Home Forums General General Luck as a character trait?

This topic contains 22 replies, has 18 voices, and was last updated by Rhoderic Rhoderic 5 days, 12 hours ago.

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  • #101237
    Ivan Sorensen
    Ivan Sorensen
    Moderator

    Period or setting doesn’t matter.

    You are reading a scenario for your favorite war game rules and period.
    Everything looks fine, the forces are interesting and it seems like the two sides should be fairly matched, the objectives look typical but achievable by both sides and the special rules are interesting without being overwhelming.

    Then you notice it.

    One of the officers on one side has a special rule:
    He is Lucky and thus gets a +/- 1 bonus to any dice rolls he personally attempts.

    How do you feel about it?
    Do you go along with it? Too silly?

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    #101238
    kyoteblue
    kyoteblue
    Participant

    I like it.

    #101239

    Just Jack
    Participant

    I think the idea of luck on the battlefield is real, and thus could/should be represented in rules.

    Personally, I prefer for it to reveal itself, then give it a bit of help, rather than simply assign it.  So if I play a game, or a set of games, and the dice go “that guy’s” way a few times, maybe then I start giving him the +1 you’re discussing.  I can’t say I’ve done it for luck, but I do it all the time in skirmish games for guys that show themselves good shots, bad shot, good in melee (not bad in melee, those guys don’t last very long in my games), good at throwing hand grenades, brave, or cowardly.

    V/R,
    Jack

    #101240
    Private Snafu
    Private Snafu
    Participant

    Sounds fine to me.  If it’s a game no problem.  If one was trying to create a simulation, kriegsspiel, or fiction (I shudder at the thought of any of them) then luck may be inappropriate.

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    #101241
    Geof Downton
    Geof Downton
    Participant

    I see nothing wrong with it, but surely “luck” is what the dice are for…

    The player has a character who is “lucky”, and then has to be “lucky” himself when he rolls the dice.

    One who puts on his armour should not boast like one who takes it off.
    Ahab, King of Israel; 1 Kings 20:11

    #101249
    Mike Headden
    Mike Headden
    Participant

    “I know he’s a good general, but is he lucky?” – Napoleon Bonaparte

    “Well, the harder I practice, the luckier I get.” – attributed to Jerry Barber

    For me “luck” in wargames is what die rolls represent.

     

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!

    #101256
    Mike
    Mike
    Keymaster

    I would worry that in small games the focus will shift toward the character with the lucky skill and become centred around that model.

    The modifier of +1 / -1 on say a d6 would be too powerful. But on a d10 acceptable.

    I have a lucky skill in Burning Sands and it is a simple once per game re roll of any result.

    #101257
    Guy Farrish
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    Est il heureux?

    peut-être pas.

    I don’t like having a rule writers opinion of how lucky a particular commander was thrust on me.

    I’d ignore it.

    I don’t think ‘luck’ is a character trait. It’s a way of explaining a lot of other qualities we can’t or didn’t used to quantify/identify.

    And did Napoleon really ask this? (without replicating the endless Napoleonic source wars – anyone got a verifiable primary or even a reliable secondary source?)

    I’ve got a source for 1716: ‘Mémoires de madame la duchesse d’Orléans, princesse Palatine’ that says Mazarin used to ask it of people entering his service.

     

     

    #101260
    Patrice
    Patrice
    Participant

    I think it depends on the level of the game. For a large battle with historical generals I wouldn’t like it much. But for a skirmish game or RPG-style game it’s interesting that some of the main characters may have some special skills.

    +1/-1 to each die roll seems too much, but a bonus on some occasions is acceptable. Players can interpret this to represent sheer luck, or self-confidence which allows the characters to succeed better in difficult situations, and/or the confidence that others have in him that may inconsciously help him.

    In the first half of the 20th century the word “baraka” was widely employed in French (original meaning “blessing” in Arabic, adopted with the meaning of “luck” in the Armée d’Afrique and Armée Coloniale and then in popular French). The sentence “il avait la baraka” appeared in many books, texts and articles, often about subaltern officers; it’s sometimes still used by historians as if it were a true statement about someone (implying at least that friends and foes all believed it) …and it still appears in newspapers when a football player has a lot of luck for a long time.

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    #101261

    Thomaston
    Participant

    I don’t mind it but it’s also one attribute I never plan on using. I also think if it’s present it shouldn’t be a modifier for all rolls, it feels too much like skills. I prefer if it was a one or two time re-roll or the ability to point and say something succeed or fail once or twice per game, or once per game an oppenent’s natural 6 is nullified.

    Life's too long.

    #101262
    willz
    willz
    Participant

    Its a good idea, will work well for most types of games, rather than giving luck automatically to one or more players maybe have them buy the luck factor in the points they pay for their company, unit or army.  For example 3 tigers tanks = 450 points, loose 1 tiger and get a +1 on your dice roll on one selected tiger commander (you could loose 2 tiger tanks and get a + 2 on your dice roll) , and or variations on that theme for any period.

    #101263

    Mr. Average
    Participant

    Seriously, though, I often find “Luck” stats to be a bit of a deus ex machina in practice. I’d rather a good GM or game runner thumb the dice and not tell me than rely on an intangible stat to quantify something that doesn’t exist. I’m with Geof – he rolling of dice is enough luck for me.

    #101277
    Darkest Star Games
    Darkest Star Games
    Participant

    I have experienced a lot of luck over my lifetime, and do believe in it’s capricious nature.  In a game, effecting every roll is just too much, that’s more like a demi-god is guiding the dude than him just being lucky.  I prefer a mechanic where maybe you roll an extra d6 and if it hits a 6 then you gained your +/-1.  Or maybe you have a certain number of points that can be burned during a game to reroll a dice (but not to get a bonus).

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    #101317

    Just Jack
    Participant

    “…than rely on an intangible stat to quantify something that doesn’t exist.”
    Whether to represent luck in a wargame, and how to represent it in a wargame, are all matters down to choice, but I must respectfully disagree that luck doesn’t exist, and furthermore, there’s good luck, and there’s bad luck.  For your consideration:

    -A reinforced platoon is crossing open ground and a 107mm or 122mm rocket explodes approximately 200 yards away.  The sharpest, most squared away, most skilled, and most talented among them is wearing a helmet, body armor, and ballistic eye protection (“Wiley-X” goggles).  A piece of shrapnel the size of a fingernail slices through his nose, enters his brain, and he’s dead before he hits the ground.

    -Fifteen men are huddled in a bunker; an 82mm mortar round explodes approximately 50 yards away.  A piece of shrapnel the size of a pebble comes in through a narrow slit at the bunker’s entrance and hits a man in the center of the bunker in the face, without touching any of the seven men between him and the entrance.

    -A man crosses a street and shelters behind a vehicle, which is promptly hit by a rocket, wounding him with shrapnel in both legs.  First aid is provided and he is placed in a truck for evacuation to base.  On his way to the base the truck takes machine gun fire and he is hit in the arm.  Upon arrival at the base he is treated and placed in a tent to recover; an hour later the base is rocketed and he’s hit a third time in four hours.

    -A man is struck by a 7.62mm round in the left cheekbone.  The round does not penetrate his flesh (no blood at all, just a welt), but it struck with enough force that it popped his eyeball out of its socket.  The doc wet a maxi-pad, wrapped it around the eyeball, taped it to the man’s face, and evacuated him.  In the rear they put the eye back in and he was able to re-join the unit three days later.

    -Two men are crossing in street , side by side, and get caught by a machine gun.  The first man is hit just above his right eye and dies several hours later.  The other man is hit in both legs, is provided first aid and is evacuated.  He is provided further treatment at the battalion aid station, which should have been sufficient for his leg wounds, but he was unconscious and couldn’t be revived.  The next day he was evacuated to a field hospital, where further treatment was provided, and he was subjected to a battery of tests to try and determine why his body was in distress and he was unconscious.  Unable to determine the issue, two days later he was evacuated by air to the United States.  Approximately twelve hours after his arrival in the US he flat-lined, but was brought back, and at that time it was discovered he had also been hit in the throat and a 7.62mm round was still lodged there.

    Then you have one man that:
    -Had an 82mm mortar round hit directly in front of him (about five feet away); the flash temporarily blinded him but he was not touched by shrapnel.
    -Three weeks later another 82mm mortar landed 3 feet from his right foot and did not explode.
    -A grenade was rolled off a roof into a narrow alleyway; the man saw it and only had time to turn his back to the ordnance.  The frag detonated approximately six feet away and he was not touched.
    -Was walking down the street.  It was evening twilight and there was a flash up ahead on a rooftop approximately 250 yards away.  A rocket propelled grenade streaked down the street, directly at the man, but then hit a drooping powerline, sending it left, where it ran into a building, which kicked it back into the street, where it landed in the street, spinning, less than five yards from him.
    -Was walking down the street at the center of a squad in column when an enemy opened fire from 75 yards away, down the length of the column, emptying his magazine, not one friendly was hit.
    -Was riding in the back of a truck packed full of men when a 7.62mm round came through the front windshield, traveled the length of the truck, and lodged in the tailgate of the truck, without hitting a single man.
    -Was riding in the front of a truck when a 152mm round exploded directly under the truck, directly behind him.  The truck was ripped in two; the four men in the rear were killed instantly, the other man in the front lost an arm, but he didn’t receive a scratch.
    -Was riding in the back of a truck when an enemy machine gun began firing on the truck, perpendicular to the truck’s axis of advance.  The man looked to his right at a comrade as a tracer zipped between the two of them, but again, no one was hit.
    -Walked onto a roof, coming up the stairs, opening the door, and taking his first step out onto the roof as a 7.62mm round slapped into the stone 6 inches above his head.
    -Walked into a room with his pistol drawn, coming face to face with three enemy.  All three were armed, but facing away, less than ten feet away.  He fired three rounds, one into each enemy, before experiencing a double-feed that stovepiped, where the weapon was out of battery with one spent brass and one live round were sticking out, stuck so solidly that three men couldn’t clear it without resorting to banging it on the concrete outside.

    So, if not luck, what then?  Fate? 😉

    V/R,
    Jack

    #101319
    grizzlymc
    grizzlymc
    Participant

    It’s not luck, it’s probability. One in every N mortar rounds fails to detonate it, you are damned lucky if it’s yours but it happens. A lot of shit happens in one day of war, most of it is in the fat part of the bell curve; some of it is in the skinny parts.

    A guy plays a hand of poker and is dealt four aces: is he lucky?

    Well, yes, more so if he gets the pot up to the cost of a retirement package.

    If it’s his first poker hand, he landed on the skinny part of the bell curve. But if he’s been playing 20 hands a day for 50 years, surprising it hasn’t happened before.

    #101323
    deephorse
    deephorse
    Participant

    Human beings like to give things labels, and to look for reasons why something happened or didn’t happen.  If the guy next to you gets hit and killed, but the same explosion left you untouched, then an understandable immediate response to that could be that one man was lucky and the other wasn’t.  But if the circumstances of this incident are able to be examined closely then it will be realised that the shrapnel from this explosion had to go somewhere, and the fact that it hit one man on his unprotected nose and entered his brain and killed him, whilst other bits of shrapnel missed the second man, is just probability.

    The example of the man surviving a dozen potentially fatal incidents is no different to tossing a coin.  A previous result of heads does not reduce the chance of the next toss being heads.   A round striking 6” above your head on Monday does not affect the chances of grenade shrapnel hitting you on Tuesday.  But in looking for a reason why this man survived all these things untouched it is undestandable to label him as being lucky.

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    #101345
    Phil Dutré
    Phil Dutré
    Participant

    I like it, but would limit the number of times you can modify a die roll. That number of times might be fixed, or it might itself be a random number, rolled for by your opponent, who then keeps track of how many times you have used your luck. At some point during the game, he might say “Sorry, but you just ran out of luck … ” and no more modifiers are possible.

    I used something similar in my roleplaying campaigns back in the 90s. Every PC had a number of Fate Points, known only by the GM. Each time you ‘died’, a Fate Point would save you (and it was always fun to invent some sort of sensible explanation). But once you ran out of Fate Points, it was really the end for your character.

    • This reply was modified 6 days, 1 hour ago by Phil Dutré Phil Dutré.
    #101349

    Just Jack
    Participant

    “Human beings like to give things labels, and to look for reasons why something happened or didn’t happen.“

    Yes, I know, superstitions for feeble minds and all, certainly everything can be explained by a theorem or formula, the earth is, after all flat 😉

    I am, of course, a bit tongue in cheek on all this; the older I get the less I know! Though I will say that it occurs to me we are all victims of our experiences, and perspective is everything, the ability to bend from it almost zero.

    “The example of the man surviving a dozen potentially fatal incidents is no different to tossing a coin.  A previous result of heads does not reduce the chance of the next toss being heads.”

    “I’m beginning to feel like a fugitive from the’ law of averages.”

    “A lot of shit happens in one day of war, most of it is in the fat part of the bell curve; some of it is in the skinny parts.”

    Indeed, and back to perspective. We’re talking a lot of skinny.  But I am with Phil: luck does eventually run out, one way or another.  I think some folks call it karma 😉

    V/R,

    Jack

    #101378
    kyoteblue
    kyoteblue
    Participant

    I should have died 5 times in my life. I call it luck.

    #101397

    Just Jack
    Participant

    Dammit, I can’t think of a larger, more blatant indicator I’m on shaky ground than the fact Kyote is agreeing with me…

    Reading back through, several folks mention the dice themselves as being deterministic the various individuals’ or commanders’ luck, but the problem with that (in my humble opinion) is that unmodifiied die rolls mean each individual/unit commander’s luck, or chance at something ‘lucky’ occurring, is exactly the same.  Which is fine, I suppose, it just doesn’t actually take into account a ‘lucky’ individual or unit commander.

    I’m not saying you should have ‘lucky’ guys in your games, just that if you are, I don’t think that works.  You can’t say “that guy/unit is renowned for their marksmanship,” and then have them roll an unmodified D6 to hit their target, you keep the ‘to hit’ number the same and let them roll a D10, a D6 with a positive modifier, give a lower target number, etc…

    Just my two cents.

    V/R,

    Jack

    #101401
    kyoteblue
    kyoteblue
    Participant

    LOL!!

    #101402
    Whirlwind
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    I’m fine with having a bonus for ‘being lucky’ if the game needs a character like that.  Any of the heroes and heroines in Star Wars might be a good example.  Or for Audie Murphy.

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    #101403
    Rhoderic
    Rhoderic
    Participant

    Period or setting doesn’t matter.

    At the risk of sounding like I’m trying to question the first principles of this thread for its own sake, I think that setting does matter. Luck as a character trait would suit me better in some settings than some others. Every setting has its own framing not just in regard to milieu, but also in regard to the degree of “larger-than-lifeness” and other such concepts. For instance, the Hornblower stories and the Aubrey-Maturin stories are different settings because, among other things, they’re premised on different assumptions of how much larger-than-life the stories are. I’d sooner see luck as a character trait in a game that emulates Hornblower, than in one that emulates Aubrey-Maturin.

    Tangential to luck are concepts of plot armour, fate and being “favoured by the gods” (as in that old TV show “Rome”). I feel the same way about all of these as I do about luck: Whether to include them or not is one of the fundamental variables that define a setting. Of course, they’re all really the same thing so I wouldn’t include more than one of them, making it a matter of simply choosing which term to call it by. In a game themed around rogues and scoundrels, I’d call it luck. In a game themed around epic heroism, I’d call it fate.

    As for the nitty-gritty of game mechanics, I suppose I prefer representing this kind of thing with expendable “luck points” (each of which allows one roll to be modified or re-rolled, or something similar), than having it be a permanent modifier. Being able to decide for myself when a character should get a bit of a “luck boost” better suits my appetite for wargaming as a storytelling exercise.

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