Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Musings on Serial Campaigns during the Zombie Apocalypse


This is a concept inspired by a conversation with a friend quite some time ago. It's still in the ideation phase.

The idea is to have a campaign structure that would enable pick-up games and introduce certain thematic concepts such as resource management. This becomes the basis for Serial Campaign game structures, of which Exploration Campaigns are a sub-type.

This campaign structure can be adapted to any setting that can benefit negotiating terrain and making decisions about growing a troupe [ Assembly ] and hoarding equipment. So, it should fit pretty well with the Survival Horror genre.

Zombies are ever popular and they are a perfect fit for this genre. A zombie apocalypse is the typical implementation of what will be described here. The working title, using our naming standard, is currently "Of Zombie Hordes and Riot Gear".


The genre's default setting is a hybrid of Dawn of the Dead plus 28 Days Later plus Resident Evil. Basically the campaign should have a long-term arc with some aggressive zombies, and some crazy military sci-fi aspects.

Each game session is played across battlefield which is at least two or three board lengths each 48 x 48 MU. The idea here is that the players control Assemblies of Survivors and these are always migrating. Within the campaign, they'll be migrating from city to city looking for supplies, recruits, and in general trying to locate a safer place to finally put up a sheltered enclave to retire. In game terms, each city becomes a short campaign within a larger arc of several campaigns which then lead to a grand finale battle.

More Detail
The setting has a small campaign arc with 4 campaigns each being of variable length. These campaigns end when a specific Mission within each is completed to success.
  1. First Week. Each Mission has an Interim Time of about 1 day. 5-8 Missions. Most of the action takes place within a single City and the idea is to get to safety. The Survivors will encounter standard Zombies, Militia, Law Enforcement, Opportunists, Military, Stragglers, Thugs and a few other types. 
  2. First Month. Each Mission has an Interim Time of about 1 Week. 3-5 Missions. The Survivors have established a base of operations in a township near their starting city. Here they'll start making forays for supplies and then start encountering modified Zombies and augmented Military.
  3. First Quarter. Each Mission has an Interim Time of about 1 Months. 2-4 Missions. The Survivors have learned of a military base along the coast that has been recruiting survivors and has promised food, shelter, and medicine. On the way through the wilderness they'll encounter Militia and Opportunists. Zombies are a rare sight but quite different and frightening.
  4. First Year. Each Mission has an Interim Time of about 3 Months. 3-5 Missions. The Survivors have a credible network of contacts up and down the coast. Missions will be fought between hordes of controlled Zombies and their Weapons Research Council controllers. The Military will support the WRC, and many ex-Military will have filled the ranks of the local Militia groups.
Risky Decisions
Within each city, what the Survivor player encounters will be driven by needs as well as by chance. Maybe the player decides to go on a supply run for food or ammo, or maybe the player want to take a short-cut to a safe-haven, or maybe go looking for vehicles or recruits.  Going into the deeper parts of the city an Assembly will find more zombies but also more supplies. Go out further into the wilderness, and there will be fewer zombies but also fewer supplies.

City Zone Effects
The City Zone in which a Survivor Assembly finds itself will affect what it may encounter during each Mission.

CZ   Zone            Zombies  Supplies  Recruits  Survivor
1    City              +4        +5       -3         +4
2+   Town              +3        +3       -2         +2
4+   Outskirts         +2        +2       -1         +1
6+   Rural             +1        +0       -1         +0
8+   Wilderness        +0        -3       +0         +0

The chart is fairly rough but the idea is that the chance to encounter Zombies, to find Supplies, and locate Survivors is higher in the City and less in the Wilderness. The inverse is true for Recruits; there's more in the Wilderness and fewer in the City. These would be skewed towards Militia groups and other Survivors.


Geomorphic blueprints for typical layouts are available in the Layout Matrix which assist quick configuration of each board upon the battlefield.  Here's a link to the Layout Matrix which elaborates on what follows below.

So when a board is exited it will be quick to reconfigure a board for the next section. As a player's Assembly leaves one board, it is cleared and reconfigured to show the next layout. The models are then placed again at their owner's friendly edge.

The first 3 City Zones in the Layout Matrix


The most terrain encountered within this genre will be roads, buildings, and trees.  When the Campaign begins, the Survivors are in City Zone 2; the Main City. This zone has mostly buildings and few trees.
  1. Players note their current City Zone somewhere for each Turn of the campaign. 
  2. Then, when a new Mission is started, the Survivor player rolls and scores the successes for 2 Modifier dice, adding 1.  This is how long the Battlefield for the Mission will be; how many boards in length before the Mission ends.
  3. The layout for the board begins with a single die roll; shown in the images above in a black circle.  Layouts are are 2 by 2 sections, each 24 x 24 MU. 
  4. Grove icons show how many Groves to place in that section of the board. The standard is 8 individual trees to a single grove icon.  
  5. If a black rectangle appears; it is a single building. Urban and City City Zones have lots of buildings. The standard here is that 1 Large building is worth 2 Medium buildings or 4 Small buildings. It works both ways. If the layout shows 8 Small buildings; those can be replaced with just 2 Large buildings.
  6. Decorative terrain elements such as non-functional vehicles, billboard signs, and street-lights are optional. They are not necessary for game-play but sure make the game-play area look very nice.


Mechanically, buildings are meant to channel movement of the Survivor Assembly down constricted areas of the battlefield. In additional what a building looks like and what it represents can be different things from Mission to Mission. What does matter is that most buildings should be traversable; at least the bottom floor to allow for the placement of rooms, doors, and perhaps caches and traps. The more buildings there are, the greater the chance for finding supplies or recruits.


To put pressure upon the players, each mission begins during the day and there are 12 hours during Summer of light but 6 hours during Winter.  So the start-time may vary according to the season and can be set by the Survivor player, but defaults to sunrise or 6:00 AM.

In game-time is must also be tracked between the boards of each Mission. Traveling between boards consumes 1 to 6 multiples of 15 minutes depending on foot, on horse-back or bicycle, or if traveling by vehicle.  During game-play it will also be possible to get lost which consumes another 1-3 hours and randomizes the appearance of the next City Zone. All of this presumes the normal behavior during travel is caution.

Days will pass between early Campaigns, and then weeks will pass in the later campaigns. This represents the amount of cunning and safety the Survivor Assembly have gained.  However, during all of this passage of time, supplies will always be a critical factor. Lastly, there will be random events which can occur "off-board" that are intended to randomly benefit or penalize the Survivor Assembly.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Progress on the VSF Campaign Map


Here's the latest design for the Victorian Sci-fi Campaign Map. It has changed somewhat from the last time I showcased it a few years ago.

The Actual Map

Here's what I currently have for the "Of Werewolves and Tesla Coils" campaign setting.  This is a Region Map type of representation so that positions upon it are of high importance. The area shown is Central Europe

Campaign map for "Of Werewolves and Tesla Coils" setting within the Cold Steam Empires genre.

Tour of Changes

  1. I moved the year to 1876 because that's the year following historically where lots of machinations in Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and Serbia started bunches of turmoil. Well, that and, reasons.
  2. There are 10 nations represented, each is a Faction with their own sub-Factions. The nations in order of capabilities, for this early part of the war are; Prussia, Britain, Austria, France, Italy. Then follows the minor powers for this map; Serbia, Belgium, Nederlands, Poland, and then Switzerland. I didn't include Russia or the remainder of the Ottoman Empire, nor Spain for this campaign. Those I think will fit in better with the Network Map campaign type since they're pretty big. I'll draft something up for that later which can cover the expanded war which will also involve the Mars, Moon, and Venus expeditions.
  3. I've matched up the VIPs to the Resource Asset types. For example; Organizer VIPs provide the same benefits as the Recruits Asset, and Merchant VIPs provide the same benefits as the Wealth Asset. This helps me simplify the rules a little and actually gives me more freedom in creating variations upon them so they'll be easier to balance.
  4. I removed the "Negotations" column of the Travel Table. I think that will do better as a rules entry instead of being on the map to clutter it.
  5. I've moved the calendar which had been on the side to a separate play-aide. It will match the layout I presented for the Mythos Network Map. This also allows me to extend the range of dates cleanly without requiring that I print a new map each time.
  6. I added a lot more waypoint nodes on the map. So there's something like 400 positions so that I could have more travel occur across it daily. I'll try another version with fewer locations as well. Maybe I'll just identify the capital cities and the areas around them. There's a balance in there somewhere which causes the campaign go from a way to string battles together to a full-fledged board game.


The PDF in the link above is meant for an 11"x17" US Tabloid format to use as a pin-board. The idea of a pin-board is that the pins will store the state information of the campaign between battles. And the pins allow the players to track movement as well. Of course, such a pin-board will look a lot more impressive as a poster-print issued from a large-format printer. Here's one of my later drafts at 36" x 24" posted near the corner of my den.

36" x 24" test print of VSF Campaign map.

And here's what the game looks like during play-testing. I have Prussia with blue-pins and Britain with red-pins. The map and aides are from an earlier set of print-outs and are mounted upon two layers of foam-core. I'm currently at Turn 2. Across the years I think I've tried this thing about five times and it still needs some work.

Play-test in progress

Friday, October 28, 2016

Musings on Network Campaigns

I've been working on the "Of Cultists and Unspeakable Horrors" genre document which is a setting within the MEST :: Mythos genre. IIRC, it is the first setting that Aggro and myself played using his "Of Werewolves and Tesla Coils" setting nearly six years ago. That's where I started in this hobby.


Include here is a link to my Google Drive with what I've got thus far for the campaign book. The instructions on page i and page ii identify the basic flow of how to use the campaign book. This post continues from the Character Progression entry from last week.

There are several Campaign structures available to MEST. Each structure type has its advantages and disadvantages and as a result they should be applied according to the genre or setting. For example, the Mythos campaign use the Network Campaign structure. Here are the various structure types. In all the versions, the idea of character progression exists, but it is a feature attached to the campaign rules itself and not core. This means that the campaign rules could be used without the need to use the Champions rules.
  • Free-form Campaigns. This is standard and is what most tabletop skirmish miniatures game resort to; its completely ad hoc. Play a Mission. Play another Mission. No prior Mission affects the current Mission. This is the simplest campaign structure with zero cognitive load; it's a "no-brainer".
  • Exploration Campaigns. This is for the Zombies / Survivalist genre. I'll create another blog entry showing what I've got going thus far and link it back from here. It's really just a bunch of linked Missions like the Free-form Campaigns. But, it will have a layer of instructions for inventory control and time management in order to create tension. A variation of this would be what I'd use for the Dungeon of Death genre book; a bunch of dungeon bashing Missions connected by visits to Ye Olde Shoppe for supplies. Maybe also for Retropocalypse but where it could Vault explorations instead of, like, dungeons. It would be a tribute to the Fallout Shelter game.
  • Influence Campaigns. This is the next in line for complexity. Imagine that a series of Missions as fought in Free-form Campaigns has the additional rule that whichever Faction was the Winner in the prior Mission receives a bonus in the current Mission. That's what Influence is, and the bonus is known as Elan. Influence Campaigns are a bit more varied and use a network graph displaying Locations with Connection lines going between them. Winning at one Location will provide an award at any other Location connected by those lines. 
  • Network Campaigns. This is a step above the Influence Campaigns because it introduces different types of Locations and Connections. Each Location may also identify via icons for Resources, and bonuses for specific Factions which are fighting the Mission there.  Some Locations will have Gates that require that some other Location or icon be fought first. Winning the Mission at the Location awards the Resources which provide long-term benefits. As before, having a Controlled Location will award Elan to be spent at the connected Locations fought. With this arrangement of features, the Influence Campaigns lend to creating a sort of unfolding storyline.
  • Map Campaigns. This is for the Victorian Sci-fi stuff. It is a deeper work-in-progress; trying to simplify. I've been working on this for quite a while now and I think that visually it looks really awesome but the added features though nice make this more of a strategy game. High cognitive load but lots of flexibility. Ideal for regimented play for 2-5 players.

Features of Network Campaigns

As mentioned before, for the Mythos campaign in the "Of Cultists and Unspeakable Horrors" setting, I'm building out the instruction set for Network Campaigns. There are 5 campaigns identified within the campaign book.

The General features of the campaign are as follows:
  1. Each campaign has a variable number of Missions from 3-6 and one that is 5-9. 
  2. The players decide how they'll pursue each Mission within the campaigns. 
  3. Basically the Campaign Attacker (there's an Campaign Initiative phase I don't identify here) picks a Location to Resolve. The Mission is fought at the place.
  4. Except for the first Mission, each Mission has an Interim Period of 0-2 Weeks on the calendar since the last Mission in the Campaign. This is decided by vote from the players.
  5. The Week decides such factors as Moon Phase, Weather, Wind, and Bonuses.
  6. Each Location may have Resources that provide benefits to a player during the resolution of a Mission. Some Resources will unlock Strategic benefits.
  7. Some Locations are Gated; they require that other Locations first become Resolved by fighting a Mission.
  8. Presumably, Champions which acquire Strategic Skills will affect how each Location or each Week provides benefits to a player during game-play.
Campaign Network
Here's what a campaign looks like. This is the first one labeled "The Confrontation at Henley Woods". It allows for 3 to 7 Missions within the campaign.

The Confrontation at Henley Woods. Campaign.

Quick Network Tour
The routine is as follows; actual definitions are within the draft of the document.
  1. At the start of the Campaign Turn, players decide who the Campaign Attacker is by rolling dice. There can be modifiers for this coming from what are known as Campaign Skills, and also from Resources (see below).
  2. The Campaign Attacker then picks a Location - one of the named elements on the diagram above - and decides to have a Mission there. 
  3. The small squares can't be picked yet because they are Dependent Locations which require whatever they are attached to be resolved first.  
  4. It can't be "Bonney Shores" because the red outline prevents it from being accessed until all connected Locations are first resolved.
  5. Therefore it will have to be the Location named "Henley Woods" for now. Once "Henley Woods" is Resolved, the Dependent Locations become available.
  6. Notice the (?) question mark on "Bonney Shores". This means that at least one of the Dependent Locations must first be resolved before access to the "Bonney Shores" location is allowed.
  7. Notice the Faction icons. The players of these Factions will receive a bonus of +1 Elan when fighting a Mission there. Elan does wonderful stuff and I'm still adjusting its flexibility. 
  8. Notice the Resource icons; they are small, black and white. The one shaped like a skull is Lore and the masked one is Totem. The plus-sign is Medical and the yin-yang is Strategy. These provide different kinds of bonuses during the Campaign Turn, during a Mission, and during the Postmortem phase (new for Campaigns; injury, death, rescue).
  9. Notice the Terrain icons. Both "Bonney Shores" and "Henley Woods" have 2 Groves and 1 Rock Formation for every 12" x 12" section of the battlefield. "Bonney Shores" has a shore-line, while "Henley Woods" instead has a causeway; either a road, river, or railroad tracks.
This is a key feature of all of the campaign structures, especially for the Network Campaign types. With all five campaigns resolved, the total duration from start to finish is about 52 weeks or one entire year. 

This here is the start of the year and shows what players may encounter for environment and bonuses during the course of the "The Confrontation at Henley Woods" campaign. This takes place in the 1921 AD in the New England area from January 9th until February 22nd at the latest.

Calendar for "The Confrontation at Henley Woods".

Quick Calendar Tour
The calendar is used as follows; actual definitions are within the draft of the document.
  1. Except for the first Mission of each Campaign, and the last Week of each Campaign; each player secretly votes to have an Interim Time of 0 or 1 Weeks. Votes are revealed and a the total must be 1-2 weeks; any 0 becomes 1 Week.
  2. Players then write in the Mission number at the bottom of the Calendar as a reminder. 
  3. Notice the bottom row labeled "Bonus". You can see some strategy here in picking the Interim Time. The Agency and Amateur factions within this setting may want to pick January 17th or 30th because there are no bonuses here. Where as the Cultists factions may want to pick January 9th or February 7th.
  4. Notice the Moon phases. Each week has one of the phases. This allows Cultist factions to perhaps pick those weeks that have the best chance for Night Missions because many of the Mythos creatures will have the Night-vision trait. Everybody else will need to carry lanterns and torches for lighting.
  5. Notice the Weather. Its Snow for the majority of the weeks in January and February. There some Overcast skies on January 30th and February 15th.
  6. Notice the Wind. This is only critical if Smoke or Gas grenades are used. Really windy with a +3 Wind level on January 9th. It can be seen that February 15th has Mud in effect and +2 Wind. Later in the year, it can be seen on March 16th there is Heavy Fog.

To Do

There's always a lot to do. It takes a lot of effort and lots of time to craft this stuff.
  1. Each Campaign has one Finale Location which identifies a Scenario. These are Mission descriptions specific to the Campaign and should be clever and thematic. I need to write them.
  2. The pages i and ii of the draft document are just summary pages. I'll write the general campaign rules into the Campaign Rules section of the MEST book. Then I'll extract them into the genre book.
  3. I need to spec out Recruitment Lists and finish the Faction rules. Almost ready.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Musings on Character Progression

So ....

Again, I've been very busy.  Work is crunching me but I'm still standing.

Here's what I can reveal of my latest efforts for MEST as far as the Campaign rules. These two items I've been developing in some variation for nearly 5 years now, and I think with the materials that I've been adding (which are still works-in-progress) to the Advanced Rules, I'm finally able to show something relatively solid.


I'll be covering Character Progression here, and Network Campaigns in the next blog entry. Include here is a link to my Google Drive with what I've got thus far for the campaign book.

Character Progression

There are very few modern game kits with decent character progression. I've been reading a bunch and taking notes. The Internet really helps.

Within MEST, all characters used in play are normally nameless cannon fodder based on several templates known as Archetypes. Actually, Common Archetypes because there's a list of them; Average, Acrobatic, Brawler, Leader, Veteran, etc. Except for how they are assigned weapons, armor, and equipment they are identical their assignment of traits and attribute values. With the 2.x version of the rules, we've introduced Variant Common Archetypes which add one or two additional traits to each of the baselines. Trust me; each one plays quite differently, but I get ahead of myself. I just want to squeeze in that the Advanced Rules also allow for Custom Archetypes, but that will be discussed at some other point in type.

Experience Points

Characters are awarded Experience Points [ XP ] during and at the end of each Mission they survive. These XP can come from a variety of sources. There are direct awards to a character by having it complete an Agenda card, resolve a Resource card, or defeat an opponent in combat. There are also soft awards; Victory Points [ VP ] and Resource Points [ RP ] will translate into XP that is distributed among all characters as a player sees fit. There's also one more source; time. For every week of time which has passed within a Campaign (A MEST campaign) since a character last participated in a Mission, it also is awarded 1 XP. This feature of time presumes that during a Campaign when a character is not present, it might be out and about doing less-interesting battles or investigations or whatever.

The average time between most Missions within a Campaign is usually 1-6 Weeks by default, and 1-6 Months (6-24 Weeks) betwen Campaigns. 2-player Campaigns themselves last about 6 Missions, plus or minus.

Champion Characters

Characters which a player hopes to progress with XP are given names and assigned a Reputation of level 0. These are Champions. Reputation behaves like a light-weight version of the Fear trait and causes characters without Reputation to have second-thoughts and make them likely to acquire Fear tokens. As a Champion progresses, its Reputation will increase thereby instilling more fear in their opponents.

Improving Characters

When a Character has acquired enough XP, a player may roll on an Archetype-specific Progression chart. The basic concept looks something like this:

  1. Allow each character a single roll on its Progression chart.
  2. Roll a red and white six-sided die and find the row scored.
  3. Examine the cost shown as REP. It is also a threshold (see below).
  4. See the options available. These can be "List of Choice", a trait specialization such as Fight or Tactics, or an Attribute bonus such as CCA or FOR.
  5. Pay the cost by reducing available XP.  Unspent XP is kept with the character for use next time.
  6. Recalculate BP value of the character.
  7. Done.


REP is the Reputation required and also the basic cost in XP to acquire. Not having enough REP increases the cost by double for every level less. For example, a REP 2 character improving Tactics will cost 2 XP, but a REP 1 character doubles that cost to 4 XP and a REP 0 character doubles that again to 8 XP.

Here are some cool effects of this gaming feature.
  • First, players are always allowed to check every character at the end of each Mission as long as there are XP for it to be spent. This encourages a player to be mindful of his roster of characters (Champion Roster).
  • Next, it enforces that concept that certain improvements should become easier to purchase as the character becomes more and more experienced.
List of Choice
There are multiple Progression charts, one for each Archetype. If this entry is scored, a player may roll again on any other chart. Once. If "List of Choice" is scored again, that's it. No more rolls are allowed for this character at this time.

Specialization Trait
If any trait is shown, a player may pick one and make it level 1. If that trait had already been assigned to the character, then improve it by +1 level. The rules as they are currently written recognize that some traits can't be taken beyond level one such as Nimble or Boxer.
  • On the Progression chart these are marked with the red checkbox icon. 
  • If a key icon appears, such as for Slippery or Acrobatic; these traits can't be improved unless the character already has it assigned.
  • Bold text traits such as Diplomacy are Campaign Skills, and these will be covered later in a future blog entry.
  • A crossed-circle icon if shown such as for Scholar indicates the entry is expensive and at minimum will double the normal cost.

Attribute Enhancement
If an Attribute is selected then players will add a plus-sign (+) to the trait for the character. If the attribute is already with a +, then make it ++. If already ++, then increase the value of the trait by 1. Having a + adds +1 Modifier die for all Tests involving that Attribute. Having ++ provides +2 Modifier dice instead. Therefore if my character were to have REF 2+ and your character had RCA 2, I'd receive +1 Modifier die when targeted for Range Combat.

Other Things
  1. Reputation itself can be improved, and there are rules for that online here.
  2. In the images shown, there are some red icons. These are restrictions


This system of improving a character will allow players to manager their Champions in a wise manner. When it comes to a Mission, do they want to have their prized character to participate and risk injury or death? Or do they leave the character at the side board to progress at a much slower rate?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Musings on Dunjon of Death

I've been busy busy busy.

I'm still collating my notes for the MEST 2.0 rules; lots of stuff for campaign games, and optional rules are being groomed for inclusion. To help inform me about how to present the campaign rules, I had been writing genre documents for various efforts. Sometimes its just settings information, and at other times its actually pondering the rules and the playability aspects.

Campaign Time
This is a key example of a problem with how the campaign rules need to work.  I've scoured many rules sets to figure out what is cool and what is playable.  I'm finding that many campaign rules for genres that are not World War II, which focus on small skirmish games within 5-12 heroes, all seem to be very fluid with how time is treated. 

To allow for character progression in the real world there needs to be ample time. Maybe to increase the proficiency of fighting ability (MEST "Fight X") may take 3 months for novice, but maybe 6 months for a trained individual, and then maybe even longer for a master; years? I remember being told that mastery of Tai Chi is about like 25 years. Wing-chun about 15 years.  I dunno; maybe the MMA stuff because it is more raw is something like 5 years.  Years.

I suppose simpler things like shooting (MEST "Shoot X") could take less time.  I remember USMC rifleman training got me from zero proficiency to per se "sharp-shooter" in a mere 3 months give or take a few weeks of marching drills and scrubbing toilets.  Maybe combat archery (as shown in this video by Lars Andersen) could take six months of dedicated training. Months.

Did you know that in most of the campaign rules I've seen there is no sense of time? It's just session followed by session. Maybe a few in-game days or in-game weeks could pass between the sessions. Or maybe just hours.  It is up to the players to decide. 

This is a problem for the Dunjon of Death genre.  The setting is a vast underground empire which the players will explore and raid using their heroes.  Presumably a campaign is a string of delves into the dungeon.  If the heroes end each mission at some resting point in that underground empire, the next mission begins where they've left off last.  Maybe it continues after an in-game rest period of 8 hours or 1 day or something.  Or maybe they exit the dungeon and revisit it in a few days. But this is thematically still in-game days instead of in-game weeks, in-game months, or in-game years.

So I'm thinking that character progression in Dunjon of Death needs to come from the overland travel period. You know; like between dungeon conquests when characters travel to the next infested kingdom to conquer yet-another portion of that vast underground empire from some other entry way.  If I do this, it lends to the amount of time that could pass ... probably months in some cases ... and allows the players to consider more keenly that the dungeon is quite huge.

Battlefield Size
This is another problem. Of the available "dungeon bash" or "dungeon crawl" games out there in whichever form; minis or boardgame; the dungeons are actually quite small. Just a few rooms per adventure.  There is no concept of a mega dungeon except via role-playing games (RPGs) like Dungeons and Dragons.  And most of that stuff is from the early days.

If a battlefield map for a given mission foray into a dungeon is with multiple doors, locks, traps, and rooms the game sort of starts bogging down for time.  The pace of the game changes. This is okay and is to be expected.  However, unlike an RPG which could take a 6-hour session to resolve one foray; a tabletop minis game session is meant to be resolved within 60 or 90 minutes.  That's the sweet-spot for tactical game-play.  After that the brain-burn starts causing fatigue.

A related issue is the size of the battlefield.  Characters in MEST cover about 8-inches (8 MUs) per game-turn.  One game-turn in MEST is somewhat flexible and measures from 5 to 30 seconds in length.  Crossing a 48-inch wide battlefield is going to take 6 game-turns.  If that battlefield has several doors, each one takes probably half a turn (one "action point"), or a full turn (two "action points") if it is locked.  And if there are corridors which fold into dead-ends or into trapped areas, about one game-turn for each of those could be wasted.  So, just to pass through a quiet area of the dungeon might take 6-12 game-turns.  Add in some combat, and it may take another 3-6 game-turns.

All of that just adds to length of real-world time to resolve a mission. You can imagine how this plays out; 30 minutes to set up a dungeon map for the battlefield, 30 minutes to traverse it with little interaction between the players until combat arrives. Then 30 minutes of terror to resolve combat.  It could be fun as a co-op thing. It could be fun as heroes versus "dungeon master".  I think it would be kind of difficult to make it fun across multiple sessions for heroes versus "dungeon denizens".

Magical Trinkets
This and spells are the big time sucks.  I mean; in a genre like "Pulp Heroics" or "Afghanistan Now" you just need to list out some common weapons, armor, maybe a couple of odds-and-ends like robots or vehicles, and you're basically done.  This is not the case for something like a dungeon crawl; players will expect "power-ups" and other sundries.  I mean; I myself want to be able to find that Vorpal Sword +5 versus Undead. It'd be nice.  Or maybe just some healing potion or Boots of Very Rapid (but not silly) Walking.

Furthermore, I'd want to have access to spell scrolls, magic wands, and other stuff.  All of a sudden a small genre document balloons from 48-pages into 216-pages. I think this is what happens when a designer decides to do the dungeon crawl the right way ... they inevitably come close to writing enough supporting material to create a role-playing game.  And like in real RPGs, most of that support material is rarely ever used. And like in real RPGs, even if the list of things to find were to be written, most players would want to add their own "home-brew" stuff. And so that'd be another section of crafting that I'd need to write. It's tricky to give just enough.

Any how, that's one of the channels of my musings. I've got more.


Here's the vision I had for Dunjon of Death which I started about a year or so ago.  I've since created three or four variations of this. You can see some of my reference assets in PDF here:

This is a game for two or more players played as a tactical miniatures battle upon a large play area ("battlefield") that is at least 36"x36" in size.  The terrain elements upon this battlefield are placed upon exploration of the dungeon.

One player becomes the Games Master (GM) and controls the exploration of a dungeon and the opposition forces against all of the other players. The remaining players are the Heroes and control one or more characters each to explore an unknown dungeon in order to loot its treasures.

Dunjon of Death is essentially a series of connected battles within the rooms that are discovered during exploration.  This series of battles forms a campaign that continues until all of the Heroes have given up, have lost all of their characters, or until they have left the dungeon itself.

The size of the dungeon is agreed to be Small, Medium, or Large in order to control game length.  This represents an area of exploration that ranges from 3x3, 4x4, or 5x5 tiles.

The structure of the dungeon is unknown to the GM and to the Heroes at the start of the game.  To assist the construction of the dungeon, the GM receives a Tile deck of cards each representing a configuration of corridors and rooms for which he has matching physical terrain assets.  As such, the GM will need to perform an inventory of his available assets.

The GM tracks the construction of the dungeon upon a grid map of 3x3, 4x4, or 5x5 tiles.  As soon as a Tile card is drawn, the GM notes its shape up the grid map and places the physical terrain board equivalent upon the battlefield rotating it as desired.  If there are not enough physical assets, or if the battlefield doesn't have enough space; all of the players should do their best to reposition and reuse previously deployed elements to ensure fidelity to the map.

Lighting throughout the dungeon is very poor and will have OR 1" unless Torches and Lanterns are brought into play which then increase to OR 8" or higher depending on the source.  Torches and Lanterns burn out.  

These players begin in an entry room at the center of the dungeon's grid map with a single stairwell exit to the outside world.  The entry room will have one or more Portals (doors, gates, passageways) that lead into the unknown interior of the dungeon.

Portals can be unlocked or locked, and perhaps guarded or trapped.  These are meant to slow-down the speed of the Heroes.  All Portals can be destroyed by attacks as well as blocked to prevent crossing.  These are tactical decisions allowed to the players.

When a Portal is opened or looked through, the next adjacent tile's contents are placed upon the battlefield and any contents are placed as well. If there are traps or opposing forces, they will be introduced and resolved using the MEST rules.

Treasure will be represented by a location within any room with a treasure chest, cache, or hoard terrain element.  All treasure is heavy and bulky.  Unless the Heroes brought pack animals or porters with them, most of the discovered treasure will not be something to be kept.  Treasure should contain wealth as well as artifacts which can be potions of healing, magic swords, cloaks of invisibility, boots of sprinting, belts of teleportation, etc.  

All of the artifacts should come with risks of usage such a poison, incidental illumination, exhaustion for use, lowering attributes like INT or REF, etc.  These make for interesting and thematic play and are assigned at random upon first usage.  Any scholars present will receive lore benefits to assess risks.

Traps will be represented by various physical assets.  Common traps are arrow, spike floors, mines, drop-hatches, boulder drops, etc.  Unless the Heroes are careful, traps will be triggered usually resulting in death, poisoning, Wounds, or at least a Morale Test.  Traps can be assigned to Treasure, Portals, and specific locations upon the floor of a room or corridor.

Due to the nature of how MEST is currently written, traps unless they cause death (elimination from play) anything else is a pure narrative element because the Revive trait removes Wounds and the Rally trait removes Fear.  And with each Turn becoming 1-6 minutes each we can presume that any wounds or fear tokens go away nearly instantaneously.  

That is because we have no rules for permanent simulation for long-term effects of wounds like becoming blinded, losing an arm, sucking chest wounds, or diarrhea.  We should introduce those otherwise we make all traps auto-elimination.

Movement within the dungeon areas follows the MEST rules.  However, it is presumed that the floors of dungeons are rife with traps and so there needs to be a modification.  Movement outside of battle is presumed to be slower and so each Turn is 1-6 minutes long instead of 5-30 seconds.  This also allows Torches and Lanterns to burn out quickly providing for "burn out" whenever Initiative Tests (single-sided) show dice with 1s in the same way we handle Out-of-Ammo tests; re-roll 1's as 4+ or lose a Torch or Lantern each failure.

Opposing forces available are dependent upon what the players together have available for models.  These are to be assigned to a Monster deck to be used by the GM.  When a tile is rendered to the battlefield, all adjacent tiles are noted on the grid map as well as any Monsters drawn and identified by the Monster deck.  This allows the GM to plan encounters with the opposing forces in a more natural, narrative manner.

  1. Build characters for exploration.  Divide between all Hero players 250-375-500 BP and up to 4-6-8 characters depending on the agreed game size of Small-Medium-Large.  We will need to introduce new Commons such as porters, thieves, guides, scholars, and fantasy archetypes.  This may be a good place to introduce the templating rules as well.
  2. Enter the dungeon from the entry room.  Explore Portals into adjacent Rooms and Connectors (corridors, turns, and tunnels).
  3. Look for treasure.  Assign good things to characters, other things to porters.
  4. Heroes must physically exit the dungeon voluntarily in order to keep what was found.
  5. Characters that are Eliminated from play because of Fear should instead be given to the GM for control.  This is a good time to introduce the Terror rules as well.  Essentially those that run away could instead be hiding in the dungeon.

  1. Maintain the grid map.
  2. Build the battlefield.
  3. Play all of the opposing forces.  
  4. Play the 'system' for traps and movement of opposing forces upon the grid map.
  5. Kill all Heroes' characters.

  • Introduce Magic Users and a large spell book.
  • Bring in a lot of the Advanced Traits.
  • Bring in a lot of the equipment lists including poison, torches, prayer books, etc.
  • Introduce the templating system for archetypes.

-- Presume this is a dynamic GM vs. player game.  Semi co-op.
   It is GM vs. Heroes.  There are various decks of cards (or tables);
   Room, Decoration, Monster, Boss, and Treasure.

-- Heroes start at the middle of the grid (attached) with a stairs up to exit.

-- The size of each Dungeon is agreed at the start to be Small, Medium, or
   Large; this allows 3+, 6+, or 9+ encounters to be drawn which is somewhat
   unpredictable.  The position of the rooms, the alert level, the security
   rating, and the dungeon level all factor into how much difficulty is

-- Pick a direction.  Note the security rating.  The further you are from an
   exit the higher the rating.  Security rating sets the encounter difficulty
   and the treasure reward.

-- Draw a Room card.  This card will be a set of possible room and corridor
   tile shapes.  The Heroes are expected to build a deck using just those cards
   for which they actually have 3D terrain.  Each tile card will note obvious
   exits and doors. Any traps will be noted as well.

-- Check the security rating for an encounter.  Draw from the Monster deck.
   Note the Lair type (if any) drawn.  Resolve combat.  If Heroes flee, and the
   encounter is intelligent, it will pursue the Heroes. In all cases, raise the
   Alert level (begins at 0).  The alert level increases the number of
   intelligent monsters in the encounter that will appear, as well as bring
   out the boss.

-- Whenever the Alert level is high, and sometimes depending on the Security
   rating and also if the number of rooms has been explored is maximized; the
   Boss deck is drawn in addition to any Monster cards drawn. The Boss deck
   contains custom characters armed with magic weapons or extra traits.

-- All Monster, Boss, and Treasure cards will have scaling factors noted so
   that it will balance out the Heroes' party composition.  It will note range
   fighters if the party has range fighters.  For example; if Heroes has 100 BP
   (5 models) then the encounters will adjust to match 100 BP (5 models +/-).

-- All empty and revisited tiles allow for wandering monsters.  These will be
   few in number but are resolved using "cinematic" play.  Heroes get a subset
   of their models to fight against the wandering monster.  Combat is extended
   during combat resolution; ties award nothing.  If the monster survives it
   will escape and increase the Alert rating.

-- If there is a possibility of Treasure, it is checked against the security
   rating and noted on the map.  Same with traps and other things such that the
   section can be revisited.

-- If there is a stairwell down, it will lead to a second or third dungeon
   level.  This is for campaign play.  More monsters, treasure, danger, etc.

-- Heroes can check walls for secret doors.  These appear randomly, but may
   also be designated on the Room card.  The GM needs to note this.

-- Heroes can decide to take a break. GM is allowed to perform yet another
   wandering monster check.

-- After a dungeon level has been cleared, players can return to the Town
   (above ground) for spending Treasure. If they are not near the start stairs
   going up they must move through the map and risk further wandering monsters.

-- In Town, there is basically just a pick list of things that can be done.
   We could follow Mage-knight or Runebound and have events that become anh
   adventure with its own maps and cities.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Spray Bar with Magnetic Mounting Posts


A "spray box" is basically a large cardboard box which is used to place unpainted figurines while coating them with primer spray paint. The idea is that the box will isolate how much spray paint travels around during the process.

One of the things I've learned since I've first started this hobby is that a "spray box" is really messy. And so I've discovered that if I create a "spray bar" I can minimize my messiness. It also helps to conserve primer spray paint, and allows me to have my figurines neatly organized. This might not work for everyone, but for those people that have mounted their figures upon fender washers this will help. The fender washers are magnetic and will

Things to Get

A pencil.
A screwdriver
A matt-knife with sharp blade
E-6000 or general-purpose glue.
1 x 36-inch wood strip (36" x 2" x 1"). Maybe a heavy wood like walnut.
1 x 12-inch wood strip (12" x 2" x 1/4-inch). A light wood like pine.
16 x 1/2-inch cylindrical spacers such as "compression adaptors"
16 x 3/4-inch ceramic disc magnets (the cheap stuff)
16 x 1-inch fender washers with 1/8-inch holes
16 x 1/2-inch flat washers with 5/16-inch holes

The Steps

1/2-inch cylindrical spacers.

1/2-inch flat washers with 5/16-inch holes

1-inch fender washers with 1/8-inch holes

2-inch bugle-head construction screws

Some wood bars.

Same wood bars at a distance. One bar will be cut into smaller pieces.

Score 2-inch marks evenly spaced upon the thicker wood bar.
Here are those ceramic magnets. I'm using mine from an older project and so I'll need to clean up the glue.

Each of the mounts will use these bits. On a 36-inch wood bar with 2-inch spaces there will be enough room for about 16 mounts.

Good ol' E-6000. Sticky. Dries fast.

This is what the screws do.

Assembled for a dry-run. The smaller flat-washer goes upon the larger fender washer to allow the bugle-head screw to be flush.
And upon the flat-washer and screw head we place the magnetic disc.

We affix the mount. The warping here is slight enough to allow the screw to recess a bit. Don't drill them in too tight or the head of the screw will break away.

Here's with the flat-washer affixed and the disc affixed; both with lots of glue.

Cut the thinner pine-wood board into 3-inch sections. I have a sander and so I make the rough edges go away.

Again more E-6000 glue. I place paper beneath the end joints to catch any glue run-off.

Here's what it looks like with a figure upon the mount.

My figure bases are zinc metal and so they stick to the mounts against the magnets even when I tilt the entire bar. The bar therefore can be tilted during application of primer spray as well. And then I can keep the bar and figures neatly in a row near my painting table. Should I ever need to move the entire lot, I just pick up the bar and relocate.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

MEST 2.0 :: Recent updates Again

version 2.45 as of 2016.02.20 [link]


  1. Expanded the Table of Contents into two columns to make room for more of the content. Missions are listed now.
  2. Expanded the section on how to build an assembly.
  3. Game sizes are "Small", "Medium", and "Large". The term "Standard" game is now a "Medium" size game.
  4. Introduced Variant Common Archetypes. These are trait-based variations of the Common Archetypes which allow for quick comprehension because their stats don't vary from the base-line archetypes.
  5. More properly craft the phrasing for how "hands" are used during game-play when assigning weapons or when using certain actions.
  6. Rephrase the "Hindrance" entry yet again to make it explicitly more clear.
  7. Break out the "Playing the Game" sequence into smaller digestible sections by adding headers to each section.


  1. Made the new action "Overreach" be an Advanced Rule. It is still a very interesting action which will be used a lot during game-play but it has too many exceptions to be included as a Basic Game rule.
  2. Clarified the use of Bonus Actions and detailed especially how the use of some Bonus Actions might affect multiple Passive characters beyond just the target model.

Advanced Rules

  1. I began a small expansion of the Magic System so that I can begin to add some MEST-specific flavor text. This is in preparation for some of the genres which would use Magic and allows me to build out the spells lists a bit more.
  2. Finally added Lighting to allow players more control of the environment depending on the Mission, and perhaps any Tactics cards brought into play. Lighting can be Atmospheric (external to the battlefield) or Point-light (via Torches or Lamps).
  3. Introduced Gas and Fire rules.  Gas in general can be Smoke, Mustard, or Knock-out. The genre books will likely introduce new types of Gas ... Nerve, Acid, Sarin, etc. Fire itself is interesting but in the scope of the game, the time-scale is too small for Fire to spread unless it is a feature of a particular Scenario.

Optional Rules

  1. The concept of "Optional Rules" is that they are interesting to use but probably more trouble than they are worth or that they are too-specific or limited in their application for most game-play session.  I scrubbed through my years of emails and notes to pull these out. I think the entries are about as complete as I can make it.  Once I bring in the rules for Factions, Champions, and Campaigns I may need to tweak the phrasing here but it probably is near final. I tried to make the phrasing as clear as possible.
  2. Low-light Effects are an interesting addition for some Missions. These rules regulate movement within pitch-black and other night-time environments.
  3. Shadow-casting is sort of a variation on Low-light Effects. Basically useful during Twilight lighting, or in Night environments with Point-lights. Essentially targets in the shadow-area behind an obstacle which blocks LOS to a light source should be treated with lower Visibility.
  4. Facing. I buckled and added this, but it is very light-weight and much different that what other game-systems do because it relies upon the status effects; whether a character is Distracted, Disordered, or Outnumbered.
  5. Wind. I'll be adding Wind as a factor for the Advanced Missions, and Wind can be introduced when using Tactics Cards.  I think it is an intuitive addition though it will probably be rare. It is mostly used to move around Gas markers.
  6. I've added several new actions which will help me build out some Advanced Missions as follows:
  7. "Drag-Carry" action is introduced to be able to move KO'd models about the field. I couldn't determine any way to write it simpler and still be able to be general enough for use by non-standard archetypes. So a Hero could carry a Horse, or four Dogs could drag a Human. 
  8. "Disarm" action is useful for some Missions and for some genres.
  9. "Take" action is useful for some Missions as well. Taking a Gas mask or a Grenade from your opponent for example.
  10. "Grapple". This is also for some Missions to subdue instead of kill a character.
  11. "Yield!". Again this is useful for some genres. This will also be beneficial during Campaign play as it will mess with Glory.
  12. "Knock-back". Primarily used for some genres. I think it is more cinematic than realistic.


  1. Keyword traits added; Fizzle, Electronic, and Energy. These will be referenced by certain Tactics cards and Missions.
  2. Altered [Coward] and also [Beast] to prevent use of Overreach. Makes sense, right?
  3. [Signature X]. This is an Optional Rule and is useful for Night fighting missions. Essentially it should be easier to target a model which used a Firearm with full-auto at night.
  4. [Upgrade:Item] to assign behaviors to existing items. This is because I've added a generic Equipment list. An example would be to Upgrade:Ammo for armor-piercing bullets to a Firearm.
  5. Boxer X. Added to round out the Fight trait. Used by a Variant Brawler archetype.
  6. Burn X. Works with the Gas and Fire rules. 
  7. Expendable. Used by some Variant archetypes, and as an optional trait for use by Custom Archetypes. Expendable characters don't count and are not used for determining Bottle Tests.
  8. Fire X. Used with the Gas and Fire rules.
  9. Flicker X. A variation on Light X. Assigned to Torches and Lanterns of Ye Olde Wurld to make Point-light sources not behave consistently.
  10. Fume X > Type. Generates Gas:Type. So a Smoke Grenade will generate Gas:Smoke for example.
  11. Gas:Mustard, Gas:Smoke, Gas:Knockout. These three basic Gas types I think cross most genres
  12. Immune X:Trait. Primarily assigned to Gas masks, but this establishes a base-line for future traits.
  13. Light X. For use by Point-light sources like Candles, Torches, Flashlights, etc.
  14. Machine. For assignment to Cyber-kin or Constructs. Makes them ignore Morale for all purposes.
  15. Radio. I added this for the Comm-link equipment item. Right now it is generic. I've also added the Radio traits to the Archaic Hardsuit so that Near Future genres can be prepped.


  1. I refactored the ones I've used for the Retropocalypse scenario we did at the various gaming conventions. These revised ones use more of the Faction concepts that I've been working on. Basically if your Agenda matches the needs of your Faction, then it will reward more Resource Points.
  2.  I added the Variant Common Archetypes. These are intended for Advanced game play.  There are about 50 of them. So, an Average Cultist is just an Average Common with the Insane trait added to it.  There are others and now I can purchase a Brawny Brawler, or Archer Marksman, or even a Mystic Cult Leader.
  3. There are now two types of Dogs; "Hound" and "War". Hounds are smaller, cheaper, but have Detect 3 instead of Detect 2. With the introduction of "Dog, Hound" players can now field a huge pack of them.
  4. The Weapons table introduces the new grenades (Knockout, Mustard, Smoke) and also a Fire-bomb ("Molotov Cocktail"). These can be used for many Modern, Post Modern, Near Future, or Ultra Modern genres.


I've got a bunch of more technical writing to accomplish to add the rules for Campaigns, Factions, and Champions. These will be done soon enough and I get to solidify all of my notes. I've reminded myself to generate some AARs and also posts for using many of the new features.

And then I need to paint and build.  This hobby sure requires a lot of effort. Whew!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Pegasus Gothic City Ruins 1 - What's in the Box?

I have been seeing more and more of these Pegasus Gothic sets lately, so for about $20.00 USD I thought I'd check one out. I decided on the the Gothic City Ruins 1 set which ordered online.

The box with a Chaos Thug Archer for scale.

The open box

Simple directions

All of the pieces laid out.

After a few minutes I snapped the pieces together with no glue. I wanted to throw them together without any filing or trimming as a test, so there are some visible gaps. This should be a simple enough fix though.

All and all not a bad buy at around $20.00 USD. I can see why these sets are so popular.

Pretty good up close details. These should paint up nice and easy.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Repurposing Clix III (and D&D Minis, and also those G-uys W-ho should not be named)

These are continuing from an earlier post.  I finished up a few more figures from my collection of HeroClix and some D&D Miniatures.  I really like my Hellbeasts ... er ... Wargs ... er ... Dirgehounds. Yeah. Dirgehounds.

Front. I added a different color ink wash to make the
 three distinguishable from each other.  Actually, I think these
are part of the old Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures line.

The backs. The spikes really stand out with a dry brush technique.

Front of the pack leader for the Dirgehounds. The little red dot is the exact front of the figure; I'm in process of play-testing some facing rules for MEST.

There's a total of 10 Dirgehounds.  The pack leader and
the second are the only two with horns or tusks.

This is one of the many low-detail D&D Minis pieces and
so I tried to build
up some of the niceties using layers of paint.  

Another low-detail piece from D&D Minis.

Elf Princess.  Another cheap-o figure. I really should consider
getting higher-quality figures.   Nah. Wargaming on a budget.

Ah! One of my favorite pieces. A Formorian Giant from
D&D Minis. A standard 28MM figure is in the foreground.
I think the giant is about 3.5-inches tall.

Here it is again. The bases is still wet and I'll need to dry-bush
it to bring out the pebble details. I added lots of paint
layers to build up the surface of the giant.

I haven't yet mastered the technique for eyes yet, but this
giant has lop-sided everything including eyes.  Everything
else I brushed in fine details. The skin is like four layers
of different paint going from medium to lighter. I then
added a Gryphon Sepia wash and then dry-brush Elf Flesh.

Another look at the kind of details I added like at the
palm of the hand holding the petrified tree trunk mace.

Final picture; this one for scale. The human-sized Hero Clix sword-elf
at the front, left is a Reaper Bathalien, then the D&D Minis
"thingamajiga" followed by a D&D Minis Flesh Golem.