Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Bringing RPGs Full Circle

It's great having a gamer brother, because it means Christmas and Birthday presents are exactly the right thing for a current or planned army. For example, this year I received a Terminator Assault Squad. Two or three Terminators were next on the list for my Red Hammers chapter at 28mm. While I mostly wanted to stick with basic storm bolter/power-fist, at least one had to have a thunder-hammer - how could I not when the chapter name is the Red Hammers :)

 The plan was to repaint them in my chapter colours, but these already came in a cool and very striking black with flame edges scheme. The compromise was to strip and repaint one thunder-hammer and leave the rest as is.

While the Terminator spends a couple of days soaking in simple-green I have another project to work on. A while back I painted a Dark Eldar Sslyth. At the time it was just a one-off (not part of an army) but it came out extremely well. I regard it as the best painted model I have ever done.

Making a whole force of (hopefully) equally well painted models would be too much work for a full size 40K army. But for the squad/platoon level games I've been playing lately it's a realistic goal, so I have acquired some Dark Eldar Warriors to accompany the Sslyth.

Sybarite squad leader

Special weapon warrior with Blaster

Dark Eldar warriors

On the subject of skirmish level games, I've been considering another candidate rules system;


The combat rules used in pen-and-paper RPGs are effectively small wargames, usually resolving fights between an elite group of 3-6 combatants on one side (AKA, an adventuring party) and whatever the GM throws at them on the other. Since Dungeons & Dragons originally evolved out of medieval wargames using one of its descendants as a wargame would be coming full circle.

The specific rules I'm considering is d20, the system used for Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition as well as a host of other games. It has a number of pros and cons to being applied as a wargame.


  • Open-source
  • Extremely thoroughly playtested
  • Has rules to cover pretty much any situation
  • Can resolve squad/fireteam size battles in under a couple of hours
  • Can be played on a relatively small area. Four foot square would be heaps, and even two foot square would probably work.
  • High level of detail, making it possible for each model to be unique and interesting
  • While it doesn't have army-lists, it does have Challenge Rating (CR) and Encounter Level (EL) systems to help create roughly balanced fights. These could provide a starting point to more carefully balanced army-lists.


  • Natively uses a 5 ft = 1" square grid. Adapting to play on an open tabletop shouldn't be too hard, but will require establishing some conventions (e.g. around flanking)
  • May be too detailed. When playing an RPG one person keeps track of each character, while here each player would have to keep track of half a dozen. However I expect this should be managable provided the abilities and resources of each character are kept simple (no huge lists of spells/feats) - GMs frequently have to handle half a dozen or more monsters at a time.
  • Would require more book-keeping than most wargames. Each individual model would have a quarter to half page character sheet, with HP, expendible resources, and status conditions to keep track of.
  • The CR and EL balancing mechanics don't really cover equipment the character has. Some way of including this in a models effective CR would be needed.
In order to minimise several of the con's my thought is that (for unnamed, run of the mill troops) green combatants be 1st level Warriors, regular combatants 2nd level Warriors, veteran and/or elite combatants 3rd level Warriors, and special forces (including Space Marines and the like) 4th level Warriors.  Templates can be applied increasing the combatant's effective level (a Fiendish Dire Half-Dragon Space Marine might be equivalent to, say, 8th level) and named individuals can be higher level.

Conveniently I have already done a lot of work converting elements of 40K to d20, intended for an Inquisitoral RPG campaign which so far hasn't happened. So the key things to do are establish the conventions for open-table play, and decide how to use the CL/EL mechanics to balance forces.

1 comment:

  1. It might be worth looking into that they have a D&D miniatures game, which has possibly got the rules you need adapted already. I've never really played it though.