Weird Game Wednesday

Wednesday game with Wednesday Adam (not to be confused with Christina Ricci) underwent a change last night. The last couple of months, Adam has been running a game using the Savage Worlds system for a fantasy pirate setting. The pairing has, by unanimous consensus, not been a happy one. So, with free evening before us, we all decided to try something a little different: Wednesday Game Weirdness

In short, we look through Adam’s, frankly, STUPENDOUS library of role-play books, agree on which one to use and then see how feasible it is to create a character and play a game in one night.

The sound you’re hearing is Tim Kirk’s head exploding. =)

After winding our way through bookshelves of books – telling tales of certain games we’d played and enjoyed or cringed at – we agreed to give Orcs a try.

Orcs is basically the game in which you play Orcs. Unlike the slimy monstrous creatures of Mordor or the cockney gits of Warhammer, these Orcs, while primitive, have more of a ‘noble savage’ quality. A richer history of tribal feudalism and a semi-mystic heritage.

So naturally we played them as cockney gits cause, seriously, that why you’d play an Ork (don’t know which was the preferred spelling of the system so I’ll likely change it as I see fit)

Character creation went surprisingly quick. The players are given a pool of points which they must divide among themselves for character creation, as well as for the design of the group’s tribe and its power and social standing. Given 75 points we initially decided that we’d take 23 points each and the family could consider itself lucky it got six, until we learnt that tribes occasionally like to eat each other if they’re seemed as weaker. Deciding to pad out the family with another ten points (spent in the form of the Secret of Bronze) so as to make it look less appetizing, we turned to creating a race that we normally slay in droves.

Ness: The Big’Un. Otherwise known as Zug. High attributes in Strength and Endurance. Moderate attributes in Prowess and Courage. Low attributes in Cunning.

Rhys: Graka, the Sneaky Git. High attributes in Prowess and Cunning. Moderate attributes in Courage and Strength. Low attributes in Endurance.

Me: Thorka, the Crafty One. High attributes in Cunning and Prowess, Moderate attributes in Courage and Endurance. Low attribute in Strength.

Having covered the spread, stereotypically-speaking, we turned our attention to skills. And learnt that this was more or less when the author had got fed up with the whole system design. Skills were ‘Whatever you like’ so long as you could tie them to an attribute and give them a funny name. We also had some basic skills to get us started which included: Using a spear and shield, lighting a fire and staying awake. I don’t recall all of what we made up but:

Ness: Stop Squirmin’ (wrestling), Big Deal (resisting intimidation), What You Call Me!? (dishing out intimidation)

Rhys: Sneaky Git (Stealth), Stab Em In Da Dick (Dagger skill)

Me: Pointy Bits (Archery), Do Me A Favour… (Lying to people)

After getting some basic equipment and, by consensus, Ness picking up The Family Spear, we set about an encounter. In this case: Who Stole Our Mam’s Pastry?

Turns out it was a pretty desperate group of humans that I was able to track and then Rhys ambushed them while Ness waded in and I sniped from afar. We managed to kill four humans before two more heavily armed soldiers returned from patrol. Fortunately we didn’t suck on the combat attributes and were able to bring them down as well with no casualties to our side (though a not inconsiderable amount of wounding). We then ate the pie, blamed it on the humans and brought back the corpses for sausages.

THE MECHANICS:

Orcs uses 6 sided dice, combining skill and attribute to make up a pool. Rolling that pool against a target number nominated by the GM, the idea is to take the highest number rolled and compare it to that target. If it draws or exceeds, success! If not, fail! In the case of rolling double or triple values, you get to add one or more points to the highest result. So if I roll two 6’s, I’d get a 7. Three 6’s gets me 8. So in this game, three 4’s are the same as the 6 you rolled.

Combat started off easy. Prowess and relevant skill are rolled by either combatant and results are compared for the highest value. If that value is a tie, it moves down to the next highest value until one exceeds the other. If the highest value exceeds by one, it’s a grazing wound (likely 1 wound point). If by two or more, its a grave wound (2 wound points or more depending on how high your value is compared to his).

It’s at the wounding stage that things get a bit complex. First of all, if you’ve successfully hit someone, or got hit yourself, than you’re guaranteed a wound. The difference as to whether it’ll be a grazing or a grave wound is decided here. The attacker rolls to separate dice pools. One pool is made up of the wound value of the weapon used. The other pool is made up of strength and any bonus dice for particular weapons. The results of the weapon pool determine what results can’t be used by the opponent. In other words: If I roll a 6 and a 5, then my opponent can’t use any 6’s or 5’s to compare results against me. The strength roll’s value is compared to the opponent’s soak roll (made up of the Endurance Attribute and any armour).

If the attacker wins the result, it’s a grave wound, the amount of wounds equalling the difference between values in the attacking roll. If the defender wins, then it’s just a graze, but still costs a wound point.

It’s here that we also learnt that we only had about three wound points to rely on. So three grazes or two grave wounds could see us dead very quickly. The best defense is Don’t Get Hit.

Once an opponent is reduced to zero, he/she can still attack or run or do activities but at a -1 die modifer. Also, any wound, graze or grave will guarantee death.

There are other modifiers that we didn’t get to explore fully:

In archery, if I’m considered to be at ‘Long Range’, then the opponent gets three bonus dice to defend against my attack.

If one of the opponents has a bigger or longer weapon than the other, that attacker gets to make one of his dice equal a 6. He/she then rolls the remainder and goes through the motions.

Orcs only know the Secret of Bronze and that’s only for your Orc from MIT. If they don’t, then they have to use flint or stone weapons. Humans know the Secret of Iron and Dwarves know the Secret of Steel. If a weapon of inferior materials strikes a superior-made armour, then the defender gets to eliminate one of his opponent’s dice. If an orc with a stone weapon attacked a dwarf with steel armour, then the dwarf would be able to cancel 3 dice from the attacking Orc before rolling. This is to represent how Dwarves, Humans and Elves can depopulate Orcs with ease, which does not speak well for players at all.

Oh, and Elves. Elves are the nastiest, vilest most evil creatures (according to Orcs) and the rules state that any elf that an Orc engages in combat has 3 dice more than the highest combat ranking Orc of the players.

THE CONCLUSION

System-wise its a combination of some elegantly simple dice mechanics that have been combined with some horribly skewed ones. I’m not sure why things had to complex at the wounding stage, particularly when you’re assured of scoring a hit, unless you’re attacking a dwarf, but there you have it. Also the high mortality rate this game encourages means that you’re looking at not so much playing just one Orc, but several as your family’s 10th reunion is swiftly diminished after each encounter. While we didn’t die against outnumbered forces, it’s easy to see that it is a different approach to role-playing is called. A more dynastic view as opposed to a singular or group of heroes. Which doesn’t work for me.

Secondly, while its innovative to enrich the culture of Orcs with experiences from Native Americans, Incas or other races, why wouldn’t you just play them instead of the Fantasy Genre’s equivalent of a Mook?

That said, it was simple enough to create a character and play a game and the level of exposition into the culture could make for an interesting story or two. Orc would probably work better if the story was centered around the tribal feuding of other Orcs with occasional incursions by humans, dwarves or nasty, nasty elves. A way of playing things from a new perspective.

Or, you could play the luckiest (or unluckiest, depending) band of Orcs who have to move from Warlord to Warlord as each are overthrown. A band that gets conscripted into Sauron’s army, which is all good until the armies of Dwarves, Men and Elves arrive and it all comes crashing down when some hairy-footed child drops some jewelry into lava.  Then they travel on, taking up employment with an evil witch and things are great until a midget overthrows the witch with a baby girl. Then they move on again to a wizard in a crystal tower until an ebony-hued elf and his band of companions turn up…

Kinda like two butterfly-garbed henchmen of note…

This will be a fortnightly post and/or as played.

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