Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Empire State Trooper

Here's a State Trooper I've test-painted. All I've got on so far is the basecoat- I haven't even put his arms on yet. I apologize for the terrible picture quality.

Tamiya Color Acrylic Paints: A Review

Since I've gotten back from Iraq, I've taken a renewed interest in the Warhammer minis that I bought on the encouragement of my brother from many moons ago. In the interest of getting the little army of mine painted , I've taken liberal trips to Hobby Lobby, Micheals, and HobbyTown USA in search of paints and little bitty trees and other knick-knacks to feed my inner geek.

While I've had moderate success with the Citadel line of paints that Game Workshop hawks at every opportunity, I've been looking to get some paints that were a little easier on the wallet. I saw "Tamiya Color"'s fat little pots sitting next to the Citadel ones every time I go in, so I figure, what the hell, why not give 'em a try?

So I bought three- Flat Red, Copper, and Flat White. I figured that even if the paints aren't quite as good as the Citadel range, at least I was saving a little money, and besides, I could probably make it work.

The copper was, by far, the best paint I'd bought. It goes on great, thins really well, and plays well with my Citadel paints. I actually liked it so much that I changed my mind on how to paint my dwarf's cannon and painted it a bold copper instead of a much more sedated Chainmail. I've started using the copper more or less everywhere that I can make an excuse for it, I like it that much.

The Flat Red was much worse, however. The pigment was thin and sparse, and covered my models exceptionally poorly, to the point where it was almost unusable. It took multiple applications to even approach an acceptable level, and even on the last coat it still took it upon itself to flow and move, creating clumps of bright red next to patches of dull red.

The Flat White had the same problems. It seemed grainy and didn't mix well with water at all, turning an unusual shade when mixed. It actually seemed sort of greenish, which is odd, considering it looked extremely white out of the pot. I think it would be an alright color to mix with other colors, but it's still an abysmal performance regardless.

My verdict? Pass for the regular colors, but feel free to use their metallics. All the metallics I've used have worked well, mixed well, and looked fairly good on the tabletop.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Micheal Moorcock and You: Alignment Made Easy

Now, anybody who knows me knows exactly what I think about alignment, and why, and I'm sure that anybody who frequents these boards already has quite a strong opinion already.

So I'm not going to touch it. Instead, I'm going to share my ideas on how I personally run alignment.

This system is easy to use, simplistic, and provides something for everybody without forcing alignments to everybody, while still allowing those who like alignments to use them as they will.

Now, anybody who's read any of the works of Micheal Moorcock will undoubtedly know that one of the most powerful themes in his writing is that of the grand battle against the Lords of Law and the Lords of Chaos, with the Grey Lords somewhere in between, ensuring that the balance of creation and stagnation remains suitable to their grand designs.

Now what does that mean for characters?

First, an alignment of Lawful or Chaotic does not mean that the character takes a side on the stable vs. creative spectrum, or whatever it is, exactly, that people have interpreted that particular axis of 3rd Edition alignments to mean. No, an alignment of Lawful or Chaotic means that the character serves Law or Chaos, and that's it.

Secondly, alignments are only available to servants, priests, or otherwise devoted individuals. Note that this is not limited to paladins, clerics, and other game-world constructs. If your theif is a devout believer, then he can be Chaotic or Lawful, as you choose. Your cleric could be a cleric of the Grey Lords, and be neutral. It's up to you.

Thirdly, and most importantly, your alignment does not control your personality. There are grasping, cruel, avaricious Lawful people and there are rigid, pious, and chaste Chaotics in the world. Lawful and Chaotic, to use a modern world example, are like the difference between religions. There are cold-hearted Christians like there are cold-hearted Muslims or Buddhists or Wiccans, just as there are kind-hearted people. The religion they follow influences their behavior only superficially- they are still the same people they were before.

Of course, there is a little more influence as far as clerics and alignments go- Chaotic clerics often turn into raving, psycopathic madmen and Lawful clerics often turn into rigid, serious judges, but I suppose that's a topic for an entirely different blog post.

A New Beginning

Since I've started a new gaming group, I've decided to go with a game that I've been reading about that I simply can't get enough of: Labyrinth Lord.

Everything about it speaks to my childhood, where my brother and I would sit crouched around that tattered old blue book we found in a box one day and play some D&D with each other.

Labyrinth Lord reminds me heavily of those days, where there were four classes, and that was it. You would crawl through dungeons with your buddies and then you'd eventually graduate to the wide wildernesses and then, once you hit Name Level, then you'd build yourself a keep and that would be that.

In short, it's exactly the sort of game I've wanted to play ever since I learned how to play role-playing games.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Apostasy and You

Let me begin by stating that, by the technical definition of the term, I am an apostate. I have renounced my former religion and now stand between them, and am happy without it. But that's not my point, really.

In most old religions, there is a rather severe penalty for apostasy. Take notice of one of the largest and most famous, Judaism. The penalty for apostasy is death, as stated in Deuteronomy 13:6-10. Especially verse 9, where it says "But thou shalt surely kill him;". My penalty for leaving my religion would be death, were we not in a more secular, forgiving age.

But notice that your players' characters are not in such a secular and religious age. In this world, the gods wield real power, have real influence over the world's events, sometimes coming down to stomp all over the world and dance on the bodies of their foes, or whatever. Your PCs live in a world of the servants of gods competing for very real influence and power, often through blatantly violent means, and yet this is often shoved in the back, because some of the gods are "good" and some "evil."

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Problem of Evil

Or: Why I Never Use Alignment

Now before anybody gets the wrong idea, let it be said that this isn't one of those troll-bait, flame questions. This is a serious inquiry into the topic of evil itself. It's a big topic, to be sure, but here's one way to break it down: "What does it mean to be evil in a roleplaying game?"

Most people know what evil means, in and of itself, even if they can't define it in great, broad strokes. They'll point to rape, child molestation, mass murder, callousness, or any other factor. But what does it mean in the context of a roleplaying game, where most people aren't comfortable with the subject?

In many cases, it paints a convenient black hat on a person who is to be killed without remorse. Sometimes, the "bad guy" will wear a literal black hat, or a black, spiky suit of armor, or be a demon. Such things are certainly convenient, but are they realistic? Are they meant to be? Is a person with an alignment of "LE" or "C" (in older systems) a person who can be slain at a whim? Is that what you want to promote in your games?

And then, what does it mean when an entire race of people are "evil"? Case in point: Goblins. In 3rd edition, they were given an alignment of "LE", and then they were basically said to be mean tricksters. That's it? Apparently, all it takes to be lawful evil, on the same scale as an archdevil of the abyss who subjugates his followers under his boots and tortures people into the long, hideous sunset, is to lay traps and attack invaders and try to get lands in the same way that "good" people do- only eviller.

This one is one I can't answer alone, because I haven't used alignment seriously in decades and I've never really had any inkling of an understanding of what, exactly, alignment is to be used for. I've heard a couple arguments, both for and against, but nothing that was revelatory. Mostly it's between people who are moral absolutists and moral relativists who argue semantics and whether or not Batman or the Power Rangers are Chaotic Neutral or what-have-you.

Back to the question: What does it mean to be "evil"? What sorts of things are necessary to put the black hat on a man? What does labelling a person "evil" entail?

To me, there is no evil. Looking at paladins, I see a man who is inflexible, cruel, intolerant, violent, and possibly racist. All things traditionally associated with evil, in its most base forms. "But Mr. Crayon," one may be thinking, "that man is only inflexible in his pursuit of justice, cruel to the evil and unjust, intolerant of oppression, violent to the threats to his community, and racist against monstrous foes! He's not evil, he's good!"

Well, put it into context. Let's say you're a king who has had assassination attempts on yourself, so you're a bit paranoid. You raise taxes so as to better fund your personal spies, bodyguards, and palace. You put into place policies to limit the conspiracies against yourself, so that you can continue your rule. You waste no time in putting down the lives of those who attempt to sabotage your kingdom or the land and property of your subordinates. And yet, a paladin batters down your door, slays your guards, and puts you to the sword for oppression, tyranny, intolerance, violence, and "evil." Are you evil?

It's not for nothing that they say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.


What do you think?

Monday, October 6, 2008

All Classes are Not Created Equally

Something that really irritates me, and had me stumped for the longest time in the development of my own roleplaying system was the issue of classes.

Specifically, how many should there be? What differences should they have? How much customization should they have? And so on.

Most people who have played D&D for any length of time seperate it down into four classes, who, at their core, are seperate and irredeemably different than each other. They usually name Fighter, Rogue, Wizard, and Cleric, letting such friviolities as Hexblade, Samurai, Barbarian, and the like out to rot, as some sort of combination of those few.

Putting the calls of "bullshit! bullshit!" away, let's look at the reasoning for these classes. Surely, there is a good reason for fighter to be there. After all, he's the big tough guy, the one who get slapped upside the head and takes all sorts of pain so the squishier guys can shoot their spells and whatever else. The theif, on the other hand, deals with locks and traps so that the party can steal better, so that everybody gets less arrows shot into them. The cleric, obviously, exists to patch the party back up, and to provide both frontline combat ability and some assistance through his magic. And the Wizard, dear wizard, he exists to fling fireballs and make everybody fly and whatever else he decides to do.

And it's all flawed.

The main flaw is that the roles are reduplicated, or in some cases entirely unnecessary. The biggest example is the theif, of course. Why the theif? Well, think about it. The theif is a character who is a relatively inept warrior whose entire purpose is to steal things and get away with it. He relies upon fighters to save his hide from the physical problems, and the wizard to help him escape from the magical ones. In short, he's a fighter minus the fighting. A warrior without the war. And why?

It's entirely possible to have a fighter who is also a theif, a man who is capable of intelligent thought and disarming traps and stealing things, who is also able to put on some armor and slash through some people. It's called a hero, this amazing man. It's a hero in the very most classical sense, ranging back to the greek Oddyseus, or possibly even the sumerian Gilgamesh.

In the systems I'd always come up with, there were basically two roles, one for each way of solving things. If you solved things with blades and muscles, then you were basically a fighter. If you were a sneaky fighter, then you were a sneaky fighter. If you used bows, then you were a fighter who preferred to be called an archer, or whatever. If you solved problems with the powers of your god or gods or arcane formulas or demon-pacts, or any other sort of mystical and magical powers, then you were a sorcerer. If you were a holy man, you're still a sorcerer. The rules didn't care about the flavor, only your abilities.

That, to me, is how a system should be. It should be rules-light, with no rules for anything other than combat. Already I can see people asking why, people telling me why rules need to be thick and heavy to cover every possible situation and how we need skills covering things like diplomacy and social skills and not putting your elbows on the table and all that "fun" stuff. That's a topic for a different post, and I promise I'll go into it then.