Saturday, June 23, 2018

5 Pregenerated Characters for your Through the Breach Campaign

One of the hardest parts of doing a demo game is putting together pregenerated characters. It's a time consuming, but necessary part of putting together a quick demonstration game. To help with that, here is a party of mercenaries that can be plopped into most games as necessary. Feel free to use them for demos, drop-in or replacement characters, or if your players just like and want to use them for whatever. I created them for Gencon several years ago as a mercenary crew from a failed contract town named Revival. They have good story ties to each other, but are free to be useable in a number of different game settings. If you do use them, just let me know how it goes.


Thomas Burnham

The Burnham family spent the last three generations rising quickly in the ranks of the Guild through savvy purchases and political gambits. By the time the second Breach opened and the call went out for workers to travel to Malifaux to start collecting the wealth of Soulstones waiting there, Thomas Burnham was in a prime position to become one of the first overseers to cross over.

He was assigned to Contract Town #8 - later renamed to "Revival" - and for a time, things were great. Money was flowing like water and the town's renown was growing by the day. To everyone watching, Thomas Burnham was set to catapult into the upper rung of society once his time at the mine was finished.

Unfortunately, the Soulstone vein running beneath the town dried up earlier than expected and Thomas was out of a job. He applied for a position at a new mine, but the Guild wasn't interested in paying him even a fraction of what he made at Revival, so Thomas bought the last rifle in the general store and convinced the town's sheriff, Logan Dimmer, to join him as sellswords for the highest bidder.

Logan complains endlessly about his joints and his back and how he's only working until he can earn enough money to retire, but Thomas has seen the glint in his eye; he knows a born adventurer when he sees one.

Unfortunately, their first job (cleaning Neverborn out of a portion of the Quarantine Zone called Beggartree) ended up costing more money than it earned, and hurt his reputation with the Guild. To try and avoid future embarrassment, he thought he would fill out their crew's ranks. He hired a few other mercenaries and purchased the contract of a convict, Mary Finnegan, who he suspects might possess an affinity for fire magic.


Logan Dimmer

Logan is the sort of man who, from birth, has seemingly always been drawn to scenes of violence. Born the son of a Texas Ranger, he learned to shoot a gun and swing a saber about the same time he was learning to tie his shoes. He's seen action around the world: from exploring the darkest parts of Africa to traveling to the far east.

Logan came through the Breach and settled in the Contract Town of Revival as old age started to creep into his sword arm and arthritis into the wrist of his gun hand. He can barely fire a pistol straight anymore, but he can still swing a sword just fine, though he pays for it the next morning.

What he couldn't have counted on after becoming Revival's sheriff was the town's failure. Just when he was giving thought to setting down his guns and taking up a life as a farmer, the mines dried up and the people left. Forced to take up the mercenary life in order to fund his impending retirement, Logan is looking for one last job to get enough money to buy his land, and then he's going to retire.

He's joined up with the town's former mine overseer, Thomas Burnham, in the hopes that the two of them can watch each others' backs. The "Beggartree Incident," as the papers described the Revival Company's efforts to clear out the Neverborn from the Quarantine Zone of the same name, was supposed to be his last job, but the financial troubles it brought on them has only delayed the process. He's told Burnham he's only interested in getting the money he needs to retire, but the younger man keeps trying to convince Logan that there's plenty of work to be had for the two of them.

It's just like the young fellows to always be yapping their mouths and never listening to their betters...

Herman Wipple

Herman was abandoned on the steps of a London orphanage at a young age; exactly what happened to them or who they were is unknown. At the age of twelve, he was adopted by the local mortician and undertaker, Arthur Wipple, who needed someone with a strong back to dig graves. It wasn't what you would refer to as a loving home, but it was better than sleeping in the gutter (even if the occasional out-of-town gravedigging job actually required sleeping in a gutter from time to time).

Herman grew up strong but alone, and when his adopted father died, he decided to try his luck in Malifaux, reasoning that such a deadly place would have great need for a gravedigger. He was only on the job for a few days when his shovel started talking to him, telling him to travel to the badlands to a new contract town. Herman barely noticed the mine closing or the town going to ruin, as the demand for his services stayed constant throughout. When the town mayor, Mr. Burnham, asked him to start working for him personally, he thought of it as moving up in the world, even if it just meant smashing in the occasional head from time to time before digging the graves.


Susie Quince

There are some who say that no Quince has ever done an honest thing in their life. When Fast Harry Quince was caught running a confidence scam in London, there were few who shed a tear over his arrest. His wife, Susie Quince, was one of those few.

Pregnant and with nowhere to turn, Susie scrounged as best she could before giving birth in an alley and giving her child over to an orphanage, where he could have a better life than what she could provide. She survived through desperate means, stealing food when she could and breaking into houses when she couldn't.

Eventually she ended up making her way to Malifaux, where she fell in with a bandit crew that had aspirations of joining the infamous Barrows Gang. Or rather, their leader had aspirations of being the  man to kill Parker Barrows and claim the bounty on his head, but that went south in a bloody way and Susie was the only one to escape.

She contemplated returning to Earth and was about to rob someone for a ticket out of town when she was approached by Thomas Burnham with the offer of a job. Susie didn't care about trying to make some coin by helping the Guild, but the young man next to him was the spitting image of her husband...with her eyes.

Feeling the long-dormant sting of maternal love welling within her heart, Susie reluctantly signed on with Burnham in order to watch over her offspring. She's still debating whether or not she should tell Johnathon that she's his mother, or whether it's better to keep that door closed forever.


Mary Finnegan

Born in Ireland, Mary came to Malifaux as a young woman with no aspirations beyond someday taking over the ownership of her father's pub. She was happy to ply her hand at bartending, cleaning, and preparing food, though she sometimes found small burn marks on things she touched.

Everything changed after she spent an evening entertaining some customers with her singing voice, which Mary (falsely) believed was quite lovely. The regular patrons suffered through her performances out of fondness for her and her father, but when a new patron made a joke about how she sounded like someone strangling a cat, Mary saw the awkward expressions of the patrons and realized they had been patronizing her for years.

The anger rose up within her, and with it came the flames that Malifaux had gifted to her upon her journey through the Breach. The tavern burned to the ground, killing seven people and severely burning just as many, including her father.

Nobody was quite sure exactly how the fires started, which is likely the only thing that kept her from the Witch Hunters' attention. People seemed confident enough that Mary was involved, however, and that earned her a quick trial at a Guild courthouse and a sentence of life laboring in the mines. She was shipped off to the small Contract Town of Revival, where she spent a few months laboring in the nearly dry Soulstone mine.

When the last vein finally dried up, Mary was surprised to learn that her contract had been purchased by the overseer, Thomas Burnham. Despite her attempts to keep her growing powers a secret, he seemed to have his suspicions about her...and worse yet, he planned to drag her into the deadly Quarantine Zone as some kind of mercenary. She managed to survive that first debacle, but any hopes of a quick release disappeared, as Burnham seems set on continuing in this line of work and throwing her into danger. If only she had her freedom...

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Overcoming the Dog Days

               The dog day doldrums of summer are very much upon me. That might be why posts have slowed down from Malifaux Musings. Or, it might be the fact that I’ve found a new job and will be relocating to Cedar Rapids, IA in a couple of months. Or it could be that the Malifaux I’m playing right now falls into the category of “things I can’t write about for various reasons, some of which rhyme with ‘Blen-Dee-Aay.’” Also, there’s the fact that Wyrd’s in Con season mode right now, but hasn’t started posting about whatever the new releases for Gencon will be, yet. I assume the big push will be The Other Side, which releases officially in July, but it would be weird if there was NOTHING coming for Gencon. There have certainly been a lot of pictures of new models coming on the Monday Previews every week, so I’m sure SOMETHING’s in the works, but I’ll be damned if I have any idea what it is. As such, it’s kinda tough to write about it (outside of “ooo, that looks neat.”)
                 I’ve got some ideas for posts on Through the Breach, one specifically where I give you some pre-made Fated characters you can use to for demos or a Wanted Poster Malifaux post about the Jack Daw-Lazarus-Guilty Spam list I’ve heard about, or Zip or Nellie crews. Additionally, I’ve been considering running a league over Vassal (though the pending move has made that less appealing at the moment. I’m about to have a lot on my plate.) If you have anything you’d like to hear about on the blog, feel free to mention it in the comments and I’ll pull out the good stuff.
                It did occur to me, however, that I may not be the only one feeling the doldrums. After all, we’re well into the Gaining Grounds 2018 season at this point, and we’re reaching the end of the Wave 5 season. The good stuff has more or less been found. Most of the models are at least on the release schedule, though not as many as one would hope, of course. And, much as I hate to write about it, I think that some of the top-level Malifaux competitive diversity is being stifled by some of the top-end masters which will hopefully be getting addressed with the July Errata. As the Flippin’ Wyrd team has espoused several times, the top-end competitive meta currently boils down to playing one of the top-end 2 masters, Sandeep or Nicodem, or playing an alpha-strike crew that can jump in and kill the opposing master on turn 1 or 2, which is the only reliable way to stop a Nico crew (you can play for early scoring schemes and win that way as well if Nico misses some of his, but the only SURE way to beat Nico is to take him down before he can get his snowball rolling downhill.) That doesn’t encourage list diversity and punishes players for experimenting, which isn’t great either. Ben Sime from Arcane Reservoir experienced a bit of this in a small tournament recently when he tried to bring out Marcus’ Venomancy upgrade and was rewarded with a first round pairing against Nico. Bad times, and not a great encouragement to keep trying new things rather than plop down the tried-and-true reliable stuff.

Now, I’ll say that this is probably an exaggeration (probably) but sometimes even the perception that the meta is stagnant can lead to it becoming reality. In any case, there are reasons why some folks may be experiencing their own version of the summer-time blues when it comes to Malifaux. So I thought I’d write about some ideas for how to get yourself around the ho-hums.

1)     Try a new crew/faction

This is probably what I’m going to be doing in the near future. If you’re in a rut with the crews you’ve been playing regularly, that probably means it’s time to try some new stuff. Malifaux does a pretty respectable job between factions of creating diversity and difference of feel. Neverborn move fast but are brittle. Guild hit hard. Ten Thunders have pushes and hand out focus. Obviously there are exceptions or models that don’t match up with the overall theme, and the last couple of waves have introduced a lot of models that have incidentally homogenized things more than they used to be (Kentauroi giving Rezzers speed, some of the new Fae stuff giving Neverborn some resilient models, etc.) But still, trying a new faction or even just a new crew within the faction you play can do a lot to reinvigorate your interest in the hobby. I’m personally getting tired of how fragile my Neverborn tend to be, as it makes every play and choice you make in the game potentially game-breaking, as you can accidentally walk into the deaths of your models by putting them in the wrong place or failing to anticipate your opponents’ moves. I’ve been looking at Perdita or Hoffman to try and switch things up, as a consequence.

2)     Try a new format

While the Standard Gaining Grounds tournaments have their place, tournaments using a different format can help to add some diversity and spice to your Malifaux experience. The success of the Iron Scorpius event at Capital City Meltdown speaks to how hungry many Malifaux tournament players are just to try something different. Grow leagues, fixed master, team tournaments. All of these can add some diversity to your game and get you thinking outside of the boxes we put ourselves in. Assuming I manage to get it off the ground, the Quick and the Dead format I’m going to try and use for my online Vassal League would be one example of this.

3)     Play for fun rather than victory points

Sometimes we just have to lighten up a little. I’m particularly guilty of this. You can lose track of the fact that we play these games for fun. While there are prizes/bragging rights on the line, ultimately we’re here to have fun. So, maybe it’s alright to bring out some suboptimal crews or play a meme list. It’s ok to occasionally pick less effective schemes to try and see if you can pull them off. How many times can your totem strike the killing blow on an enemy model in a tournament? Hoffman falls into this category for me. His W5 upgrade cards made him better, but he’s still in no danger of becoming a “top-tier” master, or even a crew that can compete with them. But, on the other hand, big stompy robots are fun, and they’re probably my favorite paint-job. Plus, I like the Breaking Bad style story Hoffman’s been undergoing over the course of the game. So, yeah, I might start giving him a go just to see what he can do.

4)     Take a break for a little while

If all else fails, there are worse things than stepping away from Malifaux for a while and letting the game sit for a bit. Much as I don’t admit it on this blog, there are other games out there. Step away for a while and try other things for a bit. Games Workshop has released some new skirmish-scale games that have been fairly popular. There’s always Infinity, or Blood Bowl. As I mentioned above, The Other Side is coming out next month, so you can keep that “Malifaux” feel while trying something different, an army scale game! You could turn over to the dark side and go play 40k, I suppose. Or you could give miniature games a rest all together and go do something else. Malifaux’s not going anywhere, and you can always come back to it when Wave 6 comes along, or if some future developments in Malifaux change your perception.

               In any case, I hope some of these ideas are useful to any of you who are struggling with your own Malifaux doldrums. As mentioned above, if there are any topics you’d like to see me write about in Malifaux Musings, feel free to pass them along.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

What To Do When Bad Things Happen: Failing Forward in Through the Breach

             One of the most frequent mistake RPG gamemasters make is tying the progress of the story to success of a skill roll or challenge. Admittedly, there’s no point in playing a game and having the characters test their skills if the possibility of failure isn’t present. However, unlike the real world, the objective of a TTRPG game is to tell a good, interactive story. If your hapless Bounty Hunter misses his search flip and fails to spot the key clue that solves the mystery, the game stalls and the fun stops as the players begin the “success shuffle,” where everybody takes turn searching or throwing out other possible solutions until eventually you get the result you want, them finding the clue that points them to the killer. The real tragedy of this situation is that the players know what’s going on, and so do you, but the social contract of “the game” makes it so Fatemasters feel like they’re required to go through this grind to do it “right” or to make their players “earn it.”

 Here’s a secret: you aren’t.

If failure isn’t interesting or entertaining, there’s no point in having them fail. No one will have a good time throwing flip after flip at a problem and hoping that one of them will finally be the severe you need to move ahead with the story and get them out of the stall. As such, I will often end up not having a player flip at all if I feel like there’s a bit of information they need for the story, particularly if I know one of the Fated is trained in the relevant skill, or at least tier the amount of information they can require so even on a failure they get something, but the primo information requires a greater degree of success. It’s not worth the risk of having everything grind to a halt. However, that isn’t really a fix all solution, either. If you’re not going to have flips in the game, it’s really just a cooperative storytelling experience rather than playing an RPG. 

Another tool I reach for (and which I’m going to discuss today) is the idea of “Failing Forward” or “Succeeding at a Cost.” In it, when the players fail a flip, you allow the success to occur but penalize them in some way for the failure or introduce a complication to go along with the success. Maybe the clue they were needing from the earlier example is found, but they end up compromising it in some way during the course of finding it. Possibly, they tilt the oil lantern they’re carrying too far forward during the process of picking up the clue and set it and/or the room in which the Fated are searching on fire! In this way, you keep the game’s story going forward but also introduce a negative consequence of flipping badly on the challenge. If they need a particular piece of specialized equipment for a mission that’s not available through normal vendors and fail the check to find somebody who has it, maybe you let them purchase the item from a shady vendor in an alleyway. Later, the Fated discover that the tool in question is stolen or illegal and buying it has put them in trouble with the law. It doesn’t always have to be that dramatic, of course. Maybe they’re looking for someone particular in the city, and the failure puts them in a situation where they find the information they need from their network of informants, but they either put themselves in debt or cancel a debt someone owed to them in the process.

To swing things hard in the other direction, at other times you’ll want to really put the screws to your players for failing at something. Fairly often, the most entertaining TTRPG stories come from situations where the players fail spectacularly and then have to find their way out of trouble. And, after all, this is Malifaux, and Bad Things HappenTM. While avoiding failure on a challenge with no consequence or which will stall the story and hold up the game is a good idea, making it hurt when your players fail at something important is just as important to make sure your players stay invested. The first example I can think of for this in RPG history was the use of critical fumble tables in D&D, an optional rule where you could end up hurting yourself or others when you rolled a 1 on an attack. Most players who’ve used something like this in a game remember the time they lopped off their hand with their own broadsword, or something similarly gruesome. Through the Breach already has some elements of this in place for combat, in the form of the critical damage tables. Not only did you just get shot because you failed your defense flip, now your arm has also gone numb and you can’t grip your weapon anymore. Further, any good Fatemaster will have something designed for Ongoing Challenges as the consequence for the Fated experiencing a Critical Failure. The best versions of this are something that lets the characters have an option to recover, if they can overcome some kind of complication or encounter as a result of their poor flips/efforts. Having the party all die because of some bad flips during an Ongoing Challenge to escape a collapsing cave isn’t a lot of fun, but having the players end up trapped in a side cavern with an angry Grootslang is, and when it’s done they can figure out how to escape the now collapsed tunnel, possibly leading to another whole adventure as they delve deeper into the mountains looking for a second way out.
Perhaps more in keeping with the “Fail Forward” ideology is a mechanism from Cypher System games called the GM Intrusion, wherein the failure happens and the gamemaster uses that opportunity to add a complication that makes things worse. I love this system, and I think having something like this happen when players incur a certain margin of failure on their flips and/or when they throw a Black Joker feels very in keeping with the tone of Through the Breach. When I was playing in a game that featured a Mad Max style boat race/battle royal recently, I flipped the Black Joker for my attack with a pistol at one of the other boats. Not only did I miss, but the Fatemaster ruled that I had accidentally shot the engine of OUR boat, crippling our speed and making it much more difficult to win. You don’t want to throw in TOO many of these (somewhere between 1 and 1 per Fated per session is usually a good benchmark) but they can be a fun way of raising the stakes on your players in unexpected ways and maintaining that feeling of “Why doesn’t anything ever go smoothly?” that is so much a part of the TTRPG experience.

The key analogy is to use failure as a way of making your games more fun, rather than just frustrating. In a lot of ways, playing an RPG like Through the Breach is like doing improv comedy scenes. If the players say “I take an action to move the story along/attack the bad guy/introduce a new element to the game,” but the cards say “Nope, it doesn’t work,” that can kill the action. Your job is to introduce a “No, but…” outcome where the players either don’t solve the problem but have some way to go forward with the story despite this, or they succeed but in a way they didn’t expect and which makes their lives more complicated in the process. Your players may end up groaning at the time, but you’ll hear their thanks when they’re joking with each other later about how they had to save each other’s butts from the near-disaster you unleashed on them.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Quick and the Dead: Designing a new tournament format

               I have been experimenting with a format to try and conduct tournaments of online Malifaux since shortly after I moved to my current locale and realized how few players are nearby. Earlier efforts have led to mixed results. My first thought was to run a league with swiss style pairings. Early on, that looked to be working well. The problems began to creep up after a few rounds, when players started to drop off from lack of interest or motivation to keep playing after a few losses put them in danger of not winning. To address this, I’ve crafted a new ruleset, which I’m calling the Quick and the Dead format. It’s based on the single elimination tournaments that have been held off and on for a while now, particularly in the Gencon finals. I’ll post the ruleset here. My goal is to run a tournament this summer using this set. Any input from the community would be greatly appreciated.

Malifaux Musings Vassalfaux Tournament
The Quick and The Dead

Dates: TBD

Entry: $5 for general public, Free for Patreon supporters

Prizes: TBD

Rules: All rounds of this tournament will follow the Gaining Grounds 2018 ruleset, with the following exceptions:

-Crew Size and Composition: All players will, along with their entry, select a faction which they will play for the entirety of the tournament. Prior to Round 1, after strategies and schemes have been announced, players will construct a 25SS crew led by a henchman to use for their first game.
After round 1 has completed and round 2’s schemes and strategies have been announced, they will use the same crew from round 1 and will hire an additional 10SS worth of models and/or upgrades to it.
After round 2 is completed and round 3’s strats and schemes are announced, players will add a master to their round 2 crew, who will then become the leader. Any upgrades on henchman that are leader only may be switched to the master or discarded at this time. Any additional upgrades for the master must either be purchased from the remaining soulstones in the round 2 crew’s cache or by removing models/upgrades from the round 2 crew. No additional models or upgrades beyond the master or the master’s upgrades may be added.
Finally, after round 3 is completed and round 4’s strategy and schemes have been announced, players will add 15SS worth of models and/or upgrades to the previous round’s crew, bringing the total to 50SS.

-Tournament Format: The Vassalfaux Quick and the Dead tournament will be organized in a single-elimination format. Players will be randomly paired in round 1 into a 16-player bracket, and from that point on pairings will proceed down the bracket. The final winner will be the player at the end of the tournament with the highest overall tournament points, with victory point differential as a first tie-breaker and overall victory points scored as a second tie-breaker. If a player loses a particular round, their entry into the tournament is considered “Dead” and will no longer compile tournament points/differential/victory points. If players tie, both entries are considered “Dead,” and the opponent with which they would have been paired the next round will receive a bye. Those who wish to continue playing with others who are “Dead” will be paired up each round in a swiss style format. TP/Diff/VP will still be recorded for these players, and the one who finishes in first place will receive the “Golden Zombie” award (a mindless zombie painted gold.)  
At the beginning of a round, a strategy, scheme pool, deployment, and vassal map will be posted to the tournament dropbox, the Malifaux Musings facebook group, and into that week’s blog post. Players will then have 2 weeks to construct their crew, deposit it in the tournament dropbox folder, and play their game on Vassal with their opponent. If a game is not completed in that time, and one player can show a good-faith effort to try to schedule the game, the tournament organizer will elect to make the entry of the player responsible for the match not happening “Dead”. If neither player can demonstrate a good-faith effort to organize the game, or if both players made an effort but neither can be found to be responsible for the game not happening, the tournament organizer reserves the right to mark the entry of both players “Dead.” The tournament organizer will make every effort to avoid this outcome, if at all possible.
When a game is complete, players should submit their results to the tournament Dropbox folder, along with a screenshot of the Vassal board with the final score indicated (if possible.) If a rules dispute occurs and neither player can determine the correct ruling, players may either attempt to contact the tournament organizer to resolve the rules dispute immediately or, failing that, save the game, contact the tournament organizer for a ruling, and then resume play at a later date.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Through the Breach Bits: Introducing Soulstory and Presenting Three TTB FM Characters For Your Campaign

In honor of the launch of, to my knowledge, one of if not the first Through the Breach actual play podcast, I decided to go through some random bits and bobs I’ve been tinkering with for the roleplaying game. But before that, let’s mention the thing that inspired this, the Soulstory podcast.
Soulstory is, at first blush a standard Through the Breach game (I haven’t listened to all of them yet. They’ve put out a lot of content in the first couple weeks of life to try and push themselves up on itunes new podcasts ratings.) There are four Fated, whose stats are not currently revealed to the listeners, including a bounty hunter who fancies himself a ladies man, a guild fighter with a dark past, a doctor with PTSD and an ability with fire magic, and a murderer on the run. They are thrown together in the initial game session by being tied to the same mission to cleanse Malifaux rats from the city. If you’ve never heard of an actual-play cast, the crew runs an RPG session and records it before publishing it to the wide world. Some of them can be just raw audio, but SoulStory is edited and produced to make for a smoother listening experience. Also, they’re putting the rules behind the story for the time being, particularly the intricacies of the + and – flip mechanics which can be a bit intimidating for newer players.
I’ve been listening to actual-play pods for a very long time. They’re a good way to hear new adventures and pick up some game mastering tips. Since then, the introduction of the wildly successful Critical Role Dungeons and Dragons show and the advent of twitch streaming has caused them to explode in both quantity and quality, which thrills me to no end. I have been thinking for some time that Wyrd needs a Through the Breach version of these, and had considered throwing my hat in the ring, but ultimately decided that I didn’t have the time or technical knowledge to make it happen. I’m excited, then, to see Soulstory making the first moves into this venue. If you’re interested, go to and give them a listen and, if you like what you hear, give them a rating on itunes or whatever pod rating things are out there.


So, some Through the Breach quick hits. A while ago I started tinkering with ideas to put into a Through the Breach game at some point in the future. As of this writing, most of my time playing the game is spent playtesting upcoming Through the Breach stuff (wait till you see what’s coming in part 4 of the worldwide event, folks. It’s pretty cool.) This, of course, is not something I can write about. Also, Phiasco’s using the rules engine to run a game of Firefly, but that doesn’t always make for great fodder here either. As such, the detritus has collected in a notebook. Time to share some of it with the world.
I’m more of a fan of the Badlands area than Malifaux proper, if I’m being honest. It’s not that I hate the city or anything. More that the frontier is more of a blank slate in which I can paint. That’s the reason for the original creation of my campaign hook, the Phantom Line, being set out there. I’ve since come up with some other stuff from the wilderness I’m workshopping. Here’s what I’ve got so far.

Now imagine they could shapeshift into hawks or...*shudder*...bears 

                  The New Chiricahua is a tribe of Native Americans that relocated to Malifaux to live in the wilderness rather than accept relocation to a reservation. The idea came from one of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History casts called Tears of the Apche, detailing the numerous conflicts the US army came into with that tribe, leading up to the last break-out Geronimo led in the 1880s. I was a little stunned that the Apache were still such a threat even that late in our history, and I was more than a little sad that these knowledgeable frontiersmen and warriors eventually lost simply due to lack of numbers and resources. I wanted to give their story a different ending.
In the history of Malifaux, Neverborn refugees transferred to Earth long in our world’s past through one of the lesser known breaches, intermixing with the native American tribes and crossbreeding with them. Over time, this Neverborn blood has become diluted, with only a few of them showing any inclination towards magic. Some of this was awakened with the opening of the first Great Breach in the 1790s, leading to many of the local tribes regaining some of these latent powers. Still, the Black Powder Wars and the strength of the US army (backed with Guild resources, of course) were more than these Apache rebels could handle. Eventually, led by the famous medicine man Geronimo, the Chiricahua broke out from their reservation and ran into the hills, guided by a vision to a small breach in Arizona near Skeleton Canyon. With the Guild’s troops hot on their heels, they knew their only hope lay in escape. The small breach, however, wasn’t large or stable enough for them to pass through. Seeing this, the ancient leader channeled his life force into a ritual to temporarily force it open, letting his people pass through before he collapsed. The Chiricahua found themselves in an ancient, unknown land, and Geronimo died a free man, saving his people in the process.
Meanwhile, the Chiricahua had to learn to survive in Malifaux. The ancient Badlands are honestly not that different than their homeland, and the awakened magics in their blood helped them to adapt and thrive by channeling the elements or shifting their bodies to take on aspects of the creatures they’d long worshipped. They’ve come into conflict with the Neverborn over time, but have since made an uneasy peace with the locals. Both sides raid each other periodically, but both understand that this is done culturally as part of avoiding escalation to a larger conflict, rather than as inevitable steps towards a battle that would only end in grief for both. They have spent the intervening years making a new home for themselves, and have watched with some trepidation as humans have returned through the “second” breach. Hostilities seem inevitable, and the Chiricahua find themselves trapped between their own species and their erstwhile Neverborn “allies,” trying to find the best ways to survive and protect their new way of life.


Herman Wipple came to Malifaux, a penniless nobody floating from one scheme to the next with no prospects. He soon found himself on the wrong side of some ill-advised investments with the Katanaka Organization, on the run from debt collectors. One evening he found himself in a place that is always welcome to those who are down on their luck but with a glimmer of untapped talent: The Honeypot Casino. After one evening with the good stuff, Wipple could be found standing on a tabletop in the saloon, expounding on the many merits of his particular brands of tonics and snake-oils to a delighted audience until the earliest hours of dawn, and the establishment’s proprietor found himself a new sales opportunity.
The Honeypot is a fantastic way to channel Brilliance into the community of Malifaux, but the outlying towns and districts are another matter. To spread the Hungering Darkness’s influence there, Lynch has taken the man into his employ and given him a store of the drug to peddle in the contract towns of the Northern Hills or the Badlands. “Professor Wipple’s Cure-All” is thus sold out of the back of the man’s wagon to unsuspecting rubes as a means of easing their various maladies, facilitating work crews to put in extra overtime and work more efficiently, and inspire the intellectual to greater feats of creativity or magical alacrity. When, weeks later, the cure-all runs out and Professor Wipple’s cart has proceeded down the road to the next stop, a voice in their ear directs them to the Honeypot to get some more of the good stuff, with none the wiser as to the source of this debilitating addiction.
Wipple’s success has so-far managed to keep his debtors at bay and keep the Hungering Darkness from coming to claim him. The more he sells, the longer he gets to live. But, he knows in the back of his mind that he’s living on borrowed time, and a bad week of sales could end him forever.


It takes a lot to make a tribe of Nephilim particularly notorious. The average human probably couldn’t tell one of the purple-skinned creatures from another if their life depended on it, so the fact that the Pale-Mark tribe is whispered of in taprooms and stagecoaches near the Far Peaks should give an indication of the level of savagery to which they have descended.
Nephilim attacking humans is not a new thing. Nephilim drinking blood or consuming flesh also is nothing new. But Nephilim descending on livestock, horses, wild animals, or even other Nephilim and consuming them entirely is something else. Rumor has it that they wandered off from their people’s forests to live in the mountains at some point in the distant past, either being driven off as exiles or choosing to make a break with the other tribes. Eventually, they found themselves trapped by a severe winter that drove them to the brink of death and forced them to turn to cannibalism to survive. And, in doing so, they accepted a deal with an ancient entity of hunger and cold, which has since driven them nearly to the point of madness and cannibalism. There are other whispers that members of the Pale-Mark have been seen working with some of the wild-men from the northern mountains, though these are almost too ridiculous to be believed. What is known is that something has started to drive them down from their mountains, and they’ve been preying on stagecoaches and settlements ever since. What’s caused this is unknown, but it seems like someone is going to have to go deal with them before more innocents are sacrificed to slake their endless hunger.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

State of the Blog, and How I Would Win The Iron Scorpius

It’s been too long since the last time I put something out. This makes the 2nd time in a row I’ve skipped a week between posts, and that’s not the commitment I made to my patreon backers, and that’s not acceptable. The underlying reason is the same one that most people have: life happens and you get busy. I’m in the process of interviewing for a new job at the moment and my wife is in the final stretch of finishing her nursing degree. Things are a little busy around Malifaux Musings HQ. But still, people are giving me some cash to put these things together, and I have a commitment to making it happen. That said, part of not having a lot of time is also not having a lot of bandwidth in my life for playing multiple games of Malifaux, which also means not having nearly as many good ideas for content. So, bear with me if you see more Through the Breach material or hobby posts in the coming weeks. I promise things will settle down at some point in the very near future and the blog will go back to “normal.” It's also likely that you'll see the day of publication pushed to Sundays, as I have more time to work on the posts over the weekend. 
Those of you who are Facebook friends with me may have noticed that I deactivated my account last week (though I posted to it so infrequently that it may not have made much of a difference, to be fair.) I have several reasons for this. First of all, as a researcher I know what is required to conduct psychological experiments on human subjects ethically, and I don’t consider a waiver buried on page 10 of a 12 page EULA to be “informed consent.” Facebook tinkers with their algorithm to try and find the right content to ensure you stay on it for as long as possible, collecting data on their users’ viewing habits and optimizing from there. This is unethical research, and I’m done supporting it. It doesn’t help that more and more they’ve tweaked it to show things that make the user upset, either. That “trending” column in the upper right links entirely to stories that make me angry, and I’m willing to bet the same is true for most of you. If you’re a gun control advocate, you can bet that all of your friends’ posts in favor of the second amendment will be shuffled to the top of your feed and vice versa.
None of that was news to me, however, and I’d put up with it for a long time. A couple of weeks ago, however, the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, revealing that 1) they were collecting browsing data not just on you, but also on the people on your contact lists regardless of whether they had signed the EULA or not and 2) that they had started selling that information to political and advertising agencies. Even that may have just been another piece of aggravation, but shortly thereafter my grandmother was contacted by some scumbag in Ohio who told her that I had been thrown in prison in Cancun, and that she needed to send them $2000 and not tell anyone about it, or I’d never be seen again. So, yeah, informational security is kind of forefront on my mind at the moment. Deactivating facebook doesn’t immediately fix that problem, but at least it removes an entity that has repeatedly shown itself to be unworthy of trust.
There’s a problem, of course. I promote this blog through Facebook. Most of my post traffic comes from people clicking in from A Wyrd Place. If I want to keep this thing growing, I need to maintain some level of access to this tool. To address this, I created a dummy account for Malifaux Musings and gave it administrative control of the blog’s facebook page. So, any content I produce from here will still be available on FB as usual (though I would still encourage as many of you as are willing to shut their FB down as well. Nothing would make me happier than to decide it isn’t worth my time to cross-post my links to three different FB groups every week.) Nothing should change, but I don’t check FB with any kind of regularity. If you want to talk to me, use @MalifauxMusings on twitter. Slide into my DMs, and I’ll be happy to chat. Or look for Agentrock on Wyrd’s forums.
Anyway, enough about that shit, let’s talk about silly plastic toys.


1)     Congratulations to friend of the blog Jamie “The F’n Red Dragon” Varney for his victory at the Welsh GT a few weeks ago. The organizers of the UK GT events had the cool idea to theme the prizes and trophies around the various nations’ national symbols/animals. The Welsh flag has a Red Dragon on it. Given Jamie’s proclivities for faction selection, I can only imagine that the results looked something like this.

2)     The Obsidian Gate Through the Breach event is still chugging along. Fated around the world are pooling their efforts to keep the Oni sealed away for the good of mankind. Are you doing your part? If not, sign up here (or get your Fatemaster to do it), grab a Fated and join in. No experience with the rules are required, as quick-play rules have been included for people new to Through the Breach.
3)      Finally, a fond farewell to Aaron Daarland, the mecha-tyrant of Virginia and lead designer of Malifaux for the past couple of years. He's moving on to greener pastures (or at least one with less Gremlins in it.) I'm sure we all wish him the best. 


Next weekend, friend of the blog Travis Weyforth of Max Value fame will be running his Capital City Meltdown tournament in the DC area. They’re sold out, but they have a waiting list and people always drop from these things, so if you’re still interested I would consider contacting him.
One unique thing Travis has introduced for this tournament is the Iron Scorpius prize. This is a prize for the player in the tournament with the best record who plays a different master all five rounds, and it’s one of the smartest prop-bet style prizes I’ve seen in a Malifaux tournament. I doubt even he expected the number of participants going for it to be as high as it seems will happen, but just about everyone I’ve heard from whose attending is at least mulling over going for the prize. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the trophy for winning is this fabulous model painted by Craig Shipman.

So in lieu of having real games to tell you about, I thought I’d have a go at theory crafting how I’d approach each round if I was playing for the IS. I won’t be able to attend for reasons mentioned above, and even if I did I would be in no danger of actually winning the thing, so I’m not spoiling anything for myself. So let’s get to it.

Round 1) Standard, Ply for Information, Surround Them, Show Of Force, Set Up, Vendetta, Inescapable Trap

               My thought for this round is summoning Pandora. That crew typically brings a wide swath of enforcers who can carry cheap upgrades to score Show of Force, and Baby Kade is a dream model for Vendetta with his Lure to score the first point, high combat ability, and low soulstone cost. Models that want to Ply my models will have to walk into the bubble of badness that is overlapping Tannen/Widow Weaver/Tuco/Pandora/Poltergeist/Sorrow auras, which helps the crew out. I think this gives us a good groundwork to build from. Plus, Pandora can bring her Fugue State upgrade to penalize the models that do come in and take interacts.

2) Corner, Squatter’s Rights, Eliminate The Leadership, Take Prisoner, Set Up, Covert   Breakthrough, Dig Their Graves

               It’s been well over a year since I played Squatter’s Rights, and I’m struggling to remember the last time I did it with Neverborn. It may be reflective of this, then, that my first thought is “Ok, well, that means time for Sillurids.” I know they’re expensive and fragile, but they have Leap and they can handle their business for this strategy. Gupps supposedly can do the same job for cheaper, but 1) They also are even easier to kill and 2) I don’t own any of them. I’m tempted to try and lean into this even further, bringing a swamp fiend list with their From the Shadows upgrade. Maybe I could get a McTavish to carry the upgrade? Idk, that may be overkill since this is Flank Deployment. This is the one where I’ve got the least initial ideas. In any case, the Master and the other crew members will probably be busy fending off the enemy crew. I’m thinking the Titania and Barbaros crew, with Hoody as back-up. She’s free points for Dig Graves. Since Eliminate is in the pool, I’m thinking Pact with the Grave Spirit to help bring down the enemy Master.

Round 3) Flank, Headhunter, Eliminate The Leadership, Recover Evidence, Vendetta, Take One For The Team, Hold Up Their Forces

This one’s a pretty easy call, as Lynch with Cheating Bastard is made for Headhunter. Bringing in Beckoners who are able to cheat second on their Lures means, chances are, you’re not going to have to come far out of your comfort zone to drop some heads from the enemy. The rest of the crew would be hitters like the popular Hooded Rider/Nekima combination, or perhaps Stitched Together if my opponent makes me worried about shooting. Vendetta is in the pool again, so a Beckoner-Lure to get an easy 2 points at least is in play. I’m leaning towards Eliminate for the second scheme since I’m planning on doing a lot of killing anyways, though that would be dependent on who I’m facing. Dig Their Graves is also a strong option, since Cheating Bastard potentially lets you get some easy scheme markers down.

Round 5) Corner, Symbols of Authority, Punish The Weak, Dig Their Graves, Show Of Force, Search The Ruins, Take Prisoner

This one is going to require mobility and defense, so I’m thinking Lillith here. She and the Hooded Rider are there to play defense, using Root and oversized swords to discourage runners from getting to my Symbols markers. I haven’t had a chance to get Tuco back out since he became cheap enough to consider using, so he may be just as useless but for one stone less. However, placing him with From the Shadows behind a symbol that’s distant from the enemy crew seems like it could be useful to get one symbol down. The others will have to be acquired with a combination of crew mobility and/or Tangled Shadows. The crew typically brings a lot of enforcers and henchman, so again Show of Force is likely to be a good scheme choice. Lillith and Nekima are more than capable of scoring Punish the Weak if the enemy crew is vulnerable to it. I’m not a huge fan of Take Prisoner, as there just seems to be too many ways for it to go wrong during the game, but it’s probably my back-up plan if I don’t think Punish is going to work.

Round 4) Will be announced prior to Round 4 on Sunday.

You’ll notice that I skipped round 4, and that’s because we don’t know anything about it yet. part of Travis's personal plan to make Alex Schmid crazy (and I suppose test people's crew building abilities) is to make folks wait until Sunday morning to learn what the fourth round game will be. I left Collodi for this round, because he can be built to do most scheme pools and strategies and because he’s the master I know best out of the faction (outside of Lynch, I suppose, but I’ve had more recent experience with the Puppetmaster.) For the time being, I’ll leave the post like this with a blank here. Next Sunday, I’ll add an addendum here and in a new blog post updating it with how I would build a crew to respond to the actual scheme pool.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Two Crews You Need for Tournament Play

I owe you a blog post for this and last weekend, but I'm a little light on content and time at the moment. Here's some random thoughts, and a look at the Through the Breach worldwide event.


I’ve had the idea kicking around in my head that there has to be a compromise between “Build a new crew every game for the strats and schemes” and “Play fixed list every game, regardless of the set-up.” Both have their merits. Going with the former philosophy puts you in a position to minutely tune your crew to the game you’re going to play, while the latter lets you master the operation and synergies of each model in your crew. They both have drawbacks as well, though. If you change your crew completely every game, you run the risk of becoming a jack-of-all-trades master-of-none type player, while if you stick with one crew to exclusion you become predictable to opponents and leave yourself inflexible when the strategy and scheme pool strongly favor a different crew than what you brought. As an example: I’ve been playing a lot of Cheating Bastard Lynch recently. I don’t like it when the cards turn on me, so I like his manipulation of your draw and ability to stretch the value of the cards in your hand by forcing the opponent to cheat duels they don’t have to. This crew works well in a lot of scenarios, but its reliance on a bubble (well, two bubbles) means that Symbols of Authority, for instance, is a tough strat for that crew.
So, to find a compromise between the two, I’ve been refining a theory that the best way to approach tournaments is to have two crews pre-built: the one you like and the one that fixes the bad matchups of the crew you like. Since most of the time this split falls along one specific access for me, it tends to come out as “One crew that focuses its strength in one place, punching into the enemy in one specific location and then holding it” versus “A crew that can spread wide around the field and operate relatively independent from support.” There are obviously elements of both in most games (the strategy is something like Turf War, for instance, but the scheme pool is full of stuff like Undercover Entourage), but usually you can focus on one plan of attack and then make up what’s necessary from the other points after executing it.
As mentioned above, one of the options for my close-together crew is Jacob Lynch. You don’t have to be completely bunched together with them, of course, since the cheating aura comes out of both Hungering Darkness and Mr. Lynch, but this crew still works better when operating in tandem. If half the crew is outside the cheating aura on a given turn, you aren’t getting all of the value from the upgrade that you should be. Some other options with which I’m toying are Summoning Pandora and Fated Collodi. Collodi is more mobile than some of the other options on here, which means he’s actually one of the few examples of a master that can run both types of crews, but the Collodi playstyle with which I’m most familiar keeps him close to the rest of his crew to provide mutual support for most turns of the game. I’ll fiddle with them to decide which I want to use for if/when I go to a tournament next, but at the moment Lynch is in the lead, if only for sentimental reasons.
My spread out crew is in a bit more flux. As an unintended glitch, most of my games lately have been involving the bubble crew, so I haven’t had as many opportunities to try new ideas here. Lilith has classically been my go-to here, and that hasn’t changed much. Bringing her along with a crew of heavies (Nekima, Hooded Rider, etc.) that can spread the offense and interference around the board while the rest of the crew either lends them a hand or runs objectives is a pretty simple strategy for this one. Mama Monster’s biggest competitor in my head at the moment is Zoraida. Lilith is good at interfering with the enemy team between her root and tree-summoning abilities, but she’s surprisingly fragile in close combat and her primary trick, Tangled Shadows, has a CA value just low enough to be unreliable as a means of disrupting the enemy. Zoraida’s Obey actions, on the other hand, can provide both disruption of the enemy plans as well as offensive attacking power by triggering a charge by the aforementioned heavy hitters in exchange for 1 master AP, a pretty good deal. While Zoraida’s never going to kill anything on her own, the Will o’ Wisp summoning and condition shenanigans plus stealing the opponent’s heavy hitters to use against them can substitute for some of this. For some more direct interactions, I’ve considered Titania, as a recent test game underscored just how much more survivable she’s become. And then, of course, there’s Collodi, possibly with Bag of Tricks or possibly still with Fated but letting the crew spread out a bit more. He has no shortage of mobility due to friendly crewmembers being able to push him with his defense trigger, and his attack is the definition of disruptive.
The point is, I think there is a sweet spot between the two extremes of tournament crew building. You don’t have to lock yourself in and master one crew to the exclusion of everything else, but you don’t have to learn the whole faction to do well either. Find some middle ground, master two crews that complement each other, specifically one crew that excels on doing their work up close and one that does better operating as individual models rather than a unit. Then you just have to tweak things here and there to reach a high level of mastery and tactical flexibility.


The Obsidian Gate worldwide Through the Breach event is in full swing. Fatemasters are leading crews of Fated Earthside to try and stop a plot to weaken the barrier between the material world and the realm of the Oni. A crew of misfits (what else could pregens be, really) including a shapeshifted Siren, a former compatriot of Sherlock Holmes, an Abyssinian engineer and his companion Redati-5, and a Japanese version of Michael Scott from The Office, along with a slew of other possible characters for fated to play, enter a Buddhist monastery just as disaster is about to strike, and are wrapped up in a plot to stop a cult's evil plans, facing enemies that defy comprehension. Sign-ups are still going on for new Fatemasters, and the Fated character that receives the most play will become a character in The Other Side! Plus, quick-play rules are included to help those unfamiliar with the RPG to learn and get playing as soon as possible. What do you have to lose? Sign ups continue for another week or so, I think. So sign up!