Attempting To Articulate An Elusive Thought

I am attempting to articulate a thought that started earlier today, but for whatever reason, at the moment I am blaming my kids, the thought is elusive.  Maybe this will help me catch and articulate the idea.

I think, based on statistical data, game play experience, 20+ years as a gamer, and game designer that the Zentraedi are out of balance.

I think this imbalance is detrimental to the game. This imbalance does fit the nature of the source material where a small, but determined group holds off and ultimately defeats a numerically superior foe.

The imbalance is detrimental because of the nature of the game, that of a strategy or wargame.  If this was a role-playing game that used miniatures, much like Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons to represent the heroes while a Game Master used the Zentraedi miniatures in the role of “monster,” this would not be an issue as the players are one side and expected to be heroes against the Game Master controlled “monsters.”  Heroes in role-playing games and stories routinely trounce the odds.

For a strategy game balance is necessary.  The sides need to be equal or equivalent.  They can have different abilities, point costs, and groups of deployment, but in the end both sides should be equal.  This way both players with equal valued sides have a chance at victory.  Of course scenario construction can alter conditions of victory, but with a base game setup-between two sides of equal value either side should have a chance to win.  The player with the better strategy should win.

Which is where we encountered our conundrum, two sides with equal value repeatedly fought, players switched sides, and the Zentraedi side lost.

As I was discussing with a commenter, I do believe that there are ways to win with the Zentraedi.  I also believe that a better balance could have been achieved to make the sides closer to equal. I would have liked to see that balance at the base level of the game though, between two core squads.

I am not looking for parity between a battlepod and a veritech.  Perhaps a glaug and a veritech, but with battlepods at the moment they are approximately 1/3 a veritech, but the Zentraedi player does not get three times as many, they get roughly twice as many.  Maybe that is a fix, up the number of battlepods in a squad?

Removing our experiences from the equation, because I am more than willing to look at the conundrum, discuss the conundrum, and look at other points of view, what about those players who are not?  What happens to Robotech RPG Tactics if other players encounter the same conundrum, they bought the game thinking that it was a strategy game and find that they too cannot win or win regularly with the Zentraedi?

 

 

Jayne Cobb, Hero of Kashyyk

Jayne!

The wookie they call Jayne!

He robbed from the rich and he gave to the poor.

He stood up to the man and tore off his arms what for.

Our love for him now, ain’t hard to explain,

The hero of Kashyyk, the wookie the call Jayne!”

Welcome to the first of many reimagined Firefly-Serenity characters for Star Wars Edge of the Empire.  Today we start off with one of several variants for Jayne Cobb.  Jayne had a cuddly aspect, which lead me to think, fur, which lead to ewok, but the are not available yet, but wookies are and they would look good in Jayne’s hat.

There are more game details for those people who want to use this Jayne and any other for their Star Wars Edge of the Verse adventures.

Wookie Jayne CobbSpecies: Wookie

Career: The Hired Gun           Specialization: Marauder

Obligation: Debt, shared with rest of crew (10 points) and Bounty, see song above (10 points)

Motivation: Fame

Attributes

Brawn  4  Agility  2  Intellect  2  Cunning  2  Willpower  2  Presence 2

Soak  4  Wounds  22  Strain  10  Defense 0

Skills red is class skill

Athletics 1  Brawl 2  Coercion 1  Melee 2  Ranged (light) 2  Ranged (heavy) 2

Talents

Toughened 2 (+2 Wound per level); Feral Strength 1 (+1 Brawl and Melee damage to one attack per turn); Heroic Fortitude (Spend 1 Destiny to ignore effects of critical injury to Brawn and Agility)

Wookie Rage

+1 damage to Brawl and Melee damage when wounded; +2 Brawl and Melee damage when critically injured

Equipment *

Vera (see below) and Warm Hat from Mom

Vera

Modified Wookie Bowcaster with Bowcaster Auto-Re-cocker and Bowcaster Accelerated Enhanement

Damage 12

Critical 3

Range Medium

Encumbrance 5

Attributes: Auto-fire (can shoot multiple shoots in one action); Cumbersome 3 (must have Brawn of 3 to use without penalty); Knockdown (targets can be knocked down); Pierce +2 (Ignore 2 soak)

* This version of Jayne breaks the starting equipment “rules” a lot. I personally don’t have a problem with this as Jayne is not Jayne if he doesn’t have Vera, even if to offer in trade for another man’s woman, and his hat.  Normal “rule” following characters would only have 500 credits to spend (the bowcaster before mods starts at 1,200 credits).  Feel free to modify as you or your Gamemaster desires.

Lastly, I refrained from giving explanations of the skills because I figure most people will have the core book, if you think explanations of the skills or other information would be useful let me know.

More Bouncing Ball Please

black-fangWhen we last left our intrepid adventurers they had driven off Black Fang, the young black dragon, and headed back to Sandpoint for their rewards.

Today’s adventure started off with Galadriel, Gimli, and Buffy drinking ale floats (our boy because root beer floats was not being sold), shopping, and hoping that the next adventure would smack them in the face.  What do you know, within minutes the clarion call for adventurers to go adventuring was heard.  Four thugs had robbed a local store and took off out of town for another town. The chase was on…

…well after Galadriel and Buffy bought horses.  Gimi did not like horses, so he bought a wagon and then being a thinking man’s dwarf bought a chest to transport all of his gold around with him.  Then had a chain crafted to keep the key to the chest’s lock close to him at all times.  Then the chase was on.

A two day trip to Galduria, the town the thugs were seen headed off to; along the way they encounter some friendly merchants who confirm that there was some trouble from Galduria.  NOTE HERE: Since this was their second adventure I wanted to make everything as simple as possible.  Thus if I said the thugs were headed off to Galduria, the thugs were going to Galduria.  I did not want our kids looking for clues that didn’t exist or taking off on tangents because I said something that caught their attention, but that something really meant nothing.  Alas, as you will see in a moment, I did not go simple enough.

Upon getting to the west side of Galduria, which they learned from the merchants, they find a watch post, an inn, and a temple.  Gimli, the least socially skilled of the three gets down from his wagon, walks up to the watch post, opens his mouth-rolls a 2 (bad rolls would plague our boy in every situation other than combat today)-offends the guard and then the next words out our boy’s mouth, “He must be a thug in disguise!”

What what?!  Not now, I immediately think to myself and then set the record straight, this is your second adventure, I am not going to trick you. When I say that person is a guard, they are a guard, not a thug disguised as a guard.

I don’t know if this worked or not because they were treating all of the non-player character’s (NPCs) weird for the whole adventure.  Once they give up on the guard; give up meaning that our boy was the only one who talked to this guard, they go to the stable and inn.  The innkeeper gets the once over by the dwarf (who rolls a 1), the elf-who doesn’t share what she learned and then takes the room keys, goes upstairs and takes a bath…the cleric walks over to the temple to find worshippers, but no clerics.  Uninterested in the worshippers the cleric leaves.

Not getting anywhere, the group gathers over dinner and reassigns tasks: the elf who is the talker will do the talking, the dwarf who is observant will look, and the cleric who is a figure of authority with authorize (fine I made that last bit up).  Roughly at the same time Galadriel learns about a disturbance at the graveyard, Gimli learns that Galduria’s cleric went to the graveyard, and Buffy learns that there is a strange light at the graveyard.  Now, Galadriel learned more than just a disturbance, but forgot to tell the other two what she learned and then, no lie, forgot the information herself.

skeletonwarriors.jpgConvinced that the graveyard is where they need to go, they head off to the graveyard. There they find a mausoleum with a light shining from inside.  Without waiting for Buffy to finish her sentence, Gimli and Galadriel rush inside to find five skeletons waiting for them: the four thugs and the now dead cleric from Galduria. Suffice to say they pay for their rushing, suffering a lot of damage before Buffy is able to drive the skeletons off.

Bloodied, but unbeaten the group figures out how to extinguish the magic candle that the thugs stole that caused the dead to rise and collect their reward.  What did I learn?  The next few adventures are going to be “Go here and do this” types of adventures, if nothing else just to avoid watching them try to interact with villagers.

What Bo You Bo?

Goblin“dad, can I learn all of the rules and run a game one time?”

That was a very happy moment for me, our boy wants to learn the rules of Pathfinder to run us through an adventure of his creation.  Then he began to tell me about his adventure.

“Whoa, slow down there son.  I want you to write down your ideas and then we will work on them together.”

“Really?”

Now this really could have been, “Really, do I have to write?” or “Really you will help me.” I wasn’t sure, because he hates writing.  I didn’t get a chance to ask either because he bolted upstairs.  Later he came back downstairs and handed me his Lego head notebook-imagine a notebook covered in images of Lego heads (kind of freaky because they all have that classic Lego smile.

“Here is my adventure.”

“Already?”

“Yes.  Read it,” he said “read it” with the same breath that he began to tell me what he had wrote. Once I got him to stop telling me what he wrote I took a look, here is what I saw:

“You all see a broken castle.  Then you all see a stone fall in the castle.  The entrance is a moss, broken door the guard is a goblin. What bo you bo? the goblin has a powch and the key.  What bo y0u bo? In the castle is a giant spiber.  What bo you bo?  The end of the hallway is an old iron gate.  It opens slowly.  What bo you bo?  in the chamber is a ogre! What bo you bo?  The next room is the stone.  It breaks opin. Inside it is the acinstone. It flys to you all.  What bo you bo? Then out of nowaer fly a dargin!”

Hot snot that was exciting; a castle, a goblin guard, a giant spider, an ogre, and a dragon!  Sounds like an adventure in the making to me.  “What do you do” seems to be something he picked up from the one game that we played.  What do you do is a good game master question to ask and I ask the question frequently to keep everyone engaged at the table.

The take away for me is that role-playing got him writing on his own.  Inspired by the above I wrote down some questions for him to answer such as, “Are there any other goblins?” and “Does the ogre lead the goblins?” I also corrected his spelling.  He only noticed the questions.  Ah well, at least he is writing on his own and discovering that writing is not the source of all evil.

Right before I sat down to write this he told me the following, “There is a goblin king at the end, but I haven’t written that yet.Haven’t written that yet, I almost fainted, I definitely got lightheaded. Hopefully he is starting to see something that I have been saying to him for a while now; when you write down your ideas other people can talk to you about them, which means that your ideas can be shared and grow.  🙂

Pooping Woodwork

Pooping BarbieI went hysterically blind for a few moments after being shown this by Barb and our girl.  In her words, “It poops.”

Why yes the dog does poop. Why?

WHY!?

Sorry went blind again.

Today, so far was spent by me reading.  I read some stuff on rhetoric.  I read some stuff on Roman Art that featured nudes and people engaging in sexual acts.  I read some Pathfinder, specifically Lost Kingdoms and I answered a text for career advice.  Other than that I have not done much.

Reading rhetoric did not give me a headache and maybe is starting to answer the question I have had for the past few weeks of what is the point and how can I incorporate what I am learning in the rhetoric class into my life.  The jury is still out, but the book is more helpful than I expected.

For my semester long paper in Greek and Roman Art I am taking a look at why the prevailing thought is to look at art from the perspective of the people who created the art, unless that art is deemed erotic or sexual in nature.  What what?  The works I am reading are suggesting a “new” perspective of instead of putting our preconceptions and understandings on the artwork that we try to see the nudes and sexual acts as the Romans would have.  Given that the Romans thought differently about sex than we currently do this seems like a good perspective.

Pathfinder Lost Kingdoms is one of those tangents that I pulled at. The Thassaloinians (probably spelled very wrong) are mentioned in a few things that I have been looking at, but there are very little details about them in those mentions.  Curious I found the Lost Kingdoms book which discusses six kingdoms which no longer exist or no longer exist as they used too in the Pathfinder universe.  I wasn’t expecting much having seen role-playing books like this before, but this surprised me with the organization, the attention to detail, the cross-referencing to other books (some of which I own), and that each of the six has a real-life analog, but there are enough differences and fantasy elements to make each fun and interesting.

Barb meanwhile, was cutting large pieces of wood into smaller pieces of wood.  Then she was gluing smaller pieces of wood together to make larger pieces of wood.  Odd how that worked out.  Then we were back at the store for more clamps and stuff.  I bought pens. 🙂

That was my day, how was yours?

Meet the Adventurers

Sounds like the start of a bad gamer joke, “A dwarf barbarian, elf thief, and human cleric walk into a bar.” Alas, this is not a bad joke, at least not yet, when the giant rat (singular) eliminates the group then it becomes a bad joke.  Until then this is our group.  Today, because today was yet another snow day (I don’t think our children are ever going to school again while we are here) I decided to make today functional, in a game-way, by having them roll up their characters.

Entertainment abound when the kids go through the dice bucket to find four six-sided dice that are “just right.” The boy ends up with a gold die, a giant die, a blue die, and a black die because of the size of the giant die he is unable to effectively roll all of the dice at once.  I had to duck to avoid an errant flying die every couple of rolls.  The instructions were roll all four dice, then pick the three best, and add those three dice up.  Ugh!  Stereo instructions in Latin would have been easier.  He got what I was going for after three rolls.

The girl picked out pink and blue dice, a very nice set if I do say so, she understood pick out three, but was occasionally racked with indecision as demonstrated when she would pick three dice and then ask if she could choose again.  Since her counting is not a good as the boy’s she counted each pip on the dice to get her totals, but she did it.

When asked what equipment that they had to have, the girls response was, “I will have to think about that.” The boy, without hesitation had to have a greatsword and scale mail, which is the same equipment his Pathfinder Adventure Card character had.  No surprise there, in fact Barb and I commented that as soon as he saw the pictures he would choose those things and he did.  The girl never did get back to us on equipment, but she did change her class from a wizard to a rogue because they are like ninjas and can sneakily kick monsters in the nards.  Is nard kicking a feat?

In the end Barb wrote out their characters, while I helped make choices.  Why did she write out the character sheets, “So they can read my handwriting and not have to interpret your serial killer scratches.” That is love for you. 🙂 As of tonight the characters for the Pathfinder RPG are:

Gimli, dwarf barbarian with a great sword and scale mail.  He has other stuff, but the boy didn’t care about that.  He will figure that out in game I hope.

Galadriel, elf rogue, with a penchant for sneaking and nard kicking.  She too does not know about any of her equipment as she was extremely happy to be a girl, an elf, a rogue, and that she could kick monsters in the nards, sneakily that is.

and last only because Barb has problems, serious problems, naming her characters *

Buffy, human cleric of Sarenrae. Barb is well aware of everything her character has and can do, such as constantly keep the other characters in working order.  🙂

* notice the names?  Care to guess what has been on the TV recently? 🙂

Beginner Box Found and Excitement Abound

pathfinder-beginner-boxLast night…no let me back up a step…a while back I bought the Pathfinder Beginner Box Set by Paizo Games.  I made the purchase because, at the time, I wanted something to read.  I was pretty impressed with the box set, so impressed that I bought my friend’s core rules and other accessories (thank you Big Man).  Then I set everything aside because the kids weren’t ready.  Now here we are gearing up for our first role-playing session and the discussion, see last post here and here, was about teaching the kids how to play.

So last night I found the box set again and there was the answer to a lot of our issues and concerns.  A set designed to introduce new and young players to role-playing.  The core of the Pathfinder RPG is there, but a lot of the bells and whistles have been removed to streamline the experience down to what is needed to play: a character and a gamemaster.  What is even better is that everything in the box set is also the first adventure in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.

The town of Sandpoint, the mysterious first adventure, and names that all of us recognize.  This will make introductions a lot easier.  Instead of them having to imagine a village I created, instead they can easily picture Sandpoint and when they meet someone I can pull out a card from the Adventure Card Game to show them, after I describe them.

CharacterSheet-GenericThe character sheet, which I found a photo of online, is still two-pages, but one quarter is for fun things like most damage done and a picture of your character.  The rest, as you can see, is divided into large areas of like information with a large letter.  This will make getting the kids used to the character sheets a lot easier.  Instead of saying find X I can say find box A or B.  Barb, who will be playing a character can help them out.  When the time comes, say around level 3 to 5, to move to the core set the character’s transfer and the kids will not be so overwhelmed as they were when they saw the core set character sheet.

Now all of us are looking forward to playing.  The kids because they are on familiar ground and the parents because this is looking like a less and less daunting challenge.  And I am doing something I have not done in over 20 years I will be using published adventures.  Yes, I will.  If nothing else the amount of pre-game work is going to go down and that appeals to me while school is in session.

Lastly, the latest Adventure Pack for Pathfinder Adventure Card Game arrived which means we will be getting something going Adventure Card Game soon.  Most likely our new characters.  Play them up to our old characters and then take on the new pack with dragons and giants.