Urban Warfare

   Your home turf is being overrun by ferocious orc tribes? Who do you want to put in charge of the capital’s defenses and militia? Do you want an experienced general, or do you want, let’s say, Tom Waits & Willie Nelson? Me, I’d like Waits & Nelson, please! It’s gonna be a huge clusterfuk, crazy and fun, with defenders awaiting the arrival of the orcs in various bars and taverns, and comedians masquerading as orcs, and pike wielding beggars hidden in every trash pile of every side street.

   One of my friends ran a big game like that. Two guys played the orc tribes while me and three other players took charge of the city’s defenses. I wanted to sprinkle units and barricades all over the different neighborhoods and main avenues, but the other players all believed it would be suicidal. For sure, they were right. So we ended up cramming everything we had into that central, secure, walled part of the city, leaving almost no one outside except for a few skirmishers and a whole lot of pretty huge unmanned barricades.

   “Strategic” and “efficient” easily won over “crazy” and “fun”, and I’m not surprised – that’s a generation-old dilemma you come across in so many RPG situations. Like I said in a previous post, the real-life medieval battle of Calais was a terrible, utter mess; it’s a gripping read (especially in novel form, by Michel Peyramaure), but it would be boring as hell if the battle had been run by experienced EverQuest or Warcraft players.

   And that’s the paradox. Whenever you’re watching a movie or reading a book, you want crazy and fun, but when you are playing a battle simulation, you do not want crazy or fun – you want efficient.

   I had fun anyway. But my magic-user didn’t happen to be stranded in some back alley with the battered remnants of Citizens’ Brigade #3 and eleven feisty prostitutes and two dogs and only one leaking cask of wine while two hundred Uruk-hai waited at one end of that fateful alley, and sixty orc outriders advanced at the other end...

   Our DM had his computer generate exponential damage scores for the entire armies outside our own “personal” units. Hold on to your hats, here... In one single evening of gaming, this besieged city saw a staggering 26K+ Hit Points of damage!!!!!!!!!!!!

   It was a cool game. The map was insane. Those pics look great. But if I ever run such a large-scale thing myself, I won’t let the players decide. I’ll say: “This is what your dear old city’s defenses now look like; here are the various units / platoons / chokepoints. You guys just select which unit you want your character to personally take command of, and then let’s get this show on the road right away. Can’t let you waste 90 precious minutes debating initial placement. Sorry. It is not your fault if the head of the City Council is Lord Willie Nelson and the captain of the militia is Master Tom Waits!”



   Lightsabers were white, at the beginning. Alec Guinness: white. David Prowse: white. Then Lucas thought: why not have different colors for “good” and “evil” lightsabers? Heaven is blue. Hell is red. Okay. Fine.

   Then, a green lightsaber appeared during the shooting of Revenge of the Jedi, because you just couldn’t make out the blue blade against that perfect blue sky above the Great Pit of Carkoon.

   Then in 2002, a purple lightsaber was introduced, because Sam Jackson is a diva and wanted his own color – but you can’t say that to your 7-year-old nephew, you need an explanation that actually makes sense. So, I told a big fat lie. Mace Windu incorporated a tiny shard of Sith crystal into his Guardian blue lightsaber. Blue + red = purple. Mace Windu did that because he is very wise and wanted a constant reminder that Jedi and Sith are linked through the Force, for better or for worse...

   But that’s bullshit, of course. Bantha shit, even. Real reason is: Sam Jackson is not wise, and a real diva.

   What’s next?

   We’re gonna see orange lightsabers, fuschia lightsabers, yellow, pink, beige, and whatever color you could think of.

   Disney won’t start messing things up right away: you can expect Episodes VII, VIII, and IX to be crowd-pleasers for the forty-ish old school fanbase – Tatooine, Millennium Falcon, TIE fighters, X-Wings, and the rest. But then there’s gonna be Episodes X through XII, and the “Disney Factor” will start to kick in. And then, old fans like me will slowly begin to pass away “in their late fifties, with a heart full of pastrami” (Howard Wolowitz). Lucas will be gone, too. And one day, Disney will be completely free to do whatever the hell it wants. There’s gonna be a polyhedral Death Star, several cloned Darth Vaders – a blue one, a red one, a green one –, winged Wookiees, and a giant 80-foot-tall astromech overlord...

    I don’t understand what this #BoycottStarWarsVII thing is all about, and I don’t need to boycott the movie. I’m just saying: Disney being what it is... the entire Star Wars canon is bound to become a gigantic mess, in the long run. Mark my words.

   Episode VII is gonna be a fan movie. The biggest Star Wars fan movie ever made. Because, for the time being, Disney put this franchise into the hands of old fans – people who loved A New Hope when they were eight. But it’s not always gonna be the case.

   Substance was important, back in ’77. Execution and looks, not so much.

   Now, it’s the opposite: execution and looks are very important, and substance... not so much.