[minis+] Combat: Doll-play vs. Wargame style rules/mechanics/approaches



  • I see this working in one of two ways:

    1) Assuming that the GM said, "Bob, you bring a microscale exterior; Chris you bring a heroica scale interior; Eero, you bring a minfigure scale interior; Frank, you bring a heroica scale exterior; and Stephen, you bring a minifigure scale interior, etc."

    This might happen:
    *Bob builds/brings a microscale peasant's farm with hut, field, fence, and animals.
    *Chris builds/brings a heroica scale cave network with some interesting, potential "rooms" but nothing else. Nothing is "labelled" yet.
    *Eero builds/brings a minifigure scale medieval monastery library--perhaps just enough to imply the whole thing but not the actual whole thing. Maybe a scriptorium desk, some scrolls and a bookshelf all on a small baseplate. Maybe a monk thrown in for set-dressing.
    *Frank builds/brings a heroica scale castle wall section and gate house.
    *Stephen builds/brings a minifigure scale goblin-king throne room. Again, just enough to imply it without building the whole thing.
    *the GM has some standard stuff build as well--a short section of road, maybe a lone tree, a well, a small copse of trees to imply a forest, a small castle gate house, a castle passage way, a small stone bridge, and maybe a cave wall or passage, maybe some stairs. All of this at minifigure scale (probably, but not necessarily).

    The players and GM arrive on Saturday, and play to find out how all this fits together. Pick one place as the starting point, and link it all together as the play and narrative evolve over the course of the play session. Maybe the peasant farmer has information about a mysterious cave network, and the monastery library is hidden in the cave network, and there is a scroll on the bookshelf that will teleport the characters to the goblin-king's throne room, etc. Anything else you need, you build quickly. Maybe you need a minifigure scale piece of that peasant's fence. That's a 30 second build, and it wouldn't really interrupt the narrative to build it. How you determine how this all links together (your rules) is another part of the game system that deserves it's own thread.

    2) The second way is a lot like the first, except you craft some random tables before hand. My re-birth into RPGaming is really through John Harper's Pocket Danger Patrol, and that's what I'm thinking about here. Your table is genre specific and has a style and role for each possible place. Perhaps:

    2d6 style role int/ext scale
    2 ghostly monastary int minfigure
    3 faerie hill ext
    4 goblin forest int
    5 undead castle ...
    6 peasant ... ...
    7 royal ...

    I'm not going to make the whole table--I think you get the idea. You have a descriptive adjective and a noun (place). The players build what they can think of based on the hints that table has givne them. Then you meet as before (i.e. method #1) and play it out. Maybe Frank rolls a 7, 3, 3, 1 = royal, hill, ext, minifigure. He decides to build a small hill in minifigure scale with the foundation remains of an old royal tower that fell down years ago.

    You could do the same thing for threats and NPCs.

  • My table didn't format well, there were supposed to be five partial columns.

    You're other questions, I'll have to answer tomorrow.
  • How much input do you think the initiating player/GM should shoot for with something like that? Where is the sweet spot between giving inspiration and being to micromanaging?
    I can't say. I'm ambivalent about that, literally. The GM knows what monsters and treasure he/she has at their disposal. That would be a factor, but I don't know if it is the only factor or most important factor. I'm seeing the GM as playing as the environment and elements (like was mentioned in that other thread about D&D-wargames.
    I'm envisioning something where the plot/situation/important character mix isn't completely pre-determined, but only happens as play happens.
    I'm envisioning something like that. The GM has a stable of monsters and NPC and they appear when appropriate. You build your random encounter table based on what you have, rather than building some perfect simulationist random encounter table for the genre and trying to buy the toys to fill it out. If we don't have any skeletons, then we're not going to encounter them.

    `Plot' happens as play happens.
    ( I like Mythic GME a bunch, and the suggestion about the In A Wicked Age approach seems like it would work well for that too).
    I don't really know what your talking about here. I'm kinda new to modern indie RPGs. I was out of gaming for about 30 years, and the only modern games I've played are one's that I've downloaded and printed (for free).
    As a follow up, how could you see follow up and expansion on that working after an initial session? I mean things like expansion of the initial stuff paralleling the expansion of the in-play fictional stuff ( or changes to it)?
    Well, most LEGO-heads could probably go 3-4 sessions without having to tear anything apart in order to build something new. So, you've still got all the stuff you built for the previous sessions. Maybe the players want to go inside the castle that Frank partially built, or explore the whole cave network that Chris build. You start building out those areas at a larger scale with more detail. On the other hand, the story and/or the players might want to go in a totally different direction, and then you're back to the same setup as the first session. At the end of each session you make a decision as a group where you're going with the story and the play, so that you can build for the next session.
    I could also see that being part of the fun of Lego play, as the world and cast develops.
    I agree. I think "build the world as you go alone" is the best approach both in terms of player engagement and not stretching anyone's budget too much.
  • "...as you go along"...
  • Geez, I don't think either of those games has freebie demoes available, but here's a review of In A Wicked Age:

    And here's a link to a whole bunch of Oracle generators:

    Mythic GM Emulator is a bit of an odd duck. It's as if someone who loved mid-80s TSR designs along the lines of Marvel Superheroes RPG started on a path towards GM-Less/GM-ful play, a bit like In a Wicked Age, but staying a bit more open ended than the Oracles for that game.
  • Interesting! The genre-specific random location building table I mentioned earlier was meant to be like an oracle (although I didn't know that it was called "an oracle".
  • edited March 2017
    Hunh...there is a free Mythic GM Emulator PDF up online, but I don't know its status ( as in, I don't know whether it's a pirated copy or not). You might just do searches to see if you can find more info on that one.*

    In any case, it's a nifty game/tool too.

    Both IAWA and MGME have tools that tend to bring things together, in terms of scene locations, developing plots events, and characters ( and characters in both games get a bit fuzzy on whether they're PCs or NPCs in some ways. It's likely that players will have a main character and sometimes play a couple of other characters as well that they portray as needed).

    Mythic GM Emulator is part of a bigger product, a full on generic RPG, called Mythic RPG, funny enough. There's also an expansion called Mythic Variants, that tweaks some of the charts based on genre and gives further tools for self-tweaking custom charts.

    I think it's nice to have the full Mythic RPG, but I find it optional for most of my purposes.

    From poking around at different sites I visit, it seems like MGME has gotten a small fanbase among (semi)solo miniatures (war) gamers, who seem to love it far more than RPGers do generally.

    * electronic formats create this weird moral dilemma for me. If I had a physical book, and we were geographically close, I could just loan you the thing to read and no one would blink, since I paid for the thing and can do what I want with it. With e-formats, I guess I can share as much as I want with my local play group, but it creates a weird dilemma even if I want o share it with someone local not in my play group. I certainly feel like folks who have gone through the effort to create something for sale should get money for it, but it makes sharing both easier on one hand and harder on the other. Do what you think is best.
  • [table]
    [td]town or city[/td]
    [td]cave or garden[/td]
    [td]well or bedroom[/td]
    [td]minifigure scale[/td]
    [td]tower or briar[/td]
    [td]minifigure scale[/td]
    [td]castle or ruins[/td]
    [td]minifigure scale[/td]
    [td]sea or throne room[/td]
    [td]minifigure scale[/td]
    [td]tavern or hut[/td]
    [td]minifigure scale[/td]
    [td]village or market[/td]
    [td]minifigure scale[/td]
    [td]hill or mountain[/td]
    [td]heroica scale[/td]
    [td]lake or stream[/td]
    [td]heroica scale[/td]
    [td]forest or house[/td]
    [td]heroica scale[/td]
    So, as an example, this is the kind of table that I might use (and share with the players for pre-session building) for a fairytale setting. They could roll on the table and build something appropriate for the game. It needs to be tweaked a bit to get the genre tropes right, but this is something like what I would use.

    My only problem is with the last two columns. I can't figure out how to prevent the players from all rolling the same "int/ext" and scale. It wouldn't work if everyone came with a microscale build, or if everyone build an interior, and their were no exterior setting pieces. Maybe the GM could do all the rolling and send the oracle results to each player.
  • Sorry about that mess. My browser won't let me preview or edit anything on this site.
  • edited March 2017
    I've only got a couple minutes to post, but here's the thrust of how I'd do this. (I'll give more detail and rationale later.) In short, in every session, I'd have the group spend some time building together, and then some time playing the story.

    First, folks would decide what needs to be built. In an old school sandbox, for example, the players could decide where they'd adventure this week, then the GM could divvy up tasks (A makes stuff for a cultist den, B builds a cool demon, C makes some cave dressings, etc.). In a dirty hippie game, folks could decide locations that they'd like to see appear (which would obviously imply characters, as well); in our political intrigue game, I might build some set dressing for the Queen's bedchamber, for example, as a way of pre-framing a scene (or multiple scenes) there, which we would cooperatively put into play.

    Either way, I wouldn't have folks build full tableaus. In most cases, some representative objects or scenery (set dressing, basically) is ideal: an ornate bed and lamp for the Queen's chamber; stalagtites and rocky bits and a pool for the caves; bunks and a guard tower for the goblin lair, etc.

    (More on my rationale/the benefits of this approach soon!
  • Rationale:

    1. Engagement
    Pragmatically speaking, it's likely that this project would be driven by one person who is most invested in the idea of a LEGO-based toy/story game. By building together rather than as "homework," less-engaged players may be more likely to continue participating, allowing for multi-session games (as desired).

    2. Logistics
    Not everyone will have extensive (or any!) Legos, but all may still contribute. By building together, the project driver/host could allow his personal collection to be used in the cooperative building phase. I can easily see a situation where one or two other players (in addition to the motivated host) might be interested in bringing along more detailed lonely-fun creations. This is entirely compatible with still holding a cooperative build phase, and indeed would allow the game to flexibly accommodate a range of motivations/dedication to building!

    3. Skill
    The more advanced builders could work on the more advanced projects, while novices could begin with simple set dressing (cave or outdoor features, simple buildings, etc.). The challenge of building could thus be suited to individual skill and preparation. Novices could also learn techniques from better builders, which would allow for a sort of system mastery fun (the joy of learning/expertise).

    4. Socialization!
    Building together is fun! This embraces the Toy Joy aspect of the project, wherein the building is not merely preparation, but is an intrinsic part of the game experience. This is crucial to a "real" Lego game, in my opinion.

  • edited March 2017
    Questions to be answered:

    1. What's a good ratio of build to play time in a given session?

    This might vary--a first session might need more initial building, or the beginning of a new act (location, dungeon, time period, cast, etc.). Other sessions might reuse sets or progressively add to/modify them. This also will vary based on players' interest and the length of a session, and can easily be adapted to different groups' needs.

    With all that said, my personal preference would be for 3-4 hour sessions total that are about 1/3 to 1/4 building (I.e. 45 to 60 minutes of building per session). So, roughly a 1:3 ratio of build to play.

    I'd formalize the phases: an initialization phase, where we recap what happened last session (if multi-session play) and decide building needs based on whatever procedure (GM list or assignment, dirty hippie collective decisions, debate and discussion, individual contributors that will be stitched together exquisite-corpse style, oracle generation ala Hopeless Wanderer's great suggestion, whatever.)

    2. What's the best way to formalize the procedure for the building phase?

    I'd incline toward different approaches for different games, as decided by the group (or as part of the pitch). There's no reason not to vary from session to session, as the group's needs evolve. So, I'd recommend the "menu" approach above.

    What else would need to be ironed out, in terms of procedures?

    I've never tried a game like this, but now I'm INCREDIBLY excited to try it! I'll probably work on a one-shot procedure to begin with, in which I provide all the Legos and host, because that would be easiest to terms of buy-in and logistics. Then I'd kit-bash toward multisession play as I find the opportunity.
  • Either way, I wouldn't have folks build full tableaus. In most cases, some representative objects or scenery (set dressing, basically) is ideal: an ornate bed and lamp for the Queen's chamber; stalagtites and rocky bits and a pool for the caves; bunks and a guard tower for the goblin lair, etc.
    In case I haven't been absolutely clear, this is what I'm talking about, it's this. Just build enough to suggest a location. Don't build a whole skirmish battle space.
  • Skirmish-scale play tips for building a collection (esp. for hosts):

    -- Try to get antagonists/enemies/extras in sets of four to six. These can be bought new in battle packs (four related minifigs with accessories); individually BrickLinked; collected over time from one Theme (or similar Themes); or, most economically, found at yard sales! (Lego ABS is durable and easy to wash.)

    -- Collect lots of various minifig accessories: headgear/hair, backpacks and neck accessories, torsos, legs (including short legs, dresses, etc), waist accessories, and anything and everything that can be held (weapons, food, mundane household items, tools). The more you collect, the more combinations are possible (exponentially).

    -- Save generic set dressing. That pile of rocks, tree/copse, generic storefront, crumbling tower, whatever can easily be reused.

    -- Add complexity over time. Unlike traditional minis terrain, it doesn't have to be done to be pretty/compete. Add to important sets over time, as the need arises. (Principle: Toy detail reflects the diegetic importance of a place/thing.) (Also, we need to collect Principles for our manifesto. I've been hinting at some as I go-- I'll take a stab at formalizing some key ones soon! Our manifesto needs sections on principles and procedures, including menus of procedural options to adapt to different purposes.)
  • Good Lord, I'm overcaffinated. That's what y'all get when I have to work on a Sunday! :)
  • edited March 2017
    Chris, do you--or anyone else!--have any AP to share about using LEGO in games? I'm familiar with Frank's account of Evil Stevie's Pirate Game, and I posted a brief, editorialized account here, but I don't know of many others (beyond bog-standard "use minifigs instead of plastic/pewter minis").

    (We could do this in a different thread, if folks are interested. This one is drifting, though it feels like in organic, productive ways.)
  • I have two, but they're not that useful considering everything that's been discussed here. In one, I built an intersection of a city block with buildings, etc. (out of cardboard and construction paper). The vehicles, and some set-dressings were made from LEGO and the superheroes and villains were minifigures. I was using a hack I made of Pocket Danger Patrol. It suffer for a number of reasons: I totally ignored the play value of the toys and tried to play the RAW. The players, English as a second langauge students, weren't up to either the game or language task. Some of them had fun, but it didn't work as intended, as either a language exercise or as a story-telling exercise.

    The second was too much of a railroad, but it was all LEGO. I made a blacksmith shop
  • ...a river crossing, and a cave with representative objects and scenery. It was all very un-skirmish gamey. From a the perspective of this thread, it worked great, but from a game-play perspective it was a mess because I didn't really play the RAW, and I didn't really have a system to work with--just something I kludged together. I was more interested in the development of a story (this was again a teaching activity) for a latter writing exercise. The player created his own character from my collection of minifigure parts and accessories (a purple naga with giant purple wings). There was character back-story, but the motivation for the story was weak. All the same, he enjoyed the game-play.

    If you ask me specific questions, I might be able to give a more specific answer.
  • Sorry about that mess. My browser won't let me preview or edit anything on this site.
    I've had similar problems, so I feelz ya!

    What if we combined your idea with Stephen's idea, but went with cards and people chose which ones to build as part of a session's building-time phase?

    The cards are relatively open to interpretation, and maybe some of them are repeated, but it's somehow up to the players as a group to choose which to use for the basis of their part of the project?

    The GM/Initiating player ( and I'm just going to say GM from here onward, because we all know what I'm talking about) still has a whole lot of control over initial "vision" by creating the initial card mix and probably also bringing the bulk of the Lego blocks to use.

    That GM Vision Thing:

    When I tried a couple of experiments with minis games like this ( one went really well, one went okay-ish. In the okay-ish one, the players had fun while I considered it a mixed success at best) I had an idea of what I was looking for in the scenario.

    I found it was bit of a tight-rope to walk in terms of shared creativity.

    I front-loaded a good bit of general setting stuff, and also kept to myself some concepts that I might choose to throw in if things started to bog down. But none of it had to be used, and if things started going in a very different direction, but the group as a whole seemed to dig it, I ran with what they were doing.

    At some level, while that's all vague, I think it's the only practical approach.

    Games almost need to start off as "The GM's Concept" and then evolve more into "This is our Collective Thing".

    ( Although...I also suspect that after a game or two, the participants become capable of doing a more truly collaborative creation of vision straight out of the gate).
  • Stephen:
    Those sound like excellent rationales for the approach you're suggesting!

    I also agree that principles revolving around the general concept are important to lay out, and that there are different principles involved that are best taken "menu" style depending on the type of game you're making from them.

    I attempted to do something similar, geared towards gaming minis, but it became a wild, unwieldy google doc.

    Here's the link:

    If any of you plunge into that thing, be prepared. It was written in fits and spurts of creativity over a couple of years. By that, I mean, I'd go back to it time and again, mess with some stuff for a day or two, then run out of steam.

    Whole sections have been cut and moved around willy-nilly, so please don't expect anything like good flow, and any basic editing is equally haphazard.

    It's also kinda lengthy. Sorry. It really was intended to be short...

    Some of the better bits I realized while writing it up ( and yes, there are illustrations, if basic ones) has to do with physicality and use of space on a table.

    They were written with an assumption/axiom that a table of some size was being used and that play was going to take place on that table pretty much as created ( without a lot of modification) for the course of a given session. Of course, it could change between sessions.

    That's notably a bit different from the approach in Eero's game, where locations switched up between scenes, more like pre-made tiles or battle mats, using the center of the table where people were setting around it. Basically more like D&D 4e was designed to be played.

    Anyway, part of what I realized was that..

    1) The 6" or so around the edge of the table was basically dead space. It was simply too close to the edge to use for anything important because of the way people stand and the likelihood of stuff being knocked off the table. You could still use that space for game related non-toy stuff though.

    2) Locations of importance need to be placed around the table in such a way that it was almost circular or oval shaped, and generally you wanted to avoid putting anything too important in the center of the table if there was likely a problem at all reaching the center of the table.

    3) If you were creating an important location, generally you wanted to space things so that at least three people could stand comfortably near one another and all interact with the space ( play with toys there).

    All of that gets modified depending on the size and shape of the table of course, and there's no reason that locations can't be of different sizes and be connected together Tetris-like, but that aspect is worth thinking about.

    It's also worth thinking about another kind of physicality when building locations too:
    You have to build it in such a way that 2-3 people can feasibly have their hands in there, interacting with the toys regularly.

    That's also a pretty good argument for stylized/selectively compressed/ stage set/movie set style building, and not just because it makes the Lego blocks go further!

    Using the example of the throne room set, yes it makes sense at some level to just build thee throne and the raised platform and define an area ( maybe a base if that's available) as being The Throne Room from a quick build concept rather than building the whole castle. But it's also a good approach from leaving it open enough to handle movement of figures and play in it.

    I could see it more intricate, with some more items, but not a lot, and perhaps doors and windows are put in place, but not walls ( or maybe only one or two walls, or only 1/3 to 1/2 height walls).

    A forest might have at least two trees, but probably doesn't have more than 5 unless it's supposed to be an especially big forest or a very dense forest.

    Pirate ships are likewise cut down. 1 cannon for small ships, 2 ( either side) for a proper small gunboat or patrol boat, 4/6/8 for really grand vessels.

    (Unless massive amounts of scenes and action are to take place on a given ship of course)

    That sort of thing.
  • Wow, this thread has been a serious dam-buster. Thanks, everyone!

  • Pirate ships are likewise cut down. 1 cannon for small ships, 2 ( either side) for a proper small gunboat or patrol boat, 4/6/8 for really grand vessels.
    That sort of thing.
    That is the range of number of guns for Evil Stevie's Pirate Game, and very sensible.

  • On a Lego related note that might be helpful, tape that is Lego compatible:
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