Saturday, September 19, 2009

Breaking News: Dungeons & Dragons Evidence of Socialist Takeover Plot

Recently, many conservatives have accused President Barack Obama of trying to turn the United States into a socialist country. Although the "liberal-elite" mainstream media have so far refused to report on this shocking development, there's yet another area that has been infiltrated by socialist propaganda - Dungeons and Dragons.

Yesterday during my Dungeons and Dragons game my character got killed. Since the death panel decided that my character's "level of adventuring productivity" wasn't high enough to warrant spending scarce health care resources on resurrecting him*, I had to create a new character. The new character I am planning to create is an "artificer" - a healer class with an unusual healing ability, which requires some explanation. In D+D, each character has a limited number of "healing surges." Most healing powers require the recipient of the healing to spend a healing surge, and once a character runs out of healing surges he can no longer be healed (until he takes an "extended rest" which resets his healing surges)**. The Artificer's healing power works differently - his healing doesn't require the recipient to spend a healing surge, but at the end of the battle the healing power must be recharged, which requires a character (any character in the party) to spend a healing surge. This effectively allows the character to pool healing resources between his party members, similar to a socialized medicine system. (Just like in real life, this socialized medicine system actually works pretty well.)

Also, my college roleplaying club has a "club campaign" of D+D, and anyone who wants to can go to each adventure. But of course this would lead to a problem because people who go to more adventures would go up in level and gain treasure faster, and if you were to start in the middle then you would be at low level and have a hard time contributing to the group. The way they solve this problem is classic socialism. Everyone levels at the same rate regardless of how often they play - on the campaign web site it says what level the characters are so you create a character of that level. There is also an "audit value" that indicates how much treasure you are supposed to have, and if you fall below that amount then you can ask a DM to "audit" your character, which gives you an amount of treasure to get your total treasure value up to the audit level. A similar system is used on a larger scale in the RPGA, which is a set of "official" adventures published by Wizards of the Coast, the company that makes D+D. There are "official RPGA events" where you go to play, and sign in, and after signing in a certain number of times you can get "rewards cards" mailed to you that give you special bonuses in play (like being allowed to reroll a die roll.) Or at least that used to be the way they did it - they eventually changed it so the rewards cards are on a freely downloadable PDF, so you can just print them all out and bring them to the game (although you are only allowed to use a certain number of cards per game, depending on your character's level).

Also one more thing that may be interesting, although only tangentially related to socialism. In D+D there are six character attributes - Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Different character classes require different attributes to work well - for example fighters require Strength, wizards require Intelligence, etc. Additionally, there are different "races" like human, elf, etc. Each race has two attributes that it gets a +2 bonus to (except humans, who only have one +2 bonus but can apply it to any attribute). This means that races that don't have a bonus to a particular character class's attribute are weaker choices for that character class. One common goal of "house rules" discussed on D+D fan sites is aimed at eliminating this disparity by changing how racial stat bonuses are determined, like by allowing players to move one of their stat bonuses to a different stat. In other words, it's like an affirmative action system. And more than that, it's an affirmative action system based on a point system***.

*This isn't the actual reason. In reality the DM told me that I could have the character revived by our party's employer next session, or I could create a new character. I chose to create a new character because I wanted to try out the Artificer class. But I'll still try to use the explanation above as an "in-game" explanation for why my character couldn't get revived.

**This may seem unnecessarily complicated, but there's actually a good reason for it. In the 3rd edition of D+D, there were only two character classes that could do healing, and their healing spells took a "standard action" to cast. (Characters get one standard action per turn, and standard actions are used to do most things like spellcasting and attacking.) This basically meant that you had to have one of those characters in your party to provide healing, but that playing those characters was often uninteresting because in tough fights you would spend most of your actions just healing others rather than doing anything to the enemy - hence they were sometimes called "hit point vending machines." In 4th edition, which is what we are playing, they fixed these problems by giving more classes healing abilities, giving everyone the ability to heal themselves to full at the end of the fight, and making most healing spells a "minor action" which means that you can use a healing spell and attack in the same turn. But of course this created another problem - a party full of healers would be almost unstoppable because they could keep healing each other while still pumping out just as much damage on the enemy. Sot the healing surge system is designed to limit the amount of healing one character can get.

***Another instance of something similar was in Planetside, a massively multiplayer shooter. Players got rewarded with experience points when they participated in a successful assault on an enemy base, so if one side started losing, the players would realize they were unlikely to win and pull out, moving to another front looking for more experience point potential in other areas. This meant that once one side started to win, they would usually continue to win, and it was hard to find a battle in serious contention for very long. The solution? Give the side with fewer people in a particular area bonus health and experience points to encourage them to stay. This of course led to complaints that the game was "becoming most like the University of Michigan every day." (At the time, the University of Michigan was in the news due to its controversial affirmative action policy, later overturned by the courts, that rated applicants according to a point system gave members of underrepresented races bonus points during the admission process.)


Dan Mont said...

All I can say is that D&D is now way more complicated than it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s when I was playing a lot. But it also sounds like the changes make a lot of sense.

But what I'm happiest about is that it seems the D&D and LARP scene at UI is much bigger than it was at UMD. Is that true? You seem more plugged in there.

And by the are things going with the nitty gritty of,classes, laundry, travelling about an e-mail if you don't think the responses are "blog material".

Alexander Mont said...

It is true that the gaming scene is bigger than it was at UMD. At UMD the only game they played at gaming club regularly was Magic: The Gathering.

Cooking: that is going well there is plenty of stuff to get at the grocery store to cook.

Classes: Classes are pretty good and the professors can be funny sometimes. One thing that is different is that the homeworks are much harder than I am used to. All the homeworks have lots of proof problems on them.

Laundry: That is going okay - there is a laundry room in the building next to mine that I can go into to do laundry.

Traveling about town: With the bike it's pretty easy to get wherever I want to go. Also I got baskets to put on the sides of the bike so that I can carry things in them. The only problem is the sidewalks are very bumpy and sometimes this causes the chain to fall off the front gear, so I have to stop and put it back on.

Dan Mont said...

The chain shouldn't be falling off. go get it checked at the bike shop...and have you bought a light and more reflectors?

Nanette Goodman said...

Are there any downsides to the socialist healing system?

Alexander Mont said...

I just played another D+D game as an Artificer last night, so I can answer the question about downsides:

(1) The Artificer's healing power heals slightly less than the other healing classes' healing powers.

(2) The Artificer's healing power actually has two options that you can use. One is the "curative admixture" which is already described. One is the "resistive formula" which gives the target a +1 bonus to armor class (this reduces his chance of being hit by attacks by 5 percentage points) but the target can "turn in" the bonus in order to get "temporary hit points." Temporary hit points aren't actual healing, but damage gets taken off them before they get taken off the actual hit points, so it's like an extra "buffer" of hit points. This is useful because you can "pre-cast" it on someone before he is damaged as "insurance" in case he gets hit. I kept casting this on the party's front line fighter but he didn't seem to understand how it worked so he didn't turn it in even when he was about to get killed (and even when the monster we were fighting was attacking a different defense so the AC bonus would be useless anyway).

In the previous game (the one where my character died) these temporary hit points would have been useful - my character was a different healing class, and had self healing powers, but he was at full health one turn and got mobbed and died before his turn came around again.

(3) There's actually yet another "socialist healing power" the Artificer has. He has a power that gives him or an ally lots of temporary hit points, but that the recipient can transfer some of those hit points to another character to "spread the wealth" (or "spread the health" as the case may be). I used this power when we were fighting the main boss but the main boss got killed next turn, so I never got to see the power "in action".

Dan Mont said...

So how long is there between rounds? What I'm wondering you have time to discuss strategy (like how you will use your healing powers) or do you just decide in the moment? In an actual battle you probably wouldn't have time to conference with your party on what to do. So do you try to keep the level of cooperation realistic as to the time frame? Or can there be long discussions between rounds?

And....since I'm a father....did you buy a light for your bike?

Alexander Mont said...

It probably takes around 1-2 minutes per player's turn, sometimes more if there are special combat situaitons that the DM has to explain, and there are usually 5-7 players plus the DM.

We don't actually "discuss strategy" that much during the battle, although since I usually play leader classes I have to keep reminding my teammates about when they get bonuses from my powers. (For example my Artificer has a power that when it hits, all allies next to me get a bonus to their attack and damage rolls until next turn.)

I did buy a light for my bike.