Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I will no doubt be coming back to this subject repeatedly, as it is the most difficult aspect of translating WRG Ancients and Medieval to a roleplaying context.

In the basic miniatures game, magic is treated very abstractly. Figures (specialized magicians, generals, or unit commanders) with magical powers are allowed to add or subtract the result of a standard six-sided die to the morale check roll of any unit within a certain distance (150 paces), but also not within a certain distance (100 paces) of opposing religious figures. (I'd house-ruled that magical powers also added 1-6 scouting points, but this was not a part of the rules as printed.)

This is not useful to me for roleplaying. What it does point out, though, is that magical powers should not replicate artillery. The magic of this roleplaying game should be more subtle. Happily for me, there are two magic systems that I can look to for a model, and they happen to be the two magic systems of which I am most fond. These are the system in RuneQuest and the "Path/Book Magic" system in GURPS Thaumatology (originally the "Ritual Magic" system in GURPS Voodoo, GURPS Old West 2nd edition, and GURPS Spirits). My current inclination is to develop a system that incorporates elements of both of these.

This means that a magician in this system will not be the "spike damage" specialist of current roleplaying, but will more resemble the "buff" specialist. Most magic will give targets bonuses or detriments to various abilities, perhaps, though some magical abilities will be more directly applicable. I've been analyzing medieval grimoires, folklore collections, and similar items to determine what people in the past believed they were capable of doing with magical powers. Unsurprisingly, many of these are targeted at mundane activities of limited use to adventurers, such as victory in court and the like, but others are very much of use, such as finding one's way or victory in wrestling. Other described magical operations, like invisibility or finding buried treasure (really!) are especially of interest to adventurers.

I'm still considering whether these should be discrete spells, like RuneQuest, or groups of abilities under a magical path like Path/Book Magic. I do think that some system of magic points will be important, since that gives us a resource management aspect. I may borrow an idea from Fantasy Wargaming, and require magicians to engage in stereotypical activities (studying arcane tomes, chanting, and the like) to regenerate magic points. I might even look to Unknown Armies for ideas on the subject.


Now I've reached the point in thinking about how to use WRG Ancients and Medieval rules for roleplaying in which I need to consider which rolled attributes of a figure will be appropriate and needed. So far in these articles, I've decided on just one, Physique, which will represent the figure's strength, toughness, and general health.

Looking at the missile rules, and thinking of ways to implement them in a game of single figures, I've thought that an attribute that governs hitting and also avoiding being hit might be useful, which I've decided to call Agility. This will determine if a factor is added to the base in order to determine a number of "casualties" in missile fire (remember that wounds and such are governed by the number of casualties generated). If not making use of missiles, it's probably going to end up that the defender will generate a number of casualties to see if he can avoid being hit. I'll probably also apply Agility as a requirement for certain abilities gained, such as stealth, lockpicking, and the like, as well as certain craft skills such as clockmaking. (As an aside, I am leaning toward "all-or-nothing" skills, in which possession of the skill allows an activity that is not allowed to those who do not possess the skill. However, degrees of "mastery" may also exist to determine the quality of craft skills, so that a Master at lockpicking will not be able to pick a Grand Master's locks. That is still something about which I am considering, though.) Anyway, giving an attribute with such limited combat use some other value seems appropriate.

Next, I think that an attribute governing the figure's ability to command is necessary. I am leaning toward Leadership as the name of this attribute. This will provide a modifier to morale of units and a threshold of command, indicating how large of a unit the figure can potentially control (at a certain point, it will become "unlimited"). This attribute will probably be fairly easy to improve as the figure gains in personal ability.

I haven't really discussed the magic and religion rules yet, but I do know that I will be needing an attribute to cover those areas. I do think that the same attribute should apply for both, and I am currently on the fence about what to call it. On the one hand, Power might be appropriate, and is my main preference at the moment, covering the idea of magical aura and holy might. However, some other terms I'm kicking around include Faith (to determine the figure's magical connection to the cosmos), Talent (so that we can talk about "having the Talent" and such), or Integrity (though this one is currently seeming unlikely, it is an alternative to "Faith"). An odd choice might be Charisma, which has been used to describe such an attribute in some cases (the Greek from which it derives means "gifted with grace"), but it might cause confusion with the real-world D&D's usage of that term. I'm sure that other terms might also occur to me, and I will weigh those when and if I think of them.

I'm turning over the need for some other attributes in my mind, such as an attribute governing fatigue (possibly Endurance), general and special knowledge (perhaps Memory), and the like, but right now I am only fairly certain of these four: Physique, Agility, Leadership, and Power (or whatever I end up choosing).

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Book of Knighthood

In the 15th century, Christine de Pizan was a widow credited with being the first female professional author. One of her books, Othea's Epistle to Hector, was full of some fascinating pictures of particular interest to gamers.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

[WRG]The Results of Fighting

When two figures or models fight in single combat, the WRG rules give the result as "wounded", and therefore captured by the enemy (so, a serious wound), or "killed". We should work out what these results mean to our individual figures at the roleplaying level.

My inclination is a dislike of the sort of abstraction represented by "hit points". I prefer that the result should be a descriptive wound which may turn fatal (or be instantly so), similar to what we see in Hârnmaster, CORPS, and the like. So, what I'll do is have a "damage roll" that will give a descriptive wound result that will be applied to the figure until it heals.

Since combat is adjudicated by comparing a number of "casualties" generated by the combat table, we will keep that system. The difference between the two results is the number of dice to roll to determine the severity of the wound, by comparing that total to a characteristic of the figure, probably the "Physique" we've previously discussed. I'll work out the details of this later, but that's a good basis for adjudicating wounds. The wound should have various factors, such as how much it impairs action by the figure, whether it results in unconsciousness, if it is bleeding, if it is infected, how it is treated and how it heals, and so on.

Anyway, just a brief note for reference.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Joining In The Fun

A couple of bloggers are posting about games they'd like to play (not running the games, but playing in them). I thought I'd make a quick list myself.

Roleplaying Games:

Stars Without Number
Gamma World
Transhuman Space
A GURPS-based fantasy game that uses the Path/Book system of magic
RuneQuest (3rd edition)
Space 1889
Flashing Blades
Chivalry & Sorcery (1st or 2nd edition)
Land of the Rising Sun
Celtic Legends
any D&D or retroclone, except for 3.X, 4E, Pathfinder, or partial clones like C&C (I don't consider S&W, LotFPWFRPG, or the like to be "partial" for this purpose)
The Arcanum


Starfleet Battles
Federation & Empire
Sky Galleons of Mars
A Starfire campaign
Dark Emperor
Starship Troopers (the old Avalon Hill version)
Battle Rider (starship combat boardgame for Traveller: The New Era, possibly with Trillion Credit Squadron as a campaign system)
Magic Realm


Hordes Of The Things
WRG Ancients and Medieval
Warhammer 40K
Star Wars Miniatures Battles


There are four distinct roles given to figures in the WRG Ancients and Medieval rules, and one more that is implied (and later incorporated explicitly into Hordes Of The Things). Since I may have some use for those in terms of characters, it seems worthwhile to classify them and discuss them briefly.

First is the obvious role, Casualty Infliction. The purpose for inflicting casualties can vary (the two main ones are to weaken opposing units and to encourage rash follow-up movement), but this is the basic function of a figure on the WRG tabletop.

Next we find Morale Adjustment. This is primarily the role of leader figures, but also standard bearers, holy figures, and magicians in the fantasy supplement.

The third role is Scouting. This is a relatively minor role in WRG, mainly used to see who is allowed to outflank whom. Still, we may find use for this role among adventurers.

The final role of those which are given WRG rules is Construction. This is a fairly broad category which includes mining and countermining, building artillery and siege equipment, destroying or repairing buildings and walls, and so forth.

The implied role is that of Infiltrator, which would include figures that are trained to scale walls, sneak through sewage openings, and the like. It could even include disguises and espionage. This isn't dealt with in the WRG Ancients and Medieval rules, but Hordes Of The Things includes the unit type "Sneakers", which is defined as:

"[I]ncluding all bands of infiltrators on foot, such as bearers of magic rings, master thieves, assassins, ninja or wraiths. They do not fight, but can penetrate or deceive enemy troops to capture a stronghold or attack a general unless precautions are taken."

In considering how to differentiate figures from one another, I should keep these roles, and the things that they imply (such as various manufacturing talents implied by the Construction role, or for that matter other non-combative functions such as artistic endeavors), in mind. Perhaps, inspired by the five levels of training defined by the fighting classes (General, A, B, C, D), I will decide on giving each category a rating (perhaps Superior, Elite, Expert, Trained, and Untrained), allowing each character to select such ratings within limits defined by the rules. One possibility is to allow each figure four total increases to spread among the five roles (though perhaps the Construction role will be further split into various particular roles, so that a Master Carpenter is not also a Master Smith and a Master Harpist; certainly, the Morale Adjustment role will be subdivided, at the very least into Leader, Religious, and Magician, and probably further than that), with each increase giving some ability in that role. This will allow players to define their own "character classes", as it were, by giving them the ability to select what particular mix of abilities they want their figure to have. Character advancement (remember the note on "heroic attributes" from the Fantasy Adaptions section) would then improve the figure's facility with those abilities.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Before I make any more decisions, I need to stop and think about the general tone of the game. What is the design goal? Am I looking at something which simulates Sword & Sorcery fiction? Or perhaps I'm looking to play games of historical fantasy? To that end, let me look at the examples given in the fantasy adaptions section, and the later WRG game Hordes Of The Things.

The army lists they had hoped to do included, "E.R.B. Mars, Middle Earth, Kregen, Novaria, Gor, Dalarna and similar places". Hm. That's a pretty wide range, but it seems to focus mainly on the Sword & Sorcery, pulp side of things. There are specific entries for airboats and radium rifles in the fantasy conversions. In HOTT, we find lists for (or mentions of): Moorcock, Pratchett, Homeric Epic, Arthurian Epic, Carolingian Epic, Irish Epic, Norse Myth, Arabian Myth (including Hollywood Arabesques), Persian Epic, Japanese Epic, Aztec Myth, Hyboria, Barsoom, Spenser's "Faerie Queene", Novaria (L. Sprague de Camp), Fletcher Pratt's Well of the Unicorn (the "Dalarna" mentioned above), Kregen of the Dray Prescott novels, Deryni, Tékumel, Steven Brust's "Vlad Taltos" books, Glen Cook's "Black Company", Egyptian and Chinese semi-historical, the Renaissance (with Da Vinci inventions), and even Napoleonics! Amusingly, I note that WRG had shied away from Gor over the intervening decade, but also dropped Tolkien from the list (probably due to rights issues).

Whew. That's a pretty wide range, indeed. What I get of the sense of it, though, is that the main thrust is toward a sort of heroic, pulp fantasy, but one that treats heroes as only slightly better, in terms of powers and ability, than the common man. So, basically like early D&D. That's a pretty easy choice, then. I'll be keeping that tone in mind as I make design choices.

Happily, at least at first, I don't have to make many huge design choices, though, since I'm still looking at figuring out a way to play WRG Ancients and Medieval, just with single, individual figures instead of units of up to 50 figures with each figure representing 5 or 20 individuals. Many of my design choices are already made for me.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

[WRG]Some Notes on Combat

The first thing I'm going to look at, in this effort to make an RPG out of a set of miniatures rules, is the combat resolution method. In WRG, when two generals or champions fight, the method is in two rounds: first, an exchange of missiles (in circumstances where that is appropriate), then, if neither is wounded or killed, an exchange of hand to hand attacks. The result is determined by the number of “casualties” inflicted using the regular unit vs. unit combat table.

The general method by which the combat table is used is to determine a “factor”, which starts at a base determined by the type of weapon used and the type of armor protection of the target. For instance, when shooting bows at targets rated as “HI” (for “Heavy Infantry”, which is defined as “Men in less complete [than EHI, or “Extra Heavy Infantry”] metal armour or in horn armour”, or, basically, what D&D would class as chainmail), the basic factor is 1. This factor is then modified by circumstances, such as “target shieldless” or “shooters disordered”, and a “random factor”. This latter is determined by rolling an averaging die (a six-sided die marked 2,3,3,4,4,5) and counting minus, then another die and counting plus. The other die is determined by whether the shooter is classed as “regular” (uses another averaging die) or “irregular” (uses a regular six-sided die). For missile fire, this random factor is counted as -1 if the minus die scores higher, +1 if the plus die scores higher, and zero if they are equal (this changes for troops without combat training, who are defined as 'D' class troops, but we'll skip that for the moment). For hand to hand combat, though, the minus die is subtracted from the plus die to give a factor ranging from -4 to +4 if irregular, or -3 to +3 if regular (the random factor is limited by the training class of the troops, so that a General, for instance, cannot have a random factor below 0).

This final factor is then compared to the combat table to give a number of casualties. This figure is determined by the number of attackers, counting each figure as 20 men, or counting each “model” (elephants, for instance, or chariots) as 5 of whatever is depicted. Since in single combat there is only one figure or model, we look to the result in the column depicting one figure. This can range from 0 casualties to 13, depending on the final factor total. In single combat, the total generated by each participant is compared to the other, with equal results indicating no effect, the higher result wounding the opposing figure, and twice as many casualties as the opponent indicating a kill. Another aspect of the system we will have to consider is the “risk to the general”, which indicates what happens to a general who is part of a body of troops when they take casualties, but I will leave that aside for now.

That all sounds pretty complex, but in practice it is very simple. We have, however, run into some problems for our purposes. First, if one figure does not fire missiles, but the other does, this method of resolution ensures that the non-firing figure will nearly automatically be killed. Second, while this system works very well for the single combat of two members of opposing armies, it reduces the whole thing to a simple die roll, or at best two. This may be unsatisfying for players in a game where the only figure they have is the one representing their character. We'll come back to this in a bit.

Now, we need to determine what factors exist in the game to differentiate one figure from another. There are several. First is the type, mentioned above, of “regular” or “irregular”. These are defined in the rules as follows: “Regular troops are enlisted into units commanded by officers. They are usually, but not always, paid and uniformed. They are taught drill as well as weapon handling, and can obey orders such as 'Double your ranks!' and 'Left incline!'”; “Irregular troops are combined into units usually consisting of relatives or neighbours and usually commanded by a local chieftain or feudal superior. Their training has been largely confined to weapon handling and keeping roughly in line, and they can only obey orders such as 'You lot go over there and do so-and-so!' They are not necessarily inferior in fighting power to regulars, but are usually less manoeuvrable, and always less consistent in behaviour.” This seems like an excellent starting point for differentiating different characters, so that each player will pick a category for his figure. We might call them “Disciplined” and “Enthusiastic”, in keeping with the individual scale of the game.

Next, we have the class of the figures, which is defined as 'A', 'B', 'C', or 'D'. Basically, 'A' class troops are elites, while 'D' class troops are untrained or barely so (civilians, for instance, are classed as 'D' in those lists where defense of refugees was a notable part of the history of the army described in the list, or where civilian engineers and laborers had a notable part to play in one battle or another). This is related to the idea of character power, but one thing that comes out is that there is little indication of the class changing over time. Instead, it refers to basic fighting ability. We may depict this by reference to something like character class, but we'll have to wait and see on that.

Finally, from the point of view of combat, the last differentiation we can find is in the Fantasy Adaptions section, where we find an entry for “Heroic attributes for general or unit commander” listed. This is where we should count experience and whatever equivalent to character level we end up using. The basic entry indicates that a figure with heroic attributes fights as if it were 3 figures, and adds a bonus to the morale reactions of units it influences as commander or general. We can assume that the number of figures and morale bonus should be related to the experience level of the figure, so that a starting figure fights as one figure with no morale bonus, a “second level” (or whatever) figure will fight as two and gain a +1 bonus to unit morale when leading, and so on.

(We have other ways to differentiate figures from each other, but we'll discuss religious attributes, magical powers, engineering abilities, and so on later. In addition, we need to figure out an equivalent to the alignment system, but I personally am not fond of D&D's alignment system, so perhaps another method will suggest itself. I will probably cheat and look at what others have done since D&D, or have suggested as alterations to the D&D system.)

That's a lot to consider. Right now, it looks like we're going to have a system in which the player will pick type (Disciplined or Enthusiastic), fighting class (perhaps this will influence other choices, or perhaps it will be based on a type of character class, but we'll have to see about that), and then gets an ability to fight based on a character level mechanism or some such thing.

One other matter to consider is the difference between “figures” and “models”. Since a dragon, for instance, counts as five actual dragons to a model, while a warrior counts as twenty to a figure, the fighting ability of a single dragon starts out as four times greater than that of a warrior, further modified by the type of weapon and defensive capability of each. So, if a dragon's attack is counted as “Elephant or chariot horse” attacking an “HI” figure (base factor of 2), then the “HI” figure counts as “Other infantry weapons” attacking an “Elephant” model (base factor of 1), each inflicts one casualty as a base. However, the dragon does so as a unit of five dragons, while the “HI” figure does so as a unit of twenty warriors. That's a 20% vs. 5% ratio. That is not so important in a game of armies, but is critically important to us in our game of individuals. Perhaps we should count models as fighting on the “4” column of the casualty table, so that our dragon attacking with a factor of 2 gets 5 casualties. More specifically, we'll end up treating large creatures as several figures, varying the number based on the creature.

Decisions, decisions.

Another thing to consider is a method to get similar results to the table without using the table. We could call this our "Alternate combat system".

Anyway, the result gained through this is defined as "wounded" or "killed". We'll need to figure out what that means to our individual characters. While a wounded general is shuffled off the battlefield or captured by the enemy, our individual warriors can choose to keep fighting, but with some sort of penalty. We don't need no steenkin' hit points, but we do need to know what a wound does to the character. We might also include a vital statistic that indicates how resilient the character is to being wounded, which we might call "Endurance" or "Size" or "Physique" or some such thing. Similarly, we might have another vital statistic (or the same one) which increases the penalty of a wound inflicted, which we might call "Strength" or "Physique". I like "Physique", and may have to use it. We'll find other vital statistics for other aspects of the game. Maybe the fighting class we discussed above will be a rolled vital statistic instead. Many things to consider.

[WRG]Notes on Weights and Measures

These are some notes that I made regarding weights and measures which may be useful in designing a system for using WRG Ancients and Medieval rules for roleplaying purposes.


Silver Pound: 349.91g (the historic Tower Pound)
Metal Pound: 373.24g (Troy Pound)
Pound Weight: 453.59g (Avoirdupois Pound)
Bundle Weight: 1270.05g (1/5 of a Stone Weight)
Stone Weight: 6350.26g (14 Pound Weight)
Coin Weight: 1.46g (1/240 of a Silver Pound)

Value of Gold:Silver:Copper: 1:50:200

Silver Penny: 1.46g (310 per pound weight; 14.73mm diameter; 1.28mm thick)
Copper Farthing: 1.46g (310 per pound weight; 15.51mm diameter; 1.35mm thick) (= ¼ penny)
(Both are 4340 coins per stone weight)
Gold Crown: 7.00g (65 per pound weight; 17.55mm diameter; 1.50mm thick) (= 240 pennies)
(910 per stone weight; 4.77 times as heavy as penny or farthing)
Silver Shilling: 17.52g (26 per pound weight; 30.94mm diameter; 2.22mm thick) (= 12 pennies)
(364 per stone weight; 12 times as heavy as a penny or farthing; shillings may be a coin of account only)

Rounded off: 4500 coins (pennies or farthings) per stone weight, or 900 per Bundle Weight; 900 crowns (each counts as five coin weight) per stone weight, or 180 per Bundle Weight; 375 shillings (each counts as twelve coin weight) per stone weight, or 75 per Bundle Weight


Pace: 30” (2 ½ feet)
Rope: 20 Paces (50 feet)
Stade: 250 Paces or 12 ½ Ropes (625 feet)
Mille: 2000 Paces or 8 Stades (5000 feet, about 0.947 miles)
League: 3 Milles (15,000 feet, about 2.841 miles, roughly the distance traveled in an hour on good roads)


Moment: 3 seconds
Period: 30 seconds
Turn: 5 minutes


Acre: 43,560 square feet
Oxgang: 15 Acres (the area one ox can plow in a plowing season)
Hex: about 4480 Acres (4473.27 Acres, but round it off); a Hex is one League from face to opposite face (comes to about 298 ⅔ oxgangs; might round these to 4500 acres and 300 oxgangs, as the actual distance difference would be less than 18 paces from hexside to hexside, about a 0.3% difference)

Justifications: weights are centered around trying to simulate traditional English coins as a baseline, and also using a system of encumbrance which will not be particularly intrusive. The decisions there are influenced by recent experiments with "stone encumbrance", but I don't think that those are impossible to have come to be in a game designed from whole cloth. The relative values of metals are based on their historic relationships, and are basically considered as an impression of the average values. Distances and times are derived from values in the WRG rules, which use paces as the base for distance measures (I take the 30" length from Swordbearer, but I think that's a pretty obvious choice) and note that the events of a game turn are roughly what could occur in 30 seconds of real time. The area measures are basically because I'm pretty sure that I'd like to include some sort of Baronial/Dynastic level play, à la Pendragon or some iterations of Chivalry & Sorcery.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

[WRG]An RPG Design Exercise

Some time ago, Jeff Rients issued a challenge: "Start with a core set of rules, the older and crappier the better. You can use an RPG but some half-baked wargame works even better. Produce a two or three page document with suggestions for improving the rules/adapting them for RPG play and an outline for a campaign. Expand this to a 50-100 page book."

Well, I love a challenge. I've done this before, in fact, starting with a boardgame from West End Games called Tales of the Arabian Nights, which resulted in a lovely little game that has gotten quite a lot of play in the local area and good feedback from people who were not even aware that I was the principal designer. However, that design was developed by people who are very much fans of the design models of the Forge, or whose design agendas were otherwise different than my own (something I didn't really understand at the time), and took the ideas in some directions that weren't entirely my own intention. So, I thought I'd try again, from a direction more like the Original Roleplaying Game.

That led to my current design attempt, which starts with the WRG Ancients and Medieval rules in their 6th edition, from 1980. Like Chainmail, it includes a fantasy supplement. It also includes rules for adjudicating single combat between generals and champions. However, tonight I read an entry from Trollsmyth, who pointed out that I might be setting the cart before the horse by trying to design it in the way to which I have become accustomed.

So, given that, I'm going to start talking through my design process here. My concept is that this is an alternate world, in which the only previous roleplaying game of any sort has been Braunstein, and I have never actually played in that but have only heard about it (which is the case). I have decided to figure out how to do this with the WRG Ancients and Medieval rules, but I am also interested in giving the players some control over their characters, giving the characters random or semi-random strengths and weaknesses that allow the players to make decisions as to their goals and so forth, rather than being assigned goals.

To be continued.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Now-Obligatory Dungeon Crawl Classics Post

I'm not particularly interested in another fantasy RPG not written by me. I have several that cover my various needs nicely: Holmes D&D plus the Holmes Treasury, D&D Cyclopedia/Dark Dungeons, S&W Whitebox and Core, RQ3, GURPS, The Arcanum, The Riddle Of Steel, Reign, and Hârnmaster [edited to add Pendragon] (not to mention others that I will probably never use at this point like The Burning Wheel*, C&S [1st**, 2nd**, or 3rd], the HERO System**, or Fantasy Wargaming***, among others). However, everyone is talking about it, and some people are getting vehement and nearly violent about the fact that they are not interested entirely because of the funny dice it uses.

Seriously. Funny dice. In a hobby noted for its funny dice.

My advice to those people: get a life. It's a game. You may not want to play it, but that doesn't mean that the people who made it are subhuman monsters out to steal your women. Some people do want to play it. Life is too short to get an aneurysm over what dice a game uses.

* Which is not to say that it isn't awesome. It's just that character creation is more of a pain in the ass than it should be and combat requires too much system mastery.

** Also awesome.

*** Neat ideas embedded in a system that is unwieldy. Still, I might try it out again, with some group. We shall see.