Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Category Archives: Autodueling

Scorcher Duel at Kettering Arena

After the monster road duel we played the day before, we weren’t in the mood for a complicated, epic game session. Not surprisingly, digging through my entire game collection failed to turn up anything that we might want to play more than Car Wars. Earlburt suggested that we try a two-on-two team event at Kettering Arena… and I suggested that we try the Scorchers there. Earlburt didn’t want to mention it, but a quick look in Vehicle Guide I revealed that the car didn’t exist in 2029. Also, I was surprised to see that the vehicle was equipped with a fire extinguisher fireproof armor– which would have totally undercut the sort of quick violent game I was looking for. Sorting this out, we decided that we’d be driving Mitsui’s earliest prototypes… and that the model would ultimately not be allowed on the American market without that added safety feature….

Earlburt observed that this car required maneuver to use either of its weapons: the ramplate and the rear mounted flame throwers. Kettering was an unusual location for the car to  fight because the large amounts of gravel would put a huge dent in our maneuverability! I didn’t care– anything that ensured a quick, brutal, and decisive game was good to me.

Two of our vehicles threaten to ram each other as they make the first pass.

Rolling into the arena, I had the distinct impression that the most innocuous of decisions at the beginning could ultimately decide the game. We all headed more or less towards the center of the arena. It seemed impossible to get the flamethrowers into position to fire during the first turn or so– neither of us wanted to sacrifice our mobility.

Our closest cars angled directly toward each other and we were pretty well locked in. I was inclined to panic by attempting to bring my weapons to bear, but it actually made the most sense not to freak out. If I turned away much at all, I would probably get t-boned. I continued on, threatening a head-on collision knowing that Earlburt could see that “mutually assured destruction” would be pointless. Getting right up in his face like that… it became clear that even if he wanted to ram me, his only choices were between a head-on and a sideswipe. Earlburt chose not to ram at all and we exchanged fire just after we passed. He scored ten points of damage on me– causing a debris counter to come out and bumping the weapons fire hazard on me up another notch. Both of our cars had fire markers now… and our low handling statuses meant we could do nothing to safely change course.

Things unraveled quickly after this. I managed to get a shot onto Earlburt’s other car… and then followed that up with two combined shots from both of my cars on the next turn. Miraculously, I didn’t set him on fire. The damage hit the driver instead of the powerplant, so I ended up with an unlikely amount of salvage. (I’ve never been so glad to miss fire marker rolls like that!) Meanwhile, Earlburt kept his other car at 60 miles per hour and did some D3 maneuvers… successfully put out the fire on the second try… and then skidded into the arena wall at fifty miles and hour. While Earlburt’s first driver was well done… the second had to be hosed out of his car. (Modern medicine has its limits even in 2029.)

Earlburt clearly made a rare mistake there. Taking a few hits of fire damage is not the end of the world– especially when compared to completely losing control. It wasn’t clear to me what Earlburt had been attempting to do with his other car. But by the time it was obvious that he was sailing into some seriously troubled waters, he no longer had the required handling status to alter the situation or coordinate his vehicles. The gravel’s +1 difficulty on all maneuvers and hazards combined with the the limited handling recovery rules is just that brutal.

This was an interesting game… very much in contrast to the usual low end Stinger type event with their fighter-plane style tactics. Of course, I am pleased that my continuing characters will at least have some Scorchers to drive after they graduate from the Amateur Night scene. It’s a neat car that generates interesting tactical trade offs. While I didn’t do anything particular brilliant, I at least didn’t crack under pressure. (And I so rarely win against Earlburt that I’ll take what I can get when it comes to victories…!)

Not optimal: three flamethrower hits on an already damaged side that had started the game at 15 points of plastic armor.

The Rule of Six: California and Los Angeles in Autoduel

Most setting books and boxed sets for role playing games just mystified me back in the day. How on earth do you run those things? They just seemed like all fluff and blah blah blah. Blah. Blah blah blah! The problem here for a novice game master is that the setting is presented as sort of a monolithic blob of information. Someone without years of gaming experience will have just no idea of what he needs to pull out and push in front of the players. Buying more books about specific subregions of the setting never seemed to helped me– that just expanded the problem at a slightly lower level of resolution! What I needed to know back in the day was that I should use the Rule of Six to break things down into workable and comprehensible chunks.

This post will demonstrate just how to do it… with an example taken from everybody’s favorite post-apocalyptic vehicular combat game. For the adventure level, I’d have to drill-down further than what I’ve done here. For a wide ranging campaign, I’d eventually want to go upward and do something similar at the national and world level. Traveler referees would have to go even further and do this at the subsector and sector levels as well! Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about that. Some good, solid local color is all I need for a single game session.

Six things about California in Autoduel:

  1. While California was largely unaffected by the Grain Blight, palm trees were nevertheless completely wiped out by a similar disease. The threat of biological agents is considered serious to this day, however, and it is illegal to transport uninspected fruits and vegetables into the state.
  2. Control of Northern Californias water supply is a divisive political issue. There is a significant amount of sabotage and fighting along the pipeline.
  3. The Mexican Jefes (warlords) frequently raid the state and illegal aliens are a serious problem. Border patrol stations on north bound highways routinely stop vehicles to search for them.
  4. Northern California seceded from the union, but the state national guardsmen were no match for the U.S. army. Tensions between the northern and southern parts of the state remain high. (It wasn’t long ago that refugees from L.A. were kept out of the North at gunpoint.)
  5. California is the birthplace of autodueling. There’s a two year waiting list to get into amateur night events and there is a great deal of road dueling in the state.
  6. On I-5 between San Francisco and L.A. you can expect tolls and lots of traffic. (It’s heavily patrolled by State Troopers.) North of Sacramento it is not as traveled and becomes dangerous. There have been many disappearances on I-80 in Northern California.

Six things about Los Angeles in Autoduel:

  1. The city was subjected to three years of complete anarchy after the earthquake in 2015. When the food ran out, nearby Orange County was burned to the ground.
  2. The city has balkanized into over one hundred distinct Civic Territories. The rich ones are independent fortress towns. The poor ones are rife with drug abuse and almost constant gang battles.
  3. The studios are heavily fortified miniature cities run by bosses that micromanage every aspect of life and office politics inside. See The Firm (1993) for inspiration. Competition between networks is fierce– it is not uncommon to see news helicopters fighting over the chance to cover the best road dueling action.
  4. Los Angeles has four major arenas and numerous minor ones. Roger Burton West’s arena map listing has the city listed as including the Civic Arena, The Hollywood Bowl (ADQ 7-4), The Jet Track (ADQ 5-3), The Muscle Downs, and the Tar Pit.
  5. Los Culebras Feroces and the Cruzados are two major gangs in the city. To join, you must have a vehicle (ideally a low-rider!) and kill a rival gang member. Note that gang violence is actually legal in most of L.A.!
  6. Freeways are safe, but side streets are dangerous. While duels are common, ambushes are rare– fights are usually either avoidable or one-on-one.

So… if you don’t want to get stopped driving northbound in Southern California, then maybe a big van with tinted windows isn’t the brightest idea. And in L.A., they will kill you– but you will at least be awake, facing them, and armed when they do it. Enjoy your trip!

The Arena Safety Code and its Discontents

Our continuing CAR WARS campaign is set in the year 2029. We chose this because we wanted a grittier setting and because we wanted to explore the original pocket box equipment while maybe excluding lasers. Also, it would give us a chance to focus our games on some of the classic mass produced armed vehicles of the game. We picked over the AADA Vehicle Guide on old issues of Autoduel Quarterly for nuances in Autoduel America’s details and I’d thought we had a pretty good handle on things. But now that I have a copy of the seventh Road Atlas and Survival Guide, I wonder if I might have to rethink a few things…. Here’s a timeline derived from its chapter on BLUD:

  • 2025 — The AADA is formed.
  • 2026 — The first AADA circuit competition is held.
  • 2027 — The first US and Texas national championships are held.
  • 2028 — National championships are also held in Canada, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. The first world championships are held.
  • 2029 — Humanitarian and religious groups become vocal in their protest of the increasing deaths in arena sports.
  • 2030 — The Arena Safety Code is put into effect, but are loosely enforced.
  • 2031 — After a disaster at Candlestick Park, the AADA suspended all sanctioned events until they could be rescheduled at facilities that met ASC standards.
  • 2032 — The ASC is strictly enforced… and the AADA introduces the divisional system with cars priced according to the Detroit Standard Exchange Rates.

If this is true… then cost was irrelevant in the early days of dueling. This isn’t as unworkable as gonzo “unlimited” events might seem at first– there was so little variety in the equipment that was available in the late 2020’s that cost would have been much less significant. More important here are the ramifications of a strict Arena Safety Code in an ongoing campaign. An authentic AADA event held in 2032 or later would entail any of the following:

  • Firing on pedestrians with vehicular weapons would be grounds for disqualification. (This implies that any hand weapons would be used from an operable vehicle.)
  • Duelists are required to accept any surrenders.
  • Head-on collisions are not allowed. (This has been an annoyance in a couple of games, but I’m not sure how to fairly implement this even as a gentleman’s agreement.)
  • There’d be restrictions on other types of collisions as well, but I have no idea how. (Maybe a speed limit on T-bones?)
  • Vehicles are likely to be required to have fire extinguishers, though some arenas could be lax in enforcing this.

Back when I was a kid, I always assumed that the default rags-to-riches campaign was pretty much impossible to run. It wasn’t until I got my hands on a complete run of ADQ that I realized that limiting Amateur Night events to mostly being just Killer Karts was something of a retcon. (Yes, its a hallowed one that goes back at least to Steve Jackson’s Armadillo Autoduel Arena supplement, but it is a retcon nonetheless.) If you’re going to get a rags-to-riches game off the ground with characters that start with zero wealth, then they need at least a chance at getting their hands on a Hot Shot or a Joseph Special. But there’s more. If they want to be able to stay in the game, then they need strict saftey codes in order to keep them alive. (Lenient hospitalization rules probably wouldn’t hurt, either.)

When we finally got some 2029 characters that had graduated Amateur Night with some vehicles and skills, I was disappointed to discover that I had pretty much zero interest in putting them back into an arena. However, now I think that I was bringing more of 2039 mentality to the table. There needs to be fewer limitations on what sort of vehicle is brought into an event– events need to be run by body size, not by cost. And the prizes need to be large enough that it is worth the 40% chance of death. It needs to look just possible enough to strike it rich that going in is preferable to risking death-by-cycle-gang in a workaday courier escort day job.

Whichever type of campaign you choose to run, BLUD suddenly makes a lot more sense….

Care Package for a Lone Wolf Autoduelist

I pulled the old Killer Kart into the drive last Saturday and found this on my porch: a care package from Michael Owen at SWAT HQ:

Epic! The Road Atlas and Survival Guides are worth it just for the mini-scenarios provided on a state-by-state basis. The GURPS adventure is the icing on the cake– especially as third and fourth edition GURPS has shied away from publishing adventures. More rules for first edition GURPS Autoduel… articles on stuff like BLUD and the Brotherhood. I don’t really grok the road atlas portions, but Earlburt always seems to be sussing stuff out of it for the campaign. If you ever wondered where all the role playing material in Autoduel Quarterly went… this is it!

 The stuff in the upper left corner is Dungeon #98/Polyhedron #152 (“Thunderball Rally” for D20 Modern) and D20 Apocalypse. Thunderball Rally is surprisingly complete and seems to be strongly influenced by Cannonball Run. My D20-fu is weak– I guess I need a copy of D20 Modern to run those…? How many editions of that have there been and which ones work with this stuff…? (I also have Redline D20.)

Thanks a lot, Michael!

More CAR WARS Kickstarter News!

More odds and ends so that you don’t miss a thing:

  • Wired’s Geek Dad is a CAR WARS fan and is promoting the Kickstarter here. When you go over there, go ahead and subscribe to his blog so that you don’t miss his upcoming Retro Review of everybody’s favorite game of vehicular combat!
  • Kenneth W. Scott is on board with the Kickstarter– autodueling fans will remember his hovercraft designers notes and his overview of the changes that were made when the 2nd edition Compendium was released. He also put together the second vehicle guide which is available here.
  • Andrew Metzger was one of the more prolific contributors to Autoduel Quarterly back in the day. He has purchased one of the $4,500 Ogre counter sheets– stay tuned for more information on what units it will contain and how to get a copy!
  • CAR WARS fans are coming out of the woodwork to buy t-shirts— and in some cases, people are buying shirts for their entire AADA dueling clubs! (There’s even some indication that the infamous River City Autoduel Association may reform…!)
  • Okay, it’s not a done deal, but we are clearly on track to have a CAR WARS Kickstarter in 2013. Time to party like it’s 2039!