Monday, August 22, 2016

Follow-up on Dynamic NPCs - Rate of Survival

A great comment by "Stu Rat" on my previous post led me to take a look at just how deadly Tony Bath's Hyboria was to NPCs! (see his book "Setting Up a Wargames Campaign").

Given Tony's original chart, it seems that you had less than 25% chance of living to see the age of twenty! It got worse the older you got. At 60, you'd basically be advised to just lie in bed till Death came knocking...

Throw 1d6 -
Survival Rate (by tier)
If 1, throw again: 1-2 dead; 3-4 seriously ill (dies on 1-2 next year); 5-6 minor illness
If 1, throw again: 1-3 dead; 4-6 seriously ill
If 1-2, throw again: 1-3 dead; 4-6 seriously ill
If 1-3, throw again: 1-3 dead; 4-6 seriously ill
If 1-4, throw again: 1-4 dead; 5-6 seriously ill

So better enjoy those teenage years, as those were the golden days of your life...

Now I don't know if Tony did the math, if he really used this chart and wondered why all his commanders were dying before battle, but the exercise forced me to think about my campaign, how magick and divine healing may come into the picture and just what is a good life expectancy.

I've modeled my campaign against European Middle Ages to some extent, with the Domesday calculations and approach. So it seems reasonable to look at death and life expectancy for that period... except there's not a lot of agreement except that life was short, brutal and not fun from our modern POV. Here's an example - flip to page 8:

There's one aspect of life in my campaign that doesn't factor into the Middle Ages figure though... the presence of magick and divine powers. Unfortunately, I've calculated how little that would factor into the survival of a draft pool for a military force, so I am forced to conclude that it wouldn't factor in very much for a population either. It might/could for specific circumstances - those who can afford it, or for our brave PCs, but by and large, not so much.

So, what to do? I'm going to go back to the original calculations I made and assume that for children and most adults, a 50% life expectancy for most of their life is reasonable. From poking around the web, that number for the Middle Ages has cropped up, and it feels right for me. My campaign is about imagination and "Yea, I like this, we'll go with this" versus a simulationist approach. So here's the updated chart:

Throw 1d6 -
Survival Rate by tier
If 1, throw again: 1 dead; 2 seriously ill (dies on 1-2 next year, 3 seriously ill)
If 1, throw again: 1 dead; 2-3 seriously ill
If 1, throw again: 1-2 dead; 3-4 seriously ill
If 1-2, throw again: 1-2 dead; 3-5 seriously ill
If 1-2, throw again: 1-3 dead; 4-6 seriously ill
If 1-3, throw again: 1-3 dead; 4-6 seriously ill

Dice for season and start/mid/end. Seriously ill means unavailable for season.

This feels right to me, and maintains the approach that Tony originally took. I wonder what he would have thought about this approach.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


It's Game Day Sunday at Chez Chgowiz. All the prep is done and just waiting for the players!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Wargames/D&D Campaign - Dynamic life of an NPC

Too often, NPCs have felt as stiff and unchanging as the little metal figures I parade across the table. I've caught hints over the years that this doesn't need to be so. Certainly, as players interact with NPCs, lives will change and things will happen. That doesn't seem to be a very dynamic world, though. 

In reading Tony Bath's "Setting Up a Wargames Campaign" and reading some stories about how Professor MAR Barker ran things in his Tekumel campaign, I've found that they had charts and processes to check on the status of each NPC at a given timepoint - yearly, at the minimum. The story goes that Professor Barker would sit down with his 1,500 index cards monthly and figure out who lived and died. 

Well, I'm getting to the point where I am looking to inject that sort of dynamic view into my campaign world. I've got armies tilting against each other, I've got some pretty big movers and shakers doing their thing, I've got players trying to to survive and improve this world... it's time to make the NPCs come to life.

Delving into Bath's book, and getting pointed to the old AD&D Oriental Adventure XXXXXXX has given me a starting point. What's below is a first draft of what I'll use on a yearly and seasonal basis to figure out what happens to the NPCs. I'm slowly putting them into an Access database, and I'll use the programmability of Access to automate this process. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

Comments, questions, "You're an idiot" are welcome... well... mostly welcome.

This comes from my "Wargames Campaign Rules" document

7.3 Yearly and Seasonal Events

Determine if death/illness occurs (Yearly, for each NPC):

Throw 1d6 -
If 1, throw again: 1-2 dead; 3-4 seriously ill (dies on 1-2 next year); 5-6 minor illness
If 1, throw again: 1-3 dead; 4-6 seriously ill (dice for season and start/mid/end)
If 1-2, throw again: 1-3 dead; 4-6 seriously ill (dice for season and start/mid/end)
If 1-3, throw again: 1-3 dead; 4-6 seriously ill (dice for season and start/mid/end)
If 1-4, throw again: 1-4 dead; 5-6 seriously ill (dice for season and start/mid/end)

Determine if there is a birth (Yearly, for each NPC):
If character is married: 20-30 years old: 4-6; 30-40 years old: 5-6
If character is unmarried: Throw 1d6, if 1, then test for childbirth (unfaithful!) - if characteristics indicate tendency for infidelity, raise the odds.
Throw 1d6, if 1-2, then throw 1d6: 1 - mother dies in childbirth, 2 - child dies, 3 - child is born ill (throw twice in year checks up to 10), 4 - child has disabilities (throw twice in year checks up to 5), 5 - child is twins, 6 - mother cannot have further children

Determine gender. Once baby reaches 10, then determine what they will be class-wise, at 15, roll stats.

Determine other events
Some events will set the tone for a large area, like a duchy, for the year. Seasonal events would be in line with the yearly event, if they conflict, reroll the seasonal. For an event that affects an NPC, determine if this is at the ducal level or lower.

Yearly - at a duchy level
Dice 1d6 - 3 or more indicates a yearly event. If an event is indicated, dice 3d6 for event. Once the event is diced, then dice for the season and start/mid/end.
3. Noble/Royalty visits
4. Noble/Royalty assassination plot (at NPC/by NPC/within NPC area)
5. Astrological event
6. Natural disaster - Earthquake, Fire, Flood, Tsunami/Tornado,
7. Major Resource Famine/Bounty
8. Incursion, Major (at NPC/by NPC)
9. Incursion, Minor (at NPC/by NPC)
10. Major Conflict with another noble/royalty
11. Major Conflict within familiy
12. Plague
13. Political Plot - involved/target
14. Major Uprising/Dispute of population
15. Religious event
16. If married - divorce
17. If unmarried - marriage
18. Major Discovery

Seasonal - Nobility -
Event affects the NPC or the sphere of their influence/responsibility. These are events applicable for nobility/generals - those who control land/people.

Dice 2d6. 6 or more indicates a seasonal event. Dice 2d6 for event. Once the event is diced, then dice for start/mid/end.
2. Accident
3. Bandit Activity
4. Need to Tax
5. Monster/Famous/Supernatural Encounter
6. Minor conflict with another noble
7. Criminal activity
8. Minor Uprising/Dispute of population
9. Minor family dispute
10. Minor religious event
11. Minor resource famine/bounty
12. Visit with another noble in duchy

Seasonal - Non-nobility
Dice 2d6. 9 or more indicates a seasonal event. Dice 2d6 for event. Once the event is diced, then dice for start/mid/end.
2. Accident
3. Criminal activity
4. Encounter with famous
5. Encounter with monster
6. Conflict with someone
7. Minor family dispute
8. Minor religious event
9. Minor personal downfall/windfall
10. Encounter with supernatural
11. Conflict with government
12. Visit with/by someone from another location w/in duchy (1d6 1 - outside duchy)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

New Act for my online Dark Ages game made public

Fall 21, 56 AD (Anno Doom)

It is a quiet and tense ride back to Skalfier, and the horses need to be ridden hard to try to make it there before nightfall.

Claudia has remained silent, and TAKASHI hears brief words only whispered, perhaps a prayer.

As you get close to the outskirts of the city, you realize that while Claudia riding with TAKASHI isn't a big deal, nor TOBIAS riding with GRAIAN, but the trussed up woman lying on the horse behind CALLIN is sure to raise the eyebrows of the guards at the gates that you are now approaching...

And things got even more interesting after that intro...

Picture by
I divide up my online game by Acts, like chapters. It's usually based on when the party moves from one location/hex-point to another. The current Act, I leave private, but the completed Acts are made public, for players to go back to and if anyone wants to read them.

Rizzoma is the child of the old Google Wave technology. It's a pretty reliable service, based in Russua. It implements enough of the old Wave technology to still be very useful - embedded replies ("blips") in the topic flow, multimedia and embedded 3rd party code, like dice rollers.

We've been playing for a year and a half, but funny enough, they've only progressed about 26 days game time. Play by post can be slow.

I really have a lot of fun with my players - Alan and Joseph play their characters really smart and very well - when Joseph starts proselytizing about "The Light", I can feel the emotion in his words. Alan plays a taciturn half-elven warrior really nicely, but his interactions with his new trainee are wonderful. Gabriel plays a curious, no-fear (sometimes) littleling (halfling) to the fullest, and when I tempt him with coins, I can feel that "aw man, do I/don't I?"

Derek and Chris are players who also play in my tabletop game, so that's a delicate balance. The tabletop game is 2 years ahead. So a bit of balancing to be done. They both are also really good role players - Derek makes a very convincing teen-age boy and Chris suffers through my traps and tricks really well!

If you've got some time, want to meet flying, talking, giant black-birds, see how racist elves can be in my world, or read a love-tragedy story, here's the Table of Contents to public acts:

The Dark Ages - Southern Seas - Act 12 - Skalfier - Fall 21 - Fall 21, 56AD

Thursday, August 11, 2016

HOTT Battle - Orcs v. Humans - Duchy of Dawn - Fall, 58AD

The engagement began on a battlefield of half rough-going, half clear. Marshall Hummil (the Human General) and his cavalry found themselves in the rough bad going, while his spear and blades had an easier going with a road and clear grasslands. The orc chieftain - Naas’samman - loosed his hordes down the middle of the battlefield in an attempt to divide the forces, while his warbands and blades kept to the right to engage the human infantry.

The human cavalry picked its way through the rough, while the infantry and orc hordes slowly maneuvered towards each other. The battle was finally joined when the cavalry got into some clear and smashed into the Orc hordes.The human blades faced off against the Orc warbands and quickly dispatched their foes.


With fortune (pips) favoring neither, the two sides formed battle lines across the battlefield. The cavalry quickly scattered the Orc hordes. The orc spears proved extremely difficult to defeat, the two-deep disciplined orc regulars smashed the human spear militia and quickly decimated their line.


It was only when the human regular blades and cavalry joined in the battle at the flanks and rear that the orc spears found themselves entrapped. It was only a matter of time until their forces were whittled down enough that the orcs’ resolve was broken and they fled the field of battle.


In campaign terms, this battle took place at the end of a lot of maneuvering at the strategic level. I do that part of the campaign on a private set of maps on Roll20. Because Roll20 allows me to import my hex maps, and I can create custom tokens to serve as the "chits", I can do this sort of game without taking up wall or tablespace!

I decided to conduct this battle using HOTT and my campaign rules, which have liberally used ideas/content from De Bellis Solitarius (solo DBA). Why HOTT, when I've had so much fun with OHW? I like HOTT, I like the variety in elements, I like the way recoil/flee work, and I like playing the HOTT system. I've always enjoyed the DBA/HOTT rules, and this was a good excuse to dust off the rulebook and relearn the system.

One of the things I will do at the end of each campaign wargame battle is come up with outcome actions/activities depending on who wins. So if the Orcs win, I list 3 things that could happen that favor the Orcs and are logical outcomes based on the Orcs' overall goals. If the humans win, here's 3 things that favor the humans. Once the battle is over, I dice for which result happens. It prevents some bias from happening.

That is one thing that I have to prevent with these battles is my bias. Using the tactical disposition rules (basically a way of injecting some randomness into what each side does) and these somewhat random outcomes is a way of trying not to have too much bias. It's not perfect, but it has already surprised me with some crazy results. The dice love to tell a story that I would not have expected.

PS. As this was my first HOTT game in.. well.. years, I know I didn't lay out the battlefield BtB, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up on recoils when the element was flanked by a front edge (which should have led to a destroyed results). As well as some movement mistakes. But... play and learn!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Going to GaryCon 2017!

I'm thrilled that GaryCon 9 will be in late March! That completely works with my schedule, which tries to cram as much into early March as possible.

I will be offering four events this year, three of which are in, and will affect, my ongoing D&D/wargame campaign:

  • Two RPG sessions geared to exploring places in my campaign world that no player has ever been to before. For the past two years, my players have seen the return of the Dark Ones - the evil beings who enslaved the Lands a millennia ago. Now, players will face a grave threat to the Kingdom of Men, Elves and Littlelings -- who will answer the call for adventure and glory in the face of the crushing might of the Lords of Chaos?
  • One wargame session, most likely using HOTT (Hordes of the Things) or Ral Partha's Chaos Wars rules. The forces of Chaos have arisen and taken hold in the East and West. But a grave threat rises in the North. The war horns grow louder and closer as the armies of Woe march on civilization. Will the forces of Men and Elves be enough to turn the tide against the Orcs, Goblyns and traitorous men of Chaos? Or will a new age of enslavement to the might and power of Chaos be upon us?
  • Sunday Morning Battletech/Mechwarrior. Yea,  I know... it sounds like a bunch of tinfoil-hat bullcrap. But let me tell you something... I was there when all those people died on Poulsbo and that ancient Jump Ship disappeared. So don't tell me that having a giant sphere orbiting a planet and spitting out smaller orbs isn't bad news. Something happened, man... and the Houses... they know it! It's worse than anything we could imagine... and if I were you, I'd not take the contract to go investigate. You'll end up dead.. or worse!
I just hope they open up event submission soon...

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Miniatures Pledge - July

My pledge for the year is to paint everything in my backlog, which at the beginning of January was at 415 figures. I will limit my miniatures buying to any of the new Ral Partha figures coming from the Chaos Wars Wave 2 Kickstarter, and any needed figures to support specific things in my campaigns.

Well, July for me was a down month – with lots of weekend traveling, activities and plenty of distractions. Very little done but the brush did touch metal and I did get a little bit of gaming in. 

I started May with 254 figures in the pile.

I painted 5 figures – all 25mm.

3 – 25mm Elven Archers (Ral Partha)
2 – 25mm AD&D Thieves Set (Grenadier)

I ended the month with 249 figures in the pile. For the year, I have a net of +166 figures.

And "no purchases"! SIX months in a row and counting! I think I might be setting a record here of sorts.

It's been a very quiet time for me this month, a lot of non-gaming activities.