D&D: Player Survey II

Before I say anything else, I’ll just say Xanga tags really suck.  I tried tagging the last post as “D&D” and it spit out “dd”.  *sigh*

In addition to the other survey I give my players, I give them another questionnaire.  This one is geared more towards role-playing.  It’ll give me an overview of their character, as well as help them get an idea of just who their character is.  Some players don’t really care about their characters.  They’ll roll stats but they just want treasure, loot and want to be the best.  Meh…  I am in no position to tell people how to play their games but I dislike that mindset.  Why do these characters want treasure and loot?  It’s a role-playing game, so play a role!

It’s also cooler that when players do get that cool treasure, they have an awesome story (hopefully) to back it up.


Name?  Obviously, the character’s name.

Race?  The character’s race…

Class?  Self-explanatory…

Age?  See above…

Appearance?  What does this character look like?  As an example, the guy I blatantly stole borrowed these questions from stated what I’m looking when he said, “Elf female is not an appearance.  A green-eyed elven female with shiny brown hair and a stout build for her race, wearing a deep purple-hooded cloak and the brown leather work outfits common to most northern villages IS an appearance.”

Origin?  A PC should know where they came from…or at least, state why they don’t.  If my players truly don’t care, I can craft one up for them…but that’s not fun for them and (I think) it feels like they’re playing an NPC.  All the player did was generate his attributes, I’m generating the very reason the character exists!

Background?  The character’s life story.  This ties in with their origin.  It also (usually) ties in with their character class.  How and why did they decide to follow the path they did?

Motivations?  Why is this character adventuring and what do they hope to accomplish?

Personality?  How does the character relate to others?

They are taking the Hobbits to Isengard!

D&D: Player Survey I

Gabe, Ian and Steve wanting to play D&D has gotten me fixed back on the hobby.  Just in time for 4th Edition too, although we’ll be playing under 3.5 rules…if we play at all.  I’m always a bit skeptic, especially now that we’re no longer in school together.

Normally, starting the campaign is a bit of a hassle (and I’m sure they’re tired of it and want to get on with the gaming).  I like to ask my players a few questions and gear the game around their answers.  There are two “questionnaires” I give them.  There aren’t too many questions but they’ll have to consider their answers carefully.  I base the game off them, after all.

The first questionnaire determines the setting, a kind of world overview.  The answers are usually determined by circling one of the three choices, although I sometimes have the answers on a 1-10 scale (1 being lowest, 10 being highest).  Anyway, the questions are…

1.  How much fantasy?
Low — Mid — High

The fantasy level determines the amount of realism.  D&D is a fantasy game so there is no “none” option.  No one wants to play in a game that’s completely real.  Players want to do cool things and cool things are often unbelievable.

An example of a low fantasy story would be King Arthur or Robin Hood.  Both have realistic elements, but fantasy woven in.  Both seem believable, despite the fantasy within the tales (in fact, people claim King Arthur really did exist and can cite all sorts of historical evidence that he was real).  Realism outweighs fantasy in these stories.  High fantasy would be a world like Narnia, where everything is exotic.  Even the animals talk!  In a high fantasy world, nothing is believable.  Mid-fantasy is average D&D.

2.  How much magic?
Low — Mid — High

The level of magic determines how common magic is in the world, how big its role will play in the campaign, as well as the availability of magic items.  Like fantasy, magic can not be completely eliminated in these games, but its role can be reduced.

Obviously, a low magic level means magic is rare.  Wizards will be rare, as are magic items.  Magic could be shunned or going extinct.  In fact, a good quest might be to find out what happened to all the magic.  Maybe the magical level was higher in the past, but fell off at sometime in the past?  High magic is the exact opposite.  Magic is so common, its a fact of life!  In addition, magic items can be bought at the local store.

3.  How much power?
Low — Mid — High

I didn’t ask this question to my players because I misinterpreted the definition to my last group.  Now, I’m going to use it to determine character generation.  In D&D, you generate your character stats by using 6-sided dice (d6).  In low power settings, characters roll 3d6 (three 6-sided die) six times.  They can re-roll stats if their modifiers equal -3 or if they don’t have a score higher than 12.  In a high power campaign, I have my players roll 5d6 six times and discard the two lowest die.

The problem with this question is that most players will want high power, or at least, a mid-power setting.  And high power settings…if your character can beat anything, then there’s no challenge.  And they have no flaws, which I like PCs to have.  So, this time, I had my players roll 4d6 six times (drop the lowest die) and re-roll if their stats didn’t average out to at least a 12.  A nice compromise.

4.  Tone and mood?
Light — Mid — Dark

Tone and mood are both tools I use to set the story in.  Tone is the attitude I try to convey (usually through descriptions) and mood is the feeling I’m going for, the feeling I’m trying to instill in my players as they play.

A light tone and mood would be similar to the average Disney movie.  Always a happy ending, the good guys clearly own the evil ones, etc.  I don’t really like light tone and mood because there’s so little substance and challenge to them.  Just about every Disney movie (and fairy tale) annoys me because I know what’s going to happen.  Prince Charming will get the princess, they’ll be each other’s true love, and they’ll live happily ever after, blah blah bleagh!

Dark tone and mood is just the opposite.  The endings aren’t always happy.  Prince Charming may have vanquished the evil wizard, but not before the wizard killed the princess.  Sin City and Batman stories have a good dark setting to them.  I like these stories because they seem more real.

Tone and mood also covers comedic elements.  A light tone and mood would be a very humorous setting.  Like Monty Python or Shaun of the Dead.  Dark tone and mood is deadly serious.  If there is humor, it’s really sick and twisted (like dead baby jokes).

Of course, players like having a happy ending to their story.  They don’t want the world to be dead serious or a huge joke.  They also want a challenge.  So, a mid setting is fine.  I can live with that.

5.  Rating?
G — PG — PG-13 — R

Determines language of descriptions and content.  An R-rating will have NPCs cursing and lots of blood to accompany the violence.  Think PG-13 for Lord of the Rings and PG for Star WarsStar Wars is a great example because there’s lots of fighting but there’s never any blood (although they do some graphic shots of people losing limbs).  And I like Lord of the Rings because it’s the most vivid fantasy that comes to mind.  It mainly gets that rating through violence and not language, though.

I’ve thought about nixing the “rated G” campaign because I’ve never played with a group that suggested it and I wouldn’t know how to run one if they did.

My players’ answers rounded up to a mid-fantasy, low-mid magic, mid-dark tone and mood (biased towards dark) campaign that’s rated PG-13.

My answers?  Low-mid fantasy, mid-magic, mid-power, mid-dark tone and at least a PG-13 rating.

A wizard is never late.  Nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to!

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Perfect 10

IGN and Gamespot have given Grand Theft Auto IV a perfect 10 score.  IGN, I could care less about.  IGN always rates games higher than their rival reviewers.  Gamespot, on the other hand, is one of the sites I check the most.  While I don’t rely on them for reviews as much anymore, I still read them.  Gamespot also tends to be harder on games than most critics.  Reviews that are more critical are usually the objective ones.

Gamespot has only given out a handful of perfect 10 games.  GTA IV has joined an elite group that consists of Zelda:  Ocarina of Time, Chrono Cross, Soul Calibur and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3.  Checking out the full list of reviews shows a lot of games that have come close.  Maybe Gamespot wasn’t as hard as I thought?

Anyway, GTA IV getting a perfect ten?  Despite the fact there are flaws listed in the review?  A perfect game should be just that; flawless.  But the review lets “occasional problems with friendly AI” and “minor visual quirks” slide.  It’s akin to giving a student an A+ when they clearly got a question or two wrong.  Unlike tests in school, there’s no extra credit that can up the score here.  Grand Theft Auto IV simply isn’t deserving of the perfect mantle (and for the record, I’d argue no game that has ever been made is perfect).  Unless GTA IV has done away with the multiple problems that plagued Grand Theft Auto on the PS2, a perfect grade is just silly.

Has the gameplay been revamped in a revolutionary way?  Grand Theft Auto always had that silly idea of replaying the mission over and over until you clear it.  I can’t stand that kind of gameplay.  Something that should take a few minutes ends up taking two or three times as long.  Replaying the same mission over and over isn’t fun, it’s asinine.  In fact, I never beat San Andreas because I never learned how to fly the damn plane.  Has the gameplay been overhauled to deal with this?  Has the AI been retooled?  Is there something I can do to change the difficulty?  On a side note, the driving camera was always a bit iffy.

This isn’t arguing Grand Theft Auto IV isn’t fun.  All the other GTA games were fun and this looks to be just as much so.  If GTA IV was graded solely on fun factor, a perfect 10 would be an understatement.  But when it comes to critiquing a game based on gameplay, graphics, sound, replay value and a host of other issues…a perfect ten is wrong.

Some last notes…  A fairer analysis of Grand Theft Auto IV can be found here.  In fact, I’d recommend Game Revolution over the majority of gaming sites.  And despite Saint’s Row being a nothing more than a carbon copy, it’s way better than Grand Theft Auto.

Is it better to be feared or respected?  I say, is it too much to ask for both?

Super Smash Bros. Brawl for All II

I’m thinking of posting these once every other week.

Thanks to Super Smash Bros., Nintendo fans have had the privilege to see their favorite characters fight each other.  Questions like “who’s the better Nintendo couple, Mario/Peach or Link/Zelda” have been answered, thanks to this game.

Our upcoming match-up comes from this Independent article.  It’s over a year old, but I doubt sales figures have drastically changed since then.  There are five series that have Brawl characters on that list; Mario, Pokémon, Donkey Kong, Legend of Zelda and Sonic.  Four of those series are Nintendo franchises.  So, the question for this fight is, which is the better Nintendo franchise?  Mario, the most popular and best-selling of them all?  Pokémon, a franchise that single-handedly revived the Game Boy and sparked one of the most annoying fads in recent history?  The Legend of Zelda, a franchise that constantly spawns great games?  Or is it Donkey Kong, which…well, you know, I tried to be objective here but I can’t figure out how Donkey Kong is on that list.  But he sells, for reasons unknown to me but whatever, so he may as well be in the fight!

Rules are different from the last match-up, but still simple.  Four player free-for-all with all fighters being level 9 CPUs.  All matches are stock-based, with each fighter getting three lives each.  The first fighter to get three victories wins.  All items appear normally.

Match 1:  Battlefield.  Link eliminates Donkey Kong with a fully-charged Super Scope shot before being eliminated by Mario.  Mario almost eliminates the mouse but is eliminated by his own carelessness (he never bothers to pick up a Bob-omb…that ends up going off right behind him).

Match 2:  Pokémon Stadium II.  Pikachu’s victory allows the Pokémon to select the next stage.  Mario is taken out early with back-to-back KOs.  He got KO’d by a Snorlax, then Donkey Kong hits him with a Dragoon as soon as he respawns.  The final two are Link and Pikachu, with the mouse being too quick for the Hero of Time.

Match 3:  Pokémon Stadium II.  Pikachu sweeps the competition here.  Donkey Kong and Pikachu are the final two and start off at 0% damage each.  Pikachu completely pwns the crap out of DK.  The ape doesn’t even touch the mouse, except for the two final smashes that still don’t knock Pikachu out.  Pikachu toys with DK before ending the match with a thunderbolt.

Winner:  Pikachu (!?)

Final Stats (KOs/Falls)
Pikachu +6 (+12/-6)
Mario +0 (+9/-9)
Donkey Kong -3 (+6/-9) / Link -3 (+6/-9)

Well, that was…abrupt.  I simulated some further matches because I was unhappy with these results.  Maybe I’ll post them later.

I’m not mad.  A little angry, maybe…

Wii Are Having Fun

You got to love Nintendo for coming up with such a silly name for their system.  Revolution would have been much more appropriate.  Instead, we’re stuck with “Wii”.

Anyway, I just spent a half-hour fiddling with the Wiimote sensor bar.  Apparently, you can’t have another light source in the room because it screws with the sensors.  On top of that, the damn thing is inverted so I’ve expanded a few blood vessels in my head just so I can play a damn game!  In the end, I ended up using a GameCube controller.  The Wiimote intrigues me (how the hell do you play Super Smash Bros. with that?) but it’s really not worth the headache.

Anyway, thanks to Super Smash Bros., Nintendo fans have had the privilege to see their favorite characters fight each other.  Questions like “who would win in a fight between Mario and Link” have been answered, thanks to this game.

This week’s question is who is the better Nintendo couple…Mario and Peach or Link and Zelda?  One could argue for both but there’s only one to answer that question…and that answer will come from violence!

The rules are simple.  A best of seven series, where the first three rounds are 20 minute time bouts.  Whoever loses the first round gets to pick the next stage.  The next three rounds are stock based (4 lives each).  If the series is tied 3-3, then a Sudden Death match takes place.  All contestants are level 9 CPUs.  Items appear frequently, but only Mario and Zelda-esque ones (heart containers, stars, lightning, mushrooms, etc.).

Round 1:  Link and Zelda
On the Battlefield stage, the match went to Sudden Death…and ended 5 seconds later with Link KO’ing both Mario and Zelda…for the win!

Round 2:  Mario and Peach
Since Mario and Peach lost round 1, they get to pick the stage for round 2.  In this case, the stage was Delfino Plaza.  Link and Zelda struggle as Mario whoops serious ass (22 KOs) and carries his team to victory.

Round 3:  Link and Zelda
The last of the time-based bouts takes place on the Bridge of Eldin.  Even at level 9, the CPU does the dumbest things.  Like…Zelda jumping across the bridge gap to attack Peach, who happened to be wielding a hammer.  This is also the first match where Zelda transformed into Sheik (she did not in the other two rounds, weird, eh?).

Anyway, Link and Zelda win the bout…but barely.  Link had 21 KOs, but 19 falls and a self-destruct.  Zelda manages to break even (15 KOs/Falls) as Mario and Peach both get negative scores.

Round 4:  Link and Zelda
The first of the stock matches takes place on the Battlefield.  Mario and Peach put on an epic combat with one life each (compared to Link and Zelda each having three), thanks to the final smashes…but Peach gets KO’d by a stray bomb and Mario can’t beat both Link and Zelda.  The Triforce prevails here.

Round 5:  Mario and Peach
Mario and Peach win on their home turf once again.  Link is off his game the entire match, KOing himself at one point.  Mario finishes him off with a final smash and together, with Peach, they double-team Zelda.  …That sounds like some odd hardcore porn but it’s not.  Mario wins the bout for his team in a hammer duel with Sheik.  Sheik tries to KO Peach, but Mario nails her for the win.  …What’s up with these porn references?

Round 6:  Mario and Peach
Mario and Peach score a win in Hyrule.  They don’t just win, they dominate, each having two lives left.

Round 7:  Link and Zelda
Sudden Death match here for the win.  300% damage at the Final Destination stage.  Mario and Peach’s comeback ends with Zelda KO’ing both of them.

Winner:  Link and Zelda

The violence has spoken; Link and Zelda are the best Nintendo couple!  Interestingly, out of the couples, the men performed better than than the women.  They had more knockouts, less falls, but Mario and Link also faced off against each other.  They focused on each other whereas Zelda and Peach were fighting each other most of the time.  Here’s a silly conspiracy rumor for ye, Nintendo programmed their AI so they wouldn’t have to deal with male on female violence…most of the time.

Once again, violence has decided the winner.  Link and Zelda are a better couple than Mario and Peach.  Now, if only Kings and Queens of Prom could be decided in a similar fashion…

Whenever there is a meeting, a parting is sure to follow. However, that parting need not last forever… Whether a parting be forever or merely for a short time… That is up to you.