Sunday, March 29, 2009

Jurgi Deathbringer

Last week, I mentioned Jurgi Deathbringer. I think this week, I'll describe him in more detail.

As I said, Jurgi was a Werewolf character. I wrote him when my gaming group tried to use the pack rules for the first time, but chose a pack totem without waiting for me to get home from work. In a fit of anger, I tried to show them how stupid it is to play combat monsters. So I wrote the most min-maxed character I could.

He was an ahroun (the warrior caste) from the Get of Fenris tribe (the most savage, bloodthirsty, and warlike tribe there is, as well as one of the most arrogant). I maxed out his physical stats, gave him the lowest possible intelligence score, and then put all his social points into his appearance. Then I took the flaw "Hideous," which reduced his appearance to zero, resulting in a socially inept monster.

All his skill points went to combat abilities. All his gifts were combat optimised. And I gave him a hatred of every other were-creature that existed. My hope was the other players would see how ridiculous a character like this actually was, and start playing more realistic characters in the future.

My plan backfired.

They loved Jurgi. They thought he was hilarious. I only remember playing him once or twice, and I don't even remember any of the details of those sessions. But after that, he took on a life of his own.

John's character in that game was Howls at Hells, a bizarre character whose most memorable feature was his ongoing rivalry with a mummy. The mummy had once blinded Howls at Hells by replacing his eyes with burning coals. Howls at Hells had left the coals in his eye sockets, so that when it rained, he appeared to be crying thick black tears. Howls at Hells became fond of Jurgi for some reason. Later, when John GMed, he would often use Howls at Hells and Jurgi Deathbringer as NPCs.

Somewhere along the line (I think probably as a result of his name), Jurgi picked up a ludicrious accent that resembled the Muppets' Swedish Chef: Unicorn says I must heal him. Who must I heal?

My most vivid memory of Jurgi is when another character I was running encountered him and Howls at Hells. They had knocked on our door, and when we answered, Jurgi said, "I am Jurgi Deathbringer, Modi of the Get of Fenris." Howls at Hells snapped, "Don't say that, you idiot!" Jurgi answered, "Why not? It's my name." Howls at Hells put his head in his hand, sighed, and without looking up, said, "Look, Jurgi. A weresquirrel." Jurgi said, "Weresquirrel? I must kill it." And off he went...

I don't really know what the point of this is. But it was an interesting story, I thought. So now you're stuck with it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Surrogate Characters

Welcome to another week of the Game Dork's Gaming Corner! Today, I want to talk about an idea I had some years ago.

Some of you may remember that, when I described the different gamer types, I said that I was about 60% Storyteller and 40% Method Actor. This makes it hard for me when I'm in a gaming group that is mostly Butt-Kickers/Power Gamers/Tacticians. There was one occasion specifically when we were preparing to play a game of Werewolf. At that time, we were not using the pack rules (summary for those who need it: a gaming group in Werewolf: The Apocalypse is supposed to work together to create a pack of characters with a specific purpose, either long-term or short term, and each character should set aside some of their points to pool with the other players for the purpose of purchasing a "pack totem," a spirit that grants each pack member certain powers in exchange for following a particular code of behaviour). We would each just write up our individual characters, who would meet as normal and find themselves engaged in some adventure together.

I was excited by this, and was quite looking forward to the first session, where we were supposed to discuss the issue of pack totem and come to a consensus as to which spirit we would adopt as our patron. However, when I got home from work that evening, I was dismayed to hear that the other players had chosen a totem without my input. I was mostly upset that they had not bothered to include me in the discussions, but I was also upset that they had chosen Fenris, the most savage and warlike of the totems.

This led to the creation of Jurgi Deathbringer, but I'll detail him in another post. But it highlighted to me that my fellow gamers were not as story-driven as I was. At the time, since I was not the mature gamer that I am now, it didn't occur to me that some players like gaming just because they want to KILL (I'm avoiding quoting the Arlo Guthrie song "Alice's Restaurant Massacree"). So I started thinking about how I could try to get the other games to appreciate a more story- and character-driven game. And I came up with this idea.

Get a group of gamers. Have each player create a character as normal. Then have each player pass their character to the player on their right. Have each player play the character they are now holding in their hands.

For some players (notably, the Power Gamers and Butt-Kickers), this won't make much difference. If they are unfortunate enough to be sitting next to a player who doesn't normally combat-optimise his characters, they may be frustrated by their inability to kill monsters. Otherwise, they will happily commit the same sort of violent mayhem they normally do, just using a different set of stats. Storytellers will likely enjoy the challenge, and Method Actors probably will as well, unless they get a standard two-dimensional character from a player who doesn't care for characterisation or plot. Tacticians and Specialists could go either way. Casual Gamers will probably not care.

But, if you have a willing group, this could be a potentially exciting exercise. I haven't yet had a chance to try this technique myself, but I would still like to at some point.

So, I encourage you to try it for yourself, and let me know how it works for you, and I'll see you here again next week!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Board Game Review - Kill Dr. Lucky

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned the game Kill Dr. Lucky. I think the time has come for me to review that game. The system, for those who need it.

Strategy: 2
Randomness: 4
Complexity: 2
Humour: Implicit
Attractiveness: Average
Expected Length of Game Play: one-half hour to one hour.

Kill Dr. Lucky is intended to be a "prequel" to
Clue (which is known outside of the United States, for reasons that I don't pretend to understand, as Cluedo). It is an inversion of Clue, in that the players are not trying to find out who killed the victim, but are trying to kill the victim themselves!

The game is produced by Cheapass Games, and it shows. The "board" is a folded paper map of a mansion. The only other items in the game set (aside from the rules, of course) is a set of cards. Players must provide their own tokens to represent their pawns on the board.

Game play is simple: move through the mansion. Dr. Lucky moves one space on each player's turn, following a predetermined path through the mansion, and moves an additional space after each failed murder attempt. As the game progresses, players draw cards. Some of the cards represent weapons, which can be used to attempt to kill Dr. Lucky. You may only make this attempt when you are alone in a room with Dr. Lucky, and no other player can see into your current room. That is, none of the other player's pieces are in a room that has "line of sight" into your room (this is my second biggest complaint for this game; on a paper map of rooms of irregular size and shape, it can sometimes be difficult, and usually annoying, to determine who has line of sight).

The majority of the cards, however, are "failure" cards. When a player attempts to kill Dr. Lucky, the other players have one opportunity each, in clockwise order, to play a single failure card. If the combined value of the failure cards played against an attempt equals or exceeds the value of the attack, then the attempt fails, and Dr. Lucky moves a room away.

This forms the core element of the game: a player attempts to kill Dr. Lucky, and the other players play failure cards to prevent it. Theoretically, a player can opt to play no failure cards, as a bluff attempt, or to deplete other players' hands, or just to maintain their own reserve. However, given that an insufficient number of Failure cards will result in the attacking player's victory (and thus, the end of the game), it is unlikely that many players will do this often.

Thus, we have what is my biggest complaint of the game: it ends up being a "Who's the first one with a chance to kill Dr. Lucky after the card deck has been emptied?" scenario. I think the game had potential, but by the end, I just wanted to say, "We can skip all the boring parts where we play cards and jump to the part where we see who's the first alone with him when there are no cards available." The game would have been faster (and in my opinion, more enjoyable, though not much so) if the cards had been eliminated completely. First one in the room with him wins!

This is referred to by a reviewer on as the '4th player wins' effect: when a player tries to manouevre themselves into 4th place in order to win the game. I mentioned this briefly in my post about Munchkin Quest. The winner is not determined by the actions or decisions taken by the player, but by the order in which you happen to go.

Of course, there are other draws for this game. Some people are amused by the role-reversal from standard
Clue, and by the attempts at humour written on the failure cards, or enjoy games of luck (i.e., games with a high Randomness rating). I'm not one of those. But if you are, then you may enjoy this game. I'd like to hear it if so; please remember that there are comment links on this (and every other) post. Don't be afraid to use them!

So that's all for this week. Until next week: Game on!