Thursday, 16 October 2014

Tiny Teddies Go To War (ruleset)

(Note: this article was written for PAX Aus 2014. For the updated rules as played at PAX Aus 2015 you should go here.)

I'm running this for Pax this year. The following is verbatim cut/paste from the Word doc.

Tiny Teddies Go To War!
By Ivan Nevill
This set of rules is designed to aid you in playing a tabletop war game involving yummy confectionary that you get to eat as casualties are incurred. The objective of the game is primarily to have a lot of fun, and alternatively to destroy the base(s) of your opposition.

Important point number one: I am not the first person to create a set of rules for this concept, and I hope not to be the last. Though I don’t know who originally came up with the Tiny Teddies Go To War (TTGTW) concept, I was introduced to the game by Nicole Eckersley, Tom Wark, and Cameron Stone (apologies to any I have missed). These rules are rather different to the ones they used and probably not as good. I am indebted to their creativity and energy.
Important point number two: Throughout this ruleset there will be references to various products of different companies. These products are registered trademarks of those various companies. Their use in this ruleset is neither a challenge nor endorsement. The products we mention are simply our personal preference, though we encourage you to allow your own preferences to take precedence.

 A three-way battle at PAX Australia between honey, choc-chip and chocolate armies. A gingerbread ghost house was added as terrain for a centrepiece.

Number of players: 2 or more. We recommend having multiple people to a team. For the purposes of this ruleset we will assume that there are three teams, with two or three people to a team. More teams or players are entirely possible.

What you will need:
·         A large table to conduct the battle
·         A large snake lolly of various colours to act as a measuring ruler (we use Killer Pythons)
·         A packet of various coloured Gummi Bears (any brand of jelly lolly bears will do)
·         A packet of Teddy Bear Biscuits (we use Arnotts)
·         A bunch of dice. You will need about ten six-sided dice and a few other funky dice of various other sizes, like d4s, d8s, and a d20. (For those of you who aren’t savvy with gamer slang, a d4 is a four-sided die that looks like a pyramid. A d8 is an eight-sided die, and so on. If you are asked to roll 3d6, that means you roll three six-sided dice. You can pick up polyhedral dice from gaming stores.)
·         A deck of regular playing cards, including both Jokers.
·         Some pencils.
·         Four donuts per team. You may use large biscuits instead. Note that this ruleset uses the term “Biscuit” as opposed to “Cookie”.
·         A pack of Tim Tams per player. (You may use other chocolate biscuits as preferred.)
·         Enough Tiny Teddy Biscuits for each team. Make sure to use different flavours for each team, noting that Tiny Teddies currently come in honey, chocolate, choc chip, and sprinkles. There are also puppies and cows to add variety. Each team will need about three dozen teddies, so a box each should do the trick, however I found a big variety pack containing ten small packs (four of chocolate and three each of honey and choc chip). Three small “drop pod” packs per team worked out perfectly.
·         (Optional) Distinctive lollies to use as Bombs. We like using sherbet bombs or Starburst chews. You may also need some other lollies (check Special Events rules).

Overview of play
Each player is trying to destroy the base of the other players. Units are dealt one or more cards at the start of each round and units act in card order. On their turn a unit may move and/or attack. The game ends when one team loses their base.

Setup
You will need a fairly large table to play on; a dining table works fine for two or three teams, but larger games need more space. The teams set up their bases (four donuts in a tight group) equally distant to each other. Around their bases they may set up their army
Each team’s army should consist of:
·         Three squads of Teddy Troopers, known as Alpha, Bravo and Charlie (feel free to personalise the names of these squads). There should be about a dozen troopers to each squad and you should try to keep a squad together. Your Troopers should all be the same flavour, and different to the flavours of your opponent(s).
·         One squad of six to ten Gummi Commandoes. Try to give each team a colour to keep them individual.
·         One squad of three Giant Tedd-Naughts (Teddy Bear Biscuits). You may wish to place 3 regular Teddy Trooper on top of each of your Tedd-Naughts to act as hit points and show their allegiance. If so, remove 1 trooper each time a Tedd-Naught is damaged and kill it when the last trooper is removed instead of biting off legs. If you do so, remove 3 troopers from each of your 3 squads to do this.
·         Three to six Tim Tam Towers. These act as barriers to block your enemies.

Cards
At the beginning of a round, the cards are shuffled and a card is dealt to every squad. In other words, your Alpha Teddies get a card, your Bravo Teddies get another card, your Charlie Teddies get a card, your Tedd-naughts get a card, and your Gummis get two cards (they have a special ability which lets them choose the better of two cards).
Card precedence is from highest to lowest, with the Jokers going first, then Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks, tens, and so on down to two. The Red Joker goes before the Black Joker. For all other ties, preference is Spades first, then Hearts, Diamonds, and finally Clubs.
When your squad is up for their action, put the card back on the deck.

Turns, Moving and Attacking
When it is time for one of your squads to act, they may move, attack, or move and then attack. They may not attack and then move.
·         Moving: A soldier may only move up to as far as its Movement allows. Lay down the Snake Ruler in front of the soldier and move it that many colours on the snake.
·         Attacking: If the soldier is in contact with a structure or enemy soldier, it rolls its attack die (Tedd-Naughts may attack twice, either on different targets or both on the same one). If it rolls a result equal to or higher than the opponent’s Parry, then it hits successfully and may try to injure the enemy.
·         Injuring: After successfully hitting an opponent, roll the soldier’s damage die and try to obtain a result equal to or higher than their Armour value. If successful, the enemy is removed from the table and eaten by the team that commands it.
·         Note that a soldier may not leave combat if engaged with an enemy Trooper, Commado, or Tedd-Naught. The soldier may move away from structures if not otherwise engaged.

In a grand final game, the ghosthouse was allowed to be attacked, resulting in some marshmallow "ghosts" with icing faces coming out to attack all nearby teddies. These rules were made up on the fly.


Random Events (recommended optional rule)
Random Events are crazy occurrences that happen under two different conditions:
·         At the start of a round, before cards are dealt, roll 1d6 and randomly place that many bombs on the table. We like using sherbet bombs for our Bombs, but you can use whatever you enjoy most. These Bombs have the same statistics as Donut Bases and Tim Tam Towers. If a Bomb is destroyed by a soldier, their commander rolls on the Special Events table.
·         If a squad is dealt a Joker, that squad rolls on the Special Events table before taking any actions.

To use the table, roll 1d20 and check the result. Results that state “this squad” refers to all units in the squad that caused the roll and sometimes the players controlling them.

Nomenclature: A Marshall is a person acting as a referee to keep the game fair, or simply helping teach the game. Dice steps simply refer to the die sizes (a d4 increases one step to a d6, then a d8, then a d10.

  
Army Roster

Teddy Infantry Alpha
Movement – 3 colours
Fighting d6    Parry (3)
Damage d6    Armour (3)
Edges: None
  
Teddy Infantry Bravo
Movement – 3 colours
Fighting d6    Parry (3)
Damage d6    Armour (3)
Edges: None
  
Teddy Infantry Charlie
Movement – 3 colours
Fighting d6    Parry (3)
Damage d6    Armour (3)
Edges: None
  
Tim Tam Turrets/Donut Base/Bombs
Parry (2) Armour (6)
Edges: None

Giant Tedd-naughts
Movement – 4 colours
Fighting d6    Parry (4)
Damage d8    Armour (6)
Edges: Construct (Tedd-naughts can be Injured 3 times before dying. The first and second times they are hit, eat a leg. They die the next time they are Injured)
Frenzied (Tedd-naughts get an extra attack every time they fight)
  
Teddy Commandos
Movement – 5 colours
Fighting d8    Parry (5)
Damage d8    Armour (4)
Edges: Fast (Teddy commandos draw two cards for initiative and use the better one)



 Random Events


1 Sugar Bombs! 1d6 more Bombs fall onto the field. If destroyed, they automatically trigger a Random Event.
2 Snakes! 1d6 snakes enter the field. They have the same stats as Infantry and attack the closest troops.
3 Blizzard! 1d6+4 snowballs fall on the field. They have the same stats as Tim Tam Towers
4 Suicide Squad! If this squad hits an enemy this turn, they may choose to sacrifice themselves to automatically injure the opponent, rather than rolling.
5 Bear-zerkers! The squad that drew the Joker now may perform +1 attack every time they fight.
6 Claws! This squad adds an extra d4 to all damage rolls from now on. If they roll this event again, increase the die type one step.
7 Superior Tactics! This troop gets to act twice this turn
8 Artillery Barrage! All troops in combat roll 1d6. If they roll a 1 they are eaten
9 Roller Skates! This troop adds +1 to their Movement. This can be taken multiple times
10 Rallying Cry! Roll twice more on this chart, ignoring any more of this result.
11 Picnic Peace. This squad loses its actions this turn. However, they may also ignore all attacks and effects against them this turn
12 Hibernation. All squads drawing an 8 or less lose their actions this turn
13 Assault! This squad gains +2 Movement and +2 to all rolls this turn only
14 Land Mines! All models who are hit this turn lose a leg. if they have no more legs they are eaten
15 Infection! All models who are hit in this turn lose an arm. If they haveno more arms they are eaten
16 No Prisoners! All models who are hit this turn immediately die
17 Air Strike! This squad’s player selects one enemy squad. All models in that squad receive an immediate d8 strike to hit and damage
18 Fog of War. This squad’s player chooses one enemy squad. That squad loses their action this turn
19 Blitzkrieg! As of next turn, this squad always draws an extra card and chooses the best.
20 Teddy-geddon! The Marshal may immediately request anybody nearby to eat whatever they want from the table for 10 seconds


Thursday, 2 October 2014

D&D5 Monster Manual (review)

What do you expect from a Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual?

A whole bunch of monsters, preferably in alphabetical order, with rules to help a DM use them against players, with some flavour text to inspire you to use them.

That's it. That's all it is. That's what a Monster Manual is. An encyclopedia of challenges to throw at the players. The DM provides the excitement and the storytelling. This is a tool to make that easier. It's pretty hard to screw up.

You shouldn't actually need a book like this if you're a decent DM. But if you're a decent DM you'll know that a good reference book can be handy if done well.

We've seen bad Monstrous Manuals. 1st ed was primitive and 4th was great for statistics, but gave no background. 2nd ed had a good solid page for each monster, though the text got repetitive. 3rd seemed functional, and helped a grateful DM by having attribute scores.

So my simple verdict is that the 5th ed Monster Manual is perfectly fine. It does its thing. Sure, grab it if you're running 5th.

There's nothing wrong with it. But does that make it great? Can it be improved?

Hang on; lets give it a fair go. Good art, loving the tactile covers, clearly laid out with generally a monster for each page. The stats seem okay and the flavour gives me ideas. Good work.I can't complain. Duty served.

The one thing we're missing is innovation. So I'd advise a different strategy next time.

Keep the stats, illustrations and storybuilding text, but change the order. Instead of an alphebetical order make use of a geographical/categorical one. Group sections as to terrain or landscape, so that the reader proceeds from one environment to another. We might have sections divided into Forests, Mountains, the Underdark, Dragons, Undead, Goblinoids Planar Beings, and so forth.

A good template? Probably Enemies of Empire for Legend of the 5 Rings 5th ed. That grouped a host of fascinating antagonists together in a book that was great to read, partly because each section was dedicated to story.

Imagine opening a Monster Manual and opening it to the Undead section. Everything within a few pages of each other.

That's what I wanna see next time.

This time, fine. Good, even. I bought it because it had a goblin joke and haven't regretted it so far.