Tag Archives: featured

Dakka-Mart, our Gretchin Gun Shop — MM 49

It’s Mini Monday, with customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week we’re building Dakka-Mart, our Gretchin Gun Shop.

Mini Monday Logo

The trash speaks to me. It tells me to make things. Inconceivable things of waste and scrap.

It’s all very Orky.

The Gretchin Gun Shop uses a bit of hardboard for the base, some corrugated cardboard for the walls, bits of old pens and medicinal sprays for the turret, and spaghetti for the bullets.

That’s right, I chopped up dry spaghetti for the piles of bullet casings. Don’t worry if they’re not of equal length or if they break skew. This is terrain, so it’s not worth stressing over if it’s just going to sit on the tabletop. It’ll look fine when you paint it.

Gretchin Gun Shop - Dakka-Mart

In fact, you don’t want your terrain to outshine your models, so you have loads of leeway when crafting and painting something like this.

The guns and potato-mashers were made from bits of sprue and toy guns I had lying around. The knife was a bit of plastic card cut to shape, with cord glued to the handle. I twisted bits of thin wire around the weapons and then glued them to the walls.

Gretchin Gun Shop Side 2

Hold on though, I want to talk about effort more.

I knocked the main shape of this out in my lunch break, then spent another two hours or so on the details. Painting was quick too. I started this on Friday and was done by Sunday evening. It was a slap-dash paint job done in bad light, but I’m happy enough to have more Orky terrain. Which is the point: you don’t need to spend hours and hours on terrain pieces.

Heck, you don’t even need to spend loads of time on your miniatures.

A little effort is better than no effort. A little colour is better than grey plastic. The terrain you have is better than the terrain you don’t have.

So just go for it. Make stuff. Don’t let expectations of quality hold you back.

Gretchin Gun Shop Painted

Why RPG Settings are Built Like Theme Parks

Take a look at your favourite RPG setting and you’ll find odd similarities with theme parks. These settings can easily kill your group’s story if you’re not careful. Here’s why theme park settings are so popular,  their inherent pitfalls, and some ideas on how to fix them.

Raven on tombstone

Why RPG Settings Feel Like Theme Parks

RPG designers, by necessity, need to give players plenty to play with. That’s why Golarion, Faerûn, the Mortal Realms, and even the mega-city of Ravnica are so cleanly divided into areas. It’s as if they were designed by a theme park designer. There’s usually a hot place, a dry place, a wet place, a funny magic place. There’s also often some form of Steampunk City, Pirate Island, Monkey Kingdom, Dragon Mountain, Asia Land, Snake Jungle… and the list goes on, covering all the tropes.

This is a good thing. GMs need options, players want to explore their favourite tropes, and RPG writers don’t want either of them to go looking elsewhere for their fun.

Unfortunately, all these choices can destroy a coherent story.

How Theme Park Settings Destroy Stories

Image your party heads to Tian Xia, the East Asian themed lands of Pathfinder’s Golarion. On the way there they stop off in the Mwangi Expanse (lush jungles) and take a session to explore the deep oceans around the Isle of Kortos.

Have magical portals, can travel.

Finally, the party gets to Tian Xia and they’re off to see an important diplomat. The encounter, an important setup for the rest of the campaign, has little buildup. The party have been in their bikinis or deep in the jungle for a few sessions now, with no time to dip their feet into the deep culture Tian Xia represents. As a result, your carefully prepared roleplaying encounter falls flat with the players missing vital cultural and historic clues dropped by the diplomat.

Bummer.

How to Fix Theme Park RPG Settings

One thing I love about the Game of Thrones setting is that the fantasy elements are relatively limited. I’d argue the same about the Lord of the Rings: there are no drow, flumphs, owlbears, or beholders. You could fit the LotR bestiary into one book. Both settings still have their worlds, but they’re doing more with less.

Similarly, you can get more out of the many options modern RPG settings present by picking and choosing. It’s that simple. Give it a try.

Check out the Battle Zoo Bestiary

The Battle Zoo Bestiary, for Pathfinder 2e and 5e, is now on Kick Starter. The book features many new monsters, so you’re sure to find some great additions to your campaign world. Remember, you can always reskin a monster to turn it into a variant of something prevalent in your world, which is one neat trick for keeping things simple.

Don’t miss out on this one.

Battle Zoo Bestiary


Why You Absolutely Must Play Pathfinder 2nd Ed.

Pathfinder Second Edition has been around for a while now, and if you’re still finding excuses not to try out the system then let me tell you why you absolutely must play Pathfinder Second Edition.

Pathfinder Second Edition
Image credit: Yuri_b

Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 was a great system. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (good old 1st ed) was also a great system, which built on 3.5, streamlining some of the clunkier rules. Something then happened in the D&D world that might be better left forgotten, but then came Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, another amazing system. Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition marked a renaissance for the hobby and became immensely popular.

Then came Pathfinder Second Edition, which might not have become the smash hit D&D 5e is, but does have the benefit of all these systems that came before it.

Which is why you need to give it an honest go.

If you’re serious about your TTRPG hobby (you probably shouldn’t be too serious though, it’s just a hobby), then you owe it to yourself to see what Pathfinder Second Edition has to offer with its new take on fantasy roleplaying and D20 systems in particular.

Steal Like a GM

Great gamemasters steal ideas all the time, and because Pathfinder Second Edition evolved out of so many other, solid D20 systems it has a lot to offer in terms of new mechanics, reworked rules, and fresh perspectives. You might find something you want to adapt for your own game, even if you’re sticking with 5e. There are plenty of resources on the Internet for converting PF2 to 5e, which will give you pointers on how to tackle your thefts. (Don’t actually steal something folks. I’m talking about grabbing inspiration and making it your own.)

Ultimately, PF2 has a lot to offer players who like fiddly-bits in their games. While 5e is great in general, the level of abstraction in the system can get frustrating, while Pathfinder Second Edition offers many more dials and switches to tweak. If you’ve never tried Pathfinder, then go see what all those dials and switches can do for you.

You can find Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and Fifth Edition books in our store.


Truly Modular Doors for the Tabletop! — MM 48

It’s Mini Monday, and this week we’re making truly modular doors for tabletop gaming!

Mini Monday Logo

Really Modular vs Almost Modular

There are plenty of great dungeon tile terrain sets out there that have “modular” written somewhere on the box, but which usually only fits with sets from the same manufacturer. Special clips and connectors become a problem if you enjoy making your own terrain or want to buy sets from another company and have it all sit seamlessly together on the tabletop. Turns out though that making modular terrain that’ll fit with any other terrain isn’t all that hard at all.

It just needs some planning.

My ideas about modular terrain changed when I saw Johnny Fraser-Allen’s tabletop terrain, which is modular because it stacks. Gravity, not pins, do all the work.

Take a look, Johnny’s work is very inspiring:

Truly Modular Doors

Here’s a hobbit door, a trapdoor, and a sewer grate:

Three Truly Modular Doors

I used plastic card, clay, and matchsticks to build these, with a small eye crew for the door handle of the hobbit door. There’s not really that much to them, and they only took a couple of hours to bang out and paint.

But check how useful they are:

Truly Modular Doors for Wells
“Well, this looks unsafe. What if little Timmy were around?”
Modular Doors Well Coverr
“… Much better!”
From inside the well: “Mwfff mff mmfff.”
Modular Doors Trapdoor
Any of these pieces of terrain could work here. The castle floor doesn’t have any features of its own.
Castle Greyhobbit
“Oi, hobbit, let me in! I know you’re in there.”

As you can see in this last picture, a bit of Prestik (Blu Tack) will get you a vertical door and some burglar bars. No special connectors needed.

The Perfect Fit, Anywhere

I really appreciate this sort of modularity when I’m building dungeons on the fly, such as when I’m playing with a dungeon to get inspired for a session or some module writing.

And if you think about it, you can apply this principle to so many other types of terrain too.

The Gear Heart of the Mechamancer

We recently released the Mechamancer, a cybernetic reimagining of the barbarian for fifth edition fantasy. You can check it out on Drive Thru RPG. If you already own the Grimdark Pamphlet then you’ll be getting the mechamancer, for free, in a future update of the pamphlet.

Mechamancer

Is This the Best Way to Build RPG Dungeons?

There are tons of ways to build dungeons for your sessions of Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons, from randomly generated maps to complicated computer software, but this method might just be the best way to build RPG dungeons you’ll ever find.

I’m a visual, hands-on kind of guy. I love playing with LEGO, painting miniatures, and kitbashing. It’s my meditative place, where I’m not deeply inside my head or thinking about anything particular, just enjoying the flow of the moment.

There’s a practical side to this too, one which overcomes the limitations of a computer.

I do my best writing on paper. Even though it takes time to type up my scrawl afterwards, I don’t see it as wasted time, because my writing is that much better when the first draft is analogue.

There’s something about the real feeling of things, about being able to scratch, tweak, modify, and scribble, without keys interfering.

That’s why I like building out my dungeons with bits of homemade scenery.

Prisoners
“Just what kind of dungeon is this?”

The Process

I’ve made lots of terrain for my wargaming, much of which I’ve shown in the Mini Monday archives. This took me a fairly long time to collect, but now that I have it I find that it inspires all sorts of ideas, just from playing with the pieces.

The dungeon, in effect, has become a toy, and building the dungeon is the game.

You can do the same thing with dungeon tiles, or with a pencil and post-it notes. You could even use LEGO, or use books to represent rooms, anything you can easily move around and change.

The physical, impermanent nature of your tool is important.

Things to Think About

What will make this dungeon, or this room, this trap, this encounter, more interesting? How do these rooms relate to each other? How else can the players achieve what they need to achieve here? What reasons do they have to go into this room, interact with this object, talk to this NPC?

Think about these things as you shift walls and doors, add furniture and traps, or put down monster minis for each encounter.

And then, when you’re finally happy with things, draw out your map, or go to the mapping software. I promise, you’ll have better ideas to work with than if you jumped straight into making the map.

RPG Blog Carnival

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival is hosted by Plastic Polyhedra, who picked the theme “Let’s Build a Dungeon!” Be sure to check out their site and the linked post for more dungeon design ideas.

rpg blog carnival logo

The Death of Tabletop RPGs: Did D&D Doom Us?

I… really should write more posts. I’ve been meaning to, but blah blah sorry sob story… whatever. You’re not here about that, you’re here because of my clickbaity title, which means you probably care either about proving me wrong, the title hit a nerve, or you’re genuinely curious about my ominous predictions about the death of tabletop RPGs.

Raven on tombstone

Actually, there might be some other reason why you’re here, so scratch that. I’m not omnipotent. I’m not even semi-potent. Most of the time, I’m just trying to be more than normal. What I’ve learned though, is that normalcy is seldom escapable, and that’s a good thing.

Most roleplayers like to live on the fringes. Most of us were goths when goths were a thing, or punks, or the emo kids, or drama students. We’re the kind of people who wilt in the sunlight, who can’t throw balls, who use words like ‘dimwitted’ and ‘Ludite’ to mock others and feel intellectually superior. I’m exaggerating and generalizing here, but in my experience, few of us ever thought ourselves normal.

For some of us, normal is a swearword. We’d never want to gain that label.

But then D&D 5e came along, and suddenly TTRPGs were immensely popular. And “normal” kids were playing them. For some of us, it felt like a betrayal. Like we’d lost our last refuge to the football jocks.

Of course, there’s a bright side to all this. TTRPGs are doing well, and more of us are getting to make a living producing content for our favorite collaborative games. Roleplaying is more accessible than ever before, and that’s worth celebrating.

But that doesn’t mean the grognards need to like it.

So, kids, if you ever hear an old-school gamer ranting about the death of RPGs, or about how Warhammer FRP 1e or Vampire the Masquerade is better than Dungeons & Dragons could ever be, just let it slide.

The hobby isn’t dying, but evolution can be painful.


Make a Wargame Ep 6 – Design Polish – MM 47

It’s Mini Monday, where we inspire your roleplaying and tabletop gaming with miniature projects. This week we’re looking at some design polish as we finish our game, Dagger Lords. Mini Monday Logo Our game is basically done, but it’s missing all the bells and whistles that’ll make it a complete, marketable game. In case you missed out on what we’ve done so far, you can find the complete episode list here:

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, we love hearing from actual, living breathing humans.

Dagger Lords Minis Game Logo

Handling Scope Creep

Our game is at that critical point where there’s the temptation to add features. Then some more features. Then a few more…

You see where this is going.

Ultimately, we need an idea of what “done” will look like, so we can evaluate the game against that idea.

So what does a complete miniatures skirmish wargame need? Here are some ideas, and it’s probably not a complete list:

  1. Mechanics for activation, movement, combat, and shooting
  2. Rules for terrain
  3. Races/heritages (elves, goblins, dwarves, drow, humans, halflings, orcs, and so on.)
  4. Mechanics for weapons
  5. Equipment list (listing dice, miniatures, tape measures, terrain or maps, and other necessary gaming gear)
  6. Magic system and spells
  7. Powers

There are a bunch of “nice-to-haves” we might consider too:

  1. Solo rules
  2. Campaign rules
  3. Missions
  4. Rules for larger models
  5. Setting lore, to further sell the idea of the campaign world
  6. Hero profiles

Your own game might prioritize some elements over others, and you could certainly argue for moving things between the two lists. The point is that “done” is going to depend on your vision of the game, so a solid vision is important.

Once you have a plan, you’ll need to stick to it too, unless you have a very good reason for adding something. For me, solo gaming is important, it’s even a core part of our business, but we might have to exclude a solo system from Dagger Lords if we just can’t get it to work. Plans have to adapt, but you have to consider those changes carefully and understand their ramifications.

Rules With Flavour

Rules by themselves are pretty boring, so another thing we’ll want to do is add some appealing flavour text to things like spells and powers.

Consider this power:

Dagger Lords Ambush

By itself, not very interesting. Here’s one idea:

Dagger Lords Ambush with flavor text

The words we choose are what’ll sell the concept of the game, so we’re looking for short, evocative sentences for powers. The game can include longer-form fluff too, as you’ve probably seen in some of the games you’ve played.

Reusing Rules

You might have bits you can reuse from other games you’ve worked on. For today’s post I added Breaking Eggs, a solo mission I’d written up for another game. It took a little bit of tweaking, but now it’s in Dagger Lords. Reusing rules is especially great for building out new prototypes.

Where to Next

Game design is iterative, so even though Dagger Lords is complete, it’s not nearly done. In a way, the real work is just beginning. We do, however, have something to playtest, and that’s important.

When it is ready, a game like this would go from final draft to editing, then final manuscript, layout, and then a final proof. These may have different names, but essentially the game’s text is check, re-checked, and then checked again in various forms until you end up with a pretty document, all ready for printing.

Then there’s marketing and all the other business activities that go with selling a game, but that’s for another post.

Ultimately, it takes a lot of work to turn a game into a good one, and even more work to make it great. Dagger Lords, as we’ve got it now, is just the start of things, so I encourage you to take a look and watch how the game is growing.

Start To Be Great
We, we love corny motivationals.

Our Early Access Alpha Playtest on Itch.io

You can grab the latest export of Dagger Lords on Itch.IO and, as always, in our public development document.

Things are getting real when you put work into the cover.

That’s it for the series, so give Dagger Lords a try and let us know if you’ve got any suggestions, in the comments below.

 

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.

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.

 

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