Thursday 26 April 2012

"Damage Control to the Disco Lounge!"

A few months ago, I came across Super Galactic Dreadnought's description of "starship non-critical hits".  This immediately grabbed my attention and I decided to copy the idea.  Of course, I needed to add some of my own entries to the table, as well as removing one or two that I felt didn't work for me.

So, how is this table used?  I play Full Thrust at the local games group; we add an extra "system" to each ship.  This is just an empty box which takes threshold checks in exactly the same manner as any other system.  If it is damaged, I then roll on the table below to see what was the "effect" (it works better when I keep the table hidden from the players and just tell them the result).

Of course, this damage has no effect whatsoever on gameplay, unless it's to cause the players to fall about laughing and consequently fluff their next turn.  I am beginning to suspect that some of the kids for whom I referee are trying to work out how to maximise their chances of such a critical, even at the expense of the scenario objectives, just to see what happens.  The occasion when the Petty Officer's candy machine was destroyed is still talked about - there were gumballs all over the floor and as for the toffees, well!

I've even been bitten by this bug sufficiently to create further tables for cargo and passenger types, for when freighters are captured or damaged.  But that's for another day...

So, the table of non-critical hits, with many thanks to Super Galactic Dreadnought:

1 Rulebook destroyed: game ends
2 Make it up yourself
3 Roll again twice on this table
4 Forward dry cleaners
5 Starboard pizza oven
6 Arcturan pornography library
7 Holodeck
8 Shuffleboard deck
9 Paint locker (d10: 1-7 gray; 8-9 white; 10 plaid)
10 Chief engineer's still
11 Video arcade
12 Spare dress uniforms
13 Septic tank
14 Petting zoo
15 Swimming pool
16 Captain's disco lounge
17 Stormtrooper target range
18 Aft car rental kiosk
19 Recreational knitting supplies
20 Port sauna
21 EVA window cleaning equipment
22 Dune buggy garage (lose 1-6 dune buggies)
23 Satellite TV dish
24 Intellectual property officer
25 Political officer's quarters
26 Enlisted men's motivational posters
27 Frisbee golf course
28 Marriage chapel
29 Petty Officers' candy machine
30 Communicator sanitising supplies
31 Stuffed tribble collection
32 Last month's overtime records
33 Navigator's manga collection
34 Shipwide volume control (d6: 1-3 too quiet, 4-6 too loud)
35 Command deck vending machines
36 Canteen gravity control
37 Puppet theatre
38 Ship's stock of Gideon Bibles
39 Captain's chair height adjustment controls
40 Klystron Generator
41 Background music generator (stuck on "Easy Listening")
42 Brig security controls

Sunday 22 April 2012

Character Cards for ATZ

Character Cards for ATZ

Most of my games are run with large groups of players; typically from 4 to 7.  Although the core of the group is usually the same, maybe half the players are different each time.  This can make it hard for me to remember who is in charge of each unit or character as well as making it difficult for the players to know the capabilities of their command.  To this end, I design character or unit summary cards for all the games I play - these cards sit in front of each individual and identify which forces that person commands.  Note that I'm not a graphic designer or an artist by training, so these cards are functional rather than beautiful.

For ATZ, a card typically describes 1 or 2 characters.  Here's an example of a pair who are very popular at my local club (all the kids want to play the guy with the fierce dog, though it's surprising how often he dies!):

The elements on the card probably don't need much description (at least, they shouldn't do since the whole point of the card is to be completely obvious!).  However, here are a few design notes:
  1. Game:  I play a number of different games and sometimes even use the same models in more than one game system.  It's important to be able to tell that this data is for ATZ and not for 5150 or some other game.  Border colour can be used to distinguish factions (I've done this for other rules but not for ATZ) and layout can be altered for different game systems.
  2. Character: The name of the character(s) on the card.
  3. Picture:  A picture is worth a thousand words!  At least in this case, as it makes the card much more useful.  It probably takes more time and effort to photograph a model than the time to create the rest of the card, but I believe this is vital to the usability of the cards.
  4. Synopsis:  A data card can be very dry and boring.  On my cards, I place a synopsis that is intended to give the player some insight into the character's behaviour and motivations.  Of course, this doesn't in itself prevent a player from acting any way they wish.  It might, however, make me (as gamesmaster) think twice about awarding "cool points" to a character who was described as a "pillar of the community" if they were played as a looter and backstabber.
    I see Mr Braxton as a middle-aged suburbanite, possibly a used-car dealer or some form of salesman.  He's clearly fond of luxury, as can be seen from his cigar and gold jewelry.  Perhaps the very large dog is a sign of a bit of insecurity?
  5. Special Rules: Most cards won't have any special rules, but some do.  In this case, Clancy the dog doesn't have a truly independent existence; his movement and actions are closely associated with those of Mr. Braxton (and it's perhaps not surprising in how many games the "superdog" has died defending his master against a horde of zombies after the REP 3/Slow Mr Braxton has fallen behind the rest of the party).
  6. Attributes &c: The stats and weapons for each character.  Technically it would be sufficient to give just the name of a weapon or an attribute, as the full data could be looked up in a master chart.  However, I find that this slows game play considerably and it's much more convenient to have that information duplicated here.
Here are a few of the more popular characters from my ATZ games:

 I'm not sure what to make of this pair.  Are they Bonnie and Clyde wannabes?  Or just serious members of a gun club?  Either way, running in that dress is awkward...

Funnily enough, Kate has never done as well in ATZ as I think she should.  Perhaps the twin pistols just make too much noise?

An extraordinarily luck character - John has survived some game situations where the odds were heavily against him.

Joe is huge - the miniature is at least a head taller than many in my collection.  He's a very popular choice for a lot of my ATZ players, though often the character ends up dead on a heap of bodies.  Personally, I think he's a complete nutcase (I probably should have made him into a Ganger rather than a Survivalist).

Thursday 19 April 2012

ATZ Campaign, Game 1.   The search for Gramps and Nanna

So, there are outbreaks of rioting, looting and attacks on innocent citizens all over the country.  In the big city, a wedding party hears news that disturbs them.  John (the wedding photographer) knows that his grandparents had planned to go out shopping in the afternoon, but reports are coming in that the suburb where they live is to be put under martial law to curb widespread disorder.  Clearly, grandad and grandma are in danger!

Some of the wedding party offer to assist John in his search.  These are:
  • Darcy and Lizzie (the bride and groom, who are close friends with John)
  • Mr Braxton (a neighbour; he has an enormous Irish wolfhound called "Clancy")
  • Rob (another friend)
  • Dougie (a work colleague).
  • Also present were a couple of hangers-on who presumably didn't want to be alone on the streets: Sam the gardener and Willie the hobo.

We were playing the Exodus scenario from the ATZ: Haven rules, with the added twist that the players had to search buildings for John's grandpa and granny (and then escort them to safety).  So, here's how it went:

Immediately upon entering the board, the party was set upon by a large mob of zombies.  How unlucky was that!  John managed to stun some of the lead zombies by flashing his camera in their faces and most of the party escaped (you can just see Sam and Lizzie running in the upper half of this picture).  Sadly, Rob and Willie were caught and torn down.  At least this distracted the mob for a while and allowed the remaining players to put some distance between themselves and the zombies!

Round the corner of the burger bar, John and Darcy try to persuade some nightclubbers to flee before the zombies arrive.  Eventually they were successful, though the women took some persuading.

Meanwhile, Sam and Lizzie found some lost children.  Again, it was hard to make them flee from the danger, but eventually they were escorted off the board, once John and Darcy caught up and assisted.

Mr. Braxton suffered from a fatal "Ooh, shiny!" moment when he discovered that the keys had been left in a deserted Lambourgari.  He and his dog got in and spent a number of turns trying to start the engine and failing (perhaps the car was out of fuel?).  Meanwhile the zombie horde closed in.  He could have got out and run at any time, but was fixated on stealing such a nice motor.
Eventually the zombies surrounded the vehicle, dragged him from it and killed him.  Of course, once the zombies had opened the car door Clancy the wolfhound escaped.  He took on all 5 remaining zombies at once, made furious by the death of his beloved master and he succeeded in destroying 3 of the monsters before being gravely wounded himself.

As this was happening, Sam and Dougie entered a bookstore in the shopping district.  They found a couple of heavily-armed survivors (Goofy and Paulie) who weren't best pleased at the new arrivals - especially since they were being chased by several zombies at the time.  Nevertheless, all 4 humans decided to fight together.  The bookstore became a scene of carnage as Goofy and Paulie's gunshots killed some zombies but just attracted more and more.  Sam was torn apart in hand-to-hand fighting by a single zed after Dougie failed to charge to his assistance.  At this point, Dougie lost his bottle completely (failed his sanity test!) and ran away and hid amongst the books in the "Teenage" section of the shop.  After a while longer, no more gun shots were heard from that building.

John, Darcy and Lizzie found Albert and Gertrude (aka Gramps and Nanna) in the garage, where they had gone to have Gertrude's chainsaw serviced.  They managed to escort them back into a safer part of the city.  Darcy and Lizzie even managed to rescue the wounded wolfhound, Clancy.  Mr. Braxton, Rob, Willie and Sam were all dead.  Dougie was never seen again.

Game 2 of this campaign can be found here.

I'm new to all this...

Well, where do we go from here?  This is the first (and possibly only!) post in yet another wargamer's blog.  I'm doing this mainly so that I have a record of some of the games I've played, however cursory.

For anyone who doesn't know me, my name is Hugh Duggan.  I play mostly at my local wargaming club in Helensburgh, where I have the grand title of "Gamesmaster".  This means that I typically umpire games (and provide the toys) for some of the younger or newer club members.