New 8th Edition Warhammer 40K Books: Quest for the Tomes

40ka

Not too long ago, I received an email from Games Workshop (via the general mailing list) saying, “Get these codices while you can,” because a new edition was about to come out.  Get these expiring and about to be useless $50 books before we take them off the shelves because they won’t be valid anymore. 

I thought, “You sons-a-bitches.”

I wanted to fax them a picture of my middle finger.  Or my pale, hairy ass.

The cycle of new 40K editions over the last several years has come across to me (and others) as greedy ways to boost short-term sales.  Kind of like all those terribly pricy text books you had to buy in college.  “We changed 3 things and rearranged some tables, come buy all our books all over again.”

So when the new rumors went to flying, I was naturally skeptical.  Very skeptical.

I’ve been stationed in Japan for nearly 3 years now and in that time have only played once.  So I wasn’t too worried about a new edition.  Haven’t been playing, and now not planning on playing.  Screw those greedy corporate bastards.

But then I started actually reading the rumors and leaks.  That this edition wasn’t just bolting on a few new rules to the clunky old machine, haphazardly spraying on an uneven coat of paint, and charging $200 for a new go.

This was “the edition you asked for.”

No, really.

So between getting actual gamer feedback and simplifying the rules to look more like their well-received Age Of Sigmar redesign of WH Fantasy, the game was starting to sound pretty good.  (I was also skeptical of the Age of Sigmar reboot of WH Fantasy, btw, though I was never a huge fan of the Fantasy system anyway: even more complex than 40,000 Rules and seemed to require a calculator to even play the game!)

If they could thin 40,000 Rules down to 8 to 12 pages, that was an amazing revelation to me.  I was now interested.  And the more I saw, despite my own hardened pessimism, the more I liked the way it was looking.

Within a week, I was actually excited.

40ktau

Getting the books themselves, then, proved to be a worthy quest.  (Relatively speaking.)

I had to find locales in Japan, and books in English.  There are 3 or 4 GW stores in Tokyo, but that’s a ways to go for me.  In my store search, I also got a few other pings for non-GW stores, one much closer to my base.  Long story short, I ended up journeying to a city I’d never been to before, in a foreign land, using a paper map as a guide (I’m not into the whole cellphone omniscience thing).  I’d called the day before and spoken to a woman who kind of spoke English and reserved me some books.  Namely, the Rule Book, the Marines Index, Eldar Index, and Chaos Index.  A hefty, blind purchase.  But I figured that I hadn’t spent any hobby money for a long time, so why not?

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the new datasheets were being combined into affordable softbacks with multiple related armies all in one book.  Given the easy of access, I figured I had to buy those books.  With three affordable tomes, I had all colors of Space Marines, Eldar, and Chaos Marines and demons all covered, plus Necrons for good measure.  Easy peasy.

But I ended up paying more than the listed market price for everything.  I don’t know if the markup was simply because we are in Japan or if my shop owners charged a little more, but I honestly didn’t mind.

This was a very small little hobby shop owned and operated by a very nice elderly couple.  The husband didn’t speak English and the wife just barely enough.  The shop was more about model airplanes and trains and modeling supplies than it was a gaming shop, though they did have a rather impressive selection of Warhammer stuff, as well as a rack full of Citadel paints.  There were a couple small displays of painted models too, most of which had been painted by the owner.  His wife bragged that he was a beginner, but, damn, did they look nice!  Way nicer than my meager, atrophied painting skills could manage, and I made sure he knew as much.

I spent about half an hour on the trains getting there, and a little more time walking the streets, so I took my time to check out all the nice toys on their shelves.  Saw some cool new stuff I wouldn’t mind having (like the 30K style termie models), but I’m not in a hurry to buy more.  Not using all the stuff I have now.  When it came time to pay, I found out they only took cash.  Darn it.  So then it was a quest to find an ATM that would take my American card.  The two bigger banks with whole lobbies full of ATM machines didn’t work.  It looked grim, my long quest cross country for naught.  Then I found a little booth with a single machine and that one worked out.

So my mighty quest was a success.  I might have paid a bit more, but it went to the mom and pop shop of a really nice elderly couple, so money well spent.   In fact, the venerable Papa-san rounded down the total price for me, threw in a couple of (no doubt expensive) Citadel-brand paint brushes (after I told him about my waning painting skills), and a few odd sprues to boot!  I didn’t even find out about the sprues until I got home and opened up the tiny plastic bonus bag.  Three marines and one of the cool Age of Sigmar space marine wannabe guys with a hammer and shield.  (Which I think could make cool special space marine units too—especially the winged guys for angelic vanguard vets.)

So there’s my long-winded story about how I fell back into love (obsession) with the new 40K and made the perilous journey of a lifetime to score the new books on opening day in a strange land.

I’m sure I’ll be blogging further about my impressions as I get into the books.  I’m actually about to take 2 weeks of leave to relax with the family and supposedly to get some writing projects done.  So much for all that…  I’m sure this new distraction will impede those lines of progress.  But at least I’ll enjoy being delayed!

More to come…

 

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DnD5e XP option

If you understood the code in that title, you’re a nerd.  And that’s okay, nerds are “in” these days.  No more hiding in our parents’ basements (at least not for most of us…)

Anyway, thought I’d post my latest take on dishing out experience for player characters in the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, “the world’s greatest role playing game.”

(BTW, if you want to see more of this stuff, check out my Fifth Edition Creative Companion on the DM’s Guild — it’s pay what you want, so if you want to pay zero, you can.)

female elf with a bow in the forest

EXPERIENCE POINTS AND LEVELING

This is the biggest change I’ve brought to my personal house rules for Fifth Edition D&D.

I’ve always had issues with the traditional Experience Point (XP) system.  It seems to me that it’s pretty much kill-monster-based and collect-gold-based.  If these are the only factors that matter in gaining levels, then they become the only things that matter to the characters.  Any other storytelling or character interaction is irrelevant.  Why bother with that crap when it doesn’t do anything to help me become a greater hero?

I do like that this Fifth Edition emphasizes three aspects of game play: not just combat (which we all enjoy), but also character interaction and exploration.  If there are three aspects to our fantasy adventures, then all three should count toward advancing our heroes through their careers.

Now, there is a way to figure out non-combat XPs in Fifth Edition by calculating encounter difficulty along with the angle of moonlight and alignment of the North Star, etc.  I’m being a tad sarcastic, obviously.  The way they’ve outlined it isn’t a terrible system, but it’s pretty tedious and math-heavy.  More so than I care to deal with.  I want less math and more story.  So here’s what I’ve come up with.

XP is measured in Blocks, acquired by completing Story Objectives. 

If one of your story objectives is to defeat the band of hobgoblin bandits that have been robbing caravans passing through this area, then yes, you get an XP Block by killing all the hobgoblins.  Or at least beating them down and chasing them off, never to return (hopefully).

But your Story Objectives might also include finding a missing person, discovering the identity of a killer, brokering peace between two political factions in a war-torn city, or bringing home a specific item from the long lost ruins of an ancient king’s hidden treasure hold.  These move the story along through use of exploration and character interaction, as well as potentially using the more exciting dice-rolling action of combat.  And they advance your characters and shape your unique world.

Story Objectives might be accomplished each gaming session, or they might take several.  Conversely, you might achieve more than one in a single session, even a single encounter.  Maybe discovering the killer’s identity and bringing him (or her) to justice are two separate objectives laid out by the DM, and after two sessions of tracking and investigation, you pull off both in the evening’s climax encounter.  In that case, BAM! you get two blocks in one fell swoop.

Subplots could also contribute as a character-driven experience.  Let’s say you own a tavern and it mysteriously burns to the ground.  Rather than continue on the main course set up by the DM last adventure, you decide to investigate the fire further.  Instead of chasing the next planned adventure, you go off on a tangent important to your characters.  This is a story in and of itself, and certainly worth some XP.

Other subplots could include investigating the murder of a PC’s parents, suddenly noticing the significance of a trinket, or pursuing a love interest or political office.  All of these character-based story lines can become adventures in and of themselves.

So what is an XP Block?

I call them XP Blocks because the easiest way to track them and chart out level advancement is with our old friend Mr. Graph Paper.  I have come up with two simple formulas for Level Advancement, but I’m only going to talk about one in this blog post, which I recently developed after using the first for a while.

(You can see the other one in my Fifth Edition Creative Companion if you really want to know, but I think this one is the better of the two.)

Leveling Up: The Proficiency Method

Each level is accomplished by achieving a certain number of XP Blocks, just like it is with normal XPs.

The requisite number of Blocks to advance to the next level is equal to your current Proficiency Bonus.

Therefore:

Levels XP Blocks to Level Up
1-4 2
5-8 3
9-12 4
13-16 5
17-20 6

Mr. Graph Paper’s (or Mr. Excel’s) XP Tracking Chart, then, might look like this:

XP TRACKER 1   2   3   4   5     6     7    
Bobfreid the Druid

So the further up you go, the longer it takes to advance, but not so much that you never get to level up.  DMs can regulate the rate by either being stingy or generous with XP Blocks and what constitutes a Story Objective.

Play Tested, Mother Approved

In actual game play, this new XP system has been working out great.  The PCs are advancing at a steady pace but not too fast.  They level up regularly but not every session.  They have to earn those levels.  And, as the DM, I only have to keep track of what is important: milestones in the story.  After all, counting dead monsters and dividing them up is accounting work that I don’t need in life.

New Fifth Edition Monk and Artificer on Dungeon Masters Guild

Hey there, fellow nerdlings.

A quick update on my Dungeon Masters Guild titles.

I just adjusted everything to “Pay What You Want,” which means you can either take it for free or, if you’re feeling generous, you can flip me a silver dollar or two for my trouble.

I also just added a few new things to my 5th Edition Creative Companion.  Here’s the description:

female elf with a bow in the forestEdition 3.0 has more XP system options, new Monk and Ranger class modifications, and an Artificer archetype for Wizrads!

Contained herein are 50 pages featuring customized game rules, a new story-based experience system, and 17 powerful feats for players.  But that’s not all. 

Presented for your inspiration are 10 complete characters created from new takes on existing classes, all forged via enhanced creation rules that favor player characters.  Each hero features stats, background stories, and character-building decisions spelled out to give you new ideas for your PCs and NPCs.  Examples include an archetype-defying Cthulhu warlock, steampunk mage, Shinto samurai, rogue spymaster, and Thor, godling of thunder.

SF/Fantasy author J. D. Brink has been playing Dungeons & Dragons for thirty years.  Finally, with the advent of the Dungeon Masters’ Guild, he can share some of his own ideas and game innovations with fellow players of the world’s greatest roleplaying game.  The 5eCC works in conjunction with your own imagination to develop exciting new worlds and the heroes needed to save them!

So how do you get that?  Just click here:  5eCC, baby!

Dark ritualAnd while you’re at it, check out my sleepy occult village adventure Dark Gods of the Jersey Shore.  It’s as creepy (and silly) as it sounds!

I also modified my new XP system to make advancement go more smoothly and quickly without all the math.  You’ll find that in the 5eCC as well.

Hope you enjoy them.

Now, on to bigger and better things!

 

More Eldar: Dark Reaper Conversion

I originally posted everything below the first pic on my “old” blog on March 4, 2016.   A FRICKIN’ YEAR AGO ALREADY!  Only once since then have I made time to sit outside and do this kind of hobby stuff.  And I didn’t accomplish nearly this much.

But this shows the painting plan I was talking about yesterday.  Dark blue body, armor dry brushed for highlights. Skull-white head.  My preferred wraithbone blue-grey super-long sniper rifle/railgun/reaper launcher.

Boom. Done.  Good enough. Next!

dr1

It’s been a good 1.5 years since I indulged in ye ole Warhammer 40K hobby.  (With my schedule, it’s either hobby or writing, not both, which is why I managed to get a lot more writing done last year.)  Yesterday I got out of work early, it was a sunny, warm day, and I decided that I was going to camp outside and do some painting, damn it!

And I did so using my new painting philosophy, which is: keep it simple, stupid! If I ever want to get even half of the irresponsible horde of models I own painted one day, I’ll have to keep each one pretty simple.  That means relying heavily on washes and dry brushing for details, and keeping the perfectionist in me at bay.  Overall, I’m pretty darn happy with this guy.

I usually paint the first one by him- or herself to figure out the scheme, and then I can paint more than one at a time once the design it determined.  So hopefully, completing my squad won’t be far behind.  There’s only 3 more models, after all.

You might notice that these are not the Craftworld Dark Reapers you are used to.  The “new” (at that time) Dark Eldar models are just so much cooler than the old Craftworld ones, that I decided to build a lot of my aspect warriors using DE kits.  That’s my “Black Phoenix” Craftworld, and these badass aspect warriors are no exception.

They are basically DE Warrior bodies with WH Fantasy dark elf masked heads.  I also added a DE accessory behind the head to act as “reaper range-finding” gear.  The weapon, I believe, is a DE dark lance.  To me, the Reaper Launchers are not mini-missiles but quick-fire railguns.  Each time they pull the trigger, two very thin, javelin-like munitions are magnetically fired in rapid succession.  The poor targets at the other side are dead before they even hear the report of the gun.

I don’t know when I will get another tiny pocket universe of time to paint more, but this was sure nice.  And I completed him in only an hour and half, which is pretty good for me, especially being rusty and all.

 

 

Painting 40K Eldar, the Easy Way

da-4While I was swimming today–something I haven’t done in a while–I was daydreaming about something else I haven’t done in a while: painting Warhammer miniatures.

Years ago and three duty stations back, when I first got back in Warhammer (thanks to my friend Josh and my finally earning an adult paycheck), I used to think about painting strategies while I swam laps.  This kept my mind occupied.  If I thought too much about swimming, I’d get bored with it, or convince myself I was tired or out of breath.  The one time-space coordinate that is still stuck in my mind is swimming the very narrow pool at a particular gym in Carlsbad, CA, thinking about how I should paint my Eldar fire dragons.

And nine years later, I still haven’t painted those bastards!

Actually, I’ve made new dragons out of Dark Eldar warriors.  And I haven’t painted those bastards, either.

da-back2But I was thinking today, that if (when!) I ever get time to mess with them again, I want to keep them extremely simple.  My Eldar scheme would basically be to pick a body color and a head color, and keep the other details to a minimum.  Some washes, some dry brushing for highlights, and not much more.  Mostly in an effort to get some damn models painted!  In about 30 years of off-and-on obsession with the game and hobby, I really haven’t gotten jack squat done.  Not for having had 30 years to do it!

These Dire Avengers I painted about the same time I was swimming those laps (2008-2011).

(I know the labeling on the pic was totally unnecessary, but it made me feel good, okay?)

I was going for a Darth Vader badass feel, and I want to stick with that.  But future models, and future aspects, may be even more simplified.  For example, I might do those fire dragons orange with red helmets.  Banshees red with white helms, or bone-white with red helms (even better).  My scorpions I won’t mess with; they’re already on that scheme, basically.  scorp-lord-2

I know I’ll never be satisfied with any paint job I do, and that my talents have atrophied since about 5th grade on (I was really good then!), but I have to convince myself that many painted models is better than a handful of overly-stressed-over ones.  And someday I’ll get back there!  I even have some high-quality, hobby-grade spray colors that I inherited from someone else who couldn’t pack them when he moved.  And once the weather warms up, I need to use them up!  I left most of my shamefully large collection of models back in the States, but I do have lots of Eldar, Space Wolves, and Chaos stuff here still.  And throwing at least a base color on them will at least be a small step in the right direction.

(I know this blog post didn’t accomplish much, but it made me feel like I was doing something 40K related, ya know?)

5th Edition D&D: New Monk Archetype

monk

For those D&D gaming nerds out there, I have a customization I’d like to share.

This is not actually a new archetype for Monks, just a modification to the Way of the Open Hand.

It seems to me it’s kind of flimsy when compared to some other 3rd-level career paths in terms of abilities gained.  So, for your consideration, I suggest a small adjustment.

In addition to the current Open Hand ki abilities that you can add to your Flurry of Blows, you also gain at 3rd level the Feat “Martial Adept” just as it appears under Feats.

This grants you one superiority die (D6) and two maneuvers under the Fighter’s Battle Master archetype.  If you already have this feat (or are already a Battle Master Fighter as well as a monk) then you gain +1 superiority die and +1 maneuver.

You also gain +1 die to your pool and +1 maneuver mastery at monk levels 6, 11, and 17.  If you have a maneuver you don’t care much for, you can also trade it out for a different one any time you level up.

In addition, you can generate superiority dice by expending ki.  One ki point equals one die.

Maneuvers I recommend for a monk of the Way of the Open Hand would be trip, disarm, feint, and sweep attack, though you can pick whatever seems right for you.

Also as an experiment (and it may be too much), I thought to add some very specific monk weapons, the very design of which are helpful with performing these special manuvers.  A monk of the Open Hand who is thus armed can reroll the result on superiority dice (but must accept the second roll no matter what).

* Nunchaku (1d6 bludgeon damage)

* Sai (1d4 bludgeon damage) (sai are not actually pointed or sharp, by the way)

* Spiked or Bladed Chain (10ft reach, 1d6 damage of bludgeon, piercing, or slashing type, depending on how you use it—you pick)

I think this makes the Way of the Open Hand more kung-fu badass and more worthwhile in game play.

I intend to refine this and add it to a revised 5th Edition Creative Companion sometime soon.

(Monk image from D&D 3rd edition, btw.)

Space Marine

spacemarineIn the last couple days I’ve started playing the old Xbox Space Marine game again.  (If you ask me something like “the first one or second one?” it’s probably the first, ‘cuz I’m not aware that there was more than one.)

This is a really cool game, though the game play isn’t the best.  The marine you control can’t jump or climb anything — your path is pretty much 2D, walking only where they want you to. The targeting isn’t the best as, even in sniper mode, nudging the stick generally makes a big jump and it’s hard to be precise.  So I’m not going to say it’s the bestest game ever.

But the visuals and very cool and the 40K-ness of it is fantastic.  It really captures the feel of the 41st millennium.   The marine armor is great, very detailed, looks like a model come to life.  But my favorite part is the bolters.  They aren’t spraying light machinegun fire; they’re launching mini-RPGs like a bolter should!  And at a high rate of speed!

sm2

The challenge level is kind of weird.  It seems like you walk through large areas with no resistance, and most of the time the killing is pretty open and low-threat, but then you’ll hit certain boss-type combats that are just murder to get through!  That’s when I quit playing years ago, when I hit that wall over and over again and couldn’t get past it.  Orks and gretchen and squigbombs in waves, and those damn squigs get right up on you and blow up.  And again, targeting isn’t that easy, so you shoot the hell out of a bunch of gretchen that couldn’t hurt you if they had plasma pistols in each hand, but you miss the squigs that blow your legs off.  And then when you finally make it past the squigbombs and take them all out before they get you, this big mutha of an ork comes in and beats the hell out of you!

sm3FINALLY this morning I got past that part, first try of the day.  Then, eventually, I came to a really cool ork dropship that reminds me very much of a Reaver boat in Firefly.  You have to plasma cannon the thing while it’s shooting you with some megashoota type double-barrelled machinegun and the best shot in all of orkdom is manning the thing!  And THEN, if that crackshot doesn’t gun you down, they drop orks to engage you while you’re trying your damnedest to shoot down the ship with an overheated plasma cannon.

It’s hard.  But it’s fun!

I know this is all old news to most anyone who will read this, but since I buy mostly old games on the cheap and never quite get around to playing them (got two on clearance last Xmas that I haven’t even opened yet), I’m pleasantly surprised right now to come back to the year 40,000!