What's a nice RPG like you doing in a tabletop skirmish blog like this?!

I know I've been pretty quiet lately with fewer posts than usual and here's why:

The thing is... I’ve always been interested in RPGs since the very first time D&D came out (yes the Gygax version) but there was no one to teach me or to play with back then. 

Now of course RPGs have exploded in popularity and aren’t niche games for nerds any more. (I hope.) I once read that there are about 50 million people playing RPGs in all countries and all games although of the the World’s Most Popular RPG™️ has the bulk of the players.

Tabletop minis in comparison… is about 10% of that figure, of which apparently GW takes about 80%? 85%? of the mind share and gaming share. Which leaves the rest of us as a minority of minorities.

It’s also no secret I’m a big fan of dungeon crawling board games, probably to scratch that RPG D&D itch from way back when. I probably have about 20 dungeon-crawling-themed board games in my collection.

If there’s one thing that the C-word pandemic has done, it’s caused an explosion is solo gaming. Not only in tabletop minis, but also in RPGs.

All of which is a roundabout way to say I picked up some solo-able RPGs from DrivethruRPG and dove right in.

First is the RUNE solo RPG from Kickstarter that I wrote about last month.

It was fine, but it was a bit light on the “roleplaying” aspect and more on the CYOA (Choose Your Own Adventure) style.

So an outfit named Gallant Knight Games had a massive 90% sale on DriveThruRPG and I picked up a lot of their RPGs for a song. 

The main one I was interested in was Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition. It’s rules light and you only need to roll typically 2d6. 3d6 if you have advantage, and 1d6 if you have Disadvantage. You’re looking for successes on 5’s and 6’s.

You get Advantage if you have Traits (Skills in other games, e.g. Charisma gives you Advantage when you’re trying to persuade someone - usually an NPC - to do something you want them to do) that give you said advantage. If you don’t, you usually roll 2d6. Some situations are so bad you will roll 1d6. You will choose a weapon Group to be Proficient in (Light Melee, Heavy Melee, Ranged) then choose 1 weapon type to Master that will give you Advantage (3d6). If you’re Proficient you get 2d6. If you’re using a weapon in a group you’re not proficient in, you roll 1d6. All weapons deal 1 damage. You can Evade if you spent 1 of your 2 actions to do so during your activation. Hit points range from 1 (fodder) to 20 (epic monster) with heroes typically in the 4-7 range and humans average out at 6.

With some advice from the fine folks at RPG Geek on how to solo RPGs, I was off and I had a whale of a time.

The first one was “The Mad Magicks of a Turned God” that was pretty heavy on combat although the finale redeemed itself with no combat but still a very likely 50-50 chance of losing the adventure and TPK! 

The system uses “zones” for movement and attacks. Melee weapons are usually in the Near Zone. Ranged in Far. I re-purposed some of my Dungeon Saga minis and had fun.

Except… coming from a skirmish background, the combat was a wee bit lacking.

That feeling solidified with my 2nd adventure: “The Quest for Dragon Peak.”

After that, I hacked the combat system:

  • Advantage/Disadvantage stays but now every success lands 1 hit
  • Heavy Melee weapons deal 2 hits
  • Criticals (at least 2 sixes) deal +1 DAM on top of the normal damage and you can only crit with a weapon you’ve mastered.
  • Light Melee and Ranged weapons still deal 1 damage/hit but Heavy Melee now deals 2, so a critical can one-shot some low level enemies. 
  • Everyone gets an auto-Evade (instead of needing to take an action) unless they have armour which see below.
  • Armour gives you a normal Save roll (like most other skirmish games) with better armour allowing you re-rolls of failures (you’re still looking for 5 & 6 as successes). Better armour also blocks 1 hit in addition to the saving roll.
  • If I get the drop on enemies I can deploy as I wish but if I’m ambushed, I need to roll to place the party in random zones.

Then I discovered the wonderful world of Xoth (look it up) which is essentially a re-skinned version of Conan’s Hyborian Age and built with the sword & sorcery genre in mind. This is opposed to the vaguely medieval high fantasy setting of most AD&D clones with multiple races (elves, dwarves, humans etc.) and numerous monsters running amuck in dungeons and where magic is a substitute for technology (teleport spell, anyone?)

Sword & sorcery is low fantasy where the majority of the inhabitants are humans and if there are other fantasy races they are usually degenerate ancestors of a once high civilisation or another race (snake men) found in Conan and similar stories. The gods are distant (if they exist at all), and magic is rare and perilous: you use it at the expense of your soul/sanity. Monsters are rare and unique. Ditto magic artefacts. 

I bought a series of S&S adventures titled “The Spider God’s Bride and Other tales of Sword & Sorcery” that “enables you to recreate in your games the exciting pulp fiction of such great authors as Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, and Charles R. Saunders.” These are the writers I cut my teeth with growing up! And with adventures like “The Crypt-Thing of Khorsul “ or “The Swords of Zimballah” or “The Eidolon of the Ape” can you blame me?

So I had my adventuring party run through “The Necromancer’s Knife” and had a great time, except… I now had to retcon my 3 AD&D-style heroes (Katar the Minotaur Paladin, Nessa the Fey Elf Ranger, Shayna the Human Rogue) into a S&S milieu. I now have Mazama the Shoma Barbarian (basically Imaro), Amahle the Mazanian ranger (basically an Amazon) and Sefa the Khorani Rogue (a female Grey Mouser). I also have to add Shihua the Paitangian cultist (the magic user) as my magic user who will join the party half way through an adventure and I’m now running through an old Conan d20 adventure called “The Thing That Lurks”,

So that’s what I’ve been doing these past 3 weeks. Mainly due to work related travel, where it’s difficult tog et out even a small game like Tiny Epic Dungeons, RPGs (when played on a tablet + laptop) are really the way to while away 5-hour flights.

I’ll still be blogging about tabletop skirmish games (I just played the latest version of Bushido yesterday…. I lost) but for the foreseeable future I’ll be continuing my romance with S&S RPGs. 

So here’s a quick poll:

Let me know!

NOTE: Along the way I also ran a Blades in the Dark RPG heist, where my band of rogues stole some cooking ingredients from a magically protected farm with the aid of a wandering ghost. Anyone who's vaguely interested in Ocean's 11 hijinks should at least look it up.