Tactical infinity, RPGs, and wargames

There may be rules for hidden units and other forms of limited information, but that’s sorta the point–anything outside of a stand-up fight will have rules to cover it. That’s in contrast to most roleplaying games, where the scope of action is pretty much anything you can think up, so the rules cannot possibly cover every eventuality and a referee of some kind is practically required.

Back when I wrote that passage in my combat-as-sport vs combat-as-war post, I did not know that there is a term for this: “tactical infinity”. It’s mentioned briefly in this essay by game designer S. John Ross. Zak Smith brilliantly expands on the concept in this video when he says that there is no fluff in an RPG: any fluff (extraneous detail added for color) could potentially become crunch (something affecting the outcome of the story). To re-use an example from that earlier post:

“The hills around the village are roamed by shepherds and the flocks and herds of livestock that they tend.” For most visitors to the village, that’s fluff. But if you want to disrupt the enemy raiding party by stampeding the livestock through their camp, now it’s crunch. Ditto if you need to sneak a dangerous, smelly predator into the village without the herd animals sounding the alarm, or just steal a cow to keep from starving. Literally anything in the gameworld, from the pattern on a blanket to the contents of a character’s pocket, could end up deciding the course of the story.

One of my frustrations with D&D 4E was that the tactical combat options were so powerful, they discouraged the kind of reckless, try-anything creativity that comes from desperation. Like, do I try to think of some clever way to dispatch this monster – which may well fail – or just hit it with my sword a couple more times, which will almost certainly work? Which gets back to a point that Daztur made in the original EnWorld post: games where combat is relatively easy and desirable elicit combat-as-sport play. If you want combat-as-war play, combat has to be brutal and unpredictable (as it is in real life) so people will desperately try to avoid a stand-up fight, even if they have an edge – because an edge in a straight fight is still way worse than completely shanking your enemy before the straight fight ever begins.

Anyway, I think this is a fourth reason (in addition the three here) why combat-as-war goes better with fantasy, and vice versa: both seem to run best when the field of possibilities is as wide as possible. A nearly universal fantasy trope is the extraordinary thing masquerading as something mundane: the apple is really a sleep spell, the ring you found in the cave is the fulcrum of the dark lord’s millennia-long quest to rule the world, etc. Since objects in fantasy stories could potentially be anything, you need to be able to do anything to live with them. The narrative infinity implied by magic cries out for a tactical infinity to handle it.

That might help explain why sometimes I want to play wargames instead of RPGs. Sometimes I don’t want to have to do the mental gymnastics that come with tactical infinity. Sometimes I am literally too brain-tired to play RPGs. But I’m usually still up for BattleTech, because all I have to decide there is where to move and when to fire.

In fact, I’ll go further: RPGs run best when everyone at the table is bringing their A game. They can still work and be fun when people are tired or loopy or not 100% there – sometimes those games are the funniest – but they can also suck. I’ve definitely run RPG sessions that sucked, because I wasn’t prepared and couldn’t come up with good stuff on the fly. (Nowadays I’m much more likely to say, “Okay, cool. Now we have to stop for a while, because I have go think of new stuff to say.”) But I don’t remember any horrible games of BattleTech. The fail mode of RPGs is way less fun than the fail mode of wargames (or at least of BattleTech).

But on the other hand, while I have certainly had some memorable games of BattleTech, even the best don’t achieve the transcendental fun the best RPG sessions. And really, how could they? The greatest strength of wargames – that they cut off the bottom tail of the fun distribution – is balanced by their greatest weakness – that they also cut off the top tail. RPGs bring the full spectrum of human creativity, which makes for lower lows but also much higher highs.

Posted in Big Ideas, roleplaying, wargames | 3 Comments

The Lego Exo-Suit link roundup

 

Lego Ideas 21109 Exo-Suit with box

Here are bunch of links related to my new favorite Lego set, the 21109 Exo-Suit. Photographs at top and bottom are my own (but feel free to re-use them if they prove useful).

British AFOL Peter Reid designed the original Exo-Suit. Here’s his Flickr stream, and the project’s page on Lego Ideas.

Reid collaborated with Lego designer Mark Stafford to come up with the version of the Exo-Suit that made it into production. Here’s a post on the Lego Ideas blog about how that happened.

Way back in April, New Elementary blogged about how AFOLs were involved in the product design and marketing for the set.

The EuroBricks review of the set has a ton of photos, probably exceeding even the three-part review on BrickSet (part 1, part 2, part 3).

More reviews, in no particular order:

Of all of the set reviews out there, this one from Tranquility Base is my favorite. It perfectly captures the cool and whimsical feel of the set – and of Classic Space in general.

Lego Ideas 21109 Exo-Suit

 

Posted in Classic Space, Exo-Suit, Lego, mecha | Leave a comment

Weekend Mech-tacular

IMG_1561

London and I had a very mecha-themed weekend. On Saturday, we finished our all-homebrew Battletech game, which had been advancing at a rate of one turn per evening all through last week. More on how the battle played out in a future post.

IMG_1611

In between Battletech turns, we built my Lego Exo-Suit (left). And this afternoon, we built London’s Mega Bloks Halo UNSC Mantis (right). Both sets are totally kick-ass, with an insane number of articulation points.

IMG_1622

First contact between the Lego explorers and UNSC troops was tense…

IMG_1625

…but peace soon broke out. The little ambassador there is one of London’s “blips”, modeled on the ones Peter Reid put in his book Lego Space: Building the Future (which is outstanding, BTW, and which you should totally pick up if you’re into Lego space). The turtle robot from the Ex0-Suit set is a family favorite.

IMG_1643

Of course we had to have a big group glamour shot with the Exo-Suit, the Mantis, and some of our MOCs.

The Exo-Suit is back in stock most places, at least briefly. If you even think you might want one, get it now before they go out of production. The Mantis also seems to be widely available, and despite its larger size and higher piece count, it retails for about ten bucks less. If you’re into mecha, you can’t go wrong with either one; I’m happy we have both in our household.

 

Posted in BattleTech, Classic Space, Lego, mecha, MOC, wargames | Leave a comment

Battletech – The DIY Destruct-o-rama – Preview

 

Patron saint of mecha

London suddenly got the itch to play Battletech. I blame the Gundam here, which we just built this past week — more about that another time.

I was game (despite my recent whingeing about combat-as-sport), so we’re going to light it up tomorrow. We were going to play this evening, but we spent all of our time designing new ‘Mechs. It was London’s first time rolling his own. We decided to each make our own 75-ton, 45-ton, and 25-ton designs, using 3025 Inner Sphere tech, and we’ll pit them against each other and see whose machines (and tactics [and luck]) are superior.

Some interesting thematic differences and similarities between our two sets of ‘Mechs. All of London’s ‘Mechs have PPCs (Particle Projection Cannons for you non-mechwarriors out there) for their primary weapons, they’re all jump-capable, and two of the three have slightly less armor than their counterparts on my team. My ‘Mechs all have Large Lasers, the poor man’s PPC, and trade the extra weight for armor and heat sinks, and my light ‘Mech is a runner, not a jumper. Both of us like smaller lasers — every one of the six designs has at least two Medium Lasers, and thee of the six have Small Lasers. Both of us sprung for missile launchers on our heavy ‘Mechs — London went for an LRM-20, and my heavy has an LRM-10 and SRM-6. Oh, and we were both stingy with heat sinks, although I tacked one or two more onto each of my heavier designs, which combined with the lower heat output of my Large Lasers might give me a slight edge over London’s hotter PPC-heavy force.

Below are the vital stats on both forces. I’ll scan the actual record sheets and post them next week. I assume that at least some of these names have already been used for official Battletech ‘Mechs, but given that every vaguely aggressive-sounding noun will eventually be an official ‘Mech name, we just went with whatever sounded cool.

DIY Destruct-o-rama London force

London’s Metal Storm, Lightning Storm, and Black Widow, played by the BT Intro Box Set Banshee, Grasshopper, and Spider

LONDON

Name: Metal Storm
Weight: 75 tons
Walking MP: 4
Running MP: 6
Jumping MP: 4
Armor Points: 192
Weapons: 1 PPC, 1 LRM-20, 2 Medium Lasers, 1 Small Laser
Heat Sinks: 12

Name: Lightning Storm
Weight: 45 tons
Walking MP: 5
Running MP: 8
Jumping MP: 5
Armor Points: 128
Weapons: 1 PPC, 3 Medium Lasers, 2 Small Lasers
Heat Sinks: 13

Name: Black Widow
Weight: 25 tons
Walking MP: 6
Running MP: 9
Jumping MP: 6
Armor Points: 56
Weapons: PPC, 2 Medium Lasers
Heat Sinks: 12

DIY Destruct-o-rama Matt force

My Warhound, Flenser, and Calot, played by the BT Intro Box Set Cyclops, Dervish, and Hermes

MATT

Name: Warhound
Weight: 75 tons
Walking MP: 4
Running MP: 6
Jumping MP: 3
Armor Points: 208
Weapons: 1 LRM-10, 2 Large Lasers, 1 SRM-6, 2 Medium Lasers
Heat Sinks: 14

Name: Flenser
Weight: 45 tons
Walking MP: 5
Running MP: 8
Jumping MP: 5
Armor Points: 128
Weapons: 1 Large Laser, 3 Medium Lasers, 3 Machine Guns
Heat Sinks: 14

Name: Calot
Weight: 25 tons
Walking MP: 7
Running MP: 11
Jumping MP: 0
Armor Points: 80
Weapons: 1 Large Laser, 2 Medium Lasers, 1 Small Laser
Heat Sinks: 12

What I really need to do now is think about my strategy. London has won most of the Battletech games we’ve played, including the last one. So I wouldn’t feel bad about cleaning his clock tomorrow.

In truth, I think our forces are too evenly matched for either side to have a clear advantage in terms of ‘Mechs. The only really pronounced difference is between our 25-tonners; my 80 points of armor are a lot more than his 56, but his ability to jump six hexes at a time might level the field and then some. And his PPCs mean that any hits on my Calot are going to hurt. But on the flip side, one or two good salvoes from any of my ‘Mechs should have his Black Widow on the ropes.

I think the reason I lose at Battletech is the same reason that Vicki’s brother used to wipe the floor with me in Mario Kart 64 battles: at some point, I grow weary of maneuvering for an advantage, and just charge in heedlessly — at which point my opponent blasts the crap out of me. You’d think that when it came to Battletech, the 9-year-old might be more prone to reckless charges and the 39-year-old to patient, almost paranoid maneuvering, but we go the opposite ways. So, lesson one, more Sun Tzu, less Light Brigade.

Another trend I’ve noticed in my play: I have a bad habit of “playing at tanks” with my small and medium ‘Mechs, moving them into positions where they can wail on the enemy but only by exposing themselves to heavy fire. That sometimes gets me into situations where my smaller ‘Mechs are taking more damage each turn than they are dishing out, which obviously isn’t sustainable. So I need to keep my little ones moving — and not just moving, but moving between patches of cover.

Will I be able to overcome my kamikaze tendencies? Will my armor-for-gunz tradeoff pay off? I don’t know, but I look forward to finding out. Stay tuned.

Posted in actual play reports, BattleTech, homebrew, wargames | 3 Comments

FarScape: impressions partway through Season 1

Farscape - Moya

I missed FarScape when it originally aired (1999-2003). There are several reasons for this. The most important is that the SciFi Channel had already become a roost for several low-budget, low-rated shows like First Wave, so I had stopped watching the channel regularly, only coming back for events like the first Dune miniseries. (I still haven’t seen the second–I should.) When I did see commercials for SciFi shows, the promos for FarScape didn’t grab me. I thought the puppets looked goofy, and based on the commercials alone, the show didn’t seem that different from Lexx, which I was pretty sure was rancid bullshit. It’s also possible that with Star Wars movies at the theaters and Dune on TV, my sci-fi itch was already getting scratched. It’s also possible that I was a bit of a Star Trek and X-Files snob back then.

Anyway, I missed it. But over the years I kept hearing good things about it, that made me think I should put it on my life list (with about a million other shows that I also have not seen, like The Wire, Lost, etc.). And then this summer Eric and Kim Scott got me the whole series on DVD for my birthday. We were in the midst of a big Alias rewatch here at Casa Wedel, so we start in on FarScape until a week or so ago. We just watched the ninth episode tonight.

We’re hooked: really, really digging the show. I’m writing this to record my thoughts about the show now, so I can see how things will change in the future–both the show, and thoughts about it.

Farscape - transformation

The thing that I am enjoying the most is that the show is really, genuinely weird. Most of the aliens come from the Mos Eisley human-in-a-mask school, and frequently they’re just regular-ass humans with colored skin and contact lenses. But they frequently act in ways that, well, I’ve never seen on TV before. Weird, wacky stuff happens, and not all of it is explained. Just about every episode has at least one moment where London and I turn to each other and say, “What the heck!?”/”Did you see that?”/”Gross!”/”This show is awesome” in some combination.

I think it probably helps that the show was made in Australia, with mostly Aussie and Kiwi actors. Its paced and shot just a little differently from most American shows–scenes end one beat early or go on a few seconds longer than expected; uncomfortable silences are given space to just be uncomfortable, and therefore disortienting; and the camera does always go where I think it will. To be fair, I don’t know if this is a cultural difference from the show being made Down Under, or if it’s part of a deliberate atmosphere of weirdness cultivated by the producers, or maybe a bit of both. Whatever the reason, it’s effective–the show is so far beyond my ability to predict that I have given up trying to second guess it, and now I’m just along for the ride.

Not only are the actions of the characters sometimes inscrutable, there is a lot of throw-away weirdness in the show. In the episode we just finished, the characters visit a renegade scientist working on an asteroid. When the camera pulls back to show the surface of the asteroid as seen from space, it is littered with insanely huge bones–a whole city nestles up against a toothy jawbone that must be several miles long. The bones on the asteroid are never mentioned during the episode, they’re just a little extra kick in the brainpan to remind you that you’re not in Kansas anymore. I love that.

Haven't met this one yet but I like it.

Haven’t met this one yet but I like it.

Also, since I raised the point earlier, my apprehension about the puppet characters was misplaced. The puppetry is excellent, especially for Pilot, and the voice actors bring a lot of reality to those characters. (Possibly I am also more willing to be accommodating, given that my two favorite movie characters this year were a sentient raccoon and a talking tree.) It helps that one of the characters, Rygel, is a pretty consistent WTF-moment generator.

It also helps that the show is so RPG-esque. I mean, fer cryin’ out loud, the pilot starts with a group of escaped prisoners taking over their prison ship and flying it into uncharted space. That’s pretty much perfect for either a one-shot or a campaign-starter: you can play anyone or anything you want, but you’ll start session 1 having just gotten out of your cell. Go roll up characters. I’ll probably steal that.

One last thing about the show now–way back in a comment on about the third day of this blog’s existence, Mike made the point that the Star Wars prequels were mostly about rich, powerful people, whereas the original trilogy was about lovable rogues on the run. Considered on that axis, FarScape is to almost any flavor of Star Trek as the OT is to the prequels: the reigning government is evil, not benevolent; the characters are on the run from it, not serving it; their sentient ship is stolen and itself a refugee, not the flagship of the fleet; the ship is unarmed, not a heavily-armed capital ship; constant poverty forces the characters into questionable interactions with shady figures, rather than putting in at a Starbase whenever they need to fuel up; the crew are a small band of untrained, squabbling individualists, not an organized and deliberately assembled team. But they still get to run into weird stuff in space every episode, usually because of those very factors.

Farscape - confrontation

So, my main question for the future–and if you’ve seen the show, please try not to hit me with any spoilers–is this: can the writers and producers keep up this level of invention and off-kilter-ness? Will the weird settle down and become predictable? Will the characters stay complex or suffer Flanderization?

I don’t know, but I look forward to finding out.

Posted in FarScape | 5 Comments

Chris Foss Hardware sci-fi adventure generator

Chris Foss - Hardware cover

I finally got around to buying Hardware: The Definitive SF Works of Chris Foss. It’s a fantastic book, with tons of great art at an absurdly low price. Just flipping through it once gave me so many RPG-able ideas, I had to go back through and write them all down. In the end I came up with an even 100 seeds or elements: 28 beings, 35 vehicles, and 37 places. Roll d100 to get anything on the list, roll a bunch of times to get ideas to mash together, or, if you just need a single being, vehicle, or place, roll 3 or 4 d10s (and add 29 or 64 to the result for the latter two categories).

Foss’s sketches and paintings are complex and most admit to more than one interpretation. In this list, you’re getting what each picture made me think was going on. The humanoid figures in #17 are probably not actually supposed to be a funeral procession–but I thought it would be interesting if they were. Naturally you should replace my interpretations with better ones wherever possible.

Have fun!

#17

#17

BEINGS
1. Survivors of crash have degenerated to a primitive state (p14)
2. Feudal lord is dressed unironically as normally comical animal (p17)
3. God-king descends from flying throne (p27)
4. Spacesuited figures explore a vast toroidal space (p27)
5. Multi-trunked tree turns out to be ambulatory alien, or vice versa (p38)
6. Derelict vehicles provide shelter and raw materials for postapocalyptic tribes (p49)
7. Seemingly normal people are oblivious to Visitors From Beyond (why?) (p62)
8. Group of robots cannibalizes vehicle (p65)
9. Threatening-looking monster is actually peaceful, wise, and ancient (p88)
10. Explorer encounters giant mechanical totems (p88)
11. Pilot ejects as ship goes down in flames over mist-shrouded world (p90)
12. Feudal warriors duel among massive ruins of previous civilization (p106)
13. Humanoid with jetpack approaches unsuspecting starship (p115)
14. Armored figure takes dangerous object outside ship prior to detonation (p115)
15. Tiny toy gun turns out to be immensely powerful weapon (p121)
16. Pilgrims approach a colossal artifact from a more advanced race (p122)
17. Funeral procession from grounded starship to ancient ruin (p127)
18. Normally tiny animal grown to vast size under mysterious conditions (p129)
19. Athletes compete on floating platform (p132)
20. Seemingly innocent young person transports frozen head (p132)
21. Missile hidden inside a monster (p136)
22. Mummified pilot drifts in derelict ship (p140)
23. Humanoid-headed worms attack ground transport (p153)
24. Techno-priests sail to island temple (p155)
25. Living cloud approaches floating city (p185)
26. Spiderweb strung between two skyscrapers (p202)
27. Deceased villain reanimated as cyborg (p225)
28. Allegedly sub-sentient alien assembles facsimile of human face from found objects (p228)

#59

#59

VEHICLES
29.  A starliner docks with a mile-high boarding tower (p12)
30.  A rotund freighter full of clouds of valuable vapor (p19)
31.  Cargo spills from a shot-up pirate ship (p21)
32.  A bulky ground vehicle turns out to be a disguised starship (p22)
33.  Formerly sleek spaceship encrusted with added-on equipment (p33)
34.  Hovering bomber hoists up huge explosive device from underground bunker (p37)
35.  Advanced ships suffer surprise attack from laughably primitive vessel (p57)
36. Huge tug pulls a string of icebergs (or asteroids, or comets, or….) (p59)
37. Ominous fleet approaches unsuspecting habitats (p79)
38. Flying machine or spaceship grabbed by giant claw (p83)
39. High-tech ship hovers over crumbling, vegetated ruins (p85)
40. Walking city in the shape of a humanoid robot (p99)
41. Spaceship is caught in the fronds or branches of titanic plant (p107)
42. Sleek spaceship spills a cloud of seedpods (p109)
43. Small ship trails larger one from behind an asteroid (p110)
44. Escape pod makes unannounced exit from larger ship (p112)
45. New ship design is tandem version of old ship design (p113)
46. City-sized walking tank looms over skyscrapers (p114)
47. Previously-buried ships blast off from hidden underground bases (p118)
48. Massive starship unexpectedly breaks up into numerous independent modules (p125)
49. Vast ship prepares to leave hovering drydock (p141)
50. Immense ark blasts off from dying planet (p142)
51. Huge gas-scooper skims atmosphere of gas giant (p151)
52. Ship flying over wasteland is tracked by automated turret (p158)
53. Ice breaks underneath ground crawler (p163)
54. Armored attack ship punches right through its target (p167)
55. Fighters strafe alien pods (why?) (p170)
56. Ship blasts off from alien ruins with giant relic in tow (p176)
57. Escape pods depart as giant ship is sucked into black hole (p178)
58. Mining ship lifts exotic meteorite from surface of alien planet (p188)
59. Otherwise sleek ship is armed with giant mechanical claw (p188)
60. Mobile cities run on massively parallel rails (p194)
61. Exploratory pod hovers over black hole (p206)
62. Submarine -> surface vessel -> hydrofoil -> starship (p217)
63. Sleek police ship swoops down out of nowhere at the worst possible time (p221)

#84

#84

PLACES
64. A rusting tower at the top of a cliff (p6)
65. A double line of monoliths on a deserted planet (p16)
66. City built on and among giant crystals (p28)
67. Giant ominous structure: refinery? Idol? Both? (p29)
68. Flooded city (p31)
69. Causeway lined with turrets leads to towering fortress (p34)
70. Vast iceberg with oceangoing ships frozen inside drifts through space (p43)
71. Rusting war machines litter beach after a battle (p45)
72. Dense, three-dimensional minefield (p53)
73. A legendary derelict emerges from a field of dunes (p58)
74. Ancient ruins on floating island or asteroid (p78)
75. Vultures fly from abandoned tower in rust-colored wasteland (p85)
76. Asteroid is actually disguised vessel or lair (p93)
77. Remote observatory is last outpost of civilization (p103)
78. Dark planet is covered by black spires (p105)
79. Two mutually hostile species meet peacefully at remote station (p131)
80. Salvagers work at spaceship graveyard (p133)
81. Explorers witness the birth of a new star (p135)
82. City towers mimic colossal fungi (why–aesthetics? defense?) (p140)
83. Artificial habitats orbit tiny star (p144)
84. Isolated towers dot unnaturally smooth plain under green sun (p155)
85. Arcology tower topples (p154)
86. Forested hill is actually abandoned, overgrown city (p173)
87. Techno-ruin covered with pictograph circuitry (p191)
88. Vast grotto is home to titanic fungi–and a wrecked ship (p192)
89. Ancient site of power has become center of bustling spaceport (p204)
90. Collection of entire cities frozen in amber (p207)
91. Natural terrain feature lifts up to reveal huge hidden weapon (p209)
92. Derelict ship and cloud of wreckage orbit dying star (p215)
93. Abandoned space station drifts far from home star cluster (p215)
94. Group of asteroids with dome cities (p218)
95. Seemingly ancient ruins are recent fakes (p226)
96. Alien landscape is something familiar seen extremely close-up (p228)
97. Comet is harbinger of doom after all (p230)
98. Bizarre landforms are frozen–or dormant–aliens (p231)
99. Crust fractures and cities topple just before the end of a world (p233)
100. Crazy-looking clouds are actually distant landforms shrouded in mist (p238)

Posted in Big Ideas, roleplaying, RPG adventures | Leave a comment

Star Wars Actual Play Report: Marooned

Bounty hunter Zela Sharnakk 2

After taking a few months off in the late spring/early summer, London and I have resumed our Star Wars campaign. Back in the spring our characters, Wuta the Ewok (London) and Camie Wolfsun (me) had acquired a nemesis in the form of Imperial bounty hunter Zela Sharnakk. In our next-to-last adventure of the spring, she captured us to use as bait for the notorious pirate Maxar Vandanoo, whose bounty from the Empire stands at 20 million credits (they think he blew up a Star Destroyer with a bomb–that was actually our doing, it just worked out that it looked like his doing, but no-one else knows that). In the last spring adventure, we got away from both Sharnakk and the pirates and managed to steal her ship in the process.

In all of the Star Wars campaigns I’ve ever run or been part of, one of the PCs’ first goals is to set up a Sanctuary Point at a random point deep in interstellar space. Sanctuary Point is a place to stash ships and loot where they have essentially zero chance of being discovered by anyone else. Naturally Wuta and Camie stashed Zela Sharnakk’s ship at Sanctuary Point while they tried to find a buyer for it.

Bounty hunter ship - The Unbeknownst

Just as naturally, Zela Sharnakk had a tracking device on her ship, and the next time Wuta and Camie got back to Sanctuary Point, she was waiting for them on board their biggest ship. This led to some great and creepy roleplaying as Sharnakk stalked the PCs through the corridors of their own ship, and took down Wuta, Camie, and their guests one by one with stun shots.

Wuta and Camie woke up in an escape pod, sitting on a beach on a deserted island. It later developed that Sharnakk had sold them to some Dark Elves* for use in a Most-Dangerous-Game-style sport hunt. But they didn’t know that at the time; even I as GM didn’t know that yet. I had Run Out of Plot and plunked Wuta and Camie on the island to stall for time while I figured out what the bad guys were up to.

desert island

So, our characters started out on a desert island with no survival gear and in fact no tools or belongings at all other than Camie’s coveralls and Wuta’s leather headdress thingy. Everything we wanted to do, we had to roll for, starting with knocking rocks together to make stone knives. I made up a difficulty table for various primitive tools and weapons and every morning of gametime we rolled to see what Wuta and Camie would succeed at making that day. It took us a week to gather everthing we needed to makes bows and arrows (big fish scales for arrowheads, alien bird feathers, animal sinews for bowstrings, etc.).

alligator gar scale arrow tips2

I was worried at first that London would get bored but he loved it. We both did. We got a scrap piece of paper and every time Wuta and Camie achieved an additional piece of primitive technology, we wrote it down. We explored the island, learned the game trails of the little hoofed animals, and found evidence of the beings who had been there before us (decomposed skeletons with bones burnt black by blaster fire). We made a pen for our animals, and when the local six-legged cat-thing started sneaking in at night and making off with them, Wuta caught it and eventually tamed it. Our character sheets sprouted skills like “hand fishing” and “toolmaking”. It was the complete Robinson Crusoe experience. After flitting across the galaxy, tangling with pirates and bounty hunters and avoiding Imperial entanglements, for a few weeks of game-time our characters went everywhere on their own two feet, and never mastered anything more high-tech than a clay fire-pot.

Eventually the Dark Elves came to the island to hunt us, and we got re-embroiled in the affairs of the galaxy, but those few sessions when we had nothing and could take nothing for granted were some of the most fun I have ever had as roleplayer. I think London could have stayed on that planet forever, making tools and rafts and going full-on Kon-Tiki. That could be a nice little campaign in itself (or could have been, anyway–a second desert-island stranding would be hard to pull off without seeming forced).

Dark Elves

* About the Dark Elves in our Star Wars campaign: after seeing Thor: The Dark World, we reasoned that since the Dark Elves predate the birth of our universe, and Star Wars just happens in another galaxy, it was plausible that there might be Dark Elves in the Star Wars galaxy. Like Jeff Rients putting robots and laser guns in his D&D, I have decided that this version of the Star Wars galaxy is going to have a rather, um, elastic approach to canon. London doesn’t know this yet, but I finally figured out what the Dark Elves are up to: they’re going to (1) kidnap the Sith witch we ran into way back in our second-ever adventure, (2) use her as a living key to unlock an ancient stargate left behind by the Builder/Progenitors/Celestials, and (3) summon Cthulhu/the Ogdru Jahad/some crawling chaos in the hope that (4) It will tear down the universe for them. Trying to foil that plan will probably be the opposite of the Robinson-Crusoe-like simplicity we’ve just come from. Should be fun.

Ogdru Jahad

 

Posted in actual play reports, roleplaying, Star Wars | Leave a comment