Saturday, April 29, 2023

Coming up: Cobra Trooper Week!

The momentum of attention on the internet is a really interesting phenomenon...all those little incidental details and quirks that cause one idea to fall by the wayside while another goes viral.  I've drifted in and out of Reddit participation over the past few years, and I see things all the time that just make me...wonder.  I'll dig a little deeper into a subreddit and find a great post that leaves me thinking, "Wait, why am I just the third person to upvote this?"  And then some stuff, for whatever reason, just takes off.

"Takes off" would be a bit of an overstatement for what I'm transitioning into talking about, but the sentiment applies here.  The G.I. Joe subreddit is one of the main ones I visit these days, and I've posted a couple of things there.  I recently started what is almost certainly one of the lowest-effort threads I've ever initiated on Reddit - some pictures of my Cobra Trooper action figures with their code names - and it probably got the biggest reaction of anything I've posted.  I mean, I had definitely noticed that the denizens of the sub (a very friendly place, btw!) often just like to see pictures of toys.  Which is understandable.  It's a sub about toys.  But still...I was surprised.  The most groundbreaking aspect of the post is that one of the guys is holding a hockey stick.  So...not groundbreaking.

Blast Beat, Apostle, and Hat Trick

At any rate, I certainly ain't complaining, and it's inspired me to try and make this upcoming week officially Cobra Trooper Week here at Monstrous Matters.  I need to get some character backstories and game stats down on digital paper, and this is a great chance to do it!

I hope you'll join me.


Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Looking for thoughts on abilities for a 5e combat leader!

For the next little stone in the wall that is my effort to put together a set of rules with which to play with my 3.75-inch toy soldiers, I'd really like to nail down a Commander class.  (Appropriate that I used a wall as a metaphor for one of my hobby endeavors?  Maybe...)  I did a little rundown of the classes I want to start with HERE...for reference, I'm looking for a Soldier, Driver, Medic, Scientist, Commander, and Ninja.  Today, I shall speak of the Commander.  Also, as fair warning, I'm about to ramble...there's a TL;DR in italics below...

I think a Commander class is important for a few reasons.  First, I simply believe it's a fairly critical archetype in the genre, so that the roles of characters like Hawk, Duke, and Cobra Commander are covered.  I also think enough games have included a battlefield leader role that its utility and (ideally) fun are pretty well established.  I'm thinking specifically about classes from the D&D 3.5 Miniatures Handbook and the 5E-based modern ruleset Ultramodern5, both of which include a Marshal.

Finally, I really want to have a class that can be used to level up the leader of a warband over the course of a toygaming campaign, and adding to their leadership capabilities seems like an appropriate way to go about it.  The Miniatures Handbook, once again, had this slot filled by the Warlord class, which was a super-simple prestige class that really only applied to miniatures campaigns.  A level in Warlord, if memory serves, gives a character +1 to attack bonus, +1 to Commander rating (a value specific to the miniatures rules), and either +10 HP or +5 HP and an extra use of a spell.

I want the classes in this game to remain fairly simple anyway, so why not have a Commander class that does something similar, enabling quick-n-easy leveling in between battles, while also serving as one of the core classes?

One approach that seems to work is to give a battlefield leader the ability to impact combat simply by being among the troops.  The 3.5 Marshal has auras that grant bonuses to other troops, and the Ultramodern5 Marshal gets Command Presence abilities.  This is probably the way to go, although the direction I'm leaning is to give Commanders a small set of "commands" they can give with an action (or maybe bonus action), with a successful roll having the selected effect on the battlefield.  I'm thinking of things along the lines of Bardic Inspiration, but with a chance of failure, and possibly the ability to attempt one every round.

If these scale with a character's level in the Commander class, then advancement in power along with advancement in levels may take care of itself without even having to add abilities as the character progresses.  I suppose that might go against the intentions of "bounded accuracy" as it's built into 5E, but I really like the simplicity of it.  Players can know that all Commanders are able to try X, Y, or Z each round, and the magnitude of the effect is connected to level.  Nice and straightforward.

Oh!  And I do have plans to incorporate a sort of Commander rating into the activation mechanic of the game, so having that increase with Commander level, as it does with the Miniatures Handbook's Warlord, will also be a benefit for campaign play.

Okay.  So that's where my question for you comes in, my friends.  What are the key abilities that should be built into a Commander?  What is that X, Y, or Z that they can attempt each round?  A choice of bonuses to grant to those around them?  Handing out extra actions?  Extra HP?  Should they be able to choose different difficulty classes to have differing magnitudes of effect?  Should it just be simplified such that all abilities use the same target number?

Are you still reading?  Well...thank you!  For the rest of you, here's the...

TL;DR   I'm putting together a very simple Commander class for an action figure battling game based upon D&D 5E.  I'd like to give them (around) three different actions that they can attempt each round of combat, with successes granting boons to allies on the battlefield.  These abilities will scale with the Commander's level and should be simple and iconic enough that they can be easily remembered as the standard traits of a Commander.  I'm open to any and all suggestions as to what seems fun and fair!

Thanks for reading all this, or even skimming to this sentence...and please let me know if you have any thoughts!

Saturday, April 15, 2023

So, what are the G.I. Joe classes I'm looking for, exactly?

It's about time I put pen to paper in sketching out this game I have dancing around in my head, in which I get to play out scenarios with my 3.75-inch action figures.  G.I. Joe is a clear focal point for the first iteration of the rules, and I want to use D&D 5E as the mechanical skeleton.  So what classes do I need to include to make sure I have a complete enough base for the game?

Well, I have to start with the class that may just do the most work for me, the Soldier.  I outlined my take on it for this purpose in a post HERE, and my first crack at a character of the class is in a post HERE.

And then there are the drivers.  Part of the beauty of the 3.75-inch scale has always been the production of vehicles in scale, and the various operators of said vehicles are kind of a class in themselves.  Sometimes, of course, it may make sense to treat the drivers as soldiers with a specialty...


...but sometimes there are drivers who really have no need to be treated as soldiers...

Also from

And of course, at some point my Joe figures are going to have to cross over with M.A.S.K., CHiPs, the Dukes of Hazzard, Smokey and the Bandit, Dom Toretto and family, etc.  So...I think a Driver class is certainly in order.

What about medics?  Hmm.  It could be argued that some sort of specialist class could cover this and all sorts of other skill- and tool-based roles.  The healer, though, is sort of a tradition in these types of games, so I do like the idea of keeping it separate.  Maybe I could even take a route like the one explored in Ultramodern5, where medical skills are "game-ified" a bit by making some of them function kind of like spells.  Okay...Doc,'re Medics.

Oh yeah, and Scientists!  That's what I do, so I'm biased.  Maybe I'm the same class as Dr. Mindbender...?

This may be getting out of hand.  I'll ignore other sorts of specialists until it becomes vital, and that still leaves a couple that should probably be included.

The Miniatures Handbook is a D&D 3.5 supplement that I've always really enjoyed and which is a big inspiration on what I'm trying to do with this game.  The Marshal and super-simplified miniatures-campaign-only Warlord classes (plus the 4E Warlord) are worth looking at for inspiration on some sort of Commander class.

And of course, this is G.I. Joe.  So there have to be Ninja.  Or Ninjas.  Have never been sure which to write for that in plural form.

Yep, you guess it... from

Alright...that leaves me with Soldier, Driver, Medic, Scientist, Commander, Ninja.  That's very doable.  Time to get cracking.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

A file card for Gearhead...

I'm still planning to stat out Gearhead for gaming, but it's taking me a minute to settle on exactly how to handle driver types in the game.

You know what I can do, though?  Make a file card!

(The Filecard Creator can be accessed HERE and is a lot of fun.  Let me know if you know of alternatives, as I'd love to try them out.  FWIW, this one's really easy to use and was clearly made by someone - or multiple someones - who really enjoy(s) the property!)

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

I had Bard and ChatGPT fill in the backstory for my kitbashed G.I. Joe character. This is what they gave me.

This past weekend, I took a little time to put together a "new" G.I. Joe character from pieces of some of my childhood figures.  A little work with a screwdriver and a bit of sloppy paint later, and I had this guy:

Naturally, I wanted to figure out the story behind this new Joe.  Something about the goggles and gloves...or maybe it has a little bit to do with the fact that his head (from Breaker) is the same mold that was used for Clutch...had me thinking he's a driver/mechanic type.

Then, I did what makes the most sense to do in April 2023 when you'd like a character backstory:  I asked a computer.

I started with Google's new chatbot Bard, with a simple request:

Create a GI Joe character, with a code name. He should be a driver and mechanic.

And Bard, true to its programming, delivered quickly (bolding by me, btw)...

Sure, here is a GI Joe character I came up with:

Code Name: Wheels

Real Name: Robert "Bob" Smith

Occupation: Driver and Mechanic

Nationality: American

Height: 6'1"

Weight: 190 lbs

Hair Color: Brown

Eye Color: Blue

Backstory: Bob Smith was born and raised in a small town in the Midwest. He was always fascinated by cars and trucks, and he knew from a young age that he wanted to be a mechanic. After high school, he went to trade school and became a certified mechanic. He then got a job at a local garage, where he worked for several years.

One day, Bob was approached by the GI Joe team. They were looking for a skilled mechanic to join their team, and they were impressed with Bob's skills and experience. Bob accepted the offer, and he has been a member of the GI Joe team ever since.

Bob is a valuable member of the GI Joe team. He is a skilled mechanic, and he is always willing to help out his fellow teammates. He is also a brave and courageous soldier, and he is always ready to fight for freedom.

Bob's code name, "Wheels," is a reference to his love of cars and trucks. He is always seen driving around in one of the GI Joe team's vehicles, and he is always up for a race.

Bob is a great friend, a loyal teammate, and a skilled mechanic. He is a valuable asset to the GI Joe team, and he is always ready to fight for freedom.

All right!  Wheels.  Not terrible.  Not terribly clever, but not terrible.  A solid first effort for a bot that may or may not have ever been tasked with creating a Joe.  I's a pretty straightforward origin story, so Bard probably hadn't put a lot of thought into it until that very moment.

Let's see how its more famous colleague ChatGPT fared...

Create a GI Joe character, with a code name. He should be a driver and mechanic.

Code Name: Gearhead

Profile: Gearhead is the ultimate driver and mechanic for the GI Joe team. His real name is Jack Riley and he hails from a small town in the Midwest. He's always been fascinated by cars and mechanics, tinkering with engines and machines from a young age.

After completing his mechanical engineering degree, Jack joined the army and quickly made a name for himself as a skilled driver and mechanic. He was soon recruited by the GI Joe team for his expertise and passion for all things automotive.

Special Skills: Gearhead is a master of all types of vehicles, from tanks and helicopters to motorcycles and speedboats. He can fix any mechanical problem on the fly, and his driving skills are unmatched. He's also an expert in demolitions and can rig explosive devices with precision.

Gear: Gearhead's signature vehicle is a custom-built, heavily armed jeep that he personally designed and assembled. It's equipped with an array of weapons and gadgets, including a missile launcher, smoke screen, and night vision system.

Personality: Gearhead is known for his cool demeanor under pressure and his unwavering dedication to the mission. He's always eager to get behind the wheel and take on any challenge, no matter how dangerous. He's also fiercely loyal to his fellow Joes and will stop at nothing to protect them.

Okay, so not sure if many folks are going to actually take the time to read through those, but I just want to point out that both bots created a character from "a small town in the Midwest."

(Hmm.  Springfield, perhaps?  Kinda crazy either way.)

So, I'm sold on that detail.  Also, Gearhead.  Not bad!  Once again, not great, but not bad, and probably better than Wheels.

Now...time to work out some gaming stats for Gearhead.  Maybe the bots can handle that for me too...

Also, relevant: