Play by Play

NPR locally is having its seasonal pledge drive, so to pass the hours at work I've found myself turning to our national pasttime... Baseball. (If you were thinking "Sex," Americans are far behind in the running. Really. People actually spend thousands of dollars to conduct polls on this issue. Well, not OUR issues. But I'm sure there's a way to finagle a grant...)

Anyway, baseball. I happen to favour our local team, the Colorado Rockies. While my cheering for my team is generally confined to the occasional exaggerated hand signal to my partner, the LintKing, I spend a few hours of game play listening to the excellent commentators. In fact, next time I go out to the field, I am planning on bringing the radio as a supplement to the visual experience.

It occurred to me, however, that this play-by-play commentary shouldn't be limited to sports. It fits right into gaming. As an example, I'll relate an experience we call, "Attack of the Zombie Mimes."


The story goes something a little like this. Beryl, the cleric-mage, Thorn, the dwarf fighter, and Drythar, the Paladin, send little Molivus ("the Quick") the halfling thief up the corridor to "scout ahead". After much grumbling, Molivus is lectured on his duties to the party, and after a little flattery on why he's the best choice for the job, he jogs up the corridor a ways and spies on the activity in a room that lies in the adventurers' path.

He comes back to report on his excursion with the comment, "There's a bunch of zombie mimes."

Needless to say, this doesn't sit well with the rest of the party. Far from being able to convince Molivus to expound on the subject, Drythar and Thorn burst in like heroes upon a strange scene: zombies enacting an elaborate, silent act of feasting on imaginary food.

Yeah, zombie mimes.

Being that they're undead, and the scourge of all things living, et cetera, Drythar and Thorn set upon them with sword and axe (respectively.) In the ensuing melee, Beryl and Molivus also arrive, to see Thorn fumble widely, and Drythar get a little too set-upon by the suddenly hostile zombies.

So, now in the style of baseball commentators, I introduce "D" and "M" upon the scene to describe that combat scenario.

...insert cheers of crowd...

D: Welcome to yet another edition of "Hack and Slash!"! sponsored by Asmodee's Armory! And Eye Beholder Em! Tonight's game is the classic match of The Adventurers versus The Zombie Mimes! They're playing in the third level of the Demon's Dungeon, in the Banquet Hall.

M: That's right, D! Our starting line-up features Unnamed Zombie One through Twelve playing Mindless Minions of Evil. In the outfield we have a Wandering Monster, and the potential for some XP on the Hoof. For the Adventurers, Drythar is in the Paladin's classic role, forced to meet the most dangerous opponent, with Thorn, the trusty dwarven fighter at his side. It appears that Molivus, the halfling thief is on the disgruntled chaotic list, while Beryl, the cleric-mage will not be using a pinch spellcaster during this combat.

D: That's a good sign that she's recovered her spell points from that battle with the slime beast. While the numbers are overwhelming, an easy 4 to one, do you think that having Molivus on the non-combatant list will make a difference in this combat, M?

M: Hard to say, D. The Quickster has had an incredible .800 average against obvious traps so far, but that last botch rolled in the room with the minidragon has the potential for being one of the most memorable events of his career.

D: I think a professional like Molivus can pick up even after a humiliation like that. Still, his reluctance to commit to drawing his weapon today could have an adverse effect on the party's health.

M: I think we're agreed on that, D. Still, it's up to the player-manager to make the choice here, and if he decides not to play Molivus, it would be in character.

D: And that's what counts! Starting initiatives have been rolled! It looks like Drythar's going to knock down Unnamed Zombie Number One with a masterful 18 on the die! It's a hit! But it doesn't do much damage... Unnamed Zombie Number One staggers back for its attack. It's Thorn's turn now.

M: Thorn's got a good monster kill statistic, even if his Charisma gives him trouble attracting flies to the corpses. I would be surprised if Thorn's battleaxe didn't do the majority of the offensive plays in this combat.

D: He's a solid character, that's for sure, M. Built for situations like this. Thorn's player pulls back for the roll and oooh! A fumble! That's going to hurt!

M: Imagine all that force intended for Unnamed Zombie Number Two going right back to Thorn. Lucky he has a whole lot more hit points than any individual zombie.

D: Definitely lucky for him. Beryl has deferred her attack to begin casting a spell... so Thorn gets his second shot before the Zombies take their moves. And... I don't believe it! Another critical fumble!

M: This one will be a doozy, D. More damage to himself, it looks like. Axe in the foot, axe in the back. He's going to have to exert that strength on the real enemy here, the Zombies.

D: Or the Zombies will be sure to take that opening and beat Thorn down into unconscious statistics.

M: And it's the Zombies initiative. Unnamed Zombie Number One misses Drythar! Unnamed Zombies Three and Four hustle up for additional attacks on the Paladin. Unnamed Zombie Two takes a swing at Thorn... and fumbles! You can kiss that mace good-bye!

...and now back to our article...

Now, of course some systems are going to be better for this than others. It's been quoted that, "Baseball's a game of numbers," but if Baseball were played like Amber...

M: Benedict goes for the pitch... and it's... <yawn> another perfect strike.

D: Gerard watches as Lord Borel pitches and... <yawn> he hits! And it's out of the park! And it's out of the city! And it's out of the atmosphere... again.

[It's called "hyperbole." Exaggeration for effect. Look it up.]

What seems important to remember is that baseball commentators have statistics for seemingly *everything*. To fill up otherwise dead time in a combat, be sure to quote essentially useless notes such as:

D: That's the 213th hope that Onslaught the Conqueror has dashed in 5 campaign sessions.

and

M: The last time a called shot of that complexity failed for Pikabu was when she was aiming for the nomad gunman... otherwise, overall in the campaign she's at a good 75% average for electroblasts.

or

D: Sister Mary Loquacious of the Virgins of Our Lady of Laser-Tinted Death has a .500 average in kicking down doors in the Temple of Elemental Evil during the Full Moon.

Throw in your occasional station identification and special give-away breaks, and you should be set. Oh, and, of course... Go Rockies!


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j n m ( m n j )
"No real adventurer ever goes on the disabled list."
-- GM