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Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

The Team Amateur Night Campaign and its Aftermath: Making the Ultimate CAR WARS Adventure

After a two hour discussion deep in the night (and a few follow up emails and phone calls), Earlburt and I have come up with a campaign approach that addresses the deficiencies of our previous attempts. The first major constraint is that they’re only two participants in the campaign. Usually that means there’s no referee for arena dueling events– and in role-playing adventures, one person generally gets stuck refereeing and never gets to play. Our basic idea is to move toward each player taking on several individual characters or groups of characters and following their movements around the country during 2029 or so. We’ll take turns refereeing for each character and alternate playing the ruffians and cycle gangs that populate the highways. As much as is feasible, we’ll have the “NPC’s” of one session be the continuing character groups of the other (refereeing) player.

In our first “corporate Car Wars” campaign, we experimented with a large variety of massive duels meant to tour all the various flavors of dueling scenarios. Because we failed to create a fleshed out arena schedule, this soon devolved into “rules negotiations” wars– before each session we’d both carefully debate each nuance of the game to favor our current roster and pet tactics. Also, games that required large amounts of vehicle design put Earlburt at a disadvantage while games that required understanding the implications of the rules in an unusual setting put him in an advantaged position. Whoever could successfully lobby for a game that favored their strengths would usually win.

In our follow-up role-playing campaign set in the years 2033 and 2034, we discovered that the usual $80,000 pay-offs left little room for development. Sure, we could move to a big-rig or helicopter oriented game, but that’s not really where we wanted the focus to be. Another thing was that the character advancement rules were pretty broken– you gain skill levels pretty fast just by playing scenarios against cyclists. What we want to do now is focus in on the amateur duelist that’s just getting his start and is slowly scraping together the funds to patch together a decent dueling machine: the classic rags to riches campaign, but set in a grittier, poorer world. It’s no accident that Car Wars characters begin the game dead broke.

The first phase of the campaign will be a series of 4-on-4 arena duels. Characters begin with no wealth, no prestige, base level in driver, gunner, and handgunner, and a killer-kart. The first several scenarios will consist of arena combats featuring four killer-karts versus four killer-karts and fought by a total of 64 duelists. The survivors may salvage their kills. We’ll be playing Team Amateur night, which is a little different than the usual free-for-all. In a 4 on 4 match, there may be more than one surviving car on the winning team. They will each get to salvage their own kills and gain additional prestige for being winners of the event. People that score a kill but lose their car will still get some salvage– but they have to live to do it. (I don’t think I want to add incentive to actually murder people, so I wouldn’t allow duelists to pick up the salvage of people they kill.) That gives three outcomes for a person surviving a duel: keep a car and salvage his kills, “killed” and salvage kills, and “killed” with no kills to salvage.

Note that some variants of the Amateur Night rules have a winner-take-all component. If you lose three events or if you win, you can no longer enter anymore amateur night events. In the preliminary round of a Team Amateur Night game, two teams of 16 duellists each will play. They will be broken up into four 4-on-4 Killer Kart events. The four duellists from each team that have the highest amount of prestige (using the dollar amount of their salvage to break ties) move on to a special 4-on-4 “Stinger” event.

After two preliminaries are run (each with two separate teams totalling 32 duellists on a side), the top ranking duellists from the two Stinger rounds advance to a special 4-on-4 “Joseph Special” round. Meanwhile, the duelists that failed to advance into the Stinger round compete in a second-chance “Outlander” round. (If there’s ever not enough survivors to make a 4-on-4, downsize the event to a 3-on-3 or 2-on-2.) The highest ranked duelists from the both “Outlander” round and also the ones that failed to advance to the “Joseph Special” round come back for a last-chance “Stinger-RR” round. Finally the top ranking duellists from the “Joseph Special” and “Stinger-RR” rounds return for a final “Hot Shot” round.

The Amateur Night events are run in this order: 4 4-on-4 Killer Kart events, 1 4-on-4 Stinger event, 4 Killer Kart events, 1 Stinger event, 1 Outlander event, 1 Stinger-RR event, 1 Joseph Special event, and the final Hot Shot event. This is (in effect) a loose form of a double elimination tournament. Final team and duelist rankings are based on prestige scores and the salvage value of the kills. Comparing this to Allston’s rules, each Amateur Night contestant can play in up to four events– but the the salvage money will be spread around a little more. Duellists that score low prestige might not get invited back if the death rate is low enough. Everyone has a small chance of getting a Hot Shot, though.

         +- KK --+ 
     + --+       + 
     +   +- KK --+ 
     +           +--> S --+ 
     +   +- KK --+    |   + 
     + --+       +    |   + 
     +   +- KK --+    |   + 
O <--+                |   +--> JS --+ 
|    +   +- KK --+    |   +         + 
|    + --+       +    |   +         + 
|    +   +- KK --+    |   +         + 
|    +           +--> S --+         +--> HS 
|    +   +- KK --+    |             + 
|    + --+       +    |             + 
|        +- KK --+    |             + 
|                     |             + 
+---------------------+------> S2 --+

64 total duelists are entering. One-fourth of those will continue to the “Stinger” round– and half of those will go on to the “Joseph Special” round. One eighth of the original duelists will go to the “Outlander” round. This means that less than half of the initial duellists will progress past the first round. One-third of the Stinger and Outlander contestants will go to the Stinger-RR round. Half of the Joseph Special and Stinger-RR contestants will go on to the Hot Shot round. All of the surviving “Stinger” duelists will at least play a third round of some type… and the very best of the “Outlander” round will get a chance to take on the worst of the “Stinger” round.

(What if one team completely wipes out the other team in the “Joseph Special” and “Stinger-RR” rounds– and literally kills all of the opposing duellists?? In that case, dig back into the duelist rankings of the other team. Some of the guys that didn’t advance from the “Killer Kart” rounds might get tapped to come into the “Hot Shot” event!)

After the 14 Amateur night events are run, each player takes stock of his surving duelists. Those with vehicles and/or enough salvage money to become professional duellists may move on to compete in AADA sanctioned events. (Many arenas on the L’Outrance circuit offer off-beat “tag team” and “cat and mouse” events that would be highly suitable for the continuing campaign.) Those that have next-to-nothing may join pedestrian defence forces of a small or medium sized town. Duellists that fall into neither group may become bandits or join cycle gangs.

One idea of the campaign is to play all of the classic scenarios with continuing characters instead of building custom vehicles from scratch for each game. Hopefully, each player will end up a small cycle gang. If two duellists (with roughly equal vehicle values) are traveling to an arena to compete, then each gang can bid for the right to attack one of the duellists. The lower bidding gang may then pack-attack the other player’s duellist with cycles and cars that total in value no more than the bid amount. If one player can amass a large enough cycle gang, then he can play a Midville scenario against the other player’s pedestrian force and duelist characters. Also, players can pit their duellists against their opponent’s pedestrian forces in a Wheels versus Walkers scenario. Players that travel to regions where the classic GURPS scenarios were set from the Survival Guide supplements may opt to play those as well.

If players are feeling particularly competitive or if they want additional duelist characters and gang members, they can agree to play another series of 14 amateur night event games to bring in some new blood. Otherwise, the primary goal of the campaign is to create a believable continuity for scenarios and to also create balanced background information for characters before they become fully fleshed out for more “serious” role playing sessions. Just as Traveller characters are built with a series of die rolls to generate their background, we’ll do the same: but instead of die rolls and table look-ups, we’ll use Car Wars scenarios. (In a similar vein, the 64 character and 14 event Amateur Night games will produce enough data to develop “realistic” simulations for randomly generating Amateur Night graduates….)

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3 responses to “The Team Amateur Night Campaign and its Aftermath: Making the Ultimate CAR WARS Adventure

  1. Adaen of Bridgewater November 24, 2007 at 8:24 pm

    Sounds neat. I don’t know that I have time for a longtime campaign, but I wouldn’t mind “popping in” on one…Hell, I’d play the cycle gangs if you want.

    Best,

    ~AoB

  2. Pingback: Four Killer Karts Set Fire at the Amex Proving Grounds « Jeffro’s Car Wars Blog

  3. Earlburt December 31, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    I was just doing some analysis of my characters so far and derived a couple simple stats. I have 30 surviving drivers. 12 won matches, while 18 lost.

    Winners averaged 4.1 prestige per duel. Losers averaged 1.4 prestige per duel.

    Winners averaged .81 kills per duel. Losers averaged .50 kills per duel.

    When we are totally done with the tournament, and pool information on all of our surviving 50-60 drivers, I think we’ll have some decent data with which to infer what some average NPC amateurs looks like.

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