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The Hoser Report #5

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THE HOSER REPORT

The strategy newsletter for Duelmasters

#5 June 23 1987

$2.00

THE MANAGERS CORNER


After the last issue I received some great information on skills,
attributes, and ratings. This information is on the PRP, but next turn
I will move on to the PLU. Each issue I will concentrate on a
different style, and will update as needed. Mike LaPlante supplies
the following (learning in chronological order):

 
                  ST   CN  SZ   WT    WL   SP   DF  Hand
Original:         12   14  12   12    8    13   15  R
Final:            12   14  12   12    9    13   15
Increases:        WL+ 1, riposte skills +2, expert riposte.
 
                  ST   CN  SZ   WT    WL   SP   DF  Hand
Original:         9    14   9   16    11   11   16  R
Final:            12   14  12   17    9    13   15
Increases:        WL+1, expert riposte.
 
                  ST   CN  SZ   WT    WL   SP   DF  Hand
Original:         9    11  13   14    11   10   16  A
Final:            9    11  13   15    11   11   15
Increases:        WT+1,SP+1,riposte skills +2, expert riposte.

HOSE KNOWS

Questions and Answers

Q: This business about the warriors “favorite weapon”…. Does this
“favorite weapon” change as a warriors attributes change?

A: Nice try. No, as far as I know, after favorites are determined
they never change.


Q: I was brought up on the notion that if someone is going to use an
offensive tactic such as lunge or decisiveness or any other offensive
tactic he better have a high offensive effort. Similarly, if you used a
defensive tactic, you should have a low offensive effort. To me, this
made sense. but is it possible that a fighter might fight better with
say a 2-7-7-D-N or 9-8-9-N-P? How about a 4-4-8-L-N?

A: Matching tactic to the pace of fighting makes sense to me too. On
the surface I can see no advantage to the above examples (well,
maybe in the last one). Using a high offensive effort makes one
swing more, perhaps with a better chance or hitting the target.


How would you write a program to do this? You might try to add a
bonus to the base chance of doing the activities in question. Say, X
percent per point of offensive effort. Using the same reasoning, you
would account for the effect of the parry tactic by using bonuses, or
modifiers to the computer generated die roll. Are there negative
modifiers? The Duelmasters rule book implies this.


If true, opposites should tend to cancel out. This would leave your
gladiator no better off, and taking undue risk. The last example
however may not be a bad strategy for a LUA caught in a long fight
(more than 1 minute). The idea being that you have a better chance
of making lunge criticals without a big END penalty associated with
high offensive levels. Lunge criticals are great because they not only
hit for damage, but knock opponents down (reducing overall defense
and giving you determination).


Q: I just got a SZ 3 character that I think is pretty good. His stats
are:

 
ST    CN   SZ   WT   WL    SP  DF
16    6    3    21   10    6   6

All my friends say he’d make an awesome TPS, but I’m afraid that
under the new rules he’d be totally destroyed. Personally, I was
going to make him a PST. As a TPS his stats would be:

 
ST    CN   SZ   WY   WL    SP  DF
18    12   3    21   14    6+2? 8+2?

As a PST his stats would be:

 
ST    CN   SZ   WT   WL    SP  DF
18    6    3    21   14    10  12

What do you think I should do with him?……..If I make him a TPS,
whats better: 11SP/11DF or 9SP/l3DF? … Also, do you think a PST
would need more con?

A: This is an awesome replacement character. I’d kill to get a
character like this. Whatever you do with this set-up, he’ll be good.


In your designs, you miss virtually every break point by using even
numbers (excepting WT, which you can’t alter until AD). He might as
well be {17, 12, 3, 21, 13, 5 or 7,7 or 9} or {17,6,3,21,13,9,11}.
Think about it. And think what you could do with the extra 2 or 3
points. As far as SP/DF combo, only 3 styles really need a SP greater
than 9: STA, PST, and PRP. Chose 9/13 if you go TPS. More CN? It
doesn’t add skills. WL, DF, and ST do. Raise CN two points later in
the arena, max out skills now.


Given the last program changes, ability to take damage in early fights
could be a problem. The effect this would have would be a rather
low and misleading W/L record. The chances of getting slain are still
very small, but you do hate to lose one like this (thats why I say
raise CN in early fights). Your concern about getting hit is valid; but
don’t let it keep you from taking good risks. This is what I would do
with that character:

 
ST   CN   SZ   WT   WL    SP  DF      PLU
20   6    3    21   15    6   13

The reason I “wasted” the ST point was for better END and ENC (CN is
low, and WL is not high). Based on my experience he will reach
advanced expert attack after learning one attack skill. A parry
expert in 4 or 5 parry skills. Think of the fun you’ll have brutalizing
more experiericed gladiators (and raping them for skills). In 20
fights he should have numerous expert ratings and an AD invite.


Q: Could you give us the arena numbers of some relatively new/not
experienced arenas?

A: RSI would be the best source for this information. Good luck.
Experienced managers typically play several teams (I am aware of
some playing 5 teams). Over the years they have spread out to
every arena. Whenever a new arena is announced, experienced
managers are drawn to it like sharks to a shipwreck. T advise you to:
a) keep patient, and b) keep reading the HOSER REPORT.

DUELMASTERS – A BASIC APPROACH

Over the last several weeks I’ve thought about a chart that would
reflect how the game program handles combat. The more I think
about it, the more I can see different interpretations. Kind of like
character design.


The way I view what is happening is easier to understand when
viewed in segments. FIRST, the program has to determine what
each gladiators modifiers are. They can be changed by wounds,
exhaustion, broken weapons, minute of fight, etc. SECOND, the
program needs to determine a concept I call “determination”. The
fighter with determination is the one who determines the action of
the fight, the one doing the driving (we won’t say what the other
fighter is doing). THIRD, the bulk of the program would be the
combat segment. FOURTH, the computer checks the status of each
fight to see if the fight should end (the part of the program where
the infamous “will roll” comes into play). At this point the fight
either recycled to the modifier section, or ended. Consider the
following:




Diamond 1: Decisiveness check, This is the point where STA, PST,
BAS, and other decisive fighters try to gain determination. Three
possible outcomes: T, they gain decisiveness; Y, you gain
decisiveness; N, no one gains decisiveness.


Diamond 2: Initiative overwhelm: Ultra-high initiative fighters can
take away determination before the other guy knew he had it.
Slower BAS and PLU can’t usually be a threat here. Two possible
outcomes; decisive fighter keeps determination or else loses it.


Diamond 3: Initiative check: If there is no decisive fighter, the
fighter with the highest initiative roll will gain determination. If
both gladiators are scumming, there may be no fighter making an
initiative roll.


Diamond 4: A attack (“A” denoting the gladiator with determination),
two outcomes.: Success, the attack is good; or miss the attack was
poor.


Diamond 5: B: responsiveness check. If you screw up against a
responsive fighter, this is where I think you would get zapped. If
you do get hit exit the combat loop to status. If the other guy fails to
hit, back to the attack diamond.


Diamond 6: B riposte check. Where aggressive fighters with low to
moderate inititives get in trouble with PRP. If the riposte hits, the
program procedes to status. If the riposte misses or fails, procede.


Diamond 7 B dodge check. At this point if fighter A hasn’t had the
attack turned back on him, the worst he can do is lose determination
(and this is not likely to happen if the other guy isn’t trying to take it
away). If the dodge fails the fight procedes to the next diamond, the
other outcome takes you to determination.


Diamond 8: B parry check. Two outcomes. If the parry worked
recycle to determination, if the parry did not work go to status.


This model may have a few problems (I’ll leave the fixing to the
readers), but a few items can be pointed out. There are many ways
an attack can go awry, many optiotis for the defender. People focus
too much on parry. By having a model of how the flow of the
program runs, you can better avoid trouble spots for your warrior,
and look to “short circuit” an opponents strength.


The main point of the last two issues is that Duelmasters is nothing
more than a specialized combat resolution program, along the lines of
other character combat games such as D&D, etc. Don’t give it more
credit tnan for what is actually going on. Most of us have a good feel
for what can happen when. Try putting it on paper. If you think it
looks good, send it in.

RSI AND CUSTOMER SERVICE

I’ve always wanted the HOSER REPORT to be in-depth and hard-hitting.
I think the in depth is progressing nicely. Now comes the hard-
hitting. Here are some of the comments I’ve recieved:


Let’s explore frustration, if you’ve played Duelmasters for a time, you’ve experienced it
for one reason or another, I went to discuss one form in particular and that is dealing
with the RSI management.


RSI – IRS: There must be a subconscious message in the choice of initials. I find that
dealing with either can be just as difficult. The reasons are different, but the effect is
the same.


What causes RSI to be so difficult? The problem is simple, it’s a “siege mentality”
company. Anytime a customer has a complaint management “clams up”. They hide
behind their large shields and absolutely refuse to listen, This is very typical of high IQ,
introverted, intellectual people. They simply aren’t customer or people oriented.


So what happens? They formed a Customer Service Department. They hired a nice guy
and he seemed to genuinely care abbut the problems, but he can’t really help. They have
saddled him with all of this responsibilty and, obvlously, tied his hands by not giving
him any real authority. It Is still a company controlled by the Production Department.
Any successfull service company put’s its emphasis into Customer Service because the
customer pays the bills. Personally, I like the guy and you couldn’t pay me enough to do
what he is doing. He’s got to be more frustrated than any of the rest of us. Since he’s
been there the answers, if you want to call them that, haven’t changed, so somebody is
telling him what to say. Customer Service exists in name only.


What can we do? We could quit playing the game; but I’m not ready to do that. I
remember a time when this game was FUN, EXCITING, and CHALLENGING. I remember a
spy report that had personality. I remember game enhancement announcements that
would have improved the game not reduced its quality as some of the recent changes have
done. I remember when the quality of the output was more important than the schedule.
I sincerely hope that somehow the game can regain the excellence it once had.


I’ve heard rumors of a massive boycott for several turns. I don’t think that this is a
reasonable solution either. Think about the numerous failures of Hyborian War have
and probably will continue to cost RSI a great deal of money. It’s also probable that most
of that money was generated by Duelmasters. As a businessman, I don’t know of many
small companies that are over financed, so a boycott would hurt RSI’s financial standing,
and eventually, us. I believe this because most of the recent changes have been geared
toward cost reduction. Fourth class mail is cheaper than first class, but my turns are
suddenly taking two days longer to get to me; Shorter fights reduce processing time and
mail costs. I hate for a fight to be determined by a NON-EXISTENT crowd. The computer
generated spy report takes less time but is also useless and boring.


I propose a formal Association of Managers to present our views, complaints, and
suggestions to RSI. It would require some work and the involvement of as many of us as
possible, but we are getting nowhere as indivlduals.


Paul, I hope that, when you read this, you will accept it and understand that I am writing
this because I care about the game. Somebody has to impress RSI that your dwindling
customer base is RSI’s fault and it is mostly due to a lack of responsiveness to the
customer.


Jim Jarvis

(send diplomatic messages to Unknowns; arenas 3, 12, 21, AD)


Another manager writes: “Along the same lines, I have been really getting
excellent Customer Service from RSI. I don’t know if you have noticed but they do seem
to be getting better. Lately, I have been sending in questions on different aspects of
Duelmasters with each turn and they have, in each case, responded in two weeks. Not bad
considering the volume of mail they must process.


My latest experience? Several weeks ago I was late with my arena
17, so I sent it overnight mail to RSI’s street address. My turns were
misfiled, I missed the turn, lost the Duelmastership, and wasted $10
on express mail. About a week later I got a letter from the RSI
customer service rep explaining the error. RSI credited my account
for one turn plus $1.50 for the Duelmaster title which I lost by
default. Not bad. Almost covered the cost of the overnight letter!
The most recent error was a lost replacement character for arena 1
(who was DA meat). I wrote RSI about it, sent it with the next turn’s
strategy, a new replacement arrived before the turns did. Nice touch
(they could have waited and sent it with the arena 1 results).


It would be better if the errors never occured, but I think RSI is
getting better in this respect.

ODDS & ENDS

It would appear that I have created the potential for
misunderstanding and therefore issue this clarification: In HR #4, in
my Basic Approach column I said concerning information from RSI,
“Reliability of information from this source is suspect. Use with caution”. Did I
mean that the moderators are disseminating false information on the
game? NO!


What did I mean then? I can tell you from experience how often the
RSI phone rings from players not really needing information
essential to completing the turn, but rather wanting to gleen a hint or
tip that no other player has. The moderators would never get done if
they gave the time some people would take. Most players do not
engage in this, but there are habitual offenders sufficient in number
to make this a real concern.


In situations such as this, it is not at all inconceivable that an
employee could “take someone for a ride” in terms of hints. Also,
there is an image and mystique that RSI would like to create and
maintain tor the game, this must also be put in the balance. Enough.


An east coast manager known as Fingal sent in some ideas that are
worth repeating:



Interpreting the turn results: It would be as helpful to quantify the verbiage to get a
better idea of how one’s gladiator is doing – to better determine what the fighter’s
favorite weapon, tactics, etc. It would also be helpful to quantify the turn data – to
determine that if one’s opponent launches 10 attacks in a single minute that they
probably set their offensive value to ten for that minute, etc.


Weapons vs Armor: In the supplement to the rules, casual mention is made of the fact
that certain weapons fare better against particular armors. However, it is not clear
from reading the rules which weapons have bonuses or penalties against which armor or
defense. Further, it is not clear exactly what the armor choice represents – total
weight; weight of the armor; helm and shield; weight of armor and helm; etc.


Duelmasters is a game based on random numbers. When you try to
assign an exact number to opponents offensive levels it can be
misleading. Take two examples: a fight between two SLA, and a
flght between a SLA and a TPS. In the first example, if your SLA
overwhelms the opponent you can’t be sure how aggressive he was.
In the second case, the SLA will make large numbers of attacks
regardless of his offensive levels. Beware the pitfalls.


Try plotting the fights, get some graph paper and make a frequency
distribution chart. Over time a pattern will develop, whether or not
it will be useful will depend upon tracking the right things.


The question about weapons vs. armor effectiveness must have came
up 10 times since the last issue. That is another aspect of the game
that you have to learn by experience. But, since you read the HR, its
a good bet that you want to know NOW. Ok. Most of it is supposed to
be intuitive. I guess it fits in with being a realistic simulation. From
the grapevine these are the special situations I believe are, or may
eventually be, in the game (I don’t know if these are programmed or
not).


The LS is a weapon expressly designed to split ARM (and ACM to a
lesser extent). Less effective vs. APM and APA, use a HL, SS, or LO.
The SC is largely ineffecuve vs. ASM. The GS is supposed to be a
terrific tool to break items such as shields, broadswords, and TPS
heads. No weapon does more damage than the HL, but it suffers a
big initiative penalty (as does the GS). Very specialized tools. On the
other hand, no weapon has a greater damage variability than the MS.
For a quick bashing weapon try a MA or better a QS. I don’t think
that the maul suffers any speed penalties, and we all know how hard
it hits. The SS is supposed to be very quick handling, allowing one to
find the weak spots in plate. The SH is very nearly as good for
parrying as a ME at half the encumbrance. It hits for more damage
than an EP and is more survivable vs. heavy weapons. What a deal!
The BS is an excellent weapon for SLA. Hits hard, no initiative
penalties (probably no bonuses either, but the SLA is quick to start
with), the only real heavy armor alternative. The LG is very
cumbersome, the added parry costs you in dodging. In general, ALE
and APL are designed to soak up energy from concussion attacks.
Some of the force of the blow gets through. Pointed and edged
weapons tend to go through much better. So, APL is generlly a good
choice against a BAS. ARM, ASM, and ACM is very bad vs. opponents
that lunge.


I have been watching some of the armor set ups of some of the RSI
employees playing in AD, and I’ve noticed that ASM is very popular,
hmmm.


Have you noticed something about the game? Like, it seems
everyone is leaving? Last turn in AD 162 gladiators fought. In arena
17, 54 participated And, in arena 1 there were 44 present to fight.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the norm. Not only does declining
participation ruin the game for us, but RSI can’t be making decent
profits running an arena for only a handful of players.


Whats RSI to do? They could do nothing. They could advertise and
refill existing arenas with new players. Of course, there is a very
high a attrition rate as the virgin managers get eaten alive by the
experienced managers.


Declining arenas coupled with difficult entry for rookie managers
points to an elegant solution. I think pretty soon RSI will have to
begin combining arenas. New arenas will be off-limits to current
players until the rookies get a solid footing. Think of the level of
competition. Maybe more managers would have incentive to stay
until “the new game” is out if the regular arenas were like AD. And,
with our moderators profits boosted we can be assured that our
favorite game will continue to be run.


Jeff Morgan

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