Saturday, August 27, 2016

Miniaturizing Four Against Darkness

It has been a while since I last played a game with actual miniatures (April to be precise). Since then, I've become enamored with Four Against Darkness, which allows me to play quick and easy dungeon crawls without physical components. However, I've been hankering for some miniatures. To that end, I orderd a Paizo Pathfinder flip-mat and some wet-erase pens. Tonight, I pulled out some old minis and played a game.

 Early in the dungeon, they come across a troll (that looks suspiciously like a lizard-man)

Later they fought an ogre (that looks suspiciously like the troll that looks like a lizard-man).
Here is the "completed" dungeon. I did not map it all out, having decided to head for the exit before I visited all the rooms.

The complete battle report is over at my Tales of the Templars blog.

All-in-all, I have to give the Paizo mat a thumbs up. It fit perfectly on the coffee table and the pen erased easily. It may have durability problems down the line as it is just heavy paper that's been laminated. There are also folds that caused some difficulties with the miniatures. These issues did not detract from the mat's overall usefulness, and it was certainly easier than making a bunch of room tiles.

My biggest problem is a lack of miniatures for various monsters. I substituted (the lizard-man stood in for multiple monsters). I could try to pick up more of the D&D pre-paints. However, I think they may be a little large for the grid. I started an experiment with Perfect Six 6mm fantasy miniatures but feel they are a bit too small. Perhaps I'll experiment with 10 or 15mm, some day.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

TADS Encounters

In my last post, I discussed my character class templates for TADS (Two Against Dark Space, my Four Against Darkness variant).

Now that I had my character classes, I began to tweak the encounter tables. My intention was to keep the tables and results the same but just change the names of the enemies. For example, the minions table now includes enemies like Imperial legionnaires, rampaging robots, mutants, etc. However, I find that I am slowly veering away from a straight one-to-one translation.

For one thing, my characters are not exploring a dungeon but instead are searching the galaxy. This change was inspired by Knight of Destiny. Each encounter takes place, not in a room, but in a different planetary system. I started rolling to determine if the system was inhabited or not. Uninhabited systems would use the corridor encounter table, which has a lesser chance of an actual encounter. I am now planning to roll for 3 levels of planetary systems - uninhabited worlds (Class 3), frontier worlds (Class 2), and civilized worlds (Class 1). Ultimately, I intend to create different encounter tables depending on the system class. Class 1 worlds will have more encounters with humans and humanoids (such as Imperial guardsmen or corrupt planetary officials, etc.) while Class 3 systems will feature stranger aliens and natural hazards.

For now, however, I am creating a more straightforward translation. For example, orcs (D6 roll = 4 on the minions table) are now Imperial guardsmen. They still are Level 4 with the number appearing = D6 + 1 (although I dropped their "no magic" bias. By the way, I find it pretty easy to change magic into technology. A fireball staff just becomes a heavy blaster!).

Anyway, you can see my initial attempts at my Tales of the Templars blog.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Two Against Dark Space Characters

A week ago I mentioned a few ideas that I had for Four Against Darkness variants. I realized that if I ever wanted to develop them, I needed to start with one. I had to make a decision, and the winner was . . . Space Templars.

Over the past week I have been jotting down ideas to convert 4AD to a sci-fi setting (or, more specifically, to my sci-fi setting). I am also planning to use 2 characters instead of 4. To distinguish this variant from the parent rules, I have dubbed it as Two Against Dark Space.

My first challenge was to convert my existing Space Templar characters to 4AD rules. In some cases, it should be pretty straightforward - warrior = soldier, cleric = physician, wizard = scientist, and a rogue =, well, a rogue. However, my characters don't translate directly. Rugen is a Templar (sort of like a Jedi knight) while his companion Tee is an android. How should I define them? Here is what I came up with:

  • Templar – a mystic warrior like the Jedi. It will be a Warrior sub-class
    • Armed with a laser sword (slashing 1-hand weapon)
    • + Level to attack
    • + Level /2 to defense (using mystic powers to deflect attacks)
    • May only use light armor
    • Does not use firearms – as a result must spend first turn closing with the enemy, if they have firearms
    • LP = 6 + Level

  • Android – a human-like artificial life form. Because of its contruction, it should do well in battle but also have excellent cognitive skills
    • Armed with a laser pistol
    • + Level to attack
    • + Level /2 to defense (due to titanium construction)
    • + Level to solve puzzles or riddles (like a Wizard due its large database and processing power)
    • Can repair itself for D6 lps once per adventure
    • LP = 4 + Level

I think it would be logical to make the android even more powerful (e.g. better defense and more life points) but I don't want the class to be too overpowered. I think these characters are a little more powerful than the base classes, but I'm fine with that because I'm only using 2 characters. I'm also giving each character 3 stimpacks or repair kits (i.e. bandages) each to help balance the game.

Because my characters have previous experience (using different rules) I decided to start them out at level 2.

I was now ready to move onto the encounter tables, which I'll discuss in my next post.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

4AD Inspiration

As you may have noticed from my lack of blog posts, I stopped playing Four Against Darkness. One reason, I believe, is that I found dungeon-crawling a bit stale. I am specifically referring to a group of characters exploring a dungeon filled with a variety of monsters. Dungeons have often felt a bit artificial to me. Playing The Knight of Destiny has rekindled my interest in the 4AD system because it takes it out of the dungeon and into the wider world. Since I picked up KOD, ideas for variants have been popping up into my head.

  1. Space Templars - Way back when, I started a solo sci fi rpg campaign featuring 2 members of the "Space Templars" (not 40K by the way). I'm thinking of using a 4AD sci fi variant to continue their adventures. I could use the KOD framework of the heroes searching for some priceless and powerful artifact. In this case, however, they will be traversing the galaxy instead of the English countryside.
  2. Time Cats - While considering how to rope my wife into playing miniature games, I asked her which setting she would prefer. Her answer has given rise to the idea of Time Cats. I think 4AD / KOD would be an effective way to run such adventures.
  3. Thrilling Adventures - I already tested out a 1930s pulp variant of 4AD but I haven't played any more adventures because I've basically had dungeon-creator block. I just don't know what kind of adventure / dungeon they should explore next. (Besides, I usually fill my pulp cravings with Fortune & Glory).
I'm planning on using the current 4AD / KOD rules as templates for encounter tables for the above themes. I just haven't had time to work any out.

I do miss playing miniature games and have been thinking of miniaturizing 4AD. I picked up some of the Perfect Six minis but haven't managed to paint them yet. I do have some D&D prepaints and may press those into service instead. I just ordered a battle mat so I can draw out the dungeons. Looking forward to some experiments!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

More Thoughts on The Knight of Destiny

I completed my first game of Ganesha Games' The Knight of Destiny. I give a report on my Tales of the Templars blog.

After a full game, what are my feelings?

  • It does a great job of evoking the atmosphere of Arthurian legends. The encounters that my character faced seemed appropriate for the theme.
  • As I mentioned in my initial thoughts, random encounters seem more appropriate and more logical for wandering the countryside as opposed to exploring a dungeon.
  • It uses the Four Against Darkness base rules, which allow for quick and easy resolution of combat.
  • It creates wonderful, coherent stories. One reason I like solo gaming is the opportunity to write up the story of the battle or adventure. My adventure with Sir Rowan seemed tailor made for telling the tale.
Neutral (could be a pro or con depending on your preferences)
  • KOD strikes me as more challenging than 4AD. Your character may find himself facing a difficult opponent all alone whereas 4AD pits a group against the boss. This makes boss fights more difficult in KOD.
  • KOD is less concerned with accumulation of treasure and more about saving the kingdom. If you like playing a hero (as I do) then this objective will be more satisfying than 4AD's hunt for treasure.
  • My character seemed more subject to the whims of fate, with less chance to make decisions that matter.
    • Mapping the dungeon in 4AD gives a sense of decision-making and control. Do I go this way or that way? Of course, due to the random nature of encounter determination, it doesn't really matter which way your characters go, but it does make it feel like your in control. In KOD, there is no mapping so the encounters seem thrust upon you as opposed to choosing your fate. Admittedly, you can make some decisions (e.g. if I roll a 1 on the Journey table my character may go to the inn or seek an encounter). In my adventure, the chooses were pretty cut-and-dry, however, so it just felt like I had no decisions to make.
    • One aspect of 4AD that allows decision-making is the push-your-luck nature of the dungeon. When my characters are wounded, I need to decide when the characters should head back to the exit. Do they leave with their gains or try to do one more room? In KOD, your character is pretty much locked into the quest - either win (find the Grail) or die trying.
    • Resource management (especially with respect to healing magic) seems less subject to control in KOD. In 4AD, you need to decide when to expend the party's healing but in KOD you are dependent on finding an inn (on a random roll).
    • My assessment may be a little harsh. There are opportunities for decisions - certain rolls on the Journey table allow you to choose the path your character takes, resource management comes out in the hiring of retainers, gathering rumors will allow you to modify the results on the encounter table, giving you control over the type of encounter you face. I just had bad luck so I never had enough resources to hire many retainers or use rumors.
  • Battles vs. bosses took a lot longer than in 4AD. This is because my character and the boss had a lot of life points. With a 1-on-1 battle, attrition slowly whittled away those points over a number of turns. I'd like to see a mechanism to speed those battles up (perhaps allow multiple attacks per turn).
Overall Assessment
While I feel that there are pros and cons, will I play this game again?


Above all, this game creates wonderful stories. Some may not have nice, happy endings but they will be suspenseful and entertaining. And that is my main reason for solo gaming.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Knight of Destiny

My Initial Thoughts

When Ganesha Games released Four Against Darkness a few months ago, I bemoaned the lack of a paladin character class. Well, Ganesha has rectified that oversight with its new 4AD adventure, known as The Knight of Destiny.

KOD is an adventure set in Arthurian England. You play one of the King's knights questing for the Holy Grail. The game's random tables generate a variety of encounters that your character will need to overcome. I haven't finished a game yet but I assume that your character will either finish the quest and save Camelot or else rebellion shall destroy the kingdom.

KOD uses the base rules for 4AD. Encounters are determined randomly, based on a series of tables (although KOD has its own tables). To attack or defend requires a modified roll vs. the opponent's level. Minions typically have 1 life point so your character will usually steamroll through them. "Bosses" will require greater exertion to defeat.

There are a number of differences. First, you only play a single character instead of a party of 4. Your character may hire retainers during his or her quest, but they will likely only be temporary additions. Also, you are not exploring a dungeon; instead you are meandering through the English countryside. Finally, your goal is not the accumulation of wealth. Rather, you are shooting for something more noble - finding the Holy Grail and saving the kingdom.

So far, I am enjoying the game. I like having a single character instead of keeping tabs on an entire party. I also like the theme - I'm a fan of the legends of Arthur, the Round Table, etc. I also prefer the objective of saving the kingdom vs. naked acquisition (a point I discussed a couple of years ago).

One weakness of the 4AD staple of games is the randomness of the encounter tables. It is possible to get nonsensical or overly repetitive results. So far in KOD, I've been experiencing the latter, which has resulted in my feeling that my character is not getting anywhere. To be fair, though, the random tables are also a strength, as they create "fog of war" that make the game interesting. I must add that the tables seem to make more sense with KOD. I always found it a bit unnatural that a contained environment like a dungeon would house so many disparate creatures. A wide variety of encounters seems more realistic when your character is roaming through the countryside. While I have been a bit frustrated so far by the random encounters in my KOD adventure, I am not ready to eschew them altogether. In the long run, I believe that they'll work out fine.

I have started an adventure, which I am recording on my Tales of the Templars blog, As I progress through it, I will share more impressions of KOD.