Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Roleplay & Gaming Aids

When I first started playing tabletop games it was the Games Workshop based Milton Bradley board games HeroQuest and Space Crusade. My brother and I then moved to Warhammer 40,000 2nd ed. These games had a few things in common a great story and game universe, narrative driven conflict, loads of miniatures and 3D terrain.

Many years later my first experience of a true Role-playing game was a sit in on a session of D&D 4th ed. I wasn't familiar with the game universe but I could appreciate the imagery that the DM was weaving as the party played through a few interactions. I enjoyed the free form and unstructured nature of play. You could declare that you character was taking any type of action only constrained by your imagination and the roll of a d20.
I was a little bemused when it came to combat the DM would draw simple maps, the party and adversary's were represented by paper tokens.

HeroQuest Dungeons
I was expecting a board more like the HeroQuest dungeons of my childhood. 3D Doors and furniture, swarms of horrible monsters and mighty heroes all in miniature form. I was wondering why bother with the paper maps and tokens at all? The magic of the noncombat encounters seemed broken by the board game like combat. It wasn't until I got my hands on the player's hand book that I realised that D&D was two games. The free-form Role-Play game and not a bad tactical miniature skirmish game with structured rules. Any combat using the book rules would be difficult without a tactical map movement and positioning in combat was immensely important and tokens would be necessary to avoid confusion. After some research I found that in previous editions this was not always the case. And in the future it may no longer be the case.

Now that I am running a game, I find myself at an impasse. I like the feeling of a game has when it is condensed from the combined imaginations of my players. But I still long for a scene of tiny heroes crawling over the ruins of a destroyed alien city in the pursuit of forbidden treasure.

Warhammer 40K Terrain
The game system I am running is Rouge Trader and the combat rules seem malleable enough to used in a purely narrative fashion. However my long time geek love has been Warhammer 40k and its universe. A lot of what defines 40k is its armies of overpriced plastic warriors battling to the death on top of synthetic battlegrounds.

So the compromise I have reached is all of the noncombat and most of the minor combat encounters are played out in purely narrative form and the larger more important cliffhanger combat encounters I plan to do something special. Full 3D terrain and miniatures. I only have a small assortment of minis suitable for Rogue Trader mostly Reaper stock. The bulk of my GamesWorkshop figures are Orkoid so I have turned to paper-craft to fulfill my vision of blood-soaked away missions. Terrain would be supplied by the excellent quality World Works Games TerrainLinkX and the bulk of the opponents will be paper standees obtained for a very reasonable price from OneMonk Miniatures.

Paper-craft  products may be incredibly cheap but to produce a quality product takes time if I wasn't running a campaign book I don't think I would be able undertake these projects. Even with a pregenerated plot to follow I found I didn't have sufficient spare time, the TerrainLinkX is a nice product but it takes forever to cut, fold, glue and then leave to dry before gluing again. With a little CADfu and a A0 plotter I found a quicker way. The props and standees were still done the traditional slow way. While googling Paper-craft I stumbled upon some insane 40K vehicles by Eli Patoroch an insanely talented Russian 40k fan on 4shared.

A1 battle mat  

Closeup of TerrainLinX detail

Giant paper-craft bugs

The party is jumped in an alleyway

Tiles & alleyway junk from Worldworks


  1. I like it. I wish I'd been able to do something a little more spectacular on the minis side, since it was your first time with D&D. If I was rich, I'd have an entire house devoted to products from

    At the same time, I was really aiming for the old-style in-your-mind combat, since I think that's where the heart of D&D lies, but I wasn't a good enough DM to work around the very squares-based rules of 4E.

    One day I'll travel up and sit in on a session of Rogue Trader.

    1. The Dwarven forge stuff is very enticing especially with there Kickstarter but it's still out of my price range.

      I think the in-your-mind style of combet works very well but 4e is a RGP with a tactical mini game tacked on. It's a good addition I actually like 4e combat it seems very well thought out and tons of fun with all the different powers.

      It's just that it seemed to constrain the roleplay. There were times when I wanted to jump up on tables and kick guys in the teeth but why do that when I have an encounter power that says attack with 2 weapon dice.
      In combat we have these amazing powers like being able to teleport, fly and turn invisible but they can only be used under special conditions. It's like we were demigods but only when in combat.

      I just want to fly over this gate or teleport across that river. Nope only when the keywords on the power card are met.