Dankelblarg Just the blarg

27Dec/064

Dankelzahn the Gamemaster

I'm not going to pretend I'm an amazing gamemaster. I'm usually told my games are fun, but there's a lot of things that I see myself do that I wish I would do or had done differently. The blarg that follows probably shouldn't be taken as advice that should necessarily be followed - it's collection of my thoughts on my own gamemastering style inspired by some of the discussion that took place in the comments of my introduction blarg.

In my opinion, nailing down a gamemastering style is more difficult than a playing style due to the different nature of gamemastering. This isn't true in all cases - some gamemasters run games completely transparently, where the players are aware of most of the decisions, difficulties, and stats surrounding everything he does. But I've noticed I don't run games like this, which can give players one perspective based on what they see while giving myself a different perspective knowing why I'm doing what I'm doing. This probably needs some clarification.

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21Dec/066

You don’t have to paint to play

At the beginning of the year there was a movement on the Privateer Press forums to only play Warmachine and Hordes with painted miniatures for one year. I didn't blarg back then; the only opportunity I had to express my opinion on painting and gaming was on a smaller fan forum I'm a member of. Now that my opinions are read by... well... three if not four whole readers, I'd like to take this opportunity to express my thoughts on wargaming and miniature painting.

The Fully Painted 2006 movement was started by the members of the Brushthralls - a group of fans who promote miniature painting with an emphasis on Privateer Press products. Let's make this clear first: The Brushthralls are an asset to the Privateer Press community and their website is a great resource for miniature painters. The goal they set with their movement is lofty one, and I'm not about to begrudge someone for attempting. But in the thread where they announced Fully Painted 2006 there were posts from other community members referring to playing as unpainted miniatures as somehow substandard, as if those that played but didn't paint were lesser individuals and were unworthy of playing against them.

I love painting. I would even go so far as to say it's one of my passions. If I was forced to rank my hobbies, I'd say I'm a roleplayer first, miniature painter second, and wargamer third. That said I have to take issue with the attitude that if I place an unpainted miniature on the table then I'm somehow less of a player.

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13Dec/063

Earthdawn: OneStep System

My current group has decided to set aside Star Wars for now while one of our players settles in to his newfound role of fatherhood. Instead of waiting for him to be able to play again, we've decided to run another semi-short term game to give the rest of us something to play while he gets used to his new schedule. Since I've had some ideas for a short term kaer-emergence Earthdawn game called First Dawn floating around my head (I almost decided to run it as a play-by-post), I volunteered to be the interim GM.

The group as a whole has had very little experience with the Earthdawn system, and given the intent to have a short term game to begin with, I didn't want to spend a lot of time on system explanation. In addition after talking to one of the players I learned that while he didn't have a problem with the system, looking up what dice to roll for a given test was a little annoying.

Personally Earthdawn is probably my favorite RPG to run and play and I enjoy the varied dice of the Step System. That said I want to be sympathetic to my players' complaints and I want to make the game run as fast as possible for this mini-campaign. In addition I love tinkering with rule systems; making little tweaks to the mechanics to make certain aspects of a game run more like my preferences. As a result I've decided to make a few slight modifications to the Earthdawn ruleset for this campaign.

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11Dec/061

12/9/2006 Warmachine Tournament Report

Last Saturday I attended a local Warmachine tournament at the Clicks in Crestwood Plaza - a 500-point Steamroller event. This was only the second event I've been able to attend since I started getting involved in the local scene. Most events lately have been 750-point events, and I'm just not as big of a fan of the larger games. The few 500 point events that have taken place have been on days I had prior engagements, so it's been a while since I was actually able to play in a tournament. Fourteen players showed up for the tournament, so it was a pretty good showing. Faction representation was relatively even, with the exception of the Cryx; there were two Cygnarans, three Menites, three Khadorans, five Cryxians, and a merc player. All are members of our local forums.

In addition to the standard Steamroller rules, the Pressganger added an additional rule to try to finish the tournament quickly so everyone could make their holiday events. If it was your turn when time was called, you had five minutes to finish your turn. If you had gone first, your opponent then had five minutes to take his last turn. Personally I wasn't a big fan of this rule at all - it meant the last player may have five minutes to try to counter his opponent's ten-minute previous turn, but the majority wanted it so it was put into place.

I decided to give the Harbinger a shot in this tournament, but mine is still in pieces. There's a few conversions I'm toying around with, and I didn't want to do a rush job to get her on the table so I borrowed a fellow Menite's figure instead. My initial choices for my other caster were Kreoss and Amon, but the lists I had come up with were both similar builds, and I needed something to cover the Assassin scenario better, so I went with Severius. My lists were as follows:

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5Dec/067

Gamemastering: Collaborative Scene Building

One of the practices my current Star Wars GM implemented in our first game was to occasionally stop when describing a scene and having we the players add details to the scene. Unfortunately there were only a few opportunities during the last session to put this technique into practice, but when we did it proved an excellent tool for getting everyone involved into the scene.

As the gamemaster, I typically can envision every scene in the games I run, from surroundings to mood to weather to supporting cast. However in my experience can be easy to fail to fully communicate this to my players. Maybe I skip over something that for me is a given based on my other descriptions but isn't for my players, or maybe I just get so wrapped up into detailing one aspect of the scene that I forget to describe another. It's never intentional, but sometimes it happens. Regardless, I can already see how I will be able to leverage this collaborative scene building technique in the future to help improve my own game.

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27Nov/060

Star Wars: Now with Pulp!

In order to help facilitate more descriptive and "cool" role-playing in our current Star Wars campaign we decided to institute an in-game reward system to encourage this style. The philosophy behind the system is pretty straight forward - to encourage active participation in the game as well as dramatic contribution to the story. Since the d20 Star Wars game already had Force Points we had to fit in a system that wouldn't overshadow or conflict with the existing system. In the end we decided to implement a version of the Conviction system from Green Ronin's True 20 system.

The original T20 version of the Conviction rules allowed Conviction to be accumulated and built up from day to day. In our game in an effort to encourage players to do things to earn Conviction instead of hording it each character's Conviction pool resets to 1 at the beginning of each Standard day. In addition, Conviction are awarded for the following:

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25Nov/064

Have wargames made me a better roleplayer?

Perhaps it seems counterintuitive, but can miniature wargames make a person a better roleplayer? I can already hear the objections. "What? Are you crazy? A game that is nothing more than a glorified hack and slash encounter can't possibly help your roleplaying! That's just inane!"

I quite possibly could be crazy, but if so it's for reasons other than my above claim. I'm not trying to convince all you role-players out there to go buy some pewter and put the smack down on your friends. And I'm certainly not saying that people who play wargames are inherently better at roleplaying than those that don't. What I am saying is that I've noticed an improvement in my own role-playing since I started playing Warmachine a year ago, and here's why.

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21Nov/061

Warmachine: The Vermillion Menofix

It's time to switch gears a little bit and discuss my wargaming and painting hobbies to fill out the blarging categories I had planned to start with.

Roughly a year ago a friend and I picked up Warmachine, a miniature wargame by Privateer Press. Since then we've played roughly weekly and have added a couple of players to our little group (though one has gone MIA after becoming a father). Since I'll likely talk about the game and the miniatures in the future I'm going to take this opportunity to talk about why Warmachine is my game of choice, why I play the faction I do, and finally how I came up with the color scheme I chose for my army.

I enjoy the warcaster-centric style of play that Warmachine features. Especially since while being the most powerful model in your army, the warcaster is still far from invulnerable and in most cases requires protection to keep him safe. And with good reason - in many cases killing your warcaster is how your opponent wins the game. To use a chess analogy, your warcaster is a combination of the king and the queen. This dichotomy forces you to balance using the piece as an offensive weapon with keeping it safe from your opponents.

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16Nov/063

Star Wars: The Twilight Path begins

Star Wars: The Twilight PathLast Saturday my gaming group began our latest campaign - Star Wars: The Twilight Path using the SWd20 system. The gamemaster has set up a wiki for the campaign on his personal web site. We players were given less information about this campaign than we did the previous one. The game is set in the old republic, centered around a Jedi training facility, or Praxeum, on the planet Terol where we were all to be students. Before the first session we were told that the game would begin with us playing youngling versions of our characters and we'd later pick up with our actual characters as adults and go from there.

With any luck I'll be able to follow each session with a blargpost discussing an aspect of the game - either setting, system, or meta - that came up in that session. At some point I'd like to take some time to discuss the d20 system and it's fit for the game as a whole, but for my first topic I've chosen to talk about the variation of the flashback technique with which we started the campaign.

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13Nov/069

Introduction

Welcome to Dankelblog, my rantspace on the web.

I'm a software analyst living and working in the shadow of the world's largest croquette wicket, also known as the St. Louis metro area.

For those of you looking for profound exposition on the nature of life or witty political commentary, this isn't the blog you're looking for. Dankelblarg is primarily a place for me to vent and talk about my gaming-related hobbies. I might occasionally throw something out that's non-gaming related, but be prepared to see more gaming or painting related updates than anything else.

While I don't yet qualify for gamer grognard status, I have been gaming since around 1991. I played in the typical junior high school type of campaign; we would build the best character we could and go out to kill some monsters and take their stuff. Gaming took place almost every weekend through high school, sometimes even more often through the summer. Since those days a lot has changed. Now gaming is every other weekend if I'm lucky (not counting some weekly Warmachine). While I'm not the hack-and-slasher I once was, I would still call myself a Dramatic Gamist.

I suppose the Dramatic Gamist label may need a little explaining. I very much want to create an interesting story with interesting character, but for me stories aren't interesting without conflict and challenges. As much as I enjoy playing a deep character, role-playing in a campaign where character development takes place in a sterile environment where nothing dramatic ever happens simply isn't satisfying. I need something going on to provide context to the interactions.

I'll provide an example. Revealing my character is recently divorced and is somewhat angered he doesn't see his kids enough is certainly an interesting development. But doing so in the middle of a zombie invasion where he realizes he's never gong to see his daughters again had a much greater emotional impact.

This certainly doesn't mean I want combat after combat - the challenges I look for can just as easily be the negotiation of a peace agreement or convincing an NPC to provide my character with the information I need. Completing either of these can result in just as strong of a sense of accomplishment as whacking some ork over the head with a sword.

Hopefully this will give a little insight as to me as a gamer, so as to provide a reference point for the opinions and views I express in future blargs.