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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 214 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: Gaming with Minatures  (Read 15470 times)
Jack Aidley
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« on: August 02, 2004, 03:21:02 AM »

I've always had something of a love/hate relationship with D&D and it's bastard spawn. There's something about it's primitive class/level system that leads to interesting games and constantly involved characters, and a certain geeky magic-the-gathering style charm to all those options. In fact some of my favourite ever games have been D&D, or crude homebrew derivatives thereof.

Trouble is, everytime I've got to the rules bit - clunk - the game grinds to a painful halt. The dice come out, the rolling begins, slowly and painfully you grind out the combat - "I hit for six", "er... whats seventeen plus six? Is that a hit?", "You miss", and so on. Dull, painful, and unenjoyable almost every time. You can try and spice it up with interesting descriptions, or the odd curveball, but still...

However, on Saturday I was invited to join in a game of 3.5 by a guy who's just started gaming with me (Dave). I'd gamed with minatures before, but only once or twice and we'd never really liked it so I wasn't that keen when he started laying out his (vast) collection of D&D minatures. But when play started everything was suddenly different.

He started the game in the thick of it with a fight on a lightning rail (a train basically - we were playing in the high magi-tech Eberron setting) and drew out a three wide grid on the glass table and laid out the minatures. And Wow! D&D combat, but fun. Ok, so it feels very much like a board game with 'cut scenes' but it's a good boardgame and I can suddenly understand where all the enthusiasts from 3EBB and enWorld are coming from.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2004, 05:28:04 AM »

Hi Jack,

I believe the term I've heard, including from more than one of the game's designers, is "miniatures skirmish wargaming." Does that seem to hit the mark? Sounds like it ...

Best,
Ron
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Vaxalon
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« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2004, 05:39:25 AM »

The taproot of Dungeons and Dragons reaches deep, and at the bottom it remains firmly attached to the underground stream of miniatures wargaming.
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
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Jack Aidley
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« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2004, 05:44:53 AM »

Hi Ron,

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I believe the term I've heard, including from more than one of the game's designers, is "miniatures skirmish wargaming." Does that seem to hit the mark? Sounds like it ...


No, it's not quite like skirmish wargaming (although that can be fun too) - you're only controlling the one guy, and it has roleplaying elements absent from simple skirmish wargaming. Definite parallels though, and it's much closer to wargaming than any other roleplaying I've done.

Cheers,

Jack.
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ADGBoss
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« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2004, 05:54:48 AM »

Actually if I am not mistaken, Skirmish level games are outgrowths of table top RPGs, which admittedly have miniature wargames in their lineage. I was not aware of any Skirmish level games until the 80's, except perhaps Squad Leader & Advance Squad Leader (SL/ASL).

I do not think have a tactical / table top skirmish or miniatures lessens or inhibits the RPG experience.  Having mini's does not make an RPG a wargame anymore then having playing cards makes an RPG akin to rummy, poker, or Magic The Gathering, or having dice makes it like Craps.


Just my 2 Lunars as always.


Sean
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2004, 01:43:05 PM »

Quote from: Vaxalon
The taproot of Dungeons and Dragons reaches deep, and at the bottom it remains firmly attached to the underground stream of miniatures wargaming.
LMFAO.

I am now flashing back heartily to playing Chainmail on my friend Jim's bedroom floor (hardwood, you see).

On another note, my three year old son found my "dungeon floors" set and put together what my miniatures collection is for. So I had to spontaneously create "Donjon Adventure."

Creatures are rated by their move and strength scores. I set these by what the mini looks like, but humans are 3/3, dwarves 2/4, etc. Each turn a character can move his move his movement in squares, or attack. When attacking, Alex rolls the scattegories die (d20 with leters on each side), and, if he can correctly identify the letter, hits the creature for one point of damage. I also use the letter to start a word in the narration of how they hit or missed. Each hit does one point to strength, and when at zero the character dies. I make the monsters miss whenever he needs help.

Last adventure he killed two goblins and a hobgoblin, and the party found ice cream as the treasure.

I have a feeling that I'm going to be doing a lot of minis gaming coming up soon - all gamism. :-)

Mike

P. S. off to post this to the kids-rpg yahoo group. :-)
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Jack Aidley
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« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2004, 12:16:15 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
When attacking, Alex rolls the scattegories die (d20 with leters on each side), and, if he can correctly identify the letter, hits the creature for one point of damage.


Mike, you're a frickin' genius! That's ace.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2004, 10:51:54 AM »

Purely random, I assure you. Game stuff was lying everwhere, and I needed a die. There was the scattegories die, and I dismissed it at first. But then it struck me that my wife and I had been talking about teaching him the alphabet, and it just clicked.

Anyhow, the point to take away is that there's something really fetishistic about miniatures, but they really come to life when they have a place to stand. Alex could figure out that the minis represented people, but not that you could do anything with them until there was a "board" to put them on. With both of those together, even a three-year old can invent something like an RPG on the spot. I made the rules, but, as I said, he was the one that demanded that we play a game with the miniatures on the dungeon floors.

That's a lot of racial memory or something coming to light making miniatures powerful mojo. I've always wanted to get the minis back into gaming, but haven't yet figured out how to do so with the more dramatic sorts of play that I like. That is, minis are obviously good for tactics (the taproot that was mentioned). Less obvious is how to use them and their mini environs to enable thematic play. When there's a discussion, you cut to the player so we can see expression, etc. Minis can't do that. So thematic expression would have to be in terms of the environments.

Mike
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Vaxalon
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« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2004, 11:00:27 AM »

I ran an Amber game with miniatures.

"Amber with Miniatures?"  you ask...  "Dayum, talk about DRIFT!"

Not at all.

Every player was required to have a mini representing his character.  It really helped define them.  Then, I laid out postcards (often, these were not commercial postcards, but pics on the net I had printed out and laminated) for the various shadows and locations where the PC's could be.  As they trumped, shadowwalked, or hellrode from one place to another, I'd slip the minis from card to another.  It really  helped keep track of where everyone was, when people were really moving around quickly.

Oh, and anyone with a personal shadow had to provide a postcard for it.
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
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xiombarg
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« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2004, 12:45:50 PM »

Quote from: Vaxalon
Oh, and anyone with a personal shadow had to provide a postcard for it.

That trick would work well with Nobilis or any other game where the PCs have rapid transit available, and not just to different dimensions. Consider a sort of modern-day "Indiana Jones with monsters" game, where PCs are in Africa researching the monster while PCs are in Chicago stalking the thing, everyone communicating by cellphone. There'd even be a "on a plane" postcard...
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Vaxalon
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« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2004, 01:25:53 PM »

Yep, it would work for Nobilis too.  I forgot to mention the cards we'd use to connect one card to another that represented such things as shadowwalks and hellrides.
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
ErrathofKosh
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Lest Darkness Fall.


« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2004, 01:57:29 PM »

Oh, I love the Scattegories die thing.  Now my wife has to let me GM for our kids!  

The miniatures thing works really well for D20 Star Wars battles, especially if you do it on a whiteboard so that changing battle topography is quick and easy.  Also, having a few speeder bikes or ship minis helps.

Cheers
Jonathan
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Cheers,
Jonathan
Doyce
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« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2004, 02:22:26 PM »

Minis have been a standard 'thing' for our d20 games, simply because there's a hell of a lot going on and the rules frankly need the miniatures out there, just to figure out bonuses and whatnot.

That said, player preference has resulted in miniatures coming out even for games like Sorcerer when there's a conflict going on.  A few marks on a battlemat and a mini or two can sometimes help bridge the gap when I have a complicated location in my head and the players just aren't getting how it's all laid out.

Whenever a d20 player tries to get me to answer things like "how far can I move on the map" during such a scene in Sorcerer, I just raise an eyebrow and ask them what their goal is.

And Mike -- just have to say that the alphabet die is genius -- lucky genius maybe, but still genius.  Love it.
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John Kim
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« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2004, 06:49:03 PM »

Just another note of agreement here.  

My thus-far-brief foray into D20 GMing was my Conan test run, where I put a lot of attention to the miniatures (thanks to my friend Jim).  cf. some notes on the game in http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=11633">Conan Test Run Results.  Having painted miniatures isn't particularly a part of the game-as-game qualities (i.e. using chits or markers is equivalent), but rather is part of the artistic and/or immersive qualities of the game.
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S'mon
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« Reply #14 on: August 16, 2004, 12:35:17 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hi Jack,

I believe the term I've heard, including from more than one of the game's designers, is "miniatures skirmish wargaming." Does that seem to hit the mark? Sounds like it ...


Yup, I've found that D&D3e works very well as a miniatures skirmish wargame (a pure Gamist game) with linked bits of 'roleplay' to get from one fight to the next.  It's fun in a way that most RPG combat isn't.  For a GM, though, it's hard to do right, for this reason: wargamer combat requires a challenge, which requires the possibility of success or defeat/failure.  It thus works best with a 'level playing field' where either side has a chance to win.  Yet RPG combat has an inherently unlevel field, because the players have 1 (or a few) pawns each, while the GM has an infinite number, so death/defeat of the PC pawns has a very different meaning from death defeat of the GM-pawns.  Earlier versions of D&D, especially 2e, typically resolved this problem by having death/defeat of the PC-pawns be very unlikely, which reduced the challenge of combat.  3e takes the contrary approach, that combat should be challenging, difficult, and player-defeat a real possibility, as evinced by many scenarios from Wizards & the original designers (Monte Cook especially), and as inbuilt into the Challenge Rating and geometric-power-increase approaches of the game.  The 3e GM finds that they walk a fine line between Challenging the players (fun for all) and Defeating the players (not fun for anyone, if it happens frequently).  Furthermore, the wargame approach enourages an adversarial attitude from the GM, trying to 'beat' the players.  Unfortunately, this is often all too easy, yet it's a pyrrhic victory when beating the players effectively ends the game - at least until new PCs can be rolled.

This all actively discourages strong position-identification by the players with their playing-pawns, the PCs.  If the pawns are seen as expendable by the GM, the players are strongly encouraged to adopt the same attitude even if the GM avowedly states that he wants players to have a strong investment in their PCs.   When you've seen 3-4 lovingly crafted, psychologically complex & emotionally-attached-to PCs slaughtered in a skirmish minis battle (that you as player may have felt guilty about avoiding: since combat is so much D&D's focus it can seem 'wrong' to bypass it) the natural defense mechanism is to avoid creating such PCs in future.  It can really hurt to lose a heavy-investment PC.  Why go through that hurt, time after time?

Also, because 3e combat is phrased entirely as a tactical challenge, it strongly discourages a dramatic (what's most exciting) or in-character (what's most plausible) approach to play during combat.  This makes a "Narrativist d20" game like OGL Conan's use of D&D-minis-combat a very uneasy fit with the expressed aims of the game.  Conan dispatches with Challenge Ratings or any requirement of fairness & balance in combat - getting the balance of opposing forces right is an important element of 3e minis combat.

For these reasons, I've found that while 3e-minis-combat is a good game in itself (a skirmish wargame), it's important not to see it as a necessary part of any game using the d20 ruleset.  Next time I run Conan there'll be no minis in sight...
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