Archive for October, 2015

Warhammer 40k: Greenskins and toddlers

The Warhammer 40.000 universe is a very, very special place, a place where you will most likely die in a horrible manner. This universe is populated by a few different factions, which are all very extreme and kind of over the top (I think). We have the Imperium of man, which are crazy fascist and accuse everything that is different for heresy or being xeno (which ironically is also heresy). The factions are in some sense personifications of certain things. The Tyranids can be seen as the personification of over consumption and the sin of gluttony, since all they do is eat and hunger for more to eat.

Among all of these factions the orks are probably my favorites, because they lack a overarching goal (sort of). Orks in WH40K are savage barbarians, destroying civilization where ever they go. Like an unstoppable tide wildlings they plunder and burn all in their path, be it humans, eldars or even other orks. Orks could be likened to the Mongols, an unstoppable horde which brought destruction on Europe and Asia, nothing could stop them. In the WH40K canon it is said that if the orks ever united, they would become a unstoppable horde unlike anything ever seen. This is one aspect of the orks, but it’s not the one which I love.

What I love about them is that they are children; big, brutal, green, murderous children. What drives orks isn’t a greater goal, what drives them is joy. They are joy mongers. Most orks likes to fight, because a good fight is fun, they make war on other races (or themselves) just to get a good fight. But it isn’t just their simplemindedness.

All orks have weak psychic powers and if enough orks thinks that something is a certain way, than reality adjusts itself to their thinking. For example: Orks think that red things goes faster, therefore if they paint something red, it goes faster than it should.

They have the logic of children. Most of their weapons are just pieces of scrap hammered together, so that they look and sound dangerous. And since they believe it is dangerous, it becomes dangerous. The whole WH40K universe is their playground and they make up the rules as they go along, all in the name of fun. Just like children. If a child thinks broccoli is poisonous, than broccoli is poisonous (not really, but I hope you get my point). In a universe full of death, suffering and all around horribleness, the orks are a fresh breath with their quest for joy and childish shenanigans.

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The Bullet Sponge

This post is kind of a continuation of the last one, so if you haven’t read it you can click this -> A lesson learned about mass combat (Almost shameful self-promotion). Today’s topic is:

DnD Hit points

Discussed from a D&D perspective.

A problem I had with the encounter I mentioned in my last post was that it was a bullet sponge. Hit points in D&D work by an “all-or-nothing” principle. If you have any hit points, even if you were burned to cinder or lost a limbs, than you are good to go and kick all the asses in the world (poor mules). On the other hand, as soon as your hit points go below 1, you can’t do anything, you become useless. Of course, you can house rule or as the GM say that the players injuries are to sever for them to kick ass, even though they have some hit points left, But as the rules are written (as I have comprehended them), you don’t really get affected by the loss of hit points till you go below 1. This is nice and good, since it allows your players to be heroic till they drop dead. It might also lessen the severity of being stabbed by a sword…

But the title of this post isn’t “Hit Points”, it’s “The Bullet Sponge”. The bullet sponge is the concept of having a character, friend or foe, which can take a ridiculous amount of damage without breaking a sweat. ‘Cause guess what? The players aren’t the only ones benefitting from the “all-or-nothing” hit points principle.

A bullet sponge can easily become boring, since they eat damage to the face like breakfast cereals. But it can also be a highlight of an encounter/adventure/campaign. To make a bullet sponge into a chore, make sure it isn’t a real threat to the players but at the same time it is mandatory to kill it. It will then become a waste of time, since it can’t really do anything to the players but it is still an obstacle which can only be beaten by the most uninteresting action, attacking. (Attacks can be interesting, but when only done to lower a number enough it isn’t cooler than simple deduction)

However, if the bullet sponge is a serious threat it can be fun. For example, your group of adventurers is being hunted by a giant and very strong bullet sponge, which creates tension. The players can’t just stop and fight, they would be killed if they did, but if they slowly wear it down or are able to lure in to a trap for massive damage it could become a memorable encounter. Another way to do it is if you introduced a bullet sponge early in a campaign, a sponge which they can’t possibly beat, but they face again later in the campaign, when they are strong enough to beat it. It could serve as proof of how much the players have grown in power. Or you could just have a bullet sponge as the final encounter of a campaign, which “forces” the players to use everything they’ve learned and acquired during their adventures to best it in combat.

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A lesson learned about mass combat

I have a long running D&D campaign going at the moment; this is my first real campaign so I have learned a few things along the road. One thing I learned through a terrible second half of a session is how to NOT do good mass combat.

So the group of heroes had entered a dungeon under a swamp, built to god of death, typical D&D stuff, when they on their way out entered a previously unexplored room. This room was packed with zombies, ’cause the bad guy used it as a zombie storage room. It was a optional encounter. The heroes entered the room and started murdering the 15-20 something zombies, of which some were a beefed up kind of zombie, AKA lots a more hit points.

I mainly did two things wrong with this encounter. The first thing was giving the players a combat advantage in the form of high ground. The zombies could only get to the heroes by going up a stair, which the party’s beef cake blocked and could just push the zombies back down the stairs. So no one in the party, except maybe the person on the stair was in any danger.

Secondly, I rolled all the dice. You might think “isn’t role playing about rolling dice and see what results come out?” Well yes, but when every zombies gets to do a roll, that takes time, a lot of time. The encounter lasted over an hour, just because I made every zombie roll their die individually. Also, I made a third mistake, which is debatable. In the beginning of the encounter I wouldn’t say a zombie died unless their hit points were at zero. This only prolonged the suffering and by the end of the encounter I let the zombies die like flies just to end the combat.

Now lets clear a few things up, a long combat encounter is not bad in and of itself, but when there is no real danger, action, drama or stakes at stakes, it just becomes a choir. Combat should not be tedious, if it is, it is done wrong. You could have a whole session centered on combat, but than it has to be interesting combat. Giving the players/heroes an advantage in combat is also not bad, but when the advantage cancels out the danger of combat, it is probably a bad advantage, well at least in this situation, since the fight still lasted over an hour.

So what should I have done instead?

The advantage should probably not been so strong, the chokepoint with the stairs was cool but I could have let one or two zombies get up the sides or swarmed the player at the stairs. Regarding the dice rolling, instead of rolling individual dice for the zombies I should have made just one roll for all zombies of the same kind and used that result when they used the d20. As for damage, I should have used the average number stated in the zombie stats and only rolled to see if they hit. Finally, I shouldn’t have rolled unique hit points number for the zombies, or if I did, used one for all of the same typ. Instead I should have used the number stated in their stat block.

Those are my mistakes, try to learn from the so you won’t have to do the same.

Featured image

Unrelated, but at the same time not

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