Sunday, October 14, 2007

Introduction and using miniatures in roleplaying games

Hello friends and welcome to my miniature gaming blog. My purpose for their blog is to share my miniature gaming experience, both in role playing games and table top war games with miniature enthusiast around the world. I've been painting miniatures, building terrain, and playing miniature games for over 20 years and I've learned a few things about the hobby along the way.

I've decided to start my blog with some tips on using miniatures in role playing games. I've found the use of miniatures invaluable during combat situations for tracking movement and certain special effects like spell effects or grenade blast. Not only that they add a visual element to the narrative. I wrote this some time ago when I poster was asking for tips for using miniatures in his Serenity RPG session which is why many of the examples use terms from the Firefly setting.

Just some tips if your just getting into miniatures for roleplaying.

1. Avoid the "Playhouse" style play: The biggest mistake a lot of people make when setting up miniatures for a game is that they try and find a miniature for every encounter combat or not. Then they set a mini down for everyone the players run into or move them around a map or set every time they go somewhere. This isn't necessary. Minis work best when they are being used for combat or some other situation when it's very important to know the position of the player characters or NPCs. It's not such a big deal to have them out if they are just meeting a contact in a bar or something unless there is a real chance that violence will happen. Your playing a RPG with miniatures to support the action not playing with dolls or action figures. There's no reason to push them around on the table unless you have to know the exact position of the PCs in a given encounter.

2. Plastic Mooks are you friend: Mooks are unimportant NPCs that don't get a name or any dialog to speak of. Badger's bodyguards are mooks so are Niska's guards and thugs a posse but not the sheriff. Basically mooks are disposable cannon fodder. It's not necessary to have really nice minis to represent mooks. If you have a game store near you find out if they sell Starwars, Herocliks, or Horoclicks minis as singles. Sometimes you can pick up a bag of cheap canon fodder for a few dollars. If you don't like clicky bases you can carefully take a sharp exacto knife and remove the minis from the click bases. Then all you need are some cheap game bases or even fender washers to re-base them on smaller bases.

3. Don't forget the stunt doubles: Sometimes you need a mini and you just don't have one that's quite right. Perhaps someone you thought would never going to be in combat suddenly is. This can be a problem especially if you have "Shoot first ask questions later" players. It happens. The best thing you can do is call in a stunt double. Just grab a mini that's at least the right sex for the NPC in question and tell your players that the mini your using is going to stunt double for the NPC in question. For instance "Han Solo here is going to stunt double for Mr. Tam". It's more of a mental reminder than anything and it's easier if the mini in question has a regular name either because it's a character from popular culture or because you normally use it for another NPC.

4. Pre game prep is good. Try and have minis you know your going to use set aside so you can find them easily. You might not want to make it obvious to your players as that can foreshadow who they might run into ahead of time. "Oh I see you have Badger out. I guess we're headed to Persephone". If you don't do that then at least keep your minis organized. Keep your feds in one group, reavers in another, mooks in another, and regular NPCs in another. This way you can cut down on your search time which can be annoying if your in the middle of what is suppose to be frantic action.

5. Anything can be terrain. This is similar to the tip on stunt doubles. Don't have any cargo containers to fill a hold. Grab some bottle caps or old film canisters or pill bottles. What about those big storage tanks at the fueling station. In a pinch a few soda cans will do. Oddly enough a hand full of small rocks make a darn nice rocky outcropping. You can also set up a quick cavern or cave with a bunch of regular rocks set to represent the walls of the cave. I've even laid out dungeons or corridors with dominoes in a pinch. The item in question may not be perfect but it may help to set the scene. Playing with minis is about more than just setting up pretty scenes. The most important thing about using miniatures is tracking movement in difficult situations so what's ideal may have to take a back seat to what's practical.

6. Terrain doesn't have to be hard or expensive. So your sitting there the night before the game and your looking over your notes. You know your players are going to have a fight in a fuel depo but you have nothing in your terrain section to represent it. No problem. Grab those empty soda cans, clean them out. hit them with a base cote of dark gray spray paint dust them with a lighter gray or sponge a lighter gray on. Grab some peal off number decals and make your new fuel tanks number 1, 2, and 3. Now you have an instant fuel depo.

7. Less is more. Don't go overboard setting up elaborate sets for every fight. Sure it's nice to have that big throw down with everything set up just so when the players go to assault Niska's compound but it takes time to set that up. That may be a big scene but a quick shootout with a couple random thugs in the hills of Whitefall isn't that big a deal. You don't need to set up and entire scene for just a short bit of action. Put down only what you need for random encounters. Trying to set up an elaborate table for every fight will just bog your game down. Make use of Star Wars and Hero click maps for random encounters.

Hope these help.

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