Sunday, September 20, 2009

Once More Into The Breach

As mentioned in my previous post: Frozen War! We played another session.

Between my classes and my 40k obsession, it's hard to focus on my standard Space Opera, but thankfully, I managed to find the attention to do so, got it together, and we played it out again. All in all, it went well and was well received by my players. But just as before, there are places I could have done better.

I'm still really uncertain of gravity. I think I might just ditch it in my main Space Opera game, as it doesn't really seem to bring much to the game except alot of mathematical hassle. Gunplay improved alot, but I made another mistake here: Byler went "down" when he was under suppressive fire. So far, so good. He thereafter tried a "pop up" shot, which put him under suppressive fire for one turn and gave him a -2 to hit. Again, so far so good. Unfortunately, Gunslingers don't suffer that penalty. He's even more badass than I realized.

In another colossal screw-up, I really underestimated the defenses of Caldera City, and as a result, the attacking forces were slaughtered. I lied to my players, something I had decided I didn't want to do: by the rules, they actually should have killed every last man, woman and child that attacked the players, through a combination of the Quetzali leader's stupidity and the sheer power of Caldera's defenses. The old rule of thumb is that you need 3 times your defender's strength during a siege, and I should have used that, but I figured 1.5 times was more than enough. However, with players making heroic actions and the massive defenses of a city, I should have placed alot more firepower in the hands of the Quetzali.

The lowest point of the game, alas, was a player. During an early battle, they managed to ambush some Quetzali, wound their leader, take down two of their infantry, and run them out of town, and Walter qualified it as a "defeat." He complained when their non-infiltrator types couldn't detect an infiltrator, when his APC HMG couldn't blow a flying APC out of the sky. He complained that he's always losing (despite the fact that the players have won every battle they were allowed to influence), that Quetzali have superior technology (they have essentially identical technology to humans, much to my annoyance), that the Quetzali are superior themselves (They are worth more points, but I've designed them to be weak in certain, important areas), and complained that he couldn't possibly defend his city ("I'm out-numbered!").

The other guys didn't complain. They even got on his case for doing so, so it's clearly not the game itself. To me, the most grating thing about this is that it destroys the illusions I'm trying to create. Now that they won that battle, it sounds like I toned things down based on his complaints, and his victory is now hollow because he won by whining, and that's just not so. He won through his own grit and (reluctant) determination.

I suspect I know where the real problem is. In the previous session, Walter actually lost, but didn't complain. This session, he won and complained. The difference, I think, is the role of his character. Byler and Roomie have both slipped into their roles perfectly, and know exactly how to play their characters, and achieved some serious badassery. Walter, once again, finds himself in a sidelined support position, and he does not do well there. Only, he's not really in a "support" position. His character is just as good with a rifle and UBGL as before. He's just as well armored as before. And he hasn't yet mastered the arts of leadership in GURPS. Walter hates to feel useless, and not knowing how to achieve victory is a form of that. As he learns better, he'll relax. I just wish he'd trust me. I think I'll have Sasha suggest to him to "get involved" in the next fight as much as possible, commenting that he doesn't enjoy "leading from the rear."

I trusted him last session and gave him a nuke when he requested it, having visions of epic uses of it later in the game. He threatened to use it on a squad of 5 Quetzali at the risk of his own men. Wow. Then he threatened to use it on the city he was defending. Wow. You should never give someone a toy unless you're willing to let them use it, but man, this is really not how I intended him to use his nuke. I'm not generally a fan of "punishing" a player, but this might be a case to pull out some dirty tricks: All his loud, boisterous threatening of the Quetzali with a nuke has told them that he has a nuke. If they can take it from him, the enemy general who just lurves holocausts can use it on the city. Hopefully, that will make him think twice about blabbing confidential info at the enemy, especially in the form of empty threats.

But beyond this, I think it was, overall, a very good game.

UPDATE: I feel the need to add that, as pointed out by Byler (I believe), Walter's complaints are a good sign. They mean he cares about the game. If he didn't, he'd just shrug and disregard any setbacks. Instead, he wants to see his lieutenant succeed! And that means he actually likes the game.

UPDATE 2: I might have given the impression I was mad at Walter, and I wasn't. I've seen players get frustrated with their characters before (Erik, a friend from the Netherlands, was very frustrated with his Dragon-Blooded sorcerer before we fiddled and found a way for his generic Occult to be useful). I'm quite sure Walter is in the same situation.

In fact, he contacted me and apologized. This is what I mean when I say I have good players. According to him, his real frustration is the lack of a decent MAP, since visual input really helps him formulate strategies, so we've figured out how to sketch out some stuff on MapTool, and we should be ok. His comment about the nuke was this: "A Nuke is a bluff, a MAD device. Thus, it's useless if you don't announce it." Which is true, come to think of it! I suggested that he might save that bluff for more useful times, however, not overestimate it (You can't demand the surrender of an entire army just because you have a nuke and you're in their midst), and to better understand his opponent psychology (Quetzali tend to be skeptical of physical danger, both a great asset and a grave problem for them)
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