Friday, April 22, 2011

Boats & Ships Map Pack

On the one hand, last Friday I crapped all over using miniatures in an RPG game, and expressed pleasure at having (basically) personally ended that.

But within the same week I was browsing at The Compleat Strategist in Manhattan, and ran into a delightful product I couldn't help but pick up: Paizo's GameMastery Map Pack: Boats & Ships.

As you may know, I'm fond of running some D&D-at-sea games, and for that it really benefits you to have at-scale ship deck plans if most of the action will take place on that platform. In the past I've used several copies of black-and-white maps that I print & assemble at home. But no doubt this product blows that away: great, full-color, well-designed, accurately-scaled (in both realistic terms and classic D&D-type statistics), on sturdy cardstock, in convenient 8x5 inch tiled pieces (i.e., half-page, little brown booklet, stick-in-your-white-box size). As miserly as I am, I simply had to buy it. Really wish something this well-thought out and designed had been available years ago.

A couple drawbacks so I'm being fair: (1) There's more masts than I'd want for the technological level I presume; the sailing ships have 2 or 3 masts, whereas I like cruder cogs with just 1 or 2 (to give some nod to the historical period when both sailing cogs and viking-style longships were feasible options). (2) The viking longship has too few rowing benches and oars (positioned every other 5' square, when there should be one every square; but that's easily hand-waved). (3) You can't have two parties fighting on the same ship design if you own just one pack (whereas you can print off as many copies as you like of something from your home printer). You might also want to tape the tiles together or down to the table when you use them.

Philosophical point to conclude a week of miniature wargaming-type stuff: While I'm now fond of avoiding miniatures for in-the-dungeon, single-character RPG stuff (lower level?), I do like being able to run proper outside wargame-type stuff at a larger scale, I want that part of the D&D endgame (higher level?) to be retained and to work "right", and there's all kinds of advantages and traditions to miniatures for that. And on that continuum, I think that naval games present a very nice transition opportunity (mid-levels), where the PCs are leading a single ship's crew of men in the dozens or scores, and adventuring on the wide-open ocean. If possible, and in line with OD&D, I like to switch between high-level mass action and man-to-man deck melee within the same game. And if you do that more than once or twice, having nice ship deck plans helps the experience enormously.

(Photo by me. What appears to be an enormous cat is really a sleepy, polymorphed gold dragon on a lonely isle at sea.)

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