Tuesday 27 April 2010

The Fog of RPG

Now usually there is no problem in hiding things from players whilst roleplaying, you simply just don't tell them! For battle type encounters I like to use miniatures (as can be seen from previous RPG posts). Usually these encounters take place a confined area (a room, a forest clearing, etc) so there is no problem in setting out the scene on the table top. Similarly mapped areas have interconnecting tunnels, roads, paths, etc between key areas, making them easy to jot down and expand on.

My groups next session sees them (hopefully) assault the Castle Wittgenstein in the Warhammer Fantasy "Enemy Within" campaign. Now this is a large courtyard centred map with lots of differents areas within to explore and fight in. There is no way I can use my usual methods of mapping to unveil/describe sections whilst keeping others hidden and still give my players a good idea of the layout of their surroundings. So I've decided to turn to electronic means. Now, I personally don't like using computers to help play my paper & pencil (and lead) RPGs. I find that they usually cause the game to pause whilst the GM clicks on the relative link or file, breaking the flow of action and distracting the players.

Anyway I'm going to display to the players a map of the castle with the areas they haven't seen greyed out, then rub out the grey as the areas come into view. I'll attach a screen to my laptop to face the players so that they get a better view of what I'm doing and I don't have to put my neck out of joint craning round to see the screen. Its not rocket science.

To set up the "Fog of War" I will be using the free graphics package GIMP which is pretty powerful, free and multiplatform. Please note that I'm going to assume some knowledge of graphics packages here. All the tools and techniques used here are basic. Gygax knows, I'm no graphical artist!

First open the picture up in GIMP. This will be the map that is revealed to the players, so we need to take any GM only labels or directions off. You can use either the cloning stamp here to mimic any surrounding pattern to cover any details (such as the traps or secret doors in this map) or just the brush/pencil tool to paint over the detail, using the colour picker to set the paint colour to the appropriate background (the exit direction marked "A" in this case)
This should leave you with a players map such as this one. Now we need to add the fog. We don't want to ruin our nice new map, so we need to add in into another layer which sits on top of the map.

To do this we open up the layers window and create a new layer, calling it something useful like Fog. Make sure the fill type is set to transparency so that we can see the map underneath it. Then move the new layer up to the top, so that when we begin drawing we are drawing on the fog layer not the map.

Next pick your favourite fog colour (I've used the background grey for simplicity ) and paint away, leaving only the part the characters can see on entry.
Now this next part is very important. It is vital that you save the the file as a GIMP .xcf file (or what ever package you use) to  preserve the layers. It you save it as a jpg, tif, etc the layers will be merged and you won't be able to remove the fog.

When it comes to using the map in the game, open it up in your program, making sure that the fog layer is on top, and then use the eraser tool to rub out the fog as the characters explore. One good thing about this is that you can stop and save at any point  and come back to the map.

So if you run out of time, or the adventurers leave and come back later you have a record of exactly where they've been. If you've left and come back, you can even edit the map layer to show a cave in, etc without altering the fog layer.

I hope this is of some use or interest to people. It's not something I plan to use very often, but could come in handy.

anyway, until next time, good gaming.

Monday 26 April 2010

A brief case of redirection

Just a quick post. I'm hoping to flog off some spare/over bought gear at Falkirk Wargames Carronade show on Saturday the 8th May.
There will be RPG books (mostly Call of Cthuhlu), OOP miniatures and a few games.
Not having done this before I've posted up on the Frugal Wargaming blog asking for advice, so if you have any, please share with the rest of us in the comments section over there.

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Reinforcements arrive - with thanks

The other month I wrote a brief Skaven Warband roster post. In this article I had a minor whinge about not having any ranged troops in the warband due to cost. To my surprise and delight it received a message from Andrew who writes the excellent Kings Sleep blog, who had dived into his bits box, assembled a trio of rodents with ranged weapon capabilities and offered them to me off his own back. The packet came through the door today and I'm delighted. Truth be told my progress on this band has stalled, but the effort put in by Andrew has rekindled my interest (or more like given me a kick up the arse!) to get it finished.

So I'd like to take the opportunity here and now to doff my cap to a generous, true gent.

Sir, I salute you.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Painting SOS - Gnome Bard

I'm starting a feature that I've blatantly stolen from "Dr Faust's Painting Clinic". The feature in question no longer actually exists (which probably goes to show how old some of my bookmarks are!) but I should really credit ideas from source.

We've all had miniatures that need a repaint. Most are second hand (mostly from eBay) and if we're brave/desperate some are from our own younger hands. So basically this is a thinly disguised repaint feature.

First up we have an old Game Workshop Gnome Mage. His staff is broken and he's been bathing in custard. This was an eBay buy for a Gnome Bard character I was to play in a 4th Ed D&D game. The broken staff was of no concern as it was to become his required musical instrument - a mouth organ!
With his long Fu-Manchu style moustache I've tried to give him and oriental feel. His harmonica is a bit of a cop-out in some ways, and could quite easily been altered to a different instument, but there is something appealing about a Gnome with his magic mouth organ. I'm sure there's a children's programme there somewhere.

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Bloodbowl for the Nintendo DS - a gamers view

I don't play video games much nowadays. Although they're quite fun, whenever I switch off I feel like I've just lost time that I could have spent doing something else more rewarding. Also most the games that attract my attention would require hours of play time which I just don't have. I did buy a Nintendo DS lite last year though with the intention of linking up with my son's system the odd time. It's not really worked out that way though as I find that I prefer the interaction of playing a boardgame together rather than Mario Kart on seperate systems. The DS does however act as a Real-Life distraction for 15-20 minutes at various times, so it does have its uses. But before this turns into an essay on my feelings/experiences of video games I'd best move on.
I managed to pick up a copy of Blood Bowl for the Nintendo DS for around £8 last week. You may have read in an earlier post that there is a plan afoot to dust off the Blood Bowl teams for play, along with the admission that I've actually hardly played the game. As a result this post comes from the eyes of an inexperienced gamer who has just picked up the game (if you want a more indepth review from an experienced Blood Bowl player this one may be of interest.).

Blood Bowl on the DS is a direct copy of the boardgame. No real-time play options here - it's boardgame all the way even down to the dice rolls. The standard d6 rolls are automatically done for you (with the sound of dice being shaken and rolled to let you know) but when the blocking dice are rolled and the player is presented with a choice of rolled options (if there are more than one die rolled). The game also runs in strict turn based, square by square, one "miniature" at a time movement/action sequence. The rules are appear to be the same as the standard miniture games rules and are covered in a brief tutorial section. I found them a bit brief to fully follow and new players may want to go to the GamesWorkshop website and download the new rulebook for in-game reference. {HINT - You may also want to download any tactics article as well}

There are 8 different races: Humans, Orcs, Skaven, Dwarfs, Wood Elves, Goblins, Lizardmen and Chaos to play as and against. The default starter teams seem to have the boardgame opening roster skills and restrictions. If you start a new team in a championship be warned: the other teams in your league have already been playing so have some advancements. Each match will generally take over an hour to play. Annoyingly you can't save mid match in "quick game" mode but you can after each of your turns in Championship mode, so after you've run the kick-off for a few trial matches this will probably be the one you'll play. Just as in the "proper" game you start off with nothing but cash and have the choices of what types of player to buy and extras (rerolls, etc) to purchase. The turns are timed to 4 minutes each, which flies by as you waste trying to see the entire pitch. The DS AI is a bit slow and pauses at times as well, but I suppose you could just call this an accurate simulation of playing a human opponent. I've read comments that the AI is tactically weak, but as an inexperienced player myself with only a couple of games under my belt I still find it challenging enough and the Rookie (easy) level.

As a basic overall conclusion I'm pleased with my purchase. The literal boardgame conversion is key here. I'm looking to play the boardgame and this DS version will let me play and practice for the real thing. Will it become too easy? Perhaps, if other reviews/comments are to be taken. But as I'll only be playing 20 minutes at a time usually I don't see myself getting too good anytime soon which is a bonus in this case. But it will give me a Blood Bowl fix when I fancy though. Not worth the full RRP £20-£30 price tag, but well worth the £8 one.

Sunday 4 April 2010

1979 Ral Partha Troll

One from the back of the "painted" shelf here. A Ral Partha Troll from 1979. I think it actually comes in a set of two. I'll have to try and find the other at some point. There's something nice natural about this sculpt. No over emphasised muscles nor too cartoony face. I hadn't noticed how big his hands were until looked at the photo though!

Thursday 1 April 2010

Who are you?

With the new series of Doctor Who starting this Easter Sunday over here in the UK, I thought I may as well use it as an excuse to post a picture I found on file from a Daleks vs Cyberman "Mutants and Death Ray Guns" game ArabianSquire and myself had.
Figures were plastic Citadel Cybermen and Doctor Who Micro Universe Daleks, Hybrids Daleks and Humans.

We used the following stats:
  • Cyberman: (Androids) Q4+ C3, Artificial, Laser Gun, Heavy Armour, Terror
  • Dalek: Q4+, C4, Artificial, Laser Gun, Heavy Armour, Fly, Short Move, Terror
  • Dalek Hybrid: Q4+ C2, Laser Gun, Superior Touch, Terror
  • Humans: Q3+, C2
To make up for their weaker stats the Cybermen had greater numbers. The Cyberman objective was simply to destroy(shoot) the Dalek menace. They could bolster their numbers by capturing humans (hidden in the buildings) and taking them back to base to be converted into new Cybermen. The Daleks could win using 2 methods. The first was basically to shoot and kill the Cybermen. The other was to capture a human, get it back to the Dalek base, convert it into a Dalek Hybrid and get the hybrid to a control panel on the Cyberman base to deactivate them (using its superior touch).

In this game the Daleks won by blasting the Cybermen despite their superior numbers.