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Thursday, 15 December 2011

Fiche de personnage éditable

Une première aide de jeu en français pour Savage Worlds: une fiche de personnage à remplir électroniquement au format pdf.

Il vous suffira d'ouvrir le document et de remplir les champs ou de cocher les cases avant impression.

J'ai essayé de rendre la fiche assez universelle pour pouvoir s'adapter à différentes périodes. Je compte bien créer ultérieurement des fiches dont l'apparence correspondra mieux à un univers de jeu particulier. En attendant, celle-ci devrait faire l'affaire pour la plupart des types de jeux.

Bien sûr, c'est agréable de pouvoir remplir sa feuille de personnage à l'écran et ça évite les ratures en cas d'erreurs. Encore faut-il savoir quoi en faire lorsque le document est rempli. Et c'est là que ça se complique (merci Adobe).

Ouvrir le fichier PDF et remplir les différents champs ne présente pas de problème. Il suffit d'ouvrir le document avec Adobe Acrobat.
Cependant, une fenêtre au dessus du document indique qu'il n'est pas possible de sauver le document avec les modifications qui y ont été apportées, seulement de l'imprimer.
Si tout ce que vous comptiez faire c'est l'imprimer sur papier, pas de problème. Cependant si vous comptiez en conserver un exemplaire électronique rempli, un pas supplémentaire sera nécessaire.

Pour en conserver un exemplaire électronique rempli non modifiable:

Si vous utilisez un Mac, pas de problème, le système permet d'imprimer virtuellement en PDF à partir de n'importe quelle application.
Que vous ayez ouvert le PDF avec Aperçu ou avec Acrobat Reader, il suffit de choisir "Print" > "Save as PDF" et vous obtenez un document qui a conservé les valeurs que vous avez rentrées dans les différents champs. Ces valeurs ne pourront pas être modifiées ultérieurement.

Si vous utilisez un système Windows, vous devrez installer un programme supplémentaire qui effectuera une impression virtuelle (c'est à dire qui sauvera le document en un PDF non éditable). Un programme comme PDFcreator (gratuit) devrait faire l'affaire, bien qu'il en existe d'autres, gratuits ou payants.

Pour conserver un exemplaire électronique rempli et éditable:

Si vous êtes sur Mac, eh bien, Aperçu permet aussi de modifier le PDF éditable et de sauvegarder les modifications. Au lieu de choisir d'imprimer, il suffit de sauvegarder à la fermeture du document, voilà tout.
Cependant, si vous voulez encore plus de fonctionnalités, il existe PDFsigner, qui est capable, non seulement d'effectuer une sauvegarde, mais aussi d'intégrer des images dans le PDF.
Il est donc possible d'ajouter une ou plusieurs illustrations, ce qui est quand même bien utile pour une fiche de personnage. Et de plus, le document reste éditable.
Le programme est disponible pour 9 dollars sur l'Appstore (7-8 euros selon le taux de change), ce qui ne devrait pas vous mettre sur la paille. C'est probablement un must pour tous les maîtres du jeu possesseurs de Macs.

Sous Windows, Foxit vous permettra gratuitement de sauver vos documents remplis et de les modifier ultérieurement. D'après le site de Foxit, il est possible d'ajouter des images au document, ce qui en ferait le top des programmes pour utiliser les PDFs, gratuit et complet.

Si vous connaissez d'autres alternatives, n'hésitez pas à les signaler.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Playing with paper figures

Though I generally make my own figures for wargaming or rpgs, I also use figures made by other peoples. After all, if I can save time from figures making, that's more time for planning games or playing.

Here are two interesting products I have been using and which I would recommend to you.

First are Okum Arts Games products that I found on RPGnow.
David Okum is a very talented artist and he has a growing range of paper figures that you can use in your game: vikings, fantasy, western, retrospace, samurais, and even ... undead Santa Claus.
As you can see, what is most interesting, is that David does other periods than fantasy (for which you can use One Monk figures that you surely already knows, Jim is still the best and has a really great range).

In the past, I have made some experiments with cardboard figures that would represent several figures (you can check my Napoleonic figures if you want to see what I mean). But I have always stuck to the number of sodiers depicted on the multifigure representing the same number of figures used in the rules for that base size.

Billy Bones took the idea further, with multiples figures representing a full unit view. This gives the impression of really massive formations when looking at the figures.

I thought, at first, to use those kind of figures only with unit-based rules, but they can surely also be used with figures-based rules. After all, the size of the base gives you the number of "figures" you have to use for calculating melees, firefights,.... I'll have to experiment with the concept.

Paper Battle from Billy Bones workshop

A wonderful idea that seems simple... once you have seen it applied by someone else. I'll probably have a try at this kind of figures.

And, by the way, I discovered that Billy Bones was already making some very good tents I had already bought.

And I am really tempted by his fort...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

What comes next

I have begun to prepare the "Don't drink the water" scenario for the Deadlands Reloaded game.

As I intend to play it on Maptool (face to face, with the screen as a whiteboard and a display), I am also preparing all the stuff I'll need for the game. That means the Savage Worlds framework and the maps, the tokens and the portraits of the NPCs needed for the scenario.

For the framework, my first idea was to use the one that was made by the Savage Troll.
But as I had to translate it in french anyway, I decided to make my own.
It is a much simpler one because, as I play face to face games, there are lots of things that are better not automated (for exemple, there is no need to include cards drawing in the framework, because it is funnier to use a real deck).

The generic SW framework is finished and I'll post it here when I'll have made a few screenshots and a pdf user's guide. Of course, it shall be a post in french (no reason to describe a french framework in english).

The maps from the scenario are going to be made from elements specially created for the campaign. Maybe I'll make some parts with elements from Dungeon Demon from Rusty Axe (their license grant you the right to post maps made from their artwork).

I'll also use some generic western maps for unexpected situations, like:
The desert maps from Skeleton Keys
The western maps from D20 cartographer
Gamescape western maps

The tokens and portraits shall be my own work. The tokens are meant to work at 128 pixels/square, but you can resize them for your own settings.

So here are a few scans of my moleskine to give you an idea of what to expect. I don't know when I'll finish it though, because my group has a few wargames to play now, before we go back to roleplaying.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Retrogaming and retroclones

I have been sadly disappointed by the trend that seems to become the norm in newer indy games. Most designers seem to think that they have to do games which result in game sessions that read like a movie instead of just giving the settings and rules for the players to live their own adventures. You could say it is narrativism taking all the place in the game

To sum up what I find unappealing in those games:
-heavily scripted narration, railroading the players
-loads of meaningless rules or fluff
-loss of immersion to narrativism and the loss of personnal story to narrativium (that should only exist in novels and on Discworld).

Let me explain:

Narrativist games try to have adventures that play like a movie or a book. You can find the result more appealing from an external point of view: the players have seen themselves in the same situations they liked in a movie/book and the result was what could have been expected in this kind of medium.

But they have been cheated.

Because to have that result, the game's designer, the gamemaster and the players themselves have done what an author has to do: cheat with chances, hazards and events.

In a movie/book the results of actions, the happenstances are always those that make the story more interesting. That's quite easy: the author has complete control on all the elements of the story. And, moreover, he has to do it, because a good story is what he wants to write.

In a RPG, if you are trying to have the best story possible, you have to channel the game in what is the best direction for the best resulting story. A kind of narrativist railroading.
And if the author of a novel has to railroad his work (he has to choose a path), a gamemaster shouldn't.

Yes, maybe the resulting story looks better from an outside point of view. Maybe even to the players.
But they have "seen" a story, even if they participated. They have not been living it, in the sense that the alternate world they have been living in was heavily loaded in their favor (or in favor of the "best" result).

To have a gaming experience that is a kind of alternate reality, an alien place where the players live another life, what you need are rules that adjudicate the results of player's actions within the constraints of the game world.

And most importantly, you need rules that keep the players stuck in the point of view of their characters. The players must be able to decide all that their characters could decide, but they are not to be co-scenarists, with metagaming choices about their worlds.
Except, of course, if you try to simulate a group of Hollywood scenarists writing a story, which is probably what narrativist games are about.

The players should be able to play their character, all of their character, but only their character.

That kind of experience was what older games provided by default.
That's why, I think, there is an appeal to those games that goes far beyond the nostalgia. They let you live in an alternate world, with stories that don't always turn out right, that don't always have the good guys trashing the villains, they don't give you the formatted result of a movie or comic, but the chaotic result of living an alternate life in a different world. More challenging, surely, but more rewarding also.

Of course, you can prefer to be a spectator in better polished and more stereotypical stories, that's a perfectly valid choice. But it is not mine.

The good news are that older games that play that way (alternate lives as opposed to storytelling) are easily available (alongside recent games keeping that philosophy).

Those games are old, but some are still available. Because they have been simply re-released on the net (generally as a pdf) or because they are still available even if they are decades old or, finally because they have been retrocloned.

I won't speak here about retroclones from the most famous RPG (now, which one could that be?), because they are already discussed in a lot of places. And, as I almost never played D&D, either then or now, I am not very qualified to comment on old editions, new editions or old editions made new again.

So, what I am speaking about is not retrocloning, but mostly retrogaming.

In a way, retrogaming is what I am already doing by GMing Flashing Blades, a swashbuckler's 1983 rpg that is still available as a PDF on RPGNow.

Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes: IMHO, the best contemporary RPG ever to be released. I have played it for years and I could get back to it if struck by inspiration. It is the modern (and more down to earth) version of Tunnels & Trolls, which, being fully compatible, I have frequently used as an archaic sourcebook for MSPE but which is in itself a wonderful fantasy rpg.

Flashing Blades: a really good swashbuckling game that really gives you the impression to live in the period and to fight with rapiers. Probably too much influence from "En Garde" rules for the social careers system and some historical simplification. But nothing really important.

ZeFRS: the retroclone of Conan game from TSR, without the hyborean stuff that was copyright. Once reviewed in White Dwarf as "D&D as it should have been from the first...". Really good, fast and fun sword and sorcery game. You can have it free from the link above or buy it cheaply from Lulu, but I would recommend the Legend of Steel version, available on RPGnow and with a very evocative game setting.

Star Frontiers: the TSR space Opera game. It has all that is needed to play stories across the galaxy in the style of Traveller's adventures. It is available for free on the net, in a cleaned format and with the copyright holders approval. All the supplements and original adventures are also available and some new stuff as well.

Dragon Warriors: again IMHO, the best classical fantasy RPG (I mean with elves, dwarves,...) but with a more dark tone and muuuucchhhh more credibility and coherence than the usual D&D stuff. It has been re-printed and reformatted (the five original books have been incorporated into one tome). And all the supplements and adventures have been re-published.
"From the cold" particulary contains probably a mix of the best stuff that was published, for any game, in White Dwarf magazine. It is a tribute to Dave Morris that I realised only recently that all those RPG gems that I thought made by lot of different peoples (because they did bear various authors names) were all mostly made by him.

Swordbearer: a very good and original fantasy game from FGU. If you like FGU style, you'll like it. Less dark in tone than Dragon Warriors, you could easily adapt your usual fantasy stuff for this game.

Harnmaster: one of the best machine to visit a middle-ages/fantasy setting.

The two next games were released by Pacesetter. Along Chill first edition, they used the same four colors universal resolution table, which made them fast and fun to use.
Whilst Chill first edition has not been re-released, Star Ace and Timemaster can be found on RPGnow.

Star Ace is the space opera game, it contains all you can need to play in an universe torn between an evil empire and a republican federation (well, and an alien menace). The stories are more of the "mission" style than in Star Frontier. The adventures are available as well.

Timemaster is a time travel RPG and a very good one. There is a lot of scenarios also available. And they are very fun to play. Timemaster lets you immerse your players in ever changing situations: one game in swashbuckling Paris with the musketeers, next one in ancient Rome,.... Very good stuff.

All those games will let you experiment an alternate life from the point of view of your character. They will provide a challenge for you as a player, because your character won't be saved by story tricks or his "pre-ordained destiny" as the hero.

If you play like a moron, your character will fail like a moron. Period. IMHO, that's the way it should be.

You can prefer the cheaper ego-boosting experience of narrativism, your adventures shall have better scripts, even your failures (and they shall be few) will be philosophically meaningful.

But, down deep, you'll always know that it was staged in a railroading world of fakes.

You'll know that your character was pre-tagged as a hero by the system, even if he didn't deserved it. Even if you didn't deserved it.

And you, do you retro game? There are other older games that have been re-released, mostly in PDFs, that I didn't included because I don't know them as well, do you use them?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

RCW figures

As I promised, here are the figures I used for the RCW skirmish. They were made in a hurry, so, nothing really artistic here. I used the same figures for the two sides, there were some indications of rank, side, wildcards,.. on the bases.

So, here is the link for the zipped file. The figures are in 150 dpi jpg and more or less 30mm high.

I hope they can be useful for someone.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Rangers Illustration

I have been asked to make a cover for a rpg supplement about rangers (more about that when it shall be released).

It took me more time than I thought, but I am quite happy with the result, mostly because it was my first real digital painting and I didn't knew if I was going to finish it at all.

I did use Artrage and Photoshop to work. Mostly Artrage, Photoshop was just used to tweak some layers. It was a great help that Artrage can open and save works in .psd, keeping all the layers intact for Photoshop.

I'll certainly try again.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Savage Worlds Character Generator

For those who had missed it: an online character generator, quite well done (it makes all the calculations).
I won't use it to completely make the PCs for my games (as all the skills, edges,... depending on the setting are not included), but it should enable my players to have a first draft of what they want to play before coming to the game session.
I intend to mail them something like: "Next game is a sword and sorcery scenario, prepare legendary level characters" and have them coming with half finished characters.
Have a try, rolling new characters can be quite addictive:
Savage Worlds Character Generator

Sunday, 29 May 2011

First RCW skirmish

We have played our first Back of Beyond skirmish. It was a very small battle with some tsarist infantry trying to dislodge a red force half its size from a small village it had fortified.
The battle did show us the advantage of being in defense in the period of machine guns and bolt rifles.

The whites had their chance still. Having more than twice the number of figures, they almost overwhelmed the bolshevik defenses, their high point being when a lucky grenade destroyed a machinegun nest and its crew, leaving a part of the perimeter defenseless for a time.
But that was not enough, and white squads were broken one after another when trying to cross the empty space riddled with bullets.

Showdown rules worked well and everyone was satisfied with the game. The rules were understandable enough and there was no problem using them. Though the concept of Shaken was not immediately clear.
A showdown battle seems to be finished in a few turns. That means that even if movement rates are quite high, I should have let the battle begin with the ennemies in closer proximity.

We did use the first BoB figures I did make for the game. I hurried too much for the game and I am not too happy about the result. The figures were usable but had not much flavour to them (the basmachi I did earlier for the campaign was much better). I hope to do better when I'll have to draw more interesting or exotic personnalities.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Swashbuckler tokens

We have finished our first Flashing Blades adventure yesterday. It was very fun and really satisfying. The characters, though caught between two opposing factions, were able to steal the documents they had been sent to find.
The main action scene was to enter a monastery (full of fanatical ultamontains monks) and burglarise it. I had imagined something like a careful and silent job, but they did raise a real pandemonium with the help of the nearby villagers and took advantage of the chaos to take the documents.
The adventure had chases, swordfights, assasination attempts and even seduction scenes.
One character died (Furcifer, a rogue of low extraction who gave his life to prevent a spadassin to warn the characters ennemies..) and some other were wounded, giving an atmosphere of real danger to the game.

If you use a virtual tabletop application for you games, you can find the tokens I used here.
And if you play Savage Worlds, they could be useful for Solomon Kane or Pirates of the Spanish Main campaigns.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Tokens are easy and fun.

As we are continuing our Flashing Blades campaign, I found myself in need of tokens to use with Maptool.

Devin's tokens covers a lot of types, but they are mostly fantasy and except a few pirates or some bandits from his last pack, they are not exactly what I needed. And, anyway, I wanted to make some of my own.

My first movement was to draw some detailed ones, with matching portraits to show the character they represent. The result was quite good, but it was going to take me some times to make all the needed tokens.

... and of course, I never have enough time. So, I just began to doodle smaller drawings whilst preparing the scenario.

The result is not very artistic, but that's the kind of doodling you can do with half a mind on it and in a few minutes.
And after a short manipulation in Photoshop (levels, cleaning, selection, color and shadow...), they make usable tokens. Not on the level of Devin's ones, but acceptables.

(you can see the result here; the doodle in my moleskine has become a spadassin token in Maptool, with mounted and foot versions, attacking some PCs on the Tavern in the Woods map from SkeletonKey games)
Here is the spadassin full size; he is scaled to fit 128px squares in Maptool, because it is the scale I use (I generally display the map at 50% resolution, but it gives me the possibility to zoom in when needed without losing image quality).

And what is more, it's that, being a natural scribbler, I love to make those doodles whilst reading for the game, relaxing at a coffee-house, taking a break at work,... wherever .

Maybe I'll also doodles portraits for some of them, but for now, I am quite happy using illustrations gathered on the net for the NPCs (the PCs having their own illustrations).

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Savage Moleskine

Inspiration can be quite tricky. A good idea can strike you anywhere and if you don't record it, it can be lost forever.
I always have my RPG moleskine notebook in my pocket to write down ideas, and I have found it unvaluable to be able to work for my next game anywhere and anywhen, when I have a few minutes.

I use it not only to record my ideas, but I have begun to use it to prepare my RPG sessions (which means I am going to need it for Showdown and Savage Worlds) and to refer to it during my gaming sessions.

A moleskine notepad doesn't take much space on the table and it can contain all my references for the scenario I am mastering, regroup all the stuff I want to be able to look quickly (an index of what I want to find for the game, sketch maps of places not developped in the scenario, stats and descriptions...).

I have encountered two problems when using a moleskine for this kind of things:

-First, what you write down in the notebook is not necessary grouped logically, so you need a way to reference it.

-Secondly, it can be quite tedious to write again and again empty NPCs character stats blocks to fill them.

The first problem is easily solved by numbering each right page. Then, when you want to refer to somewhere in your moleskine, you just have to note that number and the quadrant where it is located. For exemple, in the moleskine here, refering to the map drawn on it would be 22C.
For recurring stats blocks, I just took the solution from Moleskine itself. On their site, they have made available empty pages that can be glued in a notebook.
So you can add squared pages in a lined moleskine or you can add a storyboard page in a squared notebook,... or any combination.

I just made moleskine stats blocks pages (one for NPCs and one for vehicles), they can be glued in your notebook. I prefer to print them on A4 sticker paper. I cut them and, when I need one, I stick it in the notebook. I write the game stats on that page and any notes I need on the next one.

As moleskine have a pocket inside the back cover, I can carry a few blank stats pages with me.

You can download the Moleskine SW pages (NPCs and Vehicles) in english here and in french, here.

Content is self-explaining, but I added a small silhouette on the right bottom of the page. It is intended to record armor values if needed or sketch anything that can be useful for the GM (the place where a knife is hidden, the parts covered by the armor,... wathever).

Don't forget to print them at 100% by unchecking the "fit to page" button in your printer setting, or it won't be the right size.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Buildings from the desert fringe.

For our next wargame session, I have to finish the figures needed to play the scenario (to be short, the adventurers group from the bolchevik player are going to try to murder the commanding general of the basmachi player), the drawing part progress quite well and I hope to be able to go to the color and print process soon.

But I also have to build some eastern looking buildings, because the game is going to happen in the suburbs of an old silk road city.

Some years ago, I did buy the "Desert Village" and "Desert Fortress" available on RPGnow (they are still available), and whilst I never used them, they are still on my hard drive. So, after a few prints, I am now assembling eastern houses of every shapes and sizes. I think a dozen would be enough for the first game. Maybe, I'll add a few "western" buildings (the more generic ones: cabins, horses sheds,...) for the westernised part of town. I'll see...

My only problem, for now, is that I use a green gaming mat, which is the most"universal looking" I could imagine and which worked well for a lot of settings, but it looks more irish hills than desert border.
I don't intend to buy a desert one, but I think I'll have to adapt it, maybe with sandy patches or something like that.

I'll try to post a few pictures with the first buildings and figures when I'll have the time for a photo session.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Tokens Store

Just a short blog entry to let you know that Devin Night has opened his token's store. This is very good news because they are probably the best on the net (and quite inexpensive).
So have a look at his store.
And whilst you are there, take the time to download all his free stuff, you won't regret it (though some resizing could be useful, Devin having having worked on different sizes in the past)