Sunday, 17 July 2011

Chances Are You Will Disagree

Another day spent ebaying....

Cue photo...

Sad to see these boyz go.... oh well.

The missus is a bit of a mathematician - she's got cerificates and everything - and the other day I as chatting with her about the set of rules I am writing. As per usual our conversation got rather tangential because of our varying approach to probability.

The cause of the discussion was my noticing someone on a forum stating that they had a plan to 'write' a set of rules based on 40k. Actually what his plan was to copy the rules of 40k, but get around the IP and copyright issues by 'clever' use of word substitution. When asked why he didn't just write his own rules, he said that he wasn't good enough at maths.

To me this is just silly.

I'm not saying that there isn't any maths in 40k - after all the original WFB was based on 6th edition ancients, which did have a table that used ratios (it might have been calculus or whatever, I was never great at numbers) to calculate casualties, which then caused figures to be removed proportionate upon the casualties suffered. The mechanics of WFB is based on an assumed figure scale of 1 -20. And it is perfectly possible that behind the simple die roll, of the hit and wound tables, there is a mathematical formula that decides whether a 3 or a 4 is required. But, given that this has been abstracted into a die roll, it is perfectly reasonable to see the hit and wound table as based on a design choice as to when the probability changes based on the perception of what feels right.

This, 'it just feels right', is certainly the approach I have taken with regard to my own putative rule set. I am less interested in the mechanics of the calibre of the weapon, the speed of the target, the weather, etc, than achieving a result that forces the player to make command decisions in a 'realistic' and challenging manner.

The design I am working on uses both cards and dice, and my intention is that by using the cards you can cheat the mathhammer approach to gaming. Which is ironically the approach that the missus said she would adopt if she was going to play the game. She said that the first thing she would do would be to study the cards to try and work out the probability of events happening and then to use that knowledge to formulate her style of play.

I tried to point out that this probably wouldn't be very helpful, as the game design is deliberately attempting to undermine this style of play - it isn't I-go-you-go, the turns are not of a set length, players can react to the other players actions and play cards that influence those actions etc.

One of the mechanics I am working on, is the use of different dice (D3, D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D12). And as a little experiment, we tried out the most extreme example of the combat system, in which the attacker (her) rolls a D20, and the defender (me) rolls a D10 - the resultant number generates that number of D6s which are then rolled, and the difference between the scores determines the result of the combat. Clearly in this instance the attacker has the advantage.

She rolled a 6, I rolled a 7. We then rolled that number of D6s, added up the pips and it turned out she had won by 2 or 3.

Which to my way of thinking is perfect.

As I said this is the most extreme example of combat, and relies on the attacking player having the relevant card, and the defending player having no mitigating factors.

To me it feels right.

You can mathematically work out the probability of getting that card in a 52 card back (in which all cards can be played in two ways), having it in a turn in which you have a unit in close combat, and being in a position to use it, if you want.

That really isn't the point.

My point is more that the maths of the system are less important than the concept of the game play. Which is why simply re-writing 40k and swapping 'movement' for 'perambulation', and subverting the hit and wound table so that a 1 is the high roll, and 6's always fail, is a rather pointless exercise.

For all the talk of mathhammer and the exercise of probability, is it more important that a 3+ feels about the right result for sniping a moving target, than you have a 4 in 6 (66%) chance of doing so?

Because the simple truth is that when you roll a dice, you do not have 66% chance of success, because on every die roll there is alwways 1 in 6 chance of rolling a 1, or a 2 when you need a 3+.

But, that is a different debate relaing to positive and negative outlooks.

btw, I read an interesting little fact today. During the period in which the low velocity, soft lead bullet musket ruled the battlefield, a common injury surgeons had to deal with was treating wounds created by teeth and splintered bone from one's comrades.


1 comment:

  1. Very good piece...and I agree. I especially like the teeth factoid!