Make a Wargame Ep 5 – Hero Powers – MM 46

It’s Mini Monday, where we share miniature projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week we’re rounding off our tabletop skirmish wargame with hero powers. We’ll also touch on playtesting one last time, because it’s important. Mini Monday Logo Dagger Lords won’t feel like a complete skirmish game without some hero powers, so let’s look at building some today.

Episode 1: Concept and Theme
Episode 2: Initiative and Turns
Episode 3: Movement
Episode 4: Combat
Episode 5: Powers and Playtesting
Episode 6: Polishing the Game

We’re updating the public Dagger Lords game document as we go, so be sure to check in and see what we have so far. Don’t forget to leave a comment too, because it gets lonely here in the lockdown.

Dagger Lords Minis Game Logo

Final Thoughts on Playtesting

Before we jump into the mechanics we’ll be developing, let’s look at playtesting one more time, to get the bigger picture.

Throughout our project, we’ve created mini prototypes, which we’ve tested and iterated on. These small games help to pick out the fun and broken mechanics, which we can then keep or fix. It’s like getting to hold and feel your ideas, which does a lot for knowing if you’re on the right track.

One of the hardest aspects of game design, for a small studio or a hobbyist, is getting enough playtesting in. Now especially, with lockdowns and Covid still impacting the number of face-to-face games, it can be hard to get players in front of your work, especially when it’s new, buggy, and not connected to a well-known IP.

This is one reason why we made the game’s work file publically accessible, to allow players to check out the game and provide feedback as this series continued. Online virtual tables, like Tabletop Simulator and Roll20, provide another way to reach fans across borders and time zones. Still, people only have so much time, and you can’t expect people, even good friends, to set aside a few hours to play.

Ultimately, you often need to try the game for yourself, as often as you can.

For Three Stone Stories, which is currently nearing its final draft, we set a rigorous in-house playtesting schedule to check every one of the campaign threads that’ll be included in the book, testing each multiple times. GunStars, also in development, has had multiple playtests focusing on various core mechanics, even though it’s still only in its early days of development. Finally, my home RPG sessions are usually focused around whatever content I’m creating at the time, like our undersea campaign that tested a lot of the content for the Undersea Sourcebook series. Apart from that, we try to keep the lines of communication open between ourselves and the players that buy our books, so we can keep improving.

Why is any of this important?

Because making a good game matters, and the only way to ensure that a game is fun is to play it.

By the Power of…!

A game just doesn’t feel complete without some showy powers to deploy against your opponent. Powers also give us an opportunity as designers to showcase the core mechanics and the theme of the game.

Here are a few examples:

Dagger Lords is about fantasy street gangs. Think Gangs of New York, but with goblins and dwarves. Powers that showcase the gang element might have names like Backstab, Cut Throat, For the Brotherhood, Betrayal, Brawl, Club to the Noggin, and so on.

We can tie these to the Reflex Point mechanic easily by making powers cost a number of Reflex Points, but we can also have powers that influence Reflex Points. Ambush, for example, might let you roll a die to steal Reflex Points at the beginning of the game.

Powers give us a good way to prototype racial/heritage abilities and class abilities, which we can later bake into the stat blocks for the various units that populate our game. We can also test weapons as powers, which gives us a lot of modularity.

Let’s jump into the prototype, where we’ll see some initial ideas for powers.

Dagger Lords — Prototype: Street War

The objective of this game is to destroy all of your opponent’s units.

Setup and Rounds

Each player controls 4 gangster miniatures, with the player representing the gang boss. A game has two players. Any miniatures can be used, and for these rules, only close combat weapons are considered because of powerful magic influencing the battlefield. Each mini has 2 Reflex Points, 2 Reflex, +2 Brawl, and 3 Hit Points.

Before the start of the game, each model can purchase a power from those listed below. A model must meet all requirements of the power to be able to use it:

Dagger Lords Powers 1

The game is played in a number of rounds, and each round has three phases:

  1. Initiative
  2. Activation (Combat and Movement)
  3. Top-Up

1. Initiative

Each player rolls 1d10 for their gang. Each miniature can spend 1 of their 2 Reflex Points to add +2 to the roll. Play proceeds in order from the player with the highest total to the player with the lowest total.
Dice off for ties.

2. Activation

Each player then acts in initiative order and can activate their miniatures in any order they wish. At the start of the player’s activation, their models gain a number of Reflex Points equal to the following equation:

Activation Reflex Points = (Remaining Reflex Points x 2) – 1

The minimum number of Activation Reflex Points a model gains is always 1.

To activate a miniature, you must spend a Reflex Point to make an attack, use a power, or move 6 inches.

To make an attack against an enemy model within 2 inches of your model, you roll 1D10 and add your Brawl modifier. The target rolls 1D10 and adds their Reflex modifier. You can each spend a Reflex Point before you roll to add +2 to your total roll. If you equal or beat the target’s score, you have scored a hit. The target loses 2 HP.

Any model can interrupt another model’s attack to attack instead by spending 1 Reflex Point. The order is decided in the order of declared interrupts, so it’s possible for a model to interrupt another model that is interrupting it, the player only has to declare their interrupt after the interrupting player does, and spend the required Reflex Points to do so.

3. Top Up

After all the models on both sides have activated, each model that isn’t destroyed regains 1 Hit Point and Reflex Points equal to their Reflex ability score. A model can never have more than their starting amount of these points.

Winning and Losing

A gang member is destroyed if they lose all their Hit Points. The winner is the first player to destroy all their enemy’s units, or who has destroyed the most enemy units when the time is up.

That’s it for today. Next time we’ll be polishing off the game, so give Dagger Lords a shot and, if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know.

 

40 for 40 Sale

I turned the big Four Oh this month, and to celebrate we’re running a bunch of sales all month long.

40 for 40 promotional imageOn our store, you can use the coupon code “40for40” to get 40% off your cart’s total value at checkout. You can use the coupon as many times as you like, until the end of the month.

Many of our products are 40%-off on Drive Thru RPG. This includes many titles for fifth edition fantasy, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and stand-alone titles. We also have a few Pathfinder Second Edition and Starfinder Roleplaying Game titles.

On the DMs Guild we’ve got a massive bundle worth over $60 going for less than $16. This bundle includes many of our best-selling titles, so if you’ve bought them already you’ll pay even less to fill out your collection.

Be a Sharp GM, use the Ultimate NPC Database

Want to be a sharp GM, known for running a great game? Of course you do!
A good NPC database is the perfect tool for busy GMs, and we’ve got a solution that’s cheap, analogue, and easy to use.

July’s RPG Blog Carnival

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival is hosted by Of Dice and Dragons, and the theme is The Gamer’s Notebook. We’re looking at our own campaign notebooks, experimenting with ideas for tracking games, and sharing our personal thesis on shorthand for orcs. Here at your friendly Phoenix, we’re going back to one of our oldest products, one that I still use in my RPG sessions now: NPC Strategy Cards.

rpg blog carnival logo

The Power in Your Palm

There are loads of useful apps for tracking your game, but I prefer analogue solutions, especially if I’m playing online and want to limit the number of tabs I have open. I often play on Roll20.net, which has a nice NPC database system, but I find it slow and cumbersome. Give me something physical instead.

Cards are my go-to. They’re stackable, sortable, easy to randomize, annotate, or group. You can also sling them at things, Gambit style.

POD NPC Strategy Cards
The beautiful print on demand NPC Strategy Cards.

You might call me a Luddite. I’m fine with that. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when Skynet sends in the kill-drones. Card, at their worst, might give you a paper cut. That’s nothing Sarah Connor can’t handle with a band-aid.

They’re Cheap, But We Can Do Cheaper

Our NPC Strategy Cards aren’t high-tech by any means. They’re basically index cards with fields that are important for describing an NPC. You can easily make your own. Here’s a “blank” NPC card I made from a promotional Magic: the Gathering card:

You could use old business cards, cut up cereal boxes, or find blank cards at a stationery shop. I found, however, that writing on card sleeves damages them, so I don’t recommend that. The best method is probably to stick blank paper on old playing cards. Keep all the NPC cards you make and you’ll have a great database of characters at hand when you need them.

Our print on demand cards are laminated, so they take whiteboard markers well and are easy enough to clean. The PDF and cards are pay what you want, so you can get them as cheaply as you want, although your support is greatly appreciated.

 

40 for 40 Sale

I turned the big Four Oh this month, and to celebrate we’re running many sales, all month long, with plenty of options for a sharp GM like you.

40 for 40 promotional imageOn our store, you can use the coupon code “40for40” to get 40% off your cart’s total value at checkout. You can use the coupon as many times as you like, until the end of the month.

Many of our products are 40%-off on Drive Thru RPG. This includes many titles for fifth edition fantasy, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and stand-alone titles. We also have a few Pathfinder Second Edition and Starfinder Roleplaying Game titles.

On the DMs Guild we’ve got a massive bundle worth over $60 going for less than $16. This bundle includes many of our best-selling titles, so if you’ve bought them already you’ll pay even less to fill out your collection.

Until next time, Be the Hero!


Build a Minis Game, Ep. 4 – Combat – MM 45

It’s Mini Monday, where we share miniature projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week we’re drawing our daggers and charging into combat! Mini Monday Logo Blades out, everyone! Dagger Lords is a skirmish game, so expect lots of stabby stabbing.

Episode 1: Concept and Theme
Episode 2: Initiative and Turns
Episode 3: Movement
Episode 4: Combat
Episode 5: Powers and Playtesting
Episode 6: Polishing the Game

We’re updating the public Dagger Lords game document as we go, so be sure to check in and see what we have so far. Don’t forget to leave a comment too, because it gets lonely here in the looney bin.

Dagger Lords Minis Game Logo

Sexy Simple Systems

Movement, activation, and combat are all systems. Many games that fall into the tabletop gaming hobby are made up of many different systems, often built around a core mechanic such as rolling dice or drawing cards. Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder use the core mechanic of rolling a d20 and adding modifiers to it. Combat, skills, and saves — all separate systems — all use this core mechanic.

As a game designer, you have to balance the number of systems well and reuse the core mechanic wherever you can, otherwise you risk creating a system that’s too complicated. Reusing systems is a great way to keep a game manageable, even as it grows. For example, if my combat system and my magic system are essentially the same, I can spend less time explaining it in the rules and players can jump into those rules with less cognitive effort.

This, by the way, is one reason why I hate objective cards in Warhammer 40,000. Give me a table and make me roll for it, please. And don’t ask me to roll dice in Magic: the Gathering.

Of course, each system covers a different aspect of the game and needs to be tailored to those specific needs. Our goal is to keep things as simple as we possibly can. This is the essence of all design: to find the simplest, most elegant solution to a given problem.

We’re covering hand-to-hand combat today, but you could extend these rules to cover shooting, magic, and other systems, with a little work.

Dice

Choosing which dice to use has a big effect on our game’s mechanics. Die sizes impact the roll ranges, probability of a result, average rolls, and the totals we can expect from a die. For example, rolling 2d6 will give us a result of 7 much more often than a result of 12, while a roll of 1d12 has an equal chance of giving us a 6 or 12. Dice and dice probability is a huge topic that’s worth understanding, so do your own research if you’re serious about game design. We’ll just cover some basics needed for our own game of Dagger Lords.

Certain dice map neatly to percentages. A d10 gives you a range from 10%–100%, in tens. A d20 gives you a range from 5%–100%, going up in fives. Put another way, you have a 5% chance of rolling a nat 20 on a single d20. This gives us a useful benchmark. If we know that most champion boxers land 20% of their punches, then we can map this directly to the dice: hitting requires a 9 or more on a d10 (the probability of getting a 9 or 10 is 20%).

We’ve already got our Reflex Point mechanic and our initiative system, the latter of which includes rolling dice. Previous versions of that system used 2d6 for initiative rolls. Let’s change to ten-sided dice, across the game. This is an important decision because a game is a sum of its parts; the better those parts sync, the better the game will play.

Viking

Developing Hand-to-Hand Combat Rules

Let’s break down combat into its component parts.

Core Mechanic

I do like my d20 systems, it’s true, probably because I spend a lot of time developing rules for d20 games. Stealing from what you know is a good way to start out, so let’s steal from D&D. We can always modify things as we get further into development.

Our core mechanic, then, might look something like this:

Roll = 1d10 + Ability Score + Modifies – Penalties

Abilities

We’ll need to decide on abilities next then. We could simply have a Brawl ability that works for attack and defence. We might want a more complicated system including Brawl, Dodge, Strength, Damage, Armor Penetration, Armor, and so on. Some of these will be tied to weapons, but they still describe the abilities of a single model.

Think of it as a continuum, from super simple on one side to extremely complex on the other. We need to find the best balance of complexity for the game we’re making. Part of this is about knowing your audience and the level of complexity that’s right for them. For a skirmish game, we might choose a level of granularity that’s more complex than a large wargame, which has hundreds of miniatures, and less complex than an RPG, which has a single character per player. If our players are teens, we can ramp up the complexity, while very young players might only handle three abilities, at most.

Tying things back to Reflex Points, we could have the following abilities:

  • Reflex: Determines your reaction speed and ability to dodge. Your starting Reflex Points are based off this ability. Reflex is 2 for our prototype.
  • Brawl: Your ability to fight in hand-to-hand combat, both with and without weapons. We’ll set this to +2 for now.
  • HP: How much damage you can take before you die.

Attacking

To make an attack against an enemy model within 2 inches of your model, you roll 1D10 and add your Brawl modifier. The target rolls 1D10 and adds their Reflex modifier. You can each spend a Reflex Point before you roll to add +2 to the total roll. If you equal or beat the target’s score, you have scored a hit. The target loses 2 HP.

Dagger Lords — Prototype Game: Daggers Out

The objective of this game is to knock your opponent off a pillar. Neither you nor your opponent can move, all you can do is stab at them in an effort to knock them off their perch before they get you off yours.

Setup and Rounds

Each player controls 1 gangster miniature, with the player representing the gang boss. A game has two players. Any miniatures can be used, and for these rules, only close combat weapons are considered because of powerful magic influencing the battlefield. Each mini has 2 Reflex Points, 2 Reflex, +2 Brawl, and 3 Hit Points.

The game is played in a number of rounds, and each round has three phases:

  1. Initiative
  2. Activation (Combat)
  3. Top-Up

1. Initiative

Each player rolls 1d10 for their gang. Each miniature can spend 1 of their 2 Reflex Points to add +2 to the roll. Play proceeds in order from the player with the highest total to the player with the lowest total.
Dice off for ties.

2. Activation

Each player then acts in initiative order and can activate their miniature. At the start of the player’s activation, their model gains a number of Reflex Points equal to the following equation:

Activation Reflex Points = (Remaining Reflex Points x 2) – 1

The minimum number of Activation Reflex Points a model gains is always 1.

To activate a miniature, you must spend a Reflex Point to make an attack.

To make an attack against an enemy model on the next pillar, you roll 1D10 and add your Brawl modifier. The target rolls 1D10 and adds their Reflex modifier. You can each spend a Reflex Point before you roll to add +2 to the total roll. If you equal or beat the target’s score, you have scored a hit. The target loses 2 HP.

Any model can interrupt another model’s attack to attack instead by spending 1 Reflex Point. The order is decided in the order of declared interrupts, so it’s possible for a model to interrupt another model that is interrupting it, the player only has to declare their interrupt after the interrupting player does, and spend the required Reflex Points to do so.

3. Top Up

After all the models have activated, each model that isn’t destroyed regains 1 Hit Point and up to 2 Reflex Points. A model can never have more than their starting amount of these points.

Winning and Losing

The first gang member to lose all 3 Hit Points falls off their pillar, and their opponent is the winner.

 

40 for 40 Sale

I turned the big Four Oh this month, and to celebrate we’re running a bunch of sales all month long.

40 for 40 promotional imageOn our store, you can use the coupon code “40for40” to get 40% off your cart’s total value at checkout. You can use the coupon as many times as you like, until the end of the month.

Many of our products are 40%-off on Drive Thru RPG. This includes many titles for fifth edition fantasy, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and stand-alone titles. We also have a few Pathfinder Second Edition and Starfinder Roleplaying Game titles.

On the DMs Guild we’ve got a massive bundle worth over $60 going for less than $16. This bundle includes many of our best-selling titles, so if you’ve bought them already you’ll pay even less to fill out your collection.

 

July’s News from Rising Phoenix Games

All the Rising Phoenix Games news, for July, is right here. And some news from June. And maybe May. What can I say, we’ve been busy.

Hello Heroes!

Wow, there’s a lot to be excited for. Personally, I’m very excited about Masters of the Universe: Revelation, coming to Netflix this month. Kevin Smith is an experienced storyteller, and I’m keen to see his take on this franchise that’s about as old as I am.

In RPG land, there always a lot going on, and this month is no exception. Let’s focus on our own slice of the hobby.

On the Blog

We’re making a skirmish wargame, and you’re the designer! Join us as we take the game design journey, from initial concept to final product. Jump in with episode 1.

Episode 2 goes into designing the game’s overall structure and activation system. It includes a micro skirmish game that you can play, for free.

Dagger Lords Logo

Episode 3 is all about movement, and we’ve got a few rules ideas I think will surprise you. The post includes a second prototype, so you can see how concepts are developed and try this young version of the game for yourself.

We’ve got some fiendishly tricky magical items for your Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition games, with even more menacingly maniacal magical items to choose from. All of them give you an extra little something, but at a cost. I’m a big fan of risk and reward mechanics, they’re never boring.

Even more Mini Monday news. Our bi-weekly series revealed my personal top secret Masters of the Universe project, which builds on the idea of keeping hobby gaming cheap and accessible.

Apothecary Class — New D&D 5e Release

Our newest D&D class is an alternative option for the bard called the Apothecary. This class is all about healing and buffing allies by supplementing cleric spells with healing abilities in the form of potion-like concoctions.

As a special offer, we’re giving away 10 copies of the PDF for free, on condition that you’ll play the class during your next D&D session. Sound good? You can grab the book here.

40 for 40 Sale

I’m turning the big Four Oh this month, and to celebrate we’re running a bunch of sales all month long.

40 for 40 promotional imageOn our store, you can use the coupon code “40for40” to get 40% off your cart’s total value at checkout. You can use the coupon as many times as you like, until the end of the month.

Many of our products are 40%-off on Drive Thru RPG. This includes many titles for fifth edition fantasy, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and stand-alone titles. We also have a few Pathfinder Second Edition and Starfinder Roleplaying Game titles.

On the DMs Guild we’ve got a massive bundle worth over $60 going for less than $16. This bundle includes many of our best-selling titles, so if you’ve bought them already you’ll pay even less to fill out your collection.

Until next time, keep following Rising Phoenix Games, online, here:

Rising Phoenix Games on Facebook
The Phoenix on Twitter
Our Newsletter, Subscribe Today
Rising Phoenix on Pinterest
Watch us on YouTube

Build a Minis Game, Ep. 3 – Movement – MM 44

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week we’ll add movement to the skirmish minis game we’re building and we’ll try out a new prototype of the game. Mini Monday Logo Our little game is coming along, we’ll be half finished with writing it up by the end of this article.

Now, let’s consider how far minis move in our game. We also need to think about everything that affects movement, like terrain, and also the types of movement we’ll allow in Dagger Lords.

Episode 1: Concept and Theme
Episode 2: Initiative and Turns
Episode 3: Movement
Episode 4: Combat
Episode 5: Powers and Playtesting
Episode 6: Polishing the Game

We’re updating the public Dagger Lords game document as we go so that you can see the latest version of the game.

Dagger Lords Minis Game Logo

Actions and Free Activations

Movement might cost something — such as an action or activation point — or be free. There might be penalties (another cost) attached to movement, such as in Warhammer 40K, where some weapons can’t be fired if the model moves. In Pathfinder 2e, you have to take actions like a Stride to move, leaving fewer actions for attacking or casting spells.

Essentially, these costs are saying that it’s important for the player to consider if they’ll move or not, adding a layer of tactical depth to the game.

We might decide that everyone gets to move, and there’s no cost for doing so, but let’s consider our theme. We’re making a game about fantasy gangs fighting on the streets. It might seem great to let everyone move around for free, but then we’ll never have exciting moments wondering if a character shouldn’t have spent that extra action point.

We already mentioned Reflex Points, so why not use them as action points? I’m hoping we can build a more fluid game here than, say, Warhammer 40K or Age of Sigmar, and Reflex Points might be an ideal way to do that. We’ll get back to this in a moment.

Movement

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.”

— Muhammad Ali

How far a model moves affects the game’s pacing. Short movement distances slow the game down, while too much movement will have units zipping around the table faster than bullets. In my gaming experience, most tabletop miniatures games at 28mm scale average around 5 inches of movement per move. Double that for a run. Let’s go with 6 inches for a faster game. That’s the benchmark, and some units will be slower, others will be faster. We can always tweak this value later, but let’s not waste time figuring that out now, I want to play.

Running

In our last version of the game, our first prototype, a model could move twice if they wanted to run. Let’s formalize this a bit more by nailing down how we want to use Reflex Points. In the prototype, you were effectively getting two free Reflex Points when your model’s turn happened. You could move, attack, or do either twice. What if you got a free Reflex Point when your turn happened, but you could still spend Reflex Points outside of your turn. However, your Reflex Points would do far more during your turn. Effectively, we’d be incentivizing saving your Reflex Points for your turn.

This sounds complicated though. I’m sure we can simplify it.

What if your turn multiplied your Reflex Points. You didn’t need to spend them during your turn even, you could wait to interrupt another player, but because your turn had happened, you got a big reward. To be safe, we could double your Reflex Points and subtract one.

Turn Reflex Reward = (Reflex Points x 2) – 1

Are we making it too complex again? Maybe, but this seems like a good time to stop and try things out.

Dagger Lords — Prototype Game: Paint the Town Red

In this small tester game, the object is to paint your opponent’s minis before they paint yours. If you want higher stakes, turn the paintbrushes into vorpal daggers that send their victims to another plane. The point is that we’re concerned with moving and turn order here, combat is a super simple, one hit, one kill affair, so we can focus on the mechanics we need to test now.

Setup and Rounds

Each player controls 3 gangster miniatures, with the player representing the gang boss. A game can have up to six players. Any miniatures can be used, and for these rules, only close combat weapons are considered because of powerful magic influencing the battlefield. Each mini has 2 Reflex Points and 3 Hit Points.

The game is played in a number of rounds, and each round has three phases:

  1. Initiative
  2. Activation (Movement and Combat)
  3. Top-Up

1. Initiative

Each player rolls 2D6 for their gang. Each miniature can spend 1 of their 2 Reflex Points to add +2 to the roll. Play proceeds in order from the player with the highest total to the player with the lowest total. The player with the highest score regains 2 Reflex Points to share among the models in their gang.
Dice off for ties.

2. Activation

Each player then acts in initiative order and can activate their miniatures, one after the other. At the start of the player’s activation, each model in their gang gains a number of Reflex Points equal to the following equation:

Activation Reflex Points = (Remaining Reflex Points x 2) – 1

The minimum number of Activation Reflex Points a model gains is always 1.

To activate a miniature, you must spend a Reflex Point and can do any of the following:

  1. Move up to 6 inches
  2. Make an attack

To make an attack against an enemy model within 2 inches of your model, you much roll a 4, 5, or 6 on 1D6 to hit. If your attack hits, remove the target from the game — they’ve been painted red.

Any model can interrupt another model’s movement to perform one action from the list above by spending 1 Reflex Point. The order is decided in the order of declared interrupts, so it’s possible for a model to interrupt another model that is interrupting its turn, the player only has to declare their interrupt after the interrupting player does, and spend the required Reflex Points to do so.

3. Top Up

After all the models have activated, each model that isn’t destroyed regains 1 Hit Point and up to 2 Reflex Points. A model can never have more than their starting amount of these points.

Winning and Losing

The last gang with any remaining models in it is the winner.

Image credit: Yuri_b

More Movement Rules

We don’t want to get too big, but we need to be sure we cover enough situations to make the game complete. Following are a few more rules you can add to the prototype. Try coming up with your own rules to replace these, or cover instances I didn’t think about, then let us know what you came up with in the comments.

Jumping

A model can jump 1” up and 1” forward, once, for every 4 inches they move. Effectively this lets a model clear three 1” cubes if they run, for free.

Vaulting

A model can vault over a 2” obstacle, once, for every 6 inches they move.

Flying

Most use one of two methods for flying: minis can “hop” and must land at the end of each movement, or they have a height indicator, which might be constant or incremental.

Let’s think of our theme again though. We’re making a street-level skirmish game, so flying doesn’t make much sense. At most, we’d expect a few characters to drop from rooftops or fly magically for a short distance, but there’s no room for wings between tall buildings, and anyone flying would have to be low enough to avoid cables, so we’ll skip flying for now in our minis game.

Creeping

Since interrupting is a major mechanic, having a way to counter an interrupt becomes invaluable, and fun. Let’s add a creeping mechanic:

Creeping is a move action, requiring a Reflex Point, but you move half your movement, rounded up. If a model is creeping, it can’t be interrupted by a model that can’t draw a line of sight to it. Creeping must be declared at the start of the action.

Climbing

Moving up an incline greater than 45 degrees reduces your movement to half its normal distance. In our prototype, this means models can climb 3 inches.

That’s it for this week’s go at building a minis game. Remember to check out the game and let us know if you have any other ideas to improve on it.

 

Apothecary Class — New D&D 5e Release

Our newest D&D class is an alternative option for the bard: the Apothecary. This class is all about healing and buffing allies by supplementing cleric spells with healing abilities in the form of potion-like concoctions.

As a special offer, we’re giving away 10 copies of the PDF for free, on condition that you’ll play the class during your next D&D session. Sound good? You can grab the book here.

40 for 40 Sale

I’m turning the big Four Oh this month, and to celebrate we’re running a 40%-off sales on many of our products on Drive Thru RPG.

40 for 40 promotional image

Build a Minis Game, Ep. 2 – Initiative – MM 43

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week we’ll continue building a miniatures game by adding an initiative system and a turn order. When we’re done, we’ll make a simple prototype game so we can get playtesting!

Mini Monday Logo

Last Mini Monday we looked at a concept and theme for our little miniatures skirmish wargame, Dagger Lords. Now we’ll get started on an initiative system (woohoo, stealth pun) and the turn order. This is an important bit to get right because everything else we do will happen in the order this subsystem dictates.

Once we’ve got the activation mechanic worked out, we can put it into a simple prototype that we can test out. That’ll help us see if our rules are fun on their own, if they take too long, and if they’re intuitive enough. We also want to be sure our rules tap into our theme of fantasy crime lords fighting a turf war. That might sound like a big ask, but I think we can do it.

Episode 1: Concept and Theme
Episode 2: Initiative and Turns
Episode 3: Movement
Episode 4: Combat
Episode 5: Powers and Playtesting
Episode 6: Polishing the Game

Remember that, as we go, we’ll update a public document so that you can see the latest version of the game.

Design Goal

I’d like our activation system to do a few things:

  1. It should be fun
  2. It should involve a wager, supporting the “crime lords” theme
  3. It should allow for up to six players taking turns, but without too much boring wait time

Example Initiative Systems

Not too long ago, Tabletop Minions posted a video about wargaming misconceptions. In it, Uncle Atom mentioned disliking Warhammer 40,000’s simple and boring activation system. In 40K, you roll to see who goes first, then take turns in that order.

In the aforementioned video’s chat, a bunch of wargamers weighed in with some great activation systems from other games, including rolling against a target number to activate, pulling dice from a bag, or activating one unit per turn.

We can also look to games like Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games for ideas. Personally, I’m a big fan of systems that let players make choices about who goes when, such as Marvel Heroic Roleplay that lets the players decide when heroes and NPCs act. In those rules, whoever goes last picks who starts the next round, so it’s always in the PC’s favor to have one of their group end off the round. This gets especially interesting when there’s a chance of finishing off the enemies by going before them: miss, and the baddies are going to get in a lot of shots before you can do anything about it.

Dagger Lords Initiative System, Draft 1

Here’s my proposal for both the initiative system and the structure of each round:

  1. Each miniature gets between 1 and 3 Reflex Points, which are replenished at the end of the turn. Because the average is 2, we’ll assume all minis have 2 Reflex Points for now. We can specify the exact number for each model later in our design process.
  2. A model can spend a Reflex Point to jump the initiative queue, but it’s a gamble.
  3. A model can spend a Reflex Point to interrupt another miniature’s movement or attack.
  4. A round consists of the following phases: Initiative, Activation (Movement and Combat), Top-Up

Dagger Lords — Prototype Game 1

Let’s break these concepts down a little more by jumping into a prototype game.

Setup and Rounds

Each player controls 3 gangster miniatures, with the player representing the gang boss. A game can have up to six players. Any miniatures can be used, and for these rules, only close combat weapons are considered because of powerful magic influencing the battlefield. Each mini has 2 Reflex Points and 3 Hit Points.

The game is played in a number of rounds, and each round has three phases:

  1. Initiative
  2. Activation (Movement and Combat)
  3. Top-Up

1. Initiative

Each player rolls 2D6 for their gang. Each miniature can spend 1 of their 2 Reflex Points to add +2 to the roll. Play proceeds in order from the highest to the lowest total. The player with the highest score regains 2 Reflex Points to share among the models in their gang.
Dice off for ties.

2. Activation

Each mini then acts in initiative order and can do any two of the following:

  1. Move up to 6 inches
  2. Make an attack

To make an attack against an enemy model within 2 inches of your model, you much roll a 4, 5, or 6 on 1D6 to hit. If your attack hits, you must roll another 1D6 to deal damage. A roll of 4 or 5 deals 1 point of damage, and a roll of 6 deals 3 points of damage.

Any model can interrupt another model’s movement to perform one action from the list above by spending 1 Reflex Point. If two or more models from different teams wish to act at the same time, they dice off to see who goes first. The order is decided in the order of declared interrupts, so it’s possible for a model to interrupt another model that is interrupting its turn, the player only has to declare their interrupt after the interrupting player does.

3. Top Up

After all the models have activated, each model that isn’t destroyed regains 1 Hit Point and up to 2 Reflex Points. A model can never have more than their starting amount of these points.

Winning and Losing

The last team with any remaining models in it is the winner.

Some Final Thoughts

Reflex Points might be compared to actions in D&D, but they also let a player play when they want. Reflex Points are replenished at the end of the round, and no Reflex Points are carried over, so there’s plenty of motivation to use them. They’re our currency for the action economy, and there’s some risk involved in spending them, especially if you’re trying to go early.

We’ll be able to tie abilities to the Reflex Points later, which could get interesting. Imagine if ghouls can spend their RP to steal RP from other minis, or if wizards can cast a haste-like spell to grant their allies bonus RP.

Our prototype is very basic, and probably not tons of fun yet, but it does let us test out some ideas that’ll be at the core of our skirmish game. In fact, we already tested an earlier version of the initiative system and found it needed major tweaking. We want to get this core right, so it pays to test it out and tweak it before we continue. If you do play our little game, please drop your thoughts in the comments below. What worked, what didn’t, how do you think the initiative system could be improved?

You can check out what we have so far by clicking on the button, which will take you to the Dagger Lords working document.

 


Let’s Build a Miniatures Game, Ep. 1 – MM 42

It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week we’re building a miniatures game!

Mini Monday Logo

We’ve been building up to this.

I’ve always got a few game projects on the go, like my private He-Man boardgame expansion, but I thought it’d be fun to build a game. With you. We’ll be building a small, miniatures agnostic skirmish wargame, and hopefully it’ll inspire you to build your own.

How’s this going to work?

Each Mini Monday we’ll look at a different aspect of the game. We’ll look at many game design concepts and practices, and get our hands dirty with some prototype games. I’ll present a few ideas, pick the best of them for our game, then discuss why I think they’re great.

Sound off in the comments with your own ideas and feedback, and I’ll do my best to reply there and work the best ideas back into updated versions of the game. It’s also possible that you’ll only see these posts well after we’ve moved on, in which case you can follow our process or modify our results to make your own game.

Here’s a breakdown of what we’ll cover in this series:
Episode 1: Concept and Theme
Episode 2: Initiative and Turns
Episode 3: Movement
Episode 4: Combat
Episode 5: Powers and Playtesting
Episode 6: Polishing the Game

As we go, we’ll update a public document so that you can see the latest version of the game.

Concept and Theme

If our concept is to build a small, miniatures agnostic skirmish wargame, then we’ll need a theme to support that.

Our theme could be anything, like monkey pirates with banana grenades, or humans surviving in the grim darkness of space, but none of those ideas are worth pursuing if it pulls us away from our initial concept, unless we’re okay with changing it. For now, let’s assume the concept is rock solid. So we can’t build a Warhammer 40,000 clone, because that’ll need too many miniatures, and a monkey pirates game will need some very hard-to-find monkey pirate minis. Those themes would pull us away from our concept.

I like the basic premise behind Necromunda: gangs fighting it out in a massive hive structure. Gangs are easy to find miniatures for since they could be humans, aliens, robots, mutants, or even undead.

We could flip this on its head to get our own concept: You’re a fantasy crime lord fighting a bitter turf war.

Hey, that even gives me an idea for a name: Dagger Lords.

The theme of gangs of fantasy creatures supports a miniatures agnostic game and doesn’t need to get any bigger than 2-3 minis on a side. It screams Dickensian characters with a fantasy twist, or maybe a Steampunk, Peaky Blinders inspired skirmish game, but with goblins and scummy elves.

With that, we’re on our way to building a miniatures game!

You can check out what we have so far by clicking on the button, which will take you to the Dagger Lords working document. There’s not much there yet, but we’re just getting started.

 


Beast Man, a MotU … Miniature? — MM 41

It’s Mini Monday, and this week’s project is Beast Man, Skeletor’s beastly right-hand gorilla. That’s right, we’re diving into some Masters of the Universe flavoured miniature projects.

Mini Monday Logo

Hello Heroes!

I’ve got a dark little secret. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m building a game … just for myself. I know, right, not much point in being a game designer and then making a game you won’t sell. Madness!

The game is a Masters of the Universe themed expansion for the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Boardgames, the same games that Yochlol and those skeletons we’ve featured so often come from. So far it’ll include four new heroes, including He-Man, and 52 cards featuring the most iconic enemies, heroes, and magical items from the MotU franchise.

He-Man D&D Boardgame
* See The Fine Print

And of course, this game’s most definitely not for sale or distribution, is very much unofficial, and not something any lawyers should get worked up about. I’m making it just for myself.

Tung Lashor Monster Card
* See The Fine Print

Beast Man, Skeletor’s homicidal orangutan, is the first custom enemy miniature I’ve made. It was my most satisfying build yet!

Riso rindo risa GIF - Find on GIFER

Building Beast Man

I converted Beast Man from the Reaper Bones Ogre Chieftain. I’d been scouring the Interwebs for minis to convert into Evil Warriors, then realised I had this guy sitting on my shelf. Sometimes the hobby stars align and a project falls into place as if the Universe willed it into being. Inspiration is a fickle thing, but when it hits, the results can be so satisfying. The Chieftain turned out to be a perfect mini to turn into Beast Man.

The shin guards, spikes, head crest, and Beast Man’s hunched, hairy back were all made from modelling epoxy. You could use green stuff instead.

The rest was painting, and then he was done.

Beast Man MOTU Miniature
“Of course, Master, I’ll take care of He-Man.”

The Next Level

You can probably keep fiddling with a mini forever, and I’ve already got some ideas to take Beast Man a few steps further.

I’d like to add some greenish-grey to the fur of his loincloth and under his shoulder pad. I’ll also add greenish rust to the copper disk, bracelets, and shoulder pad. These additions will add contrast, which is why Beast Man has blue undies in the animated show — now you know.

Beast Man is often shown with blue face paint, and the base could use a light grey dry brushing.

Lastly, I’ll add a chain. Beast Man always had a whip, but a chain would be a great substitute and suggest the cruelty he’s capable of.

Cast Your Vote

Who would you like to see next? I’ve got Evil-Lyn, Battle Cat, and Prince Adam in the works. Cast your vote in the comments below.

The Fine Print

We don’t own the Masters of the Universe, or the D&D Adventure Boardgame, or any right to publish content related to the characters or look-and-feel of either IP.  What you see here is provided for identification purposes in conjunction with the discussion of the topic of the article. 

More Cruel Trinkets of the Mad Gods

Once again, we have more cruel trinkets for Dungeons & Dragons 5e that could prove to be both a blessing and a curse to those who dare to use them.

You can find the original Cruel Trinkets of the Mad Gods, on the blog.

Thank you to Codex Anathema, who inspired this post and are hosting this month’s RPG Blog Carnival.

Cruel Trinkets of the Mad Gods

Eager Blade

Weapon (longsword), rare (requires attunement)

This polished +2 longsword grants you an additional action after a successful attack, once per turn. You must use this extra action to attack an enemy with the Eager Blade or, if no enemy is within reach, to attack an ally or bystander. If no other target is available, you are instead incapacitated until the end of your next turn, as you attempt to bring the weapon under control.

Fire Emblem

Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)

This red ruby is set within a brooch of red gold. You have advantage on Charisma based checks involving fire elementals and creatures from the Elemental Plane of Fire. Additionally, any d6s you would roll for fire-based spells step up to d8s.

Whenever you take a long rest, make a DC 2 flat check. On a failure, a 5-foot-square area within 1 mile of you is set ablaze. This fire is affected by the prevailing conditions and will spread if sufficient fuel — such as dry grass or wood — is available.

I hope you enjoyed these devious treasures. It’s always more fun when there’s some risk involved.

I wonder who might have created them? Maybe an elemental lord of fire had the fire emblem made for his most trusted envoys, but his craftsmen were unable to fully contain the elemental power within the gem? Just imagine if an NPC was wandering around with one of these around their neck.

Do you have any sneaky items or cruel trinkets you’ve created? Did your GM ever fox you with a real stinker? We’d love to hear from you, in the comments, below.


Image Credits: darksouls1

DIY PJ Masks HQ! — Mini Monday #40

It’s Mini Monday, and this week we’re going to do something completely different. I’ll show you how to make the PJ Masks HQ, impress your kids, win fame and glory, and do it all on the cheap!

Mini Monday Logo

 

Hello Heroes!

My post about DIY Gaming got me thinking that I could do a whole series on crafting your own games. I freakin’ love it! Make a game just for yourself and — if you’re lucky enough to have some — your friends? Nobody else, no fans, no gaming clubs? No big budgets for art or marketing. No Kickstarter campaign. Just you, the cardboard, and a few dice. Sign me up!

But that’s for the future. And now, as Mr. Cleese would say, “for something completely different.”

Let me tell you something, jackass! — Monty Python - And Now For Something  Completely...

The PJ Masks HQ

If you’re here, you know what the PJ Masks are all about — or you’re hopelessly searching for an RPG angle to this article! My kids love the pajama-wearing heroes and were lucky enough to get some of the action figures for Christmas. Dad here — overzealous idiot that he is — decided the toys needed a home. It wasn’t like Dad needed to do actual work or anything. Besides, the PJ Masks HQ is just a pipe with wings and funny ears… what could be so difficult about making that?

PJ Masks HQ Front

How Not to Lose a Finger

Sawing PVC pipe in half is easy. Cutting square holes out of PVC pipe without sacrificing an appendage requires the dexterity and nerves of a bomb technician.

I started with a thick PVC pipe and marked out three “doors” for each of the heroes’ rooms.

PJ Masks Tower PVC Pipe

A hand saw will get you started, but gets messy. The trick is to cut many horizontal lines — top to bottom in the picture above — while sawing over a bin. You can then use a drill to cut off these thin sections, and a vacuum cleaner to pick up all the white dust that misses the bin. Repeat until you have enough space to use your saw vertically, which is left to right in the picture.

Finish off the holes with a file and sandpaper.

On a Wing and a Pr(Ear)

I formed the ears with the sections I’d cut from the holes, forming them with my saw, file, and unwavering determination. We don’t need to mention the leg wound incident. It’s not important. Move along!

The wings were made from hardboard, more sawing, more filing, and even more cursing. The fact that Jesus never used the swears he picked up from papa Joseph just proves his divinity, let me tell you.

The wings and ears were then glued to the main pipe of the tower with PVC cement. It’s miracle stuff, and considering how often the darn pieces were smashed off, I can tell you it’ll get you as high as a bat, but it works.

Next Floor, Lingerie and PTSD

The floors and roof were made with the bottoms of tin cans, hot glued into place. A tin opener will get this job done, but there must be a better option. There must be. I still have nightmares about sawing, puncturing, drilling, bending, scoring, and doing whatever else I could to get the darn things off.

Making Faces

Each of the faces on the front of the tower were drawn on cardboard and cut out. I did the same for the detail on the wings. At this point I also superglued foil onto hard, clear plastic to make the eyes, which were stuck onto the PJ Masks HQ at the end of the build.

Painting

Miniature painters, beware. A creation this size takes a lot of paint. I’ve suspicions that PVC is really just dense sponge. I threw five cans of paint at this, and it still seemed to want more!

I painted the faces and the wing details with poster paints, then, when everything was dry, stuck on the eyes. I then used a permanent marker around the eyes, faces, and wing detail. Finally, I painted the whole thing with gloss varnish.

Then I stood weeping as my kids ignored this magnificent new toy and played with the cheap tealight I’d planned to install in the HQ’s ceiling. (Stick a magnet to the base, so it’ll stick to the tin ceiling like a spaced-out bat).

The final thing was an impressive abomination, like a kiddy version of Sauron’s tower. The symbolism isn’t lost on me.

PJ Masks HQ Front

PJ Masks HQ Back

More Occult Misadventure

And now for that RPG angle. Masters of the Occult: Play Manga d20 is the perfect companion to the best-selling Play Manga d20 ruleset, which builds on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Inside you’ll find archetypes and options for the occult classes, based on popular manga and anime franchises.

Open your mind to the possibilities of the world beyond the veil of reality!

Masters of the Occult: Play Manga d20

 

 


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