Friday, March 23, 2012

Plan B

Just got through playing Defenders of the Realm again. As I've mentioned before, it's a dice-based variant on Pandemic, using enemy armies as the board antagonist rather than viral outbreaks. Although I'd mentioned that card games offer more opportunities for strategy by deciding when to hold cards and when to play them, I realized there's something else going on in dice games (board or RPG): they almost force the player to consider what will happen if the turn doesn't go according to plan.

As an example of what I mean, in Defenders the Wizard player has a "Fireball" option which makes his attacks much more likely to succeed. The basic attack against any enemy "minion" piece requires a roll of three or higher for the weakest opponent, and a five or higher for the strongest. But the Fireball allows the Wizard to succeed on a two or higher (per d6) against any minion. It requires you to discard a card that might be useful in other circumstances, so it's not without its costs.

But that tactic isn't guaranteed: you can always roll a one. In fact, one time when I used the Fireball, I rolled two ones and a five, which meant that it wasn't needed for the one success, and wasn't a help for the two failures. Suddenly, what I thought was going to be a quick and easy battle turned out to be a slog (relatively speaking), and now I wasn't able to prance around the board as easily as I thought I could. My play became a lot more defensive as I was looking for safe havens on the board, and other, non-combat opportunities to spend my remaining movement points.

Cards are random, too, but there's something about dice that makes me think more about possible failure even when the odds are in my favor, which in turn (I hope) makes me a more cautious player.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Note About Secret Doors

You know, a couple of times I've seen (in published modules, nonetheless), a use of secret doors like the following:

Secret...what, shortcut?
What I don't understand is, what is the secret supposed to be? Both rooms are easily found.

More sensible is something like this:
Aha...a secret room.
This way, no matter where you're coming from, you need to do some detective work. I know that dungeons don't need realism or logic, but even so, a little bit can make the game more tangible to the players.