Sunday, June 15, 2014

Not All Orcs are Created Equal

I was reading a forum for players of another company’s game. The forum participants all seemed to be complaining that the “new creatures” were simply the old creatures with a different skin color and a few more hits to kill. In case you don’t play Legend Quest - any and every character in Legend Quest can be scaled to be a threat to the player characters/adventurers. Instead of “levels” and “classes”, character creation is on a point system, so you can easily generate an experienced orc who could be equal to an experienced adventurer.

But I hate when we think that it is only how many points to kill a creature that make the creature tough. Some obviously think it is the magical items or whatever other means of adding “pluses”. RPGs are bookended by war games and card games, both of which require strategy. Can’t we bring more of that into our games?

We published a book called A Bakers’ Dozen Tribes and another called An Army’s Arms: Thunder Doom. Tribes is a book devoted to giving ideas of different humanoid (orcs or whatever) tribes. By knowing more about the different tribes, a game master can choose different levels of sophistication to give his players different experiences with the same critters. AAA is a far more detailed look at the Thunder Doom tribe, one of Fletnern’s more elite orcish tribes. They failed in their coup attempt and are now racing across the Southern Plains, dodging patrols and trying to rebuild their power base.
No, this is not just a commercial for our products, but I wanted to show that not everyone treats “orcs” the same way. To be honest, is there a huge difference between kobolds, goblins, orcs, and the rest of them? Probably not. Not even if you include humans, halflings, dwarves and elves. That’s the way we see it. Sure, the stats are a little different, but it is the culture, the tech (both industrial and magic), and the strategy that make the difference.

OK - a decent analogy: You know that not all American Indians are the same, right? The swamp dwellers in Florida were different from the Plains Indians in the middle who were different from the northwestern totem pole makers who are still different than the mud hut Mexican ones. Teepees, long houses, mud cities, caves, etc. Different homes, different ways of living, different cultures. Your humanoid tribes need to be the same. OK, I just said that they need to be the same in that they need to be different, but I hope you’re still with me.

Fletnern has orcish tribes that live in the arctic - they are seal hunters and igloo builders. We have tribes that live in the swamps, where their best weapon is the swamp itself (quicksand can be far more deadly than a poorly made bow). Some tribes live in the mountains. These goat hunters are skilled in using the cover of terrain to rain arrows down on invaders or even rock slides as defenses. The main groups that live in the hills and mountains are more familiar in their tactics (similar to humans that live in the hills), but even here, you find differences. Some use dogs, some use dragons, some ride steeds, some rely on stealth, while others blitz. There are an enormous amount of tactics that can be used. Not every orc is created the same - They don’t all need to be the same.

If you game doesn’t allow for you to use some real tactics for your humanoids, you need to find a new game. And if all of your orcs are completely predictable, you need to change your style of game mastering.

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