A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tuesday Game Reports

This week was another Heroquest week. Given my usual luck with the game, my Troubador died within 15 minutes of starting a dungeon that took a good 2 hours to complete, ending what little desire I had to play this game. It wasn't anyone's fault, just bad luck. But when something is THIS frustrating, there is little point in ruining everyone else's fun by playing and being miserable so I went from playing and doing some MUCH needed painting, to just painting.

While Pico took it as a bit insulting, it wasn't anything of the sort. 4 of the characters were long lived and were relatively high powered. He had to base the challenges to give them something to do. My support character was more recent, being the fourth character I had and totally unsuited to a mission where I couldn't be a supporter given random teleporting rooms filled with monsters. Actually, any low level character was doomed from the start in this one. MagicDrew's Elf died and he had to make up a new character who fell in the next mission, meaning for the final 3 missions he either has to hide behind everyone, doing NOTHING, or get stuck in and probably die due to being completely outclassed.

Its a flaw of the genre as I have mentioned in a previous post. Missme's Barbarian is an unstoppable juggernaut of doom and asskicking. However what she can handle with minor trouble spells instant death for a new character of any sort. If I were to go back I would take out the level system I made entirely. Long term survival just throws game balance off and after a certain point it just makes it POINTLESS for any new character to join in. It would be like running a Dungeons & Dragons game and making players roll up level 1 characters when the majority of the party is level 8 or higher. The level 1 simply has no place being there, has nothing to actually do (because higher levels do it better or can actually survive the threats they face), and mostly sits around leeching XP for hours on hours till they approach a point in being able to contribute.

And while the XP system in Basic D&D makes this ALMOST bearable (It takes roughly as much XP to go from level 8 to 9 as it does from level 1 to level 7. A fighter in Moldvay/Cook Basic needs to go from 120,000 to 240,000 to level up. A level 1 character needs 120,000, the same amount, to get to level 8, meaning if they gain the same amount of XP the newbie will be one level behind.), it still means there is massive amounts of downtime where the newbie is literally useless baggage. Not fun for the newbie or the high level babysitters. (If we are to assume 10 sessions of adventure to level up at this advanced stage, it means roughly 12000 xp per session. If unlimited levelling up is allowed (and most of the time any excess xp to take a PC up 2 levels is discarded, leaving them 1 xp away from the 2nd level up..) the newbie would hit level 4 the first session, and be half the adventurer everyone else is discounting not having the improved equipment everyone else has. Session 2 would bring him up to level 5, still mostly useless though almost capable of doing something helpful. Session 3 would bring him up to level 6, and now after 15 hours or so of being little more than baggage the player can actually fight alongside his pals. 3 more sessions to bring him to a level 7 (And hopefully some better equipment by this point. Maybe +1 gear the higher level PCs have outgrown, maybe a +2 here and there.) and he can actually give a decent accounting for himself and not hide behind everyone.

This of course is what is happening in our Heroquest game but at a much faster clip. If the GM shows pity for the newbie, he is cheating the player and giving the advanced characters little challenge. Yet on the other side, the newbie character's player is unlikely to have much fun or contribute much to the game.

In other words, I BLEW IT AND I AM SORRY.

The level up system I came up with simply doesn't fit Heroquest at all. It throws off what little balance there is in this largely luck driven game. Level ups plus treasure and equipment plus a few players having bad luck leads to completely thrown off gameplay. If everyone stays alive it can work fine. If everyone dies it also works fine. If more than a third of the group constantly live or die it all goes to Hell.

Which is what happened. And I didn't think about that part. Now, throwing in majority level lower level starts for replacement characters could reduce this somewhat (maybe 100GP per level and newbies start 2 levels lower than the party average rounded down?), but its still a clusterfrack any way you look at it.


But on the upside I got to get some painting done, and it gave me fodder for this post. Its something all game designers need to look at. Just what DO YOU DO when new players join in to a persistent game? Letting them start out on par with players who "earned" their current status isn't fair, yet forcing them to work their way up from the bottom when the gameplay is much further along and the competition is harder isn't fair either.

And I hope Pico doesn't decide never to GM again because of it. It happens. It wasn't anybody's fault. Its a game problem that almost every GM has to face. I just chose to sit out losing any more characters ( 4 corpses is enough for any one person I think! ) and continue painting. Everyone else is having fun, why the hell should I ruin everyone else's time because my bright idea mucked everything up? I get to do some painting in a manner that doesn't totally suck. I hate painting. Its a waste of time. I would rather do other things. If someone is running a game even when I am participating I can listen and contribute and do something else while I am at it that otherwise I wouldn't do much of. I live alone and tend to be lonely most of the time. I am happy to have the company over. I had no problem painting and letting everyone else continue to have fun and smashinate monsters. I was having bad luck and it was no point in ANYONE being miserable over it.

Heck, I want more people to run things so I can get some painting done while we play. It might be the only way I ever get any painting done! :P

I got some color on some LotR minis, 2 more Heroquest missions got completed. We all got to socialize and chat and such. We all learned some things about game design due to this blog post.

Seems like a fine day to me!

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