Tag Archives: miniatures

Paint Minis While the Sun Shines — MM 50

It’s funny how some things affect others. Take the weather, for instance. Here in South Africa, in the Highveld where Rising Phoenix Games is based, we have dry, hot summers and dry, cool winters. When it rains, painting is magic.

Mini Monday Logo

When it’s dry, which is most of the time, paint doesn’t last long unless you’re using a wet palette. Spray paint, on the other hand, flows well and drys quickly (which is great for second and third coats).

Paint Minis
Have you ever primed with gold? These minis, predominantly from Wrath of Ashardalon, are ready for my next painting session.

The point of this rambly post is simple: make the most of what you’ve got.

Is it raining and great for painting? Then paint. Is it hot and sunny? Maybe spray some minis or build terrain in the shade.

Think about your momentum. Don’t let the weather be an excuse. Don’t let anything be an excuse. Paint what you can, when you can. Adapt and prosper. When life gives you lemons…

You’re bright and intelligent, you don’t need me to mother you, so I’ll stop there and switch to anecdote mode. Draw up a chair, my dears, and listen…

A Tale of Trial and Tribulation

In the last few years, just before Covid, I was painting like a madman. I’d managed to get through loads of Orks and Gretchin, as well as many fantasy miniatures. I’d jumped into the hobby again and was loving it, learning, and gaining huge confidence.

Then Covid threw its proverbial in the proverbial and I had very little time for minis. Chalk this one up to life experiences and learning to appreciate the time you have! But you can’t sweat the small things. If anything, the pandemic took away but also gave. Mini painting became the way to enjoy the hobby, and there were fewer distractions (no kid’s parties, family engagements, or going to the mall to waste time).

So, we’re back here again, at the point. Do what you can with what you have. And that’s not just with painting minis.

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

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

Why It’s Good to Suck (At Something)

I suck at skateboarding. I’m terrible at it. But you know what, it’s good to suck at something. Here’s why…

(And yes, there will be an RPG angle to my story.)

There are a bunch of things I can get cocky about. I’m not bragging though, because I still have far to go, but I’m a fairly competent writer and editor, I know a deal about design and layout, and my puns are perfection. When it comes to skateboarding though, I suck.

Just how bad am I?

I’m a fearful person, and I’ve got the coords of a drunken goat. I can’t jump, and I nearly killed myself for a stupid trick (that’s hyperbole, but it still hurt).

But all the suckage is a good thing. It keeps you humble. It teaches you. It gives you perspective.

Humility and Real Motivation

So we’re going to talk about game design a lot here, and we’re going to talk about motivation too. Motivation’s the fuel that gets game design done, that pulls game devs through the tough times.

Motivation fascinates me.

People say our minds are like a computer, so then understanding motivation is like learning to hack our brains. That’s tastily cyberpunk.

But the motivation I’m talking about isn’t the Tony Robbin’s flavored shlock you find in a lot of self-help books. I’m talking about understanding what makes your brain think like it does, then knowing how to deal with those thoughts.

In skateboarding, sometimes the most unnatural movements are the right ones. Take dropping in.

Credit: Tania Ferreira Lourenco

Dropping in is where you have your skateboard’s nose up, then lean forward so that you and your board’s nose come down, onto the ramp. Your body’s natural instinct is to pull back, but this always fouls up and could put you on your bum. Ultimately, you have to trust the physics and lean into it, fighting through the fear.

You quickly realize that fear’s keeping you back. The only way to hack your brain is to fight the fear. So how do you fight fear?

School of Hard Knocks

We all know how to run, but riding a plank, that’s odd. You might be lucky to have learned it as a kid, but otherwise it’s an alien activity. In this way, skateboarding is a perfect model for how we learn.

I see it when I compare mini painting to skateboarding. Both take practice, and practice pays off for both hobbies. The best synonym for practice is “baby steps”. You learn to master mini painting by focusing on one new step at a time.

Gamemastering? Same. Writing games? Same. Nobody ever learned all the rules of D&D before running their first game, they learn enough and add to that knowledge later.

Knowing you suck is the only way to improve.

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

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.

 


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