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 #4

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THE HOSER REPORT

The strategy newsletter for Duelmasters

#4 June 2 1987

$2.00

THE MANAGERS CORNER


The deluge of material on the PRP continues. The following
information was submitted by a manager who wishes to remain
anonymous. It relates selected attributes and number or skills
learned to the number of skills required to achieve expert status in
given skill areas. The value of this information is in character design.
Obviously, we all want our gladiators hitting expert levels at the
earliest opportunity. Good character design insures this.


Unfortunately, the manager did not say if attributes had been
increased after initial character design (which would make results
more difficult to interpret). If you send in this type of information,
please indicate what attributes were raised to the next odd number,
and when it was done (before or after?). The best information is
obtained from gladiators whose learning has not been “contaminated”
by attribute increases. Also, some attributes were not included (such
as ST & WL for attack and parry). However, I feel the information is
still excellent and will be of considerable value to readers.
Remember the following is for PRP fighters. This is a topic that
deserves, and will get, much attention in upcoming issues of the
HOSER REPORT. Stay tuned.

Exp Attack

Exp Initiative

Exp Parry

Exp Riposte

Gladiator

A

A

BAB

A

B

C

D

WT

1515

13

21

19

15

15

21

13

DF

15

16

1311

13

15

15

11

16

SP

13

1716

9

10

11

13

9

17

Skillsreq’d

4

528

8

2

0

8

0

Adv Exp Riposte

Gladiator

E

WT

13

DF

16

SP

17

Skills req’d

3


If there has ever been doubts in your mind as to what weapons are
well suited to which style, this chart submitted by Alan Yip should
answer your questions.

BASSTASLA

PST

LUAPLU

WST

TPS

AIM

PRP
BA^X

X

^

X

^

HA^X

^

^

^

^

^

MSXX

^

X

^

WFXX

X

WHXX

X

^

^

^

MAXX

^

^

^

SSX

XX

X

X

X

LOX

X

XX

X

X

X

X

BSX

X

X

X

X

X

X

EPX

X

XX

X

X

X

X

SHX

X

XX

X

X

X

X

DAX

^

^^

^

^

^

^

^

SCX

X

X^

X

X

X

X

X

SMXX

^

X^

^

^

X

^

^

MEXX

^

X^

^

^

X

^

^

LGXX

^

X^

^

^

X

^

^

GAXX

X

X

HLXX

^

^

^

MLXX

QSXX

X

X

X

X

LSX

XX

X

X

X

GSXX

X

X

X

Comments: Alan indicated that this list was not complete. I have
made some additions (the ^’s). If you see something we missed,
send it in. I do not certify this (or anything else) to be error free.
What do you expect for two bucks?


One manager wrote to suggest that the rankings should give the
styles of each warrior (great idea!). The idea would be to promote
less popular styles by awarding the title of “Style master” to the
highest ranked gladiator of each style. Even some of the initiates
would have a chance at gaining a title to defend (would they play for
free?). He also asks the following question: “A topic I’d like to see
discussed is how to rid the arena of wild eyed managers and their
sunning dogs who insist on going for the kill. Are you with
me????”


Killing is certainly a topic I spend alot of time thinking about. What
about you? Killing and related issues would make a great topic for
debate since we all have a stake in it. I’ll devote as much room to it
as needed to print your opinions. How about it guys?

HOSE KNOWS

Questions and Answers

Q: Does the program actually control skill learns, or is it the decision
of management?

A: If your meaning is “does management control skills on an
individual basis”, the answer is no. Obviously, the game designer has
decided how skills should be learned (made decisions), and the
program is written to execute those decisions. There are many
factors that influence learning, including WT, WL, damage taken,
fight length, winning or losing, experience differential, luck, and
probably a few more that don’t come to mind right now. If you don’t
have a copy of the red rulebook (where these factors are mentioned),
you may want to get one.


Back in the days when the game was run on Kaypro 10’s, you could
actually watch this process on the screen for each fight (maybe you
still can on the new system, I don’t know). This was a very popular
item for RSI customers at tournament time, or for those visiting the
underground factory.


Each factor had a numerical value assigned, all values were summed.
The resulting number ranged from a low of perhaps 20, to 120 or
more. The computer then generated random number’s between 0
and 100 (it “rolled the dice”). If the “throw” was less than the
gladiator’s sum, then a skill was awarded. Then, 20 was subtracted
from the sum and the process repeated until a “roll” was missed. A
high WT fighter could have an initial sum of say, 90. If the first roll
came up 91 he gets hosed on his skills. I believe that in the event
that a fighter came up empty, he then got a “saving throw”, with a
50% chance of getting a single skill.


Q: How obvious will it be when I come across my favorite weapon?

A: Not very. In addition to a favorite weapon, each fighter is
assigned a favorite offensive effort, activity level, and tactic (there is
a chance that the favorite tactic will be no tactic at all). If you
happen to be using the “favorite” weapon and the other factors are
off, you can see how this confuses results.


When you are optimizing on the “favorites”, you should have a much
higher probability of pulling off “critical” actions (attack, parry,
dodge, riposte). Criticals are generally identified as the very long
sentences in your fights. Since the game in general gives you very
few specifics to go on, you have to zero in over the course of a large
number or fights. When you see good things happening alot, you’re
getting close. Try to vary as few factors as possible in any one
minute.


Upon invitation to AD, you are informed what the weapon is, along
with the tactic. In AD, you are always well suited to your favorite
weapon, though this is not always true in the regular arena. Also,
they tell you about what offense & activity are favorite (very low,
low, moderate, high, very high). If you have been playing for any
length of time (which will be the case if you get the AD invite) you
will know this anyway, so it is not that helpful. Favorites are
supposed to be reasonable for your style. This should give you a
starting point. Good luck, and don’t worry about it too much.


Q: Does a small, fast STA with a WH have a prayer against a fast
LUA of equal experience?

A: Usually, no. The STA normally will have an edge in decisiveness.
A big edge. This will allow him to get in the first couple of attacks
(which may or may not hit). Most LUA will have the CN and/or WL
to shrug this off because small fighters don’t deal extra damage in
most cases. Then the high initiative of the LUA takes over (decisive
fighters generally can’t control the fight for an entire minute),
leading to a perforated STA. Usually.


All of this is based on the assumption that you want to try and out-
quick the LUA. Most LUA come blasting out of the starting gates, but,
not all of them do. Some play a more moderate strategy to create
sustained attack and avoid sucking wind in minute two. Some
managers vary the strategy by opponent. Second guessing other
managers can be risky. That is why I always worry first about
running my fighter to do what he does best, instead of worrying too
much about what the other guy will do.


If the STA has any type of defense, he can very easily win by
waiting out the LUA. If in doubt, try it.


Q: When you say “natural”, does that mean before or after you add
the base 14 points of training?

A: AFTER you add your base 14.


Q: Do you have any suggestions on large fighters?

A: I feel that the satire philosophy of differentiating between
attributes applies to fighters regardless of SZ. Invest your points in
the “big payoff” attributes. The primary difference will be that the
choice of styles will be different. Large fighters are usually better
made into the more aggressive styles.


Q: I am under the influence that if a warrior is ambidextrous, all he
needs is the minimum deftness to use the same weapon in both
hands. I once had an ambidextrous lunger with 11 deftness and he
did just fine with two longswords.

A: What? Not a whole lot has ever been mentioned in the rules
about being ambidextrious, and I don’t recall RSI making public
statements about any benefits arising from this state.


In our fights there is never any indication for ambidextrious fighters
of what hand the primary weapon is carried in, or if this changes
between fights (such as to take advantage of a right or left handed
opponent. It certainly never changes during the fight. If I
remember correctly, there was supposed to be some minor bonus to
attack and parry (say, equivalent of one or two skills), and lower DF
requirements for using two identical weapons simultaneously.
Closely related is the “two handed bonus” that is supposed to arise
from not using an off-hand weapon or shield. Meaning, the program
assumed a fighter using a single handed weapon in both hands gets
extra power and quickness (sounds like another small attack bonus).


This may be another one of those areas where the game designer had
always intended for the game to have that feature, but it hadn’t
actually been programmed yet.


Q: If we’re your best fan do we get to receive the HOSER REPORT for
free???

A: Fat chance.

WHATS ON THE HORIZON

For those of you in AD, I’m sure that you have had an opportunity to
read the latest announcement from RSI “So what the Heck is the deal
with Advanced Duelmasters Anyway?!”. It raises a number of
questions concerning the future of this game, and I think that it
applies to all Duelmasters players even though it only seems to have
appeared in the AD newsletter (those of you not yet in AD might
want to get a copy from a friend or the moderators). I will not use
my limited space to reproduce it here, but for those who are not in
AD I will summarize what it said:


The AD audience is too small to pay for the programming costs
associated with the game. Since AD was to have been the foundation
for future games, the cost was to be spread out into the future
games. Now, Ed (the game designer) has devised a combat system
that will make Duelmasters obsolete. Any further improvements in
AD are therefore not justified on a cost basis, RSI will develop the
new system instead. Further AD improvements have “hit a brick
wall”. This decision was reached after 3 months of internal debate.


Its disturbing that RSI had had the information of a new system for
three months, yet was widely publicizing enhancements to AD and
the standard arenas. We’ve all read the official announcements, and
many of us had heard leaked rumors (don’t feel too bad guys, I was
sucked in myself). The rug has been pulled out from under us.
Again. If Duelmasters was not so enjoyable (addictive?) these
continued PR flaps would have killed RSI long ago. They might yet.


Why do I think that it pertains to all players? The differences
between the standard arenas and AD are: 1) some different lines of
text in the computer output, 2) some minor differences in attribute
increases, 3) fighters are well suited to their favorite weapons even
if they were not in the standard arenas, and 4) a diffetent point
range for each warrior class. For all outward appearances,
Duelmasters and Advanced Duelmasters is the same game (a rose by
any other name…). If you accept this, then the announcement
applies to ALL arenas and players.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m always in favor of a better game and RSI has
promised a better game. Having known the game designer
personally, I have every confidence and expectation the AD II (or
whatever you want to call it) will be awesome. But, RSI has not
earned much praise for on-time performance. Hyborian War was not
running on regular turnaround until more than two years after the
promised release date. How long will it be before the new
“Advanced Duelmasters” comes out? I hope you like the game as it is
today.


Maybe this announcement also will be soon forgotten by RSI? Well,
at least one lesson has been learned about promising release dates.
RSI didn’t give one. Personally, I don’t want to know until the new
game is ready for playtesting. I hate being strung along.


The unanswered questions? What about the Grand Tourney, is it
scrubbed?. What of the AD characters that mangers have invested 50
fights and hundreds of dollars in? Since AD as we know it will be
obsolete, doesn’t it follow that the system that produced them (i.e.,
the regular arenas) will be obsolete? Can they transfer into the new
system? Will the old game still be run? Will the current
Duelmasters customers be SOL (sure out of luck)?


I had contacted Paul Brown last week on a different subject, and this
was briefly mentioned. Paul realized that there were unanswered
questions, and called back later to leave a quite lengthy message on
my answering machine.


From what Paul had said, current Duelmasters players needn’t worry.
Duelmasters has always been a good product for RSI, and they will
continue to run and support it (standard arenas and AD apparently).
Characters still active when the new system is brought on line will be
able to transfer into it, much as gladiators now transfer from the
standard arenas to AD. It seems that the Grand Tourney is also still
on. The rest of his recorded message slips my mind now, but the
thrust of it was that there is no threatening news for current
Duelmasters customers.


Unfortunately, it looks like no new programming either.


What does it mean for us? Most importantly, it appears that we are
“locked into” the system we have now. Things could be worse, we
could have been stuck with the total dominance of scums. It would
appear that this announcement kills any further speculation on
program changes and the strategy implications.


Is there cause to be upset? I guess the bottom line is not really. I
certainly don’t think much of the promised improvements being
withdrawn (it stinks), and I wonder how long a stagnant game will
hold the interest of all the players. Perhaps there will be a number
of small low cost things that can be done? RSI made a business
decision, which they were well within their rights to make. Perhaps
it was the nature of the announcement. I’ve never heard of a new
product being launched in quite this way. I hope that the remade
Duelmasters is ready soon.

DUELMASTERS – A BASIC APPROACH

This is a tough column to write for someone who has played for so
long. Over the years you see almost everthing (or so you think), and
you take for granted your accumulated experience. You actually
forget why you do the things you do. Playing becomes habit. Yet,
there isn’t anyone out there who can’t learn a new trick, myself
included. It is my intent to start “from the ground up” and build a
framework in which to view this game, I am hoping that the
verteran players can draw something valuble out of this. As with
anything you read in the HOSER REPORT, feel free to send in your
comments, criticisms, or whatever (i.e. I need more material for HR
#6).


Chances are, you haven’t seen a game quite like Duelmasters before.
When you first began (or even now), didn’t you ever ask yourself
how DO they do it? I did. Duelmasters was my first exposure to PBM
games. I never even played Dungeons & Dragons until I was in
college (a deprived childhood, right?).


So, what do you do? The answer is to construct a model that
describes what is happening on your printouts. You have already
done it, whether you realize it or not. How? By accumulating
knowledge from various sources and drawing inferences. This allows
you to predict consequences of your actions. When results don’t fit
the model you modify the model and try again. More on it later.


Model building is really a form of problem solving, which is done by
qualitative or quantitative analysis. The game designer never
intended to give out numerical information on the game. This policy
has been continued by RSI. In other words, they don’t really give
you much to go on. Even the popularity was changed from a number
value to descriptive terms. Looks hopeless at first, don’t you think?


We all know that Duelmasters is computer moderated. Computers
must work with numbers at the most basic level, then match
numerical results to the lines of text we see on the printout. A ray of
hope.


Before you can analyze information, you have to gather it. Where?


1) From your fights. You have very good control over 50% of what is
going on (via the turn sheet).


2) Your friends, especially if you can arrange fixed fights and
compare strategies used.


3) The HOSER REPORT. I had intended this publication to be a clearing
house for information, not 4 pages of me telling you how to manage
your stable. I have lots of good ideas and experience, but so do the
readers. One of the strengths of this game is that people with widely
differing opinions can be successful at the same time. If everyone
understands how to extract information and contributes, this could
very well be your “key to the bank”. Readers of the HOSER REPORT
manage a very large number of warriors. As a group we see more
fights in one turn cycle than the individual manger will see in years
of play. How much you get out will be proportional to how much you
put in.


4) Contact with RSI, and friends of RSI employees. Information
leaks through RSI like a sieve. Before joining RSI I had the luxury of
being able to personally visit with the game designer, we talked
about the game sometimes for an hour or more. Ed however is a
pretty crafty man. He gives you that kernel of truth, but plants it in
a pound of manure, The trick is to sift through the bull. Moral of the
story: Reliability of information from this source is suspect. Use
with caution.


5) Other games. When talking of Duelmasters, I often make
analogies to other games such as backgammon, poker, eucher, D&D,
and horse racing (among others).


When you try to figure this game out, there are a few pitfalls to
avoid. Specifically, keep it as simple as possible. The simplest model
that fits results is better than a complex one that gives about the
same fit. While Duelmasters is a wonderful game, don’t give it credit
for anymore than it is really doing. From some of the things people
ask you would think that RSI had created machine intelligence and
applied it to a PBM game.


What is Duelmasters? Basically, nothing more than a combat
resolution program. Think of D&D. Whenever you have an
encounter, there are several outcome possibilities, one of which is
combat. There is a procedure you go through to resolve this situation
that looks something like this:



Simplified, but essentially correct. With Duelmasters, there is only
one possibility, combat. The above system gives you a rough
guideline to compare Duelmasters to, which I will do next issue.

BONUS ISSUE!

Normally I stay with the 4 page format because I feel that it is
appropriate. This time however I was running late and didn’t have
time for editing. Also, there was quite a bit of material to print, so
here it is. My apologies if your issue came postage due. And….

NEW LOWER PRICE!

For this isssue you may have noticed that I lowered my price (see
front page – ha ha). It can’t go any lower! Sorry, I couldn’t resist,


Jeff Morgan

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