Writing my first RPG adventure

Although I’ve run homebrew RPG adventures, I’ve never created a definitively finished thing. I have a proven track record of not finishing anything. So when I heard that the Storytelling Collective were running a workshop to help folks write their first adventure I thought I’d give it a go.

It’s designed to help you write, produce and publish a one-shot adventure over the course of a month. Hopefully it’s just what I need to help me get over the start line, never mind the finish line. Fingers crossed!

It’s day 1. So far, so good.

If you’re interested, you can find all the info here:


Der Golem

Watched Der Golem (1920) the other day to get myself in the mood for spooky season. The Golem himself seems largely played for laughs by my modern eyes but the film is a work of genius. The stylised sets, antiquated costumes and visual sorcery are spellbinding.

I must admit I was unfamiliar with Judenhut. They’re very pointy and topical for today!

Portable Wargame: Retreating house rule

I recently finished reading Donald Featherstone’s Advanced War Games (1969). I think it’s only fair to say that it’s a bit of a hotchpotch of wargaming ideas from the early years of the modern hobby. Having said that, I’m glad I’ve read it. Not only has it has helped me appreciate the pioneering work that Donald and his contemporaries contributed to the hobby, but it’s been a palate cleanser of sorts. When you strip things down to their nuts and bolts and see things with fresh eyes, it can help you build anew.

Donald presents extensive morale rules – 19 pages in all! There are tailored morale tables for Ancients, Medieval, 18th century, 19th century, colonial and American Civil War, each detailing the various factors which could be applicable during that period. However it was some of the possible outcomes that I was particularly taken by; troops retreating in good order and those retreating in disarray. These feature in military history time and time again, yet there seemed to be no rule to help actualize this in one of my current wargames of choice, The Portable Wargame by Bob Cordery.

In The Portable Wargame, retreating is one possible outcome of a unit being under fire – the other being the degradation of their Strength Point value. But when a unit retreats, the direction that the unit is facing seems to be left up to the player in charge of that unit. Given the choice I’m sure no-one would want to have their rear facing the enemy when there’s a chance that they could follow up, but history tells us that this could and did happen.

So here is a simple houserule for The Portable Wargame to determine the direction that a retreating unit is facing, when the quality, condition and situation of the troops are considered, inspired by the distilled ideas of Donald Featherstone.

Portable Wargame: Retreating

When a unit retreats, roll 1d6 to see if it’s conducted in good order.

  • If the retreating unit makes its target number, then it retreats in good order and does so facing the enemy.
  • If the retreating unit fails to make its target number, then the unit is routing and faces away from the enemy.

Target numbers:

  • Elite: 3+
  • Average: 4+
  • Poor: 5+

Modifiers to the dice roll:

  • Friendly Commander with the retreating unit: +1*
  • For each friendly unit in good order that’s on the flanks of the retreating unit (within 2 hexs of the unit’s initial location): +1
  • If the retreating unit has already lost half or more of its SP: -1
  • If retreating from artillery fire: -1

* If using Commander ratings as described on p39 of The Portable Wargame, then you could use the following:

  • Good Commander: +1
  • Average Commander: +0
  • Poor Commander: -1

The Franco-Prussian War week-by-week

The Franco-Prussian War started 151 years ago this month. To commemorate that, the Real Time History YouTube channel just has launched its week-by-week series on the war.

They’ve released a few videos which help set the scene for the upcoming war, and have now started on the weekly videos.

If you’ve ever wondered what the Franco-Prussian War was all about, now is your chance!


Franco-Prussian War VASSAL/TPW project

After a week of work on my VASSAL module to play the Franco-Prussian War using The Portable Wargame, I’m nearly at a suitable place to catch my breath. I probably could’ve finished it by now but I succumbed to feature creep and implemented a battle start time generator and day/time turn tracker inspired by Donald Featherstone’s “War Games“.

I’ve also created some Day / Twilight (as shown above) / Night visual effects so that the turn time could be used to affect play. And finally I’ve made it easy to deploy Fieldworks + Fortifications (also shown above).

If I behave myself and don’t add any more bells & whistles, I should be able to finish version 1.0 this week and get it play-tested with a live opponent.

The Franco-Prussian War by Michael Howard

Well lookee here! A new edition of Michael Howard’s “The Franco-Prussian War” has just been published. I’d been holding off on buying the previous edition because it was around £25. But at over 500 pages, that’s probably not unwarranted. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that not only had a new edition been released but also that it was a bit less of an outlay.

For those of you who aren’t aware of this tome, here’s the publisher’s blurb…

In 1870 the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck ordered the Prussian Army to invade France, inciting one of the most dramatic conflicts in European history. It transformed not only the states-system of the European continent but the whole climate of European moral and political thought. The overwhelming triumph of German military might, evoking general admiration and imitation, introduced an era of power politics, which was to reach its disastrous climax in 1914.

Michael Howard’s The Franco-Prussian War is widely acclaimed as a classic and the definitive history of one of the most dramatic and decisive conflicts in the history of Europe. Evoking a palpable sense of the struggle and the high stakes of the war, Howard analyses the tactics, political dynamics, morale and actions that determined the course of the conflict. He also describes the crucial role played by key figures in the war, including Bismarck, the Prussian military commander Helmuth Von Moltke, and the French generals MacMahon, Chanzy and Trochu. He also sheds fascinating light on how difficult it was to bring the war to an end, with extremists in both France and Prussia pushing to prolong the conflict.

A tour de force of both European and military history, The Franco-Prussian War is a superb account of this dramatic and hugely important conflict, ideal for the student, historian and general reader alike.

This Routledge Classics edition includes a new Foreword by Bertrand Taithe.

I’m delighted to say that mine’s is in the post!

Miniature base size guide

When planning on how best to base certain miniatures (especially the unconventional kind) I found myself wanting a guide to help me eyeball things. Given that I can’t help myself but embark on another project to fill my day, I created a miniature base size guide for round and oblong bases.

Pictured above are examples of it in use. On the left is a 54mm undead warrior from Tehnolog and on the right are four 20mm Afghans from Newline Designs.

It was particularly useful when trying to figure out how to base my various trees, before I had a stockpile of MDF bases in various sizes from Warbases to try them out with. Pictured above is the resulting fruits of my labours. Two trees from Games Workshop on the left on 60mm and 40mm, and a random model railway bottle-cleaner style tree on a 35mm base. When it comes to trees, I think it looks best when the base isn’t quite as wide as tree but wide enough to stop it from toppling easily. (Yes I know they would look even better if I finished basing them… they’re in the queue).

Click the image to view the PDF. You can then Download it for your use.

Anyhoo… pictured above is the guide that I created with Affinity Designer (which, if you’re in to such things, is an inexpensive vector art program comparable to Adobe Illustrator). You’re welcome to use the guide for your own personal purposes.


For ease of future reference, I’ve also added it to the Downloads page. Have a look… there might be something else that you find handy.

Crossfire: introductory videos

You may have noticed that I’m a big fan of Crossfire, a WWII company-level wargame. If you’re interested in finding out why, then I’d recommend watching the following Crossfire intro videos courtesy of Lindybeige and Paul Ward (aka Matakishi’s Tea House). They should give you a good feel for some of the unique aspects to the game. I’ve compiled them into a playlist for your convenience.

Paul suggests some simple alternative houserules for close combat and tanks, which are worth contemplating if you aren’t keen on those sections of the rules-as-written. However I’d always recommend playing a game straight at first until you’ve got a handle on the experience that it’s trying to emulate.