Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Getting the Most Out of Solo Wargaming >> Plus Hil`s Musings on Solo Play!


When I was very young, I played quite intricate games with plastic toy soldiers; first with what I now know as 54mm Timpo knights in armour and Cowboys and Indians, and later on with the Airfix ho/oo sets of figures. I think I had everything from Queen`s Guard Bandsmen, Modern Civilians, WWI, WWII, Napoleonics, American War of Independence, American Civil War, Romans and Ancient Britains, Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood, Arabs and Foreign Legion... and I believe there was even an Apollo Moon Landing set. Later on I collected the entire Airfix 54mm WWII range as well, and all this was long before I even knew there was such a thing as the `unofficial` body of hobbyists known as wargamers.

I was always inspired by war films as a kid, and I can remember thinking, as an enthusiastic 10 year old does, “Wow! I wish I could do that.” I think my own effort were always somewhat less spectacular than the films I`d watch on the telly, which were all viewed in black and white for most of us (unless your parents were rich enough to be able to afford a colour TV... which mine weren`t).

I don`t recall even using any proper rules to speak of. I used to make up simple little rules in my head using a single six sided die. If a little plastic man fired his gun: a 5 or a 6 was a hit (no thought was ever made to range) at which point I used to throw the die again: 1, 2, 3 and the figure had taken a flesh wound and was knocked over and was out of the game for a few minutes! 4 and the figure was seriously wounded and couldn’t fire his gun any more. 5 or 6 and the figure was clean K.O. and removed from the game!

I recall  artillery was conducted a little differently, and I`d either roll a few marbles from a yard or two away: or (as I got more sophisticated) by scrunching my hand into a fist, closing my eyes and spreading my fingers as wide as they would go and seeing how many figures fell over from the blast effect.

Similarly with melee, I`d pair off the figures (no such thing as 2 to 1 odds or such like) and throw a die: 1 or 2 and X side has scored a kill. 3 or 4 and neither figure hurt the other this turn. 5 or 6 and Y won the fight. Melees were always to the death in my games because as a kid I figured that historical close quarter fights must have been more vicious than ranged combat.

Actually moving the plastic figures was a matter of eye. The length of a fully stretched middle finger and thumb would suffice for most infantry, and double this for cavalry. Of course, the fingers used to stretch just-a-little-bit wider apart for my favourite pieces, or a newly purchased box of soldiers.

The first time I saw a real wargame was on a children`s program that used to be on TV back in the 1960`s and early 70`s - called "Magpie". The show`s team had invited some gamers into the studio to show the audience The Battle of Waterloo. That was it…. From that moment on, I think I spent every penny I had on buying up all the Airfix Napoleonic boxes I could lay my hands on (in those days, kids could buy these boxes of figures usually 48 to a box at the newspaper shops on the corner of any village street).

I must have replayed “Waterloo” the film version of course a hundred times and more.

I also remember seeing a British film and series called “Callan” about a cold war secret agent, and in the film (and pilot episode of the series) they played a few wargames with little painted soldiers. This really peeked my curiosity, but at the time, I still didn`t make the connection between watching something on telly and actually doing it myself.

My life changed when I discovered Solo Wargaming, and Skirmish Wargames by Donald Featherstone at my local library; sitting dusty and neglected at the far end of the hobby section. I wore those books out – literally, over the next four or five years and I remember that in the end the lady at the library gave them to me. But this was all the nucleus for my lifelong passion for wargames. I believe it is chiefly because I discovered Featherstone`s Solo Wargaming at such an early age (a more innocent age where such books were as rare as gold dust) that I continued my love of solo gaming throughout my early childhood... my teens... and way way into adulthood, and eventually into middle age.

It seems strange to me and totally incongruous with the notion of using ones imagination NOT to enjoy playing alone. With the advent of computers, I am always shocked nowadays to hear that we soloists are the tiny stoic minority and not the norm. I have read so many on line threads in sites where hobbyists simply don`t get it and shun the very notion of playing solo as... weird... alien... unsatisfactory or even impossible...

...“yeah I guess you could try it to test the rules or something” is the general line I`m used to reading when someone asks can it be done.

The general consensus of opinion is that it can`t be done, or if you try, it can`t be any fun.. or at most, it`s a way of learning the rules, but won’t help you to win a game against a real opponent.

WINNING!!!!

Most male hobbies seem to need to make the game all about winning. No... no... NO!!!!

If you want to win, play football, or watch motor racing, or take up a hobby that`s all just about either winning or losing... or play a standard wargame against an opponent. The subtle art of wargaming does not need to be competitive at all, and in this respect solo wargaming is the King of participation, and `wins` (ha ha) hands down every time over the base need to prove oneself as somehow better than the next person by thrashing them in a testosterone induced orgy of table top aggression.

The true subtle nuances of solo wargaming are: A) the ability to suspend disbelief, allows a deep immersion to soak in, and lets total imagination take over... like reading a good book, but one in which you have some say over the eventual outcome: B) playing solo allows you to enjoy the luxury of being able to absorb fully into your chosen subject, free from the fetters of time constraint or always having to consider an opponent and his/her wishes (i.e. you can be as selfish as you like and indulge your ever whim without ever having to worry about pleasing anyone else): and C) you never have to compromise what you believe to be right... which oh so often happens when you have to play a shared participation game with those who don’t always see eye to eye with your own views and beliefs. Only you know and admire that gallant captain of many past games, who somehow always manages to survive each battle, and who you have so aptly named Captain Endeavour L Morse (after your favourite TV show character), painted in favourite colours with no real regard to historical accuracy, but standing gallant and proud with one foot upon a rock as he carefully surveys the distant horizon for hidden dangers... why, in actual fact, he quite reminds you of yourself. No... to anyone else, he just looks like a tiny miniature naval marine boat officer, with a few shiny buttons painted on his collar to denote his rank. Pffft! Only YOU know who he really is and how important he is to your enjoyment.

Effectively, the solo gamer can wallow about happily in the hobby to his heart`s content; switching and changing rules (even mid game) without any fear of being accused of cheating or `not playing the game`.

I sometimes set up a game with no clear notion what the outcome might be, and just go with the flow and see what happens as ideas come to me. Try it sometime. For example, lets imagine a Victorian Lost World setting: just anchor a small (home made) steamboat on the bank of a nice wide river, place some appropriately positioned crew and marine complement on the boat and upon the shoreline (three, 4 man units should do the trick)... already my imagination is sparked by the notion that perhaps they have anchored to cut some wood to stoke the boiler... having unfortunately just run out of fuel.

Next, place lots of jungle foliage slightly inland. Yes, the natives round here are known for their ferocity, and seem to display an intense lack of tolerance for the white man.

Now have the marines run a race against time. Allow any marine who reaches the jungle tree line and who spends an entire turn doing nothing else but chop wood, to increase the fuel supply of the boat by 1 point (once he returns to the vessel of course). Once the boat has acquired 6 points of fuel, it is once again ready to steam away to safety and continue its journey up the Cango.

However, throw a D20 once every turn and -1 from the roll for each marine currently chopping wood (thus making lots of noise). If the roll if ever 10 or below, the natives will be alerted to the presence of the intruders and will immediately attack en masse.... let’s say, 20 or 30 natives, who will be evenly placed along the edge of the tree line on the first turn they are activated.
Hmmm, maybe there is a woman explorer/botanist on board the boat... and of course, she will need to be protected. Perhaps the boat has a maxim gun aboard, for added firepower? As ideas come to you, just add them to the game (even mid game), and before you know it, you`ll be totally lost in your little solo adventure. The scenario idea I mentioned above literally just came to me as I sat writing this. It’s really that easy. Not all games need to be fleshed out into a tome of background material...  though they can be, and are often a lot of fun to plan out properly in that way.

Of course, employ your favourite rules to play the type of game you like. Personally, I like simple rules that don`t interfere with the atmosphere I am trying to create in my head. The less rules the better, so long as they feel right to you. When I play solo, I tend to imagine myself the `director` of a film set. My miniatures are the actors, the scenery become the background props used to bring the story to life, and the game plot-line is the choreographed script the actors use as the framework to perform their parts in keeping with the piece.

You can play just about any era or genre of game you like as a solo experience, what ever your preferred tipple may be... is can be done. All of this can of course be totally applied to role playing games as well. But for this thread, I will just stick to talking about table top wargames using miniatures.

Because I mostly always like to play solo, I also like to make sure my games never become stale and too same-y. This can easily happen if you stick to just one or even two preferences. If, let’s say, you just stick to collecting and playing 1920`s/30`s Pulp era and WWII games, however much you try to maintain your enthusiasm, your interest will probably wane and eventually dry up... leaving that unsatisfied feeling, which is (from time to time) the bane of all gamer`s table top pleasure and staying power... not just soloists.

I like to collect miniatures and play games in multiple eras. Fantasy, Dark Ages, Medieval, English Civil War, French & Indian War, American War of Independence, American Civil War, Victorian, Colonial Africa, Colonial China, Victorian Steampunk, 20`s Pulp, Horror (especially H.P. Lovecraft), World War II, Zombie Apocalypse, Science Fiction, role playing games... such as Dungeons and Dragons, and even anime `chibi` rpg. Of course, you don`t need to go as mad as I do... I`ve been gaming all my life and have collected a heck of a lot of period interests in my 40 odd years of gaming. But I do advice that you try to ensure that when painting and playing with one favourite era starts to become dull and boring... set it aside for a while and turn to something else until your desire to pick it up again returns (as return it will). In this way, you will always have something new and fresh to enjoy. I find that I like to play about with one project for about a month or two at a time; and once I start to feel staleness creeping in, I quickly switch focus to something else. It’s not chopping and changing, it’s simply making sure you never lose interest in the hobby as a whole... which can easily become a bane in itself especially for solo gamers, who lack the bonus afforded to the more sociably inclined gamers who enjoy the hobby interaction of friends.

For me, the thing becomes a little more problematic because I choose to help run (co run) this blog, and also a few other websites and blogs so that others may enjoy (and hopefully become inspired by) what I do, so they themselves can go and do their own thing with renewed enthusiasm. I find a lot of my own enthusiasm comes from reading what others are doing. Gamers who share their passion in blogs and websites for others to enjoy are the life blood of soloists. But you can`t beat a good film to get you motivated and inspired either. A lot of my deepest imagination for putting together games comes from watching a great DVD. No wonder really that my collection runs into several thousand films and documentaries.

But no, switching interests mid creation is a problem when running your own website or blog, simply because anyone reading what you write, especially if they are following a series of articles (like a campaign for example) might easily become frustrated when... just at the exciting bit, the writer stops dead, and suddenly starts enthusing about some other aspect of the hobby entirely.

I agonized about this initially when we first started this site. But eventually came to the conclusion that it really didn`t matter too much. I myself have often followed some amazing blog threads, only to be disappointed when the blog owner decided to take a break, or started something else about an entirely different subject. I simply saved the site to favourites on my computer and checked back regularly, waiting patiently until the piece I was interested in was again resumed at a later date (after telling the author how much I enjoyed reading his stuff, of course... always polite to do so I think).

Another thing I think is important to solo gaming is to write an account of everything you do. This can be a personal journal with some digital photos pasted in to remind yourself of your hobby progress, to a full blown `suspension of disbelief` in game narrative campaign diary, detailing every battle report that takes place along the way. The more you breathe life into your creations, the more enjoyment you will ultimately receive from your own efforts. You don`t need to be a skilled writer to do this... I`ve read and enjoyed many amazing online campaigns written by `joe blogs` who possesses no especial skill for narration or writing style. But BOY have I enjoyed and appreciated every word they have written. It’s the EFFORT that counts, and no one is going to look too closely at how well a piece is written as long as it is exciting and sparks the imagination.

I like to do campaigns... yes, going back to chopping and changing, I suppose it must be frustrating for anyone else who reads something I write, only to have to wait ages when I stop mid flow and start on something else. But yes I DO very much enjoy campaigns. They allow me to do what I love most... narrate them into stories and inject lots of in-game photos and cameo scenes to bring everything to life; and in a way you simply can`t usually do with one off scenarios.


The solo campaign game allows you to immerse, dabble, cogitate, extrapolate, and enthuse massively about your chosen subject in ways very few group participation game sessions will allow (rpg being the exception of course). You can explore facets of interest that might bore an opponent to death if you were to include them in a face to face game with him. For example: the soloist can stop a battle mid game and take a bunch of photos (totally irrelevant to the game itself) but which satellites a small skirmish taking place between a single unit of infantry entering a building and an equally small opposition force. The solo gamer might pause the game for a couple of days, while he attempts to model the building (or even draw it on graph paper like rpg Dungeon Masters do for their Dungeons and Dragons), then take the encounter to another small side table... and fight the cameo out as an entirely skirmish affair involving just a few painted personality miniatures); only resuming the main game again once this fight has been fully resolved. The results of this small skirmish game might not be relevant to the main game in hand, but could massively influence the campaign in the long run. Perhaps one of the officers involved in that fight for the building was none other than the youngest son of the overall commander of the regiment. What if that son was fatally wounded in the fight... how would this affect the future mental state of the general in command? If you like your rules to allow for such things, all this can be easily factored in during successive games.

In another example: the solo gamer playing a campaign where a main force has entered deep into enemy territory, will have to keep a close eye on the logistics of supply; how is the commander in charge feeding his men, where are the men finding water... are they foraging as they go (this allows for lots of mini skirmish encounters with enemy forces.. each of which can literally be played out separately with just a few miniatures). One such mini encounter might entail a night time ambush as a small naval vessal quietly slips past the enemy blockading the entrance to the river estuary and makes its way stealthily up the water course to a prearranged rendezvous point. However, enemy intelligence is aware of this and come upon the shore party desperately trying to unload the much needed cargo while the boat captain makes ready once again to depart into the night. Perhaps turn the skirmish into a race for time. If the shore party can hold off the ambushing enemy for ten moves while they unload the cargo, and can escape off the edge of the board relatively unmolested, then they succeed in their mission. If not, the cargo is captured and the mission fails and the shore party and the boat are captured!

The possibilities are endless, and it can all be written up into a campaign journal, to be enjoyed and read even years later. It always brings a smile to my lips to read campaign write ups and battle reports I played out during the last twenty years or so; made much easier for me (I should add) by the invention of the word processer.

I shall try to add more to this subject in the future, as time allows. Hopefully some solo gamers will find some of it useful. I think it’s always nice to see how others are playing their solo games, if only to keep a rain check on the hobby as a whole.

More later........


Hil and me (Steve)
 
 
Hil`s musings on Solo Play.
Many gamers would call themselves `soloists` which is odd really (especially nowadays, when you`d think the world is shrinking and it has never been easier to find local groups and people to share with face to face), because, nowadays, it`s so easy to find others to play with if you really want to. Perhaps it really does boil down to "he who travels fastest, travels alone." Couple this with the fact that with the invention of the computer, and everyone now having readily available on line communication with other likeminded types: people have simply become much more used to `having opinions` which they can share from the comfort of their own homes. far more so than used to be the case once upon a time before computers took over the mass majority psyche of humanity as a whole. With this has grown an entire new strata of personal persona.. and self thinking, creating a generation of  `experts` (if only in self belief, most the time). Anyone now can have an opinion and share it with the world. You can go on line and tell total strangers what you like, what you don't like, what you believe and what you think is wrong with the world, what hobbies you follow, how you like to pursue the things which make you `tick` and so on and so forth. A lot of this information is valid, and darn useful, some of it is biased and unsound, much of it is not always very accurate (like Wikipedia), and some is down right funny in its silliness and self acclaim. Some is wonderful and very useful indeed; but bear with me a  moment.. I am going somewhere with this: why (when it has never been easier for gamers to find others to play with) do so many choose still, primarily, to remain soloists? 
I truly believe the answer lies in the access of the computer into our lives. We have all of us become more self aware (yet less self motivated), more openly opinionated (its easy now just to sit on your bum and write your thoughts for others to see), and also more critical, cynical, and dare I say... more insular. I have to add as well (just due to personal on line experience if nothing else), that people, in the hobby, have become far more negative as well. Just look at The Miniatures Page (TMP) for an example, flame wars, people writing endless negative replies to other gamers, with rarely anything nice to say about anyone or anything. Surely, all this has to have a knock on effect, and cause gamers like you and me, to hide behind the safety and comfort of our own walls, and remain soloists?
Some of us attend events, this is safe.. innocuous, we can go to a game show for a day and no one knows us, and we get a `quick fix` of connection with like minded others, without having to open up and get too close to anyone.
Some husband gamers have wives, some female gamers (like me) have a husband: have families and family ties and commitments, jobs and responsibilities which take up a lot of our time, leaving us with precious little time spare to `mingle` with others.. of course mingling on line is easy, safe, and avoids the face to face negativity which does exist, as our world gets steadily more and more full of people, but who are mostly less and less personal and warm and friendly.
 "A face within a sea of faces" is how a famous poet once described the way the worlds was heading. As humanity grows, so too we become socially less and less acclimatised to opening up emotionally and being warm or feeling openly disposed to our fellow strangers. And so we sit, at home, on the computer: and yes, we would probably mostly consider ourselves solo gamers.
But here is the problem. ARE we solo gamers? I  look back at the history of the hobby and I see people back in the pioneering day: the 60`s and 70`s, leading firmly into the 80`s and ever the early 90`s and most assuredly YES the solo gamers were there, and they played lots and lots of the most riveting and enthralling games and campaigns, and many of these still exist in written form, and are absolutely fascinating, because they don`t only write accounts of their games; they give us meticulous insight and details into their personal psyche, intense motivation and drive; and they also (thankfully) took time to provide us with insight as to HOW they went about collecting, and inventing their amazing table top endeavours. I speak of course about the famous gaming greats of old such as: Terrance Wise, Tony Bath, Gavin Lyall, George Gush, HG Wells, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, G.W. Jeffreys and of course, the legendary Charles Grant. Donald Featherstone to an extent, but anyone who actually met this `legend` might quickly be excused from omitting him from the list of solo gamer greats.
But nowadays, it is my observation that the majority of us sit and talk about gaming, much more than we actually game itself. Similarly, we collect miniatures, endlessly so, and we sometimes even paint everything we buy (but rarely), but do the creations we gather about us see much time on the gaming table.. sadly.. mostly no!
Why is this? I know (from experience, I was there) that in the past, gamers spent far more time playing games, than they ever did worrying about the minute intricate detail of painting figures.
They wanted to get their collections out on the table and play, play, play as fast as possible.
Nowadays, I see more and more (incomplete) collections that simply never make it to the game, and if they do, its doubtful they get used more than a few times.. before being retired to the cupboard, because something new and more exciting comes along and the owner simply `moves on` and forgets his (one time) love affair with what quickly gets assigned and reduced to "yesterday`s news".
Again, I observe, when did this all come about *nods slowly* yep, that's right, with the invention of the computer and its introduction into just about every household in the civilised world. Sadly, not all progress is good for us, I fear.
 
Rock on `old school gaming` I say.
 
Not everything that comes from the past is stale and out of date.
Hilary

This Is What Happens When You Mix Tarot And An Idea Together !!!

.... And so the adventures of our little sandbox game continues, but with a bit of a twist! Tarot has dug out something Hils and I wrote years ago and has sort of taken it over and made it live again, but not content with that... oh no, she also wants to combine it... fuse it together with the current Clix game we are playing. "Off with ya" I thought. The end result is.....





STOP PRESS!!!! THIS IS OUR……



Star Wars / Dungeons & Dragons / Doom / Descent Journeys in the Dark / Mage Knight Dungeons / Heroclix (and anything else we can think of - thrown in for good measure) campaign game.


Started; written and played on the table top on February 4th 2005. Material stopped, misplaced, lost, and rediscovered again by Tarot on June 17th 2016.
 


“May the Force be with me.”




Introduction:

Basically, Stevie and Hilary originally planned on running their miniatures through a bit of the futuristic/medieval (Science Fantasy) dungeon crawl; creating linked cameos and continuing threads of tales (which they would write up into short stories, battle reports and campaign journals for their own amusement, and for their friends to read and enjoy). They planned to take huge liberties with a few game companies rules and official ethos: borrowing bits and converting here and there as they saw fit - to `better` suit the purpose of the proposed game. In effect, they both planned to use slices of the Dungeons and Dragons `official` campaign worlds: grafted elements from favourite Games, Films, TV Series, Books and Graphic Novels, and place it all `loosely` in an Outer Rim region of the Star Wars Universe. To this framework, also would be added their own ideas and inventions to create a unique usable whole.

To show exactly how awesome I think the scope of this idea is and the potential I can see in this.. I’ll quickly explain the campaign premise originally conceived all those years ago back in early 2005.

Basically, the guys mixed typical Dungeon Crawl with futuristic Star Wars technology… threw in a bit of classic Sci-Fi horror like Aliens, Underworld, and Doom and then placed the central setting on a backwater (quasi-medieval) planet with only a small high tech Imperial Garrison present. The main `big bad` was to be a particularly nasty Hutt (called Quaffug) who had, essentially, set up an immense gladiatorial style arena and dungeon - complete with hidden cameras, teleporters, one way doors etc... all designed to shepherd people and monsters into desired sections of the HUGE complex (all originally detailed and drawn up I should say... using the World`s Largest Dungeon, by Alderac Entertainment Group. Inc as the nucleus for this rather cool gaming sandbox). According to Hil, there was some debate, because she wanted to set the whole thing in an alternative steampunk Star Wars setting, where as Steve wanted to keep things slightly more streamlined and pure, and stick to Lucas cannon. In the end they settled for a compromise. A High tech setting on a bit of a low (pulp) tech world.

I would like to points out, all of this was all invented long, long before “The Hunger Games” was ever even heard of in book or movie form. In other words, they actually did invent it first, which I find pretty amazing really.

To this, simply add seasoning: a pinch of X-Files, Xena The Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Zombie genre: and mix in anything else you like, to suit personal taste, and voilà! A game is born.

Spectators flock, gamblers place huge currency bets, bounty hunters lurk, and low life scum thrive like lice on a stray dog’s back… all conducting seedy secret deals within this Crime Lord's Pleasure Complex. Quaffug the Hutt buys, steals, bribes and coerces adventurers into her bizarre spectacular arena... where the promise of untold riches provides the incentive to delve deep. But the temperamental and precocious Crime Lord herself has the final say exactly when she will open the (numerous but hidden) exit gates.... and always for one half of any acquired wealth; a bit steep, one might think, especially as the entrance fee to this `treasure trove` cost’s the willing adventurers (that’s anyone who isn’t simply tossed into the complex for the Hutt`s amusement) almost an arm and a leg, simply for the right to `compete.`

The dungeon is frequently re-stocked with treasures, exotic monsters, creatures and alien races that `come into` lady Quaffug`s possession. The local Imperial Governor even provides criminals for the Hutt`s arena from time to time... for a small percentage of the profits, of course.

But the hidden Underdeeps themselves are far older than anyone seems to realize... even Quaffug, who has quite a firm grasp of ancient things… especially tales and fables concerning lost and hidden treasures! She possesses a whole library of rare works; manuscripts, parchments, holo-discs and computer encyclopaedias, and the Hutt has made quite a study out of anything concerning local history … a hobby that always holds the potential of vast profit – at least within the sub-sectors under her `control.` 

Incidentally, to the best of my knowledge, Quaffug the Hutt was originally an Expanded Universe creation from a graphic novel which I t-h-i-n-k is called “The Bounty Hunters.” Steve just extrapolated upon her, by gleaning as much as he could from the lone cameo she made in that story: and then added some homemade character flavour to this cool crime lord, to make her interesting.

****          ****         ****

Well! That’s just a simplified rundown of the premise behind this solo campaign. As I said just now, Steve and Hil originally planned to run miniatures from their collection through the `dungeons` for their own amusement, and they just bolted on whatever they needed or owned and thought... “hey that would be cool”... including anything they thought worked, tossing it into the equation for good measure.

 I have just remembered where the idea for this concept originally derived. It was a story called `Scoundrel`s Wages` as I said, from a graphic novel (“The Bounty Hunters” by Titan Books). The guys (true to form with their love of creating) fell in love with the notion of continuing the story and taking it to new heights - undreamed of by the author when he wrote his story.

Gratitude to the wonderful graphic books created for us by companies such as Titan Books, Dark Horse Comics etc is immeasurable.

Here is how they started the campaign before they stopped (life got in the way) and the campaign came to an end almost before it got started… before I came along to pick it up again and make it mine,… mine… MINE I tell you.

Part 1

 “Amphitheatre:”

 Date ~ 1 year after the battle of Yavin.

“…and so there we all were!

Five bounty hunters on the planet Blimph (Its name in Imperial Stella Cartography is Beta 357), chosen by Quaffug the Hutt to partake in her Spectacular Winter Games. Hmmmmm, a grand title considering the `exclusive` guest list the `Lady Slug` had brought together. Lords and ladies, the blood-thirsty and the richly insane, crime lords and their hoodlum entourages, the curious, the gladiatorial bookies and their gore addicted punters… gamblers all, from across the far reaches of the galaxy.”

“They were here to watch us fight: here to watch us display our skills, and hopefully shed bucket-fulls of blood in the process. They expected a gross spectacle, to get these games underway… and we were the main attraction of day one. Five bounty hunters expected to band together to display our ability as a team - and separately, to fight as single cold hearted killing machine.”

“Exactly how Quaffug brought us all together at one time remains a mystery to me. But then again, considering Quaffug… nothing really surprises me. It is rumoured that 4-LOM owed Jabba a favour and has been bought here by the Hutt from the dust bowl planet `Tattooine` in honour of that debt. I can think of no other reason why the android would fight for Quaffug, the slimy bitch… and Jabba was certainly laying on heavy bets with his Hutt cousin over 4-LOM`s chances of success during the approaching `hunt.`”

“Bossk is an animal and gives our kind a bad name. He`d do anything for profit. Dengar`s reasons for being here were unknown to me, but judging by the look of him… I’d guess he`s been down on his luck a bit lately. I’d be the richest man alive if I had an Imperial credit every time I’ve heard it said that bounty hunters make a fortune; and all retire early to live like princes, in Marcher Lord palaces built entirely of gold and jewels – no doubt from a thousand lucrative death contracts. Looking at Dengar at that moment seems proof enough that this myth is bogus.”

“The IG system seems to be working to some hidden (private) agenda and actually appears quite content to be here on Blimph. But then again, IG88 always looks impassive.”

“Then there was me, pfffhh! What can I say. That my pride and honour has bought me here? To show the illustrious collected audience within the Hutt Pleasure Palace just exactly how good at my trade I really am?”

“Crap!”

“I am here because my resources and contacts have lead me to believe Quaffug has a fugitive Jedi hiding amongst her vast collection of monsters, aliens and gladiator warriors. Though I am still convinced she is (at the time) unaware of this fact. I see no need to alert her… I’ll find and dispatch the Force Wielder before she even realizes what she`s missed… then collect the lucrative bounty single handed.”

“But for the moment –

 -  I’ll play Quaffug`s pathetic little games; I’ll even shine in bloody red gore to satisfy even the most depraved of her guests. She wants an event? I’d give her a match that will make everyone assembled disbelieve their own eyes. I’ll astound them with a display of skill that will make them all realize exactly why Boba Fett is the best the galaxy has to offer.”

***          ***          ***

History: The tale of a Wererat (WLD Intro).
To be introduced onto the planet at play progresses.

Longtail was an indigenous wererat sorcerer with a quick mind, charisma and great ambition. By research and with the aid of his imp familiar `Achyyx, `Longtail` found out about the dungeon, it`s history and original purpose… long before Quaffug`s people (who had been cutting back the surrounding primeval forests in an attempt to cull the jungle) uncovered the upper levels.

Through Achyyx`s ability to commune with the infernal powers, he learned that there was a long forgotten chapel close to one of the entrances; a chapel that held a gateway to an extra-dimensional space where a multitude of infernal beasts had been trapped. Releasing these beasts, Achyyx told Longtail, would make the Wererat their master and would make a ferocious army available to him. Longtail`s destiny was clear.

Longtail`s endless charm allowed him to bring together a diverse force of humanoids to accompany him on his quest. Gathered from the dysfunctional elements of half a dozen tribes; kobolds, troglodytes, orcs, and even an ogre rallied to his side and agreed to make the journey with the half-fiend.

Fuelled by the promise of treasure and led by lizardfolk guides, Longtail`s force made its way to the dungeon in short order. Entering the long-lost entrance, the humanoids began exploring the area, searching for the tomb’s fabled wealth. Longtail himself, guided by Achyyx, led a small expedition into the farthest reaches.

At first, the humanoids were eager to exploit their new home, greeting the absence of Longtail as a chance to gather as much treasure as possible while the fiend was gone. But as search party after search party came back empty handed and with tales of barren passages stretching for miles in all directions, vast caverns that echoed their hollow emptiness and chambers filled with nothing but deadly traps… trouble ensued.

It had been Longtail`s natural leadership that had held the unusual force together, and now the remaining humanoids were left to their own devices. Soon, the natural rivalries of the various groups began to assert themselves. Insults and slights led to shouting and shoving. Suspicion and rumour that one group had found a treasure and was not sharing it with the others led to bitter accusations. Inevitably, armed confrontations and isolated clashes took place and Longtail`s force was split in two, with the reptilians, composed of the kobolds and their kreshar mounts, troglodytes and lizardfolk banding together out of necessity against the more numerous orcs and their ogre enforcer.

The dungeon was divided between the two sides and each side searched, looking for treasure that they would never find. And as their own searches became fruitless, each side became convinced that the other side had found something. Spying gave way to full-blown battles as the two factions, spurred on by their frustrations, searched and fought across the length and breadth of the area. In a short time, they forgot about searching for wealth and were concerned only with wiping out their enemies.

During this time, the quest of Longtail was ignored by the humanoids, neither side caring any longer about the half-fiend. They would soon be reminded. For even as the humanoids fought amongst themselves, Longtail led his expedition to the forgotten chapel. There, with the aid of his familiar Achyyx, Longtail opened the gateway – fully intent on becoming what he knew he was destined to be.

But things did not turn out as he planned. While Longtail could control some of the beasts, he could not control all of them, and soon a wave of extra-planer beasts, driven on by hatred, rushed through the dungeon. Falling on the fighting humanoids, the beasts struck a hammer blow that filled the dungeon with the blood and the screams of Longtail`s erstwhile allies. And even as Longtail tried desperately to gain control, Achyyx and the infernal powers smiled.

 The First Fight (mini battle report):

Quaffug had really gone to town this time, laying on fun and games for over a three hundred wealthy (and bloodthirsty) noble families, big-time-gamblers and blood sport enthusiasts - from across the whole sector of space. Several thousand other spectators (with the credits to afford seats in the arena) flocked the amphitheatre, creating an atmosphere of intense excitement and noise. An army of exotic boys and girls of various races and description, bought trays of delicious looking refreshments round for the paying guests.

Quaffug liked the exotic… also the erotic. Though these facts were obvious simply by looking at her as she sat enthroned in her fine silks and luscious jewels, gold and silver. All Hutts are naturally hermaphrodites, but Quaffug chose to allow the sensual side of womanhood to dominate her persona, and dressed accordingly. The orgies she sometimes arranged, and often attended, were a legend across much of the galaxy, and illegal black-market holo-discs of these sordid drunken affairs fetched a high price in certain quarters.

The opening ceremonies were overwhelmingly lavish. Loud music was played by high tech and freakish bands, supported by troupes of dancers who gyrated energetically in front of the audience; clowns, acrobats and fire eaters entertained from the edges of the arena… and everywhere - strobe and spot lights poignantly flooded each of the events. Huge view screens highlighted specially skilled and interesting acts, and all the time the audience loved it and cheered enthusiastically.

When the warriors finally paraded the arena in a grand procession, suitably scored dramatic music enhanced the atmosphere to fever pitch. And then the games began. At first they were simple gladiatorial fights and displays of martial skills – rarely to the death. But as time went on, these bouts became more and more serious, and blood started to flow. Teams of human prisoners (often chained together) and strange alien races fought terrifying monstrosities, and the crowd screamed and laughed with each new and twisted scene.

But the main event of the first day was left until quite late in the evening. A straight fight between Boba Fett and a couple of Imperial Governor Grappll`s wayward Stormtroopers. If Fett survived, the fight in the arena, and presuming he dispatched both his assailants, he would be allowed `a shot` at the dungeon (the entrance of which sat at one end of the arena, through a huge and intricately carved stone archway that led into darkness beyond).

This game uses the official rules from WotC`s Star Wars game.

Boba Fett     50 points

Scout Trooper on speeder bike (x2)     21 x2 = 42 points

The plain side of the game map will represent the arena. Three (home made) pillars arranged in a  line, with another (fish tank) set of twin columns flanking them to the left along the long edge of the map… is all the cover available during this game. An archway leading to the dungeon sits on the edge of the map at the point where the Scout Troopers start the game - opposite to Boba Fett.

House Rule: every 30 Hit Points a miniature starts the game with, represents the equivalent of a level using the d&d miniatures rules, and will affect the initiative dice each round. i.e. Boba Fett starts the game with 110 hit points, which means (using my discretion) he is a level 4 character (30 +30+30+20 ß round the twenty up = level 4).

Round 1:

Fett rolls 12 + 4 for being a level four character = 16.

Scout Troopers throw 15.

Fett walks into the arena and the crowd goes wild with cheering. He spots one of the speeder bikes way across the other side of the arena and makes an educated/instinctive guess that the other one must be keeping pace opposite him, but slightly out of sight from the bounty hunter, behind a pillar. He runs towards the nearest (end) pillar and plants himself squarely in the middle behind it… out of sight of the bikes. A few jeers from the crowd indicate their displeasure at this seemingly non-heroic move. Fett ignores them.

The Scout Troopers look briefly at one, say something into their helmet mics and split left and right. Accelerating fast, they move swiftly across the arena – approaching Fett`s position from both sides.

Round 2:

Fett rolls 16 +4 = 20

Scouts roll 18.

Leaning slightly, so he can see round the pillar he is using for cover (not moving, so he can use the double attack SA) he lets of two shots at the Scout Trooper and bike on the left. Both shots easily hit and penetrate their target’s defence, causing a total of 40 points of damage. The Speeder careers wildly into one of the pillars and explodes in a ball of flames. The crowd cheers.

The remaining Scout Trooper steers his bike carefully (only six squares) round Fett`s pillar. Spying him, he lets off a shot – rolling 2, which even with his +5 skill isn’t nearly enough to hit the bounty hunter. Nerves obviously a huge factor here, the scout silently curses himself for the missed opportunity, and waits for the inevitable… knowing he will most likely never get another chance.

Round 3:

Fett rolls 7 + 4 = 11.

Scout rolls 17.

The Imperial Trooper swings his bike round in an almost impossible arc that momentarily confuses and takes his enemy by surprise. Praying silently to what ever God was responsible for his sudden good fortune, the trooper aims his blasters, and fires once again – Aayyeee!!!! he rolls a 2.

Fett turns, takes careful aim, and puts two shots squarely into the Trooper and his bike. The last thought on the Imperial Scout’s mind before darkness takes him, is bitterness at having been caught by his officer trying to rape that peasant woman. Grappll`s justice was (as usual) severe, and now his life was forfeit in the arena. The Trooper fell sideways off his smoking bike, and tumbled lifeless to the ground, while the bike plummeted into the side of the stadium. The crowd cheered again.

Boba Fett strode forward across the arena towards the mouth of darkness that lead down into the dungeon below. He was hardly even aware of the cheering masses, or the fans ever hopeful of catching their hero say something to the crowd. However - as usual, Fett didn`t say a word.

 Fett enters the Dungeon:

Stepping cautiously between the cold stone pillars at the far end of the arena, Fett entered into the gloom and followed the straight, dank narrow passageway. His suit’s sensors told the bounty hunter he had covered 220 meters before emerging onto a worked slab floor. Looking about him with trained ease, he saw that he had entered a large, empty square chamber hewn completely from stone. Fett saw two iron doors; one to his left, and another (slightly bigger one) in front of him. Dismissing the portal to his side he stepped up to the large iron door and pushed firmly. It opened inwards. As the heavy portal shifted and swung silently back on its hinges, the edges seemed to disappear into an inky black darkness that lay just beyond. Fett allowed the door to open completely and watched as more and more of it was swallowed up in the barrier until only it`s hinges were visible. Peering cautiously into the darkness for signs of movement, he could see nothing. Even his helmet’s sensitive all spectrum scanner could not interpret the images before it. The only thing Fett was vaguely aware of was the erratic moaning of the wild winds as they breathed and sighed through the myriad of tunnels and twisting paths. The dark way before Fett revealed nothing of what lay ahead. He knew he faced some kind of force field, but his sensors could not tell him the composition!

Fett stepped forward through the barrier and became enveloped by the darkness, so that… where he stepped into the nothingness, he appeared to disappear completely and become a part of the night. The sensation was strange and a little disconcerting so he pushed his way forward, and after only a few seconds he emerged on the other side.

Suddenly aware he had visibility once more, the Bounty Hunter switched his sensors to wide beam torch, and light flooded the area all around him. But although his torch was state of the art and extremely powerful, the illumination it provided seemed pitiful against the vast expanse of darkness that surrounded him; none the less, it was a lesser gloom. Not the impenetrable wall of nothingness the force field had imposed. Feeling behind him, Fett discovered the wall he had just stepped through was now solid. He smiled grimly to himself, but was not unduly surprised by his discovery. Quaffug was full of surprises and as they went, this one was not an immediate problem to him.

From somewhere overhead… coming (it seemed) from the walls themselves, a sound blasted the silence and echoed disturbingly. It was a slow, deep rumbling: “HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA.” The laughter seemed to go on for quite a long time, and Fett was able to detect other (lesser) laughs and cackles behind the main theme.

“You`re just full of surprises Quaffug!” Boba Fett said, almost contemptuously to the walls, aware there must be hidden speakers and microphones, probably hidden all over the place. But if it had been the Hutt`s voice Fett had heard amplified … it didn`t speak again.

Returning to his present predicament, Fett allowed his torch to roam a region of what appeared to be a chamber. As far as the light penetrated… which wasn’t nearly as far as he`d have liked, Fett was able to determine what appeared to be in a large natural cavern. Water dripped constantly from the ceiling and collected in deep pools of water, or ran in veins along the floor, before vanishing into cracks in the stone. Rusty chains dangled way overhead from the roof, occasionally clanking off one another when the un-earthly breeze blew. Fett spotted two more iron doors, one straight ahead of him and the other to it`s side.

Nothing else broke the unending mass of worked stone and the chill dank air worked hard to probe the Bounty Hunter`s Mandalorian armour, but to no avail. But obviously something else in the chamber was not so fortunate – judging by the dry cough coming out of the darkness.

Stepping carefully towards the sound, Fett flipped the switch on his blaster to power up the cell. A fain hum - barely audible and gone in a second, told Fett his weapon was ready to fire. Three wretched, filthy looking creatures, Orcs by the look of them, sat huddled together in the northeastern corner of the cave, one of them trying to stifle another cough. Somehow, Fett got the immediate impression that these humanoids were deserters from a larger force, perhaps somewhere else within this labyrinthine complex; judging by the way they were attired… weapons and kit strewn about them in an uncaring fashion - like tired and defeated soldiers? The haggard expressions, with deep bags over their scar pocked faces and their ashen paleness, warned of their weakened state.

Fett stood and surveyed them for a few seconds, but when it became obvious that none of the three Orcs were going to make any aggressive moves towards him, the Bounty Hunter could see they were no threat and stepped over to the nearest door. Looking back towards the humanoids for a moment, Fett pointed a gloved finger at the door and arched his helmeted head in an expression that meant “well?”

If any of the Orcs actually knew what lay beyond the door that Fett was gesticulating towards, they only shrugged, raised their eyebrows and looked away. But even as Fett approached the door he could smell that something was amiss.

Switching on his air tank, his rasping breath through the breathing filter sounded ominous. Pushing the portal open, the source of the smell became obvious, as more than a score of bodies were piled up in the chamber beyond. Perhaps a dozen kobolds and half as many troglodytes lay stripped and decaying in a large heap. The varying states of decay told Fett the pile had grown over a period of time.

Fett was glad he`d had the foresight to switch on his breathing tank – `filth fever` was a nasty was to go if not correctly diagnosed and treated swiftly; but his suit`s sensors were all ready screaming out bio-warnings and cursor lights winked to warn of airborne contagion.

Fett walked swiftly through the room, closing the main chamber door behind him as he went. A final nod of his head towards the Orcs as the portal closed, towards told them he was not going to kill them.

Fett`s sensors had outlined a concealed stone door in the eastern wall, and readouts were advising him of a central pivoting hinge… probably Dwarf design. Fett pushed through the heavy rock door, which slid silently aside with accustomed ease.

In this fashion, Fett moved carefully through a multitude of chambers, corridors and tunnels… all devoid of interest. A week old cave in from the roof where the ceiling had become saturated by years of acidic dripping water, and a patch of green algae that looked for a moment like `mage blight` (an arcane ooze that sometimes fills the Underdeeps and old places), but which turned out to be merely a harmless phosphorous green moss… were all that distinguished Fett`s travels from the rest of his wanderings.

But after several hours wandering the silent, dank tunnels and paths, checking numerous chambers and caverns along the way; ascending and descending flights of winding stairs leading to higher and lower levels, Fett concluded that this area was dead.

But, knowing he was most likely being surveyed closely by Quaffug and a whole arena of spectators, no doubt from a massed array of concealed cameras and pick-up mics, Fett was careful to conceal what he had discovered, by nonchalantly passing over the interesting bits for future study.

The obvious conclusion to be made here, merely by studying signs and using his skills, was that there had been several small skirmishes in this area. Signs indicated that humanoid races had been involved in a confused mass of fighting, and over a long period of time… for Quaffug`s sport and games? No! Fett thought the fighting looked different somehow; besides which, Quaffug`s arena was relatively new, the some of these pitch fights looked to be far older. Fett had discovered another pile of rotten bodies, a lot older than the first mass grave he had found. But the disturbing thing about these had been the way something very big had been starving enough to eat several large chunks out of the corpses. What ever it was had given up attempting to eat the carcasses… but the bite marks were alarming.

Fett also concluded that these upper levels had once been infested with vermin (rats and weasels) and `roof cloakers,` (giant land squids that look like huge black wet blankets) but none of the dried up husks were recent.

He also hid the fact that his sensors had discovered a carefully concealed sink hole… most likely a deep well, and that there were indications the hole had been disturbed and used recently – by something climbing down. Scorch marks on the edges of the sliding fulcrum floor looked, to Fett, remarkably like those a light saber could have made?

Eventually, the hunter sat down on a plinth, and lifted his helmet visor just enough to drink a few sips from his bottle, and consumed a few synth tabs. He waited, hardly moving for what must have seemed hours. Eventually, a human voice, one of Quaffug`s servants no doubt, crackled over a mic: (actually, quite close to his head) “follow the guide and he`ll lead you to an exit.”

Soon afterwards, a rather small, squat looking Gamorrian snuffled into view, and vaguely gestured for the Bounty Hunter to follow him. Tired of the lack of sport the hunter was providing, Quaffug had decided it was time to show Fett the way out…. this time.


)o(

Let The Games Begin!!!

“Hi, I`m Lucius Bardello… your games host for the day, talking to you live from Quaffug`s Palace in the Outer Rim. With Quaffug`s Winter Games well underway and the first day’s entertainment, a mere taster of things to come, it is perhaps time to get to know a few of the more colourful characters due… potentially… to `compete` on day 2. I say potentially because of course, no one knows until the names are drawn out of The Felt Caps* by the Mad Hatter who or what will fight in the dungeon arena during any given match.”

 * One cap holds pieces of paper containing the names of all the day’s competitors, the other holds computer chips to insert into `Gloria` (the giant games  computer), which triggers various gates to open within the arena and/or dungeon levels, so that hungry and vicious monsters can roam free. Only the computer can determine ( based on the micro chips fed into the machine by the Hatter before play commences) exactly which monsters are let loose during any given game.

“But wait a moment… no, it looks like Quaffug is pulling the scheduled program for the time being; not surprising considering the amount of carnage that was committed during yesterday’s blood bath. In fact Caretakers had to work through the night to clean the Arena for today`s events.”

“No… it certainly looks as though Quaffug is switching today’s games to the vast Holo-Emitters to cut back on expense…. and I should point out to you Ladies and Gentlemen, Aliens and Entities, that these games come to you… at no small expense, by the generosity and kind spirit of your host: The Fair and Amorous Lady Quaffug. As I`m sure you are all aware, the Holo-Emitters project a 3D visual feast which looks and feels like the real thing. In fact the sensation is so realistic…. an alternative reality experience, as some experts have coined it… that most competitors who die within the mainframe of the Matrix, have to be resuscitated… and actually bought back to life by our paramedics here in the stadium. But accidents can happen Ladies and Gentlemen; and the shock and trauma to the nervous system is sometimes too great for the body to handle, in which case, even the skills of our doctors and nurses is simply not enough – and sadly death can occur in these extreme situations.”

“But now back to the games and… yes, thank you Giles… I have just been handed a piece of paper containing a list of the competitors who may or may not be taking part in today’s entertainment. Remember, only once the Mad Hatter pulls the names from The Cap is anything definite and finite.”

“So without any further ado, let me hand you over to my co-host, the lovely and delectable Dusty Miller for a behind the scenes look at the characters… the real heroes and heroines… ones who make The Games what they are.”

“………….over to you Dusty.”

“Thank you LB. Good morning to everyone here at Quaffug`s Palace, and let me welcome you all here as we embark on the second day of the festivities which comprise the Great Winter Games.”

“Before the games commence, I`d like to show you some behind the scenes glimpses at the men, women, and…. others…. who risk their lives here for your entertainment, and the whispered promise of vast riches, honour and fame.”
Trenloe & Astarra, the `unspoken` leaders of The Glyph Gate Delvers


“Trenloe the Strong ~ foremost fighter and authorative voice of the twenty strong Gang of  Adventurers called The Glyph Gate Delvers. An honourable man; lured here by the love of a woman.. they say? His skill in melee is matched only by his loyalty to his friends and his lust for adventure.”


“Runewitch Astarra ~ one of the Great Battle Sisters of the Iron Throne – some say? Others claim she is a renegade wizardess from Guidi-Prime… a barren and desolate planet situated on the Core Edge of the Spinward Marches. Some say she is actually indigenous to Blimph, and is in fact the run away slave of an Imperial Merchant… when his amorous advances became too much to bear, she slit his throat! Another rumour will have you believe she is a Princess of some long lost and broken Royal House.”


“Which ever story you believe… if any, Astarra has some considerable measure of the `gift` and uses it to provide an array of pyrotechnics to aid her fellow Gang members. Her ability with Glyph Runes alone makes her a valuable asset to those fortunate enough to have her on their side.”



Andira Runehand & Sir Valadir: brother and sister united in noble deed.

 
 
 
.... Meanwhile.
 
 
Tarot Takes Over the Narrative….
{{Tarot asked if she could take our old defunct campaign and play about with it, linking all the above with a current HeroClix mini campaign based in and around Angel City, and blend it all seamlessly. “Well” I thought, “This I gotta see” Of couse, Hil and I said yes. The rest is now up to her. Let`s see what she does with it all. It may not be obvious what she`s doing at first, I`d say, but if I know tarot, she will blend it together seamlessly... in a few weeks... by the time she`s done playing with it all}}.

 
Steve
 
 
 
 
Father and Daughter: Part 3
Jim limped towards the small window overhead, but even before he reached it, he knew he would never be able to grab a hold of the edge and heave himself up. It was simply too high set in the wall, at a point almost intersecting the wall and the ceiling itself. Besides… peering more closely, even if he could get up there, the aperture was far too tiny for him to squeeze his body through.
 
No Jim was stuck with only one other choice. He would have to find another way out of here!
 Feeling in his pocket for his lighter, he retrieved it and flicked the wheel. The illumination revealed a series of stone and brick passages, leading off in several directions from the cistern above. By a series of short second uses from his lighter (so as not to burn his fingers), Jim was able to stumble his way along the widest passageway, through the inches deep slimy water (of what was obviously some sort of old sewer system), and head towards, what he hoped, would lead him to a way out of this bad, rotten smelling place.
Eventually he found himself confronted by a great, vast double door ahead. One half of the portal lay ajar, and pushing his head carefully through, he looked through, trying to discern into that lay beyond.
 

It was a large chamber.  A dim flickering pool of sickly yellow seemed to bounce off the walls creating ominous shadows… from an, as yet, unseen light source…. a torch most likely. The chamber was old, very old, and Jim felt the years of history pour into his senses as he surveyed what seemed to him to be some sort of strange subterranean hall.
 

Pushing open the twin portal, Jim was surprised to find they swung open without too much effort. Entering the hall he allowed his eyes to adjust to the sights around him. After a few moments he was able to discern a low humming sound coming from a strange looking arch resting off the ground, upon a stepped podium over on his right.
 
As Jim approached the strange, almost other worldly object, it burst into a wall of swirling colour.
 
"Oh Hell" He muttered under his breath. "I`m coming Barbara, hold on.... hold on girl."
 

Should he step through… or should he not?
 

 
Meanwhile.....
 
 in another part of this complex, near, but not in earshot... four strange looking creatures… terrifyingly strange and monstrous in their appearance… cautiously make their way through an entirely different part of the sewers. Their reason for being here, as of yet, unknown to us?
I hope you enjoyed my whacky little tale.
More to come soon.
Tarot