Monday, November 14, 2011, 12:18 PM
Categories: Axis & Allies Minis
Rich Baker and I ran a couple sessions of the new Air Force Miniatures at Seattle's Museum of Flight on the 12th (as part of NHMGS' annual game day at the museum). The MoF is an amazing venue for gaming. The museum gives us four tables, plus an info/display table, beneath the wings of the Blackbird on the main exhibit floor.
But I'm sure you're all more interested in photos of the game.
The scenario was the starter set's basic Battle of Britain matchup: Spitfires and Hurricanes vs. Bf 109s.
First shots were exchanged at the point shown below. (There's one more German aircraft cut off at the top of the photo.) The Spitfire at the center of the photo damaged the 109 in front of it, but a devastating (and lucky) burst from the 109's wingman knocked the Spitfire out of the sky!
The battle broke into two smaller fights, with two 109s concentrating on the beleagured Hurricane (flown by a free Polish pilot) in the foreground. Fortunately for him, the Brits won initiative, which gave the Pole a chance to stay away from the German guns and line up a shot of his own ... which missed the evading target.
Then the Brits won initiative again, buying him another chance at the wounded 109. This time, the Hurricane took advantage of what Rich calls the "crazy Pole" special ability to let the 109 fill his windscreen before squeezing the trigger. Sadly, with the 109 still evading and this being a high-deflection shot, the Hurricane missed again.
The scenario went for several more turns, and eventually the Germans whittled down the Brits to the point that the RAF pilots broke off the engagement.
This third photo shows the scale of a 1:100 Spitfire in comparison to a 15mm AAM Sherman tank (15mm and 1:100 are approx. the same scale).
If you've never had a chance to visit Boeing's Museum of Flight in Seattle, it's amazing. A few years ago, the museum added a huge annex to house its WW1 and WW2 collections. Here's the Spitfire that greets you as you enter the WW2 wing.
Parked directly across from it is its nemesis, the Bf 109.
Finally, here's a shot of Rich Baker holding up our Bf 109 to let big brother get a good look at it:
There's now an Air Force Miniatures area in the Avalon Hill forum. Hop over there if you have comments and reactions to share on the new game.
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011, 8:43 AM
We posted updates to three Dragon articles yesterday—"Windswept Lord" and "Class Acts: Eladrin Knight" from Dragon 395, and "The Last Legion" from Dragon 396.
That last change is the one most likely to raise eyebrows—not because the change wasn’t called for but because some readers were calling for a lot more loosening-up of requirements for the article's powers and paragon path. We didn't do that, which makes this a good opportunity to explain why certain changes are or aren't made to online articles.
"Eladrin Knights" describes a knightly order that exists to protect the eladrin city of Astrazalian from its enemies in the Feywild. The powers offered by the article are limited to eladrin fighters, and the paragon path is limited to knights with training in Arcana. Those requirements weren't relaxed for two reasons.
First, the article presents a compelling story, and making the Sword Guard's tactical advantages available to a wider group of characters weakens the story. The Sword Guard is about eladrin who are devoted to protecting their City of Starlight. At heroic tier, where the article's powers apply, you don't get into the Sword Guard or learn its techniques unless you're eladrin.
So why can any knight with training in Arcana take the paragon path? The Eldritch Knight's emphasis on teleportation makes it less than ideal for characters who aren't eladrin, but it is open to anyone who is willing to accept that limitation. We can easily justify that as part of the story, too. By the time heroes reach paragon tier, their accomplishments make them attractive to a closed group like the Sword Guard. Just because the Guard wouldn't accept and train a 1st-level dwarven knight doesn't mean it won't accept an 11th-level dwarven knight. The Sword Guard needs high-level warriors, and 11th-level recruits are hard to come by. The rank-and-file troopers of the Sword Guard are all eladrin, but they will follow any commander who has the experience and dedication to lead. It's a bit like the French Foreign Legion, in reverse.
Finally, there's a hidden factor that's every bit as important as the story. Mechanical benefits that are restricted to a narrow class/race combination appear to have limited appeal, but that's not always the case. The Character Builder shows us that the eladrin/knight combo is a popular favorite. Eladrin knight characters have more than enough fans to justify keeping the article's focus as-is and not water down its fantastic contribution to the lore of the Feywild and to the D&D game.
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011, 2:22 PM
I want to clear up what seems to be a widely held misunderstanding about the magazine change announced in this month's Ampersand. This change applies only to end-of-month compilations; it doesn't affect individual article PDFs, which can still be downloaded and stored on your computer for as long as you like, as with any PDF.
In the past, compilations were where you'd go to get corrected versions of articles. From this month onward, articles will instead be corrected individually as the need arises. A note will be inserted into the article's online page, near the "Download" button, to indicate whether that article has been updated. An identical notation will be added to the last page of an updated PDF to make it easy to determine which of two files is the most recent. The original version will have no date other than what's normally in the page folios.
We're not ready to pin down exactly when corrections will be made to articles, but we expect that it will be no later than two weeks after the article's publication. In most cases, updates will happen considerably sooner than they used to, when you had to wait until the end of the month for everything. You can see what an update notation looks like on the Backdrop: Mistwatch page, which was updated today.
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011, 10:14 AM
Here's what's going on with the online magazines and why we're experiencing delays.
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Monday, December 20, 2010, 12:38 PM
This week and next are all about getting caught up on Dragon and Dungeon magazine submissions. If you've sent an article proposal anytime in the last four months (from September on), you can expect to get some sort of response to it in the next two weeks. Most of those will be rejections, unfortunately, but we do try to respond to everything.
Likewise, if you've submitted a manuscript and you're waiting for a review, look for that before January 3 as well.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010, 2:51 PM
December vacations, holidays, illnesses, and the general staff overload they induce continue to impact the magazine schedule. Posting of the Assassin Executioner needs to be held until Tuesday, to give everyone involved the time they need to review and sign off on the final article and get it typeset. Hand in hand with that, Totems of the Far Realm probably won't be proofed and finalized until noon (the 17th). We apologize for these delays; this is the season for them.
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Thursday, December 2, 2010, 5:17 PM
The December calendar for Dragon and Dungeon magazines has just been changed substantially. Nothing's been removed, but quite a few features have been shifted to different dates. This was done to mesh more closely with other departments with which the magazines interact. We don't like rearranging the calendar, but these three-week months wreak havoc on our schedules. We're pretty sure that this arrangement will stick, provided no one gets ill and Seattle doesn't get socked with another snowstorm.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010, 10:57 AM
Seattle got smothered under a heavy blanket of snow on Monday, which led to huge problems for the Puget Sound area (power out, streets and freeways closed, flights cancelled). It also created problems for the D&D website, though ours had significantly less dangerous ramifications.
The magazine content calendar always is light toward the end of the month. By light, I mean that it leans toward columns and away from class and race support articles that introduce crunchy new powers and feats. It's not that we consider the columns less important; if we did, we wouldn't publish them. They're light because they don't impact the D&D Character Builder.
One of the last things we do each month is make corrections to the articles before everything is compiled into the final PDF, and that takes time. The ideal, of course, would be to not need corrections. We're making progress in that direction, but we're not there yet. In the meantime, we reserve the last week of the month for review and correction. (An alternative would be to delay the compilations until sometime in the following month—say, around the 7th or 8th. That would let us spread out the articles more evenly, but it would also impact the schedule for Character Builder updates, which is a significant complication. It could also cause confusion in a system that allows one-month subscriptions.)
What does that have to do with snow? The WotC office was closed on Tuesday because of the snowstorm, cutting an already short holiday work week from 2.5 days down to 1.5. Even today, the parking lot is less than half full. So the November compilations might not be available according to the calendar schedule. They should make it on Monday and Tuesday, but it might be midday instead of midnight. I'll know more by the end of today.
BTW, my Twitter account is StvWinter. I'm not an avid tweeter, but I do (or at least will) send out the occasional tweet about what's going on in the magazines, especially regarding schedule updates.
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Friday, November 12, 2010, 11:31 AM
So, you want to write adventures for Dungeon magazine. Here are some down-and-dirty practical tips.
First and foremost, think outside the delve format. It's great for delves, but it turns everything else into a delve. Make the presentation serve the adventure, not the other way 'round.
Second, think outside the encounter. Things seldom go as planned. Scripted encounters work in some situations, but they're not suited to many others. Look for ways to lay out an open-ended situation and then let the DM do his job.
Third, focus on the adventure and leave secondary, 'random' encounters in the hands of the DM. All too often, proposal outlines include a first encounter that has little or no bearing on the larger story of the adventure. Breaking up a journey with an encounter can be a good idea, but Dungeon adventures have tight word budgets. Every word spent on an extraneous, preliminary encounter takes something away from the main event. A simple statement to the effect of "The DM can generate an encounter or two with monsters A, B, and C on the way to the adventure site or nearby" is all that's needed.
Fourth, make your proposal stand out. That's universal in any writing for publication. We see this proposal a dozen times a week: "Characters fight goblins. This adventure has two combat encounters and a skill challenge." That proposal will get a "Thanks, but this isn't what we're looking for" email.
Do you remember junior high composition class? Your teacher was smarter than you probably thought at the time. We want to read the five Ws:
Fifth, pay attention to dramatic structure. A story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. Even a short adventure needs a setup, some rising action, a climax, and a denouement.
We'll close with some do's and don'ts:
The address for your adventure proposals (or any article) is email@example.com.
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Friday, October 29, 2010, 4:55 PM
One type of pitch we see frequently is for the "let's turn blue into red" article (aka "redshifting"). These proposals take the form of "this will be a variant on the barbarian to make that class more of a controller." Or "this is a variant on the psion which gives them healing powers." And on and on and on.
We're not especially interested in material that blurs the line between classes, races, and roles. There are things that particular classes do well, and things that particular classes should not do well. The point of having classes and roles is to create clear character archetypes; blurring the distinctions runs contrary to what classes and roles are about. We aren't interested in turning psions into better healers, because doing so would only poach on the ardent's territory.*
Classes have limitations by design. An article which expands a class's options needs to focus on what defines that class and respect those boundaries.
BUT, if you want to explore the psions-who-heal space, there's another route -- look into multi- and hybrid classes. We have yet to see a suitable proposal exploring what hybrid characters of any type can do. I'd like to run articles showcasing what can be accomplished with the existing multi- and hybrid-classing rules; there seems to be a lack of appreciation among many players of how potent and flexible some of those options are.
Think about that carefully before proposing any redshift article. If what you want to do sounds like a combination of what two classes already do, then scrutinize the hybrid option carefully before suggesting a unique approach. If your peculiar character concept can be achieved with a hybrid, that doesn't knock it out of contention as an article. Quite the opposite; we want some articles exactly like that.
So there's a challenge for aspiring writers—examine the hybrid and multiclass options for inspiration on your next cool character concept.
Here's challenge #2—identify a class or race that has a clear deficiency you'd like to see addressed in the magazines. Do you think that beastmasters are weak because they can't keep up damage-wise with other strikers? Figure out a good way to fix that problem, then send a proposal** that clearly outlines both the problem and your proposed solution. There's a discussion of this topic already taking place in the forum; have a look there for inspiration if you need any. Even if you don't want to write such an article but have a suggestion to make, that's the place for it.
* Much the same can be said of races, although to a lesser extent. We're not likely to run an article that describes a clan of shifters who live in the Elemental Chaos and dress and act like githzerai. If you want to play a character who hails from the Elemental Chaos and dresses and acts like a githzerai … well, then we recommend that you play a githzerai.
** The address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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