'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Corrupt Cliffs

Corrupt Cliffs
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Places of Interest

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Whetstone, Issue 1. A review

Recently a new Sword & Sorcery anthology came across my social media feeds, if you have been around the Sword & Sorcery or Weird Fiction circles you will know that we have quite a few small publishers putting out various collections of these sorts of fiction such as Skelos Press or Rogue’s Blade Entertainment, so seeing another one wasn’t a large surprise, but it was welcome.  

Whetstone bills itself as an “Amateur Magazine of Pulp Sword & Sorcery”, and the first issue contains 10 stories across 60+ pages and is free, so I thought I should check it out. 

The editor of this anthology is Jason Ray Carney, who teaches creative writing at Christopher Newport University.  He is also an editor on “The Dark Man: Journal of Robert E Howard and Pulp Studies”.  We are off to a good start, which only continues to get better.

Thumbing through the PDF, I immediately notice that the cover and seal credits are given to Bill Cavalier, whom I do not personally know, but he is someone I certainly know of.  It is a hard name to miss among the fans of Robert E Howard.   You can check out more of his art here, “http://www.billcavalier.com/”.

Clearly, the Anthology has strong roots in pulp from within the scholars with a love of Robert E Howard.  Whetstone is a PDF anthology with the following submission guidelines.

Length: We prefer short, compressed stories that are nevertheless complete and cohesive narratives (1500 to 2500 words). These limits are firm. No more, no less.
Style: We prefer “dialog light, action-heavy” fiction that is unselfconsciously literary but nevertheless takes joy in an occasional old word that gives the breath of antiquity.


And so as you would expect from those guidelines the stories in this anthology are short, quick reads and I could generally get through a couple of them in my 45-minute commute on the train.  Settings and ideas run from wizards vs. heroes in classic fantasy settings to more indigenous settings and everything in between.  I believe it is a good cross-section of pulp and sword & sorcery.

I am not going to review each story here, although I may talk about them in the future as there are some that have intrigued me.  For my personal tastes, a random guy with no writing experience or training in English, each story had its good points, but some I certainly liked better than others. Some just needed more room to breathe as they had excellent ideas others felt more like a snippet from a larger story.  The shortness of the fiction left me unable to really get to know the setting and the characters.

For me, the pros of the stories and the quickness of the reads outweigh the negatives and I look forward to seeing more glimpses of new worlds and to where this anthology of Sword & Sorcery goes in the future.  You can find Whetstone for yourself by visiting their blog at https://whetstonemag.blogspot.com/

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

 


Tool Trunk Thursday: Crescent Knife

Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters welcome back!  Another Thursday!  I hope you are staying safe and doing everything in your power to help slow the spread of Covid-19.  I have returned to the office these days and so have found myself with less time to write articles, but I am still here and so I give to you the latest tool!

Don't forget to pop over to Runehammer's DJ channel and subscribe, even if you don't want to listen, every subscriber brings him closer to being able to run SUPERCHAT, which he uses to raise some gold coins for charity!  So,  if you are reading this and haven't done so yet please get on over to The Dungeon DJ and subscribe!





These blades are wickedly sharp, and could certainly be used as a weapon in a last ditch attempt to defend yourself, but their small size renders them as nothing more than an improvised weapon.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYouTube or Instagram!
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If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!


Thursday, July 2, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Exceptional Dagger

Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters welcome back!  Thursday again and so we add another piece of equipment to the trunk.  Today we offer you a new take on an existing weapon.

Don't forget to pop over to Runehammer's DJ channel and subscribe, even if you don't want to listen, every subscriber brings him closer to being able to run SUPERCHAT, which he uses to raise some gold coins for charity!  So,  if you are reading this and haven't done so yet please get on over to The Dungeon DJ and subscribe!




Knives and daggers are generally pretty common weapons, and most do not vary greatly.  However, some of these blades are forged by master craftsmen from the finest materials.  Sometimes ornate, and sometimes plain, all of these weapons are of exceptional quality.  They probably will not turn the course of a battle, but they can add that slight edge to those who know how to use them.  The correct tool in the correct hand can make all the difference.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYouTube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through a proven methodology for fighting new a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Hunting Horn

Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters head the call, the trumpet blows and calls you to WAR!  Thursday again, and such the trunk grows ever fuller!

Don't forget to pop over to Runehammer's DJ channel and subscribe, even if you don't want to listen, every subscriber brings him closer to being able to run SUPERCHAT, which he uses to raise some gold coins for charity!  So,  if you are reading this and haven't done so yet please get on over to The Dungeon DJ and subscribe!



Horns are used to signal and coordinate during hunts, but are often used to help coordinate troops in battle.  They can be created from any number of horned animals in the Hyborian Age, and range from plain and simple, to ornate and beautiful, inlaid with the finest metals.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYouTube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through proven methodology for fighting new a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!


Thursday, June 18, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Tripwire

Hail and well met!  As the week grows long the trunk grows ever more full.   Shall we open the creaking lid one more time and see what lies within?

Don't forget to pop over to Runehammer's DJ channel and subscribe, even if you don't want to listen, every subscriber brings him closer to being able to run SUPERCHAT, which he uses to raise some gold coins for charity!  So,  if you are reading this and haven't done so yet please get on over to The Dungeon DJ and subscribe!


These thin lines are critical to those wishing to not be surprised in their camp at night.  Stretched between trees along a path and tied to an alarm, or a trap trigger, this thin line could be the only thing that lies between the adventurer's life or death.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYoutube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through proven methodology for fighting new a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Makeshift Torch

Thursday again to all of my dog brothers and sword sisters!  I hope your world is going well and the events of 2020 haven't impacted you too harshly mentally.  If they have don't forget there is nothing wrong with seeking help.

For all those warriors on the front lines fighting for justice or simply trying to save lives.  Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.

Don't forget to pop over to Runehammer's DJ channel and subscribe, even if you don't want to listen, every subscriber brings him closer to being able to run SUPERCHAT, which he uses to raise some gold coins for charity!  So,  if you are reading this and haven't done so yet please get on over to The Dungeon DJ and subscribe!





A properly prepared torch is the best friend of someone who explores the dark depths of Stygian tombs, but as excellent as a real torch can be to illuminate the darkness, sometimes they are not available.  Sometimes all you can do is wrap some cloth or fibrous plants around a stick and hope for the best.

The resulting torch may not burn as bright or as long, but it is better than nothing.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYoutube or Instagram!

Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through proven methodology for fighting new a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!


Monday, June 8, 2020

Stars & Steel: A Space Opera Scale Miniature Wargame.

Introduction

When I first came across Stars & Steel by Assault Publishing Studio I knew I would have to take a closer look at it.  Not only is it in my wheel house, ie spaceships and gaming, it has a name very similar to my online gaming presence, even though it is for different reasons.  For me Starships & Steel represents two aspects of gaming, Sci-fi and Fantasy.  Steel represents swords, "What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?" Thulsa doom asks Conan.  For this wargame steel represents the hulls of starships out among the stars.

Most ship to ship games I have played are on a much smaller scale than this representing a scale something like FullThrust or smaller.  Games where you control a handful of ships.  Stars & Steel aims to take on much larger engagements, fleets of hundreds of ships.

Game Scale and Basics

If you think of this game in terms of an older version of Warhammer 40k where you had 4 or 5 units of 5 Space Marines, and put 25 models on the table, you are thinking in the same approximate terms of this game.  

Stars & Steel is a nanofleet scale (1:10000) squadron based game, each squadron is comprised of 1-12 ships controlled by a commander situated on that squadron's flagship.  Each ship is one of three classes: Battleship, Cruiser or Destroyer.  Each of these ships is comprised of some combination of missiles, artillery, fighters and point defense as well as special rules.

The flagship of a squadron is chosen from the largest and baddest ship in the fleet and the marker by which all ranges and movements are calculated from.  Other ships in the squad are arrayed around the flagship, but their actual position isn't that important.  You could, with a little bit of record keeping, represent each squadron as a single counter or model, although that wouldn't be as cool looking.

A small fleet engagement.
A small skirmish featuring 6 squadrons per side.

Ships do not not track individual damage, instead you will track damage and disorganization on a squadron level.  As damage is increased there is a better chance one of the ships in the squadron is eliminated.  Likewise as the squadron takes more fire it becomes more disorganized and begins to suffer negatives to its effectiveness.

Ship movement, maneuverability and some artillery ranges are determined by the ship's class.  A battleship is slow and turns poorly, but it's artillery range is far beyond that of a nimble destroyer.  Missiles and Fighters have a set range, it doesn't matter what kind of ship launches them.

The number of squadrons is determined by the scenario, with a small skirmish representing 6 squadrons a side and a legendary battle fielding up to 24 squadrons per side.

The other limiting factor determined by the scenario is the maximum rank for the squadron commander.  This in turn controls the number and type of a ship that can exist in a squadron.  If we look back at the skirmish scenario, we are limited to a rank of two stars or Captain. 


The above might represent a 6 ship squadron commanded by a Balanced Lieutenant.  As you can see it is composed of 6 ships and is fairly well rounded, have equal artillery and missile power as well as some point defense capabilities.  Fielding a squadron commanded by a captain will allow us to use Cruisers as well.

Although they recommend you use nano scale ships, they have left distances up to you, listing all ranged and movements as Distance Units or "DU".  They go on to suggest for epic scale, that 2" per DU is probably a good number with 20mm square bases for the ships.

The Color of Outer Space

This game makes use of colored dice to note incoming artillery, missiles and airborne fighters.  Further it uses colored dice to track damage and disorganization: Yellow, Blue, Green, Black and Red.  I am almost certain if you played the game for awhile you would figure those out, provided you had no issues with color.  For people who are color blind I can see this causing potential issues.

Fortunately the game also comes with a bunch of print and play tokens, so they aren't completely tied to using the dice colors.  I would suggest the tokens are a better way to go, they will be clearer and easier to see and understand for everyone.

I whipped up a set of counters quickly using Game-Icons.net as well.  If people are interested in these I can make them available.  




The Game Turn

The game is broken into a number of phases, some are small and quick housekeeping steps, while others are used to move or fire your weapons.
  1. Beginning - Initiative, deployment and damage control
  2. Orders - Determine what fleet is doing - Reactive
  3. Artillery - Resolving artillery orders
  4. Movement - Resolving movement orders - Reactive
  5. Aircraft/Fighters - Resolving fighter orders - Reactive
  6. Missiles - Resolving missile orders
  7. End - Housekeeping
The game is played in an alternating reactive style.  The player with initiative selects and activates one of their squadrons.  Once they have finished the opposing player selects the squadron closest to the activate squadron and completes it's phase.  Not all phases require this activation sequence, but several key phases require it: Orders, Movement and Fighters

Orders Phase: Orders come in 5 flavors (Artillery fire, Missile fire, Maneuvers, Regrouping and Fighter command) and two types (Basic and Advanced), with advanced orders requiring a roll by the squadron's commander to achieve.  For example a squadron can easily make a turn, but to take evasive action requires the commander to make a competency roll. 

Each Squadron can complete a number of orders up to the Commanders efficiency rating.  In our sample squadron above the Lieutenant may issue 3 orders per turn. ie Fire Artillery, Turn and Regroup.  Everything a squadron is going to do is planned here and resolved in later steps.  

Artillery & Missile Phases: These two phases are pretty similar.  During the orders phases squadrons will have directed their fire power ratings at enemy squadrons.  When we get to these phases all of these allocated dice will be resolved.  Each point allows a die to be rolled to determine damage and disorganization.  For artillery a roll of 5-6 causes 1 point of damage and 1 point of disorganization.  So if a squadron has 10 artillery points against it, the attacking players rolls 10d6 and determines which dice are above 5-6.  

Fighter Phase: During the orders phase a squadron can increase the number of fighters it has in space at one time, but they aren't directed anywhere.  In this phase we direct them to do various actions, hold position, attack, shoot down missiles, etc.

Movement Phase: As mentioned above this is a cinematic 2D space game.  Ships are moved via reactive initiative up to their max movement range.  They can elect to not move if they wish.  Ships can not collide, but if they end their turn close to each other they may incur disorganization points.  Turns are not well defined here.  They need to be ordered in the orders phase but there is no indication of when the turn can occur.  At the beginning?  During the move?  At the end? 

The game progresses through these phases, ships moving and firing, launching fighters and becoming disorganized until the missions objectives are completed.

Overall Thoughts

My initial thoughts for this game was there was a lot to remember and a lot to keep track of.  I didn't think it had that much potential to be honest.  I almost didn't even bother writing this overview.  As I continued to look at the rules and take notes and got a better feel for it, I started to warm to it.  

As I write this now, I see potential for some pretty cool games fielding lots and lots of ships, which is of course the downside, you need lots and lots of ships.  You can get a couple of destroyer class ships from Ground Zero games for the $5 mark, putting a squadron of destroyers at about $15.  Ships in the battleship range jump steeply in price from Ground Zero.  All of these GZG ships are also a little on the large size, but the modern world has all kinds of 3D printing options to make the idea of fielding 100 ships and not breaking the bank a possibility.

Assault Publishing Studio have released a set of .STL files available as with the Pay What You Want model on Wargame Vault as well and plan on releasing more.  I downloaded the current set and printed a few off so you could get an idea of the ship scale.  The image is taken against a 1"x 1" grid.  So if you already have a 3D printer this game should be fairly cheap to get into.  I will go over a simple basing method in another article.


I also want to take a moment and point you at a blog that I had not visited in quite awhile.  I was happy to see a lot of new posts, especially around his creation of spaceships.  Jump over to Solipsist Gaming and check out his DIY gaming stuff.

Some of the things I like is how abstracted it is, making it relatively simple and quick to maneuver vast fleets, with the above skirmish example each player is only going to need to deal with 6 entities a turn, making this no more complicated in essence than something like A Song of Blades and Heroes.  

Ship weapons are broken into three basic classes: missiles, artillery and fighters.  What those look like is largely up to you and the universe you are trying to portray.  Dice resolution is all die pool based, something I find quick and fun, who doesn't like rolling lots of dice?

I do feel that the game is missing at least one key aspect and that is shields.  You could make an argument that they are abstracted into the game engine and all ships carry them.  I am OK with this as an explanation except the game engine uses point defense as a mechanic to take down missiles.  Perhaps this was a conscious decision to not include them.  Does adding shields make missiles even less effective? 
 
Perhaps instead of a point defense system the ships could simply have a defenses stat, which abstracted to Armor, Shields and Point Defense, with it effecting missiles and artillery differently?  These are of course simple idle thoughts that occurred to me as I was reading the rules.

Another idea it misses and one that might help with missiles not being useless if we add shields, is something I have seen elsewhere, artillery gets weaker over distance.  At close range they do full damage, and as that range increases then the damage decreases.  Sure this doesn't make a lot of sense given the vacuum of space, but this is a cinematic game, not a perfect depiction of starship combat.

These two elements are just ideas and certainly aren't meant to say this system is missing the boat.  I do not think that.  Abstractions of things are necessary or games of this size can quickly become a nightmare of logistics.

So if you want a fairly quick to play game of starship combat that allows you to field that grand fleet from The Last Jedi, this game might be for you and I suggest jumping over to Wargame Vault and checking it out.  Right now the game is Pay What You Want, you can download it for free and head on back later if you like it and drop them a few dollars.

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on TwitterFacebookYoutube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! 

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through proven methodology for fighting new a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!