Video Game: Primal Carnage

Update Oct 29 – This game has been released

While perusing various video game sites I came across Primal Carnage, an upcoming (Fall release date) multiplayer FPS game involving humans vs dinosaurs. They title it as an “indie” game but in this case I think that’s a cover to produce a lower quality project…hopefully not though. The human classes seem sort of like a mirror of the popular Team Fortress 2 game, which is a bit of a pity. I’m probably just being negative and pessimistic.

The upside is the game looks good visually and could be simple fun. Sort of like Jurassic Park if the crew had started fighting back. The screenshot page on the Steam site looks like some neat ideas such as net launchers. I’ll have to wait and see what the gameplay looks like as it gets closer to the release date. But hey, at least dinosaurs are getting some more attention, since as they say on the website “Primal Carnage is one of the few games based around Dinosaurs.” Too true, too true.

I think part of the issue is these developers keep doing dinosaurs vs humans, instead of humans + dinosaurs vs humans + dinosaurs, which I think would be better and more interesting (maybe because that’s the type of game Dinosaur Cowboys is). Otherwise you end up in a situation where you’re on the human team and you just want to play a dinosaur, or you’re stuck with limited strategies because everyone on your team is melee based. I think Dino D-Day was one of the better approaches to this since at least the dinosaurs did something more than just charging forward blindly. Plus these games tend to put dinosaurs in the spotlight…which makes sense in a way, but at the same time I find dinosaurs do better as supporting characters and background pieces compared to the focal point. What I mean is if the human vs human aspect (without any dinosaurs) is boring, adding dinosaurs won’t suddenly turn a bad game into a good one.

And since everyone loves pretty pictures:

Allegiance idea: Canadian Mounties

So I was thinking of some fun variant ideas, and one I came up with is Canadian Mounties. You know, the RCMP up here in the frozen north. In the background story I have Canada covered in ash and turned into a wasteland, more or less, so a small elite group of mounted police sounds perfect for this area. Plus the poster to the left was pretty inspirational haha.

I was thinking their main feature would be the ability to ride Flappers (Pterodactyls). Again in the background I’ve specified that Flappers are too skittish for combat, but maybe the Canadians have a secret training regime figured out to tame the beasts. I thought of this because if the ground was frozen and had three feet of ash covering most places I’d probably want to fly too.
Their weakness would be no wearing Armor since that would crumple their nice red uniforms. Maybe some mods to Bravery as well. It’s always tough to balance against the existing set of Allegiances.
I generally envision a Mountie as a light scout unit. Fast to move around on their Flappers, but without much punch.

I might expand all of this into an “expansion” to the core rules that deals with Canada. Extra rules for ash clouds and ash terrain, new weapons and equipment (pretty much mandatory in an expansion), some new dinosaurs, fleshed out Flappers (with variants), more Traits, etc. We’ll see how it all goes though when I’m back playing games and working on rules in October.

Reaper Mini’s new Cowboys & Gunslingers

An interesting new initiative by Reaper Miniatures, a favorite company of mine due to their great and varied Chronoscope line of figures. This initiative is to graft their RAGE rules system (used in Warlord) onto a Wild West scenario, offer those rules for free, and then sell a bundle of their best cowboy models. Basically 10 models for $39.99 (at least where I am). They have this package listed as a new game, so I wonder if they’ll expand the rules in the future.
Regardless this is a good collection with lots of variety. There are a couple of torn-from-the-movies figures (like The Man With No Name, one I already own in fact), some generic cowboys, a classier lady, lawmen, bandits, etc. I’m thinking this is just a short term project to generate some easy money, but you never know, it could be the start of another well supported western game.

Speaking of western games it looks like Blackwater Gulch is still chugging along (I had mentioned them before). They are planning to do another Kickstarter soon, which happens to have a really cool reach reward of a D6 with dual pistols on it. Pretty cool! I’m happy to see them doing well since the author is a similar indie designer. Projects like that make me wonder if I should be taking Dinosaur Cowboys more seriously and less as a hobby, but that’s for another day…

Force Fields and Ropes

Just knocking around some variant ideas.

The first and simplest is additional rules for Ropes and Ladders. Basically if a rope or ladder is by a cliff face then a character doesn’t need to use double movement to climb (much like the “Climber” Trait). This would allow for some fun scenario scenery with ladders, or just bonus special abilities for some purchasable equipment. Hemp Rope and Micro Rope would fit in this case, and could be slung down a cliff from the top by a character in their Action Phase (to help anyone following them). If they have a Grappling Hook then they could throw the rope up from the base of the cliff in their Action Phase.
This gets back to my earlier idea of having equipment with additional special rules. Like instruments that inspire, or drinks/drugs that boost stats, etc.

The second idea is Shields, not in a “buckler on the arm” sense but more like an Force Field. Or Energy Shield, or Force Shield, or Power Field, or any of the other terms I could use. I think I’d stick with Force Field since that’s kind of pulpy sounding. There are two ideas how these would look, either a personal shield generator that surrounds the person in a globe or a thin layer of shielding, or the “modern buckler” idea of a holdable energy shield. Basically either of these (I would have loved to have found better pictures but I didn’t have much luck!):
Holding:

Globe:

The rules would be simple. Force Fields would have a Power and Frequency rating. Power would be a number of D12s to roll, Frequency would be an X+ value. Any Power rolls greater than or equal to the Frequency would negate 1 point of incoming damage. If the number of Critical Hits on the attack exceeds the Power rating the Force Field is overloaded and cannot be used for just that attack.
For example:

Small Force Field: Power 3, Frequency 6+

Peter is equipped with a Small Force Field and is fired at by Hank with an 80kW Six-Shooter. Hank hits for 4 damage. Peter rolls 3D12 for his Power, hoping for 6+. He gets a 10, 8, and 4, so two successes. That means the incoming damage is reduced from 4 to 2.
If Hank instead got lucky and rolled 8, 12, 12, 12, the 3 Criticals would overload the Power rating of 3, so the Force Field would not take effect. Peter would take his 7 damage.

Simple enough. I would make several such items with varying Power and Frequency ratings. A very basic Force Field would probably be Power 1, Frequency 8+. There are a couple of other options too, such as only having Force Fields block weapons with an “Energy” type. Or even Force Fields for each type of damage. Maybe Kinetic Fields for “Projectile” and “Grenade” types. There could be extra Traits to support this, or new weapon types with a “Piercing” or “Forcebreaker” special property that helps reduce the effectiveness of shields.
Although more complex (ie: additional rolling and tracking) I think these are a pretty neat idea. I had mentioned a while back wanting to play a robot/android invasion and I might use these Force Field rules for the invaders.

What I’ve Been Up To

As you may have noticed I haven’t been posting as much. Generally I’ve been busy with socializing, playing a couple other tabletop games, and plenty of computering. I did get a Dinosaur Cowboys battle in a couple days ago and I hope to have the pictures and report posted soon (Update: battle report posted). I got to use my new model cacti for it and the plastic Litko tokens looked as great as ever (it was only their second outing).

Read the rest of this entry »

Scenarios I need to play

I have a gap between work travel coming up, and I am trying to brainstorm some fun ideas for scenarios instead of the standard “setup and kill” game I tend towards. Ideas are welcome for what you’d like to see! With luck I can play a game sometime next week and hopefully post a battle report full of pictures soon after.

– Civil War battle with the same posse on both sides
– Robot invasion with special rules for shields (Armor reduces damage maybe?)
– Rescue mission with patrolling enemies, or stop a hanging of an ally
– Start with half the posse unarmed in a saloon for a bar fight scenario
– Board with high cliffs and a central valley, lots of climbing
– Board with a tunnel sublevel (Space Hulk tiles) representing a mine?
– Board with packed city terrain with rules for jumping roof to roof, and all posses start above the ground

I think I’ll whip up some extra rules for combat at night, since I think that would suit some of the scenarios (Bar Fight and Rescue mainly).

Futility of renaming Hitpoints

Renaming Hitpoints?
In the interest of making the game terminology more immersive and fitting to the setting, I had considered renaming Hitpoints to Grit. And then I thought back, way back, to some of my games I made in high school. One was called Twilight (cut me some slack this was before the vampire movies) and was about a frozen planet where humanity lived underground and could only survive on the freezing surface by regularly taking stimulants. It was built as an RPG and had a pretty standard approach for the time, including a series of attributes for each character.
Now in my youthful edginess I tried to get away from the standard D&D statline, so I renamed Dexterity to Agility. Similarly the equivalent of Constitution became Endurance. I think I even went as far as daringly renaming Hitpoints to Life.
In theory this was neat as the statline looked more unique. What happened in practice? Everyone just mistakenly called Agility “Dexterity” instead, because that was so ingrained with the people I gamed with. Now you might think this is specific to my gaming group, and it may very well be, but in reality I think a lot of players gravitate to the terminology they are most familiar with. Even if they did eventually call Agility by its proper name, I can imagine they’d describe it as “like Dexterity in D&D”. It’s like players are mentally stuck in a rut and default to something known and comfortable if threatened with new ideas or terms.
So instead of trying to forcefully add unique terms to Dinosaur Cowboys I’ll just stick with what I (and my players) know best. Hitpoints will be Hitpoints, and anyone from console gamers to hardcore pen-and-paper players will be able to understand and relate to them. It makes the game feel more familiar, which helps for teaching and remembering it. Plus I hate the idea of being unique for the sake of being unique.

Fad of Alternatives to Hitpoints
Speaking about Hitpoints, I also want to talk about the current designer fascination with alternatives to Hitpoints. Go ahead and Google it to see what I mean. The main complaint stems from the idea that Hitpoints are too abstract, why can a high level fighter take more damage than a peasant, they don’t reflect damage well, performance doesn’t degrade, it’s a binary state of alive and 100% or dead, waa waa boo hoo.
Now I’ve been guilty of this in the past, so I can’t fault the idea too much.

Generally I think two outcomes happen when people try to move away from Hitpoints. Designers either call Hitpoints something else and abstract the numerical element with “Light, Moderate, Severe” wounds that have their own scaling system. Or they try to do a damage track of sorts that degrades performance as an entity takes damage, and end up with a death spiral (generally “…suffering an initial failure makes the second failure more likely, which makes the third even more likely and so on. There is virtually no escape from a death spiral once it’s begun.”).
Personally I love Hitpoints. They are familiar and easy to track and record in low quantities (like the base of 8 HP in Dinosaur Cowboys). They may confuse players as to what exactly Hitpoints represent, but I’ve never seen a player actually complain about that. Heck Movement/Speed doesn’t do the best job of simulating what a character is doing either, but no one minds that (ie: is the character running that whole time? Is it the distance they cover in what frame of time?)
Anyways Hitpoints certainly aren’t going anywhere in this game, except down as your Neotechnoist exposed in the open has laser fire poured into him.

Ideas About Playtesting
The discussions I’m about to link are old hat to a lot of game designers, but I figured they still provide an interesting read.
First of all a great post about the downsides of playtesting. It’s a bit strongly worded by some folks standards, but I think it targets a big demographic at sites like The Forge, especially the bit about playtesting endlessly. Ben Lehman: Playtesting: Stop.
Next up is a counterpoint that has a terrific quote I want to focus on afterwards. First of all the article. Playtesting & The Designer as Expert.
And the quote:

“Talk to playtesters to find out problems, but ignore their solutions. Talk to other designers to work out solutions, but ignore their problems.”

As a programmer I really related to this comment, but really hadn’t been following the advice. In terms of computer programming you would perform a user test, but you certainly don’t ask the user how to fix a problem that is identified. And yet game designers often do exactly that when getting feedback from playtesters. I’m guilty of this in relation to a lot of my forum posts. The biggest problem I feel it leads to is rules fragmentation, where you take a fix from a player or two that doesn’t fit in with your theme or goals, and before you know it your nice, clean ruleset is a mess. And then people go “Well, I guess I need more playtesting” and it spirals from there.

Anyways interesting stuff that is worth considering, instead of just going with the status quo. Either way the theory and practice of game design sure is a cool topic.

Space T-Rex Dinosaur!

Dinosaurs in Spaaaaaaaaaaaaace:
(I’d recommend clicking to see the full-size, but I’m sure you have already)

I think it’s safe to count this one another humor break.

Collection of great conversions

I had mentioned Hexxenhammer way, way, WAY back in a 2009 post (how time flies!) for his great cowboys riding dinosaur conversion. He pointed me to his Flickr set of “Weird West” images, and I thought since they are getting on 2-3 years old I would mirror them here in case the gallery dies. So from his Weird West set here are some great conversions that make me jealous:

Some late news: 100kW real world laser

Late Laser
Well I never said I’d have much in the way of breaking news related to dinosaurs or cowboys, but heck in this case I’m only behind three years! The exciting news is a group called Northrop Grumman created a 100kW laser (related Wired article).

The basic idea is to combine smaller 15kW modules that look like this:

…into a big apparatus that looks like this (pictured is the 100kW laser):

The importance of this laser is that 100kW is generally considered the lowest “military grade” energy level for directed energy weapons. So it might not be small enough for a revolver yet, but hey that’s what 273 years of development is for (aka until 2285, the start of the playable Dinosaur Cowboys timeline). They are already hard at work with the Firestrike ruggedizing system, so all they need are some high density batteries to use as bullets and we’re set.
The man who started it all was of course Theodore Maiman, since he created the first operational laser back in the 1960s. I think people were still capitalizing LASER and common folk knew what the acronym stood for, before all the “death ray” stuff in sci-fi popularized the idea.
Just a note on the image at the top, which is the official sign for lasers. I’d love to make a little 28mm version for the tabletop, or paint it onto the barrel of a big gun on a figure or something.

Late Weapon
Now if you want a more weaponized look to your sci-fi weapons there is the Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response Rifle, which is a terrible backronym for PHASR. The news around this is even further back as we’re looking at 2005 (a dark time when everyone made “set PHASR to stun” jokes). The PHASR looks like something out of Halo and could maybe be passed off as a High Burst Rifle on the exterior shape alone:

Late Music
And now for a bit of a musical interlude, and also a look into the past (only back to 2006 in this case) here is Knights of Cydonia by Muse, which happens to feature a rocking beat, 1980s style mock movie, robots, and cowboys with laser pistols.

Wild west terrain: general store and prison

I wanted to share some great 28mm wild west terrain from a hobby blog I found. The terrain was created using foamboard and some balsa wood planking, and is especially notable because the roof is removable which allows gamin’ inside the buildings too. Nice details like the goods in the store and the wall scratchings in the prison cells. Overally really great work that I am, of course, jealous of!

General Store:

Prison:

From Gamer Architect Blog: Wild West Store and Prison

Shaolin Cowboy and Steampunk Cowboy

Two neat images today, one from a comic and one from a museum in the real world.

First is of Shaolin Cowboy, a short lived comic that had fairly detailed artwork:

And the next one is the cowboy riding a Triceratops, made from spare parts (which makes it look kind of steampunk-ish). Really cool (even if the scale is off, but who am I to complain about scale), and created by a fella named John Lopez:

Media of real world cowboys

Long time no chat, I guess that happens as summer starts and I can comfortably get outside more.

The batch of Lithko tokens I ordered arrived a couple of weeks ago. They look great! I might try to get some scans/pictures of those up soon, and I also want to try them out in a game. They are nice and clear and will help make my photos and battle reports look a bit more professional than my current makeshift wooden tokens.

Anyways onto the meat of this post, which is two pieces of media around real world cowboys (and cowgirls). The first is a video from 1894 (amazing!) of trick-shooter Annie Oakley shooting two lever-action rifles at some static targets and some thrown targets. Really neat since it’s like a time capsule to see such old footage:

And the second set of media are terrific old images of cowboys. I wish I had found this archive when I was putting images into the rulebook, especially since it’s categorized so well. Really neat to think the pictures come from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Too bad I’m not a pro at image editing since modifying the horses to be dinosaurs would be perfect!
Link: http://www.cartermuseum.org/collections/smith/collection.php
And some samples:

So besides wanting to get another game or two in with my new counters, and still vaguely having a goal of painting some actual cowboy figures, there isn’t much to do around the game (hooray for having a completed rule set!). I might adjust the IP/ND reward to be split for taking a character (human) out of action compared to a dinosaur. Probably using the existing 3 IP / $30 for a character but 5 IP / $50 for a dinosaur. It’d be easy enough to track and maintain since kills during the game are just put to one side of the table, so adding up afterwards would be simple.

Tyrannosaurus and Tiger Tanks


Today I wanted to point out a neat battle report that doesn’t exactly involved cowboys, but certainly maintains the genre mixing involvement of dinosaurs and WW2 Germans. The pictures above come from a game of Adventures in the Lost Lands from the popular Two Hour Wargames (I heard about them originally for their terrific All Things Zombie game). Anyways the actual battle report is here and is a pretty interesting read, and they have a great looking volcanic table that I’d love to play a game of Dinosaur Cowboys on to simulate the area around the Yellowstone eruption.

Some Other Links
I have a few other miscellaneous links that don’t really warrant their own post, but are still interesting.

First of all a really cool, scary, and trippy looking dinosaur: the Helicoprion. Modern day people may dislike or fear aquatic beasts like sharks, but could you imagine if something like a Helicoprion was floating around in the ocean? Especially when they are estimated to have grown to 10-15ft long!

And then a couple of unrelated games. First of all the blog of Andy Hoare who is ex-Games Workshop and is currently working on a little side project of a skirmish game. Although he doesn’t have many posts I find them interesting to see the general thought process of another person working on a skirmish game, plus the odd tidbit he drops about Games Workshop.

The final link is a pure western skirmish game that I thought I’d share called Get Three Coffins Ready. The name comes from one of the classic batch of Clint Eastwood westerns called A Fistful of Dollars, which is one of my favorite western movies. Anyways it looks like a fun system and I always like reading other amateur rulesets.

Drastically different posse approaches

So far the posses you’ve seen are built in a fairly standard, natural way. They have a reasonable story behind them, a good variety of weapons and roles and mix of dinosaurs.
But what about if we threw all that to the wind and tried to built super extreme posses that stretch every rule and are so drastically different from the norm?
Well…we’d probably get something like this:

Longneck (or Titan) in a $1,000 ND / 100 IP Posse
The Longneck (MV 5, PMV D6, AR 2, MMC 5, DIS 10, HP 37, 10A-1D) is considered the king of the herbivores. Heck anything that can grab vegetation nine meters off the ground is deserving of that title in my opinion. But in Dinosaur Cowboys it’s normally considered a later game purchase, considering it costs $1,000 and a standard posse begins with exactly that much money.
But with the Leader and first member being free to recruit, a posse could technically have two humans with no weapons and a Longneck. Crazy? Maybe. But it’s exactly what The Herd Mothers do. With plenty of IP to go around each member could be improved to a fairly solid point, with 12 HP a piece, 1 AR, and MV 6. They’ll be focusing on Brawl attacks (Punch, Kick, Shove, Trip), which won’t do a ton of damage but could disrupt enemy forces. For example each member could Trip an enemy to apply Stopped, so then the slightly slower Longneck could get into combat and stomp them into the dirt. Or perform a Shove and use the 2″ Knockback to send enemies into combat.
Another feature to remember is that every human gets a Rope Lasso for free, so someone could mount the Longneck and use the 1-6″ range to apply Stopped to a nearby enemy just in time for the Longneck to barrel into combat. The Leader could be the rider and use his “Get Up!” trait to heal the Longneck when the going gets rough.

Anyways the alternative build is to have a Titan in a $1,000 ND / 100 IP posse. Pretty much the same idea but slightly different traits, and of course, the best carnivore instead of the best herbivore. I call them The Pack Fathers.

Two Super Soldiers
The next posse takes the idea of extremely well trained and well armed members to the extreme. Instead of settling for a few good guns and statistics, this posse dumps all the IP and ND into two members, with the third (mandatory to meet Posse composition minimums) basically being dead weight.
I made the two “super soldiers” as Neotechnoists, as I could see them being from a dark sect inside The Wall that experiment heavily with human improvement, drug stimulants, etc. Perhaps they have even skewed their views into worshiping dinosaurs, and tried to alter their appearance to match with drastic implants and body modifications. Their third member, a Savage weakling, could represent a sacrifice they keep for the dinosaurs.
Anyways I call this posse the Supersoldier Legion, and here’s a quick glance at their basic statistics: MV 5, AR 4, RMC 6, MMC 8, BRV 7, HP 15. The best part of that statline (besides the ridiculously high HP) is the 4 AR, thanks to expensive $300 Mesh Armor. That should hopefully give each super soldier terrific survivability, as we’ve seen with the Armored dinosaur in the past. They are wielding a Light Repeater and Heavy Pistol, which are both good weapons in their own right.
Oh and of course The Sacrifice (the low stat Savage who weakened himself to free up IP for the super soldiers) has this for a laughable statline: MV 1, AR 0, RMC 9, MMC 8, BRV 2, HP 1. Haha.

Veteran 400 IP Posse
I had put a reasonable cap on IP at 400, which corresponds to $4,000 ND and 13 Traits. But I decided to actually build a Posse with those stats and see what kind of awesome weapons and equipment I could come up with. The result is The Deadly Half Dozen who had a Titan dinosaur, the full 5 members rife with Grenade Launchers, 1MW Scoped Rifles, etc. I think this Posse might expose a slight problem where Hitpoints become too low and damage outdistances what each target can absorb. I mean someone with RMC 4 and 1A-10D 27″ range rifle is going to hurt, a lot.
I think in the future I’ll give two 400 IP Posses a shot and see what kind of chaos ensues.

Conclusion
Anyways those were just a few of the extreme and different Posses I could build within the limitations of the rules. Interesting to try to take each concept to the max and see if it breaks the build process.