Familiar rules [LotFP, Archive]

Find Familiar is not a spell per se. Rather, “researching the spell” represents the Mage gathering the lore and equipment required to bind an animal or spirit to their service. Nor is it cast, crudely, as a lure to the waiting fish of the void (for there are far too many sharks, and worse, in those Plasmic waters), but taken on as a spiritual journey and investment. Though most Magi would be loath to admit it, Familiars also provide companionship upon their lonely road to power; more importantly, they provide subservient and reliable companionship, an extension of themselves. Even Clerics will sometimes accept the aid of a friendly or at least allied servant of their Gods. Remember, though –  the price of service may differ in detail, but it is equally terrifying for the servants of Angels as of Demons..

As bound spirits, Familiars cannot be Dispelled, though they can be Turned and in some cases Banished. They are hedged out by appropriate warding magics.

Natural Familiars
Natural creatures are the easiest to bind, and the most common associates of Magi of all waters. They also excite less comment among the uncultured, should the Mage still be forced to hide their powers from the jealous and frightened. A Natural Familiar is created by binding a combination of the Mage’s own Plasmic energy and other latent power to the beast, and is always a draining and deeply unpleasant process for the Mage. Treat the entire process as Researching a 1st-level spell, with the final sacrifices and costs coming only after the ritual is complete. The wizard will be completely exhausted and require a full day of rest when the ritual is completed.
Any sacrifices made to create a Natural Familiar are permanent. Even after its death, barring exceptionally powerful healing magics or extensive and deeply unsavory spell research, the wizard’s gifts are not returned.

The animal gains the following benefits
• 1 HP for each permanent HP the Mage invests in it during the soul-binding rituals. Its natural life is also extended by 1 year for each HP so invested; the DM may also allow the caster to pledge some of his own life force (years of life, HP, stat points, etc.) to the Familiar at an appropriate ration for more HP/Life.
• It may use the Mage’s saving throws whenever applicable. Further, when in the Mage’s presence, any Magic Missiles or similar spells targeted at the familiar will normally strike the Mage instead.
• It may speak freely with the Mage in its own tongue, and be understood. If given a point in Languages, it may also converse in one Human language with others, and possibly even learn other languages depending on its Intelligence. A familiar with Intelligence 14 or more is literate, though writing may be somewhat difficult. All animals may furthermore speak with any others of their kind (cats with wildcats or lions, ferrets with martens and weasels, etc), but do not convey this ability to their masters without further research.
• Most other animals will treat with the Familiar deferently, or at least with appropriate condescension. It gains a permanent 1-point bonus on Reaction rolls from natural animals.
• At the DM’s option, the Magos may make a further appropriate sacrifice of Life Force, magic items, bound Plasms (spell slots) or other resources to grant the Familiar additional skills and abilities. For example, the Wizard with Spider Climb might sacrifice a spell slot to give his familiar the ability to walk on walls and ceilings.

The Mage benefits thusly:
• Speak with, and understand, his Familiar.
• The information and additional insight provided by their presence subtracts 10% from the cost of any magical research and item creation; the Familiar also acts as a “gopher” during the process, retrieving needed tools or bearing messages to those outside the laboratories as desired.
• A bonus point in a single appropriate skill possessed by his Familiar.

Finally, both the wizard and his familiar are marked out from others by their association with each other.
• During the Familiar’s creation, the player must choose one or more features that the Magus and Familiar share. This could include anything from birthmarks and sigils, to similar physical and behavioral features. Each time the caster and Familiar level up, add an additional characteristic to this list.
• They will have an identical plasmic aura to anyone using the Second Sight (Detect Magic, True Seeing, and similar spells or magic items).
• At higher levels, the Mage may perform additional research and rituals to give or share further power with their familiar. Common abilities bestowed include limited shape-shifting, seeing through the Familiar’s eyes at-will, use as a “plasmic battery”, greater facility in speech and new skills, or even human form and spellcasting ability. The process is half as expensive and time-consuming if the Mage knows a related spell (Speak Unto Beasts, for example, would facilitate learning the Speech of All Cats from one’s Familiar.)
• If using the DCC Corruption/Taint rules, or the Maleficar and similar classes, both the Mage and the Familiar may be marked more explicitly in any case where the Familiar is present and participating in the Mage’s spellcasting.

Developed more fully later; I’m poking at the stuff in England Upturn’d as I have time, but so far none of my players wants a Homunculus.

Other Supernatural Familiars
Imps, Gremlins, some lesser Undead, and other Plasmic beasties may desire to form pacts with the Magos; not all will become Familiars, however.  Treat normal pacted entities as a Retainer or Henchman for loyalty purposes, though they almost always require remunerations more.. esoteric than mere gold and specie. Likewise, their housing and feeding requirements are more exotic than most employees. Payments are usually given on Samhain or All Soul’s Eve and Walpurgisnacht as part of a larger ceremony.
Becoming a Familiar requires forging a direct link between the souls of the Plasmic entity and the Wizard. In addition to the sould-binding rituals, the DM and player should negotiate a contract for the creature’s service and enumerate its powers. Its loyalty is affected as a Henchman or other “demi-PC” character accompanying the party. Most will (again) have goals other than a simple share in the treasure the party collects – esoteric materials, information, or seemingly-insignificant acts at requested times. Failing to meet these requests will enrage and potentially even free the Familiar, but the party as a whole is under no more obligation to meet them than they would be any other Henchman’s demands.
In general, a Supernatural familiar will be in a more adversarial relationship with the wizard and his party, but also much more powerful than a plasmically-enhanced natural beast. Dismissing a contract without prejudice will usually return the life force the Mage invested, but good luck getting it back if you broke it. Familiars themselves cannot break the word of a contract but will, of course, twist it depending on their personal goals and general cussedness.

Common points of contracts include:
• Bonuses to Summoning spells and control rolls (especially in the service of the Familiar’s interests)
• Use of the Familiar’s powers at a negotiated price, or amplification of its powers through the sacrifice of spell levels/Stat points by the Magos. Familiars almost never allow themselves to be “used” freely, but will rarely pass up the chance for a little more profit..
• Many supernatural familiars will have knowledge of tongues other than the Magos’. They may wish to negotiate for its skill; woe betide the wizard who blindly trusts a servant of the Father of Lies, however.
• Access to a bonus spell, usually limited shapeshifting or illusion magics.
• Listed punishments for violating the minor terms of the agreement, usually taken as oaths. These will have >very< visible effects.

Frostgrave: The beginning – Dark Alchemy [actual play, mini-review]

Most of my posting’s been confined to Tumblr of late, but the blog deserves more attention than I’ve been giving it. Just haven’t been doing much gaming stuff since the Holidays.

I have, however, been horsing around with some Egyptian terrain and minis for a LONG-ass time, but never really got around to doing anything about it. I’ll post more images later on that score. In March the Frostgrave bug hit me and the 50-foot Lesbian at about the same time. Last Saturday we got our first practice games in; we both made quickie solo runs through all three levels of Dark Alchemy. We’re currently using soldier options from all of the books, but I haven’t had a chance to pick up Breeding Pits yet. She’s dyslexic, so part of the delay has been in converting all the text from the game books and tables into a printable, DL-friendly font and format. I personally recommend the open-source Dyslexie, which she says works “amazingly”.

My own warband is based on the excellent line of war-nuns from Reaper Minis (most from the ass-tastic desks of Werner Klocke and Bobby Jackson). I originally bought them for Mordheim but all three of the groups I put together managed to dissolve before dice ever hit table. Such is Gamer ADD..

The Band

In the main group, from L-R, back-front, we have:
Javelineer/Peltast (from Thaw of the Lich Lord) – Javelins are a nice, cheap missile option, especially important since it’s hard to find missile-equipped nun models. You can get away with using them for pretty much any spearmen you have lying around, too – which is great if you’re using leftover historical minis instead of purpose-built fantasy stuff.
Inquisitrix (based on Bob Ridolfi’s “Veronica Duskraven”) – a Sellsword Mercenary Captain. Bonuses: Movement and Shoot, Hand Weapon, Dagger, Crossbow, Coup-de-Grace and Leadership
Thief (Ral Partha Assassin with a new dagger made from plasticard) This guy used to be one of my PC models, so he’s been rotting in the bitz box since.. well, since Ral Partha was still a company that sold miniatures.
Nun-at-arms. Her shield is converted from a Pirates of the Spanish Main coin token, with paper reinforcements and wood texture scored into the surface. The hammer is all filed plasticard and paperclip, although it broke in-play and I need to pin it again.
Nun-at-arms. For this one I filed down her ridiculous little cestus and dropped a Hoplite round-shield on top.
2 Wardogs (old 3e Elven Hounds from Games Workshop)
Leader – Thaumaturge (The old Mordheim Sigmarite special character, whom I’ve used in the past as a priest in my Sisters of Battle armies). Hand-weapon, dagger, and a lot of support spells Beauty, Heal, Miraculous Cure, Dispel, Write Scroll, Brew Potion, Reveal Secret, and Planar Tear, which has wound up being one of my most useful choices to date.
In the background are some of the minis I’m making into “statues” (mostly oversized ~35mm figures), and on the right are the backups for later gameplay. I have a Templar, some angels (in case I pick up summoning spells..), another infantrywoman, a couple Pack Mules/Thugs, and my future Apprentice (Friar Stone)
The basic idea is to send the Captain in with a squad of faster minis (dogs and the Thief) to wolfpack heavier targets, while my Wizard slings Beauty and support spells onto the Nuns-at-arms for treasure-hauling purposes. The band-size limits in Dark Alchemy, not to mention the way all enemies are Constructs, Beasts, or Undead, is going to hamper the Hell out of my strategy for now, but what kind of wargamer doesn’t like a challenge? :P

My opponent has chosen an amusing evil wizard model (Orcish Witch Doctor) and a SHIT-TON of Aztec goblins, plus a few LotR Orcs I traded her out of my bitz bin. She successfully pulled an Animal Companion, so I’m loaning her a Utahraptor model I had lying around to use as a Snow Leopard. I.. kinda love how fucking gonzo Frostgrave lets you get when building warbands, and I’m really looking forward to the Sinbad/Pirates/East India thingy they’re putting out in September.

The games went quickly, and even with the half-finished terrain they looked pretty darned good. The first scenario is extremely easy as long as you just immediately dogpile the Abomination. If you try to sneak around it’ll peck you to death, but 14 HP just isn’t enough once a Wizard with +6 from her buddies starts swinging her hammers on it. As soon as it’s gone, the whole game is basically “send one person to fuck up the rats and a dog off to open the door”
The second fight was interesting, with the random skellie (or in this case, Mummy) placement making things get hairy fast. My wizard got slowed down by casting and then dogpiled by a sudden swarm of mobs that appeared right next to her, pecked to death by flames/scarabs. Generally, though things like Dimensional Rift’s small but almost-guaranteed damage are more than enough to handle packs of mummies. Grenade and Explosive Cocktails (both of which the Goblins had in abundance) also see them off quickly.
That third scenario is a beast, though; both of us escaped with only a single model, though she got her wizard off and I only managed to get my Captain out.  To fit the Egyptian-fantasy setting we made a couple fluff changes. The Fire-slingers became Mummy Queens and small animated statues of various gods summoning scarab swarms (c.f. the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies), and the flame areas were likewise swapped for Beetle Swarms.

Overall, Dark Alchemy was a hell of a lot of fun. We both walked out with a couple hundred GP, no deaths, 7-8 levels on the Wizards, and a nice assortment of Magic Items (she got a Hand Weapon+1,  Ring +1 and Staff of Power +3, plus a Grimoire and 6 potions: I got less cash and only 1 Grimoire but 14 potions.) She selected a Treasure Vault as her home base, and I went for a Temple.
Once I get some more GC together to buy a Roost, I have an excellent Falconer miniature and some cool eagle models that I’ll be using as Blood Crows instead of the dogs. The lack of missile support really hurt me in scenario 3, and my Crossbow captain made the lion’s share of my kills. I’ll be adding a bow to one of my two-weapon leftover nuns at some point to make a Ranger, or possibly converting one of my backup Sci-fi models with a crossbow or arquebus to get a Marskwoman. I’m worried about those rings and staves; in the last game I bumped up my wizard’s Dispel skill but with what she can do using Enchant Weapon I’m not pleased..

Current state of the warband:
Base: Temple (of course)
Level 8 Thaumaturge – added Circle of Protection, levelled Health (+1), improved Planar Tear (x2), Write Scroll (x1), Heal (x2), Brew Potion (x1), Dispel (x1)
Apprentice w/ Staff and a crapload of very nasty potions
Level 3 Captain, now with Sprint and boosted Shoot (x2).
2 Nuns-at-arms
2 Warhounds
Thief (will be replacing with a Ranger/Markswoman shortly)

Model Review: 1:288 (6mm) Eastern Express Antonov AN-71 “Madcap” AWACS

The EE Antonov AN-71 is a fun, quick little build that will look fine as a gaming piece. Probably not the best overall choice for a “serious” micro-mini modeler, who will be screaming and flinging it out the window within minutes. 1:288/6mm scale makes it compatible with quite a few wargames, including Micro Armor, Fistful of TOWs, Battletech, and Robotech RPG Tactics. The limited historical deployment of this particular aircraft will hurt its utility for historical gamers, but other models in the series would likely serve them much better.
For Robotech Tactics modelers, the AN-71 is also an excellent base for an alternate version of the ES-11D “Cat’s Eye” recon – one of the guys on the Robotech Tactics Facebook group did up a conversion you can see here if you’re a group member.

First off – a little history. In 1984-ish, the Antonov company put together a bid for a new AWACS version of the AN-72 light transport airframe (NATO callsign “COALER”). It was intended to vector in ground-attack forces at the tactical level (taking the load off of the larger “MAINSTAY” and “MOSS”, which were busy handling strategic responses and combat air patrol), while taking advantage of the AN-72 airframe’s ability to make use of short, poor-quality runways and improvised airfields. While loosely equivalent to the role of an E2-C Hawkeye in USN service, the AN-71 was supposed to be a land-based design (the naval role was supposed to be taken by the Yakolev YAK-44, which never surfaced).  NATO assigned the bird the reporting name “MADCAP” after its first flight in 1985. Unfortunately, the USSR only ever made three AN-71 airframes before the economic collapses of 1986-88 killed the program. One of those three prototypes was shipped off to the Ukraine for their new Air and Space museum while they were in the process of seceding from the SSSR, which is why this particular model was originally Ukraininan.The Eastern Express company put out a series of models based on the Museum’s holdings, all nominally in 1:288 scale. Toko seems to have put out a version of the series as well, and you can find a box in the US from Imex (I got mine on the ‘bay for $4, so always check your supplier..)

The AN-71 herself is pretty unique – a STOL design that uses engine exhaust to increase lift over the wings. Unfortunately this design, while efficient, tends to be damned noisy for the poor saps inside the cargo bay, but hey. Whatcha gonna do? *(cancel it if you’re Boeing, of course. Keep using it for fifty-plus years if you’re a Russkie..)

Surviving AN-71 on display in the Ukraine

The Good: Simple, clean instructions. Good decals, although I have no need for them. Generally decent fit and polish on the kit.
The Bad: Lots and lots of flash on frame “A”. It cleaned up well after a quick pass with an emery board. Some gates on detail elements distorted the radome and tail. Shallow detail cuts had to be sharpened.
The Ugly: Does not include any parts to make closed landing gear bays. The engine mounting surfaces were poorly-designed, and the wing overall required a lot of work to mount.
Full model build/review under the cut. My apologies for the poor quality of a couple of the images -I plead being sick as hell and having a shit phone.


Updated Physic rules, Seamanship [LotFP Skills]

So, I’ve got a fire under my ass (for the moment) and I’m re-upping the now four-year-old rules for my homebrew LotFP skills.
And before you get started on why Clerics get this, remember:
Knights Hospitallier.


“Physic is a shorthand for all the healing arts; diagnosing and correcting imbalances in the humors, knowledge of healing herbs, of staunching and stitching, fitting artificial limbs, and all things appropriate to the station of a doctor. ”

As a starting skill
Clerics may start with Physic at a base chance of 3 in 6, and advance as a Dwarf’s Architecture skill. Other classes may exchange their starting skill for a 2-in-6 chance at Physic, and advance as an Elf’s Search skill. All classes begin with 1 point in Physic.

1) All characters with Physic may attempt basic first aid on themselves or a single comrade following combat. This takes a Turn. A success heals 1HP per point of success. Characters with Specialist’s Tools (Physic), often called a Leech-bag, get a +1 to this roll. Specialists and Clerics with the Physic skill and tools always heal their skill level in HP on a success, and may divide this number between more than one character.

2) A character with Physic and Specialist’s Tools (physic) may forgo their normal rest to heal others. They may care for a number of patients equal to their skill level, and double each patients’ recovery rate.

3) A Specialist or Cleric with a Leech-bag may deal 1d3 damage to an ally who has failed a save versus Poison, drugs, or diseases (and similar imbalances in the humors). If the Physic roll succeeds, their ally is allowed to make an additional save.

4) A Cleric or Specialist with Specialist’s Tools (Physic) can attempt to resuscitate a “dead” character. This can only be done if the character has succumbed to wounds or other immediate trauma rather than “instant death”, and their body must be largely intact. No scraping Captain Pancake off the bottom of the cliff, or trying to undo your comrade’s tuberculosis. Poisons, diseases, and other conditions will remain in the character’s system, and they may succumb to these eventually.
If the character succeeds at a Physic roll, the “mostly dead” character’s player may make a Save vs. Poison. If successful, the formerly-dead character will stabilize at 0HP and enter a coma for 1d6 hours. They remain barely-lucid and helpless for 3 days, minus their Constitution bonus. They will usually suffer some severely disfiguring injury or mental trauma; to use the crit/injury table of your choice. Feel free to assign bonuses or penalties depending on the severity of the character’s injuries and the suitability of the environment.

Restrictions, Bonuses, and Penalties.
1) Rolling a “6” on a Physic attempt always fails. Unless the Leech is a Specialist or Cleric, the character(s) being treated immediately suffer 1d6 additional damage, reduced to 1d3 damage if the character is using a Leech-bag. Clerics and Specialists only injure their patients on an additional roll of 4+; with a skill level of 6, this is reduced to  6+ roll.

2) The Physic skill cannot cure conditions that specifically require magical healing. It also cannot cure magically-induced conditions and curses like a Blindness spell, but could remove a necromantically-conjured poison from a character’s system or restore the sight of a man blinded by the flash of a spell.

Depiction of a carrack, carrying John of Gaunt to Lisbon. From Jean de Wavrin's 'Chronicles of England', Bruges, c.1461-83. c British Library Board, Royal MS 14 E. IV, f.195r

Depiction of a carrack, carrying John of Gaunt to Lisbon. From Jean de Wavrin’s ‘Chronicles of England’, Bruges, c.1461-83. c British Library Board, Royal MS 14 E. IV, f.195r

The mastery of a ship at sea, and how to survive on the waves. Treated as Bushcraft when adventuring on the water or along the coast/rivers, with the following additions:

1) A Specialist or Magic-user with Specialists’ Tools (Seamanship), which include a Sextant or Sunstone, star-charts, and compass, can determine their rough location on a successful Skill roll.
2) Seamen may attempt to predict the weather for that day; on a successful roll, the DM should inform them of the day’s sailing conditions. Failure yields no information.
3) The character helming a boat may add their Seamanship level to the ship’s saving throws against weather effects, grounding, reefs, etc.

Savages may exchange their starting Bushcraft skill for Seamanship.
Hunting at sea requires fishing gear or harpoons (as Javelin). Lines and harpoons are expended as “ammunition”.

Busy Day [admin crap, LotFP]

Went through and updated the House Rules page, Occultism, the Savage, and a few other posts. Currently updating Physic to match my current offline rules, and reconciling firearms and Seamanship with my notes as well. Forgot how damn much some of this stuff has changed. Currently queuing posts for the next couple of days.

…also, I dropped the silverware drawer on one of my fingers and it’s pouring rain. So painkillers may be involved.

Occultism Skill Rework and Grimoires [LotFP]

It’s been a few years, and a good bit of play, since I posted the Occult skill here. Anon asked about it today, and I figured I might as well go root out my hardcopy notes and post the revisions here.
I’ve loosened the day-to-day bookkeeping restrictions in favor of a more intuitive system, and added a bit more gambling to the mix. The additional rules for bonuses are encouraging my players to do weird stupid shit, like carrying around live chickens for sacrificial purposes and cranking themselves on Red Lotus in inappropriate places, and it also allows me to throw in more evidence and clues when the PCs are dealing with cultists/EHPs/witches and diabolists. Those folks can also be a serious, time-sensitive threat to the party without needing to have a level 9 Magic-User running around. It’s also a lot more dangerous than using a regular skill, but still useful enough to tempt players. Finally, the Grimoire rules place a sharp limitation on ritual spellcasting while adding a new and desirable form of treasure to the DM’s options.


Harry Clarke – Faust – Faustus Appears


More TNT house rules and weapons [This is Not a Test]

I’ve spent most of the day caring for an ailing wife and a brain-pulverizing migraine, but I did get some converting done this afternoon. More on  that shortly.
Meanwhile, here’s a second installment of some house rules I’ve been toying with these last couple of weeks. As always, these are house rules and in no way official.

New Weapon and Relic attribute:
Masterwork weapons are the best equipment in the waste. Janky gear, on the other hand, is the stuff even a Raider would think twice about picking up. Whether poorly-made, badly-maintained, or just old as Hell, the item breaks down more frequently than most. Still, it’s cheap.. and it might be easier to find a low-end relic.
Relics and Ranged Weapons with the “Janky” attribute treat a roll of “2” as a Fumble when using or Activating them.
They provide a 25% BS rebate to Ranged weapons bought at any time, or Relics chosen at Warband creation (though Relics still count their full cost towards the Warband Strength). In the End-Game sequence, a player may select a Janky relic of one higher rarity level than the one they rolled.
The “Janky” rule may be bought off if the warband has a Gunsmith (weapons) or Maintainer (Relics) by spending 50% of the item’s nominal value.
Don’t buy Janky power armor. Trust me.

New weapons:
Str: 6—Rng 18″—Rel 2—Two-Hand—Cost: 10 BS
Modern Weapon
Special rules/notes: Hail of Lead
Carbines were far and away the most popular civilian weapon in America before the End War, and held that distinction for centuries. They combine a short, handy profile with a deep magazine of lower-caliber ammo (either pistol cartridges or light rifle rounds), and boast a fast action. The most common types are lever-action “ranch rifles” or scaled-down versions of Assault Rifles converted to semi-automatic fire, though some companies manufactured beefed-up SMGs and stocked, long-barreled pistols before the Fall as well. The Carbine’s low recoil and deep magazine make it easy to lay down covering fire, even if the weapon can’t quite match the volume of shots or accuracy of an SMG or AR firing full-auto.  They’re popular among Wastelanders who prefer to fire on the move, or with anyone who wants to get a little extra range but doesn’t want to buy (or scrounge) more expensive high-powered rifle rounds.
Note: A Bayonet may be mounted on a High-Caliber Carbine.
So, basically this is a huge-ass hole in the TNT armory. As noted above, these really are the most popular guns in America – from the AR-15 and Mini-14 to the .357 and .44 Magnum Winchesters.
Hail of Lead, the guns work best as suppressing-fire weapons on the move, but you can also pull off a Concentrated single shot. It also leaves the SMG and AR with their niches – massive emplaced fire. I bumped up the cost a little over the SMG because otherwise there’s really no reason to take the latter (but see below), and kept the poorer reliability to balance the volume of fire. I was torn between bumping the range up to 20″, but 18″ just seemed easier to work with.

Sawed-off Shotgun
Str 6—Rng 9″—Rel 1—One-hand—Cost: 7 BS
Modern Weapon
Special Rules/Notes: Close Range (3″), Pistol
Short-ranged and brutal, cut-down shotguns are the close-combat weapon of choice for anyone who can take the wrist-breaking recoil and doesn’t feel like learning to use a knife or bat. They also make an excellent last-ditch weapon to stop Rad Zombies or other, nastier wasteland creatures. Though most are more-manageable 16 and 20-gauge guns, larger bores are not unheard-of; before the End War, combat entry teams would sometimes use pistol-sized shotguns as “12-gauge lockpicks”. Raiders and Lawmen alike will occasionally continue the tradition in the post-apocalyptic era.
Come on, man. Mad Max has one. And don’t give me that “Large-Caliber pistol” crap, the Close Range rule is the whole point of a shotty. Plus the range of Pistols feels a little too long.

SMG – test rule (jacked from the TiNaT Facebook group)
SMGs and machine pistols are not affected by the Movement penalty. All other rules remain the same.

Riot Gun (Automatic Shotgun)
Str 7—Rng 18″—Rel 3—Two-handed—Cost: 20
Support weapon
Special Rules/Notes: Close Range, Burst
Fully-automatic shotguns are terrifying (if rare) support weapons. Their popularity with police forces and urban combat teams before the End War earned them the nickname “Riot Gun”. They’re legendary for their brutal recoil and are notoriously unreliable, but offer unparalleled knockdown firepower at close range. Auto-shotties are temperamental, with very finicky ammunition requirements, so it is rare to find a warband with one that does not also manufacture its own shotshells. They chew through ammo too quickly for Pre-war stocks to be viable, and low-quality “scrounger” rounds will foul the action or simply fail to cycle it effectively. Most are built on modified AR actions, but some were built from the ground up as shotguns with drum or tube magazines; they might resemble an out-sized assault rifle or grenade launcher to untrained observers.

God I love the AA-12, and the SPAS-12 is too iconic to miss – especially since I have an Aussie bush hunter with a SPAS-12 and some velociraptors in my minis collection..
Also, these make a great representation for the Bolters, undersized light drum-fed GLs, or out-scale “heroic” SMGs and ARs you might have in your collection.
I left this as a Support weapon because of the enormous potential firepower and the specialized training needed to effectively handle one, plus as something of a balancing mechanism. Nobody needs to deal with one of these in the hands of an Omega Mutant. Pricing it higher than the current AR was a no-brainer, of course. But the LMG has vastly superior range even if it’s
Move-or-fire, and its lethality feels on-par with the Sniper Rifle or Grenade launcher, so 20 seemed about right.

LAW (One-shot anti-tank launchers)
Str 9 — Rng 30″—Rel 2—Two-handed—Cost: 10
Support Weapon
Special Rules: One-shot (Sporadic reload rarity), Move or Fire, Anti-Armor
The LAW and its ilk are single-shot, high-powered anti-tank weapons descended from the venerable Panzerfaust. They were designed to give troopers who didn’t expect to encounter enemy armor a cheap, rugged and lightweight last-ditch weapon that outranged (not to mention out-hit..) conventional grenades. Though they had long been replaced by the Plasma Rifle in front-line American units, National Guard armories still held huge numbers of the obsolete weapons when the End arrived. Some ancient, unfired units survive to this day in the Wastes; skilled weaponsmiths have even made their own cruder but no less-effective disposable rockets to reload or replace them.
LAWs are effectively an “insurance policy” in the modern Wastes. Noting says “Bugger off” quite so effectively to a claim-jumping Preserver than seeing one of their big ‘Bots or powered armors eat a rocket, and even Psychos tend to back off once a vehicle or two explodes.
Though vastly cheaper than other anti-armor weapons, they can be hard to replace or source. Once a LAW has been fired in a campaign, the Warband must roll a Sporadic or better on the Relic availability table to re-use it in the next match. Note that a LAW does not count as a Relic for any purposes.

This is primarily intended for letting me do WYSIWYG skirmishes with some modern troopers I have in my model inventory. The Reload Rarity rule was mostly to balance out the cost – I either had to make it so cheap to get one that no-one should be without (which is silly) and >really< make it disposable, or charge a more balanced price and let it be a campaign item, and it felt like a good way to emphasize the difficulty of replacing ammo without adding on more hassle buying bundles of the damned things. Plus, if a model has a bundle of 3+, you can always just give it an >actual< ML and hand-wave it.

The Device [Terrain-making]

Basically, I got tired of dealing with simulating all of my corrugated tin/steel with cardboard. It looks.. okay. But it’s not very sturdy, and it’s all fuzzy and shit. So, a while ago I realized I could use all the pop cans I had lying around the house if I could find a way of corrugating them. What did I have? Popsicle sticks. So I tried an alternating arrangement, which worked.. sort of. With a lot of work.

Version one

Version one

This one was, of course, hilariously unsafe. Something about rubbing small sticks right together vigorously next to a sharp-ass metal edge. I did use the test pieces to make that shack a couple weeks ago, though. In the ensuing weeks I’ve gone through a couple iterations, and finally put together something that requires about the same amount of work but far less filing. Or risk of severe finger injury.
Directions below the cut.

Additional Wasteland Deck cards, and other This is Not a Test House Rules

The following cards are playtest house rules, and of course not endorsed by Joey. Unless he does later :b

The first house rule is simple – instead of basing Agility tests on Mettle, I’m using MOV. It’s worked well in playtest games so far, and undoes the silly situations where a high-MET character in heavy combat armor is somehow dodging attacks and jumping gaps that an unarmored dog with a MV of 7 can’t. It also makes the choice between +1 MV/RNG a little harder, and reduces Mettle’s position as the game’s God stat.
Second, (though this was one I cooked up before the latest rules update beefed them up a bit) Flamethrowers get the Poison Gas special ability to reflect the way they kill – with carbon monoxide, not by setting you on fire. I also was testing having them automatically catch you afire with a crit.
Finally, I have a number of extra cards in my poker decks (as many do), and I figured “why not make use of them?”. I tried to keep in the spirit of the game, while also making some stats/items that the original Wasteland deck ignores available.

Advertisements (non-card-related)
The character sees something twinkling in the rubble just out of reach.
○ On a successful Survival (TN/10) test, the character finds some pretty, but worthless junk. Choose one: You may either gain the effects of the Barter skill for the next d3 games, or the warband gains 1d3 Shiny Objects for free
○ Failure: It was a trick of the light; the character finds nothing. They return from the wastelands discouraged with 1d6 BS in scrap.
○ Avoid: Fearing a trap, the character scavenges elsewhere, and finds a stash of old canned food worth 1d10 BS.

Advertisements (Card-related) –
A youngster on their own, impressed by your reputation, approaches the character seeking a mentor..
○ On a successful Mettle test (TN:10), a Rank-and-File model of your choice joins the band for free. If the searching character has the Fearful Reputation  general rule, they will automatically pass the test.
Note: Cannibal warbands may simply capture and eat the aspiring badass; treat as one captured enemy casualty for Upkeep purposes.
○ Failure: They were just a grifter – the character was rolled! The youngster steals one randomly-determined item from the character and disappears back into the wastes.
○ Avoid: You’ve heard that cannibals and muties use decoys as scouts or to lure the unwary into traps. Maybe someone should know about this. The character warns a passing caravan of their suspicions, and the grateful guards pass the hat. Gain 1d10 BS.

Rules cards (how to play poker, Old Maid, &c.):
Rooting through an overturned bookcase, the character finds a legible self-help book!
○ They may attempt to use it with a successful Int test (d10+MET/TN 10); if successful, roll 1d10 on the following table.
1: Mental Health and You – the character may either cure one psychological condition in your warband (Frenzied, Hatred, Dumb, Coward, etc.) that the model gained as the result of an injury, or the finding model gains the Brave skill for free.
2: Ballistic Calculations for Dummies – Gain Range Finder or Fast-Tracker skill for free; if the model has both, add +1 to the character’s RNG stat.
3: Recipes for Anarchistes – Choose one ordinary (non-Relic) grenade type, or an Aerosol Gun; the model gains it for free.
4: Tinkering with Firearms (Without Dying)Gunsmith or Field Strip skill (your choice). If the model has both, gain +1 RNG.
5: The Biscuit Scout’s Handbook – Gain the Survivalist or Trekker skill for free; if the model has both, increase its MOV by +1. If the model has the Soft-Bellied ability, remove it instead.
6: How to Win Friends and Influence Puppies  –  The model gains the Animal Handler special rule. If it already possesses the skill, pick one model in the warband with the animal  type; it gains +1 MET.
7: Kung Fu in Thirty Days or Less – Choose one: the model gains either the Flurry of Blows skill in melee when using fists or improvised weapons, the Spring-heeled skill, or +1MEL when using Fists and Improvised Weapons
8: You’re Awesome, I’m Awesome – Choose the Assertive or Confident skill; if the model has both, gain +1 MET.
9: Pump Yourself Up – Gain the Brute or Muscular skill for free, or +1 STR
10: Ladies’ Home Surgeon –  Gains the Medic General Ability for free, or you may cure one permanent physical injury on any model in the warband. If it gains the Medic ability, the model will cost one additional BS in all subsequent Upkeep phases (doctors are in high demand, after all..).

Note that this result may give the character skills or abilities outside their normal options, but it still cannot increase their skills above the normal limits. As with leveling, if none of the above options are usable the character may gain one allowable skill or a point in any stat (or advance in rank if they are at max stat points).

○ Failure: This looks like bullshit.. The book is a fraud, and the character sells it for 1d6 BS back in town.
○ Avoid: Reading is hard. The character sells the book for 3D10 BS to a more literate collector.

Making 28mm Asphalt Roads [Modern/Post-Apoc]

Following on from a post over at Tabletop-Terrain about making roads with self-adhesive floor-tiles, I swung by the Home Depot (gotta love that 10% veteran’s discount) and picked up a sample of this shit – TrafficMaster “light brown travertine” SA vinyl. Given that it’s running less than $1/square foot, and each square foot makes two 12″x6″ road sections, this is going to be a about half the price of my previous favorite option – Ikea “Avskild” cork placemats.

Before I break down the advantages of each, I figured I’d put up a quick shot to show you the texture of the vinyl tiles versus the cork.
• Ikea Cork sheeting, painted as concrete (from the Airbase Toblerone project).
As you can see, it’s got a pretty fine texture, even on the smaller bunker. Good for concrete, but it’s not really my favorite on the asphalt front. The surface tearing is nice and chunky, and the edges wear pretty well.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics of the commissioned road set I did a few years ago, but we’ll go over my experience with them below.

•Trafficmaster tile, inked and uncut (I just slapped some India ink on with a wet rag and took a photo here without cleaning the tile first: the pale spots appear to be greasy areas from previous handling..).

img_20161030_151202_887Here we’ve got a much more irregular surface, and it’s already very reminiscent of weathered asphalt even with the pale spots and brown undertone. It is, however, a thin sheet of plastic – less than .25mm – laid over a ~1.5mm rubber sheet. That may make larger areas of surface damage look less realistic unless I cut out the undersurface and hammer the surface plastic down into the “damage” pattern, or fill them with basing ballast.

So, what’s my take so far?

Cork sheeting

Advantages –
Realistic surface damage (for both asphalt and concrete). It’s easy to sink in some paper clip wire to simulate rebar on a broken section, or a small piece of low-gauge copper cable/plastic pipe for other conduits, which dresses up the edges nicely.

Multi-purpose. Crumbled scrap bits make great rubble. You can face a chunk of foamcore or stiff card with the cork and get a plastered concrete surface in minutes – one that’s also easy to trash and make look good.

Super-easy to work. Cutting, fitting, and weathering the cork bits for both of the pieces in the pic above took me about two minutes.

Cheap. Granted, both of the materials have that going for them, but it bears repeating; this stuff costs about 75c/ft^2.  In other formats, unfortunately, that’s not so true – a straight-up roll of cork from a craft or art store can be more along the lines of $5/ft^2.  And there’s a certain amount of wasted material because of the rounded edges of the Ikea stuff and the weird size.

Disadvantages –
Poor surface sealing coupled with moisture sensitivity. You have to paint PVA or another sealant onto cork, or it has a nasty tendency to swell. That flakes off paint. It also behaves oddly when painted unless you seal it – soaking in some colors, repelling others, and generally being a pain in the ass. Plus, again, it can swell or crumble without sealant while you’re painting it, screwing up your effects or damaging the piece.

Fragility – the same thing that makes it easy to work makes it hard to store. Cork works best as a facing on top of another material, like heavy card or styrofoam. In storage, dropping or bumping the container can shatter off a large chunk of cork, and the pieces frotting against each other in the box will not just wear the paint but tear chunks out. That means you need padded storage and rigid containment, which reduces the amount of stuff you can store in a given space. With roads it’s less of a problem – you can wrap them in cheap felt and glue a sheet of craft foam to the edges of the box – but storing a large building is a >massive< pain in the ass

It just doesn’t look like asphalt at larger scales. With a good paintjob, you can pass it off pretty well at 6-10mm, and I’ve seen some guys make 15mm look decent, but at 28+ it looks like shit unless you work it as concrete. How many cities or highways do you know of that use concrete for the roads? Yeah. It’s fine for sidewalks and warehouse floors, but not roads.

Vinyl Tile

Advantages –
Tough as hell. I did a few experiments with a painted chunk, slapping it edge-on against a desk and flapping the piece back and forth. Paint held well, and even the section I stripped the vinyl from seemed to be doing okay. Unfortunately, rubbing the painted sides together did do some paint damage, so I’ll still need surface protection, but rubbing gently with stiff, sealed card didn’t do too much damage. I think I may be able to get away with just peeling and sticking the flooring sheets onto posterboard and using that as layer protection; for more on that, see “conclusions” below.

Great surface texture. I mean, look at that pic again. That’s literally a thirty-second swipe of india ink – not a damn lick of paint – and it already looks like a road.

The sheets are a better shape and size than the Ikea mats I’ve been using, which means there’s less waste. Basically with cork I got two 6″x16″ chunks of straight road, or two 12″x8″ sections. Lots of room for a shoulder, but the roads also wound up looking unrealistically wide compared to 1:43 or 1:48 cars (let alone the figs). Of course, I could trim off that extra couple inches on each side and use to make sidewalks and curbs or building parts, which was pretty cool. With the vinyl I get four 6″x12″ straights, nearly quadrupling the yield per dollar spent.

On that note, the sheets are even cheaper than cork, especially in bulk; I can get ten 1’x2′ sheets for under twenty bucks. So for the same $20 I can get either ten sections of road with sidewalks/shoulders, plus 2 intersections per road section I drop, or forty sections without sidewalks. Sections that require less reinforcement and storage area.

Properly painted, it also looks like facing stones. With a little work, it’d be great for adding a “sandstone” texture to the lower floors of Foamcore ruins, which means I still have an outlet for scraps. Cork does have an advantage, though, in that crumbled bits of cork will look great just tossed on a rubble pile, where this will require trimmed and (roughly) squared sections of the scrap rather than “whatever’s left”

Disadvantages –
Heavier, by a substantial margin. Each sheet weighs about half again as much as one of the placemats, making it harder to transport on foot/bus.

Harder to weather and simulate surface damage – as I mentioned above, just picking the surface off reveals a chunk of rubber, which has a terrible texture. So you have to backfill the holes with basing ballast, or find some other way of getting an interesting texture instead of smooth cuts. That adds working time as well, which seems to be compensating for not needing to seal each individual piece.

Harder to work – This shit is dulling the HELL out of my boxcutter, and straight-up snapped a #11 Exacto blade within 5 cuts. It’s also tearing the shit out of my leatherworking swivel knife, which is why the boxcutter is getting an outing. I also can’t slap it up on the deck of my paper-cutter to just slice off straight sections, which means breaking out the rulers, square, and compass.

Floppy – A disadvantage both share, but the higher weight of the sheeting makes it more noticeable. I’m gonna need to give these a stiffer backing to keep the paint on, even if it held reasonably well in the basic tests.

Surprise contestant:
EVA (Craft) Foam
Easy to work, soft, multi-purpose.

Poor surface texture, floppy, fragile, and more expensive than either. Worse, it’s sensitive to heat and to spraypaint, so it’ll need sealing.

ConclusionsI’ll definitely keep using cork for my own street/postapoc projects, but I’m about to add a lot more vinyl to my toolbox. Given the properties of both, I’m thinking of using an 8″ wide strip of black posterboard, with the vinyl laid on top (using its own adhesive) as a road bed and either cork sidewalks or ballast to simulate gravel shoulders. I could also take strips of foamcore and cut out roadbeds from the center ( just leaving the bottom layer of card), and mark up curbs/sidewalks onto the raised edge sections. The foamcore method is almost certainly going to be the way to go if I’m making bridges/overpasses, unless I can convince that guy in the Makerspace to let me use his laser cutter on some MDF or hork up for the Hirst Arts bridge mold..

Quick, Cheap Skirmish Horde Basing; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Hole Saw.

So, one of the problems you’re inevitably going to face as a wargamer is simple – you’re gonna run out of bases one day. A lot of companies sell their minis with “integral” display bases that aren’t worth a damn. Especially the cheap shit – Wargames Factory, Reaper, lookin’ at you here. And of course, these aren’t cut to fit on GW’s patented slotted base. The hole’s easy to cover, but still more of a pain that you really want to deal with – not now that GW is charging in excess of a buck a base, anyway.

So I’ve started manufacturing my own, at least for the “horde” models. I put together this tutorial to help you make your own quick, cheap bases in large quantities. Short version is, forty bases cost me ~$2.15 using existing tools (about $30 worth). It’s about the same price as mail-ordering MDF stuff, but you get it now and don’t have to pay shipping..
Tutorial below the cut.

Shack! [Post-apoc terrain]

I have invented a device for turning pop cans into scale-correct corrugated iron sheets. It is made from popsicle sticks. I’ve done up a quickie sample shack with the prototype. Plans will go up once I refine it into something a little less-dangerous and labor-intensive.

shackpix-1 shackpix-2

Sculpting again – Robotech Tactics

I was annoyed by the lack of Malcontent command chips, so I started sculpting my own this afternoon. So far, I’ve got about 20-30 minutes of work into it. I freehanded the base shape onto paper using a UEDF chip as a size comparison, sketched the design onto it loosely with a Micron .005, and then freehanded from that with my engraver (picked on up free from one of the Makerspace guys who was ditching it after getting a laser engraver).

After cutting the base chip and freehanding the Malcontent logo on there with the Dremel - ~5m.

After cutting the base chip and freehanding the Malcontent logo on there with the Dremel – ~5m.

Next, I mixed a tiny amount of Green Stuff and worked it onto the design.
Step three - 10 MinTook about 10 minutes so far. I’m pretty proud of the detail on the Valkyrie tail, especially since it’s less than 1mm tall.

Now I gotta wait until after my volunteering shift at the local film society to throw another layer of GS on there, but it’s already looking damned good. I’m probably gonna be in shape to drop rubber on these by the time I can afford to buy more. Eventual plan is to cast off a pair of masters, sand the backs down slightly, and then glue them together and install a thin rim instead of trying to do this thing double-sided. All told, should take me about an hour’s actual work to get a mold going, maybe another 40 minutes total to set up a full mass-production rig.
Not, of course, that I’d MP these. But Jesus, Palladium, it’d take a pro sculptor less than a fucking day to set this up and GHQ could be pumping them out by the thousands in less than a week. Hell, you already have masters for the UEDF and Zent chips, put them under some rubber and give us enough to actually play with…

Airbase Toblerone: Part one (Battletech, Robotech Tactics)

As promised (two weeks ago -_-;;) here’s some WiP shots of the terrain I’ve been working on. I got a fire lit back under me while working in the local makerspace with one of the guys on some really basic foam-cork stuff, and started back up on one of my long-term stalled projects; a fully-fleshed out 6mm Drop Port and/or HPG station for Battletech and Robotech Tactics. The wall and command bunker entrance here come from that session.

Ha Shi Dao complex front

“But what’s the ‘Mech, Doc?” Come back tomorrow for more..

IMG_20160605_213655_604 They’re loosely based on the Hai Shi Dao defense emplacements from Steel Battalion (Christ I love that game), and depicted as shelled and partially knocked-out. The intact emplacement on the left in the bottom pic is going to be getting a twin-AC/10 emplacement later. I really wanted to get a kind of “churned and barraged” feel, so I referenced a couple paintings of WWI battlefields for the ground colors on the main emplacement. You can also see a partly-overgrown crater with bits of a tree in the foreground of the piece.

Airbase step 2

For the main buildings, I rooted out one of my old ERTL Space Shuttle kits for the EuroLab components and the  GPS satellite payloads (I’m converting the Shuttles themselves into mini-Leopards, but that’s another post) to make the Quonset huts and barracks. The Command Center is a fighting deck from a Warhammer 40k Basilisk that I’d converted to a direct-fire SP gun, along with a few resin scrap components and a Cardassian comm screen from an old Star Trek figure. All are mounted on 1/8″ foamcore. The beveling was done roughly with a sharp hobby knife.
The gate towers are each made from half a Toblerone package (which I’ve been wanting to do for ages), scrap from the “Storage Units” that I got from the Burn In Designs kickstarter as ‘Mech hangars, and bits from a trashed Mechwarrior DA figure I used for parts on an N-scale kitbash. The bay windows are simply cut from mini blisters. These are still waiting on internal floors for the third deck and some catwalks against the back wall, as well as armament for the towers. I’m focusing on the plastic buildings at the moment, so I can get as much as possible put away before doing any more heavy conversion lifting.

Airbase progress 10 Aug 2016Current status after base-coating.
I sealed the foamcore with PVA glue, then added sand and flocking with another couple coats of glue before spray-coating. No melting, so I must have done it well enough..
You may remember the turrets here from my casting tutorials (link to first post here). I’ve since converted a few of them to laser and missile turrets, as well as a massive mini-missile rack and a “mechaturm” based on the old German Panzerturms. The turret torso is from one of my own “Shortbow” custom FrankenMechs. The readout below is just for the “factory” option, since making a Franken proper is a massive pain in the ass.

Basically just slap an LRM-20 in each arm instead of those shitter ACs and you get a startlingly competent back-line fire-support unit.

Basically just slap an LRM-20 in each arm instead of those shitter ACs and you get a startlingly competent back-line fire-support unit. Enough sinks to fight, ammo for days, and no armor to speak of. It’s perfect!


Remaining for this project: Doll up the Burn In Designs modules and the Toblerone Towers, prep the power center and fuel farm (I have the parts, just haven’t put them together) and make a blast shield for droppers.

Quick Robotech Tactics update

Palladium finally put up the paper minis they’ve been promising for literally over a year on Drivethru RPG.

There are still problems with the assembly instructions, but those are also now up for every unit in the game instead of just a couple.  I’m hoping to find the time to print a few up and see how they look in a few, but right now I’m more interested in another project. More on that in a bit.

General update (BT, LotFP, RL)

Been away for a while, and while I’ve been getting a lot done in meatspace I just haven’t had the right kind of energy or focus for extensive writing these last few moons (I’ve still posted a bit on tumblr and the LotFP G+ groups, just not enough material/fucks to hack at the KB here for a while) . Not to mention, I haven’t been getting much if any table time in (although that’s changing), so there really hasn’t been much to write about.
Oh, and my fourth wedding anniversary is tomorrow.
So.. general update time.


On the blog front:
Went back and fixed some broken links as well as doing minor edits to a couple of posts as playtesting shakes out. Notably, Camo Specs Online (the BT color reference site) went down and had to completely restructure, so I had to fix all those links. I bumped all my drafts to the top of the queue to see what’s salvageable.
I’m also going to be revising the sidebar links and adding a few new cool people to the list, as well as removing dead sites. If you happen to see something let me know.

Kickstarter updates:
Got my copies of World of the Lost, Towers Two, and England Upturn’d. All are amusing in their own ways. Reviews as can be arsed.

Robotech RPG Tactics continues to be a mass clusterfucking event, with Palladium now weeping crocodile tears about how hard it is to make new sprue layouts while promising us the same shit they have been since Wayne stopped talking last year. Kevin got hit by a truck and people were celebrating in the comments because at least the header on the Pallladium updates changed for a week. I need to get a few more items before continuing work on the build reviews for the Archer/Spartan, Warhammer/Tomahawk, and Longbow/Phalanx.

The Skyway Project buildings are fucking awesome.

Gameplay updates:
Got my friend A. into BattleTech, and we’ve done a couple of training fights now as well as dicking around watching ’70s and ’80s Real Robot anime. Much fun was had, and BATTLETECH occurred

Ran a picaresque game with Scenic Dunnsmouth for my folks on the 4th, using the characters from the Thanksgiving game as well as a couple new rolls. It got cut off right after a Big Reveal ™, but at a place that allows adding or subtracting characters as necessary. Play report shortly, along with house rules in use.

Meatspace projects: (project logs in line for several of these)
I’ve successfully sorted nearly 20 years’ worth of loose papers – including DM notes, half-finished projects, dead campaigns, and reference files. All of my gaming books are likewise sorted. I built new display shelves for my desk out of a deceased bookcase, and I’ve cut the panels for a chemical and paint storage rack as well.

One of my friends bought a folk-banjo at an artist’s garage sale, and I’m pretty sure I can do one. So I’ve salvaged most of the materials and gotten some tools together; just need strings and elements for the neck. I’ll be blogging my progress as it goes.

Finished one large piece of 6mm terrain. It’s a busted wall based on the shore defenses in Ha Shih Dao in the first missions of Steel Battalion. I also mounted and prepped a half-dozen California Base Turrets, along with a surprise FrankenMech Mechaturm, a massive wall, an assortment of bunkered buildings based on the ERTL Space Shuttle labs and sattelites, and some Quonset huts.

Painted and/or prepped a huge number of models for the Black Widow project. Photos coming this afternoon.

Bought a hardcopy of The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh and soft-copies of various BT books (IntOps, CampOps, RS:Industrials, CM:Mercs).

I’ve built up some post-apoc minis for This is Not a Test, and grabbed an assortment of terrain. I also organized and repaired/re-stored all my modular terrain systems. I have a shitload of terrain.

Finished another few props for the local theater folks, including a Kodak Brownie 1880’s model and a couple of books.

Joined the local makerspace, and I’m likely going to be teaching a class on scratch-making half-timbred buildings for Mordheim and the like. Watch this space for deets.

Thanks for putting up with my shit. Have a shiny.

Thanks for putting up with my shit. Have a shiny.

For the Archive: Solaris Stable Tag Match (Battletech)

I was reminded of an old game mode I used to run years ago by a stray comment in /btg/ – Anon wanted to know what BV levels we preferred, and it came back in a flash.

The Stable Tag Match works best as a mid-season exhibition match or a semi-finals match if you’re doing a full-on AccountantTech Solaris season (and really, there’s no reason not to). It’s sort of a modified Grinder, but flashier, and it makes for a fun demo game. It’s also very much a make-or-break event for the smaller stables, where you have a chance to deal – or receive – crippling economic harm against the competition. I recommend playing it as a double-elimination tournament over a couple of weeks, but with small stables you can sometimes get away with running it as a full-day event.
There are also some other rules in here that I’ve used for most of my Solaris seasons, like the “Face/Heel” bonus purses (see Crowd Support).

First things first: you’ll need the April Fool’s joke product XTRO: Royal Fantasy. It reprints all the necessary material from the old Solaris VII boxed set for free, including the map-sheets. You can even print them off in double-size if you want to use Dark Age clix minis, which I’ve done in the past to kick up visual interest in the game. Alternately, you can try to hunt up the Solaris map pack, but that’s been out of print for a good while. The scenario was initially designed for the Steiner Coliseum, but I’ve also used it in the Reaches, the Jungle, and the Factory to good effect.

You’ll also need at least four tag-out markers. I’ve used bottlecaps (good beer makes for good Battletech), Blip markers, repainted Krazy Glue bottle protectors with an LED in the tip, and cardboard hex markers with the word “TAG” on them in large friendly letters.  You can also add 2-hex-wide doors, one per player (I used Space Hulk bulkheads) to the edges of the map, representing the entrances at the edges of the arena.

Hiring Duncan Fisher is advisable but probably prohibitively expensive.

Force Selection:
Matches may be ‘Mech-only, or mixed, at the option of the organizers. The points limit is the total fieldable BV of the smallest stable in the Season, or an arbitrary value between 2,000 and 5,000 BV.  If playing with Stables during a season, the smallest stable(s) use their entire available force. The other stables must field ‘Mechs or other combatants, to the nearest 250 points (NOTE: You can go over, but only if you don’t have any units with a BV lower than the overrun. This is to keep you from winding up 500+ points behind because you can’t quite squeeze in a Light).
For single matches, the forces chosen must all be under the points limit.

Special Rules:
Tagging Out: If a ‘Mech successfully lands a physical attack on one of the “TAG” markers, the ‘Mech is swapped out with another unit from the owning player’s stable at the beginning of the next turn. Vehicles, infantry, and battle armor need simply remain in the same hex through the physical phase. The new unit is swapped directly on the tabletop with the old one, being placed in the same hex but with any facing the player prefers.
Tag Markers count as one vehicle for stacking purposes. They may be inset into one of the walls in a cramped arena, such as Ishiyama, at which point non-Mech units need only spend the physical attacks phase adjacent to the marker to tag out in this case.

No Tag-backs: If the player has more than two usable units, a unit may not tag-out with the most recently-used unit.

Forced Withdrawal: A unit that has been subjected to Forced Withdrawal must retreat to a Tag Point; they may not retreat to their stable doors.

Destroyed and Surrendered Units: If a unit is destroyed, or surrenders on the field, the killing player gets one free Movement Phase. The player who lost the unit may then move its replacement onto the map from their Stable Door in the Movement Phase of the next turn.

Crowd Support: The usual rules for Crowd Support are in effect; players may not agree to ignore them for tag matches. In addition, track each player’s highest total support rating in each match. At the end of the tournament, the player who achieved the highest total score in any of the matches gets the “Viewer’s Choice” purse of 25,000 Cb per match in the tournament. You can also award Viewer’s Choice after each round in the tournament.
At the management’s option, in tournaments with more than two players you may also include a “Heel” award of 5-10,000 Cb for the player with the lowest Support Rating after each round or tournament.
Note that tagging out is NOT considered surrendering; in fact, the Crowd Support rating is increased by +1 on a successful tag, representing the crowd’s excitement to see a fresh warrior enter the battle.

Example: Emily has just finished a match in the Factory. Over the course of twenty turns, she scored mostly sixes and eights, but after a particularly spectacular kill in the twelfth round her total support rating went up to 14, before falling once again to average numbers. The GM notes down “Support: 14” next to her win on the ladder chart; this places her ahead of Mike, who got a 12 in a Jungle match in the previous round of the Tournament. Her lowest rating, a 5, doesn’t come close to Dennis’s low water mark of -3 (bad rolls, cockpit hits, and away crowds are unforgiving at times), so she’s still not in contention for the “heel” award. 

Optional Rule: If players successfully execute a “flashy” physical attack (DFA, Charge, pushing an opponent off the fourth floor of the Factory or cliff) they gain +2 Crowd Support instead of the usual +1.
Set Up:
The organizer places the Tag markers before the match begins. At least one should be in a concealed but difficult-to-reach location and one in a highly-visible spot; try to keep them roughly equidistant from each other. In the Steiner arena, you can also roll a d6 at the beginning of a round to see the squares in which Tag Points have popped up; there is a Tag Point on each of the related black numbers for the rest of the round. If combining this with pylons, rolling doubles means there are no tag points available, only pylons.
Place each of the Stable Door markers into two adjacent hexes on the edge of the map, spacing them out as far as possible. The Coliseum already has two stable doors; for three and four player matches, simply add two more on the far side of the map.

Each player writes down their chosen unit on a slip of paper, and then rolls initiative for the first turn. The chosen unit must enter the battlefield from the player’s Stable Doors. Play then proceeds as normal.
Stables have the option to surrender at any time after having one ‘Mech or vehicle destroyed, and must surrender if all their available units are currently subject to Forced Withdrawal. A Stable surrender is considered a loss for the round.

“The Forgotten”, Session 5 (Actual Play, LotFP)

Had an entertaining, if startlingly combat-free, session this week. Brother #3 (the good Doctor) managed to get a real weekend off for the first time in a while, and brought his fiancee. She’s never played, but was interested. One of the other players couldn’t make it (due to work), so she got to be hung-over all session.

As an aside:
I’m not sure if the Savage class is mechanically more attractive than the others, if it fills a particular evocative need, or if I just wrote it well, but for some reason around a third of my players in the three campaigns and one-shot sessions I’ve run have taken them (the rest are basically Specialists – there are a total of 3 Fighters and one Cleric out of over 20 characters rolled).

Anyway, brother’s fiancee set about hammering out a Savage of her own – a Polynesian shark-cultist, lost in a storm during his rite of passage, and wandering the seas as a navigator looking for home.

Andrew Wyeth - "Gust of Wind" from "The Black Arrow"


Where we left off:
Last session, Elizabeth discovered and purchased her father’s cabin boy in a slave market, deliberately concealing her reason by claiming him as an, ahem, “lady’s companion”. She quietly questioned him in the cabin about her father’s ship’s fate. He’d been thrown overboard from the Crow’s nest during a strangely-colored storm, and saved by a hunk of planking. The Corsairs picked him up and sold him out of Morocco, and he knew no more.

During the interview, the lookout and one of the PCs spotted a lion made of hellfire stalking along the coast towards the ship; they immediately weighed anchor and bailed for the Canaries. Three days out, they overtook a battle-in-progress between a Portugese carvel and a Corsair dhow. It was not going well for the merchants, who had been dismasted. There was a short argument amongst the crew about which flag to run up before they engaged, but eventually “French” won out. The Wind of Avarice‘s crew successfully sunk the pirate dhow, but blew up one of their own swivel guns with a misfire (mortally wounding a crew-man). The pirates had just enough momentum and position to ram and board; most of the Corsairs made it onto the carvel’s deck. The PCs closed and counter-boarded, sweping the pirates from her decks. Several misfires and an extremely successful Physic roll later, they recovered a half-dozen each of guns and blades, plus 8 prisoners, and saved two of their own crew as well as a mortally-wounded Portugese. For charity’s sake, they escorted the limping carvel back into her last port-of-call (their own destination as well), pulling in in the late afternoon.

The island’s governor begged off thanking the party and paying the bounty for the corsairs they had captured, citing “important business”. The Berbers were hauled off into the dock to await trial, and our “heroes” prepared to go get unrighteously pissed. Meanwhile, Sailing-master Michel set about finding materials for repairing the Wind‘s burst seams and mild hull damage from its repeated ramming adventures, and paying the ship’s tunnage taxes.

This session:
Conceding to the general mood, I fired up my Alestorm station on Pandora, because we’re well out of the territory for Berber music.
Also, apparently Alestorm has decided that they should do some Dimmu Borgir on the side (fast forward to 4:10 for the abrupt whiplash into full-on Swedish Death mode, then at 6:20 they’re back in Scottish Pirate, and shift off to power metal in the ~6:40 range..)

As we began play, Hernando’s player was slightly crestfallen when I pointed out that they hadn’t actually committed any acts of piracy per se – just sex trafficking, slave trading, smuggling, murder, fraud, grand larceny, sales by defraud, tampering with the fabric of Reality, more murder, providing aid and comfort to a fugitive, probable accessory to regicide, incitement to riot, arson, mayhem and maiming, torture, desecration, and espionage.
In five fucking sessions, I might add.
On the bright side, they don’t have any active governmental death-warrants yet, so there’s that.

Anywho, the party immediately decided to split up, which would have been a bad idea if my random encounter dice hadn’t had other ideas. Seriously, 12 rolls and no encounters? What the shit.

• Doctor Byron: CAROUSING TIME! He burned over 400sp, making a contact with the local “crimelord” and acquiring a dose each of purple, white, and crimson lotus, a bottle of something resembling habu-sake but with a frog inside, and a vial containing a sticky neon-orange oil (a curare extract). He was instructed not to take any of them in combination, and “don’t make any plans” for the day he used the frog-booze. He also picked up a useful rumor: there’s a pirate base somewhere to the North, and they should stay outa them waters if they don’t want a fight.
He passed out drunk in the rafters of the inn, there to stay the night.

• Hernando: Has been feeling increasingly itchy since he read a certain book during the Forgive Us run. He unpacked the Black Eagle, determined to use a combination of threats and a crowbar to extract magical knowledge from it (Bonus points for roleplaying a fighter with a tragically low Wisdom, I suppose). Unfortunately, after a badly-failed saving throw, he passed out; dreaming of a great black eagle with the face of a man ripping at the top of his skull, he took a couple points of Wisdom damage. Waking up, he wrapped it in an iron band, roped onto the steering-anchor, and hucked it into the harbor. This is clearly going to go well for him..
He awoke covered in fur, and spent most of the morning shaving.

• Brygytte: Got tanked, got into a pit-fight alongside Ol’ Roy, and won. Down 3 HP, up 300sp (mostly in jewelry and small coin). She came back to the ship shortly thereafter: during the fight, she’d heard rumors of mysterious stranglings each night in the town. All were known “trouble-makers”, but no-one on a ship or outside the town’s walls had been taken. No-one was sure who the culprit was, though all and sundry believed that deviltry was afoot *gesture to avert the Evil Eye*.

• Elizabeth: Tapped one of the remaining whiskey-tuns, leaving with a cask of whiskey, and bought a chicken. She asked one of the local urchins to take her to the “most respected grandmother” in town, but the urchin (blowing his reaction roll) decided to take her to the most-feared grandmother – Mama Odie’ – before fleeing. Mama was currently preparing to cast a divination for a strapping young Polynesian man; Elizabeth hailed him in (almost) his native tongue, and asked after his business. They chatted briefly while the houdoun did her thang, coming up with the prophecy “Travel with this woman, and you shall find your long-sought home“.
Elizabeth then made offerings to Mama for guidance; one set of boxcars later (given her CHR and gift modifiers, it was more like a 15..), and after providing the priestess with a “thing of him” – E’s father’s diary – she began casting the ritual again.

Seek the Violet sky.
Offer the sky a fish, and a bird to the sea.
Lay eyes on no man
for a night and a day.
The place you seek you soon shall see

The business transacted, Mama Odie proceeded to get roaring drunk, offering Elizabeth an interestingly-filgreed skull, which she claimed was a trapped spell (a scroll of Palsied Affect). Elizabeth returned home at a “seemly” hour, and slept the sleep of the non-damned.

• Two sailors disappeared during the night.

Re-united in the morning (well, other than Byron’s drunk rafter-sleeping ass), the PCs discussed their next course of action. Hernando, Brygitte, and the silent Polynesian grabbed a few samples of the furniture they’d jacked from the thieves’ guild in Tangiers, looking to sell it off at the sugar plantation outside town. On the way, Byron noticed that the workers appeared to be restive – bunching into small groups, working very slowly, and talking amongst themselves a bit much.
After being rudely rebuffed by the butler (“We don’t accept *sniff* peddlers here, sirs”), they managed to hail the young bounder in charge from the yard. Following another very positive reaction, he offered to buy their furniture and whiskey, and sell them un-processed cane at a very favorable rate – provided these charming adventurers gave him their tales. Cue in-character exposition to get brother’s fiancee up to speed… “Alonso”, the given name of the young master, seemed particularly interested in their harrowing and almost completely false account of their escape from  Marseilles (which also omitted their wizardly encounters in that city, and the other magic items they’d acquired).
Byron recognized the gentleman as being an agent of the Queen of France, in this Portugese port, and offered to discuss “personal matters” with him in French. After the PCs alerted him to the brewing unrest, he requested that they take a letter to his “associate” Bernardo Larriva, in a small tower on the northwest of the town.
Brygitte and the Polynesian returned to the ship to organize a working-party, quietly preparing the ship for action under cover of unloading the cargo.

Bernardo turned out to be a ferrety, whispering man with sharp white streaks in his red hair and many dueling scars – including a ragged slash across his throat. He accepted the letter and informed the PCs that they’d “know when he needed them”. He also passed a successful Sleight of Hand roll…

The night passed rather uneventfully, though one of the lookouts sighted three black sails coming from the Northeast, which slipped around a headland in the early morning.

Items of business:
• The governor is probably butthurt about several minor diplomatic insults.
• Slave revolts gonna slave revolt.
• The ship’s crew is perilously short of extra hands, and she still needs to finish her repairs before leaving “civilization” (such as it is).

GM tracking info. Feel free to disregard.
Price index:
Rum, other alcohol up 20%. Food down 10%. Luxury clothing down 12%. Luxury furniture up 10+%. Others as Rural or rolled as necessary.

Ship’s armory (not including PC weaponry):
2 swivel guns, 8 breeches (requires 10 shots’ worth of powder per shot)
1 light cannon, with 20 balls (requires 25 shots’ worth of powder per shot)
3 linstocks
9 50-shot casks of gunpowder, plus 30 shot’s worth in an opened cask
Four-stone-and-five of lead
10 match-lock calivers and muskets (all loaded and prepped)
2 flintlock pistols
100 feet of match-cord

Current haul/cargo status:
~50gp worth of silk clothing, packed in chests (2500 silver shillings) (smuggling hold)
20t of unprocessed sugar-cane (20 gp/1000sp)
1t of grain and biscuit (1gp/50sp)
1 tapped tun of fine whiskey (smuggling hold)
1 untapped Tun of rum
4 bottles of good French wine (sent as a “tip” by “Alonso”)

1 curious eikon of Solomon, adorned in Arabic characters.
1 magic bird, who is apparently a giant asshole.
1 sheaf of extremely incriminating blackmail papers on assorted Tangierines
1 sheaf of accounting records for the Tangierine theives’ guild.
3 charts of assorted clarity and value; one appears to be a treasure map pointing to a location to the NW of the island they’re currently docked at.

70 pieces of gold (3500 sp)

Crew (current, reflecting casualties and roster changes):
Captain Hernando Velasques
Doctor Wm. Byron
Quartermistress Lady Elizabeth
Sailing-Master Michel St.-Jourdain (NPC, 2nd-level Specialist with 5d in Sailing-craft, 3d in Languages)
L’t. of Marines Brygitte Benoit (Henchman)
Cabin Boys Ol’ Roy and William Holt (official position: Catamite to ship’s quartermistress)
Marines – 1 1st-level Specialist, 1 1st-level Savage (both currently unnamed ><)
Sailors – 19 able-bodied, 3 wounded.
Civilians – Malika bint-Gifar (wife of Hernando, NPC, 0-level Specialist or is she?)

A Sample Mage, using my generator from earlier (LotFP, NPCs, Spoilers)

Spoilers for my players under the jump. Plz to go away, thank you.


So, this is one of the mages I made for last week’s session, using that generator from the last post plus some of the other stuff I’m working on..

Tables for Creating Low-Level Wizards & Other Fools who Would Tamper With the Skeins of Fate (LotFP/D&D).

Harry Clarke - The Snow Queen

Harry Clarke – The Snow Queen

In addition to my generators on Last Gasp (Wizardly Schools and First level Spells for LotFP wizards), I’ve been working on a full NPC speed-generator for mages, to go with a more general NPC supplement I’m writing. I used it last week for generating a couple towns and their conflicting magical populations. I’m retaining copyright on this one, mostly because I’m hoping to publish – but with a creative-commons attribution non-commercial license if ya want to use it.

Here’s the current draft document:
So, if you don’t know if this town is the kind of place that attracts Reality Warpers, roll on the first table. If you already know who’s there, or you’re just generating an NPC, skip the first table. If you don’t know their level, roll 1d6 at the end, adding mentor/school modifiers

Is there a wizard?
  (Roll 1d8, +2 if in a thaumocracy, +1 if inside a city (5000+ citizens). Note that these modifiers are cumulative. In a large city, roll once  for each major ward or district)

  1. No
  2. No
  3. Hedge-mage/shaman/goodwife of power
  4. Hedge-mage &c.
  5. A Magic-user
  6. A Magic-user
  7. A Wizard (see “Seclusium of Orphone” and “Isle of the Unknown” for more information on the distinction between Wizards and Magic-users. Loosely, “Magic-users” use magic, “Wizards” ARE magic)
  8. Several of them (1d3 to 1d6, at your discretion)

Are they part of a cabal?

  1. Yes. Several of them. Someone’s going to be in trouble soon… (roll twice on the table, taking both results. Keep rolling if you keep getting ones..)
  2. Yes, and the cabal has powerful rivals; they’re in an active turf war
  3. A secular secret society, not limited to Magi
  4. Yes, and it’s (roll 1d6): 1-3 – riven by internal conflict, 4-6 – stable – for now. Magi being what they are, of course, they’re still jockeying quietly for advantage.
  5. Yes, and this mage is in charge (+1 level, may have missions for or claims upon a PC mage)
  6. No, but they have a rival with whom they are as friendly as wizards get.
  7. No, and they have a rival who’s a powerful enemy
  8. No, and they’ve pissed off a cabal or society
  9. No, and they’re at war with another independent
  10. No, and they were cast out of one
  11. No, and they’re in a position of public power (secular or religious)
  12. No, and they’re hiding from one (other than the Church)

How did they learn their skills?

(Roll 1d10 for Magi in rural or heavily chaos-tainted areas, roll 1d20 for cities or larger, add +1 if there’s a major thaumocracy or city in the area. Roll 1d6+2 for Wizards.)

  1. Raised in a local tradition (themed spell list, little ambition, but unlikely to be set afire. Roll 1d6 – on a 1-4, ignore the “why aren’t they on fire” table, and treat as “locals approve” )
  2. Local Tradition (as 1, above)
  3. They’re self-taught (all spells rolled randomly, seeks magical information and knowledge more aggressively, lower a level)
  4. Self-taught, (As 3, above. If a wizard, he was created by an Item of Power)
  5. Pacts and Infernal contracts (Must bargain a thing of supernatural value to learn further spells. Constantly looking for ways to pay that don’t hurt themselves.)
  6. Feyblooded (no iron in their home, despises gulls, gets a +2 on all rolls to learn spells, but can’t roll again. Ever.)
  7. Possessed (Uses demonic abilities, cannot learn new spells. Turning has a chance of removing the demon)
  8. Plasmically conceived (Learns spells instinctively; cut research times in half, but gains no benefit from a library.)
  9. They had a mentor (roll on the Mentor table, gains some free magical nexus or trinket as a gift)
  10. As 9, above
  11. They killed their mentor (roll on mentor table, gains 1d3 nexii/trinkets, add a level)
  12. Their mentor was killed by a rival (gains an enemy)
  13. They escaped their mentor (may be hunted – roll on Relationship table)
  14. They mentor another wizard (+2 levels. Roll another wizard, skipping this table, of level 1d3; roll for the student on “mentor” and “mentor relationship” tables)
  15. As 14, above
  16. Poached from their mentor by another wizard or school
  17. Tutored in a school or cabal, and they were expelled
  18. School/Cabal, still in tutelage (-1d3 levels)
  19. School/Cabal, still in tutelage (-1d3 levels)
  20. School/Cabal, graduate
  21. School/Cabal, graduate
  22. Yes, and they’re in charge (+1d3 levels)

Mentor sub-table

  1. Mentor was kind, but incompetent (-1 level, minor magical trinket or tool)
  2. Mentor was kind and competent (+1 level, minor trinket/tool)
  3. Mentor grew bored and cast them out (-1 level)
  4. Mentor was ruthless and cruel, but competent (+1 level, gain a spell of cursing)
  5. Mentor was ruthless and cruel, but incompetent (-1 level)
  6. Still under tutelage (-1 level)
  7. Actively plotting to kill or usurp mentor. May attempt to enlist PC aid.
  8. Tried to kill, but failed (Under a curse, seeking to lift)

Relationship with mentor?

  1. Respect, genuine
  2. Respect, grudging
  3. Raw hatred
  4. Subtle hatred
  5. Resentment
  6. Fear (even if he’s dead. ESPECIALLY if he’s dead)
  7. Lovers, or similar physical/metaphysical desires. (Roll again on the table to find the mentor’s opinion on the matter..)
  8. Fondness
  9. Condescension
  10. Apathy
  11. Curiosity (“where are they?”, “are there secrets they didn’t teach me?”, etc.)
  12. Mentor or student is unwillingly enspelled (Roll 1d6: 1-4 – student, 5-6, mentor)

Why isn’t the mage on fire?

(In a Thaumocracy, roll 1d12 – this is how they’re maintaining their own power against their rivals.)

  1. Political favors/blackmail (to include providing black magic services, enchantments, or implicating the “patron” in their own crimes)
  2. Stealth and concealment of powers
  3. Vulgar displays of power (raw fear. This wizard probably isn’t long for the Mortal Coil)
  4. Subtle displays of power (targeted curses, illusionary omens, &c)
  5. Has ensorcelled locals (strategic charm spells, keeps them under threat of a death-curse, etc)
  6. Has ensorcelled major official or patron
  7. Wizard is laying low, hiding from a warrant, rival, or lynch mob in a nearby place
  8. Kills all inquisitors and challengers, subtly
  9. Kills inquisitors and challengers, extremely unsubtly
  10. Powerful magical defenses (Sanctum, magical traps, summoned creatures, extradimensional bolthole, etc.)
  11. Powerful mundane defenses (Bodyguards, army, traps, fortified home)
  12. Political power (Wizard uses an official position as cover, or is shielded by a powerful patron)
  13. Owns or provides an indispensable service (widespread blackmail, providing protection against a greater threat than himself)
  14. Stealth and concealment of powers
  15. Locals know there’s a wizard, and they’re trying to find him (Adventure hook!)
  16. Locals don’t care, government cares (this can change rather abruptly depending on the wizard’s behavior or omens, plagues &c.)
  17. Locals disapprove, government doesn’t give a damn  – and is suppressing witch-hunts (Locals may attempt to hire PCs to assassinate)
  18. Local citizens are down with witchcraft, government does not approve (Locals will be actively obstructive)
  19. Citizens and government approve of witchcraft (Possibly on the way to a thaumocracy?)
  20. Lies (roll again on this table)