There is a great set of miniatures rules called Song of Blades and Heroes (hereafter "SoBH") that is designed for fantasy skirmishes. I've used it before in Robin Hood and Witch-Hunting scenarios and have had some great games with both settings.
Andrea Sfiligoi (owner of Ganesha Games and author of SoBH) has written many other sets of rules that use roughly the same mechanics for different genres. Of interest to this article is Fear and Faith ("FaF"), which is designed for horror battles. FaF covers an enormous range of possible battles, whether a classic Gothic vampire confronted by Victorian gentlemen or modern heroes fighting off werewolves. Or mad slashers, poltergeists, zombies, chupacabras and many other things!
To go even further down this route, there is a supplement for FaF called Kooky Teenage Monster Hunters ("KTMH"). KTMH covers most modern "teen" horror settings (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight &c); it even has profiles for a "cowardly canine detective" and a set of 4 "teenage mystery reporters". So that's it - why do I even need to come up with my own house rules? After all, FaF and KTMH have all the necessary profiles and scenarios between them - surely that's enough!
It all comes down to the type of scenario. Most wargames scenarios are written with the fighting uppermost in the author's mind, I think. Victory conditions are set so that conflict plays a major part of the game, with other activities being either relegated to second best or being dropped altogether. Perhaps some victory points will be given for having control of an arbitrary piece of landscape at the conclusion, but there's little connection between this condition and the developing narrative throughout the game.
I postulate that there is a category of games where the journey is more important than the fighting. This might be clearer if I label the concept as "Detective Stories". I believe that the bulk of such a story is essentially the hunt for clues. Conflict may well exist (almost certainly!) as opposing interests compete for these clues or even as neutrals or natural forces react to trespassing investigators, but it's not the focus of the tale.
Examples? There are many, I think, but here are just a few:
- Sherlock Holmes. Or Philip Marlowe. Or even The Sweeney, Starsky and Hutch and other "cop" shows. Fist-fights or shoot-outs may well occur in a story, especially towards the climax, but aren't the real point.
- Doctor Who. The good doctor meets many varied and dangerous creatures, but is famous for not fighting. Instead, he tries to solve the problems in peaceful ways.
- and, of course, Scooby Doo! The story is always about solving the mystery, not about dispatching enemies. And here's the problem: as written, too many wargames rules have plenty of detail on how to fight, but little else.
I know of one set of games rules that does take investigation seriously. That's Pulp Alley, which has an extensive section on "plot points". A game will have 4 minor and 1 major plot point; the scenario dictates where (and when) they will appear.
Roughly, a plot point can be regarded as a victory condition but with a twist. In broad terms, they have the following characteristics:
- A name or description. Instead of just being a generic "plot point", it might be a "Jade Amulet", a "Power Regulator", a "Lost Shipment" or a "Clever Child".
- Victory points. OK, this is fairly traditional.
- To recover a plot point, a model doesn't just pick it up. Instead the model must overcome a challenge. There are many different types of challenge in Pulp Alley, but basically they all involve passing a roll against some statistic and suffering a consequence on failure.
- The side that takes control of a plot point gets a reward, which confers immediate in-game benefits. You don't have to wait until the end of the game to get the benefits!
So, how does this work for Scooby Doo, as played with Fear and Faith? I propose to take the plot point mechanism from Pulp Alley and adjust it a little. Also, there will be a few other house rules to suit the genre a bit better:
- It's a family show: no-one is killed, especially not in a gruesome manner! The game effects will still remain the same, but the character or monster will be deemed to have "run away" instead of being killed, or "run away, screaming loudly" instead of being killed gruesomely. Similarly, "combat" may represent posturing or arguing with another model, not necessarily wrestling with them or using weapons.
- The detectives: only the good side may attempt the plot points. The evil side is trying to impede detection of their nefarious plans and this will be best served by interfering with the good side rather than racing them to uncover the mystery. To compensate the evil side for this handicap, they will start with a victory point advantage and the scenario will be time-limited. The good guys therefore will have to solve the mystery to win and will have to do it in a timely manner!
- Cowards! Scooby and Shaggy may not intentionally enter a combat with anyone or anything that has a combat rating higher than 1. If they do become involved in such a fight then they may strike back as normal; the restriction is purely on initiating the melee.
- Plot points: the attempt:
- Plot points: the challenge:
- Scary! Take a standard Fear Test (with a -1 modifier for a major plot point).
- Entangled! The model(s) must resist a "transfix spell" as if cast with 2 successes (3 for a major plot point).
- Damaged! Each model is the target of a C3 attack (C4 for a major plot point). Resolve each combat separately, with no bonuses for multiple participants in the melee.
- Lost! Make a 3-dice quality check. On 2 failures (1 for a major plot point), the opponent may relocate the model anywhere within M. On 3 failures, the opponent may relocate the model anywhere on the board. Such relocation may be into contact with an enemy model, but not anywhere that results in certain death such as a blast furnace, bottomless pit, outer space...
- Cursed! The model(s) must resist a "curse spell" as if cast with 2 successes (3 for a major plot point).
If the reward cannot be claimed on this occasion, the plot point may be attempted again in future turns (keep the same challenge, though!)
- Plot points: the reward:
- There you are! A previously-lost (i.e. "dead" or run away) character is rescued and reappears at the plot point's location.
- Scooby Snacks! For the next turn only, all the good side's models may pass 1 dice automatically during any quality check. Note that this stacks with the Hero attribute; a model with hero would then have 2 automatic successes for that turn.
Also while this reward is in effect, the Cowards! rule is suspended. Scooby and/or Shaggy may charge into combat if desired!
- It's a rubber mask! For the next turn only, opponents suffer a -2 to their rolls in melee.
- Relentless! For the next turn only, the good side may carry on after rolling 2 failures in an activation test. This bonus only applies to the first such occasion where 2 failures are rolled; after that such an even will cause a turnover as normal.
My apologies if this all seems to be a bit rambling. I've been mulling over ideas like these for some time now, but without coming to any clear conclusions. Perhaps writing them down and making my thoughts public will help to crystallise them? I suppose we'll not really know how successful they are until after we've played a game or two.
Your thoughts and carefully-reasoned criticisms would be most welcome!
[UPDATE: The first game we've played under this system can be viewed here: Scooby Doo and the Death Knight]
[UPDATE: The first game we've played under this system can be viewed here: Scooby Doo and the Death Knight]
I've wanted to do this myself. I've also thought about a mod for 'Mansions of Madness', which is investigation/ horror based.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Barks. I don't know "Mansions of Madness", but it's always good to have more sources of inspiration!Delete
This sounds rather good people often end up captured in gloop or tied up in a closet somewhere :)ReplyDelete
Yes, indeed - the heroes should definitely end up split into small groups and facing various perils. As long as they don't *all* succumb at the same time, there will be the potential for a rescue :-) .Delete
Although I have never played any of the games you mentioned, I do agree that any game involving the Scooby Gang should concentrate more on clue solving than on combat. You definitely need to play test your rules... the sooner the better!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Bryan. I'm hoping to put on a test game within the next week or so.Delete
These sound like great fun C6!ReplyDelete
I hope so, Bob! Might need some tuning, but we won't really know that until my ideas have been tested...Delete
I haven't done much miniature gaming, but have thought I'd like to. I live in a small village and people who play miniatures games are not exactly abundant. I've been thinking I'd like to learn with my kids. My oldest is 5 and I'd love to start her with a non-violent set of rules. I downloaded the starter rules for Pulp Alley some time ago, just haven't got around to trying them out. Your post has certainly reawakened the desire.ReplyDelete
Thanks for commenting, Dave!Delete
I sympathise with the lack of opponents - I suspect that *many* gamers would recognise this issue!
As for introducing young kids to the hobby, it is possible to de-emphasise the "combat" side of games. For example, there are sports games around, though they're really something of a niche interest. It's also possible to make the opposition "inhuman" and therefore not something we'd have qualms about destroying. This may explain the popularity of games against zombies, or even bugs or robots. I'm not sure that this level of horror would be appropriate for a 5-year old, though!
Another approach would be to try "toy gaming", either with Lego or other models that are very obviously cartoon-like. Google "Brikwars" for a taster of this :-) .
My final suggestion is that 7TV and the like set the game in a film studio - it's all a TV show and no-one really gets hurt after all! Perhaps that type of "meta game" (whether you used the 7TV rules or something else altogether) might work for you & your family?
Some excellent thoughts and Ideas. I strongly urge you to give this a really good go!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Clint. It's a type of game that I've wanted to try for a long time. Hopefully I'll get the opportunity really soon now :-) !Delete
I've played a few games of "Faith & Fear" and a couple with the Scooby Gang, although I was using the Hasslefree Post-Apocalyptic models so there were set for a rumble. I was pleasantly surprised at how the Fear rules brought the mechanics (or feeling) of horror to the game in a more subtle way than just pitching monsters into the normal game.ReplyDelete
The narrative game\campaign sounds just the ticket for the normal gang and I like the plot points idea (I'm not familiar with Pulp Alley). Will be looking on with interest...
Well, that sounds very encouraging, Sam! We'll see how my ideas work in due course; I promise that I will tell everyone how the game(s) work out.Delete
The Pulp Alley rules are a great starting point for a Scooby Doo style mystery solving game and more so in that the rules don't 'kill-off' characters iirc and if you can combine their ideas with rules from Fear and Faith, then you've got all the ingrdients for a scpic game genre.ReplyDelete
Good luck with this and I'm looking forward to seeing where you go with it
Thanks, Joe. I'm also looking forward to giving this a go now :-) .Delete
That looks like fun and Velma as well as Shaggy looks awesome as minis.ReplyDelete
We'll find out whether it works out just as soon as I can put on a game :-) .Delete
Sounds like a cool ide to play Scooby Doo with "Faith & Fear"ReplyDelete
It seems obvious to use Faith and Fear for this, really :-) .Delete