Wednesday, September 4, 2019

In this installment, we learn that you can make a percentile system really complicated if you keep adding special results and that DQ doesn't stand for "Dairy Queen".

[Introduction] Apparently, role-playing games have come of age in the last five years. I think that is supposed to be five years from the date of the first edition (1980). I’m not sure why 1975 is picked out since D&D was first published in 1974.  On the other hand, five years from the second edition would be 1977 which doesn't mean much to me other than the year that J. Eric Holmes' incorporation of the previous booklets first appeared? Hmn.


[1] DQ actually sets out a “general course of events” for playing the game, which include Pre-Adventure, Adventure, and Post-Adventure activity. It’s all a bit mechanical-looking and obvious to me at this time, but it would have GOLD to me in 1982, specifying that there should be a reason why the characters are in this adventure [1.1.]; that contracts should be worked out with hirelings about profits [1.7]; that there should be an opportunity for players to appeal GM decisions and then it is over [1.13], and there should be a separate period for solo adventures [1.16]. This is all the kind of stuff that D&D at the time just assumed you could work out, which meant that the 2nd Gen gamers like myself had NO IDEA what to do.

[2.1] I can only quote the heading of this section: “the rules are intended to guide, not restrict, the game master.” Damn, this would also have been nice to know at the time.


[3] This game has 6 Abilities just like D&D! Oh no, wait: these are Characteristics. Totally different.

Okay, I kid. But they are intriguingly both like and unlike D&D’s more familiar 6, except with needless verbiage. Thus we have [3.1] Physical Strength, with an extra adjective for no reason since there isn’t any other kind of strength (cp. Gamma World). The same goes for [3.2] Manual Dexterity.

DQ does distinguish between Agility and Dexterity...I mean, Manual Dexterity. This is one of the most frequently brought up issues when people decide to bitch about D&D Abilities. The other difference is that DQ replaces Intelligence with Magical Aptitude; possibly because it has two words instead of one; possibly because DQ is more open to magic-using characters and has a skill system to cover languages.


[3.9] DQ here includes an optional stat which is Physical Beauty; two words instead of one because no one wants you to mistakenly believe that Spiritual Beauty is an optional stat. I really hate this sort of stat, just like I hated when the Unearthed Arcana tried to add Comeliness into D&D. Attractiveness is such a subjective thing that trying to objectively rank it is silly and DQ sort of recognizes that but includes it anyway. Unfortunately, the game recognizes that subjective quality with some odd language: “Example: a female halfling would find a male halfling with a Physical Beauty of 23 sexually stimulating….” Whoah! I just thought he was handsome.


[4.1] This innocuous paragraph contains two really important ideas. First, that anything not specifically covered in the rules can still be attempted by using a Characteristic roll. No big deal in 2019, but many of my generation never knew that D&D meant for you to do that sort of thing; we figured that of there wasn’t a rule, then you couldn’t do it. Yeah, if you had read the 1981 Expert rules then you would have seen the suggestion to do this, but that was easy to miss, only a suggestion, and not sufficiently Advanced D&D.

From a DQ-specific perspective, this little section also brings up Difficulty Factor, which turns out to be a really important part of the game that isn’t even mentioned in Chapter 3: Game Terms. Difficulty Factor is what you multiply a Characteristic by to generate a percentage chance for success, ranging from .5 (super-hard) to 5 (least hard). I wonder if the rules somewhere tell you how to come up with factor; like, is DF 3 for “average” tasks? I guess we’ll see.

Then, there is some war-gamey complexity because this clean design-stuff just feel doesn’t feel enough like Advanced Squad Leader. So now we get this odd rule that if you roll the exact number of your percentage chance, you don’t succeed unless someone helps you. But in order to help you, your pal has to a Characteristic of at least 15 “or equal to or greater than the aided character’s value”. I think that means that if the first guy has less than a 15, then the helper could have less than 15 too, but it sure is a confusing way to put it.

But wait! You want more complexity? Sure you do. So, if you roll over the TN + the score of the Characteristic that you are using, you may injure yourself. Does that mean that you have to recalculate this every time because the DF will keep changing? Yes; yes, it does.

Oh, AND you always have a chance of failure equal to 30% - characteristic value, regardless of Difficulty Factor (I think).

Oh, AND a roll of 100 is always a failure.

Let’s see: can we add any other complications into this? Actually, I’m too tired to tell. As with the roll for starting XP and monies, it’s too bad nobody just went with an idea like saying if you roll doubles and miss, that’s a fumble. Helluva lot easier.


[4.2] This section also buries the lead, this time about magic. It gives rules for minor magic. Any caster of any magical tradition can attempt to use Magical Aptitude to cast a glamour (minor illusion), cantrip (minor transformation), or trance (minor charm). I’m really stunned by this idea because these sorts of magics cover 90% of the spellcraft you see in real history. That is, you could use just these things and make a perfectly adequate village witch or cunning man.

Furthermore, the text is very specific that is “best performed by a member of a Magical College”. Not “only performed”, but “best”. Which implies (without explaining) that anyone can try this! Presumably, one without training has to roll with a crappy DF, but that’s still quite a thing. It reminds me some of the near-contemporary Runequest and its attitude of “everybody can do a little magic” (1st edition RQ came out in 1978; 1st edition DQ came out in 1980). But RQ’s folk sorcery was called “Battle Magic” and was pretty focused on what the adventurous types would do: for example, make their blades magically sharp or increase their armor protection. This DQ stuff is less combat-friendly, but of far greater scope.

Next time, we see some really a brilliant idea to balance random character generation and learn how to waste that brilliance with several much less clever ways to undo the brilliant idea.


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