Saturday, January 7, 2012

They were Gods in those Days

Jeff Rients recently wrote two posts regarding the wild and zany antics the boys in Lake Geneva got up to back in the early years of this hobby. Inspired by those anecdotes, I wanted to share one of my favorite old war stories from years gone by. This one was recounted by Roger E. Moore in an editorial on fear that appeared in Dragon #156 (April 1990)
I was in a GAMMA WORLD game that Jim Ward ran a few years ago. It scared me to death. Jim has a habit of rolling huge numbers of dice of damage at the snap of a laser, and his campaign was full of amusing things such as Cthulhu-size lake monsters and deathray satellites that diced up ground targets with impunity. But his most famous creation was the subtly named Death Machine, a nice little military relic of the Social Wars of the game’s background.

What’s a Death Machine, some of you may ask. Here’s a story: A few years ago, when I was in the Army, I told everyone in my gaming group to each pick his or her favorite deity from the AD&D® game, and prepare to role-play that deity in a special scenario I had developed. The next hour was spent in feverish excitement as a large assortment of gods and supermonsters met on a deserted plain and awaited their opponents. Suddenly a huge space-time warp opened up in front of the incredible assembly . . . and out of the alien warp came three brand-new, fully armed, fully powered Death Machines on random programming.

Two gods died in the first 10 seconds of combat, each taking over 700 hp of damage. A third god died before the minute-long fight was over, and two other gods (including Demogorgon) fled the battlefield in utter panic. All the rest of the deities were pounded with atomic missiles, lasers, bombs, rockets, shells, bullets, force fields, and death rays. Thor bent the nose of one Death Machine with Mjolnir but took a nuke in return. If I had not used random attacks, all of the gods would have died in 30 seconds, no sweat. It was wonderful.
I think we need more of this sort of thing. Thank goodness there are still referees who indulge in these sort of antics and keep the wild and wooly days of yore alive.


Peter said...

Three death machines is a bit of overkill, really.

But it does sound like every Jim Ward game I've heard of from participants. And it sounds fun. :)

Anonymous said...

That's nothing compared to the old story of a group of adventures fighting Smaug and Shelob in a Bolo tank in a Dave Hargrave Arduin game and in the end leveling the entire dungeon.

Anonymous said...

A really appreciate the anecdote, and the carefree attitude behind it. But isn't it kind of easy to do overkill as a referee? I mean, I could write up a similar death machine right here:

Death Machine. Immune to everything. Acts as many times as I want it to, achieving its objective with 99% success rate. May suffer superficial damage according to DM whim.

I don't really think I would have enjoyed the scenario at all, unless I went into it on a lark and didn't expect to actually play anything. If I walked in with a copy of the Dieties & Demigods and some dice and a laptop, I'd have a fine time at the table playing something else.

But let's say the Death Machine actually had stats, but those stats were arbitrarily high. Let's say:

Death Machine
AC: -300
HP: 10,000,000
MV: 672 million MPH (A)
Magic Resist 250%
Radiation Resist 250%
Immune to Biological, Mental, Fire, Lightning, Acid, Cold, Sonic, Gas, Nukes, Death Lasers
No. Attacks: 10/round
Attacks: Nuke (1d10 x 5,000 HP in 10-mile radius, save for half), Death Laser (5 in 6 chance of death)

Or heck, multiply everything above by 10. Or a bajillion.

I guess I just don't see the point. If I see a DM boasting about killing off PCs, I just can't help but think of someone kicking over little green army men. If a DM puts out a call for players to "bring your best characters for a real challenge" I know it'll just devolve into "your character is X, but this attack is X+1" or the Dragon Ball Syndrome (OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAND).

I once played in a game (for one session) where the ref had his own world, a Dyson sphere (which I must expect he hadn't mapped much of) and a string of encounters with random Mary Sue noble dudes who were his own past PCs. One opponent had infinity HP, basically, because he had retainers magically linked to him to receive damage on his behalf. The explanation was that on THIS world, to which we were visitors, this was the expected power level, and this guy was equivalent to name level. I spent the whole game just :|

If we want to elevate our games above cops n' robbers or cowboys n' indians, where children argue over who shot first (it was Han) then there are plenty of games with reasonable, fun rules.

"Okay you took a billion HP, hand in your character sheet please" after an hourlong round of combat just doesn't sound fun to me. I don't personally know a single player in my years of gaming who would enjoy being on the receiving end of that. Or who would show up for Session #2.

Side note: if you're a god and you see a Death Machine, go Ethereal, walk inside it, and start unplugging wires. But be prepared to die anyway from the 10-billion-HP self-destruct sequence.