Tag Archive | Underdark Campaign

The Underdark Campaign – The End

After however many months, it comes to an end. The Underdark Campaign over on The Under Empire Forum has come to a close.

My own contribution amount to no awards, and a position mid-way down the leaderboard. Particularly average, though disappointing when one considers that I took on the newsletter duties, and the occasional leadership role, in any faction I was in. Apparently it is all about how many backs you stab, or players you rip off. But hey, that’s cool. That’s the name of the game.

But since it is all over, I thought I would add my own observations and suggestions.

Firstly, I was disappointed that the short stories dropped off fairly quickly into the game. True, it was difficult keeping track of what everyone had written, but it helped to flesh out the world. Unfortunately everyone fairly quickly worked out that the gains of writing a story weren’t worth the time it took to do it. I mean, you got 5 spoils for doing absolutely nothing, so why spend hours trying to scrape up one more? I would like to see the use of short stories better integrated into the mechanic, if they are going to be a part of it. How this could be done, I don’t know. Even a sum of spoils awarded to the best fiction piece for that turn could be an incentive.

Player inactivity was a problem. For instance, there was a player in The Syndicate of the Council that joined, and for the twelve or so turns he was a member he didn’t spawn a character, contribute to the faction, or even post on the forum. Some hard rules needed to be set to clearly define an ‘inactive player’. Three turns of not contributing, with no explanation, seems like more than enough reason for ejection from the game.

I liked how complex the game was, but the rules weren’t very clear from the outset. It took me a couple of turns to get the hang of it, and even by the end there were still those who didn’t understand even some of the basic operations. I also wasn’t very fond of all the implied rules. Like for instance, you spend 1 spoil to buy 5 regiments. This was clear enough, but nowhere did it say that each of these 5 regiments could be put onto separate nodes. Evidently you could, though I strongly disagreed with this rule. It should be one purchase, one node. So those who had a grasp of this unwritten rule had a distinct advantage.

While we are talking about advantages, I think it was The Syndicate that started out with one. Their faction was made up largely of previous campaign players, while the other factions contained a mixture of veteran and new players. This allowed them to steamroll the game early on. While this forced some players to get a better grip on how the game functioned, it also pushed a whole lot of players away really early. This just doesn’t seem like the optimal situation.

Spying was a part of the game, but over zealous espionage forced faction tactics talk and movement decisions into the world of private messages. I was terribly disappointed when this happened, as this was supposed to be a game where you were working with a team. Instead it became one player portioning out bland orders to other players who just had to cut-and-paste them into their battle report. I discovered, especially when I was running a faction, that this caused a lot of players to become disconnected. They weren’t really involved in the game anymore, having been relegated to pawns. And that is not even a metaphor, they were literally pawns! Faceless things to be ordered about and moved around.

The mine in the centre of the map was a good idea. It gave something for the proceedings to centre around. However, The Syndicates early steamrolling meant that the mine became insurmountable, and the main crux of the campaign fell to the wayside in campaign play. Though I think this was a product of the players actions and the game mechanics, rather than a fault in the mine idea itself. Still, it was sad to see one of the campaigns main story points quickly fade into the background.

Some people didn’t like the two-week turns, but I loved them. It gave me time to actually digest what was going on and then contribute. Especially handy when things got extra busy. Though I must admit, the short turns really helped to push The Syndicate of the Council to their later successes. For some reason we just seemed to respond better to the short timeframe. Either that, or we were insanely lucky.

Now that I have The Underdark Campaign under my belt, what would I like to see in a future campaign? Well for starters, I think it would be interesting to not just run an individual character, but play as a whole clan. I also think it would be interesting to burden players with their own secret missions, objectives that they can accomplish to gain bonuses. For instance, off the top of my head, 4 spoil reward for each Special Project in your faction that you sabotage for failure. I suppose I’m interested in introducing something that forces players to not just blindly follow orders they are sent. They have to decide between towing the party line, or achieving the personal goals they have been given. It could wreak havoc if included badly, but I think done right it could add that hook that will keep players interested for longer.

A movement mechanic with a bit more finesse would be nice, too. The current system meant that the more movement you had, the more power overall you had as you could also attack each node you moved into. There was no real trade-off for being fast, where as there was for being focussed on other attribute upgrades. Using the clan idea could be an interesting part of the solution, as taking your clan in a certain direction could lock you out of some upgrade options.

While the map was artistically beautiful, the individual aspects of each node became superfluous fairly quickly. Using a map is a good idea, but perhaps something better than moving from node to node can be enacted? Personally I would like to see something a bit more amorphous, a map that represents the factions power levels and success, not just what little caverns they occupy. The factions radius of influence could directly correspond to the map area under their control. Perhaps they nominate what direction to spread  their power, trying to envelope handy bonuses on the map in the process.

In the end, I understand running something like this is quite an undertaking, and I applaud the guys that made this thing tick. I wouldn’t have changed anything about it, it was a great, fun and frustrating game that had a rollercoaster like momentum. I’m just hoping that this can be used as a base to learn from, and to bring something even better.

The Right Paw of the Council

It has been a while since I talked about the Underdark campaign, and this seems like a good opportunity to do so.

Things have been interesting. I was leading The Twilight Host after blader decided to abdicate, leaving me with a severely hamstrung faction to manage. I tried a couple of risky gambles that didn’t pay off, and our faction slowly was eaten away by disaster after disaster. We did manage to just hold on, though.

The first ‘rebel’ faction of the game showed up, Tha Shoom Boyz, a collection of orc and goblin players who are slowly expanding over the map. Their progress seems slow, but they don’t rely on warrens to produce troops, so they have a distinct advantage. Shortly after these guys showed up The Blood Hunters cut a notch out of the Syndicate, though they aren’t looking to healthy lately.

When things were looking bad, a representative from Clan Rictus extended a paw of servitude and offered a bunch of players the opportunity to switch factions. A slew of players from the Twilight Host and the Syndicate took the offer, and now The Right Paw of the Council has an impressive first turn presence.

I like where things are going now. A couple of turns ago the map had really become stagnant, there wasn’t much movement, and there generally wasn’t much of a reason to pay attention. Now the map is flowing again it means getting in and playing is a lot easier. And writing short stories has become attractive again. Though there is the convoluted miasma of the background politics to wade through if you want any story to have any kind of connection to the game.

And now a little recruitment post. The Right Paw is looking for more players to fill out our slots. If you have what it takes to be nasty, spiteful and only look out for yourself then you would be perfect for the Underdark campaign. Hop over to the Underempire Forum, sign up and request to be put into the Right Paw faction.

Between a rock and a sword through the ribcage

Can you believe it is December? I can’t. It seems like only yesterday I was lounging at my computer pretending to look for employment. Now twelve months later, I am shelling out for a house. Crazy. Now seems like a good time for an Underdark Campaign update.

Things have been going from bad to worse for my faction, the Twilight Host. The Deathcave Syndicate is systematically annihilating both us and the Chosen. We have our problems, but the Chosen are being hit hard. I’m not too sure what their strategy is, or what they are planning, but on our end we have almost universal indifference. To be fair, 90% of the players in our faction have been eerily silent or coldly blasĂ© since turn 2. So I don’t know why, by turn 7, things should be any different.

I am having fun, though. As a writing challenge alone it is quite challenging. Trying to make the uncontrollable and largely unscripted happenings in each turn morph into a single, cohesive story is proving quite the task. Lump on top of this the almost palpable air of desperation that has permeated the Dark Host and Twilight Host, and you have quite the thriller of a game. It is sad that so many people couldn’t keep with the program.

On the one hand, I can see why so many have dropped out or just lost interest. But on the other hand, these players made a commitment, and should be boiled alive for dishonouring it.

Sorry, I’ve been on a megalomaniacal streak lately.

It is quite possible the campaign is finishing up soon. If the Syndicate doesn’t fragment, and manages to wipe the map clean, then that is game over. Everyone gets a warpstone token and a pat on the head. Job well done. Another sordid page of the UnderEmpire history books successfully spoiled.

The Twlight Host

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It has been a while since I breached the subject of the UnderDark Campaign. With good reason, really.

Things haven’t been doing so well. In the last couple of turns the Dark Host has taken a pasting from the Chosen, while the Surface Warlords became the punching bag of the Syndicate. With Darkpit, the Dark Hosts base, taken and the Surface Warlords losing all their warrens, it looked dire. So dire in fact that members of both factions decided to do something drastic and merge the two flagging entities. And thus was born The Twlight Host.

While I was against the idea, and still am, it has bore some interesting fruit. I now have a bunch of like-minded individuals on my side. True they are pathetic surface-things, but still, you take allies where you can. The aim now is to, well, not die a horrible, horrible death.

It’s the small things that count

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Today was a day of tiny advances.

I put together eleven claws hands for my Plague Monks/Mechanics. There are five monk hands outstanding now. For those I’ll do some other designs of claw, to mix it up a bit.

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I also finished gluing the plasticard frames onto the crates. While I was at it, I also used Milliput to fill in some of the more unsightly gaps.

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While I had some Milliput mixed I thought I might as well fill in some of the gaps on the Plague Monk/Mechanics too. I must admit, the sculpting tools I bought have really helped to speed this process up a lot.

Lastly, the first turn of the UnderEmpires ‘UnderDark Campaign’ has finished. In my typically selfless manner not only did I look after a more official version of the factions vote for an overall commander, as well as submit my own moves for the turn, but I also put together the faction newsletter. I pretty much assume my letter of gratitude is in the mail.

This is love

Honestly, I was trying to avoid this blog turning into just links to other more creative and industrious people than myself, but them’s the breaks, eh?

Any spare time I have is being spent on the Skavenblight Gazette. I think I have said this already, but this issue in particular depends on some pretty tight timing. There are two seperate pieces of content that are particularly time sensitive. Trying to pull everything together is turning out to be more of a hassle than normal, but I’m determined to stick with it.

Over on the UnderEmpire forum sign up for the new skaven campaign, Underdark, has started. Yes, the unintentional ripping off of a particularly famous D&D location has been mentioned already. I have signed up to the Dark Host faction.

I decided to not run Clanlord Trask as my character, as I am trying to build his story around the army I am currently putting together, which already has an established location and overall story in mind. Instead, I decided to dive into my back catalogue of characters and pull a Warlock Engineer from my Warhammer Quest days out. Brink Vagrant featured in a couple of quest in a Warhammer Quest campaign that I ran almost seven years ago now. It seems like a good opportunity to dust him off and try and let him make his mark on the world.

That segueways well into the next thing I wanted to cover. Warhammer Quest is one of my favourite Games Workshop games, so I was quite excited when I came across this project created by NIcodemus on the Chaos Dwarfs Online forum. Seriously, I think I am in love. This is certainly going onto my list of useless but cool things I have to do one day. He has really come up with some interesting was of solving a whole host of problems, not the least of which is what to do when the boards are on different physical levels. This whole thing is just very, very impressive. If such a thing existed, I would give this fellow the Warhammer Hobbyist of the Year award