Monday, November 29, 2010

MSH-3 Murderworld

I had friends stay over for the Thanksgiving weekend, and at some point when discussing what game to play, it seemed like it would make sense to pull out the Marvel Superheroes game and one of the adventures I have for it. I haven't played MSH in quite some time, and was mostly pulling an adventure at random (so zero prep time and just reading a paragraph or so ahead of play). My friends are just barely introductory role-players, so there were advantages to using a lightweight system, and one with characters that are pre-made. In fact, they're not even familiar with comic books, to the extent they don't know who the Fantastic Four are at all, but when I offered that group as one possibility to play (as part of MSH-3, Murderworld! by Jeff Grubb), they said, "That sounds interesting", and I started introducing them to the characters they'd be playing.

We actually had two stand-ins to the normal Fantastic Four lineup. We had Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, of course (unknowingly picked by my married friends, to their great amusement when I told them, after their choice, about the relationship). As you can see by the cover above, at this time in Marvel history (1984) the Thing was actually being replaced by the She-Hulk, so that's part of the adventure as written. In addition to that, I also gave them the option of replacing the Torch with Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau; shown to right), which they took me up on, because it matched the gender roles around the table (3 women and 1 man).

Our result: TPK (total party kill). By the middle of the adventure, the Fantastic Four are lured into the deadly Murderworld complex run by the super hit-man Arcade, separated, and locked into individually prepared deathtraps. As it turns out, none of my players could figure out how to escape any of the death traps. I feel like I might rack this up to 20% inexperience on the players' part (with either RPGs or Marvel comic conceits), but 80% due to the fact that the traps are truly very hard to escape from. On review afterward, I think I even made several mistakes in their favor, to no avail.

First of all, by way of critical review, we pretty much all know that it's poor form to split the party up (and we had the standard problem of 3 people sitting inactive and somewhat restless while each person in turn fought their deathtrap alone). Secondly, each deathtrap features a hologram of a "fake" battle scene, and the only way out is to basically ignore it and punch one's way through the super-reinforced walls that you can't see until you've broken through them. Thirdly, that's not even theoretically possible for either Mister Fantastic or the Invisible Woman -- and only doable with great effort for the other two. Fourth, even if they do get out, the numerous exit passageways are themselves all still trapped in multiple ways, and in general these characters have very low (normal human-like) Health scores, and are likely to be KO'd by any one of them. So I'm not entirely sure how anyone ever managed to get through this adventure.

Thoughts? Did you successfully play through it? If so, how did it go for you?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dice Statistics

Observation -- The standard deviation of a normal polyhedral die (i.e., a discrete uniform distribution 1..N with small N) is approximately one-half of the mean. For the case of a 7-sided die, the standard deviation is exactly equal to one-half of the mean. For dice with fewer sides it is less, and for more sides it is greater.

The d7 coincidentally also has the property that the variance exactly equals the mean. However, the two are not generally close for other sorts of dice (although still less for smaller dice, and more for bigger dice).