Sunday, 10 March 2019

A fast stab in the guts - MSPE combat in archaic times

Basically MSPE uses T&T melee rules where each side generates a combat total. The heart of the system is the SR system for imaginative players and DM.
It needs a good DM with reasonable view of combat if the game is not to becomes a caricatural uber hollywoodian zany fest, but, when done right, it gives a very imaginative and open system.

Whilst this system is very efficient to resolve multi combattants fights in fantasy or pulpish situations, it is not what I use for whodunnits or high danger fights.
Indeed T&T fights tend to be long and attritional which is not what is needed, I think, when we are speaking about murders, or violent and quick confrontations.

Whodunnits are not dungeon expeditions and they generate few fights with few combattants, even sometimes just one culprit. And still, the climax could happen when a murderer is cornered or important moment can be played when one character is attacked by a lone killer. Those high tension moment should be both lethal and hazardous
Whilst using T&T style would work, specially if SR system is used well, I do still find it unsatisfactory because, it won't give the right kind of blow by blow feeling.

The first idea I had came from an interview from Ken in White Dwarf 32 where he suggested for peoples willing to have bow by blow fights to make SR (well, he was speaking about percentage, but you got my meaning) and apply damage from the success of the blow.

I thought about using gladiatorial rules published in Sorceror's Apprentice. But, whilst interesting for what they wanted to model, they were still not what I wanted.
So, I made my own, (very) broadly based on Harnmaster use of a result chart.

I used it a few times (because, I insist, not all settings or situations need this kind of treatment) and I must say that it really shined, particularly in a medieval whodunnit we played last year.

The system is quite easy to use, the aim being to have a more descriptive or flavorful fight (more quickly lethal also), not to unduly complicate the game.

The system is based on the following table and on SR rolls. 

1- The players act in turn depending on their Speed
2- The attacker decides the base level of the SR he is going to take (representingthe difficulty of the maneuver he is attempting).
3- The defender chooses one of the different defences: (Parry/Block, Counterattack, Dodge, No Active Defense). 
During the same turn, he is only allowed to use each choice (attack included) only once; meaning that multiple attacks from different attackers can leave him without defense at all and that a character can initiate attack only once.
4- Both attacker and defender make a SR roll (the base level is the same for both, but it can be modified(see later)), based on the characteristic associated with the maneuver (see table) plus Skill Level if any.
5- The GM the looks at the table, depending of the success/failure of both participants to determine the results.

Attack can only be attempted when it is a character turn to act and only if he didn't move more than half his move allowance.
The defense actions can only be used against melee attack, except for the DODGE which can be used against a thrown weapon, but only if the thrower is within the field of view of the target.
The SR level chosen by the attacker is a base, which can be modified  depending on the circumstances. Two modifiers I use are the following:
- if using the left hand (to attack, parry, block…), the character adds one level at his SR, for the added difficulty. This does not apply if the object has been designed for that use (a shield to block, a Main-Gauche to parry..).
- one SR level added for parrying or blocking a weapon for each full D of damage above the two first (for exemple a weapon doing 4D6+2 damage would add 2 to the SR lvel to be parried), this does not apply to shields
- and of course any circumstance that the GM deems worthy of a SR level increase…

Results descriptions:

Successful Block: the attack was stopped; the attacker must still roll a damage roll and the defender must make a Strength SR roll against that number or be pushed back.
Opportunity: the attacker has opened himself to an opportunity counterblow, the defender can make one attack (which the attacker can defend against normally); he can not used the weapon that was just used to parry (except if it was a town sword, which could lead to an exchange of blows and counterblows). That opportunity attack does not count as a normal attack, which means that the character doing it can still attack in his turn.
Successful Dodge: the attack was dodged, no other effect, except if the GM dictates otherwise
No effect: well, no effect…
Exchange: the classic T&T exchange, both roll damage, apply the difference
Full Damage: the defender take the full damage roll of the attacker (except for the skull with a A, where it is the attacker that takes the full damage from the defender).
Half Damage: The defender takes half (rounded down) damage roll of the attacker
Quarter Damage: The defender takes a quarter (rounded down) of the attack roll from the attacker

After several attacks in the same round, the defender can be running out of options, he just takes damage without reaction, but then, he is probably taking on more that he can handle…
I wouldn't certainly advise to use it in every circumstances, it is certainly not needed as the normal rules work very well in most situations.
Settings that would benefit, are historical whodunnits and settings where swashbuckling would add to the setting atmosphere (three musketeers, prisoner of zenda, but also if you add laser sabre style fights to your pulp sf).

Let me know if you use it. And in that case, let me know if you like it.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes kickstarter re-edition

And  YES! MSPE is going to be re-edited as a kickstarter!

And not only that, but it is a real re-edition. not a new game under the same name.
The original rules are respected not changed.

There is going to be some added material (notably to play in futuristic settings - Blade Runner, here we come!), but in new chapters, expanding the original (which is fine), not mutilating it.

If you don't have any idea of what I am speaking about, I have made two posts describing the game in some details, they are here:

-MSPE presentation part 2

I have also a few other posts about it if you want some more info:

-MSPE posts and stuff

Don't miss this Kickstarter of one of the best roleplaying game of all times.

If MSPE gets some new life from this re-edition, I am very tempted to post some of the stuff I am using for my games (rules addons for specific settings or situations, cardboard figures and terrain, VTT tokens and battlemaps, scenario ideas, NPC generator program,...). We'll see how it turns out.

Sunday, 14 May 2017


I thought that it was just too good to be true. But it happened.....
The best roleplaying game of all times (yes, I am too excited to be fair) has been released digitally at a price that should bowl you over!

Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes (aka MSPE) is available on RPGnow.

And it happened just after Tunnels & Trolls 5th edition (which can be used as a sourcebook for archaic stuff in MSPE) has been released a few days ago.

Make yourself a favor: buy MSPE (and T&T as an addon) and you are going to discover what makes a game a classic.

If you want to learn more about MSPE, I have already presented it in my blog:

and I have made a few ressources available for it:

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Fantasy Trip played with figures and without grid

I am not exclusively a roleplayer, though it is the most frequent thing that we play when my group meets.
But, we also play wargames and whilst it happens less frequently, we have, on occasion replaced our rpg sessions with figures wargaming, sometimes for year long campaigns.

Peoples who knew me from my old Brabantini yahoogroup know that I make my own paper figures (and that I also use those from my favorite figures artists).

All this means that I have a collection of paper figures and 3d (mostly) paper scenery. So, why not use those in my TFT campaign? Of course, there will be no hexgrid on the table, even no grid at all, but that is certainly not a problem.

Paper figures and scenery have a lot going for them: cheap, easy to store and produce (easier anyway than painting and assembling lots of lead and plastic figures and scenery), particularly if you use an automated cutter (the main reason I am back into paper figures).

Figures must be mounted on appropriate bases. If using paper figures, glue them on card bases or if you prefer non permanent bases, use the litko bases (that's what I am using now).
Alternatively you can use One-Monk style basing, it is available HERE, and a lot of figures sets available on the web include variations of it.

Now, more to the point, what do you need to do to adapt TFT for tabletop gaming? Well, not much...

Figures Facing

First, TFT uses the orientation on the map for determining the front, side and back of the character. It can be quite easily translated into figure gaming by using standard squares bases.

To find from which side an attack comes, find in which direction the center of the attacker's figure front falls.

And, to be able to attack an enemy, the target must be in the attacker's front arc. Simple, No?

Distances in Hexes

To measure distances and movements, we must translate the hexes used in the game into units measurable on the table. That's quite self evident: distances in hexes are just used as inches on the table.

Distances and areas in Megahexes

TFT also uses a specific unit of distance/surface called a megahex. It is simply represented by a hex and the hexes around it. So, it is not very difficult to translate them on the tabletop.

If the rules speak about:
- A character's own's megahex: use a one inch area around the figure.
- An area of one or several megahexes: Use a template 3 inches in diameter.
- A distance in megahexes: each 1 megahex distance equals 3 inches on the table.

Campaign use

As I said in an earlier post, my philosophy for my TFT campaign is that what works works.

So I am not going to prepare all that I need to play a scenario specifically in 3D.
If I already have what is needed, fine, if not, a battlemap and tokens on Maptool or Roll20 are also fine.
Or figures on a sketch map drawn directly on a paper tablecloth for that matter.
Whilst it can add some flavour to a game, the physical representation of the action is not the important part. What matters is the action itself.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Melee and Wizard as simplified roleplaying fantasy trip

Melee was published in 1977 as Microgame #3. It was a small skirmish game about pre-gunpowder melee (hence its name) fighting.
Wizard followed in 1978 as Microgame #6. It was a game of wizards duels, but it could be combined with Melee to give a kind of wargame fantasy arena.
Wargames battles between fighters, wizards, demi-humans fighting on tactical terrain. It was almost a roleplaying game and it was used as such by a huge number of players who liked the simplicity and ease of the game.
Those were very fun games,  easy and simple, but full of flavor.

So, it was quite logical to turn the system into a complete rpg called The Fantasy Trip. It took some years to do and it was eagerly awaited.
When it was released, in 1980, it included Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard and In The Labyrinth.

That was a fine game, but the expansion of the rules of Melee and Wizard made it more complex and not very different of others games of the time. Of course, it was possible to play The Fantasy Trip with basic Melee and Wizard and In the Labyrinth, but the discrepancies between the different levels of difficulties was not very fun.

That was the problem, the game was a more serious and complete game, but it had lost its fun factor (which is generally something that game designers don't really understand about their own games, I should write a post about it).

The charm was broken as was the collaboration between Metagaming (the publisher) and Steve Jackson (the designer). Steve Jackson was to design GURPS to expand its ideas, whilst Metagaming did publish a less complicated set of rules based on TFT and called Underearth. It was probably more like what TFT should have been (even if TFT fans don't like it too much for being not a Steve Jackson design). It was too late anyway.

TFT is one of those games that has kept a big following on the internet through the years and I had suddenly a urge to play some one-offs scenarios with it. Or more accurately with Melee and Wizard.
As I wouldn't use In the Labyrinth (except maybe as a ressources when in need for a rule), I decided to just write the minimal rules needed to add a roleplaying layer on the game.
YMMV of course, about what is the minimal amount of rules needed and how to write them. Here is my version anyway.
The basic Melee and Wizard rules can be found on the internet with a Google search (and you'll also find the derivatives, more or less akin to the original; some of them are really worth a look, being fine games on their own, though I prefer playing with the originals).

My addon rules are HERE if you want to try them.

I'll probably also publish the cardboard figures (like the orc on the left), paper scenery, virtual tabletop battlemaps and tokens I am using.
It is a very mixed campaign: cardboard figures with paper 3D scenery or tokens on maps with Maptool, depending on what is available. The idea is to keep the game rolling, so I prepare the stuff for the game on a session by session basis.