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The Hoser Report #12

*The Hoser Report*
The strategy newsletter for Duelmasters
(c) 1987 Eudaemonic Enterprises
All rights reserved
#12 November 17, 1987


Some time ago I recieved a letter from David Law with comments on the game and the HOSER REPORT. It offers a different point of view from the editor’s maximum W/L, kill-at-all-costs outlook. You might like it.

In HR #1, page 7, you made a comment about not giving every roll-up a chance… You said this wasn’t roleplaying. But Jeff, it is! I know alot of managers who don’t care whether they win or lose but really enjoy giving their characters personalities and playing them that way both in the arena and in the personal ads. To these managers it’s the interaction with other managers that makes the game fun. While I see nothing wrong with playing Duelmasters like it’s a game of poker, I myself couldn’t have any fun playing it that way…

There has been alot of info in the HR that has made it worth subscribing to… but I personally don’t take everything as gospel. As you have said, a manager needs the art of compromise I’ve also found what works in one arena doesn’t necessarily work in another. Alot expands on the “make-up of an arena (scum dominant, lungers galore or balanced)

What about killings? I know you brought up the subject a while back. Here are my thoughts on that subject. I personally am not a big fan of kills. Neither am I opposed to them. My feeling is I’m spending $11 a turn to try and improve & advance a fighter and make him a success. A respectable record, expert ratings, and respect from other managers for a well designed and well run character is what I enjoy. I know how upset I am if I lose a promising fighter so I really wouldn’t want to ruin someone elses goal or dream for their character. I’d rather give his character a good ass kicking than just go out and kill him. As for the schmuck who wrote in HR #6 about his best character getting killed and he thought it was great, all I can say is I’d love to have seen his face when he read that fight result. What a crock of shit! Yes, I know its a gladiatorial game and deaths happen. But the ancient Greeks and the early Romans didn’t kill for sport. It was skill and showmanship first. Only in the later years as the Roman empire was collapsing did they kill anything and everything that could be put in the arena.

Related to the wild eyed managers and their sunning dogs going for kills are the managers who enter an arena with 5 lungers or 3 lungers and two strikers or whatever and go out 10-10-10-L every fight and … brag how great and dominant they are. I personally don’t have any respect for managers like this. They show no skill or gamesmanship using those tactics. The funny thing is that after about 15 turns their fighters are either dead or sporting .500 records and the team is sinking fast. But they keep coming back with more lungers. Sigh!

One final note on killing. In the same issue (#6) Victor Melucci made a comment about spicing up the prose when someone does die. That would be great. Whether I kill or get killed it would be nice to read how the killer made a dramatic attack and the guy dying spouts blood or guts or his head rolls or something elegant. Like Vic said, more Erol Flynn like

In HR #8 Mark Nau makes some good points on size. I’ve always imagined DM much like todays pro boxing. You put a heavyweight in the ring against a flyweight and I’ll tell you who will win 9 out of 10 times. But DM isn’t like that. The little guy has all the benefits (at least, all of the latent benefits – ed). If the ring were large enough a great flyweight would beat a heavyweight due to speed, defense, dodge, selective attacks etc. I think DM should have progressively better defense the smaller you are and progressively better offense the bigger you are. Neither is really penalized but have their advantages. I agree there is a problem with the size requirements for weapons. It appears that everything is either SZ 3 or SZ 9 Perhaps the ME should be upped to SZ 7 or 9. GS, HL, LO, LS to SZ 12. Also the AIL to SZ 12. A better spread allowing for more distinction to SZ. Little guys get defensive bonuses but have to use whimpy weapons. Medium guys (get) decent Def/Off and good selection of weapons. Big guys get offensive bonus and killing weapons. Well?? I don’t think (the Hoser’s) idea of 72 points plus size is very sound because it’s a reaction(ary) change. Just because little guys have had an advantage for years is no reason to give big guys an equally or ( larger) advantage. There needs to be a balance allowing benefits to both sides as I’ve stated.

Editors comment: The change to initial character design I proposed may not be popular, but it’s the only one yet proposed that cleanly seperates SZ and potential ability.

Questions and Answers

Q: I have an AD overview that says my warrior favors a very low offensive effort and moderate activity level. It also says that he has an innate ability to use the decisiveness tactic to good effect. Does this make sense to use the decisiveness tactic with a very low offensive effort?

A: Normally, no. But, you can’t lose sight of the purpose that ”favorites” serve. When a warrior is being fought using his favorite strategy the probability of executing “critical” attacks goes up. Way up. Critical attacks give you special advantages. This doesn’t mean you should use them all of the time. Your low-moderate-decisive strategy will play into the hands of certain fighters/styles. For each fighter in your stable you’ve got to know when and where the favorite strategy can be used and what the alternative strategies are. That’s why we’re called managers.

Q: What is the thing about permanent injuries? I mean I have hit enough limbs in my fights (according to the red rulebook) to cause many such injuries, yet I’ve seen none, not even to me.

A: Permanent wounds were done by hand, as were attribute increases. Attribute increases got written into the learning program, permanent wounds didn’t. Since manual moderating was time consuming, it was dropped in November of 84.

Q: Are the number of skills really worth sacrificing your attributes?
A: If you want to reinvent the wheel, go ahead. Many many managers have been down that path. Spend 15 or so fights raising attributes, and see where it gets you. It gets you a $40 or $50 investment in a character that has limited potential. With good WT, 15 fights of learning skills gets you half way (or more) to AD.

Here is a rule of thumb you may find useful. If a character has a WT of 10 or less, he’s an excellent candidate for constant stat raises since he won’t learn much on average. Otherwise, try and keep a ratio to 4 fights of skills for every I attribute attempt.

Q: I was just wondering what size this lunger (17/9/11/21/9/4/13) would have to be to do great, instead of good, damage. And is the HL going to be a good weapon when going against TPS or AIM in APA/F? Would he be better going 10-10-L or 6-4-L against the opponent in the 1st minute.

A: Why are you worried about an attribute you can’t raise? Keep reading, a closer look at damage is further on. As for weapon selection, the HL is an excellent can opener. Your character should be very good with a HL, despite what your fight will say. Just remember not to use use it on anything less than APM. Lungers that can’t use the HL might try the SS, target LE or AM.

Against the opponents you mention, I would try the lower offense and activity levels. Your endurance will last longer, and you will be assured of determination (actually 4 sounds low, but if it works for you, hey?). If you’re not scoring hits with this strategy, raise the offensive effort as needed. Raising activity level doesn’t add to base attack percentage, which is what you want.

Reprinted with permission of Mike LaPlante

Damage (ST-SZ-CN)

Note: since luck plays a significant role here, I am currently unable to accurately predict the amount of damage your character will do based on his ST/SZ/CN. However, analysis does reveal that SZ is the most important factor In determining damage. Using my current database, the only characters that did little damage were SZ 6 or less and the only tremendous damage was done by a SZ 17 character. As SZ increases. the lowest amount of damage done for characters of the same SZ (is this a typo? – ed) also increased, irregardless of the other attributes involved. Example: A SZ 21 character with a 9 ST will do more damage than a SZ 9 character with a 21 ST. Luck seems only to raise the damage done by one class. The classes are; Little, Normal, Good, Great, and Tremendous. I have been told there is an Awesome class but this has not been confirmed in my database.

Hit Points ( 3.75 * CN + SZ + WL/2)

< 49.25         Very Frail 
49.25-55.0      Cannot take alot of punishment 
55.25-70.5      Normal 
> 71.0          Can take alot of damage

Note: There are no exceptions to the curve with the above formula. The limits for very frail and Can take alot of punishment are questionable, there was insufficient data to verify the curves at these points.

Hit points and damage are very nebulous areas. Duelmasters is not like D&D, where you can pick up the Players Handbook and look at a table to see the MS does 2d4. And, what is “good damage”? If good was 1d8 and great was 1d10, managers could make intelligent decisions on the marginal benefits and costs of training for damage.

Suppose that a tremendous damage basher with a HL can do a maximum of 20 points per hit. If so, Mike’s damage formula falls apart rather quickly (given the small spread between “frail” and “can take alot”, I see problems). As you can see, the hit points and damage abilities are dependent. If we can crack one of them, it sets the limits for the other. Let’s see what can be determined.

First, what subtracts hit points from your gladiator? It is the Total Damage the opponent does. Total damage – Weapon damage + Character damage + critical attack bonuses.

Since critical bonuses don’t happen often, Let’s ignore them. And, we’re SOL (sure out of luck) when it comes to finding out weapon damage. Mike Laplante has compiled a table of relative weights, but can you be sure that a ML swing equals 8 dagger attacks? I would rather know that a ML does 2d6+2. For some reason, the moderators don’t want us to know this. For character damage we can’t get the actual values, but we can figure out what our chances are of achieving a certain damage rating.

Let’s start with the assumption that character damage = ST + SZ. We may want to alter this later, perhaps to ST * SZ or ST * SZ/10. Remember, we are not yet bound by hit points. Hit points of damage are determined by damage class, not directly by any ST/SZ combination. I don’t think that CN figures in anywhere on how hard a gladiator hits, and I’ve never seen anything to support it.

There are multiple damage classes, of which you will fall into one with a percentage chance of getting into the next highest. Therefore two characters with identical ST/SZ don’t necessarily do the same damage. And, SZ is more important than ST, so characters with the same ST/SZ total don’t necessarily do the same damage.

Years ago when players first realized the advantage of being SZ 3 there was a great clamor for change (by those without small characters!). What the game designer did was to give bonus points for SZ above a certain level (15 or 17) and penalties for small SZ. So a 17 SZ was no longer regarded as 17, it may have been 20 or 21 for damage purposes (which would stretch the range of ST/SZ totals). And, SZ 4 was no longer worth 4 points. Obviously things didn’t change much, and there is a lesson there. Big damage is of limited value if your attack percentage is half of the opponents parry .

Getting back to the task at hand, we want to know what damage we can expect with a new character or attribute increase. What needs to be done is to make the following table for every SZ:

ST   SZ+ST     Little     Ave     Good     Great     Trem     Awe
3    6         10/90      1/10    0        0         0        0
4    7         15/80      3/20    0        0         0        0
20   23        0          0       15/50    15/50     0        0
21   24        0          0       12/60    8/40      0        0

Why for every SZ? Firstly, your stuck with the SZ you have making it an independent variable. Secondly, as noticed a 12 ST/21 SZ is not always the same as a 21 ST/12 SZ, even though both total 33. Given a large enough database it may be feasible to correlate the percentages to the totals from each SZ table and work backwards to determine ST/SZ weighting.

What does the table mean? The columns are the damage classes. Since a character always ends up in ONE with a chance at the NEXT, only two columns will have positive values. The others will be zero. The numbers are the total number of characters in the database that have that damage class, the number after the slash is the percentage that that number represents. For example, a new roll-up with SZ 3 and ST 3 would have a 90% chance of getting “little” damage, with a 10% chance at the next highest class. Suppose that character raises ST to 4. He then has a 20% of getting average damage. Easy, eh?

One thing you may notice is that there are 18 increments of ST+SZ (in the example table, 6 to 24). The game system seems to work in increments of 5X. The number of increments multiplied by 5x is 90%. The significance could be that you have a base 10% chance for advancing to the next class, the higher the SZ/ST total, the higher the chance (up to 100%, or the next highest class).

Now comes the hard part, determining character hit points. We have to start by making assumptions on damage. For weapons, let’s say that they are roughly similar to corresponding D&D weapons. Most will do around 3 to 6 points damage, depending. Characters. We’re back at the problem of not knowing what “good” damage means. Since we defined total damage as weapon + character, you need to ask how hard can a character using an epee, dagger, or fist hit. Unless we’re talking AIM expert, the answer is not very hard (I’d say 4 pts. max). So for the average character using the average weapon, we’re in the neighborhood of 7 hit points damage per attack.

If you accept this average, then 49 points for frail is way high. There are characters that go desperate after being hit once. Desperation should be the key, because the will roll does not come into play until then (the WL roll, or morale check, complicates things quite a bit). Desperation seems to occur when the next hit will take you out. If the average fighter (CN=12) is desperate after 3 hits, out in 4, that suggests a total of 28 hit points.

If the individual managers wish to pursue this, best of luck to them. For those who don’t I can offer this: In my experience, I found the best way to handle hit points is not to worry about the number of them, but rather worry about the number of hits you can score. And, for character design purposes, just plan not to get hit.


The more I think about it, the more I realize that armor & weapon selection is a personal preference more than anything else. Therefore, I will pass along my impressions of each type and a table from the Handbook. I have made a few additions to the table which appear in bold type.

Helms. The old rule of thumb was helm weight * 3 to get armor equivalent. The steel cap is very good protection, and only costs you two points. This also seems to be a favorite among the RSI people who play, for whatever that is worth. The helm seems to be only a marginal improvement. The full helm will turn back many blows. Some say it is the equivalent of APA, but I don’t think so. But, it is the only helm I use. After all, it is the maximum head protection available, and it only sets you back four points. A full helm gives you the option of concentrating your defensive effort elsewhere.

ALE: This is not protection, but hit point reduction. Lousy vs. edged weapons. If you have a no-con gladiator who only gets hit once, this is the perfect armor. APL: A vast improvement over ALE, very good vs. bashing weapons but still weak vs. all edged weapons. Very good for the weight, good hit point reduction but not real protection. ARM: Offers fair protection against the slash and bash, poor vs. lunging attacks. Maximum armor for low CN characters. ASM: Excellent vs. slashing attacks, particularly the SC. Minimum armor for good lunge protection, fair vs. bashing attacks. ACM: Shares weakness of ARM vs. lunge, otherwise improvement over ASM. APM: This armor will almost completely shut down lunging attacks, only heavier bashing weapons will get through. APA: Maximum protection, maximum weight. Concentrate protect locations on AM and LE. Lungers only hope is the HL. Only serious threat is bashing weapons.

Weapon vs Armor Table

Weapon          ALE     APL     ARM     ASM     ACM     APM     APA
DA              -       -       -       P       P       I       I
EP              G       G       G       -       P       I       I
HA              G       G       -       P       I       I       I
SH              G       G       -       -       P       I       I
WH              -       -       G       -       -       R       R
LO              G       G       G       -       -       P       P
MA              G       G       -       -       -       G       G
SC              R       G       G       P       -       P       P
BA              G       G       G       -       G       -       -
BS              G       G       G       -       G       -       -
MS              G       -       -       G       G       -       -
SS              G       G       G       G       -       P       P
WF              G       G       G       G       -       P       P
QS              G       G       G       R       G       -       -
GA              G       G       G       G       G       G       G
GS              G       G       G       G       G       G       G
LS              G       G       R       G       R       P       P
HL              G       G       G       G       G       R       R
ML              G       G       G       G       R       R       R

I = Ineffective, P = Poor, E = Equal, G = Good, R =Recommended


Have you ever wanted to ask a question of the man who designed the game? I recieved a letter from Ed Schoonover in which he asked about doing an interview for the HR. He said even the tough questions would be fair game. What I would like to do is take 10 or 20 of your best questions for Ed to answer. So, this your chance.

After a lengthy explanation by RSI late last spring of why there would be no more changes to the game, we now have a new team ranking system. The basic effects will be to recognize current performance and to spread out the distribution of free plays. Those playing entire teams for free, and established stables, probably won’t be happy. But, from what I’ve seen thus far, it looks pretty good.

How does one declare avoids in AD? Before the change you simply wrote in the manager number (which corresponds to the place in the rankings). Now, there are two manager rankings and the potential for two ranking numbers. If I want to avoid you what do I write on the turn sheet? Perhaps your team name? Some managers are running warriors from 6 or more teams, that’s pretty cumbersome. One gets the feeling that this was not thought through very well.

Most of you who write want to see an article on how to interpret your fights. So, that will be the bulk of the next HR. The following issue I will be printing the updates and attribute vs. skills tables. If there is something you want to see, let me know about it.

Jeff Morgan

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