Monday, May 19, 2014

Grinding to a Halt: Battle Maps

With my recent uptick in presenting audio RPG enjoyment to the masses, I’ve also come across a few stumbling blocks pertaining to the hobby, necessitating occasional bouts of serious audio editing. This has occasionally been warranted by a player ordering a pizza on mic, and henceforth potentially giving out his credit card number to the internet or, more frequently, the constant segments of dead air accompanied by miniature play with battle maps.
Let me preface the rest of this post by saying that I heartily enjoy battle maps, both as a player and a GM, and in games which employ them I find that my immersion level absolutely increases due to the additional visual stimulus. However, this is not the case for listeners of actual plays, unless there happens to also be a camera present and recording. For listeners, even listeners who happened to be there, the visual aid is gone, replaced by players either actively voicing their enjoyment of the visual aids, or staring dumbly at them; neither adding to the roleplaying in general or to the voices in the recording for the actual play.
I find that the extra stimulus for the players ends up slowing their reaction times and creativity, because they are busy converting what is shown on a table in front of them into three dimensions, rather than working from a constant mental narrative. There is also the difficulty in some players making the full transition into three living, breathing, dimensions, and thus are stuck in what I am going to call the Chess Mentality, where pieces can only move in certain ways and act in certain ways.

This is, of course, partially to be expected in games where combat mechanics work through very structured rulesets, where x number of feet translates into y number of squares. However, this thought process tends to ignore the z axis entirely. Players assume the roles of their static, plastic (occasionally metal), posed figures, rather than using them as a stepping stone for their own roleplaying. Eventually this thought process became the norm, and we began designing games with that concept in mind, creating imaginative terms, powers, feats, and skills for jumping over an enemy or running up the side of a wall, rather than having a player ask a question like “What if I were to slide between the giant’s legs and try to end up on his back side?”
As stated above, don’t take this to mean that I dislike miniature combat or battle maps. They do offer wonderful visuals for players, good reference points for hand-drawn maps, dimensions, etc., but I’m curious to see what a combination one could manage with a part imagination part map game, where you draw maps, but to a smaller scale than the players’ miniatures, so that they can have an idea of how they are moving, and where they are going, but at the same time not just be moving pieces along a board game.
I hope to test out this theory sometime. Hopefully it’ll cut down on some of my audio trimming time.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Actual Play: Pathfinder’s Mummy’s Mask Episode 02

This week we continue with the Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path! This session players progressed through a few rooms of the Tomb of Akhentepi, and encountered some truly horrible creatures. Good times.
Jesse - Solaire, Human Paladin
Jade – Rukka, Tengu Oracle
Russel – “Farmer” Farmair, Dhampir Inquisitor
Buck – Beduir el Siwat, Human Rogue
Susan – Ipera Blue-Eyes, Half-Elf Bard
Sir Not Appearing this Week:
Shane – “Ginger-Forge” Smakkerson, Dwarf Ranger
David Schimpff

20/20 Hindsight Note: The party TPKs in this episode and I stopped running d20 systems for two years after this. Just FYI.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Actual Play: Pathfinder’s Mummy’s Mask Episode 01

This past Thursday I began what will hopefully become a weekly Pathfinder game, running friends through the Adventure Path Mummy’s Mask. In this session, players convened in Wati, the half-dead city, and entered the lottery to see which part of the necropolis they would have the pleasure to loot, for fun and profit.
Shane – “Ginger-Forge” Smakkerson, Dwarf Ranger
Jade – Rukka, Tengu Oracle
Russel – “Farmer” Farmair, Dhampir Inquisitor
Buck – Beduir el Siwat, Human Rogue
Susan – Ipera Blue-Eyes, Half-Elf Bard
David Schimpff

20/20 Hindsight Note: The party TPKs in the second episode and I stopped running d20 systems for two years after this. Just FYI.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Iron Kingdoms RPG: Multi-attacks

So I've been pondering Iron Kingdoms RPG for a few days now, mainly because it's been more than a week since my last game and I made a decision at the end of my previous session that, despite my absolute love for warjacks, I would instead focus on giving my character, Benjaemin Gallaster IV, as many attacks per round as humanly possible.
Looking at the rules, this turns out to be a shit-ton.
To start things off right, Benjaemin is a Skilled Human Duelist/Aristocrat.
Attack 1 (Base): Characters in Iron Kingdoms make one attack during their activation
Attack 2 (Skilled): A Skilled character gains an extra attack during his Activation Phase if he chooses to attack.
So far so good. Two attacks right off the bat, and using a Repeating Pistol means that I can go up to 5 attacks with a one-handed weapon. POW 10 isn't really much to cheer about, but that can be somewhat fixed by Virtuoso. Regardless, I decided to move on and select Two-Weapon Fighting as an ability from my Duelist career.
Attack 3 (TWF): While fighting with a one-handed weapon in each hand, the character gains an additional attack for the second weapon. He suffers a -2 on attack rolls with the second weapon while doing so.
Bam. Third attack. While TWF has an Agility requirement of 4, anyone worth their Skilled archetype takes as much Agility as possible. The -2 on attack rolls can be problematic, but if you sacrifice your move action to aim, well, that pretty much negates that bad bit of business. Also, as a skilled character I have the option in the future of taking Ambidextrous, which negates that penalty. Continuing! For my third career I decided to go with Rifleman, as he has this wonderful ability called Dual Shot.
Attack 4 (Dual-Shot): The character can forfeit his movement during his turn to make one additional ranged attack with a pistol or rifle.
There are a couple hitches in this situation, I'll grant you. First, you have to be using a ranged weapon. Second, when you sacrifice your move for the additional attack, that means you're not getting an aiming bonus. However, if you're fighting something with a low DEF, whether naturally or just due to some crippled values, you can get off four shots at it, and only ONE has to be at a -2 RAT.
Now for some conditionals. You'll notice here that I'm currently sitting at 4 attacks on my activation. As a Duelist, I also have the option to take Quick Work as an ability. This will be my last on-activation attack, but gets me up to 5 attacks per round.
Attacks 5-6 (Quick Work): When this character kills one or more enemies with a melee attack during his combat action, immediately after the attack is resolved this character can make one ranged attack.
Of course, this means sacrificing one of my hands so it holds a melee weapon, but if I'm facing 2-shot enemies I can soften them up with a pistol shot, stab it to death, and then make another ranged attack against another enemy in range. Also, interestingly enough, Quick Work can activate multiple times per round, so if you're surrounded by foes you may get a few more shots in.
Base Attack: Shoot
Skilled Attack: Stab (kill enemy, gain feat point)
Quick Work: Shoot 2nd enemy in melee
Two Weapon Fighting: Stab (kill 2nd enemy, gain feat point)
Quick Work x2: Shoot 3rd enemy in range
Dual-Shot: Shoot (and kill?) 3rd enemy in range (gain feat point)
There you go, up to 6 attacks per combat activation. Of course, this requires the Gunfighter ability as well. Also, you can possibly combine this series attack with an ability like Swift Hunter, which allows you to move 2" every time you incapacitate an enemy with a ranged attack, potentially getting you into more melee situations and Quick Work potentialities.
Now onto off-turn attacks.
Riposte: Once per round when this character is missed by an enemy's melee attack, immediately after the attack is resolved he can make one normal attack against the attacking enemy.
Return Fire:  Once per round when this character is missed by an enemy's ranged attack, immediately after the attack is resolved he can make one normal attack against the attacking enemy.
First of all, note that neither ability specifically states that you must respond with a particular type of attack. If you're able, it's possible to respond to a ranged attack with a melee attack, and vice versa. However, note that abilities like Quick Work only activate on your turn, not on an opponent's turn.
So there you go. At first when I started playing my Skilled Duelist/Aristocrat I felt like I'd made some kind of mistake, opting to go for a middle of the road sucker rather than someone powerful. I've changed my own mind about that, at least.