LPL5 Week 6: White Russians!

No, not the (very tasty!) drink, but White Russian Rifles from sometime in the Russian Civil War; the figures are 28mm from Brigade Games and very nice.

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White Russian Rifles, my Round 6 entry for LPL5. As always, click for full size.

My Whites will, by the time you read this, have been fairly comprehensively beaten by an Irish medieval/Dark Ages warband with very, very nicely painted freehand shield designs, and Round Seven will be underway!

LPL5 Week 5: Hunting von Lettow-Vorbek

Week Five of the LAF’s Lead Painters League having just ended, here’s my entry. This was one of the bonus theme weeks; the bonus theme this time was “Africa”, with extra bonus points for producing an opposing team as well as your basic 5-figure entry.

I completely forgot about the extra bonus points for an opposing team, but that wouldn’t have mattered as I’ve no suitable figures anyway. I did manage to shoehorn the tropical British I’ve been painting in, as British and British Empire troops spent the entire length of the Great War chasing Paul von Lettow-Vorbek around various East African territories. They never caught him, he surrended shortly after the November 11 Armistice undefeated in the field.

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Hunting von Lettow-Vorbek, Tanganika 1917 (Click for a full-size version, as always)

Unfortunately my British riflemen got done for by a group of zombie nomads on zombie camels, but I’m still pleased with the paintjob on them and the photograph.

The larger base they’re on, incidentially, is a CD covered in sand and fine gravel, then painted to mostly match the bases of the British and some of the other figures I’ve been doing lately.

LPL5 Round 6 launched Sunday, go check out all the great entries!

.45 Adventures 2nd Edition, A Review

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.45 Adventures 2nd Edition

Rattrap Productions released the much-anticipated 2nd Edition of their .45 Adventures pulp adventure rules a few weeks ago, I received my copy of the full rules last week, and I’ve already run one convention game and several small private test games with the demo rules before even getting the full rules.

The PDF version should be out shortly too, as Rattrap generally releases the PDF version about a month after the initial print release. (Edit to add: the PDF version is out today.)

This review is mostly aimed at folks who have some familiarity with the 1st Edition of 45A, but it should be general enough to give those of you with no experience at all with the system an idea of how it works. Note that throughout this review I’ve used “45A1e” and “45A2e” for 1st & 2nd Edition respectively; this is a bit of a D&D-ism but useful shorthand!

So What’s Changed?

The most obvious change from 45A1e to 45A2e is the “fistfuls of d10” change. Instead of the previous version’s “1d10 + Stat +/- modifiers”, 2e is almost always “1d10 + stat +/- extra d10s depending on skills or circumstance”. You pick the best of the rolls if you’re rolling multiple d10. In practice, this seems to work out at around 3d10 per attack roll and 1d10 or 2d10 for the defender most of the time, so while you might need a few extra d10 for larger games, just to keep things moving, it’s not a really serious “fistfuls of dice” game the way Full Thrust or some of the GW games are!

Almost all the rules from 45A1e now in the one new 45A2e book. Basic gangsters, cops, crime-fighters, military, super science & robots, safari characters, all in one cover, along with all the skills. This alone makes character creation much easier, as the archetypes, skills and special rules aren’t spread over half a dozen books anymore! The campaign rules and New Commerce City background material have been rolled into the main rulebook as well.

Character creation is also massively streamlined. Rather than lists of specific skills available to specific archetypes, the archetypes have different numbers of skills they can take per skill category, and all the skills are now slotted into one of these 11 categories. This will also make integrating future supplements and releases easier!

Weapons are no longer purchased as part of a character’s basic build. Instead, they’re purchased per-scenario using Equipment Points. This means, among other things, that Grade 1 & 2 characters can often take more Special Abilities than before, as they’re not having a significant part of their available Special Ability count taken up with weaponry. (Giving a Grade 1 flunky a tommy gun used to soak up 3 of their 4 available Ability slots in 45A1e, now a Grade 1 can actually have four skills and the gun!)

What’s Brand New?

The whole Occult section is new, with rules for various Cthulhu-esque creatures, cultists and goings on, spells, artifacts and such. I haven’t had a chance to use these in play yet, but they look entertaining.

The entire Special Abilities/Skills list has been rewritten and consolidated. There’s a bunch of new or replacement skills, some duplicated stuff removed, and a rather elegant hierarchy of skills has been implemented for a few areas.

A couple of my favourite archetypes from 45A1e didn’t make it into 45A2e, namely the Foreign Agent & Professor archetypes. On the other tentacle, the G-Man archetype should encompass the old Foreign Agent one quite well, and there is now an archetype creation formula so you can roll your own if you really want to.

The archetype creation rules were much requested for 45A1e, so it’s great to see them included with 2e. I haven’t really played with them yet, but a read-through and examination of how the included archetypes are assembled lead me to think the creation rules should work just fine. (the stock archetypes included in the rules appear to have been built using the actual archetype creation rules as presented, which is always a good sign!)

Weaponry, as mentioned above, is no longer bought as part of a character’s build process, but instead it’s done using Equipment Points which can change on a per-scenario basis. This gives players and GMs greater flexibility – you can restrict weapons in a scenario without players feeling like they’ve “wasted” a lot of a character’s build options, control the amount of firepower on the table, etc. The Equipment List also encompasses a lot of non-weaponry equipment, too, things that might be useful in certain scenarios like flashlights, ropes or even multi-language translating dictionaries.

The Super Science & Occult equipment is controlled the same way, with seperate Super Science & Occult Equipment Points. Certain archetypes give bonuses to various of these Equipment Points totals – the Military Officer gets +10 Equipment Points, the Witch Doctor +10 Occult Points, for example.

A Few Issues

Typos and grammar errors! There’s a typo in the Table of Contents (“Resaerch” instead of “Research”) that should have been caught by a simple spellchecker  (not the only time I noticed this in the book) and a few grammar glitches (its/it’s, that sort of thing) recurring. None of them that I’ve noticed so far occur where they’d cause rules ambiguity or misinterpretation, at least.

(Corey’s interjection: Amongst the many jobs I do, I am a part-time writer and copy-editor, so the mistakes in the book, especially with regards to the lack of a style guide, really bug me, to the point where I had to put down the book and walk away at one point. Sorry Rich. )(Brian’s re-interjection: Unless you’re a hardass about editing, the concerns I noted in the previous paragraph really aren’t showstoppers…)

There are a number of layout glitches that make some things hard to read than they should be, especially when searching quickly for a specific rule or skill. One example is the lack of differentiation between sub-section headings (just made using bold text) and some lists, some of which use bold to make their titles stand out and some of which don’t. The Special Abilities Lists are easy to read, but the similar Robot Upgrades List re-uses bold text for two different things (sub-section headers and upgrade titles). A second style for those sub-section headers would make some sections of the book much easier to scan, especially in mid-game when you’ve had to pause the action to clarify a rule.

Beyond layout and grammar, as I said above, some of the old 45A1e archetypes haven’t made the cut. There’s also a few toys and weapons missing, but for ordinary games that’s not going to be a huge concern, as the most notable missing weapons are the Light & Medium Machine Guns from the Amazing War Stories military supplement, hardly common weapons in typical 45A games!

The Verdict

These are all very minor issues, though. The new character stat/wound boxes are far more compact than the old ones, so it should be possible to get more characters onto less paper now – and less paper in front of players during a game is rarely a bad thing!

The new “fistfuls of d10” combat/skills system runs faster on the table. Characters move faster, Grade Ones (the mooks, thugs, extras, Privates and redshirts of the factions) die quicker while Grade Threes (the Stars!) are a bit tougher but not hugely so. It’s entirely in keeping with the heroic/cinematic traditions of pulp that major characters should be able to plow through crowds of extras, anyway!

So, the final verdict?  .45 Adventures 2nd Edition is just as detailed, playable and flavourful as the old, but the new system is faster, leaner and pulpier.

Streamlined, in fact. Very pulp-era thing to do, actually!

Pulp-era Streamlining. Not just for trains anymore! (Image is CC-BY-NC from Carlos62 on Flickr)

LPL5 Week 4: No new entry, sorry!

With getting ready for Trumpeter Salute taking up almost all of my gaming time the week before the convention, I didn’t manage to get a new entry finished for Round 4 of the Lead Painters League.

I re-ran Lord M Hosts A Weekend instead, and watched my fancy toffs perish under relentless Imperial bombardment – they got paired up with a rather nice (and new!) entry featuring Star Wars Imperial spaceships, including the Death Star itself, and a great disturbance in the Force was felt.

I’ve got a new entry in Round 5, live this week, though, and Rounds 6 & 7 already finished, photographed & submitted, so I have a bit of breathing room for the last three rounds, including the blowout Round 10 Movie scene bonus round!

An Egyptian Souvenir

OK, I’ve never actually been to Egypt. But it’s a classic in pulpish destinations (and the closely-related Lovecraftian/Cthulhuian destinations!) and while I’m obviously biased, I like how this luggage tag or sticker has come together.

Egypt! The Mysterious Near East! &c &c. Done in Inkscape, as always!

Done in Inkscape, as usual. The design occurred to me while walking home from work one afternoon, and pretty much fell together once I got home and fired Inkscape up. I love it when inspiration strikes like that!

LPL5 Week 3: Lord M Hosts a Weekend

My Round Three entry for LAF’s Lead Painters League, more Pulp Figures sculpts. This time it’s the upper classes, with the PGJ-14 Upper Crust Swells pack providing five of the figures, and the PHP-18 Rugged Sons of Empire pack providing the Scotsman with shotgun and bald officer in mess uniform.

Yes, that’s tartan on the Scotsman’s kilt. Yes, I’m mad.

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Lead Painters League 5 Round 3 entry. As usual, click for full size.

As a bonus, they’ve won their round, against a rather nice flotilla of Ground Zero Games’s FSE starships! As I’ve said before, I don’t take part in LPL with any serious expection of winning, just to get stuff painted and photographed and to force me to push myself as a painter. Winning is just gravy. Tasty, tasty gravy, though.

Trumpeter Salute 2011 Photos & More!

Took a fair number of photos while having a great time attending Trumpeter Salute 2011 this last weekend, and a surprising number of them actually turned out good!

Here’s a narrated photo tour of Trumpeter Salute from my point of view.

Trumpeter Salute 2011: Lego Wars
“Zombies vs Ninjas vs Robots vs Pirates” — what’s not to love? I have to admit I missed this one, but just the title alone is a hoot. The Lego Wars guys are awesome.

Trumpeter Salute 2011: Darkest Africa I
Darkest Africa, in a very pulpish scenario: Col. Kurtz of the Belgian Force Publique has gone insane and is attempting, with some allied/coerced native tribal allies, to invade the rest of Africa. The British with Zanzibari & Masai allies move in to attempt to put him down. I played one of the Belgian tribal allies – the one who survived the game, as the allied tribe on the Belgian’s other flank got shot to pieces by the Brits then chopped up by the Masai before the Belgians broke the British and Masai with rifle fire. The Zanzibari spent most of the game hacking through the jungle on a long flank march, and arrived just in time to let the Belgians and my tribe march off in exchange for being allowed to loot the battlefield!

Trumpeter Salute 2011: Darkest Africa V
The climax of the Darkest Africa game – the outnumbered Belgians, one flanking allied tribe destroyed, form “knot” (like a square, but tiny) to fend off a whole heap of swarming Masai. It’s touch and go for two turns of desperate combat as the Masai swarm the knot, but they’re fended off long enough for the Belgian unit to re-form a firing line and blow the Masai back into the jungle with rifle fire…

Trumpeter Salute 2011: WW2 in 15mm I
This awesome harbour was part of a WW2 15mm game that I didn’t play, but it was too good not to get photos of. The flaklighter ship was out cruising up and down the beach during the game, too, attempting to fend off the Allied attack coming from the land side.

Trumpeter Salute 2011: Strange Aeons!
Another eye-catching game I didn’t play, just got this nice shot of. It’s Uncle Mike’s Strange Aeons horror/pulp/Cthulhu adventure skirmish game, on his very nice (and double-sided!) portable 2’x3′ gaming board.

Trumpeter Salute 2011: The Amulet of Fire I
Finally, one last shot of my own Amulet of Fire game! This is the river end of the 2’x4′ jungle board for Chapter One of Amulet, with Corey’s steamship alongside my dock, and jungle tracks leading off to the mission station and further into the jungle! The Amulet game went well, despite not having the time to get over to Chapter Two on the mesa itself. The 2nd Edition of .45 Adventures is a good bit faster and more streamlined than 1st Edition was, especially with things like vehicles on the table.

All of my Trumpeter Salute 2011 photos, lots more than I posted here, are over on Flickr for your viewing enjoyment!

I’ll be rewriting Amulet’s characters again, both for slight balance tweaks and because in last week’s hasty pre-con conversion of 1st Ed characters over to 2nd I flat-out copy-n-pasted several characters around, changing only names, and the scenario deserves better than that!

Already looking forward to Trumpeter Salute 2012! Perhaps I’ll do a pulpish end of the world type scenario, to go along with all the 2012 End Times horsecrap?

Back From Trumpeter Salute!

Just a very short post to say Trumpeter Salute was awesome, lots of fun games and great people. Good to see friends and regulars again, and meet new people.

I ran Amulet for a full group of six players, using the .45 Adventure 2nd Edition demo rules. The game went well but we never actually got near the mesa (Chapter Two) because although 2nd Ed does flow faster than 1st did, I put too many figures on the table.

Sorting photos now, will have a longer post tomorrow probably with lots and lots of photos, a list of my goodie haul (extensive!) and more!

io9 covers WW1, interwar, and WW2 European pulp

io9, source of much pulpy goodness such as the Tozo comic, has turned its attention to European pulp, covering the period from 1914 all the way through to the end of World War 2 in 1945. Oh the planetary romance, the zombies, and the rise of facism. All is covered within. Just check out the image to the right. It has zeppelins!

Photos from the Amulet of Fire game at Dak’Kon

I have finally got the pictures from the Amulet of Fire game at Dak’Kon. This is the second time the game has been run (the first was GottaCon in February, the third will be this weekend at Trumpeter Salute) and the last time we will likely run .45 Adventures 1st edition. The con itself was great and I have also posted some images from the Savage Worlds Tournament in another flickr set.

The three players, British, Red Russian, and White Russian
The three players, British, Red Russian, and White Russian

Continue reading Photos from the Amulet of Fire game at Dak’Kon