Sunday 30 October 2016

Creating a character for a live game.

Some friends of mine run a live-action game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. It's been going for a few years now, and they are starting a second 'season' in 2018. I have always wanted to play, but have been worried about expense, costume, needed stuff, and so on. But since the 2018 start gives me a full year to prepare, I figure I can actually now give it a go.

Anyway, this means things like converting and painting up a Nerf gun, buying costume bits, and so on. It also means coming up with an idea for a character, and this got me thinking about how I create characters for live games.

A simple sidearm for a non-combat-primary character.
Obviously, every game is different, but for me live game character creation (assuming certain average traits of live games) requires a few key differences from tabletop game character creation. These fall into two categories. Let's call them narrative and performance.


So the narrative category refers to the ways in which character action and motivation matter. As a rule of thumb, I try to define a live character as someone who:

  • wants something
  • that isn't finite
  • and that can only be achieved with the help of other player characters
So "the blue jewel" is a finite goal, whereas "a sense of belonging" or "fame" or "the thrill of the chase" aren't, if you see what I mean. Once you've got the blue jewel, you've got it, whereas you can always keep pushing for more fame, or at least be worried about losing it.

Note that this is very different from how you design a tabletop character, largely because of the difference in GM: player ratio. In a tabletop game, you can be whoever, doing whatever, and adventure can come along and happen to you. But in most live games, it doesn't work like that. The character has to come in in motion. And in my experience, you can't rely on in-game economies to provide motivation. My guy's gonna be a mercenary type, but his actual motivations are freedom and excitement. 


Different tabletop players vary in the extent to which they act out their characters -- doing voices versus not doing them, for instance. But one thing that tabletop games typically do is manipulate time in a way that live games generally don't. What this means is that my character has to be fun to play even when he is doing nothing, and that he has to be fun to inhabit. If I have to constantly do a voice, for instance, it's got to be something I can do and enjoy doing for long stretches. I'm not going to stand rigidly at attention all afternoon, so I'd better not play a character who would. That kind of thing. 

Again, this is something that's not as obviously required in tabletop games. I think that a lot of the times that people create unsatisfactory characters in live games, it's because they've neglected one or the other of these. 

Anyway, I'm sure I've said this before, but creating this characters has these concepts on my mind. 

Thursday 27 October 2016

Trip report: ExiliCon 2016

So I went by ExiliCon 2016 this past weekend, and while it was quiet (as I expected it to be) I thought it went pretty well. I got a good turnout for my talk, which should be online before long, and I got to play and buy some games, including some older WHFB stuff I had persuaded myself I was looking for and a copy of Grant Howitt's RPG Goblin Quest, which I also had a great time playing. You can buy it on DTRPG or on if that sounds like your thing. Here's a photo of me playing it, with some of my character illustrations:

I didn't take photos like I did last year, except for one of my game set up for playtest. But because of my talk schedule I didn't actually get the chance to run a game! Oh well.

Anyway, I felt, as always, like I learned a lot from the con, and hopefully you'll see some of the lessons learned here on this blog over the next year.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Miscast salvage!

So at this year's Oldhammer weekend I cavorted shamelessly among the bag of miscast models provided by the generous Curtis Fell of Ramshackle Games. I picked up lots of stuff to use as the base of various projects, and here are a few I've begun work on!

This little guy is a cool model, but he was missing a foot and a head:

He's a little short, which may mean he's a Squat type or may just be a character quirk.
Anyway, I cleaned him up a bit, then added a boot crudely sculpted from green stuff and a spare head from the old Wargames Factory shock troopers box. I am not much of a sculptor, as you know, but I think this foot looks pretty OK.

Overall I'm pretty pleased with him! I will texture his base, paint him up and add him to my generic trench-coated space bad guy force.

The next one is a Frankenstein's monster made of various Ramshackle and other bits. He will end up in my Ork army, with the idea that he's had maybe one too many cybernetic replacements.

The main parts of this model, the treads and torso, come from some Ramshackle robots, which, coincidentally are on sale right now for cheaps! He also includes bits from an Ork Stompa, a vehicle crewman, the Ork Boyz kit, a Space Wolf terminator and a Ramshackle Gorillagon. I am pretty pleased with him, although he still needs quite a bit of work. 

Friday 21 October 2016

Age of Sigmar: Easy mode update

So I mentioned that I didn't think I was going to be able to finish this month's Age of Sigmar painting target, so I pulled out my big single model to fill in the gap. Well, that seems to have been successful so far.

So, this is what it looks like after an evening's work. As you can see, the basic colours are all on there, and if I don't get time to back to it this month I'm going to call it done. Like any Reaper Bones model, the mould lines are an ugly mess, and I kept finding them when I thought I'd got them, but ... eh. It'll look OK on the tabletop. I feel like it's at about 80%, and if I get the chance to touch it up a bit over half-term I can get it to about 90.

I was originally going to paint it in naturalistic colours, but I wanted it to be more consistent with the rest of the army, so I went for a white-and-black colour scheme with the side heads represented in the army's green and purple accent colours.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

An upcoming talk and some playtesting

Apologies to those of you who read both this blog and my history blog, but I wanted to take a moment to say that I am going to be at ExiliCon 2016 in Cambridge this coming Saturday 22 October. It's at the St Andrew's Street Baptist Church, it runs from 11 to 5, and it's free. People will be showing off and selling all kinds of stuff, from games to art to films to I don't know what all, so if you're in the area you should drop by and check it out.

I will be there playtesting B-Movie Mogul, the card game that fellow bad movie nerd Luke and I have working on fitfully (I have a busyish life, and he has a very busy one) over the last ... well, over a year actually. It is still very much a work in progress, but people seem to think it's fun.

Also, I will be giving a talk at 1:45 on "Myth, mystery and archaeology in the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft," if that's your kind of thing. And I believe I'm moderating a panel on historical gaming and fiction later in the day, details TBC.

Anyway, if you're in or around Cambridge on Saturday, come on by. Like I said, it's free.

Monday 17 October 2016

Age of Sigmar: Breaking the glass

So far, I've been doing OK in my ongoing painting challenge with Tim of The Responsible One's Wargaming Blog. But in our most recent conversation about the topic, I suggested that October would be a tough month for me to get a lot done -- and I was right! My teaching and tutoring workload has gone bonkers as the school year got going, and for some reason this has also been accompanied by an increase in work for some of my other jobs. Add to that that I have an upcoming talk at ExiliCon next weekend and even though I assembled my Chaos Knights regiment, I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get all five of them done this month.

They are exactly as painted today as they were in this photo from two weeks ago. 
Fortunately, I planned for just such an eventuality! My goal was to paint 200 points worth of models each month, and my army list includes two large models worth 200 points each, which I have been holding back as models to paint in months when time is not very easy to come by. This month I'm busting out the chimera, which is my army's designated big monster.

Now, this Reaper Bones chimera is nothing like the colossal size of the current Citadel model, but the good news is that I don't give a hang. I think it'll be relatively simple to paint and look good on the table, so I'm happy with it. 

Thursday 13 October 2016

Frugal gaming: Halloween horror!

So, reader Ruari tipped me off to this "skeleton zoo animal," the which you can get at Asda for £3. I later found one at another shop for £2.99 and cursed my rashness.

With a little paint, it will make a fun D&D monster or critter for an undead army.

And yes, I know spiders don't have skeletons, but necromancer have a lot of, I dunno, mammoth bones lying around, and they get bored easily.

Sunday 9 October 2016

Frugal gaming: cheap backdrops!

My wife sent me a message on Saturday morning to say that she'd found me a cool thing in a charity shop. Later that day, by some coincidence, I found another, similar one. They were these; 

The sci-fi one was in a different box, but the principle is the same. They're just little collections of card and paper characters and scenic elements, and I foresee a use for them when I have to make a little table display for B-Movie Mogul. But in the meantime I'm just gonna use them as backdrops for miniatures photos. 

"I don't get it, IBP-23. The sensors definitely said there were life forms around here somewhere."

Survivors prepare to make their last stand at the police station. 
They're a little cartoony, but I think they're not bad!

Friday 7 October 2016

Seems like Fridays are going to be busy

No real blog post today -- like last Friday, this Friday is shaping up to be pretty hectic work-wise! However, I am happy to say that I got to play my first game of Lion Rampant last night and I am pretty impressed with it. I'm definitely going to check out the fantasy variant, Dragon Rampant, and start figuring out armies I can build with my existing models and minor adjustments. After I finish my current projects, of course -- although this might mean I've found something to do with that sixth Chaos Knight model, since Lion Rampant works on multiples of 6 while Warhammer typically works on multiples of 5.

Anyway, I will try to make it up to you next week with more photos and more deep thinks.

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Age of Sigmar: the Chosen of Chaos!

So, I have just about finished the Chosen for my ongoing Age of Sigmar slow-build with Tim from The Responsible One's Wargaming Blog. These guys, as I mentioned, are originally from Grenadier, now available from Forlorn Hope Games, and I think they came out OK. The paint job is pretty simple, but they look effective en masse. Not a very big masse, but still. I might touch up one or two points on them, but I'm happy to call them done for now.

As I explained last time, I primed them grey, drybrushed up to white, then painted the armour with a mix of black paint and ink. I touched up the edges with a little VMC German Grey, then did the fur textures up to pure white, plus weapons and so on. I went back to do some little accent details, trying to give every model some bits of brown, bone or bright green to break up the black-and-white monotony.

Here they are together with the unit of Marauders from August, as well as the sorcerer and his familiars. That's 400 points out of 1000, two months into a five-month schedule.

The next unit is going to be a unit of Chaos Knights, based on some ones that I've had ever since high school and a couple of spare Battle Masters guys that I picked up online for cheaps.

We're bang on schedule, then, more or less. I'm pleased with how this is developing. After the knights I've got one more unit of Marauders, the Lord, and then the Chimera to do.

Monday 3 October 2016

Movie Monday: The Dwarvenaut (2016)

I know that Movie Monday is more typically a feature of my other blog, but we've actually got a gaming-relevant film this week! The Dwarvenaut is a documentary about D&D enthusiast and Dwarven Forge proprietor Stefan Pokorny.

And it's ... it's charming. I found it hard to watch, because I'm not good at vicarious embarrassment, but Pokorny's enthusiasm and fuck-it-let's-do-it attitude are infectious (and a valuable reminder to me that being embarrassed on behalf of people who are passionately doing a thing they love and are good at is a useless emotion). If you know a lot about D&D, you're not going to learn anything from this; it's more for people who are loosely familiar with the game or who maybe played once a while ago.

It's fun to see the backstage stuff at Dwarven Forge, and it's fun to learn about Pokorny's history. You come away with a pretty positive view of him and his enterprise; I'm never going to buy Dwarven Forge dungeon stuff, because that is not how my budget works, but I'm glad he's out there making it, having fun and not going out of business.

Anyway, if you want to spend an hour and a half looking at the weird factors that drive someone else's creativity and cheering along with a dude who cold wears a wizard hat and does not give a shit, you could do a lot worse than giving this a spin. It's on UK Netflix at the moment.