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Faith and Steel: A Warrior's Manifesto

A Warrior's GENCON

by Steve Bergeron
Aug 27,2002

 

A Warrior's GENCON

Well, Gencon is two weeks gone and already old news. All the post-con reports are in, judgments are passed, and the required executions are already forthcoming. That being said, I am not giving yet another Con report. Instead I am going to tell you what a few people from "the industry" had to say about warrior characters and their games. I managed to get these interviews by squandering my "best four days in gaming" looking for important people to talk to and convincing them to talk to me. Alas, I am only mortal and was not able to talk to anywhere near as many people as I would like, but still these guys had some interesting things to say. So, here goes....

Who? R. A. Salvatore
Why is he important? He writes the Dark Elf novels for Forgotten Realms as well as the Demon Wars Saga.
What did you talk about?

R. A.Salvatore is one of the greatest advocates of the warrior class in the gaming world. Anyone who has read his novels knows that warriors and battles are his specialty. It turns out his very first character way back in 1st edition D&D was a Barbarian (who could kick the ass of the column's resident barbarian Thrag) who he took the time to play to 27th level! For those of you not familiar with 1st ed. D&D, this is a major investment of time and Doritos. The question that I posed to Mr. Salvatore was simply this: Why warrior characters? Why not mages or rogues (he did do cleric's, though with a definite warrior bent)? "It's the difference between the gun and the knife." He then went on to explain that the focus on the warrior characters is the discipline and skill required. The contest goes from being about who's is faster and luckier, to being about who is "better" without a doubt. All of his warriors, even the evil ones, have discipline. Also, he enjoys writing combats, and he is, arguably, one of the best at it.

Who? Jonathan Tweet
Why is he important? He is one of the co-creaters of 3rd ed. D&D
What did you talk about?

Mr. Tweet braved a possible reprimand from the Wizards' publicity staff to talk to me so I felt especially honored as I asked him about the reintroduction of the Barbarian and Monk, and the new coolness of the 3e Fighter and the heavy combat focus of 3e rules. The Barbarian and Monk have made their return to the 3e world because "they're cool" and they added much needed variety to the class choices available to the player. As for the fighters, he said, " We didn't want it to be a mistake for you to be a fighter." for those of you who remember past editions there was very little reason to be a fighter when the paladin and the ranger were just as good in combat in every respect, and had cool powers. The addition of the fighter feats to the class were in designed to give the fighter cool stuff to match the other classes. My last question to him referred to an argument I have seen and heard many times: 3e is heavily combat oriented and seems to lack in "real roleplaying." There are a few reasons for the combat focus, first of all, "When monsters are attacking you, you care!" in other words, the threat of death to your characters brings the party together, makes them work as a team and (hopefully) builds cohesion. It is possible to accomplish these goals without combat, but for a GM who is short on time or experience, fighting makes it "easier to have fun" without a major investment of time.

Who? Justin Achilli
Why is he important? He is the line developer for Vampire: The Masquerade, and thus, my Arch-Nemesis!
What did you talk about?

As a warrior, you should remember to know your enemy before you destroy him. And so in the interest of fairness I sought him out for an interview. I was in for quite the surprise. Not only was he more than happy to speak with me despite my threatening accusations concerning his campaign against the warrior class, (don't believe me, check out his bio on the white wolf home page) but he also redeemed himself before my eyes in the celebrity boxing ring as he kicked the collective ass of his opponent. I spoke with him the following day about the lack of warrior characters in vampire and other similar games. The difference, he said, is the goal. In games where warrior characters are prevalent, the goals of the group are usually what is important, therefore some characters can specialize in combat because other members of the group will make up for their deficiencies. In Vampire, the goals are often individual and internal. True, they often act as groups but the goals of these groups are often subordinate to the goals of the individual. When one is looking out for one self, specialization in one small area, such as combat, leaves vulnerabilities for others to exploit. End result: No warriors, but lots of people who know a thing or two about fighting. He then went on to argue that in a modern society there is no real warrior class anyways. I countered by mentioning the existence of militaries and their special forces. He replied that even those special forces soldiers are much more generalized than the warriors of old. Good point. We left it there, somewhere close to a draw. Perhaps we will clash again, but I must say, I have a new found respect for my enemy.

Who? Geoffrey Grabowski
Why is he important? He is the line developer for Exalted, the only White wolf game without a colon
What did you talk about?

Never has anyone reminded me of just how Canadian I actually am better than Geoff Grabowski. As I ate lunch with him I discovered he believes that Starship Troopers (the book, not the movie) should be real life, an armed populous is the only way things should be, and combat and weapons training should be mandatory for every man, woman, and child... Sparta here we come. Anyways, on to Exalted which, in his own words, is a game about combat. The main question I posed to him related, surprisingly enough to the non-fighter characters in the game. It just seems there's not a whole lot for them to do during the crazy, over the top battles that are the game's meat and potatoes. To all of you non-warriors out there he has just one piece of advice: "Learn to fight!" Exalted is designed for swordsmen and martial artists, magic is just a secondary consideration to the game. There are plenty of spells out there that can make you a more dangerous warrior, so just learn them and leap into the fray. I left Mr. Grabowski with two things: an urge to start up my Exalted campaign again, and a fear of an imminent invasion of Canada by the U.S.

Who? Rich Wulf
Why is he important? He is the Daimyo currently ruling over the L5R RPG.
What did you talk about?

We spoke of honor, skill and death. What else do samurai talk about? More specifically we spoke of the dual nature of the samurai and how he cannot be just a warrior, (unless he's from Crab Clan) but he must be at statesman as well. In the L5R world what is said, and not said, is just as important as what is done. True, a samurai can be a deadly killing machine, but to survive in the society that is Rokugan, he must be capable of diplomacy, courtesy, and sometimes even poetry. If a player wishes to make a character that can fight and nothing else, it is entirely possible to do so by making a ronin, but the penalties for doing this are quite high. Unfortunately my time with Mr. Wulf was short, it was a busy con, maybe I shall be imparted with more samurai wisdom next year.

Who? Jeff Mackintosh
Why is he important? He's the Art Director and Line developer for Big Eyes Small Mouth (BESM), the Anime RPG from GOO
What did you talk about?

Have you ever noticed that anime warrior characters are excessively goofy when they're not kicking ass. Just look at Kenshin, or Trigun, or just about any other show out there. The lead warrior is either bumbling or angst-ridden, or in a few cases, both. I asked Mr. Mackintosh if he knew why.....he didn't. But as a credit to his game it's designed perfectly to make those weird Japanese warriors that kick ass and eat doughnuts. What he was able to answer was a question concerning an odd rules choice unique to BESM. In every other game I can think of (somewhere between 20 and 30ish that I know the rules for) a tie on the combat dice always favors the defender. In the case of "Ultimate Attacks" and "Ultimate Defences," the defence always wins...except in BESM. Some moves are just unblockable. Why? the answer is pretty simple. BESM chose emulation over simulation. In REAL LIFE (TM) most attacks miss. Just look at the ammo expenditure versus actual kills in the Vietnam war, or the number of punches that actually land in a boxing match if you don't believe me. In ANIME (TM) most attacks hit, and hit hard. If you've ever seen an episode of Macross or Dragonball Z, you know what I'm talking about. The makers of BESM decided it would be true to the genre to give the attacks the advantage. It may not simulate real life, but it definitely emulates Anime perfectly.

And that, as they say is that. My last note for Gencon is on swords. I made an effort to visit every store that was selling edged weapons. The Lord of the Rings replicas earn high marks, but the best quality award goes to Starfire Swords. They earn top marks for design, durability, life-time warranty, proper balancing, and historical accuracy. My only complaint is that they only came in dull sparring versions, but otherwise kudos to them. Check them out here. I see you next month for the regular column when Tools of the Trade will come you way.

Unrelated Random Quote Heard at Gencon:

"The real question we're all asking about Star Wars Episode II is whether or not Jango Fett's severed head was still inside the helmet when Boba picked it up."

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What do you think?

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  • Downtime by Steve Bergeron, 26feb03
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