Monday, January 9, 2012

An Unique Challenge: A realistic Dungeon Crawl.

We've all been there a hundred times. An elaborite maze, with dozens of traps ranging from pits to magical fireballs. Secret passages, random teleportations, and a host of creatures that seem to live there, yet never wander their home. They seem content to just live in a room till a random party opens the door.

This beg's the question; who builds such elaborate dungeons to the point where it seems almost impracticle that anyone could make use of it. Who sets and resets all those traps? How do the Orcs eat? Where is the bathrooms?

 Spring this on your players. A realistic Dungeon. Here's how you prep it.

1. Backstory: "Legend tells of a (insert quest item of moderate to high temptation) That lies at the center of a Labyrinth. None who have entered have ever come out alive. They say a great (add a single encounter creature, yet keep it vague) lives there guarding the (quest item).

2. Warning: Upon entering the labyrinth for the first time, there needs to be a warning, perhaps etched in stone above the entrance. "Be warned, once you enter, you cannot leave until you reach the center of the maze/labyrinth/dungeon, etc."

3. Inventory; Once the party enters, the entrance seals behind them. It becomes indistinquishable from any other hallway/dead end. In the center, they can trigger a magic stone or simple lever to re-open it. At this moment, call for a comprehensive list of EVERTHING the party is carrying with them. Pay careful attention to food/water supplies. If they don't mention it, they don't have it, and here in lies the danger. Also, how many torches do they carry? How long do they burn for?

4. Encounters: Not a damn thing. No orcs, beholders, trolls, zombies or lizard people. No pit traps,magic missles, fireballs, poison darts or collapsing ceilings. Nothing, save the single encounter monster near the center of the labyrinth.

5. Setting; It's dark, very dark. Even with torches, one can barely see no more than 20 feet ahead. a dense layer of fog covers the ground up to the knees.

I guarantee you this will be the most dangerous maze they've encountered. Why? because of realism. First, you might get that player who wants you to draw the map out as they go along. Don't. Just descibe the scene, and any forks or intersections they come across.

Another player may take the inititive to map it out. He'll pull out a sheet of graph paper and insist his character will map it out. If a player does this, refer to the inventory sheet. Are they carrying parchement and writing tools? If not, too bad. Yet, a player may still insist it's part of his "rogues kit" or something. Fine. Ask him how he intends to map it out. Perhaps a tried and true method. He walks the length of a cooridor, walking heel to toe to measure it out, then returns to his parchment to draw it out. That's fine, as it will only serve to slow the party down.

Realistically, it still isn't that easy. When he draws it out, have him make skill checks against an undisclosed DC#. if he fails, he fails. Tell him the cooridor is 6 squares long when it's only 5, or something. Eventually, his map will start leading to dead ends and not make any sense.

How's the food and water holding up? What? They forgot to pack rations? Perhaps CON checks are needed and penalties applied as malnutrition and dehydration sets in.

What about sleep? Perhaps, as a means to set a mood, occasionally the great beast's cries can be heard echoing off of the walls. Even those on watch will wake the others for fear it may be close. Again more penalties and CON checks as fear, paranoia, restlessness and fatigue set in.

I think you see where I'm going with this. The real challenge is the maze itself. Why treat dungeons as cash cows of XP and magic items, when the real challenge lies in just surviving the encounter? I'tll be a long time before they willingly trapes off into another crawl without proper planning and supplies.

NEXT: A Realistic Dragon Encounter

Friday, January 6, 2012

Games Workshop moves up a level

Games Workshop has been a mainstay of my personal gaming.  I've been a huge fan going all the way back to 1977 with the first publication of White Dwarf.   Many thousands of dollars later (I'm afraid to check how much I really spent on their products over the decades, continue to have a love/hate relationship as so many gamers have with GW:  price increases, new versions of the game, the fluctuation of new products, etc.  I'm sure there is more.   I have a business background, and expected the worse when GW went public in 1994.  Typically, when companies go public, their products lose a bit of the 'personal flavor' they once had in exchange for meeting the needs of its shareholders who are interested more in the short-term gains.

It would be interesting to see the demographics of the players since the 1980s compared to today's players.  I can surmise, from my personal experiences of managing game shops and the players in the area that the players have shifted in their interests, age, and income.

I saw a number of posts on this on various groups and thought I would post this on our blog.   The following article was published on January 5th and thought I would lend some commentary to it.   I'd love to hear other thoughts from other folks.

Games Workshop moves up a levelBy John Harrington
Thu 05 Jan 2012
[Games Workshop moves up a level] LONDON
(SHARECAST) - Fantasy and science fiction tabletop war gaming firm Games
Workshop saw growth in sales, profit and return on capital from its core
business in the first half of its financial year.

The Warhammer 40k miniatures gaming firm saw revenue rise to £62.7m
in the six months to November 27th, 2011, from £60m at the interim
stage the year before, although the sales total was boosted by £0.7m
of gains from favourable exchange rate movements.

Profit before tax surged to £9.1m from £6.8m the year before,
while earnings per share climbed to 22.1p from 15.6p.

This is a heck of a profit for a game company, particularly in an industry that has a direct correlation on the health of the economy.  Gaming itself typically increases when the economy drops, however new sales of games typically decreases (just as other hobby purchases).  This is similar to more people wtching TV rather than going out to dinner, but fewer people typically buy new TVs to do so.  With the collapse of the Euro and the poor health of the US Economy, one would think that the exchange rates would also have an even heavier weight against the British company.  It will be interesting to see how this would play out if the economies were healthy.

The company has only recently resumed dividend payments, but has done so
with a vengeance; the interim dividend of 29p is not fully covered by
earnings per share, but with net funds of £15.9m, up from £11.5m a
year earlier, the company feels able to return cash to shareholders.
Unfortunately, this is the crux of it.  Although dividends are increasing, so are the price points for their products.  A recent purchase of a pricey Dread Fleet of $115 is a large pill to swallow.  The other thing I find interesting is the increase in Warhammer 40K figures.  Certainly there have been new releases, but 40K has not been a big seller for us.  In fact, checking with GMT, their 40K sales were down significantly for the past 2 years.  It might be just a US slump in the intrest of 40K.

The UK, North America, Asia, Emerging Markets and Capital Cities plus
its two specialist businesses, Forge World and Black Library, all
delivered constant currency sales growth. Continental Europe was down
slightly in constant currency with strong performances from Italy and
the Netherlands unable to offset declines elsewhere.

Increase sales in Italy does not surprise me.  Italy has been slow on the up-take of GW products and over the past couple of years Italy has had some really significant increase in the number of game clubs and conventions.  On the downside, Italy's economy is about as good as Greece's economy and dare I say a similar attitude on entitlements from the government.

Gross margin was maintained despite increased costs. Other than the rise
in raw materials, however, the management sounded sanguine about the
impact of the "real world" on the fantasy milieu in which the group

Bla bla bla....  this is corporate-speak. 

"As a niche business, we, in general terms, neither benefit nor suffer
from macro economic factors as our current results show. The Hobby is
healthy and the challenge is to stay focused on what needs to be done to
service it efficiently and cost effectively," the company statement

Well, it seems healthier than I thought it would be.  I just don't get it myself.  Let's just hope that GW doesn't experience a 'Jordache moment'...those of you from the 80's know what I'm talking about!  Go look in the discount stores and see if you can still find any Jordache jeans.

Shares in Games Workshop shot up 40p to 490p following the release of
the results.\

As of this post, Games Workshop stock is up over 5% since yesterday's article selling at 515.00 GBp. 

What are your thoughts?


Sunday, January 1, 2012

THE GREAT DEBATE: Party Engineering.
What is party engineering? That's when the players sit around and "fill in the gaps" so the adventuring party will be well balanced. You know - a little stealth, a little healing, a little magic/tech, a little brawn.

When a group uses this technique you end up with a well-balanced party that's able to tackle any challenge thrown at them. If you let everyone c...
hoose their own class independently you may end up two people from the same class. Unless it's possible for you to distinguish your character with game mechanics within the class, one party member will ultimately eclipse the other party member. "We've got to make a lore roll? I have the highest lore so I'll roll it!"

The down side to party engineering, however, is that the party becomes predictable. Experienced gamers know their roles well. The cleric is the walking band-aid while the fighter is the meat shield. The wizard lobs magic missile and then detects magic after the fight. Why not spice things up a bit by having an intentional hole or two? It takes a creative party to overcome the lack of a rogue or a cleric. It also lends the DM an excellent opportunity to introduce NPC characters that adventure with the party. No magic user? Hire one!

Another downside to party engineering is that somebody inevitably gets stuck with a role that they don't want. If you're launching a long-term campaign, nobody wants to be stuck as the healing potion with legs for twenty levels. Inevitably, there's a rush to declare what class you're going to be leaving the last person with whatever nobody else wants.

So ultimately, in this debate, I fall on the side of individual expression. So what if you end up with a party of all magic users? What a unique challenge! How can you make YOUR magic user unique even though you're in the same class and race as the rest of the party? That's a challenge an old-school gamer should relish.

Where do you fall? Do you prefer a well balanced party from the get-go? Or do you prefer a more realistic, but unbalanced party that will have greater strengths, but greater weaknesses.