Friday, 3 June 2011

Half-Term Blood Bath

Stuart at The Great Game likes to run a gaming day every so often during the half-term holidays; it's a canny way of keeping his kids entertained without him having to do all the heavy lifting, and he gets to get in some quality gaming at the same time. I tend to miss these days, as although I work in education I don't get the half-term break, but it happened to match up with a day off I already had booked, so the Stars Were Right.

The day began with a scenario from the Warhammer campaign Blood Bath at Orc's Drift, from back in the day when Warhammer had narrative campaigns, although we played it using the more modern The Lord of the Rings rules. I had no experience of these rules, as they were introduced long after I left the Games Workshop Hobby for more inexpensive pursuits, like polonium-210 trading, but the game was very easy to pick up and play and seemed to me to be a more streamlined and elegant version of the Warhammer ruleset, so I'm keen to play another episode of the campaign.

My side won the battle, slaughtering the elven garrison to a man, er, elf, aside from one pointy-eared coward who fled into the forests where my orcs could not follow. In fairness, Stuart's young son handled the opposing forces on his own, while I had both a larger force and a co-general -- although Ben surprised us all with the revelation that he'd never played a tabletop wargame in all his many years of gaming! -- and the scenario was weighted in our favour.

Oh, and we also had a giant.

After a lunch break, Stuart's son ran a bonkers freeform sandbox type of thing which -- despite using the Pathfinder rules -- felt much more old-school. We had a great deal of freedom, and the game seemed heavy on random tables and on-the-spot adjudications, all of which was a great deal of fun and felt very liberating. We did wonder later on whether it was worth using Pathfinder at all if we were going to ignore most of the rules, a subject with which I've struggled before, but the GM didn't seem to have any problem with it and ran a very fine game, so that's probably our answer.

While I enjoyed the Pathfinder game, the highlight for me was the Lord of the Warhammerings battle, which reminded me of how much I enjoyed playing tabletop wargames before I was priced out of the hobby. I'm half-tempted to buy a box of orcs, you know, just for old time's sake.


  1. I dm a Pathfinder game with oldschool vibe. I actually like the perspective that there's a lot of rules to fall back on, if you need them, but most of the time everythings rulings and that's fine for us.
    Really, I'm a skill man, and if it's only to understand what a certain pc or npc would know or could do. The constant ruling on the fly in skilless systems made me loose some of the energy that was needed elsewhere. So, I will play old school style, but not without a robust skill system. Maybe I'll try LoftFP someday.
    And about 99% of the random tables from the OSR you can use with Pathfinder as well, so... ;)

  2. Those are good points, Hamster, thanks!

    I think there are two issues involved. One is the simple clash of spending money on a four-hundred-page book with the intention of not using most of it, although I'd guess the upcoming starter set will alleviate some of this.

    The other issue is coming to an understanding that the rules will only be consulted in certain circumstances, and setting a limit on how deep into the mechanics you'll go; Pathfinder is so interlinked that it's tricky to take some stuff and ignore the rest.

    They're both psychological hurdles -- with a bit of social contract negotiation in the latter -- that you seem to have overcome, but they've proven too much for me as a potential Pathfinder GM.

    That said, I think part of it is that I haven't really wanted to overcome those hurdles because of a waning interest in fantasy rpgs, and that's something I'll come back to next week.

  3. I left the Games Workshop Hobby for more inexpensive pursuits, like polonium-210 trading

    Hahaha! That was a great line.

    I feel you on the Pathfinder dilemma, as you know from reading my blog. But, I think Hamster has it right - sometimes it's nice to know what all of those rules are there to fall back on if you do need them.

    I've been able to streamline our play-time considerably by only digging out the counters and battlemat for "big" climactic combats and also just RP'ing past things like rolling for Diplomacy checks most times. If it seems reasonable, then we just go with our gut. If the players are trying something that seems like they shouldn't be able to automatically get away with, then I'll call for a skill check. Climbing knotted ropes? Nope - you automatically succeed, even though technically it's DC 5 and somebody could fail. But, what's the fun in that?


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.