ZND Part 2: Boredom is the mother of play testing; weapons of wonder and chaos

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Last time I discussed how my sister beat me at my own experiment. Well, believe it or not that was not the end of that absurd combat system. Hey don’t give me that look; I was in the middle of high school. You can’t expect me to pull a “Wizards of the Coast” and invent the next D&D just yet.

In the middle of 2013 I was staying at a friend’s place. Let’s call him Cid. I was there with a mutual friend of both Cid and I. We’ll call him Larry. Anyway, Cid, Larry and I were sitting there feeling really bored. That’s when I pulled out my box of dice (having played in a couple of D&D campaigns already, and loving it, I kept my dice close by just in case I heard of a campaign I could join). I first suggested D&D but then realised that I had no core rulebooks with me. I looked to my friends and said “do you want to try something new?” within minutes I had cracked out my laptop and we had scribbled up character sheets. For those who were familiar with the D&D combat system, we throw twenty sided dice at monsters until we hit them, then we throw smaller dice at the monsters to see how much damage we do. My system was similar; throw dice at the problem until the problem can no longer stand. While it was ripping off the core system a fair bit, I had learned just how good the D&D system was, and, at the time, I opted to tweak more than overhaul.

My friends and I were having a blast, we had a drunk Zoid pilot (remember that drunk part for a future article) and a burly Scottish soldier (remember that Scottish part for a future article). We were Roleplaying like our lives depended on it. Then suddenly one of my friends said “This rifle is a bit overpowered”. In an instant I thought back on the night and thought to myself that the rifle was indeed overpowered, but it was too late to take it off him. Before long the main boss fight had finished and there was loot to be had, except there kinda wasn’t. I myself had gotten caught up in the moment and hadn’t thought of any loot to give the players. In desperate need of a quick loot pile I threw a couple of weapons and some cash into the loot (In this version of ZND we were not counting ammo. An oversight for sure and one that would affect future versions of ZND; however we were too busy, and having too much fun, shooting giant robots in the face). It wasn’t long before another broken weapon combo was found, dual wielding pistols. This was a mixture of stats and player exploit, as while pistols are not inherently powerful, once players realise they can make the pistols fully auto and get multiple attacks per turn with them, it flys out of control. A smart GM would have modified the accuracy stat or said that the weapon be treated as an SMG, I was not a smart GM however and the chaos continued, much to the delight of the players (and secretly me as well).

The night ended with tales of muffins destroying the world and pistols that were capable of shooting through tanks, I had objectively failed at game balance. As I look back on the reasons I can pinpoint my lack of preparation for item drops and my attempt to graft modern weapons onto a system based around high fantasy. It would take a while but eventually I would come to realise that mimicking the D&D system, especially in combat, was not going to cut it.