lørdag den 21. november 2015

Competitive Tabletop Roleplaying Game

This week I had a meeting with my local community about setting up two LANs at the athletic hall in 2016. The first one will be set up at the end of spring and will focus only on computer games and will be a sort of initiation for most involved. The second one will be set at the beginning of November, around Extra-Life, and will include Warhammer 40k, Magic the Gathering, and Dungeons and Dragons. We'll have competitions for Counter Strike, League of Legends, Hearthstone, Warhammer, and Magic, and I therefore started to think about how to make D&D competitive.

I've surfed the internet a bit, and there are TRPGs that are competitive. There are also a variety of suggestions on how to make D&D competitive, but nothing that I have found would work. I have come up with my own suggestion, which is a first draft and definitely will need more work.

The game will require two dungeonmasters and a headmaster. There will be two teams of players ranging from 4 to 6 players. Each team will be given a dungeonmaster who will serve as the judge for that specific team. The two teams will then compete against each other.

The rules will be D&D 5e, and the players will have to use either premade characters or create their own characters before the competition following the rules set down by the dungeonmasters and the headmaster. These rules will most likely be similar to the Adventurer's League set down by Wizards of the Coast. The two teams will play in each their own nation, which are two identical nations created by the gamemasters. The adventure itself, NPCs, etc will also be created beforehand by the gamemasters.

The goal will be for the team to ensure that their nation wins the war against the opposing nation, which is done by completing a variety of tasks based on the three core values of D&D: combat, social, and exploration. Each task will take 3½-4 hours after which the party may look at the back of their quest card to see the consequences of their choices, in case they succeed at their task within the allotted time. It is the DMs responsibility to help the players complete the task within the time while still enforcing the rules. There will be 3-6 tasks, depending on the length of the competition, meaning that the competition will range from 12 to 24 hours.

Setup - Example
Two teams of 5 players each sit down with a dungeonmaster each. A headmaster is present but currently not necessary. Each player is given a premade character created by the gamemasters, which have created a mortal nation of humans, elves, dwarves, and halflings opposing an elemental nation with air, earth, fire, water, genasi, and arcane spellcasters. The gamemasters have created an assortment of quests and corresponding questcards with consequences described on the back (or a blank space where the headmaster can write down the consequences). The gamemasters have creatd enough for a 24 hour game consisting of 5 tasks and a potential deathmatch at the end. 

When the players have created their characters and the gamemasters have setup the game, each party will begin with a 30 minute introduction where the characters are summoned to a war council where the leaders of their nation will explain them the situation and what choices they and their opponents have. They can't explain the consequences of their choices because they don't know what the opponents are going to do, or whether or not the players will succeed in their task. The three available quests will cover combat, social, and exploration.

Start - Example

The mortal players are gathered at a council meeting in the city of Aspenta where the leaders explain that an elemental force is attacking the continent through magical portals. The players are given three choices: either go to the front line and help close these portals (combat), investigate strange reports of corruption within the human nobility (social), or travel east to gather the sylvan creatures and druids of the Jungle of Asia (exploration). They are warned that the enemy team, who is playing elementals, are also given three choices: to force their way through the portals to create a beachhead (combat), to magically infiltrate the human nation (social), or to send scouts east to the jungle to look for potential future targets.

Let's say that the mortal team chooses to reinforce the portals, while the elemental team chooses to magically infiltrate the human nation. They don't know what each other have chosen or are playing, but the dungeonmasters inform the headmaster so that he knows and can prepare the consequences of the quests. Each party is given a questcard with a description of what they are supposed to do, and each team plays 3½-4 hours to try and complete their task.

Using the three core aspects of D&D gives a rock-paper-scissors type of game mixed with D&D rules. It is possible to create five aspects, or even simply use the three aspects and give each party 5 choices. It is also possible to give players multiple choices under each category, all of which are key aspects of TRPGs. The players will have to succeed at their quests in order to gain the potential benefits.

Consequences - Example
Let's say both teams succeed in their quests.

The mortal team players 2 combat encounters where they fight their way through a battlefield past a number of elementals to reach the portal, and then spend 40 minutes at a skill challenge with the some party members protecting the spellcasters. Within 3 hours and 50 minutes, the party succeeds and the portal is closed.

Meanwhile, the elemental team ends up playing a covert game where they use skills and magic to infiltrate a human city and its nobility. They end up with one combat encounter against a number of guards that they quietly kill and cover up their deaths before they succeed at using magic to get the local lord on their side. They use this advantage to get half the mortal army to desert from attacking the portals.

The headmaster had, beforehand, decided that combat wins over exploration which wins over social which wins over combat. When the dungeonmasters give the headmaster the results of the game, he writes on the back of the questcards the consequences of the games. The mortal team is informed that even though they closed one of the portals, half the army deserted due to internal corruption, and thus the elementals succeed at forming a beachhead elsewhere on the continent. The elemental team is informed that the mortals focus on the front line, meaning that their infiltration tactic is successful and half the mortal armies desert, leaving the continent vulnerable for invasion. The elemental team is now in the lead with 1-0.

The psychological effect
In the next couple of games, the parties learn what type of party they are up against. They slowly learn about their composition, strengths and weaknesses, but most importantly, they learn about their choices. A psychological effect is incorporated where each party needs to outwit the other party.

Psychological Example
At the first two tasks, the mortal team tries to fight back against the elemental team, which is simply outwitting the mortals, and thus winning 2-0. With the information gathered, the mortal team now understands that the elementals are outwitting them, and thus they decide that frontal assaults aren't working.

As a second choice (just for info) the mortal team chose to go to the Monastery of Aspenta to have the knights there set up an inquisition to ensure that the elementals couldn't corrupt more nobles, and any nobles already corrupt would be dealt with (social choice). The elementals chose to travel to the Great Bay. Now that they had the human nobles under their influence and a beachhead on the continent, they decided to search for the best location in the bay for their next plan. After a short underwater adventure, the party summoned a volcano that caused a tsunami that destroyed the elven lands of Aiania, which is why the elemental team is now winning 2-0.

As a third choice, the mortal team gets the following three choices:  Travel to the ruined elven lands and fight the elementals storming the shores from the Great Bay (combat), travel to the dwarven mountains of Berun to gathere the aid of a dracolich in the Underdark (social), or travel east to gather the aid of the halfling druids in the Jungles of Asia, which is the same choice as in the beginning of the competition (exploration). They learn that the elemental team's choices are: Using portals and volcanoes turn the rivers of the continent into lava and lead the elemental armies into the humans lands following these rivers (combat), gather the air elementals, genasi, and spellcasters to cause a rain of salt over the continent to starve out the mortal races (social), travel east while the armies invade the west and prepare a beachhead on the shores of the jungle (exploration).

The mortal races know that the elementals are outwitting the party, so they won't push along the rivers of lava. They also know that they usually stay away from the jungle and think more large scale. They guess that the elementals will start a rain of salt, that can only be countered by the halfling druids of Asia. After the game, the mortal team is informed that their guess was correct, and they are now only losing by one point 2-1.

It is possible for each team to choose the same type, in which case the result would end in a draw.

Draw - Example
As a fourth choice, the mortal team gets to choose between attack the firelands that have erupted in the human lands (combat), gather the Five Companions who rule over the skyship army of Ur'Lah in the south (social), or travel into the Dungeons of Berun to gather magical items and artefacts to help them against the elementals. The elemental team gets to choose between attack the Jungles of Asia with the use of air magic to counter the druids present there (combat), or travel south to Ur'Lah to destroy the Five Companions who have gathered an army of skyships (social), or gather the wizards to have meteorites appear in the sky causing darkness and destroying the Arterian Citadel with a meteor storm (exploration).

Both parties choose to travel south to Ur'Lah and each end up both helping and defeating the skyships. In the end, the elementals haven't done a significant blow to the Five Companions, only destroying half of them, while the mortals end up with only half an army of skyships. The competition still stands at 2-1 to the favor of the elementals.

If a team fails
If a team fails at one of their tasks, then it doesn't necessarily mean that they lose. If the opposing team also fails, or chooses a task that specifically means that they would normally have failed, it ends in a draw. If a team fails, however, a draw results in a victory for the succeeding team.

Failure - Example
Near the end of the war, the mortal team decides to attack the elemental forces over the Great Bay (combat). The elemental team is tired of outwitting the mortal, especially since the mortals seem to have guessed their tactic. The elemental team therefore decides to assemble an army at the volcano in the Great Bay and attack the remaining skyship army. Both parties end up playing a number of combat encounters, but the elemental team doesn't finish all the combat encounters before the end of the 4 hours, even though the DM tried several times to quicken the combat and plans.

If both parties had completed their task, it would have ended in a draw, and since the last part of the competition is a potential deathmatch, the elementals would have won 2-1. Since the elemental team took too long planning their attack and executing it (probably cause it's getting late), then what would have been a draw has ended up being a victory for the mortal team, setting the competition to a 2-2 draw and initiating the deathmatch.

The deathmatch is an arena fight between the two parties. It is a pure fight where the party gets to use any resources they have gathered throughout the competition. It is set in a location created by the gamemasters beforehand and only comes into play if the competition ends in a draw. The deathmatch continues until one party has been defeated.

Deathmatch - Example
With the mortal team having won the Battle of the Great Bay, they now force their way on to the volcano. The elemental team was defeated by the skyships and were forced to retreat back to the volcano. On the volcano that the elementals summoned, a great battle between the mortal races and the elementals take place, and the two parties end up facing each other.

During the deathmatch, most players perish, except for one of the mortal characters, who successfully defeats the fire genasi and thus wins the competition for his team.

Next week I'll be writing some more about our LAN project, which will be combining tabletop roleplaying games with tabletop miniature wargames, card games, and computer games. This article was only one example of how to combine all of it. If you have any ideas on articles that we should write about, let us know on our Facebook page, or leave a comment.

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