Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Tilting at windmills: A question of Savage Worlds probabilities pt1

Got busy and this project was nudged down the list by time and sleep deprivation, but it's still ongoing. With a Deadlands Classic: Hell On Earth game now joined, it seems a good place to examine things from for comparison. The company behind Savage Worlds I believe had little to do with Deadlands, but based their system on a much simplified version of it and purchased the rights to it, now sold as Deadlands Classic.

WHAT'S THE SAME?
Both Deadlands and Savage Worlds use D&D dice, from d4 through d12. Higher is better, and a target number system. Dice rolls explode in both systems if you score a max roll. Both use Edges and Hindrances to describe their system of advantages and disadvantages.

WHAT'S DIFFERENT?
Deadlands has stats drawn from a deck of cards for random generation, distributed into stats. Skills are based on the 10 parent stats, each point of skill nets you another attribute-sized die to roll during tests, which you take the single best result of. Savage Worlds, skills are capped by attributes, but gain no further benefit beyond cheaper advancement. Instead, Savage Worlds grants player characters a Wild Die, which is just a d6 unless they have a few high level edges that boost its power in some or all situations. In SW, Skills level from d4 to d12 just as attributes do.

WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
The problems with Savage Worlds are at least twofold, possibly more.

The first problem is that high stats give next to no bonus to skills based upon them. A person who minmaxes with a d12 in a skill-controlling stat (dexterity or intellect) will spend exactly the same amount of points to get a wide array of skills to average level as a purely average competing character with d6 stats across the board. For a character to be remotely competent, let alone skilled, they must stay fairly laser focused on a few skills to be good at (at least with default 15 skill points). The wild die allows a d4-skilled character to still have a d6 available, but it's still sub-optimal and leads to a number of character concepts that simply can't properly be made because they require too broad of skillsets (My first experience was trying to port in a weird west bounty hunter, who had ranged skill, melee skill, a vehicle skill, with tracking and perception. In GURPS or Deadlands Classic, such a build was very doable, low investment skills had decent power even without the law of averages to help out if the controlling stat was good.

The second problem is somewhat subjective, the lack of a bell curve. Single die rolls have a flat probability, SW Extras get flat probability and named characters get the luck die for a weird bell curve. Having a bell curve is nice because it gives you some semblance of idea how you can expect to perform on a given roll; ie, average.

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
There's a few possible solutions. A simple one could just be to give more skill points starting. Giving everyone at least the same bell curve could be done by giving Extras an Extra Die, perhaps a d4 because fate doesn't give as much of a shit about them as the Wildcards, but still maybe a little. But that still doesn't solve the problem of attributes vs. skills disconnect.

What you could do is replace the wild die with an attribute die. Suddenly a high dex character can bring their natural aptitude to bear with only a little specific skill, while a high dex/high skill character is a true terror. Or, add the attribute die in addition to the wild die, or offer choice of best two out of three. Offering this same upgrade to the NPCs would be powerful, as they're not necessarily built the same way as players, and tend to just automatically have the required skills/stats they should for whatever place they'll be encountered in.


I think that's enough rambling on this for a single post, I'll finish it up with actual probability calculations and such in another post.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Budget wargaming: dollar store edition pt2

Now, as a follow-up to the last post, we get into 2x 35 packs of army men.

Pros: Models are much more detailed, and larger if you want a slightly bigger scale. Includes some specialty gear like minesweepers, flamethrowers, and mortars
Cons: Models are way bigger than the scale of most gaming terrain and anything else, and completely random. Where the 50 packs came with a squad of fireteams in each, this is just a grab bag. Maybe usable for decoration, or if you buy a vast quantity to hopefully random-chance your way to something resembling a distribution of units with which to assemble a team.

I had really high hopes for these, but they were dashed by the reality of opening the bags and actually getting a good look at the contents. There isn't enough consistency to get them for minis, whether for wargaming or as tokens for a tabletop game on the cheap. Also, they're way larger than most gaming minis and terrain so you can't mix them in with other stuff.

Verdict: Not recommended

Up next in part 3, we look at assorted creatures and dinosaurs, and then in part 4 we get to the point of all this!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Tech Tuesday: VR Continues to advance

So it has recently been announced that Steam has their own entry into the VR market, the main feature of which is a set of controllers that are just shy of a glove, allowing natural movement of the fingers copied by your hand in game, allowing you to grab things by grabbing them, rather than retraining yourself to interact via less advanced controllers.


Enter Boneworks, a game built to display the hardware and, I suspect, serve as a game engine akin to how Source was used (but for VR, of course). I have my suspicions that this may be the killer app, once the hardware becomes more affordable ($1000 for a full Index VR rig, plus a VR ready computer). I expect the other members of the VR market will emulate the controllers in short order.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Budget wargaming: dollar store edition pt1

As a lead up to an upcoming gaming convention several months ago, I went to the local dollar store for some figure for running some improv RPGs. Among them, I got 2x 50 packs of army men  25 per side per bag. I wasn't interested in the unbagging, but I was very interested in the unit counts.


Cost: $2 plus tax (two packs of 50)

I was surprised by how fairly uniform they were. 3 of each unit type, roughly.
12 riflemen (3 prone, 3 crouch, 6 standing)
3 pointing men with rifle (NCO?)
3 radiomen
3 shotgunners
3 bazooka troops

Image courtesy of google image search, from an ARMA forum
With 3 riflemen and an NCO, you get a fairly usable squad with 3 fireteams. The rocket troops and shotgunners don't fit anywhere, and either serve as their own squads with no NCO, or the fireteams get buffed up to 6 man teams, with one shotgun trooper and rocketeer each.

One of the tan armies is short one NCO, but all the others are full strength with one bonus unit, to make 25. Get a couple bags and extras will likely offset the occasional miss, riflemen seem to be the most common extras (which statistically makes sense).

Quality: Models are a bit unsteady, but partly my little not-very-stable personal table I'm using is to blame. The quality of the modeling is meh, but it's sufficient to tell who's what, which is enough. For $1, you really can't complain. The degree of completeness and unit distribution is far beyond what I was expecting for the price.

Playability: With a $1 tape measure/measuring tape or just a straight dowel for Line of Sight, $1 for half a dozen dice and a D6 tactics system, or possibly a coin flip system (in most tactics systems, a basic troop winds up with about 50/50 odds), or even no dicerolling at all to enforce tactics and maneuvering, you wind up with a remarkably playable small unit setup.

Cobbling together a WH40k style system and unit cards works well, can fit your entire army's statblocks on a single notecard. Savage Worlds has the roots of a functional tactics game that was made with/in it, but they never really finished it out properly, and it requires the hard-to-dollar-store D&D dice.

Up next, I bust out the premium $1 army men, which are 35 of a single color to a pack.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Training Thursday: Share the pain

Took both my hubby and my housemate to Krav Maga with me. Both greatly enjoyed the training. Neither was in shape enough for the unusually heavy cardio class we got. They're both going to complain at me tomorrow, I suspect. On that note, I've been taking Krav Maga courses for about 4 months now, after a lifetime of taekwondo (reached halfway between first and second degree blackbelt). Different goals, but I felt like I learned more practical, applicable defensive stuff in the two trial courses than I did in all of my TKD. Of course, I'm picking it up incredibly fast, because just like even historical fencing wasn't really applicable to a real fight, it made you BETTER in the real fight.

Also tried out an imitation chik-fil-a chicken recipe for people who don't want to help them pay for anti LGBT shit (which boils down to "Brine it and use seasonings, dumbass") and it turned out quite good. Soak it in pickle brine for a couple hours, add some seasonings, dunk in flour and then egg and whatever. Just google it, you'll find a bunch of recipes.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

There's yer problem

Been going pretty hard at various things. Past couple weeks I've had issues with passing out basically any time I stopped moving or actively doing something and was remotely comfortable.

Now, after another one of these impromptu 3+ hour naps, following a 9 hour rest, I'm suddenly full of things like motivation and energy and stuff again. Remarkable what being remotely awake does.

We now return to your regularly scheduled rambling about guns, military futurism, and game systems nobody cares about.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Tuesday Training: Laser rifles?

Not going to make a thing of this enough to get a tag, probably, but I'm looking for a laser training rifle. I've found all manner of bore sights, at least one drop in laser-bolt for AR-15s, and of course the Laserlyte and SIRT pistols. But I haven't found a good, simple blue-gun rifle with the built-in laser, just a Laserlyte rifle. Maybe upgraded to a green laser for the additional range that grants.

Why? I want to practice. I run dot torture drills anywhere from weekly to nightly using my pistol, with both hands, sometimes in armor. Of late, I've been considering getting some nice targets I can hang around the basement with obstructions of some sort, form it into a poor-man's shoothouse. But, I'd like to run it with a rifle as well, and I DON'T want to use it with my real rifle even with a training laserbolt in it. Airsoft would work, but make a mess, same with my AR-15 style paintball gun.

This doesn't seem like it'd be that hard of a concept. A resetting trigger, and a hard plastic shell of the sort that litter the market from airsoft to toys. Like the laserlyte, close enough is close enough, as long as the simple laser mechanism lets you adjust the aim to properly zero it. The SIRT bolt accomplishes this using your existing gun (available in red and green lasers), but as mentioned having a spare fakegun set up to use as a dedicated trainer appeals.

I'm not averse to doing things myself, and could probably even bring it to market, but this seems like something that should already exist which is a far lazier option to acquire.