Info and data for fans of the play-by-mail games Duel II, Forgotten Realms, and Hyborian War from Reality Simulations, Inc

The Hoser Report #15

*The Hoser Report*
The strategy newsletter for Duelmasters
(c) 1988 Eudaemonic Enterprises
All rights reserved
#15 February 9, 1987


.. item two goes back to the issue of killing In the arena. I suspect that this is a matter of greater importance than we’ve been aware of. Obviously, a very serious concern is the attrition of players and the resulting thinning of both arenas and the variety of play. I can’t think of a single more demoralizing event than to have a favorite character, who you have nurtured with considerable time, energy, and money, suddenly snuffed out. it seems to me that this would be a prime factor in causing players, particularly newer players, to lose their appetite for the game and result in their dropping out. Sure, gladiatorial combat involved death but this, we must occasionally recall, is a game, not the real thing. I think however, it’s possible to strike a compromise based on the principle of “kill or be killed”. In practice it might work like this: in a kill situation, the computer would run a test by averaging the potential victim’s own kill level for the actual minutes of the fight, if this were below a certain number, say 5, the kill would fail, otherwise it would continue as previously. Nothing would stop blood feuds or those inclined to cut notches on their sword hilts. I think something along these lines would be very beneficial to the long term health of the game…. – Ed Fuchs

This issue goes back to Day One. Ed touches on several excellent points here. One being player attrition. The people who run the game want to keep you around a long time, thus we have the current system. What assumptions this makes about the average player I leave to you to ponder. I like the “kill or be killed” system. Those with sub .500 records would have to be very careful.

Another excellent point is that of losing your investment in a character. I would use this exact argument to advocate my own (narrow) perspective. Why not have a “free market” kill system? If you were about to win, and if you were trying to kill. you would have a 15% chance of success. Assuming everyone in the area on a given turn was trying to kill (very unlikely). this would lead to a maximum 7.57. mortality rate. Sure, the low end of the rankings would be a blood bath. But as your character climbed the rankings, Ed’s principle of Character investment would kick in. You would be very hesitant to risk your best characters by indiscriminate killing Managers inclined to cut notches on the sword would quickly incur the wrath and joint action of the bulk of managers. Managers marked as inordinately blood thirsty would quickly have their teams reduced to initiates. They would have great difficulty ever advancing characters. Checks and Balances.

Ed’s last point was the long term health of the game. This question has too many facets to tackle here. AD is suffering from the problems it was supposed to cure. A growing number of managers feel its to damn crowded (personally, I like it). Increased mortality would not solve these problems. It would however put off the day of reckoning until “the new game” is ready.

There goes the Pulitzer…

Dear Jeff: I have just received a copy of your Hoser Report from a friend and I saw that I was mentioned, along with a formula that I espoused in my second Duelmasters article. There were several serious errors made in your commentary.

First, you screwed up the formula something fierce. The correct formula is {Endurance = CN*WL + ST/10}. Thus, strength has very little to do with the equation, and constitution and will have the most. To increase endurance, increase the constitution if it is lower than will or increase will if it is lower than the constitution.

Second, you should be aware that I wrote the first article in Paper Mayhem #25 with several hundred fights worth of experience. Not only had I been playing the Fates and Townsend’s Guard, I was in the first Bloodgames and had a team of five AB’s in Malcorn. The article was written from my first entries into my game log about the game, which I keep on all review positions I hold. If you read it closely you’ll note several instances where I make comments about how stupid I was and the sort, which I added as hindsight into the article.

Third, I was insulted by your insinuation that the moderators of Duelmasters somehow pampered me along to get a better review for their game. Had this happened, I would be morally bound to quit their game and write a nasty piece about their interference for any of the outlets I have for PBM articles.

The equation in question was pried, not without much grumbling and squealing, from Ed Schoonover in a several hour phone conversation covering Duelmasters, Hyborian War and many other topics if you note in my article I say that the equation is a close approximation, not the actual formula they follow. There are many other variables, one being luck, added to their formula. Rest assured that you’ll never get the actual equation unless Ed defects and spills the beans I would not call it impossible for them to make subtle changes every so often to confuse any effort at breaking it.

I’d also like to point out a fact that few seem to notice while they are busy trying to break some of the game parameters. Armor seems to have little to do with the endurance use as I found out when I had Jim Townsend (my lunger and Duelmaster in #27) was (sic) placed in full plate in an accident (I wrote APA instead of APL). He lasted for three minutes at 10-10-10-L, 5-7-6-L-n-n and 10-10-10-L respectively before going down from exhaustion. Without armor he has not been able to break the four minute barrier at these levels, either. I believe that I know the reason, as I’ve been fiddling around with a combat program on my computer and have seen how the game looks to be put together. As a hint, note that fighters go out of desperate status at the end of a minute – Jim Townsend (Associate Editor – Paper Mayhem, President Pfodd Enterprises)

Well, you can probably imagine my chagrin at reading this letter. I called my source for this information (to compound the embarrassment, I now have to admit I don’t read Paper Mayhem) to confirm this. I asked the dumb Hoosier to read back the formula given in issue #26. And yes, it is CN * WL + 1/10 ST. While it appears similar to the formula I was supplied with, it isn’t. I clearly did not screen diligently. Had I read article, I might have also known that Jim was not a rookie manager. My apologies.

Looking at the formula, it will give numbers from 9.3 to as high as 443.1 (but usually around 150). Does this mean that some characters are capable of 47 times more attacks than others? That’s real approximate. The real question is whether or not it is useful. So long as you always use the same formula for all of your characters, it should give you an idea of how much endurance a new gladiator has (compared with your current stable).

As for the relationship between reviewer and moderator, let me clarify my statements. Perhaps some people came away from my comments with the impression that one hand is washing the other (as they say in Chicago). That is not what I said.

Anyone in business knows that some customers deserve more attention than others. Would you deny this? I didn’t think so. The extra effort is on the part of the moderator. Because of this some people have better access than others (even though they don’t seek it, or necessarily use it). I have no doubt that game reviewers do not desire special treatment. I find it unfortunate that these reviewers don’t review the game under a pseudonym. Such conditions would assure the type of review that the consumer deserves to see.

At the time I was at RSI, two review positions were underway. These players had questions on game mechanics. Do you think they got the mail-merge form letter from the “Customer Service Department”? What they got was a personal letter, with a name and signature at the bottom (the name usually being Paul W. Brown III, President, Reality Simulations). You can bet your longspear they had it before their next turn due date. And lastly, what do you think the chances of Average Joe Player having “a several hour phone conversation covering Duelmasters, Hyborian War and many other topics” with game designer Ed Schoonover are (not to mention getting an “approximate” equation)?

Questions & Answers

Q.: Why do fighters with a high wit (19+) have a greater chance of being killed then warriors with a lower wit?

A: There is nothing about high WT in and of itself that makes a character more vulnerable to dying. It is more likely what you are seeing is death due to a lack of hit points. Whenever you have a high attribute, something else (CN, WL) has to suffer.

Q: Did you notice the new envelope RSI sent out with our turn results this time? Could this mean they are finally ready to unveil the new game? I’ll believe it when I see it.

A: How could one miss it? At the risk of putting my size 11 Nikes in my mouth (again), I thought that Paper Mayhem said something about RSI buying someone elses game. Perhaps this is hinting at the new “Advanced Duelmasters”, or the Hyborian War rumored rewrite. Perhaps it is more vaporware (or the PBM equivalent). In any event, I share your sentiment.

Q: Got a question for the Hoser (finally). You may or may not have noticed my new PR, (name withheld). I’m having trouble running him. I run him like the DM guide says, but so far he’s 1-5-0. Stats are 11-11-12-17-9-7-17 and he has his advanced X in riposte. He has five descriptions under intelligence so his luck factor s/b OK. So far I’ve used an epee and a small off hand weapon. He gets most of his ripostes of OK, but everyone blocks his strikes (from rip.). Am I running him wrong? Or is he DA meat because of his speed? Help! He’s dragging my W/L down.

A: I don’t think that this character is DA meat because of his speed. It is lower than you would like to see for his style, but WT and DF of 34 compensate rather well. Advanced X inside of 6 fights backs this up.

In reviewing the strategies from the Handbook which you say you use, I see the author consistently advocates a low activity & offense, and opening parry tactic. With the program changes that weakened parry a new character shouldn’t be doing this (check the most recent Battle Report). Try to up your offense to the 3-5 range, activity to 5-? (allowing for endurance, which won’t be great), and drop the parry tactic in favor of riposte. You definitely want to end the fight in 3 minutes or less (at this point). Try a heavier damage weapon so your few hits count (LO or SS, the marginal increase in damage outweighs the marginal increase in weight). Unfortunately, learning and losing can form a nasty circle. But learning (and attack skills) will come. If your W/L is causing you to lose sleep, fill one of your team slots with a Dixie Cup to compensate.

Character Damage Ratings

For those managers who are primarily interested in guidelines to be used for character design, here is a summary of the data (n = 390) from Mike LaPlante’s database:

                         Little damage (n = 20)
           Average    Minimum    Maximum    Standard Deviation 
ST         9.0        4          12         2.3 
SZ         6.3        4          10         1.7 
ST+SZ      15         8          18         2.1

                       Average damage (n = 108)
           Average    Minimum    Maximum    Standard Deviation 
ST         11         3          15         2.4 
SZ         9.4        4          15         2.2 
ST+SZ      20         15         25         2.4

                         Good damage (n = 174)
           Average    Minimum    Maximum    Standard Deviation 
ST         12         3          21         3.0 
SZ         11         4          18         2.7 
ST+SZ      24         16         31         2.9

                         Great damage (n = 73)
           Average    Minimum    Maximum    Standard Deviation 
ST         14         8          21         3.0 
SZ         15         8          21         2.7 
ST+SZ      28         20         34         2.1

                       Tremendous damage (n = 13)
           Average    Minimum    Maximum    Standard Deviation 
ST         15         10         21         4.2 
SZ         18         14         21         1.8 
ST+SZ      33         29         39         2.8

                        Awesome damage (n = 2)
           Average    Minimum    Maximum    Standard Deviation 
ST         18         15         21         4.2 
SZ         19         18         19         0.7 
ST+SZ      37         34         39         3.5

Two of the basic premises on damage are that SZ is weighted more heavily than ST, and you begin with a particular rating and have a chance of getting the next highest rating.

The first premise is supported by empirical evidence, and also by standard deviations. Note that in every damage class the standard deviation for SZ is less than that for ST, exactly what we would expect to see. In Mike LaPlantes original database, approximately 3% of the characters did not fit the second observation. That is for the enact ST and SZ, there were characters representing three classes (i.e., average, good, and great).

About three years ago a change was made in the damage rules. Every character in the game was reviewed and some were promoted one class (I run one of these characters in AD). I am assuming that the small percentage of characters who don’t fit the mold are from that time. Given the low mortality rate, this is not unreasonable. In any event, their numbers are small and I threw them out of the database.

Another interesting note is the range of ST+SZ. It averages about 10. Looking at the data graphically, it jumps out at you. I had speculated in HR #12 that chances for increasing damage worked in a similar fashion to attribute increases (i.e., a d20). This was because there are 18 increments between 3 and 21, allowing a base chance of 15X and 5% increments to 100% (the next class). it appears that I was wrong, a d10 may work better.

The range is not perfect however. For the high damage classes it is short. This is probably because I used the actual character SZ, not the weighted SZ. For Average and Good damage, the range is broad. I am not sure if penalties for small SZ/ST would account for all of this or not.

What is most important is being able with reasonable certainty to avoid wimpy damage. If you are interested in trying to break it down further, send me a SASE (39c) and I’ll send you a copy of the database.

The Parry Lunge

Let me begin this by saying that this is perhaps my favorite style (next to lunging), so my normal opinionated viewpoint will be slightly more so. The game designer once wrote in the arena newsletters that this is the most balanced style. I believe it. A good parry lunger can assume almost any role that does not require decisiveness or responsiveness. Note. the key word “good “.

The roll-up: Strength should not be less than 9. Not only are there weapon considerations involved, but you must keep in mind damage and endurance. As far as an upper limit, try 15. Higher levels may work, my experience has been mixed. It sure is nice to be able to use a HL, but how many times do you actually face an opponent in plate?

I’ve always advocated low-con characters, so for a minimum try 3. Yes, there is a risk but you can usually raise it to a safe 5. Keep in mind at these low levels, you will have to compensate by adding to WL and/or ST. Preferably WL. If you are blessed with an ultra low CN character, travel lightly and invest the bonus wisely. For an upper limit I like 13. If you have more CN than this, think of making this character a different style (LUA, WST).

I would recommend the same range for SZ as for CN. Most people will tend toward TPS, AIM, PRP, or PST at the lower sites. I guess I would too, but that doesn’t mean that the very small parry-lunge wouldn’t work. If you proceed with a SZ of 6 or less, boost strength so the guy will have some punch. Once again, for the larger gladiators you’re better off looking at a different style. The very large parry-lunge will have lesser dodging ability and high initiative both of which degrade defense. If you’re not going to have good defense, might as well be a lunger.

WT, WL, and DF are the money stats. You can’t have too many points invested in any one. Your attack, parry, initiative, and riposte come from WT and DF. Emphasize WL (attack, parry, endurance, intangibles) and either of the other two. Minimum WL is 15. If you go much lower, the option of being a pseudo-lunger is much less attractive (exhaustion losses).

With DF you can go down to 11 and still use all good parry-lunge weapons excepting the EP (which I do not view as a good PLU weapon). As for minimum WT, I prefer 13 but you can go as low as 11 if you’re patient. Lastly there is SP. Whatever this attribute does for you, WT and DF do better. If you get 13 or higher, be thinking PST, STA, PRP, or possibly BAS.

Offensive Effort and Activity Level: Parry-lunge is really an offensive style wearing a very thin disguise. The lowest offensive effort I have found practical is 3. I’ve tried lower, the result is usually pretty ugly. Go as high as situation and endurance dictate. For activity, remember that mobility is key. I’ve gone as low as 3, but usually only after active minutes to rest. I feel overall defense suffers. Try 5 as the normal minimum. There is no maximum, but keep in mind at 8+ you will be very active. Change tactics from parry to riposte, dodge, or lunge (depending) at 8+.

Kill Desire and Targeting: At you discretion. Many managers feel that some styles hit certain areas better than others. If so, for the PLU target the abdomen.

Armor & Weapons: Will largely be dependent upon ST/CN, but favor light armor. Ringmail or less with a full helm makes a good combination. As for weapons, any sword or spear is fair game. The SC or LO are excellent choices. Try an off hand medium shield or shortsword. Carry one back-up weapon. I see people with as many as four (even in AD!), one has to wonder if they are going into a duel or a crusade. We seem to be in a phase of low breakage.

The first 5 fights: Fortunately, as a style the parry-lunge tends to learn parry and initiative. But parry will be weak at first. Do not rely on any defense for more than 1 minute at a time. Many managers advocate 10-10-L for the first 5 fights. This is very effective (especially against BAS), but learning is the pits. Try this strategy if challenged, raise stats.

Styles to avoid are LUA, BAS, SLA, and PST. Make an effort to go after BAS, AIM, and other PLU. Vs. TPS. PRP, WST, and STA your strategy will be dependent more on individual opponent. Exceptions will be lame characters of any style.

Don’t go higher than 5-6 vs. the PRP (you’ll be playing into his ability). Never use the parry tactic against a lunger or PLU who thinks he is a lunger. Parry and riposte strategies are effective against BAS, keep activity level up.

If you can get the person you want, go for skills. Try to open on defense, but don’t let the fight go longer than 3 minutes until you’ve got skills under you’re belt. The only reason you ever want to have longer fights than this is to avoid predictability. Try 3-6-P (despite what I said earlier), 3-8-R, 3-8-D. Almost anything goes on offense. In fact, some PLU are faster than many LUA.

Climbing the Rankings: As your skill totals grow, you can move away from the standard “parry then lunge like hell” mindset (but you don’t have to). In middle minutes, try dropping your defensive tactic. You’ll also find that 5-6 is a good alternative to 10-10-L. If you survive minute 1, the only character likely to do the 10-10-L on you are other PLU’s. Otherwise, have fun.

Odds & Ends

No sooner had I published HR # 14 than Fingal called to say that his Aimed Blow theories had impacted head-on with the real world. Oh well.

From now on please make checks payable to me, not the Hoser Report. My new bank seems to have a problem with this, and it may be a few weeks before I can select a new bank. Thanks in advance.

Here are the changes in weapon requirements that have been brought to my attention:

GA raised to SZ 7
ML raised to DF 7
LS lowered to SZ 5
MS lowered to DF 11

Please send requests (and SASEs) for character databases directly to Mike LaPlante. I have only ST/SZ/damage info at this time (accidentally trashed the rest). If you would like that, I will mail you a copy.

Due to increasing demands on my time, the Hoser Report will be published every fourth week (instead of every third) from now on.

Jeff Morgan

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