Freaky Game Friday: Tales of Gaea

Freaky Game Friday: Tales of Gaea

1974: Gary Gygax publishes the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons
1974 and One Day: Games Designers around the world cry “ME TOO!”

Our seminal history of roleplaying aside, it would be well after the sound and fury – some 26 years hence – that Hinterwelt Enterprises would publish Tales of Gaea, but it does go to show that even after two and a half decades of new games, reprints of old games and wholly different ideas about roleplaying that there are still bits of the dead horse to wail on. Continue reading

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Freaky Game Friday (Weird Game Wednesday in spirit) – Age of Ruin

Wednesday Adam has been talking about a game he picked up; specifically he was talking about one element: telepathic mutants with giant frontal lobs that warp the forehead into something that looks like a butt, called ‘Buttheads’. With such a high-minded concept we decided to subject it, and ourselves, to Weird Game Wednesday.

However, time being what it is and the number of roleplay games and other activities we have going, Weird Game Wednesday has had to be rechristened to Freaky Game Friday.

The premise remains the same. For those unfamiliar: Can we create a character, play a game and call it a fun night? Continue reading

Weird Game Wednesday: Proteus. Part 2

After establishing the pecking order as far as intellect went, it was decided that while I would have Danner talking like Niles Frasier, it would be all in his head and the other characters would hear is ‘Drulk Smash!’ Regardless though, Ness took the torch and climbed atop the ring of standing stones, making her way toward the altar. Which Adam took as to mean ‘breaching the circle’ causing three zombies to turn up.

THE RULES
As stated earlier, the system employs a 30-sided die, which is rolled with the intention of getting under the value of the relevant skill. Which, given how we power-gamed our characters, you think would result in an easy victory. Not so. Because it’s also about how much under your roll is when compared to the value.

Then you roll D30 to see whereabouts your blow landed (head, torso, legs, arm, Mum).
Which is then cross-referenced on a grid, indexed by the difference value, and then that result is compared to the armour of the critter. So with my Strength of 20, all I got was a +2 bonus on top of this value, while the other players got +1 and I needed that cause my first roll was a 23, which inflicted only 5 points of damage unmodified, that was easily absorbed by the putrescent hide of the undead, leaving only 1 wound inflicted on his right arm. While I had moved toward my zombie, Ness elected to stay atop the standing stones, sniping from above as the second zombie lurched closer, and Rhys lined up the third zombie with a spell.

Rhys then remembered why he hates mana-point-based spellcasting…

Rhys: I only have enough for TWO SPELLS!?

What’s worse was the first roll only got under by 6 which, after calculation, dealt 3 damage to another zombie’s left arm.

GM’s, last post I talked about tells or clues as to whether your players are having fun or not. A sure-fire way to determine this is if they start writing ‘SHIT’ multiple times on their character sheets with big arrows pointing to their spell selections. Subtler signs also include writing ‘EXOTIC’ in the notes section or ‘Orang-utan, lemur, monkey,l chimp gorilla cat woman, or 36, 25, 36 in the character description. Or, if you’re lucky, you might notice under Mutant Powers ‘Extra Helping of SUCK!’ listed.

The zombie, employing what we dubbed ‘The Chin-Up Ax’, available on the Home Shopping Network for 30% off unless you’re Rhys’s character in which case you get it as a Mutant Power (Axercise your way into shape!) scored a hit on Orang-Aileen, while she was atop a 10 foot standing stone, and dealt critical damage to her torso in one blow, putting her at +8 to all her dice rolls.

Here’s another clue as finding out if your players are having fun…

Adam: Have you got the damage written down?
Ness: Yes. I put ‘Sucking’ on the hit location table, but didn’t have enough room for ‘Chest Wound’.
Rhys:  I got ‘Sucking’ written down as well. Next to Ben’s Mum!
All: Hey-O!

Back in the carnage, Rhys decided that ‘Spellzors’ are teh suck and transferred points into his Swordplay skill, managing then to dispatch his zombie. After my dismal first blow, Drulk got angry. The zombie didn’t like him when he was angry.

Ness, meanwhile, was running for her life when she wasn’t shooting her zombie to dismal effect. The problem became further compounded when Adam informed her that each action after she fired an arrow, her next action had to be spent reloading. So while Ness effectively lost half her actions for that round, Rhys and I closed in and finished the job.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Proteus is staggeringly easy to min-max for a randomly rolled attribute sytstem. And given the difficulty of combat, you’d be mad not to. The primary attributes only serve as part of a formula to determine the secondary attributes, and then effectively discarded. The book’s information is poorly, to say the least, laid out. The races aren’t particularly noteworthty (save the comedic appeal of the Drulk) and the silver being worth more than gold bit is crap justication for the ‘Exotic’ label. Oh and Rhys would once again like to underscore tha magic in this, and most other mana-point-based system sucks and Ness discovered that the character sheet makes a really excellent paper aeroplane.

Weird Game Wednesday: Proteus. Part 1

Proteus, published in 1992 by Bruce Gomes Industries, boasts an ‘exotic’ take on High Fantasy Roleplaying. Which we took to mean as an MSWord copy of Lord of the Rings with the Find/Replace function used liberally; but fair point to it– there were a number of concepts and systems that were unlike any thatw ould have been found in 1992 and some that wouldn’t have been found even today.

Whether that is a good thing is what the group would discover…

Plucked from the depths of Adam’s library, all we really knew about Proteus was that it employed a system and dice mechanism that was just too exotic to be calculated by mundane polyhedrons. No, the potential amount of randomness could only be contained within a 30 sided die! Of course, 30 sided die are somewhat too exotic for it to be necessary or, for that matter, profitable to be fabricated and sold at game retailers, but Proteus had thought of that and proposed if you rolled a D6 and a D10 – treating 1-2 as 0, 3-4 as 10 and 5-6 as 20, with the D10 being used as units of 1 – it would all work out and you too could sup from the goblet of exoticness.

So, with notions of abandoning this idea at the gate and getting into a pick-up game of Shield Wall, we put pencil to character sheet and commenced our exotic journey into the world of Proteus.

CHARACTERS
First thing to decide wa what race we would be, and this is where we learnt how exotic Proteus really is. No Elves or Dwarfs in this world, oh no. Our choices were:

Humans (taste the exoticness)
Centaurs (Might have been exotic except that Rhys has conerned the Centaur market in his game system)
Drulk (Take a guess. If you guessed the All Muscle and No Brains race, then Marvel lawyers want you in a courtroom. It’s described as ‘Neanderthal Race’ in the book)
Ti-Chu (The bird race, which is the first race everyone writes up when they don’t want to use Elves or Dwarfs)
Neraki (The cat/weasel/monkey, um aboreal race that is the second thing everyone writes when they don’t want to use Elves or Dwarfs)
Rhat (oooh, what possible mysteries could lurk behind such an enigmatic and clever name…)
Albino (Okay, there was actually a name for this but I’m blowed if I can remember it and really all it entailed was albino humans, who are apparently numerous enough to constitute a race)

Already the smack-talk was flying thick and fast and, after I yelled out ‘Drulk Smash’, I knew I had my character. Rhys decided that the Ti-Chu could work for him, namely because he kept saying ‘I’ll Ti-Chu’ to all of us. Ness orginally went with the Albino race but threw that away when she learnt that she wouldn’t get to roll on the Mutant Abilities table. So she decided to try the Neraki and, as it turns out, none of us were mutants after all. My dreams of making my Drulk an X-Man (The X stands for eXotic) were dashed.

Attributes in Proteus are made up of 6 primary attributes, 5 of which have 3 secondary attributes attached to it. The 6th, being Appearance, didn’t for reasons unknown but were likely exotic.

As for the others:
Fortitude (Strength, Stamina, Mass)
Coordination (Dexterity, Agility, Speed)
Intellect (Memory, Reason, Cognition)
Wit (Craft, Personality, Empathy)
Psyche (Spirit, Willpower, Luck)

As each race had a different die set to roll, I began with Appearance.

A brief aside: You may think that I began with Appearance because it’s alphabetical and that would make logical sense, but it wouldn’t be exotic. In fact, alphabetizing was what ALL the other roleplay systems did and Proteus isn’t like that, oh no! So each page was an undiscovered country of information in exotic and unlikely places and what characters rolled for attributes was only gleaning the surface.

Attributes are rolled and already I was having flashbacks to last fortnight’s Cringeworthy experience. I rolled. And got a 15! Awesome, my Drulk was a pretty boy! This concept was further cemented when I rolled a strength of 4 on 2D10. Fortunately most races have a minimum value that you can’t roll under and so I got 8 instead. My Drulk had a purdy mouth…

As painful as that was, I actually didn’t do that badly on the rolling attributes bit and, after having Cringeworthy purge all the bad karma out of my dice (and promptly hand it over to Ness), I did rather well on Coordination, Intellect and Wit with high scores in Empathy. I was the lead singer of a Drulk Boy Band! Still, that 8 Fortitude rankled at my otherwise respectable character. Fortunately we had the option of rerolling one of our primary attriubtes and all of the secondary attributes attached, which we all employed. Trading my D10’s got me a Fortitude of 11 and a Strength of 19 as well as significant secondary attribute enhancements across the board. Ness rolled better (which wasn’t hard) on her Coordination, but unfortunately luck abandoned her on the secondary attributes roll, making two of them lower than previous. Rhys didn’t gain anything significant but did field an impressive score in Spirit and, surprisingly, Stamina. In fact, it exceeded my score by a value of 6.

Let me say that again: The hollow-boned birdman had more ‘go’ than the Incredible Drulk!

This, as you may expect, was taken with good grace and comradery between myself and Rhys and the fact that he wrote ‘Ben’s Mum on his hit location table under Wings, Head, Torso, Arms and Legs, is simply an example of this, albeit be it an exotic one.

He hit that a lot.

Skills, spells and further attribute points could be purchased by way of character points. Ignoring the opportunity to bump my stamina to its racially rightful place at the head of the party, I took the opportunity to raise other lesser attributes to a minimum of 10. Ness did the same, spending more points to do it, though. Rhys, with his high Spirit and Intellect stats, decided to pour his points into Spells instead. Ness focused on Archery and Climbing. I would concentrate on hitting things with heavy things.

Knowing that this was going to start out as a brawl/test of the combat system, the idea of distributing points to skills that weren’t going to be useful in combat seemed, well, stupid. It also demonstrated a fault in that characters can poweer game in Proteus like it’s going out of style. By the time all was said and done, Ness had archery, climbing and brawl at about 25 each, I had club at 30. Rhys, who had been regaled with the full list of spells by Adam, and then harvested it to ‘What lets me blow shit up at range?’ – which turned out to be 4 – chose all of those and a swordplay skill with values no less than 25. To pass a skill check in combat, all we had to was roll under our values on a 30 sided die. Piece. Of. Cake.

Each of us were given our starting capital: Ness had 200 gold. I had 20 gold. Rhys had 4 silver.

We need to talk about the currency because that is what’s competing against the 30 sided die for ‘Most Exotic Part of the Game’. Copper is the lowest in terms of monetary value, but in a shocking and, dare I say, exotic twist– silver is WORTH MORE THAN GOLD!??! Absolutely NO REASON is offered for why this is the case but it meant that while I had 20 Gold and Rhys had 4 silver, he was, in fact, the Daddy Warbucks of the group! After much expletive laden debate, we decided that it was a Goth Economy, with pewter being the next most valuable and Latex Ingots being the rare equivalent of Platinum in the more mundane fantasy games.

So I, not having the currency to afford anything else by way of clubbing weapons, shelled out 10 copper for a 2×4 while Rhys bought shiny chainmail armour and fancy swords.

After that came various calculations to do with weight limits, damage bonuses (such as they were) and critical statistics for each item on the Hit Location table. Which led to the following exchange:

Adam: Take your Stamina and Mass, add them together and then subtract eight for each category of damage.
Ben: So I’ve got 48, then 40, then 32…
Adam: Exactly.
Rhys and Ness: What’s the stats for Ben’s Mum?
Ben: 36, 24, 36…

Finally we came to the unenviable task of naming our characters. Rhys had already leapt ahead with this and called his Ti-Chu; Ah-Choo. While he waited, Ness and I bandied about name ideas:

Ness: Gorilla, Orang-utan… But female.
Ben:…
Ness: What did you name your character?
Ben: Danner.
Ness:…
Ben: It’s short for ‘Deuce Danner’.

I think it was either this, or the Latex Ingots that almost killed Ness laughing. It didn’t help that we settled on naming her character ‘Orang-Aileen’. Or that if you say ‘Orang-AileenAh-ChooDanner’ that it sounds like on of those made up words in a Spice Girls song.

After making sure that we were going to end up with as many players as we had started with, we turned to the adventure proper.

THE ADVENTURE
Learning about a mysterious circle of standing stones, said to be the resting place of the mighty wizard, Bruce; the party sallied forth in seaarch of fabled treasure, said to be buried with hte mundanely monogramed mage. Approaching the stones, there emerged some debate in the party as to who should be the ‘Torchbearer’.

Rhys: I’m the smart one, so I just get one of you two to do it.
Ness: Well, I’m smarter than the Drulk so he can do it.
Me: Err, Danner agree.
Me: Actually, how much smarter are your characters?
Rhys: By a lot. I’ve got 10 in Memory, 11 in Reason and 16 in Cognition.
Me: You’ve got me beat in Cognition, but it’s only by one or two points for the rest.
Rhys: How about you, Ness?
Ness:…

I don’t remember the scores for Orang-Aileen but…

Me: Oh my God! Danner is smarter than you!
Ness: Gasping for breath
Me: Why the hall am I playing this guy like Grimlock! (switches voice to something approaching a fusion of David Niven, Peter Lorre and C3PO)  I convince your character to take up the torch. I won’t bother explaining how. It’d just go over your head.
Ness: Drulk Smash!

Weird Game Wednesday: Cringeworthy Part 2

CONTINUED FROM POST BELOW

Wow, so there’s a word limit on what you can post through LiveBlog after all…

At least this should describe, if nothing else, the tedious length of character creation. Now, onto the game.

So anyway, Fringe Pirates. Not much needed to know because Piracy is the same everywhere whether it’s done on the high seas, in space or on alternate worlds. Fortunately we have the brave members of SG67 to help.

We landed. Alarms were sounded and combat commenced. Ness ran forward with her 16 agility while Rhys took a shot at a Fringe Pirate lurking behind a shrub. And now here is where planning pays off because I took notes for those ‘unlucky’ enough to miss this:

Rhys has an accuracy of 21. He has to roll under it on a D20 in order to land a hit. Hmmm…
The Fringe Pirate is in the bushes so he gets some cover. Negative 2 so Rhys has to roll under 19 to hit. Not surprisingly, Rhys pulls this off.
Now he has to roll percentile dice to see where the shot landed. He gets 83 out of 100.
Chest shot! Go to Table B.
Rolling 2D6, Rhys gets a 4 and a 3.
Consult the table… You hit him in the heart.
Roll Damage.
You Do 23 tissue damage.
You blow through a bone (clean break)
You blow through a major organ (one assumes it’s the heart).
You damage a major artery (roll to see if you sever it. Nope, just a nick for 1 hit point every minute of combat due to blood loss).
Now Adam, as GM, rolls a percentile aiming to get over 90% to see if the Fringe Pirate dies. He does. I am envious.

Adam: “And to think that guy would have had to roll all those results, even if you only scored one point of damage on him!” I restrain myself from flying across the table at either him or Ness, barely. Ness, sensing this, pulls out the giant, solid bronze, D20 of concussion.

Ness: “Who’s to blame for this now?” she says while hefting its weight.

Me: “You think death is something I fear at this moment?”

The alarm summouns reinforcements and four new Fringe Pirates take up position. Ness and I close distance. Rhys takes a shot at one of the newcomers and hits. According to the table the bullet gets the right arm. Back to the table.
Does 8 points of damage out of the 36 rolled (because you can only do so much damage to a location).
Punches through 2 points of flesh.
No artery damage.
Rhys also gets an additional 4pts of damage due to the hydrostatic shock from the bullet. The Fringe Pirate rolls to see if he goes into shock. He doesn’t.

Oh, and I almost forgot. Each time you fire the weapon, you make a percentile roll. If you get under 2%, your weapon is borked.

I get attacked by the pirates. They hit.
Chart determines I get struck on the left arm.
I get done for 9pts of damage, which would take me down to 75% of my total if I weren’t wearing my animal hide. This means I’m spared having to see if I go into shock.

This goes on for a while. The idea is that you roll under your accuracy attribute with a D20. If you roll under half of the modified target number, you get to choose the location. Otherwise you roll percentile dice to randomly decide where you strike. Then you roll 2D6 and, ideally, look for 2’s to 4’s as extreme resultes of 1’s and 6’s indicate you only graze the target. Many grazes were scored this game, mostly doing little damage due to the ballistic armour people were weaaring. Which turns the combat into a game of Pong.

Adam then decided to try out the grenade rules. Which actually called for a different attribute roll (?) and, surprisingly, no tables to deal with scatter that EVERY OTHER GAME typically has. A wasted opportunity for more tables. Then the range of the damage blast is examined. Forty feet.

Rhys: “Hang on, aren’t we in a fifty foot area?”

Adam flips pages, trying to navigate the absurdly complex rules index before giving up and deciding that the Fringe Pirate doesn’t throw a grenade and comfortably returns to the familiar of shooting people.

Just to reinforce how convoluted this system can get:

Rhys fires. Hits low enough to choose locaton. He chooses the head.
Rolls 2D6. Table declares the result to be upper mid-right teeth.
Tissue damage is dealt
4pts of bone damage
More tissue damage
More bone damage
Major organ is hit (possibly the brain)
Another 8 points of bone damage.
Then comes the shock roll. He’s dead.

Or

I manage to actually score a hit (Two hits for the entire game) and roll for the result. I hit the abdomen.
Roll 2D6. Result– I hit the colon!
2pts of tissue damage
4pts of organ damage
Clean hit (no bones in the way)
Roll for severing artery. It’s nicked.
Woo. Hoo.

The most confusing part of the combat exchange was this:

Rhys rolls to hit.  Chooses the head as the location.
Rolls 2D6 and gets a 1 and a 6. At this point, we all groan ‘graze’ with a tired familiarity. But no, turns out that result means you miss.

…Let me repeat that. YOU CAN MISS, RIGHT AFTER YOU’VE SCORED A HIT??!!11WTFBBQ!

Fortunately the second shot got him in the zyogomaticus and resulted in the Fringe Pirate’s death. Ultimately, after much page flipping, we won (Ironically I killed the last guy with a shot to the achilles tendon). And while I was already mentally draining the scotch I got for my birthday in an attempt to forget this night, Ness still felt this wasn’t enough table rolling. So she decided that we got arrested for doing our job and it went to trial. You’ll remember, all the way back in the last post about that the book told you what roleplaying was all about? Well here’s an example of that Tri-Tac system of roleplay.

Rolling on the legality table we learn that:
Our legal defense isn’t that good.
The Judge and jury are interested in the case.
It’s a political hotbed (for reasons unclear).
Apparently there is plenty of evidence and witnesses (Fringe Pirate corpses and ourselves respectively. So much for self-incrimination or burying the bodies).
Also, apparently we offered a bribe and it was rejected. (Don’t recall when THAT happened).
The case sets a precedent. FOR MURDER??!!
And all of this culminates into -35% for a percentile roll to decide our fate. The result: Standard Punishment.

It’s then that I learn the absolute best thing about the Tri Tac system of roleplay: I don’t actually have to be there to suffer it.

Weird Game Wednesday: Cringeworthy

Okay, get yourself a coffee or something. This is going to be a long one…

…No, seriously. Get something. You’ll be here a while. We’re talking Metal Gear Solid/Final Fantasy cutscene levels of length.

Fringeworthy, devised in 1997 – based off a series of unpublished books in the 70’s by game author/designer/math sadist, Richard Tucholka – tells the story of people possessed of a grand destiny who have the, um, genetic potential, one supposes, to traverse the Fringepaths that separate worlds and alternate dimensions by way of an alien gate. Um, to the stars.

If this is sounding at all familiar, take note of the date. Richard Tucholka passed up a fuckton of money so he could design random tables of occurences.

Anyway, none of us gave a crap about the story and were more focused on the Tri-Tac system, something that I heard spoken of with a quality one hears in stories of men with hooks for hands or giant crocodiles in sewers. Occasionally the legend would recount things such as 100 different body locations, or allergy tables, or other arbitrary tools for generating all manner of instances and outcomes. When Wierd Game Wednesday was made real, this was the game we knew we would play eventually.

I was not looking forward to this. Especially because I had abandoned the notion of rolling random values for attributes about roughly 10 years ago. Point assignation was what had been for dinner since I had stopped playing Palladium RPGs and while I missed the settings and stories, I’d never looked back as far as systems go. My dice karma does the job as far as combat and skill rolls go, but it sucks when it comes to rolling for strenth, dexterity, constitution and, unlike Palladium’s system, I’d be rolling double the normal amount of values for 15 attributes TOTAL!

Abilities included the usual mix of strength, dex and con, but added to that: Agility, Intelligence, Wisdom, Luck, Dealing with Aliens, Dealing with Alien Technology, Charisma and a whole host of others which seemed to an ill-designed attempt encapsulate every conceivable action a character could do, including which hand he used to wipe his bum!

What was worse is the paragraph that states that you don’t get rerolls, don’t get to assign values to attributes and don’t get, really, to decide just what type of character you get. Its roll 4D6 and subtract four and that’s the result.

Period.

You may want to play, for example, a scientist. In which case you better hope that you roll 10 or higher in your intelligence or other relevant attribute because if that 19 gets rolled on your strength, while your intelligence is listed as 5, then chances are you got your doctorate on a Football Scholarship. Which may not gel with your doctor who’s supposed to have the brilliance of Kildare, Cox and House but that’s tough! Creative control over your character is for wimps and you play the character fate dealt you. That’s ROLEPLAYING, son, the book explains (somewhat abridged).

…Being told by a book published in 1997 (Two years after I’d already been roleplaying quite well thankyouveddymuch) and being told I was doing it WRONG takes a special kind of arrogance…

What the book fails to mention is just what happens when you roll four 1’s and the shitstorm that results when you try to do anything in the Tri-Tac system with a zero value attribute.

So, hoping my that my dice karma had accrued positive luck for this endeavour over time, I rolled the bones and took my chances. And the highest value I got was an 11 in Constitution. I had though that I got a 14 in dealing with alien technology until I learnt that I had to put a % at the end of it. Woo-fucking-hoo. Meanwhile I had rolled a 3 for Dealing with Aliens and, ironically, 1 for Luck.

The train had already hopped the rails, but it’s worth mentioning the looming cliff on the horizon, in the sequence of character creation. Unknowing just what kind of hand you’re going to be dealt, the game insists you give your character his/her name and occupation first. Having sensed that this was going to about as south as shitting out one’s liver, I decided to set the lowest expectation I could. I would be Jason Steel, Eskimo! (or Inuit)

Ness decided to follow suit and became Sharon Stone (Shazza), Dole Bludger!

Rhys, not wholly willing to let go of the combat character safety rail, nevertheless chose Joe Schmoozy, Black Panther!

Ness actually did pretty well on the attribute roll, scoring a 19 in constitution and a 13 in accuracy. On the other hand, she did get a strength of 5. Rhys managed to get attributes that strongly favoured a combat character(and so the universe turns exactly as it should). Wednesday Adam then started to read the COPIOUS amounts of skills we could take. However, we could only take skills that our previously established occupation could, conceivably, have provided.

Rhys, thusly, had access to a skillset that could only occur if Rambo and Solid Snake punched each other so hard that they fused into one being. Ness only had access to self-taught skills but, with some pretty clever LA Law level justification and arguement, managed to score blade fighting, pistol use and air/space navigation. She rounded it out with Fashion Makeup and child care as she was wrangling the system with 8 children.

In my case I had to think about what kind of skills, available only through self-tutelage and work experience, an eskimo would have. I chose Archery, Archery Technology (how build and maintain a bow), Polar Survival, Boating, Swimming, Additional Language, Blade Combat, Musical Instrument and a whole host of other abilities that did exactly squat. Weird Game Wednesday typically centres around combat and I figured that so long as I could put max points into archery and blade combat, I might be able to salvage some fun out of this…

Fringworthy Skill Ratings are determined by rolling 1D4 (WHAT??!!). If it’s your one primary skill, you get to add 4 to the result (which was polar survival). If it’s either of your two secondary skills (archery and boating), you get to add 2 to the result. If it’s either of your two hobby skills (musical instrument and additional language) you get to add 1 to the value. Otherwise you eat the turd sandwich the dice has made for you and smile pretty.

Rolling a 1 on my archery skill and rolling a 1 on my blade combat, while my musical instrument enjoyed a value of 5 would keep me silent no longer. Hereon I would blame Ness for everything since it was her idea to try this out.

…It’s also worth pointing out that skills don’t count for crap as the tasks are pretty much entirely attribute-driven. You need at least a 3 rank in a skill for it to grant you +1 to a skill roll and every 3 ranks after that. “I BLAME YOU!” I cried at Ness, not for the last time during this adventure.

But the rollercoaster of character creation was not done yet. Now we needed to roll percentile dice and get under 4% to see if we were pyschic. Rhys and I scored an 8 and 7 respectively. Remembering something from previous discussions, both of us claimed that our parents were psychic, doubling our result chances, but nooooo. Wednesday Adam hadn’t read the rules for psychics and so we remained remarkably mundane.

Then came the allergy table and finally my dice didn’t let me down. A character with no allergies seemed pretty dull though and Ness and I were curious to see the road not travelled on this roll and, as such, tried again. This time both of us a mild uncommon allergy to animal fur. Well, that wouldn’t have been so bad. Let’s go onto armour and equipment. What did you choose for armour, Ben?

Me: Animal Hide.

It gives little comfort to know that an alternate version of me was in a worse situation than I was with this system, but what the heck. I’ll take the win.

Rhys’s character, who had taken time from his 80’s action movie lifestyle to explore alternate worlds, got guns, advanced armour and a machette. Ness chose her armour based on how pretty it looked and ended up getting some advanced ballistic protection. She’d already decided on the machette before any of us, owing to her character needing to know how to use a blade when job dodging. Keeping true to my eskimo roots and concept, I went for a bow and arrow. And a spear.

Once again, the hyper dense stats for anything possibly imaginable were read out for each weapon. 8 different stats governing rate of fire, ranges, damage, damage at various ranges and more. The fan page for the site boasts that you could take anything from Guns and Ammo magazine and translate it accurately into the system (which surprised me less than learning that there was an ACTUAL FAN PAGE for the system), but the fun times didn’t stop there. For bladed weapons there are five different ways you can wound someone, not including bludgeoning them with the pommel of the weapon. Extra modifiers to damage were derived from how sharp you kept your balde, determined by a 100 sided dice. We agreed that Rhys’s character would be obsessive enough to keep all our weapons sharpened and would ensure that none of would have to work out 75% of damage rolled on 4D6 or 4D10.

While Ness was playing with the random rolls table for determining what planet might land on, Adam points out that we could, according to the rules, reroll our entire character if weren’t happy with what we had. Bile welled up in my mouth as I spat “I BLAME YOU!” at Ness, roughly about the time when she had to roll as to whether we landed on a planet or a gas giant. Secretly I hoped for the latter as that would have to guarantee us rerolling characters, though the randomness of how easily we could die didn’t fail to upset my already fragile patience for this system.

FINALLY we were ready to commence the game: Our team, SG67 (the ‘special’ unsong exploratory/action group) had landed on a planet to hunt down some Fringe Pirates.
TO BE CONTINUED

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.