Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Unfounded Optimism, aka Character Death

I played in a game of Traveller on Saturday, and had a lot of fun with a character who unfortunately died by the end of the night. It taught me two things: one, I have an unrealistically optimistic view of my character's chances in a gunfight, even when I can estimate the odds pretty well. Two, one of the blessings of the Old School--the opportunity to learn from your mistakes--was handed to me in the form of a resolution not to let my character go on a mission again without some form of armor.

We'd been running a few adventures based on the supplement 76 Patrons, and one had gone poorly: one of our characters got busted by the local police and we had to bail her out, for a net loss even after we got our reward for some street-level industrial espionage. The next went well, if uneventfully, and we were on our way to getting off of the planet Persephone. The third, however, was seemingly routine, if somewhat odd: to recover a notary's seal from his apartment. We got there, found the seal, and while my character was stationed outside as watch, the gunfire started.

It should be pointed out that 76 Patrons is a list of encounters (you may guess how many) with people who will enlist the help of the player characters. Each contains a setup, and a twist determined by a d6 roll. The mission may be exactly as it seems, or there might be something going on deeper and more hidden. The one thing you can't do is try to metagame the GM to see what he would typically do; ours was going strictly by the dice rolls, so there was no point in asking "What would B. put in this situation?" I don't know what the twist in this scenario was, other than that there were other people who wanted what we wanted, and were willing to come in with guns a-blazin' to get it.

In any case, once the shots started ringing out, I got into the fray. My character had Gun Combat (Pistol) - 2, so my odds of hitting things were pretty good. Slightly better, in fact, than the two people who were firing on me. I needed to roll nines against their tens. That's 27.78% vs. 16.67%. The first time I got hit, totally wiping out my Endurance, I should have re-thought what those odds meant. I didn't want to dodge, because I was afraid that the -1 penalty would make it too unlikely for me to hit them. Of course, it also gave them a penalty. I would have needed the tens, and they would have needed elevens. Instead of being having slightly better than 1.5 times the probability of hitting, I would have gone to a straight two times. (I would have had 16.67%, but they would have gone down to 8.33%.) But I was so sure that I would roll a successful shot before they did, I chose to stand there and trade slugs.

I should have dodged.

Also, I should have worn armor. I had the money, and could buy high-quality, inconspicuous protection, but for some reason it completely slipped my mind.

So farewell, Nicholas Langfried, we hardly knew ye. But your death, as un-epic and non-storied as it was, served to highlight the grittiness of the setting and as a reminder to your player that there are consequences to the choices he makes, and penalties for embarking on a mission unprepared.


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