Friday, December 31, 2010

Thursday Night Gunfight

Welp, Heron (the Iron Goat) was back last night for our Thursday night Baranof game, but Randy and Matt were both gone (along with Luke and Dave...still) so we only had four players at the table. This time, I gave 'em a choice between FOUR games:

D&D (Goblin War or one-off)
Top Secret
Star Frontiers (my own space opera game not being ready for play-testing)
Boot Hill

They opted (unanimously, I might add) for Boot Hill.

Vince actually showed up late to the party, so the other three had already decided on Boot Hill before he got there. His reaction? "Awesome! That game rocks!"

Having put together an adventure idea over dinner with my wife that evening (well, really, I had her design the scenario), I was actually more-or-less prepared for the session, using the NPC stats from "Promise City" in the basic game. Fortunately it wasn't long before lead was flying (knives, too), and while Vince's crazy Mexican, Machete, was killed everyone else made out like (figurative) bandits...including Vince's 2nd character (and you thought B/X D&D was quick to roll up a character...chargen in Boot Hill takes half the time or less!).

At the end of the session, we decided that the characters would be kept and saved for future sessions when we were "light" on players. Love it.

Asking AB (who was much more sober this evening than last Thursday) what he found appealing about BH: "Well, besides being fun, it is very simple and yet realistic...if you get shot with a bullet you're hurting and if you get shot twice, you're probably dead." This latter was seen as a feature of the game, though the quick and simple character generation is necessary to achieve that feeling (who would find it fun to be blown away in a game when chargen takes an hour plus? Sorry, Deadlands...).

Heron pointed out that as kids, his friend had used the Boot Hill "system" (!!) to run a variety of different genre games, including post-apocalyptic Road Warrior scenarios. When you consider what it is, you can see that BH is actually an excellent vehicle (pardon the pun) for such settings, provided you don't mind modeling car chases with stagecoach rules. A stream-lined, deadly combat game it is decidedly "old school" in the amount of extra richness that needs to be negotiated between GM and players...but that's part of the fun.

AND the "challenge;" Boot Hill is decidedly a "challenge the player, not the stat-line" game. Last week Matthew's "Deadeye" character (with the maximum possible accuracy) was gunned down in a fight with guys well below his stature. This week his much-less-than-optimal character managed to survive (and line his pockets) against a group of much better shoot-fighters. How'd they manage that? By setting up an ambush/turkey shoot and blowing the bad hombres all to hell...and then later negotiating with the last bandito to surrender without a single shot being fired. Afterwards, Matthew remarked that he felt a real sense of accomplishment from having survived a session where practically the whole point can appear to be "how fast will my character get wasted?"

Pretty good for a "one-off" game.

It's fairly obvious I haven't seen the last of Boot Hill...I sure am glad I've kept it all these years. Maybe we'll run the Ballots and Bullets campaign (from module BH4) when the rest of the guys get back...I know they're itching to plug each other, too...and what better reason does one need than political differences? I can already see some players are going to gravitate towards different factions in the election...that will be a hoot!

All right...back to bed.
: )

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Eureka! Space Battles R Us!

Okay…so I spent much of today figuring out how I wanted space ship combat to work. The good news? I got it done. The even better news? It makes me excited to play the damn thing.


Right now, the rules aren’t in a “completed” form, just 5 or 6 pages of detailed notes and random tables….who knows how many pages this will blossom into once I’ve typed it up in a readable (and hopefully learnable format). I’m hoping it will take fewer than 8 pages (I’d sure like room for some examples!). However, they’re pretty simple, as well as fast…even faster than the old WEG Star Wars, if I did it correctly!

Wow…the boarding actions are cool, by the way. Not only does it model tractor beams with the same simple system as gun combat, I’ve got boarding actions a la Battlestar Galactica (the revised version)…you know, landing a squad of Colonial marines on an enemy ship with a Raptor transport? Dig it!

[MY Jedi don’t need no stinking R2 units to fight the “Clone Wars!”]

Anyhoo, I do have to write up the vehicle stats and run some scenarios to make sure it works all well and good. Getting the stats right will be important, as I don’t plan on including “vehicle creation” rules but want to have an adequate selection of models for people that want to do their own thang. One thing that helps…each vehicle has only three STATS and one CLASS. And there aren’t that many classes of vehicles (um, three to be exact). Well, each also has a number of weapon batteries, but I might even streamline that particular deal-i-o…we’ll see. Tomorrow, I’ve got the day off, so I’m thinking of putting together some LISTS for the game (specifically VEHICLES, MONSTERS, and EQUIPMENT). I mean, I have lists already, but I need to “fill in some blanks.”

Ooo-oo! It’s coming together, folks! Thanks to everyone who provided input on the subject over the last couple days.

: )

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Battleships and Broadsides

Ugh. I am having a heck of a time writing starship rules for my space opera game and part of it comes down to simple (if figurative) schizophrenia…there are two or three different tacts to take when doing starship combat and I am having a darn tough time figuring out which I want.

Maybe I should let you folks decide for me.

Or maybe I should just “write it out.” Here’s how it breaks down (as far as I can categorize it):

#1 Old School Pirate: this is the “Age of Sail” transported into space. Warships try to maneuver close to each other to unleash “broadsides” (blasting the hell out of each other at close range due to heavy armor/force screens). Bringing one’s ship alongside another is preferred, as it allows more of the warships weapons to target more of the opponent’s hull. Boarding actions with tractor beams and assault vessels mimic the swashbuckling pirate movies of old.

In real world history, this type of action was rendered obsolete by advancement in better guns (longer range)…and certainly a sci-fi game with spewing lasers and plasma cannons might do the same. Still, we’re talking fictional super-science…who’s to say those cannons don’t need to get close enough to penetrate deflector shields or super-heavy durallium armor?

#2 World War II Dreadnoughts: Warships are more like Space Battleship Yamato, i.e. huge, armored, mobile gun platforms. In the early part of the 20th century, the main arms race was to build the biggest, bestest battleship. Heavily armored and bristling with big guns, these behemoths used radar and smaller observational ships to fire over the horizon line, devastating surface vessels. No broadside necessary, and no boarding action appropriate.

In real world history, battleships became obsolete due to ascendance (literally) of air superiority. Small fighter squadrons with bombs and torpedoes could sink even the largest battleships for a fraction of the cost, and aircraft carriers became the preeminent capital ships of today. In classic space opera stories Battlestar Galactica and Space Battleship Yamato (aka “Star Blazers”), we see this treatment with combo battleship/fighter-carriers.

#3 21st Century Futurist: let’s face facts: I’m really not up on current military technology or where it’s progressing. People actually working for Boeing or who are in the more technical combat ops areas of the U.S. military (or who read well-researched science fiction published for today’s sophisticated connoisseur) probably have a better idea of the “shape of space opera to come.”

But that’s not me…I was just trying to make a game I could use for Star Wars that wouldn’t suck.

[EDIT: actually, now that I think of it, a “21st century take” on ship battles would probably be similar to films like Avatar, Aliens, and Starship Troopers, a la “marines in space” where it’s all about the deployment of the infantry-style fighting force supported by gunship fire. However, I don’t consider these films to be very “space opera” in scope or depth]

And speaking of Star Wars…Lucas’s approach to starship combat is a hodge-podge of everything. Episode IV showcases the classic pirate boarding action and WWII dog-fights; episode VI shows Battle of Midway type action (battleships AND fighter squadrons), and Episode III shows pirate broadside action between the huge-ass capital ships. Not to mention it throws in Lensmen-style screens and lasers (excuse me “shields” not screens), not to mention tramp steamer exploration/adventure (echoed later in Weedon’s Firefly).

What a mess. I mean, it makes glorious cinema (as in “fun, visual spectacle”)…but role-playing isn’t cinema, and the object isn’t to make a nice movie but rather, have fun playing characters in a virtual, imaginary environment.

Which leads me more towards option #1, even though it makes the least amount of sense (if space opera can be assumed to make any sense at all). Even though I would like to model Star Blazers (who wouldn’t?) or the Lensmen’s galactic planet-launchers, a role-playing game…at least THIS role-playing game…eventually boils down to individual characters and the actions of those individual characters. And if those characters can’t get close enough to get in on the action…if they’re relegated to shooting cannon-fire against foes on opposite ends of the solar system…then the game is moving from one of heroic individuals to one of tactical ship maneuvers.

And there are already games that do that.

However, here’s the problem with going the “pirate” route: the role of star fighters, specifically, and individual heroes who specialize in the “ace pilot” skill category.

If capital ships are so heavily armored that they need to get up “close and personal” to be effective against each other, then what’s the point of having fighter craft at all? In WWII (against those battleships that were shooting at each other from miles and miles of distance), fighters were a speedy option of taking the fight (in the form of a battleship-sinking torpedo) to the enemy. Dog fights were fought because defending fighters would be used to repel these dive-bombers and ship-sinkers.

But if ships are so heavily armored/shielded that it takes a broadside from another warship to make a dent, then what effect will little fighters have? And if those little fighters are ineffective, then what’s the need of repelling fighters? And if you don’t have multiple sides of fighters, then where’s the dog-fighting?

Reviewing Lucas’s films for how he reconciled this mish-mash doesn’t help too much…except for the opening battle with the Tantive IV, all of the original trilogy seems to be in the WWII style and the ship battle of the prequel trilogy are all in the pirate style.

That is to say: in the prequel trilogy, the emphasis is getting the characters on-board the ships (boarding actions, close quarters work, NOT dog-fighting). Even the “space battle” at the end of the Phantom Menace is barely battle at all…instead, it A) attempts to parallel Anakin’s actions (blowing up a space base) with that of his son (Luke blowing up the Death Star), and B) does this by getting Anakin’s ship ON-BOARD the space station. In this regard the final “battle” is more like a space “obstacle course.”

The space battle over Coruscant in Revenge of the Sith is a large scale pirate battle with broadsides and boarding actions designed to get the heroes on-board the enemy pirate ship, so they can have a few Erol Flynn style sword fights.

Whereas the battle over Endor in Return of the Jedi is like watching the space version of Pearl Harbor or something. No one’s trying to get “on-board” anything, and fighters are dog-fighting and dive-bombing while long range laser blasts are blowing ships to Kingdom Come.

[by the way, I don’t consider the asteroid “battles” in Episodes II and V to be battles at all, but rather chase sequences, a la James Bond or any modern action movie chase sequence. “Chasing” in an RPG is simple enough to do, though as it generally comes down to dice-rolling, it’s important to have a good risk-reward system in order to provide the proper in-game tension]

Ugh! Lucas! But of course, it’s no use yelling at HIM…his creation is aimed at creating good cinema and spectacle, not in making sense. It’s ME that’s trying to come up with a particular consistent RPG universe.

Hmm…maybe I DO need to ignore the damn prequel trilogy…

[and just by the way…I’ve had the damn Star Blazers theme song stuck in my head for the last two days. How annoying is that?!]

Monday, December 27, 2010

Phantom Menace = D&D 4th Edition

One of my Thursday night players recently posted a comparison between Star Wars Episode I and 4th Edition D&D on their company blog. It's fairly funny, even if I have found myself with kinder thoughts for the prequel Star Wars films of late.

You'll notice that he mentions dying a lot in my games. Jeez, never whine like that to my face!
; )

Sorry, for the lack of posts today...I say, "sorry" because I did have time to post and have just been lazy. Well, kind of...I've been doing research today on my space opera game, mainly attempting to figure out how I'm going to do starship combat. I know what I WANT it to be like, but I just need to figure out how to do it...I've been looking at a variety of different game systems (including the old WEG Star Warriors, SW Miniature Battles, board games, and existing RPGs), and, of course, the starship "fight scenes" in the various Star Wars movies. The end result? I'm going to have to knock-off my own rules, I'm afraid.

I also spent a bit of time checking out Mr. Maliszewski's Thousand Suns RPG today, down at Gary's. Is anyone playing this game right now? Just curious on what folks think of it.

All right; hopefully I'll have a more substantive post tomorrow. Hope people weren't too grumpy to be back at work today. Hey, New Year's is just around the corner!
: )

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Twas the Day After Christmas...

...and the wife and I are sacked out on the couch watching the Seahawks game and vegging.

Got my brother a copy of Labyrinth Lord and his own dice (for our Thursday night games). He returned the favor with a copy of Stratego: Star Wars Saga Edition.

I've always loved a kid it was one of those board games my family never owned, but which I played at every opportunity. It's a quirky little game, that has a poker-like quality to it (reading your opponent) and has the wonderful military command structure that has fascinated me for many years.

[military ranks, chain of command...I've always loved these things. The way a huge, chaotic fighting force could be managed by a simple paradigm of order and communication. I have often thought I would enjoy being a peg in the military machine...if I didn't have such a huge aversion to killing real human beings]

And, of course, Star Wars...goes without saying I'm a fan (especially the weird optional rules that allow one to model the betrayal/conversion of Anakin Skywalker...I look forward to trying it out).

Yesterday, I was at Christmas Mass, thinking mostly about "churchy things," but I had some interesting (to me) thoughts about religion and RPGs. I want to develop my thoughts a little bit before posting anything about 'em. And right now, I'm a bit distracted by the 'Hawks game.

I do think there are some interesting things there to discuss, though.

Hope everyone's enjoying their weekend...I'll post more this week (including more on Boot Hill), but probably not today.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas...To Me!

Hope everyone's having a great holiday (or gearing up for a great holiday OR just gearing up for a nice weekend). Been busy all day...since the moment I got up. Which was fairly late, since I went to be bed LAST night around 1:30 or so.

However, the festivities this evening were quite nice, so no complaints about the business (or me sheer exhaustion...little Buddy the beagle, curled up on the couch snoring, has the right idea). But man o man am I behind in my blogging! I've got two to three posts that need to go up besides this one...and that's not even counting additional "happy Christmas" wishes.

And speaking of happy Christmas: last night was our regularly scheduled Thursday night game at the Baranof in Greenwood. Role-playing at Baranof's during the holidays is a little surreal. For one thing, they have several "holiday drinks" on the menu that mainly consist of five parts straight liquor and a splash of eggnog. For another, there's a giant tree in the middle of the dining room, which means we are playing under the glow of red Christmas lights all night. For a third thing, the tree is decorated with individually wrapped Twinkies (I kid you not...a Baranof patron works at the local Hostess factory and provides them with fresh cakes, which are then stashed amongst the tree branches). We snack liberally from the "Twinkie Tree" all night while drinking our Christmas cocktails...that's just nutty.

So we anticipated at least a few folks being gone last night for the such, the Goblin Wars game was being put on hold for at least a week or two. Instead, we figured we'd do a little one-off action. Since it's my table, I brought two options: we could play a one-off D&D adventure, or we could play Boot Hill, one of my all-time favorite RPGs (though I didn't tell them that at the time).

They opted for the western game. Fan-friggin-tastic!

So we rolled up characters...which in Boot Hill takes even less time than B/X D&D. Since I didn't have extra books to pass around, I just read off the short equipment list and let them make their own purchases, as I read (everyone starts with $150 in Boot Hill).

Before I go any further, I should point out that despite being "short-handed" we still had five people show up, with only Luke, Heron, and "new guy Dave" being absent. Even Josh put in an appearance (though he didn't stay to play...just out running some errands for the wife and new baby, and wanted to stop by and wish us all a merry-merry...very cool of him).

Considering the limited budget and even more limited stat line of characters, it's pretty amazing the range of different personalities that showed up. We didn't get much into "character development" (I just wanted to get characters made and "get to the game") but in the future, I think a few random tables similar to my "random headgear" and "relationships" for B/X would be a great way to set up some basic backstory for the characters. As it was we had:

- the older, slower, experienced gunfighter that was a Deadeye (natural "00") shot
- the younger, extremely fast (natural "00") double-fisted gun-fighter with pretty lousy aim
- the crazy as f*** Mexican carrying 10 or so throwing knifes known as "Machete"
- the crazy as f*** other guy who spent all his money on a horse and carried only one weapon: his trusty scattergun
- the medium fast, medium accuracy guy with the six-shot Winchester (he was also carrying a bunch of knives)

We ran a couple practice combats so that folks could see how it all worked out, as well as get an inkling of the deadliness of combat. We found that sometimes it was better to be more accurate than fast (as the Deadeye was able to take down Mr. Greased Lightning with only a minor scratch in return), and generally its downright silly to take a knife to a gunfight (when the crazy Mexican got blown away by Mr. Scattergun).

Anyway, they were fairly pleased with their guys and ready to rumble, so enter the adventure: module BH1: Mad Mesa.

Mad Mesa is a solo adventure that can be adapted to group role-playing. Having played it solo several times in the past, it was something I was familiar with for a one-off pick-up game like this. In the non-solo version, "Uncle Zeke" has contacted his nephew (the lightning-fast kid) to help his discern the mystery behind some harassing-type action that's taking place at his ranch...the culprit appears to be in Mad Mesa (a small fictional western town in 1870 Arizona).

After figuring out how much a leather duster cost (we decided $4), the party (hmm...we'll refer to them as "the posse" from now on) rolled into town and immediately began to stir up trouble. While Rifleman and Deadeye checked out the office of one suspicious attorney Matt Brady ("NOT the famous Civil War photographer"), Lightning drew dead at the assessor's office and Machete and Scattergun drank it up at the Mad Mesa Saloon. Or tried to...they were a little light on funds (and they had really wanted to join the poker game). Brady wasn't at his office, but was eating lunch over at the Lazy A Hotel. The posse converged on the place while Machete went around to the back and ambushed the skinny attorney coming out of the outhouse. Brandishing a knife and yelling threats caused Brady to turn and run...and Machete hit him in the back with a knife.

The others quickly figured out there was a clusterf*** going on and made their way out behind the hotel where a little hard questioning resulted in the attorney fainting. Dragging him across the street to the local Doctor's they dropped him off for treatment and went looking for the one name Brady fingered before passing out: "Old Man" Russell, a local ranch owner with a lot of hired guns.

The posse was eventually pointed in the direction of the Babe Saloon, where they found 8 men, 4 women, a player piano (not a piano player), and a bartender. The men were in a heated discussion when Deadeye and Lightning came through the door, and they were asked to leave.

Deadeye tried the Fistful of Dollars approach, telling Old Man Russell "Matt Brady's been killed by a mysterious crazy murderer. You can hire us and we'll help you track down the killer."

"I've already got my boys," Russell gestured to the three men sitting close to him at the table, "and my friends," (he gestured to the other gents). "Haven't you ever heard of "Buckshot" Blume? I don't need any more 'help.'"

Lightning challenges Buckshot to a duel, "If I kill him can I take his place?"

The Old Man smiles wide, "Sure you can, sonny." Buckshot leans over to whisper something to Russell.

Lightning decides to pull his piece and smoke Buckshot right there and then. "Hey, he said 'duel on.' He's fair game!" Deadeye: "Whoa crap." Having complete surprise, Lightning manages to put two bullets in Buckshot, including one between the eyes, effectively backshooting the fastest draw in Mad Mesa. Deadeye skins his smokewagon and begins blazing away at the Russells as all hell breaks loose. "we're all going to die aren't we?"

Machete, hearing gunfire, comes in through the back door and puts a knife in Old Man Russell's back. Scattergun comes in through the front door and fires both barrels into the Russells' table, killing the Old Man and two or three of his sons. Winchester is right behind him, pumping bullets into the crowd.

A lone rifleman that the posse had been ignoring, lifts his piece and calmly blows scattergun all to hell, before putting a bullet into Winchester. "Skins" MacGregor is the second best gunfighter in the Russell's employ, and a deadeye shot with the rifle. Before anyone else can knock him dead, Skins pumps several bullets into Deadeye, killing him. I don't remember if Lightning put him down or Rifleman...but eventually, everyone was dead except for the women and the bartender (who fled the scene).

The posse decided it was time to get the hell out of Dodge (or rather, Mad Mesa) before the sheriff showed up to investigate. Having killed "Old Man" Russell, they weren't sure if they had managed to solve Uncle Zeke's mystery or not. But they knew that this particular county of Arizona was done for them.

Oh, of the saloon girls hit Machete with a knife of her own when they were fleeing the bar.

Yeah...that was the whole evening. Man, I love Boot Hill. Personally, if I'd known the players were open to trying it, I would have planned something a bit more engaging. But how can you not be engaged when hot lead starts flying? Having the opportunity to run a little BH...even as short and ridiculous as this, was a tasty little Christmas present for Yours Truly. Certainly a lot tastier than those Twinkies in the tree!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

3rd Edition Blood Bowl Rules

Okay, since I’ve gone this far I might as well throw up another Blood Bowl post. Look folks, I am sorry, but we’re in the last two weeks of the NFL now and only four teams have clinched play-off spots (and no one has clinched 1st place in their division). These are TIGHT races, and that makes the game especially exciting.

And yes I realize that many of my non-North American readers (I don’t think I have any Mexican followers) would hold up soccer as the greater sport, but personally I have a really, really hard time following their whole schedule of games and qualifiers and cups and tournaments and whatnot.

In the NFL, things are extremely cut and dry. The league is divided into two conferences, each with four divisions, each with four teams (nice symmetry, huh?). Each team plays 16 games…no more, no less. The team with the best record from each division goes to the play-offs. The next two best teams from each conference goes to the play-offs as “wild cards.” Total number of teams in the play-offs: 12 (six from each conference).

The top two teams in each conference get a bye week…everyone else plays a single elimination “wild card play-off game.” The following week, the winners of wild card weekend play the two top seeds from each conference (again, single elimination) in the “divisional play-off round.” The winners of the divisional round (two from each conference) then face each other for the conference championships…again, win or go home.

Finally, the two conference champions play each other in the annual Super Bowl, a semi-official holiday here in the United States. Much chips, dip, and beer is consumed, everyone skips the Pro-Bowl game, and we all go into hibernation until preseason starts in the summer, possibly poking our heads up for Draft Day.

Totally cut-and-dry right? No “best of” series play. No “more than 50% of teams in the play-offs” (that’s YOU, Mr. NBA). No 100+ game seasons. And no crazy “point gathering” system like in international soccer play.

32 teams. 16 games. 12play-off teams. Single elimination. Four play-off weekends. Champion crowned.

It’s got to be the most mathematically sound professional sport in the world. Personally, I love it…and sure makes it a lot easier to follow. Yes, between seasons is a long, dry stretch…but, hey, I have books to write blogs to post and role-playing games to play, right? Not to mention family and friends, etc. A seventh month break from sports is much appreciated around here…besides, Spring and Summer in Seattle is the time to be out-and-about!

Okay, back to Blood Bowl: Shlominus suggested I check out the latest incarnation of the Blood Bowl rules (a free .pdf download available on-line under the heading Blood Bowl Competition Rules). Apparently, they’ve done away with the Living Rulebook and have one set standard (Thank God!) rather than three or four sets of rules in various stages of “experimentation.” Today, I checked ‘em out.


I’ll still take the 3rd edition. Any day of the week.

Here’s my nitpicks of the rules:

[WOW…by the way, just heard Dave Krieg, “the best QB in Seahawks history” is going to be on sports talk radio later today! Speak of the devil!!! Glad I already got that blog post up in his honor…I should write about Dan Doornink next…]

*AHEM* My nitpicks of the current BB rules (in order):

Casualties: you had to take death off the table, didn’t you? Instead of two rolls (armor and injury) you now have to make three (armor, injury, and “extent of casualty”). Why O Why are people so distressed by death? Let me tell you: I am a total coward when it comes to mortal harm (well, maybe not a TOTAL coward…) but when it comes to a game? The more the merrier! It’s a game.

Let me be perfectly clear: injuries on the football field (concussions, sprains, broken bones) is BAD. Devastating injuries and piles of corpses on the Blood Bowl pitch? Tons o fun.

[I’m going to trademark that term: “Tons O Fun”]

Apothecaries: Wha-wha-what? Needlessly complicated (due to the extra casualty rules), use the original casualty rules and the apothecary is easy.

Fouls: Well, well, well…the nerfing IGMEOY rules are gone. They still nerf fouling somewhat in that players cannot assist if they are an opponent’s tackle zone. While this “makes sense” (it’s consistent with players not assisting with blocks) it slows down the action as once again players have to position and count tackle zones…instead of just surrounding a prone player and kicking him to death (which I always thought was fun). Counting heads is a lot quicker than counting tackle zones, and since only ONE player is allowed to foul every turn, I prefer the faster, “dirtier” way of fouling…you still end up with a 1 in 6 chance of being sent off by the ref.

Fan Factor and FAME rules: I actually like this…it speeds up the game and makes a modicum of sense, plus would appear to make cheerleaders and assistant coaches more relevant.

Casualty table: I prefer the 3rd edition rules, including the standard serious injury chart. SI isn’t all that common, and if you stay with the 3E rules, you won’t even need to worry about it till after the match.

Star Player Points: Nerfed! You can only get six advances? So no way to get your own Griff Oberwald? I believe I’ve mentioned how irritating it is when designers have their special “NPCs” that outclass the normal player characters. Again, I’ll stay with the 3rd edition rules.

[hmm…actually, I see they nerfed Griff, too! We’ll get to that…]

On the other hand, I like the “Value Modifier Table;” if I do figure out a way to institute a salary cap, this is a good start for determining player value. Guess I’ll have to steal it as a house rule.

Oh, yeah…and no SPPs awarded for fouling. Hmm…

Inducements: too complicated. I’ll use my Death Zone cards.

Journeymen: I actually like this rule a lot…it prevents teams from folding due to death and dismemberment. I just hate the term…I’d prefer to call them “walk-ons” or “camp followers” or something.

Spiraling Expenses: They got rid of “appearance fees” and added “spiraling expenses.” Once again, if you "allow Nature to take its course" (i.e. kill off players), you don’t have to worry about teams becoming uber-strong. Even dwarf’s go down when you stick ‘em with enough boots. A fix to correct a fix…ugh.

The Glittering Prizes: Just my preference, but I liked the actual tournament prizes with 3rd edition Death Zone. These prizes seem weenie.

Optional Rules – Awarding MVPs: I prefer the original rules (again, I think it models abstract “other action” and intangibles better); plus this could quickly lead to abuse (giving my Ogre player every MVP award until he’s an unstoppable juggernaut). But it’s an interesting idea…I’d only use it if the coach provide a good reason for his or choice (i.e. based on actual in-game actions).

Special Play Cards: Um, yeah…I’ll stick with my Death Zone cards.

Skills: My O My…the fiddly-ness remains, as well as the hard core nerfing. NO “razor sharp claws” at all. Mighty blow only adds to armor or injury not both (how does a player control that exactly?); same with Dirty Player (what’s the incentive then to take DP instead of MB?). Claws don’t give you any bonuses against wood elves or catchers or goblins or hobbits, etc. Regeneration only works 50% of the time…ho-hum. Secret weapons ALWAYS get sent off? Wow…so much for “risk/reward.” And they took “spikes” off the list of mutations…garbage. Piling on is nerfed.

Fend, Grab, Juggernaut, etc…all these skills add more granular nuances for hard core players who’ve “seen everything” and want more choices in how to deal with minute strategies. I find this completely unnecessary…this is like 4th edition D&D feats or something. People are still going to take block and dodge and mighty blow (maybe) before anything else…why add in more and more fiddly skills that just clutter the team rosters. How many different combos are possible with the various types of movement in Chess? Why do you need to add more? Oh, yeah…”wrestling” and “sneaky git” are both ridiculous and retarded. Screw it…I’ll stick with the original rules.

The kick return skill isn’t bad, though. Nurgle’s rot should turn someone on a casualty roll, not a death…if an opponent is killed, then he’s escaped “a fate worse than death!” Why make this into the Chaos form of necromancy? Rotters don’t regenerate like zombies do, after all!

Inducements (again): As I said, not a fan. I’d like to mention that the change in the wizard rules is…well, lame. And why did they get rid of the “zap – you’re a frog” spell? I guess they wanted to do away with templates (as they did with fireball and lightning rules, as they did with actual special play cards). Annoying.

On the other hand, I always thought the dwarf alchemist and “rune mage” were dumb-dumb ideas. On the other hand, having a team Master Chef on my Halfling chef helped get my hobbit team deep in the tournaments…now I can only get him as an inducement? Lame.

Team Rosters: these are hit and miss. I don’t care for some teams (Necromantic, Khemri) and would never use them. I don’t get why the Nurgle guys regenerate…I’d think they’d be in a constant state of decay (i.e. falling apart fast)…this deserves its own post. Ogre teams are filled with snotlings? That’s stupid. Norse teams have werewolves and yeti? That’s stupid, too!

I see why razor sharp claws and spikes were removed…Chaos teams now mutate as a standard skill instead of a doubles roll. Again this is short-sighted: of course, coaches are going to turn themselves into “ultimate killing machines” if a standard advance is all they need! Mutations should NOT be common, even for Chaos teams…champions should be able to learn normal Blood Bowler skills more often than they are “rewarded” by their dark gods. Hell, skaven eat warp stone and THEY still need to roll doubles.

Ugh. No. No. No! I don’t even need to go over the Star Players to see I don’t like what I see (my wife’s favorite star, Griff Oberwald, has had his speed nerfed and his leaping ability removed in favor of “fend?” And his price nearly doubled? She will NOT be pleased). This is too much silliness. I’ve spent almost four pages going through this thing, and can readily say, “No thank you.”

I could say something a little coarser, but people who’ve read this far already get it.

[by the way: very nice interview with Dave Krieg today; damn, the guy had nothing to say but nice things about Seattle. What a class act. The years between him and Hasselbeck were dry-dry-dry…no offense to Warren Moon, but yeah. God, I hope we don’t go through that kind of stretch anytime in the near future!]

Just to sum up, here are the only NEW Blood Bowl rules I’d incorporate into my 3rd edition game:

  • New Fame and Fan Factor rules: okay
  • Value Modifier Table (only for “salary cap purposes,” not Team rating)
  • Journeymen (calling ‘em “walk-ons,” though)
  • New General Skill: Kick Off Return
  • Dropping Dwarf Alchemists from the game: that’s a good thing

Um…and maybe the “award your own MVP” optional rule. WITH conditions.

Everything else in the new rule book can go to hell. Some teams will be adapted (ogres, Nurgle). Some of the roster additions (deathrollers, trolls) might be added. But each will have to be examined individually.

All right…that really IS enough for now!

Dave Krieg – Lineork Made Good

[continuing my NFL-Blood Bowl profiling]

No disrespect to Matthew Hasselbeck (really…except for his politics, I love the guy), David Krieg is my favorite Seahawks quarterback of all time.

Dave Krieg might not be a familiar name to everyone outside of Seattle but probably to a few more than one would suspect; it sometimes feels like he played for half the teams in the NFL over his 19 year career (he played for six teams, starting for five). Those of you who’ve seen the Tom Cruise film Jerry Maguire got to see him in a Cardinals uniform throwing a touchdown pass to Cuba Gooding Jr.

He’s #12 in the NFL records for quarterbacks with most career wins, and his winning percentage (.560) was better than both Warren Moon and Fran Tarkenton (both higher on the list)…hell, Troy Aikman is only #17 and his winning percentage was only .570 (and Aikman had a lot more weapons than Krieg had, as well as a lot less porous offensive line). He’s in the top 20 in most passing categories due to sheer longevity, though he holds the NFL record for most games with five+ touchdown passes; when Krieg was in the game you always felt like you had a chance to win. I make no bones about it; I think the guy should be in the Hall of Fame. Of course, I keep forgetting to submit his name as a fan consideration. Maybe this year I’ll remember.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the guy’s career is that he entered the NFL undrafted, trying out for the Seahawks in 1980 and making it on the team as the 3rd stringer (he played for an obscure college in Milton, WI that doesn’t exist anymore). A walk-on who went on to become the Seahawks all-time leading passer in a number of categories. He played in AFC Championships with two teams (Kansas City being the other)…though he never did quite make it to the Big Dance.

A walk-on…blows my mind.

To model him in Blood Bowl, we start with the basic ork lineman (aka “lineork”), since the Seahawks are an ork team. The human lineman is the baseline average stat line in the Blood Bowl game; it looks like this:

Movement Allowance (MA): 6, Strength (ST): 3, Agility (AG): 3, Armor Value (AV): 8, Skills: None

The ork team is very similar to the humans, being a little slower and a bit tougher:

MA: 5, ST: 3, AG: 3, AV: 9, Skills: None

Now each team has a limited number of skill players they can purchase, which vary from team to team. Catchers are a combo Wide Receiver/Secondary, Blitzers are a combo Running Back/Linebacker (all Blood Bowlers play “both ways;” i.e. offense and defense). Throwers (or “Chukkas” as the orks might call them) are the Quarterbacks. Skill players look like the basic lineman or lineork for the team, but have slightly different stat lines or starting skills. An ork thrower, for example, looks like this:

MA: 5, ST: 3, AG: 3, AV: 8, Skills: Passing, Sure Hands

The passing skill allows players to re-roll a missed throw. Sure hands means the player only fumbles if he’s knocked down (and misses a pick-up off the ground only on a roll of a 1 in 6). Over time, with experience, Blood Bowl players earn Star Player Points (like XP) which will give them advances…each advance could result in a new skill being acquired, or a stat (other than AV) being increased. The most advances any player can acquire are SEVEN…and that takes a LOT of SPPs. In terms of my NFL modeling, you’d only find a seven advance player in the All-Time Greats of the game…Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Walter Payton, Walter Jones, etc.

However, just being a SKILL player (i.e. a non-lineman) indicates a player is something special. These are high draft pick rookies who (the coach hopes) will one day blossom into a fantastic superstar.

Dave Krieg, aka “Mud Bone,” was no high draft pick.

And he certainly wasn’t known for his “sure hands.” In addition to his outstanding passing records, Krieg continues to hold the record (as far as I know) for most fumbles of all time. Mainly this was due to playing behind suspect offensive lines for most of his career (you think Matt Hasselbeck takes a beating? Kansas City Chiefs star Derrick Thomas achieved his NFL record seven-sacks-in-one-game against Krieg and the Seahawks. On the last play of the game he was taking Krieg down for an eighth sack when the QB hurled a TD pass to seal a Seahawks victory). It is also said that Krieg had notoriously “small hands,” though I have no idea if this is accurate or not.

Regardless, we don’t give Krieg the starting stat line of an ork passer, and opt for the simple “lineork” instead. With adjustments for five advances, we end with the final line of:

MA: 5, ST: 3, AG: 3, AV: 9, Skills: Pass, Hail Mary, Leader, Nerves of Steel, Strong Arm

No, he’s not going to win any footraces and he won’t be shrugging off blockers or throwing pinpoint accurate passes. But he’s got a cannon arm and can hurl it downfield in the face of ferocious pressure without being rattled…and that high Armor Value (equivalent of an orkish lineman, better than an ork thrower) is going to equal longevity over time. With all respect to Brett Favre, it is Dave Krieg who holds the record for number of seasons taking every single snap as the QB (three)…now that’s some toughness, man!

Other Seahawk Quarterbacks of note (listed in descending order by number of SPP advances):

(6) Matthew Hasselbeck (thrower) MA: 5, ST: 3, AG: 3, AV: 8, Skills: Passing, Sure Hands, Accurate, Dodge, Dump-Off, Hail Mary, Leader (Agility reduced by injury)

(6) Warren Moon (thrower) MA: 5, ST: 3, AG: 3, AV: 8, Skills: Passing, Sure Hands, Block, Hail Mary, Nerves of Steel, Pro, Strong Arm (Agility reduced by injury)

(4) Trent Dilfer (thrower) MA: 5, ST: 4, AG: 3, AV: 8, Skills: Passing, Sure Hands, Accurate, Pro, Safe Throw

(2) Jim Zorn (thrower) MA: 5, ST: 3, AG: 3, AV: 8, Skills: Passing, Sure Hands, Leader, Pro

(2) Dan McGwire (goblin) MA: 6, ST: 2, AG: 3, AV: 7, Skills: Dodge, Stunty, Right Stuff, Passing, Accurate

(2) Rick Mirer (thrower) MA: 5, ST: 3, AG: 3, AV: 8, Skills: Passing, Sure Hands, Dodge, Sidestep

(0) Kelly Stouffer, Stan Gelbaugh (throwers): Basic ork thrower stat line

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tom Brady = High Elf (Duh)

AKA "The Real Lord of the Rings"

It occurs to me that some might be interested in my “Dark NFL” Blood Bowl league. By “some” I mean a total of two or three people. On the other hand, I’m sure there are those who could care less about the Star Wars postings, and yet are forced to suffer through them when I’m getting down with my inner Jedi.

To those who aren’t interested in football (fantasy or otherwise), I do apologize. To everyone else…well, this is what I’ve been grooving on today.

The amazing thing about the NFL these days is not that it continues to generate such immense hype and profits, but that there is such PARITY in the League…even as some teams continue to dominate year after year. It’s an interesting dichotomy (interesting to me anyway); the mantra of “any given Sunday” certainly applies, as we’ve seen many upset over the course of the 2010 season.

And yet some teams continue to lead their division just as they have over the last decade. Houston continues to be out of the running for the AFC South title despite some fine players and excellent stats, and Indianapolis is still tied for first despite being nearly .500. Washington has struggled despite the money thrown at the team, and Tennessee is out of the play-offs (again) despite its dominant running attack.

This, again, I find similar to Blood Bowl. ANY team can win in Blood Bowl…and any team can lose as well. But the elves will still tend to rise higher in the standings (unless crippled by injuries), and “tough guy” teams tend to be in the middle of the pack, unless coached brilliantly. Luck of the dice plays an important factor, and sometimes you just get a string of bad rolls…and the opposite can also occur enabling a rank beginner to pull up an upset against a better coach. Likewise, over-confidence and mistakes “in the heat of the moment” (like committing illegal procedure penalties) are as much a part of the Blood Bowl game as bone-head penalties are on the real world gridiron.

For fans of the NFL, it’s a lot of fun.

Well, mostly…my wife (my main opponent over the years) really, REALLY doesn’t like it when her players get injured and/or killed. She becomes attached to individual players because…well, because she has an active imagination I suppose. She only gives players names if they manage to do something spectacular in a game (in other words, outstanding play-makers get nicknames and everyone else is cannon-fodder), but when a named character gets blown up she’s crushed.

Similarly, she gets emotionally attached (or disgusted with) individual NFL players. Thankfully, real players aren’t injured nearly as much as often as Blood Bowlers. My wife tends to give her own nicknames to real players on the field, too, and she would be devastated if something bad were to happen to actual humans…hell, she gets upset enough if they have a bad day playing.

Not that my temperament is dissimilar. But with Blood Bowl at least, I know you can always hire another player for a sack of gold.

Ah, well, back to the Dark NFL League. The following write-ups express only my own opinion, and I will admit my opinion of teams has definitely changed over time (also, in the past I have often tried to more evenly distribute different team types among divisions, though the results have always been unsatisfactory). The following reflect my CURRENT opinions/interpretations based on my very un-scientific thoughts on the NFL and its (recent) history:

AFC East

Buffalo: Human
Miami: Wood Elf
New England: High Elf
New York Jets: Human

Notes: Tom Brady is, of course, a high elf Phoenix Warrior as was Drew Bledsoe before him. There's really nothing about his poise, grace, and feathered hair that does NOT say "high elf," so that's a no brainer. The other teams are more historical. Marino was a prolific passer (as are the wood elves) though recent 'Fins experiments would seem to indicate they're going with more of a double War Dancer set (the infamous "Wild Cat"). Some might consider the Bills of recent years to be one of the shabbier teams in the NFL; I prefer to remember their all-around excellence that led them to four consecutive AFC Championships behind a very balanced team. The Jets share a similar balance (and I just can't see Namath as anything BUT human).

AFC North

Baltimore: Norse
Cincinnati: Wood Elf
Cleveland: Undead
Pittsburgh: Ork

Back before '05, Pittsburgh was probably my favorite non-Seattle team and I have a very nicely painted team to show for it; I'll leave it at that (though it's debatable whether "Big Ben" is a black ork or a troll). Cinci gets wood elf due to their style of the last 30 years or so with big cannon QBs (from Boomer to Blake to Palmer...even Kitna) and breakable nature. Baltimore should be self-explanatory, and Cleveland...well, they were "resurrected" after Art Modell took the franchise and left, right? Plus they play like zombies half the time...

AFC South

Houston: Hobbit
Indianapolis: High Elf
Jacksonville: Lizard Man
Tennessee: Chaos Dwarf

I have considered the Texans hobbits ever since they entered the league; when they get to the play-offs, I may reconsider. Indy is, of course, high elf...all class and shiny uniforms. Jacksonville gets one of the new teams (lizard man) from 4th edition; historically they're not much of a "finesse" team. Tennessee often plays like a bunch of hobgoblins, and have some of the dirtiest dirt-bags of the last few years suiting up for them...dirty players and secret weapons are all part of the chaos dwarves' bag o' tricks.

AFC West

Denver: Dwarf
Kansas City: Ogre
Oakland: Chaos
San Diego: Ork

Who would live on a mountain besides a bunch of dwarves; sorry Elway, your team only made a big splash when it got its running game on track. K.C. gets the one ogre team (ever hear of the Nigerian Nightmare, Christian Okoye?); beefy running and hard hitting defense that tends to fade down the stretch. Oakland I had pegged as goblin for awhile, but that was simply letting the last few years cloud my's obvious the Raiders fans have sold their souls to Chaos. And San Diego, with their hard running? Ork, ork, ork.

NFC East

Dallas: Dark Elf
New York Giants: Dwarf
Philadelphia: Skaven
Washington: Ork

Dallas cuts a dashing figure, but deep down you know they're evil...look at Jerry Jones, come on! Dark elf. Meanwhile the Giants are definitely dwarf (bashy bashy defense, bashy bashy running, and a team that can win despite a wildly inconsistent quarterback). The "City of Brotherly Love" could only be skaven...and Vick's a perfect fit (note that he came from a different skaven team by way of the D.o.C.). And smash-nose Washington? Ork (pig-faced ones even!).

NFC North

Chicago: Chaos
Detroit: Goblin
Green Bay: Human
Minnesota: Goblin (mix)

Brian Urlacher is a Chaos Warrior...or maybe a minotaur. So was Dick Butkus. So was Mike Ditka. Etc., etc. Detroit is a ruin run by goblins that have helped destroy the American car industry; Barry Sanders was a stunty goblin with an Agility of 5 and movement and sprinting maxed out (he could not be tackled). The Packers are all-too human, though Favre might be some sort of Chaos Lord anomaly (maybe he's undead). Minnesota is goblin, or perhaps a goblin-skaven-human mix like the Evil Gits or the Underworld Creepers. No, they're not Norse. The Purple People Eaters ate people...and choked in the play-offs. Often. The collapsing stadium is a goblin trait.

NFC South

Atlanta: Skaven
Carolina: Amazon
New Orleans: Plague
Tampa Bay: Chaos Dwarf

Atlanta is dark elf (the dome gives it away despite being in the South...what are you afraid of?). Carolina, as one of the "newer" teams, gets a newer team type (Amazon) the Panther is the mascot of the jungle, etc. New Orleans used to be a really rotten team (get it?) but now they've corrupted Brees and they'll be good until he starts putrifying. Tampa is Chaos Dwarf; some years sporting more hobgoblins and some years having more dwarves. Mike Alstott was a bull centaur.

NFC West

Arizona: Hobbit
Saint Louis: Skaven
San Francisco: Human
Seattle: Ork

Now, of course, some of these choices can certainly debatable. San Francisco, for example could easily be a dwarf team based on the last few years of play (Frank Gore and an MIA passing attack). However, it’s hard to model the great 49ers teams of the 80s and early 90s with dwarves; I prefer to consider them "human." Meanwhile the "greatest show on turf" definitely had a slew of scurrying gutter runners ripping off TDs...and Steve Jackson is a beast of a storm vermin (perhaps even rat-ogre!). However, I would not object too greatly if someone wanted to call the Rams dark elves instead (switching with the "dirty bird" Falcons); after all, they did have the superb Marshall Faulk back in the day (though the case could be made that HE was a warp-stone eating mutant).

: )

Seahawks = Orks

Football, Star Wars, B/X. Football, Star Wars, B/X.

I suppose my blog gets a little repetitive after awhile.

Though it could be worse, folks…with my non-gamer friends I’m usually talking astrology or beagles or politics. ESPECIALLY politics. Just mentioning the word makes me want to start a passionate rant, but I will restrain myself (I try, I really do) for the moment.

Let’s talk football.

Or more specifically, Blood Bowl, which is a lot less painful (or at least, emotionally safer) subject for Seattle football fans.

I LOVE Blood Bowl…love-love-LOVE it. I dig football, I dig “fantasy” critters, and I totally love the idea of playing them off against each other in a loosely regulated arena combat. And unlike the real sport (to which Blood Bowl only bears the vaguest passing resemblance), it’s a helluva’ lot of fun to watch the players get injured.

Now, there have been many editions of Blood Bowl over the years, and I’m familiar with most of ‘em. I did miss the 1st edition (2nd was the first set I picked up), but otherwise I’ve kept an eye on the ever-developing “Blood Bowl Living Rule Book” over the years.

I play 3rd edition Blood Bowl.

The 2nd edition was, frankly, a bit of a mess. Originally the game was played till one team scored 3 touchdowns, and that could take a long-ass time…often, one team would be completely killed and the two standing members of the opposition would be left to score the last TD or two finally winning the game. Players had longer (and redundant) stat lines, and there was less variety of players/teams despite the added options.

3rd edition simplified things so nicely, as well as adding plenty of good things, especially the Godsend time counter and turnover rules. Mmm-mmm-mm…made for a great time. And with a few house rukes (if only to represent the fluff of the game…for example, ogre teams), the thing was just about perfect.

And then, of course, GW tried to “improve” upon perfect. Ugh.

No, no, no…the whole attitude behind the “improvements” is everything I hate about 4th edition (or 3rd edition, frankly) Dungeons & Dragons. The need to “balance” teams. The need for “making games more fair.” The need for “making things more realistic” as if it was possible to model realism in a game like this! If it was “realistic” play would not alternate in turns but take place simultaneously for goodness sake!

To be blunt, I use the 3rd edition rules. Notable differences between this, the “Golden Edition” (in my opinion) and later editions include the following:

- There is no “secondary” casualty roll…if the injury roll is a 10, you’re badly hurt, 11 you’re seriously injured, 12 or more you’re DEAD. Yes, large monsters and razor fanged mutants are more likely to KILL you than seriously injure you. Last I checked, there aren’t any clerics in Blood Bowl. If you suffer a mortal wound, you’re more likely to be pushing up daisies than walking away with a niggling injury (in other words, you’re less likely to recover from a serious wound from an ogre or troll…and hobbits and goblins do die in droves when they suit up on the Blood Bowl field.

- There is no “IGMEOY” alternating foul rules. Again, this is simply an added bit of ridiculousness: bogs down the game, forces me to remember something, and makes fouling LESS a part of a game when the fluff would call it a major part. Different teams play different ways: a hobgoblin team IS going to foul more often (and are “balanced” appropriately because of this: i.e. they all suck). Does this make teams with expensive high elves not want to play hobgoblin teams? Absolutely…as appropriate. Without allowing the dirty teams to play dirty, how do they stand up against, the skill teams (like the elves)? Screw balance: you want balance? Go play chess. Don’t whine when I put my boot in your elf’s face (or your Griff Oberwald superstar) OVER AND OVER AGAIN (and by the way? Fouling is already limited to once per turn).

- Skills are skills are skills…skills work exactly as outlined. Goddamn, the added fiddly-ness makes me want to retch. Yes, there are some impressive power combos: Strong Arm plus Passing plus Accurate, for example. You know what? Sometimes teams have to play against Tom Brady or Peyton Manning…deal with it. Once upon a time, I nerfed the regeneration rules as per the 4th edition, but I’ve since decided to allow the undead their competitive edge.

- No “appearance fees” – more goddamn bookkeeping for the sake of “fairness” and “balance.” You know what? If you don’t nerf the injury rolls and the fouling then this becomes a non-issue. Why? Because superstar players eventually get killed or “retired” by the opposition. Here’s a “fix” that only becomes necessary due to the earlier “fix.”

As I said, those are the main things that later editions change that really chap my hide. That being said, I do have my own House Rules that I tinker with from time to time. As I’ve never been able to run a really long-term league (some day, some day), it’s hard to see how some of these things might work out:

- Home Team Advantage (I’ve experimented with multiple ways of doing this; currently I have a list of simple, set advantages depending on team type).

- Salary Caps (it’s worked to create parity in the NFL, why not use it in Blood Bowl?). Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a satisfying way of calculating the Cap, nor have I decided on a fit “Cap.” However, without a salary Cap, the undead and dwarf teams tend to spiral upwards in terms of team treasury/bankroll.

- Alternate teams: Amazons and Norse as presented in the 4th edition rules. Ogres and Plague teams (i.e. the Oldheim Ogres and Nurgle’s Rotters) are two teams I’ve worked with in different ways. I suppose (in true “Old School Style”), there’s no need to add Amazon and Norse teams, instead simply using human teams, but selecting skills in a “theme” fashion (and why can’t the Norse and Amazons have the same high human Armor Value…despite their lack of clothing/armor aren’t they tough hombres?). Ogres by the way are ONLY ogres…not ogres and snotlings. Snotlings are a snack.

- Non-star Big Guys: I like the trolls that eat their own players rather than throwing them downfield…that’s my kind of Blood Bowl. How they “advance” or earn SPPs is debatable.

- Awards and stats: I love stats like any male sports fan. I like to come up with awards for players that have the most completions or casualties or kills (the Golden Coffin award). I also like giving star player points for receptions (a thrower gets 1 point for a pass, a catcher gets 1 point for a catch, and a defender gets 2 points for an interception…because he takes away both the pass AND the catch). Doesn’t that make sense?

- Retirement: I have fairly sophisticated rules to determine whether or not players hang it up at the end of the season. However, I’ve never run a league (at least, not since developing the rules), so I’ve never had a chance to try ‘em.

As far as teams go, I’ve always based them on actual NFL teams (as they originally were…though, of course, that was in the pre-2000 expansion/realignment era). This is both easier and more difficult than it sounds. The difficult part is confining an NFL team to 16 players…how do you take 53 athletes and merge them into a group one-third the size? Sure, you can make sure only the superstars or crème-de-la-crème are present, but remember…these guys are playing both ways.

Otherwise, it’s pretty easy to model the players. Teams have tendencies, after all, just like Blood Bowl teams. You find the tendency and then you model it based on the personnel.

For example, the Arizona Cardinals (forgive me Arizona fans) are a hobbit team. They have been a hobbit team, at times a very good hobbit team, but still a hobbit team. People will say, Larry Fitzgerald (the best wide receiver in the league) isn’t a hobbit! And you’re absolutely correct…but it’s easy enough to model him as one on the Blood Bowl field (he’s a seven advance star):

Move:7, Agility:4, Strength:3, Armor:7, Dodge, Stunty, Right Stuff, Block, Catch, Sprint

That’s a phenomenal receiver for Blood Bowl, with the same armor value as a human catcher, the same strength and blocking ability of a human blitzer, and the ability to dodge tackle zones on a 2+ (on a D6) regardless of coverage.

Arizona’s running backs can be modeled similarly using hobbits (giving them strength scores of 3 or 4 and blocking ability or sprinting ability), though I’d probably just make them especially quick/agile treemen.

[I should mention that I do not find the hobbit team to be ridiculous or unplayable, and have taken them to 2nd place tournament finishes in the past. My wife beat my extremely fast skaven team with her fabled “flying defense”]

Lest Arizona fans become incensed with my treatment of their team, bear in mind that I consider the Seahawks to be orks…one of the least flashy teams in Blood Bowl. There are plenty of Orc teams…Washington, San Diego, Pittsburgh…but the Seahawks have fit into this category since the Ground Chuck days of the 80s. Seattle has only ever fared well when we’ve had a decent quarterback (Dave Krieg, Matthew Hasselbeck) but the only consistency overtime has been fairly good running backs and a fairly tenacious defense…not to mention an unruly waa-agh of a home crowd, and that all says “ork.”

[unfortunately, even a good running back needs a good line to run behind, and we’ve had precious good black ork blockers playing for us…Walter Jones was one, but he’s retired now]

Otherwise, our slow, inept route-running, fumble-fingered receivers can all be classified as orks. Even Hall of Famer Steve Largent could be considered an “ork made good.” After all, he wasn’t a speedster, nor did he have extreme agility or world-beating size. He was just consistent and durable, modeled as an ork lineman with the following stats:

Move:7, Agility:4, Strength:3, Armor:9, Catch, Nerves of Steel, Pro, Leader

O for the days of consistency!

Matthew Hasselbeck is about as Ork as they come…if you equate “ork” with words like “tough,” “fierce,” and (on occasion) “bone-head.” Sure, he’s got the equivalent of a niggling injury or two at this point of his career, but he’s still got a good set of skills (if not the greatest stat line); call it:

Move:5, Agility:3, Strength:3, Armor:8, Pass, Sure Hands, Accurate, Dodge, Dump-Off, Hail Mary, Leader

In the past, I would have given him an agility of 4 (I never considered Hasselbeck more than a six advance player), but it’s painfully obvious the guy has taken enough of a beat-down over the years to have lost a little something from the moves he had in his prime.

Unfortunately, most of the players on this year’s Seahawks team are the equivalent of rookie Blood Bowlers, and it sure has felt like we’ve been running low on “re-rolls” often this season. If we manage to win out and work our way into the play-offs with an 8-8 record (and by the way, haters, that might be the Colts or Jags final “division winning record” as well!) it’ll be as much a bit of good luck/bad luck as coaching and execution that does it. Tampa Bay and St. Louis have been having better-than-usual years this season…and Seattle, frankly, has not.

One more thought on working the NFL in Blood Bowl terms…free agency has really hurt Blood Bowl. Not that I have a whole lot against free agency (yes, I’m old school enough to prefer to watch a player suit up for one team the entirety of their career), and I don’t think they’ve “ruined the game.” But how do you rectify when a player from one species gets traded to another? When Skaven thrower Kurt Warner ends up on the Hobbit/Cardinals team, does he suddenly become a hobbit? Certainly, he seemed to get injured quite a bit (though, skaven in general are nearly as breakable as hobbits).

As I said, TEAMS tend to have a certain playing style (Chicago has never been known as a finesse team), so when players from other teams (with variant styles) get picked up, what is one supposed to do? Green Bay and Minnesota are VERY different teams…But Brett Favre has played for both. San Francisco and Kansas City, likewise…and yet Joe Montana was on both. And don’t even get me started on Randy Moss!

It’s still something I haven’t yet worked out...and until I do, a true NFL modeled Blood Bowl league (at least one that is consistent from year-to-year) is only a far off possibility. But it’s something I think about fairly often this time of year when the impending play-off season looms and the endless stream of television games starts mashing with the fantasy creatures of my imagination.

Yeah, I’m weird.
; )

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bearding Dragons in their Lair (Part I)

[sorry for the late follow-up to Part 1. Christmas shopping and going to Seahawk games...ho-boy, don't get me started on the latter...not to mention holiday get-togethers and such have conspired to slow down the blogging]

Picking up where we left off, a heavily armed party of 1st level adventurers managed to make their way fairly easily to the dragon's lair. By "fairly easily" I mean "without getting lost or ambushed." Let me give you a quick peak behind my DM screen:

I understand that wandering monsters are part of the game, but in general I use them only in extreme moderation, not as a regular matter of course. I see random critters as the fantasy game's picadors: spurring the adventurers on, blooding them a little, and working them up in a froth and frenzy. However, if the players are already "lathered up" and making quick movement towards their, "objective"...then why slow down the pacing of the game by throwing random battles (sans treasure!) at them.

That last parenthetical is especially significant. B/X D&D rewards "smart" play...that whole "challenge the player" thing, right? The better adventurer is the one that minimizes risk and maximizes reward (as we'll see in a bit...), thus the rewarding of "points" (XP) for treasure acquisition...and generally, far more points than simple monster battles.

So where's the "challenge" in throwing random monsters (withOUT treasure) at PCs?

There isn't one...wandering monsters serve a purpose (they penalize players for dilly-dallying as well as somewhat modeling random threats in highly populated areas). But since the players weren't dilly-dallying...and I didn't consider the wilderness around a dragon's lair to be "highly populous"...I saw no reason to bother with wandering monsters.

[and as far as the "getting lost" thing...hey, I won't worry about the Expert set rules till the characters are 4th level or so!]

So it was the players found themselves outside an icy cave mouth in the frosty hills after two-three days of following the river north. Sitting in a small circle, three furry creatures squatted on their haunches...large, furry creatures, actually. Like stretch ewoks.

[quaggoth are 7' tall teddy bears that use either large, two-handed weapons, or attack with multiple claw attacks. As everyone knows multiple attacks are far deadlier than single attacks, I decided all the quaggoth were armed. As 1+2 hit dice monsters, they are on par with standard martial hobgoblins...not the little guys in my Goblin Wars campaign...but not quite as nasty as gnolls]

The party decided to attack.

I don't recall if there was an attempt to negotiate or not (I don't think so)...I recall a lot of missile weapons going off and then Frezil the dwarf and the Matt's fighter (f that....I'm looking up his name on his character sheet..."Kendlis??" What the hell kind of name is that? No wonder I can't remember it...) were engaged in hand-to-hand...all of which boiled down to a lot of missed rolls. The quaggoth, on the other hand, had the hot dice rolling for them. Fortunately, the "double hit point" rule kept the PCs in the game.

Appelscar cast Charm Person on one of the wookies and low-and-behold it failed its saving throw. The look on Luke's face was priceless...I mean, he looked stunned (I'm not sure I've ever seen someone actually look "stunned" before, but Luke did). After all, it was like the first time he'd seen one of his spells work in the game (you'll have to recall the prior White Plume Mountain adventures in which monsters made save after save against the might of his 7th level cleric...). But this time, the spell worked, and Appelscar was in complete control of a new, furry bodyguard.

"I want to name him Warwick." Okay, said I. I didn't bother explaining that I associate the Warwick with a downtown Seattle hotel/bar my father used to drink at back in his days as a union president.

Although Warwick didn't grok any of the languages Appelscar could speak, it understood enough to know its new buddy was in trouble and helped batter its fellow quaggoths senseless. The two clerics (veteran-brothers of the sam militant order) helped provide healing for the fighters and everyone made it through okay.

I think. I may be confusing it with the next encounter:

As they pushed further into the cave complex (for the dragon's lair had been made within an ancient, existing cavern of cold stone), they encountered a second group of quaggoth who were also unfriendly towards the intruders. I believe it was in this second battle that the dwarf, Frez, met his end, taking a two-handed axe blow to the trachea (a lucky shot that somehow managed to leave most of his armor unscathed. Dave took over playing Warwick...a particularly fun aspect of these old school "rules light" games...and the party managed to wipe out this second trio of giant teddy bears.

Deciding that it'd be best to recover a bit before actually tackling Snowfang (he WAS a dragon after all, and they were just a small group of 1st level adventurers), the players retreated from the caves, back to the river and decided to "make camp" for the night.

[I'll conclude this tomorrow]

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fighting Dragons at the Baranof

The Doctor was asking me if/when I was ever going to do another session report from my Thursday night games. I've just been too busy lately for blogging lately to really put together the straight session posts...I hope to get back in the swing of it here shortly.

However, I've got some free time this morning so here goes:

Last night so the joining of the group by a new, friendly face: Dave. Dave appears to be a nice enough guy, a coworker (or maybe the boss/owner) of Luke, Matt, Matt, Randy, and Josh. Anyway, I was happy to welcome him to the group.

Dave is about the same age as the rest of us (mid-late 30s), but his sole role-playing experience has been 3rd and 4th (!!) edition D&D. He picked up the B/X pretty quickly and only died twice during the session, and all-in-all he appears to have had a good time.

We'll get to that.

Vince wasn't present so the sole survivor of last week's debacle (Gordon the Dwarf Prince) was not available. Instead everyone was sporting a brand-spanking-new 1st level character. I decided to change up the rules a bit to increase player, I'm not getting soft. I'm just trying to get some people to 2nd level! The new house rules included the following:

- All characters would start with double max hit points at 1st level. Constitution bonuses/penalties were NOT doubled (so a fighter with a 13 Con would have 17 hit points).

- Clerics would use the same spell progression as in Labyrinth Lord (i.e. they would receive a single 1st level spell). In addition, a cleric with a Wisdom bonus would receive a number of extra daily 1st level spells based on that bonus. We had two clerics in the party, but as their Wisdom scores were 13 and 10, this did not "break the bank" so to speak.

- I did NOT add plate mail armor to the mix...though I considered it briefly. Folks seem to have come to terms with the chain+shield+helm (AC 4) being the best option.

- I removed the "bandage wounds" rule. The doubled hit points would include (abstractly) the assumption that characters were binding wounds and such between scrapes.

So, to slay the dragon.

When last we left our campaign, the PCs had just failed horribly to save some mysterious "emissaries" who had been kidnapped by goblins on their way from the capitol to Bastion. By "failing horribly" I mean they'd mostly died (we had one lone survivor) and completely failed to discover the captives, though they did locate the goblin outpost where the captives were being held.

Last night's session took place a couple-three weeks later and dealt with the fallout from the aborted mission. Turns out the "emissaries" were members of the royal family...the wife and eldest daughter of Baron Fauntleroy himself! Having been pining to see their "summer castle" in Bastion that had been off-limits since the beginning of the Goblin War, they thought they'd take advantage of the two year lull/peace to make the journey north. Despite the heavily armed escort, they never made it.

Needless to say, the Baron was pretty pissed at this turn of events. Once he found out what had happened and where the cave was, he sent his own troops to retrieve his family...only to find it was too late. Enraged beyond reason he blamed the whole thing on faerie-folk in general...the good and the bad...and ordered the "good faerie" refugees (elves, dwarves, brownies) expelled from his cities, including Bastion. About a week later, the goblins mounted an attack on the border town and without the faerie-help bolstering their ranks, got a little sacked and decimated, only barely managing to drive off the dark fae before the entire place got razed.

Unfortunately, the "victory" was a costly one in terms of man-power...most of their fighting force was expended, and Bastion is now a town "on the brink." If the goblins launch another attack before they find a way to reinforce, it's like the place will be over-run...and from there it's a short matter of sweeping through the barony and losing the whole territory.

What's worse, the baron in his grief is too short-sighted to provide any aid...or even give a rip...about what's happening with his northernmost township. Bastion can go to hell for all he cares.

The castellan of Griffons Crag Keep (in Bastion) has hit on a plan to hire some mercenaries from the southern barony of Balliwick to bolster defenses until they can get back on their feet. The Balliwick fighting men are kind of like Hessian dragoons...pretty beefy and willing to sell their swords to anyone for the right price. Unfortunately, hiring an adequate force for the right price comes to about 5000+ gold coins, and this is money Bastion doesn't have. The adventurers were put in the interesting position of being asked to go treasure-seeking in order to help finance the defense of the town.

See where the dragon comes in?

Anyway, I thought it was an interesting idea, but I was making it up about 40 minutes before our game session started, so if it seems half-baked...yeah, it was a bit. But the players seemed up for the challenge and started researching the best way to acquire some quick gold for their desperate leader. They figured the best thing to do would be to search the primeval wilderness of the northwest for the ancient ruins they'd heard legends of...though they hadn't the foggiest idea where to begin. Merkin and Flem (the clerics) started perusing the church records, but found they were mainly devoted to arguing points of Church doctrine. Tchaos the elf and Frezil the dwarf (who were still hanging out in Bastion despite the baron's edict) went drinking with Matthew's beefy fighter, looking for rumors of jobs and adventure. There was some talk about moving out of Fauntleroy and making new homes in Balliwick..."I hear mercenaries make pretty good money down there!"

Applescar the magic-user went to go consult with his mentor (in the Goblin Wars setting, there are no high level human magic-users so humans wishing to study magic need to learn it from the elves). Fufel the Fae was staying in a homestead some miles outside of Bastion and was in no mood to talk with his human student when he got there. Hanging out in the kitchen, an impish-faerie told him he knew where the human could get his hands on a pile of swag.

[okay, Adventure Creation 101: I am a lazy bastard with a lot of iron in the fire. Last week's dungeon was copied directly from one of the cave complexes in B2. Last night's adventure was kit-bashed like this: AB said, 'maybe we should fight a dragon.' I said, that's a great idea. AB then said, 'or a giant beagle.' I said, no. AB then suggested, 'or a giant beagle-dragon hybrid!' At which point, I left the room because he was annoying me. I pulled a copy of the old Fiend Folio off the shelf and opened it three times to random entries...these monsters: the quaggoth, the booka, and a third unnamed creature would become the encounters for the session. I did draw my own map this time, though]

The booka (or boggie or whatever it was), told Applescar how to find the lair of Snowfang the white dragon. Of course, there was the additional danger of the dragon's quaggoth followers, who worshipped the dragon and paid it tribute. But for hungry adventurers, there was plenty of gold to be had....

Asking why the booka was giving him this info, the mage was informed only that the Booka bore a grudge against the wyrm and had been waiting for heroes desperate enough to take a poke at the beast. The diminutive faerie vanished when Fufel came back in the room; asking his mentor about the white dragon: "Oh, yeah, he lives up north of here...doesn't come this far south usually as there's easier pickings in his own territory." The magic-user took the news back to the party and they decided to head out!
: )

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Quinlan Vos – How the Chump Won Me Over

I’ve been reading a lot of comic books lately.

To be specific, I’ve been picking up a lot of graphic novels (“trade paperbacks”) because I can’t be bothered to shell out cash on individual comics and I don’t have time to wait for new issues to come out…plus I’m kind of an “immediate gratification” guy…I want the whole story right up front.

The comics are, of course, all of the Star Wars EU (“expanded universe”); non-film comics that make use of the film characters.

I’ll be the first to admit the EU is a mixed bag…not only is the artwork hit-or-miss (I have my personal preference as to aesthetic styles just like everyone) the stories, too, often leave something to be desired, especially with their treatment of characters.

For example, I like the portrayals of Boba Fett in the Dark Empire comics…yes, yes, he was toast at the end of Episode VI and that will probably stay “canon” in my mind (even if it’s not anymore), but at least he’s portrayed the way I imagine him: a semi-slick, money-grubbing bounty hunter. Not even that fantastic of a shot/pilot. All that later stuff with being King of the Mandalorians or having some sort of honor or being the most fantastic commando that ever lived or whatever…total bogus crap in my mind. The guy had a cool outfit…why can’t folks just be content to let THAT be his claim to fame? Why go all Wolverine/Weapon X with the guy?

Likewise with other “favorite” characters: Aayla Secura, the twilek Jedi…who came up with the idea that she’s some sort of badass? I’ve watched Episode III many times (as my wife will unhappily verify) and if any Jedi comes off as a chump, it’s that chick. Even the kid that gets gunned down at the Jedi Temple takes out a couple clone troopers before he bites it…the blue girl isn’t even aware enough to fire up her ‘saber before she's gunned down. “Master Jedi” my ass!

The same holds true for Ki-Adi Mundi…ALMOST as big a chump as Aayla, this guy even loses his lightsaber in the battle on Geonosis. What a schmuck! And he’s some sort of badass warrior? Don’t think so.

On the other hand, some of the non-film characters are fun to read about. Why? Well, a couple reasons:

- Having no factual (in film) basis, there’s no disappointed expectations/presumptions
- The writers tend to keep them a bit under-powered compared to the film protagonists

Even when they’re the heroes of the story!

Case in point is Quinlan Vos, a character I sooooo wanted to hate. Ugh.

Jedi Master Quinlan Vos is apparently based on an extra from one of the Tatooine sequences (though one I’ve still missed in every watching). That is, his IMAGE is. His story is completely cut from whole cloth. Basically, he’s a Jedi that had a bit of a mean streak in him, works as a spy infiltrating the Separatists during the Clone Wars, but ends up turning to the Dark Side.

According to wookiepedia he eventually gets redeemed…but I haven’t managed to score that particular comic yet.

Why did I want to hate this guy? Um…pastiche? Cliché? The whole “guy on the inside that gets too deep and goes bad” has been done many times over the years (see Rush or The Departed for some examples). But even more than that, THIS particular story (Jedi going bad/coming back) was done in Dark Empire years ago.

What’s more, I detest anti-heroes with dreadlocks. Period. Bob Marley: ok, it’s his religion. Rob Zombie: sure, it’s his persona/character. Everyone else: nope. Football players (especially running backs) should cut that shit out…they want to look like a walking violation of the League drug policy or something? Come on.

So badass Jedi with dreads…no. Not liking it.

But a funny thing happened on the way to hating: the character won me over. Let me count the ways.

A) Rather than be a “badass” with a heart of gold (c.f. Vin Diesel as Riddick), Quinlan is a Jedi trying to be good that has a fatal flaw/bad streak in him. And it’s not arrogance/hubris (which has been overdone…"he fell to the Dark because he was too badass...blah, blah,blah") AND it’s not whiny/pathetic (Anakin).

B) The guy spends most of the comics NOT wearing Jedi robes. Instead he wears some sort of light body armor, and carries a blaster sidearm in addition to the lightsaber. Now THAT’s my kind of space opera hero!

C) The story itself is pretty good…you can see the guy going bad even though he continues to try to justify his actions to himself (he never “surrenders” and says, yeah, ok, I’m bad now). Love the delusional hero.

D) He’s got a hot girlfriend with purple hair and seems to not give a shit about any Jedi prohibition against romantic ties. This is, of course, right in line with the pre-prequel version of Jedi, but it’s still nice to see. Oh, yeah…and she’s a competent criminal herself, though not some super-badass (i.e. not a Jedi, or hardcase…but not a damsel in distress either).

E) He is badass against your average guy but still gets his ass handed to him by the film badasses (Dooku, for example). The fact that he doesn’t give up in the face of defeat (time and time again) just makes him endearing.

So, yeah, Quinlan won me over (I can’t say the same for Aura Singh…pick a side chica!). The fact that his story has a definitive beginning and ending (as opposed to say, Boba Fett showing up in some way, shape, or form throughout multiple series) just makes me appreciate him the more.

[what is it with Boba Fett anyway? Now he’s an f’ing clone? The guy went from a cool little bounty hunter to friggin’ Duncan Idaho!]

Now some may be wondering why I’m even bothering to collect/read these EU comics when I have so many gripes. Two words: research and inspiration.

“Research” of course refers to my own space game project, and even if it’s not an actual Star Wars RPG, the research I’m doing isn’t Star Wars based anyway. For example, I’m not cataloguing NPCs or planets or “force powers.” Instead, I’m looking at the KINDS of stories being told, the TYPES of conflict and antagonist being used, the SCENARIOS that the drama is based on. These are, after all “adventure” comics, and I want to know what kind of adventures are these characters having…what kind of situations are they finding themselves in? And how are they getting themselves into these adventures? Adventure crafting is what I’m doing.

“Inspiration” is also a form of research: research into the feel of the space opera genre. Unfortunately, few of these stories feel like true space opera…the scale of the conflict isn’t grand enough. Even Quinlan Vos, nice little story that he is, is kind of “gritty” or “down-and-dirty” SciFi. This is NOT the Lensmen series, or even Star Wars…it’s just “fantasy adventures” on other planets.

But even with THAT, there’s still something to be said for entertaining and beautiful artwork. Yes, the stories are only so-so, often disjointed or only semi-coherent plus rife with tired pastiche. But unlike the EU novels (which I find just as trite and contrived) the comic books have pretty pictures that make up for sooo much. Star Wars as a PRODUCT is a visual one; it is not “depth of character” but swashbuckling laser blades and exploding starships. The comics are much truer to the product identity in this regard than the novels ever could be.

And certainly some of the comics are closer to real grandiose space opera in tone. The Dark Empire series has gi-normous “world devastator” ships that wreck whole ecosystems faster than you can say “galactic space bypass” and Dark Empire II has some sort of “galaxy gun” that launches giant missiles through hyperspace capable of destroying entire planets (now THIS is very similar to a Lensman-style weapon, like Nth-Space Planet launcher). While the comics aren’t nearly as well-paced as the film sequences (they feel more stilted than “action-packed”) the stories, can be adapted to the space opera RPG…even the “grittier” stories, so long as one “ups” the scale of the conflict.

Of course, the trick is (in writing the game) to make sure the characters can keep pace with the conflict scale. You don’t want your first level characters getting kacked by a single goblin arrow when there’s a Death Star that needs dismantling.
; )

Mongoose Publishing...Pulling Our Legs?

According to Mongoose Publishing's 11/12 announcement, they were in negotiation to acquire the Star Wars game license but another company got there first. The exact quote is this:
In other A Call to Arms news, I can now report that we did not manage to grab the licence we were chasing for the game - Star Wars. We weren't really expecting this one to happen (we made a sideways reference to it in the State of the Mongoose), but we got much further along than we thought we would.

The interesting thing is why our negotiations ended - another company beat us to it. We are not going to reveal who this is (you have heard of them), as that is their fanfare to blow. However, I am sure many will find it intriguing that the licence covers card games, RPGs, and... miniatures. Now, the company concerned is not known for its miniatures lines, which will probably put paid to my dream of 28mm multipart/multipose Stormtroopers.

Um...really? Because there's been no such announcement at that I could find.

Not that it matters a whole lot to own space opera game won't require a license, being a conglomeration of multiple space fantasies. But I am curious. After all, it's one thing to SAY the license has already been acquired...but perhaps that's just a little something-something to throw other companies off the scent while Mongoose puts together the scratch/financial plan needed to pick it up themselves.

Actually, I wouldn't be too surprised to see someone purchasing a "bundle" license just to do a collectable card game. But WotC already had their shot and dropped it...who else is really that big a player in the card market?

Welp, I'm sure someone will make a real announcement in the near future....
; )

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Goblin Wars Update

For all my players: the game is ON this Thursday, as usual.

Much as I'd prefer to continue waxing about Star Wars or space opera or some other non-D&D subject, I'm feeling like I own my readers a bit of an update on what's been going down at the Baranof of late.

We'll see how much I can get typed up in the next 20 minutes.

To be brief: I wrote up a simple adventure to go with my rather complex campaign setting in the hopes of kicking off "something good." The first session went pretty well, and certainly easy on the party...they found their objective site-based adventure location after a minimum of wandering around, and got through a couple encounters without a single casualty (plus they made a hefty haul of troll loot). The second session, however, ended in disaster with seven of eight PCs killed (one player losing two characters over the course of the evening).

Matthew ("Cod Sandwich") re-joined us for the 2nd evening (he was the one who died twice...not the greatest Welcome Back, I'm afraid) so we had seven total players, but even if we'd had more, I'm not sure the PCs would have come out any better. I'm starting to think that Edwards's analysis of D&D (the "extreme crunch" of play at low-levels) is right on the money...survival really seems like a crap shoot at 1st level, unless all you do is lob soft balls at the players or fudge dice rolls (both things I'm loathe to do).

And yet, I was going with the standard "adventure set-up" of the Moldvay rules. Including empty rooms (which, by the way, are difficult to make interesting or exciting). I'll outline the encounters that did the PCs in:

- approaching the cave entrance (several days after their initial foray...they spent time between sessions healing up their fighter who took a bunch of damage), they were surprised to be on the receiving end of goblin arrows...apparently, leaving a dead wolf pack in their den is a tip to goblins that someone's been poking around their base of operations. Charging the cave like a Nazi pillbox (and wishing they had grenades) Matt's dwarf took an arrow in the head and went down. Fortunately, he'd brought his younger brother along. Yelling something about "unleashing the dragons" the PCs were able to bluff the gobbos into blowing their morale roll and retreating.

- wandering around the caves, they stumbled into an unstable tunnel (one of only a couple traps in the dungeon). Although they weren't taking any 10' pole like precautions, I gave all the dwarves and sharp-eyed elves (four of 'em) a 2 in 6 chance to spot "bad news." Then I gave everyone else (except the thief in the very back rank) the same chance. Every single roll was blown by the party. I then gave them all a chance to save versus paralysis to see if they could avoid being crushed by falling rock as the tunnel collapsed. The cave-in only did 1D8 damage (or half with the save) and all the PCs had maximum hit points for 1st level, but both elves still ended up getting crushed to death, and three others were battered and bruised (only the dwarf and thief in the back rank escaped unscathed...the magic-user was down to 1 hit point).

- the party decided it was time to cut their losses and retreat. On the way out, someone (probably Matt) asked if I thought the goblins would come back. "Good question." I rolled for wandering monsters and the dice came up a "1" so a patrol of (random roll) five goblins attacked them at a crossroads as they tried to thread their way out of the labyrinth. As the elves had been the only characters with sleep spells, the PCs were forced to fight. Kvarkel the mage did attempt his charm person spell, but the goblin saved with a 20, and the party was butchered in fairly rapid fashion. Only one wounded warrior (Vince's dwarf prince, Gordon) survived. He grabbed two backpacks from his fallen comrades and hustled his ass out before more goblins could arrive. Only one of the backpacks had treasure in it unfortunately (the other one belonged to Matt, who hadn't been with the party in the prior session and was flat broke).

When we left off last Thursday, I was strongly considering doing up a new, EVEN EASIER, adventure. But I'm pretty lazy...maybe we'll just run it again. There is, after all still treasure in them hills.

Unlike my White Plume Mountain one-off, I'm not so interested in killing all the PCs. Here's the thing: even without that, killing 1st level characters is too damn easy. The players were saying, they would have had a better chance of survival if I'd allowed them to buy plate mail (they still had AC 4 or better except for the MU and thief), but it really wouldn't have helped with the way my dice were rolling that night. Ugh.

Well, we'll see what happens this week. We ARE playing, after all.
; )