Monday, September 26, 2016

Dusting Off the 40K Models Again

I had been playing D&D Adventurer's League on Wednesdays at the FLGS, but I showed up a few weeks ago to find none of the usual players there. It didn't take long to figure out that the schedule had been changed, and not only was there no D&D that night. It wouldn't have bothered me at all if I had come in on Wednesday and found out that it had been moved to Thursday. "No biggie! See ya tomorrow!" Right? Wrong. They'd already played on Monday, and I just missed out.

I was irritated, to say the least... but I couldn't be mad. The guys that run the shop are super nice, even if they did leave me hanging that week. People make mistakes. It happens. Keep calm and move on. Besides, there was a secret lining. D&D was getting bumped to another night to make room for a competitive Warhammer 40K night.

Now, I haven't actually played on a Wednesday night yet, but the couple of people I've talked to have described it as super-competitive, cutthroat 40K. I think they were actually trying to warn me... not knowing that's exactly the type of competition that I crave. I've barely played since 5th edition (maybe five casual games?), so I'm sure I'll get trounced a few times before I get back in the groove, but that's just part of the learning curve.

I've looked at a few of the winning tournament lists in 2016, and it looks like Eldar are pretty close to the top dogs if not the top dogs. That's good news, as I'll be (re)starting with a codex that is well-positioned. Unfortunately, the lists of today are very different from the wave serpent spam that I'm used to running. Instead, the Eldar lists of today load up on windrider jetbikes and warp spiders - not models that I have many of, unfortunately. So I'm going to hit the ground running with a great codex but an outdated list.

So I guess I need to see just how competitive of a list I can manage with the models I have on hand, and either build up to a competitive list over time, or figure out some unorthodox tactics to make what I have competitive. Here's what I'm working with at the moment:

Eldar Combined Arms Detachment (1850)
HQ (335)
Asurmen (220)
Farseer (windrider) (115)

Troops (615)
3 windriders w/ scatter lasers & warlock (131)
3 windriders w/ scatter lasers & warlock (131)
10 dire avengers w/ exarch (power weapon, shimmershield) & wave serpent (scatter laser) (275)
6 dire avengers (78)

Elites (360)
10 fire dragons w/ exarch (firepike) & wave serpent (scatter laser) (360)

Fast Attack (130)
5 warp spiders w/ exarch (twin-linked death spinner & powerblades) (130)

Heavy (410)
1 fire prism (shuriken cannon) (135)
1 fire prism (shuriken cannon) (135)
1 falcon (eldar missile launcher) (140)


I will likely change this list before I actually hit the tabletop with these guys, but we'll see how it goes. There are certain parts of this list that just feel like blasphemy. Asurmen has always been overpriced, for example, and I'm accustomed to having several groups of five fire dragons with their own respective transports. This is just a rough draft, though. I'm betting a lot of my thinking will change as soon as I get my hands on a real copy of the rules and the Eldar codex. At the moment, I'm trying to make do with this cheat sheet and a BattleScribe download.

A wraithknight and a bunch more windriders are pretty high on my list of "things to acquire," but they'll just have to wait until the the budget can handle that kind of purchase.

In the meantime, suggestions are welcome! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Smelly Boot Shenanigans Preview

I've been working on getting an adventure into a format that is publishable, and it is definitely a learning process. I've never done any of this before, and I'm a one man operation, so I've decided to release a preview version of the adventure for free. Getting a small piece of the text into a format that looks presentable is good practice, and even if I change almost all the visual aspects of the work between now and the full release, it has served as a great learning experience.

Please feel free to critique away. I'm learning here, so even harsh words are welcome. I want to build on what I've done, and continue to write, until my work is respectable enough to put on a resume someday... and I've got a long way to go before I have resume-worthy work to present.

So here's a snippet of what I've been working on. Is it complete? No. Is it silly? Yeah. Is it worth downloading? Well, it's free. What do you have to lose?

Thanks for checking this out, and thank you for any feedback you're willing to share. Click here to download if you haven't already!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Adventure Design Principles

I've been writing my own adventures for years as a game master, but I've never actually put my designs in a publishable format. That is changing, of course, as I work on my first published work. However, as I put the finishing touches on the adventure, I keep going back through it to make sure it has all the elements of a memorable adventure that I would want in something I paid for.

So before I click "publish" and put this work out there for the world to see and critique, I want to share my adventure design philosophy: the guiding principles that I have been striving to keep in mind as I create and write.

1. The adventure should be one that I would enjoy running and playing.
This should be obvious, but it helps keep me in check with some of my wackier ideas. If a scenario is a nightmare for the GM to moderate, or includes situations that players will be incredibly annoyed with, it probably isn't worth spending the time to run at all. Am I right? And there is, of course, the ultimate bottom line... if I'm not writing about something I enjoy, chances are I'll never finish it.

2. The adventure must stand on its own without statistics.
There are so many guidelines in various systems that point out what an "appropriate" encounter might look like, but I want to make sure that my writing is not married to any of those formulas. The story itself should be interesting enough to keep the attention of players regardless of what game system is used to resolve combat. Balanced encounters are fine, but in the past I've felt a little boxed in by challenge rating formulas and xp thresholds. I'm trying to ignore all of that and decide on the level of the adventure after writing it, rather than before. This approach might not always work, but I'm going to stick with it for the time being.

3. There must be a nonviolent (or at least nonlethal) option.
Maybe it's the part of me that works with kids (or maybe it's my inner paladin speaking), but I want to make sure that my published adventures include ways for players to complete their mission without killing all of the "bad" guys. Granted, I know that many groups will still charge into the dungeon waving their greatswords and asking questions later if something happens to still be breathing, but I don't ever want to assume that players will just swing an axe at everything that moves. Combat is a fun aspect of RPGs, but infiltration, diplomacy, and other strategies should also be valid options.

A preview version of the adventure, with some background info and just a handful of locations, will be released as a "Pay What You Want" download soon. But before I put it out there, I want to know... whether they're going to be published or just enjoyed at the kitchen table, what design principles do you consider when you're preparing adventures? 
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