravans on their way to the City State and back before being sent north to Gaehill to investigate the rumours about Orc raids by Tilya, priestess Nephtlys at Haghill.

At the tavern at Gaehill he found himself joining Durren Bury and Owain LLandwyr with their similar missions to investigate happenings at Winkdale, he has joined them knowing that his skills are not in combat, but in negotiation and that Orcs may be hard to talk into trading pacts.

Contacts: Ranald Stark, merchant in Gaehill.

Class: Cleric Level: 1 XP: 0

Stats / Skills & Saves, inc +6 Prime bonus:
Str 9 (+0)/ (+1)
Dex 11 (+0)/ (+1)
Con 12 (+0)/ (+1)
Int 6 (-1)/P(+6)
Wis 15 (+1)/P(+8)
Cha 12 (+0)/P (+7)

GP 3 SP 2 CP -

Prime Characteristics: Wisdom, Intelligence, Charisma

Languages: Common, Alryan
Background, Race & Profession: Priest of Nephtlys, goddess of wealth
HP: 1
AC: 14 (+3 Ring, +1 Large shield)
Class abilities: Spells, turn undead

Spells per day: 0: 3, 1: 2, 2: 0, 3: 0, 4: 0

Spells known:
Level 0: First aid, purify food and drink, detect magic
Level 1: Cure light wounds,
Level 2:
Level 3:
Level 4:

Armour: Ring Mail, Large shield, Normal helm
Weapons: Heavy mace +0 1D8
Quarterstaff +0 1D6
Equipment:
Backpack
Bedroll
Silver holy symbol
Robe
Shirt
Soft boots
Trousers
Cloak
Waterskin
Tinderbox
Hooded Lantern
4 flasks oil
8oz ink
10 sheets parchment
Quill
Scroll case
1 weeks rations
2 bottles common wine
Tankard

Sunday, May 25, 2008

All the boardgames I own part 2

To continue my earlier post


  1. Flight Leader - Modern air combat, one that I haven't played all that much with the advanced rules, but I remember the importance of fuel conservation for many aircraft. Probably one that I will break out again sometime.
  2. Red Baron - WWI Air Combat game from the Wargamer magazine. One that I liked playing and a decent rather than outstanding game. Air combat is always tricky to simulate in 2d, but I prefer these earlier periods where the slower speeds and lower capabilities of the aircraft make it easier to deal with.
  3. Sticks and Stones - Another Metagaming microgame, stone age man in combat This contains a solo scenario for a mammoth hunt and I'll look at doing a review on this one some time both for a solitaire game and a
  4. Metric Mile - a game that I really like both as a game per se and as a simulation of my favourite event from track and field athletics the mile/1,500 metres race. This is a really good game that I have reviewed at Boardgamegeek and as a former miler myself I can say that I feel it is a good simulation. Lambourne Games have released a follow up game, but I've not had the chance to play that so I'll have to reserve judgement.
  5. One Page Bulge - one of Steve Jackson Games' earliest releases, a straightforward WWII game with the rules fitting on one sheet of 8.5" x 11" paper. An easy to play little game, but not a classic given the constraints.
  6. Up Front - the Squad Leader card game as it was called, though unlike SL or ASL it really is squad level with individuals in a squad being controlled. It works really well and provides plenty of challenges even to experienced players due to the randomness from the card drawing mechanism. Probably got the cover artwork that I least like to be seen with though.
  7. Banzai - expansion one for Up Front brings in the British and Japanese and a set of new scenarios allowing US Marines v Japanese games where the USMC have a distinct set of differences from the regular US army squad in the regular game. Of course I mainly bought it to be able to play the Brits.
  8. Desert War - the second Up Front expansion brings in the French and Italians. Neither is that effective, but for me it was nice to get the game and all the expansions.
  9. Mythos - well as I've included Up Front, I'm going to include other card games. This is the original game that broke Chaosium and I did actually like it, but obviously didn't buy enough boosters so that there were an awful lot left unsold till late on with this game.
  10. Munchkin - Another Steve Jackson Game, this is an entertaining 'beer and prezels' game, but wouldn't be one that I would want to play every week. I've had my copy signed by John Kovalic, but this is far from unusual ;) - a reflection of how willing John is to sign stuff at conventions rather than a bad thing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gaming Podcast review 12: Bacchus miniatures

This is a podcast from Peter Berry of Bacchus Miniatures though he does include other contributors and other manufacturer's products as well as his own 6mm miniatures and rules. Not forgetting a word from Igor.

So far there have only been 3 episodes with the most recent in January 2008. The content does include a fair amount of discussion of UK wargames shows which is interesting to me, particularly hearing the traders' perspective. There have also been some thought provoking discussions of areas with gaming like the new ranges of 40mm figures being released, which actually inspired me to make an earlier post on my blog. The reviews of other products are useful and tied into ones which will support Bacchus' ranges for understandable reasons. At around 30-40 minutes long I think this is a decent length podcast and doesn't struggle to fill time like some others.

Technical
Sound quality is nice and clear and I've found downloading from the Bacchus website easy.

I'll certainly go back for later episodes of this of this podcast

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Creating Castles & Crusades Character #1

Well for a PbP game I've ended up needing to create 4 characters with the GM using the 3d6 in order method for the character's statistics, this gives much lower rolls than the usual D&D /D20 games where 4d6 dropping lowest has long been the norm. These characters are for the Judges Guild Wilderlands of High Fantasy setting.

With this character the class prime was intelligence and I selected strength and dexterity as matching my 'agile fighter' type concept. My biggest worry was really the low constitution as it is tough for a fighter to be on low numbers of hit points. I suspect that this party will use a lot of ranged combat till they hit second level at least.

The first of my 4 characters follows:
Character Name: Durren Bury
Rank/Position/Concept: Human scout/Orc hunter
Sex: Male
Species: Human (Dunael)
Homeland: CSIO Dearthwood
Age: 23
Height: 5' 6"
Weight: 135 lbs
Colour of - Hair: Brown Eyes: Hazel Skin: Olive
Appearance: slender,
Clothing: Grey broad brimmed hat, Green cloak, Grey shirt, Brown breeches and boots. Wooden shield
Demeanour: Taciturn, studious
Motivations:
As a Dunael Durren's mission is to help protect the humans and other communities of the Dearthwood from the Orcs and other chaos creatures to maintain order in the Roglaras and keep the City State safe from attacks.

Personally Durren seeks to learn more magic finding new spells to bring back to his mentor Scriabin the wizard at his tower in the deep woods. Durren yearns to become more capable as a wizard and be able to use the powerful spells that he has read about.

Background:
Durren grew up in the huge forests of the Dearthwood learning how to fight the Orcs of the Purple Claw and help preserve the forest from their incursions. He started learning his trade as a warrior with the rangers of the Dunael, but his sickly constitution made it hard for him to fight and march as well as his comrades. Tracking an orc warparty into a little visited part of the forest his band found the orcs attacking a tower. From the window slits bolts of energy could be seen streaking out to injure orcs as well as arrows and darts fired by the defenders. Despite this the orcs were battering at the door with a fallen tree and looked likely to break in. The rangers formed themselves and attacked the foul creatures from behind, killing many before the survivors fled. The owner of the tower, the wizard Scriabin, thanked the rangers and let them make camp at the tower.

Talking to the wizard Durren was invited to stay as his aptitude for magic was obvious to the Wizard, since then he has learnt to read and some simple magic while maintaining his combat skills by hunting and defending Scriabin's tower for the last 3 years. He has left to head to Winkdale as Scriabin has heard rumours about the orc attacks and suspects there being more than just normal raiding behind it.

Contacts: Wizard Scriabin - magical mentor

Class: Spellsword Level: 1 XP: 0

Stats / Skills & Saves, inc +6 Prime bonus: (eg a 3rd level character's 16P stat is 16/+11).
Str 13 (+1)/P (+8)
Dex 13 (+1)/P (+8)
Con 6 (-1)/ (+0)
Int 16 (+2)/P (+9)
Wis 6 (-1)/(+0)
Cha 11 (+0)/(+1)

Prime Characteristics: Intelligence, Strength, Dexterity

Background, Race & Profession: Dunael
HP: 4
AC: 15 (+3 Studded Leather, +1 Shield, +1 Dex)
Weapons Specialisation: Longsword

Wealth: GP: 7 SP 2 CP -
Languages: Common, Dunael, Orc, Elvish
Spells Known:
Level 0: Dancing Lights, Prestidigitation
Level 1:
Level 2:
Level 3:

Armour: Studded Leather, Leather Coif, Shield
Weapons:
Longsword +2 1D8+1
Sling +1 1D4+1 50 ft
2 Javelin +1 1D6+1 30 ft
Dagger +1 1D4+1
Equipment:
Backpack
Bedroll
Blanket
Heavy boots
Cloak
Broad brimmed hat
Shirt
Breeches
Tinderbox
Whetstone
Small pouch
Map/scroll case
10 pieces parchment
Quill
8oz ink
Rations (1 week)
2 flasks (1 ale)
Razor
4 torches
50 ft Hemp rope
2 small sacks
hooded lantern
2 pints oil

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

So what else to review?

I've got a few more podcast reviews lined up, but looking further ahead does anyone want a particular podcast reviewed. If so please add it as a comment to this post.

Reviews lined up:
Bacchus Miniatures podcast
Dateline Jasoom
The Game's The Thing
Contact with the enemy

Monday, May 19, 2008

All the Boardgames I own Part 1

Well, it may be lazy blogging as well as lazy journalism to just produce lists, but here we go anyway. Actually incorporating my comments makes this a much bigger exercise than a simple list would be. I've included collectable card games as well as they are often looked at in a similar light.

  1. Squad Leader - one of the first serious wargames I bought back in the late 1970s and one that I've played large numbers of times, though much more on the Ostfront scenarios as it was always easier to lay them out unlike some of the Western Front scenarios with boards end to end. The real level of course is more like company/battalion leader, but the actual name is catchier.
  2. Cross of Iron - Squad Leader gamette no 1. The eastern front revisited with the Axis minor nations, SS, much more detailed armour rules and huge numbers of armour and ordnance counters. More of a tankies' game than the original, but still largely an infantry commanders game.
  3. Crescendo of Doom - Squad Leader gamette no 2. The early war and British, this also includes the French, Finns and Allied minor nations. Not played as much as the other two due to rules complexity and time pressures as I started working.
  4. OGRE - now onto the little stuff, the first Metagaming microgame I bought. Probably one of the most played games that I own too as it is quick to set up and play and simple to teach a new player.
  5. GEV - The follow up game to OGRE that allowed a lot more variety of terrain and units with many scenarios having regular armour and infantry on both sides to fight it out.
  6. Ambush - I've already written a bit about this game, the level really is Squad Level as your US recon unit takes on the Germans.
  7. Black Hole - another Metagaming Microgame and very enjoyable as two sides fight it out for a donut shaped (ring) asteroid with a black hole contained in the centre by alien technology.
  8. Football Strategy - one very heavily played game and very much about the players trying to outguess each other as this game has some of the lowest amount of die rolling of any game I own.
  9. Baseball Strategy - another sports game that is highly abstracted and an enjoyable game because of it, there are more variables than in Football Strategy so it is even trickier at times to call the pitch and batting attempts.
  10. Backgammon - the copy I have is a promotional travel set that I got with Hugo Boss aftershave a couple of years ago. An enjoyable game for when I'm not up against more hardcore gamers.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Gaming Podcast review 11 Point 2 Point

Point 2 Point is a board wargaming podcast, I feel that I need to make the point that it is based on boardgames as my reviews are including miniatures wargames podcasts as well.

Content
Well this is very much a wargames podcast, with a bit of emphasis on the competitive as well as social side. The content includes other contributors now, with ASLSK fan reviewing air wargames in some of the recent episodes I've listened to. The two regular presenters Jason and Scott have a good interplay and this has really stimulated my interest in getting back to gaming with board wargames again.

The show pretty regularly features interviews with these having included Don Greenwood, formerly of Avalon Hill, and these are always a highlight of podcasts for me. These episodes with interviews tend to be my favoured ones, though sometimes the reviews or discussions feature games I'm particularly interested in. One nice thing is the amount of times the discussion of games are clearly based on good playing experience.

Technical
I've found that the technical quality is pretty good and this is not an issue with the show or the file size.

Conclusion
This is a podcast that I will listen to regularly, but probably not every episode as some of the convention reports are not all that relevant to me in the UK.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Updated Podcasts

Well of my favoured podcasts the following have been updated:

Yog-Sothoth.com Horror on the Orient Express episode 27 is now out

Meeples and Miniatures - episode 32 in two parts

Dial P for Pulp - episode 7

Cthulhu podcast has reached episode 17 which is now available from its new site
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