Monday, February 17, 2014

74. Resolving PEFs - Assistance Needed!

I mentioned in my last post (somewhere down around the middle when the dinosaur first appeared) that I was unhappy with the method I was using to resolve PEFs.  PEF stands for Possible Enemy Force, as used in Two Hour Wargames rules.  It's a method of maintaining uncertainty of what enemy you may be facing in a game, as you sort of "play against the rules."

One thing Ed of THW does is to pre-load the PEFs in his personal games, meaning he makes a list of possible enemies he might encounter, and then when it is time to resolve the PEF into an actual enemy he has a starting point; or you might say he has a better idea of what's coming without it being purely random, and yet it remains unpredictable.

So for my current solo game, I had the choice of using the pre-written PEF tables in the "Adventures in the Lost Lands" rulebook as is, or of modifying them to suit my tastes.  Considering that I have added to the list of possible enemies as compared to the rulebook, I have decided to ignore the original lists and use my own.

However the main thing that I am not happy about is the methodology of resolution.  I don't really like the default "roll 2d6 and consult the table."  I feel it is a bit ... inaccurate, for lack of a better word.  Everyone knows that the results of a 2d6 roll produce a bell curve effect of results, with 7 having the highest chance of appearing, and 2 and 12 the least chances.  And yet the basic table is simply a list of possible dinosaurs with no real regard to where they are placed on the 2 to 12 scale.

I recognize that the way to correct this would be to properly scale the entries to match their potential for appearing, but I don't really know what that should be; and it might change depending on how dangerous the particular location is, which is completely unpredictable and would be entirely arbitrary.

Here is an important point, my stumbling block, if you will:  I don't want arbitrary in my randomly determined enemies.  I want randomness properly mixed with appropriateness.

I think that a 1d6 chart would be more balanced (especially in keeping with the fact that THW rules use nothing BUT d6's), with perhaps a sub-chart of a 2nd d6.

With that in mind, here is what I have come up with.  The assistance I need is in determining which of them will produce the better effect of randomness properly mixed with appropriateness.

(You will see "Monster 'A'" and "Monster 'B'" below.  This is just a way of keeping some of the surprise for what might appear in the games.  I don't want to give it away before you get the chance to read about it!)

My modification of the Original 2d6 Table:
2,3       Nothing Appears
4,5       Something is Out There; Next Turn Roll Again ignoring any results of 5 or less
6,7       Dinosaur (Feeder)
8,9       Dinosaur (Ferocious)
10,11   Men (Cavemen)
12         Roll Again

The primary thing I dislike about the above table is that it does not take into account my newly added monsters.  Naturally I could fit them in.  What I do like is that everything has an "equal chance" of appearing, in the sense that each entry has two numbers associated with it.  However, as I mentioned before, the bell curve of 2d6 actually weights this in favor of 7 appearing the most often.  I don't know how to decide which monster should appear more often than another.  Maybe it should be a Feeder; maybe not.  But the main thing is I don't want to have to decide this "for myself" each and every time I roll on the chart.  I want it pre-arranged.

Another thing I changed from the original table is that I don't increase or decrease the likelihood of something appearing based on whether or not it is the first or the fifth PEF.  The original tables may things less-likely to appear the further on you go (which always seemed a little backward to me).  My "world" is big enough, I feel, that each time you encounter something, it could be the same entry as the previous roll.  In other words, I just use one table.  I like simple.

My 1d6 Table:
1  Monster "A"
2  Monster "B"
3  Mammals
4  Dinosaur (Feeder)
5  Dinosaur (Ferocious)
6  Men (Cavemen)

The above table benefits from simplicity, and straight-up even odds of each entry appearing.  However, what I don't like about it is it does not take into account that, perhaps, sometimes certain monsters should appear more often than others.  As I said in the paragraph above, I don't know how to decide which monster should appear more often than another.  This one is almost too simple.

My 1d6 Table with a 2nd d6 Sub-Table:
1,2  Ferocious
          1,2  Monster "A"
          3,4  Monster "B"
          5,6  Dinosaur
3,4  Feeder
          1,2,3  Mammal
          4,5,6  Dinosaur
5,6  Men (Cavemen)

This table currently rates as my favorite, because it is the most impartial with regards to what appears when.  It's pure 1/3 odds of which type of monster appears, with a second roll detailing what sub-type appears.  This seems to be suitable randomness (without being just purely random), and it seems to be properly mixed with appropriateness (as forced by the 2nd d6 roll for sub-type).

My biggest problem with this is the initial d6 roll.  There is, in fact, no weighting for which type creature appears; and I don't feel comfortable with arbitrarily removing or lessening one's chances as, say, the following:

1,2  Ferocious
3,4,5  Feeder
6  Men

The assistance I seek from you, my few and wonderful readers, is to help me see any flaws I've missed with regards to the different methods.  And to help me with my creative roadblock regarding the weighting of this last method, always keeping in mind my mantra of " I want randomness properly mixed with appropriateness."

Thank you, thank you, thank you (in advance) for your help and assistance!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

73. A Return to KatManDog

In today's exciting(?) installment, we join our intrepid hero as he attempts to explore another corner of the Lost Lands of Kellytopia (which really needs to stay lost).  A previous expedition had discovered the secret entrance to the legendary paradise of KatManDog, in the Lost Lands of Kellytopia (a subsidiary division of Kellytopia Industries, Inc. Registered Trademark).

This adventure has nothing to do with that.  This is a completely different corner of Kellytopia (although there *may* be a backdoor servants' entrance to KatManDog nearby).

There are new dangers to be discovered, beyond the hum-drum dangers of rampaging dinosaurs!

The rules to be used are my own homebrew mish-mash of Two Hour Wargames' numerous sets.  I've picked and chosen the bits I like and I've discarded the bits I don't like to create my own personal go-to set of rules. Like Ed says, they're a toolbox.

As you all know by now, you can click-en on the pictures to embiggen 'em.
The Land to be explored.  I had no real plan.  I just set up four somewhat-different terrain quadrants for variety.  I set up 4 PEFs, all Rep 4.
The view from the Hunters' base camp.  The Star, Sir Reginald Porpington Smith-Smythe-Smith, Rep 5, armed with a Victorian-era big game rifle.  His hired help, Jean-Claude Van Damme (no relation to the movie star of the future), late of the French Foreign Legion, and renowned for his "Stone Cold" coolness under stress, Rep 5, carrying a bolt-action rifle plus bayonet.  Third, Paddywack, a local Askari, Rep 4, armed with a bolt-action rifle.  And last, Knick Knack, a locally-hired Native Bearer, Rep 3, unarmed.  Sir Reginald and Paddywack are also armed with long knives.
Turn 1:  The group decides to Fast Move and successfully double-moves 16" to hide behind a small hill.  My intention at this point is just to explore the table and survive.  It's a sort of refresher for me for the rules, too, as I haven't played a game in far, far too long.
Turn 2:  Activation Dice:  Dinos 5, Hunters 2.  The group again Fast Moves a double move.  I guess I'm trying to get to the plantation houses to see what's going on there.
Turn 3:  Activation Dice:  D6, H1.  Yet again, the group Fast Moves successfully to the house on their right.  Sir Reginald and Knick Knack have enough movement to enter the building through the open doorway.
Turn 4:  Activation Dice:  D1, H4.  Sir Reginald and Knick Knack use their full normal movement to go up one level inside.  Van Damme and Paddywack take up watchful positions.  Something is moving closer across the river....
Sir Reginald and Knick Knack emerge onto a second floor balcony, of sorts, as part of their movement going up one level.  This gives them a good view of across the river.
This is the view across the river.  Something comes crashing into sight.  What could it be?  It''s a...'s a Saurophaganax.  Everyone knows they are a medium-sized dinosaur, Rep 5, Melee 12, there is only one appearing, and they can move 12"!
(I am unhappy with how I am pre-loading my PEFs.  I have three different methods but at this point I haven't made up my mind which I like better, so I just went with the "default" method.)
Careful readers, and those who demand authenticity in their tabletop games, will recognize that this model is not actually a Saurophaganax.  Alas, I didn't have a Saurophaganax model.  I'm not sure a Saurophaganax model is even made anywhere.  So this will have to do.  (Then again, if you're reading this and demand historical accuracy, I should impress upon you that this is not, in fact, a historical re-creation.  Victorians did not hunt dinosaurs.)
In Sight tests were rolled for the various opponents.  In my house rules I have the Inactive side take a -1d6 penalty when taking the In Sight test; however, "Adventures in the Lost Lands" (henceforth known as AitLL) has a rule that says, essentially, when a PEF resolves into a dinosaur, no one is surprised.  So I let that cancel out the -1d6 penalty and just let it be a straight up roll.  Here are the number of successes scored:

Van Damme = 4, Sir Reg = 3, Knick Knack and Paddywack = both 2.  The dino = 3 (I did count the humans as being in cover to the monster).

The Foreign Legionnaire rolls 2d6 versus his Rep 5, scoring 4 and 4 = Pass 2d6.  I consult the AitLL QRS for Adventurer (which is what I classified him as) and get a result of "Fire!"  His bolt action rifle scores a hit (dice roll + Rep 5 = 11), and I roll 1d6 vs the Impact of 3, getting a 3.  This is good; I get to roll 2d6 + Impact, so have a good chance of killing it.  I promptly roll 2+3+3=8.  The beast Ignores me!  "Merde!"
Next, Reggie ("That's Sir Reggie, to you, you blighter!"), being my Star, chooses to fire.  He misses with a 7.
Next, the Saurophaganax rolls 2d6 vs it's Rep 5, getting 4, 6 = Pass 1d6.  On the QRS this is "Charge."  He moves towards the closest enemy and the one who shot at him last.  At 4" away, we take the Charge into Melee test.  Sir Reginald ends up with Pass 3, the dino with Pass 1.  This is 2 more than, so Sir Reginald gets to shoot again before melee begins.  "Now's my chance to show my true mettle," he thinks, before promptly rolling 6 and missing.
Anyone within 4" of the Charge-ee also has to take the Charge into Melee test.  This included Knick Knack and Van Damme, but not Paddywack (who was safely and intelligently hidden behind a building).  I fully expected Knick Knack to run away screaming incoherently, but the dice had different plans. Knick Knack got Pass 2, the Dino kept its Pass 1.  This would normally allow him to fire his weapon.

Unfortunately the Bearer has no weapon, so I guess he just stood there flailing his arms madly at the approaching beast.  Van Damme also Passed 2, 1 more than the Dino, and was able to fire again.  He, being of sharp eye, got another hit, but when he only scored 1d6+3 for damage, I knew it wouldn't help.  With a dinosaur of Medium size or greater, you really have to have 2 dice worth of damage to have a hope of killing it, or even wounding it.  Van Damme rolled 3 + Impact 3 = 6.  He was ignominiously ignored again.

So I have a "grunt" who can hit but can't do damage, and a Star who can't hit.

We're still in the middle of Turn 4.  We haven't even gotten to melee yet.  Oh wait, here it is now.
"Rarrgh!"  "Great googly-moogly, it's trying to eat me!"
This is what melee looked like, somewhere during the TEN-TURN-LONG melee that occurred.
I'm not going to give you the full blow-by-blow ten turns long.  We'll hit some highlights.

First we determine the number of successes each participant rolls.  Each turn, my Star rolled Rep d6 + a 1-handed weapon (1HW) = 5d6 + 1d6 = 6d6.
The FFL grunt rolled Rep d6 + Stone Cold + a 2-handed weapon (2HW) = 5d6 + 1d6 + 2d6 = 8d6.
The Bearer grunt rolled Rep d6 = 3d6.

The dino divided its 12d6 worth of melee dice amongst all the opponents, plus it added +2d6 for being Size 6, and minus -1d6 for it's targets being in some sort of cover, for a total of 13d6 divided by 3.  This obviously doesn't divide equally, so I opted to put 5d6 on the Star, 4d6 on the FFL, and 4d6 on the Bearer.

Each set of successes was then compared to its opponent's successes.  The results were either:  score the same number as; score 1 more than; score 2 more than.  And then I referenced a chart that said, you score a hit, and / or are locked on or pushed back (which can effect how many dice you roll for the next set of successes).

So with all that being said, here's how it went down.

At various points in the next 5 turns, the dinosaur scored fewer successes than any of its opponents, and was "forced back" and "locked on" to, by and from different Hunters. Sometimes the Hunters scored more successes than the dino but were unable to capitalize on the hits to do any damage.  The dinosaur also would roll really poorly when it got a hit and inflict no damage (this was VERY lucky for the humans).

It was both frustrating and comical.  Finally the Star and the dino were "evenly matched," which allowed Sir Reginald to move away and end his part in the melee.  I hoped that by doing this he could bring his elephant gun to bear and cause some real hurt on the dino.  Melee is not the preferred method for killing dinosaurs; big guns are!
"By Jove, by Jiminy, by crackee, I'll bag this beast yet!" said Sir Reginald, bravely standing behind Knick Knack.  "I say, Knick Knack, keep his attention, would you, whilst I reload, there's a good fellow."
Meanwhile, the PEFs had been milling around, not doing much of anything.

Also, Paddywack the Askari had circled around during the melee to add his (rather ineffectual) shooting to the mix.
Paddywack says, "Look at all dos markers.  I surely can do bettah dan dat!"
At last, in Turn 7, Sir Reginald hit with 2d6 + 4 = 13.  This, at last, Knocked Down and Wounded the Saurophaganax!  Huzzah!  The dinosaur could only test to recover when it became Active, and the Activation roll in Turn 7 for the Dinosaur side was a 6, meaning it could not Activate this turn at all.  There is also a rule in AitLL that says dinosaurs can't rise while engaged in melee.  So this was a Good Thing.
Since the dinosaur was now officially Knocked Down, I figured it could no longer melee with Knick Knack on the second floor of the house.  It could still melee with anyone on the ground, though, meaning Van Damme.  In fact, that was crucial to killing it:  keeping it in melee so it couldn't get up!  Oops, did I just give away the ending...?
Turn 8 saw the melee go nowhere, Sir Reginald *miss* a knocked-down 16-foot-tall behemoth, and the barely-trained Paddywack shoot and hit with 2d6.  Yes!  Too bad the result of 10 only "enraged" the beast!

Knick Knack had had enough and darted into the house, going downstairs.

In dinosaur-human melee you only fight one round of melee per Activation, but both sides were able to Activate this turn, so Turn 8 saw a second round of melee.  I think this is correct, but it actually depends on the definition of "one round per Activation."  If you Activate first, melee with me and we both survive, I don't see why I can't melee with you when I Activate next.  This is admittedly different from man-to-man melee, but I think it's right.  Anyhow, that's how I played it.

This second round of melee in Turn 8 had Van Damme rolling 10d6 and scoring only 3 successes, and the prone dino scored 4 successes.  Luckily, the hit on the Legionnaire only forced him back, and "enraged" him.  Another case of the dino rolling low on damage.  Whew!  And by being forced back from a Knocked-Down creature, I figured Van Damme could have his choice next turn, depending on who won Activation:  either count himself out of melee and be able to shoot, or resume the melee if necessary.  (Either that, or I just forgot as I was playing, and am now justifying it ex post facto.)

This picture illustrates the above paragraph.
Turn 9's Activation dice:  D 5, H 1.  The Saurophaganax was now Rep 4 due to its wound, so couldn't Activate.  Sir Reginald shot and missed.  Again.  As I was getting a little tired of this (what with all the note-taking required for a write-up like this and all), I suddenly remembered old Sir Reggie had the "Marksman" ability.  No, really, he did.  This allows him to roll 2d6 instead of 1d6 and choose the best result for shooting.  What luck, this gave me a hit!

Which led to an "Ignore" result.  Damnation!

However, Van Damme was finally able to roll 2d6 for his hit, scoring another Knock Down & Wound (KD&W).  What's more, Paddywack also got 2d6 for his hit, and scored a single Wound.  Feast or famine, as they say.  That was a total of 3 wounds of damage to the 5-wound dinosaur, leaving it at Rep 2.  It was not able to Activate at all this turn and so remained Knocked Down.

Turn 10:  Activation Dice:  D 3, H 4.  The humans go first.  Sir Reginald took careful aim, fired, got a hit, and rolled 2d6 + 4 = 16.  Finally, an Obviously Dead result!  Finally he was able to shoot a nearly-motionless, almost-dead giant-sized creature.  Good for him.  This is what sportsmanship is all about.

"Well, that was easy."
So at long last, the team had it's first kill.  Sir Reginald descended into the building to join the cowering Knick Knack, and Van Damme and Paddywack joined up near the front of the house.  They could both hear the three original remaining PEFs moving out there in the wilderness, and they seemed to have been joined by a fourth!  (Activation dice 3 + 4 = 7.)

However, Sir Reginald, from his prior vantage point on the roof of the house, had seen some interesting-looking ruins off in the distance, that certainly bore investigating.  "What, what, hey?"
Hmm.  Ruins.  Interesting.  And is that...?  Why, I think it is!  A sacrificial altar!  For sacrifices!  How extraordinary!
To be continued in the next installment, coming to you whenever I can find the time to play it and then write it up!

Thanks for reading all the way to the end.  You're a real trooper, or a glutton for punishment.