- Terrain size selection (if defender)
- Terrain placement within randomly determined section (if defender)
- Baseline selection (if defender)
- Terrain setup acceptance (if attacker)
- Troop division between left flank, center, right flank, and reserve sections
- Exact unit/group placement within sections
- Which halted units/groups should be set into motion.
- How moving units/groups should be moved.
- Should the unit/group move at full rate or half rate?
- Should the group leave behind slow units in order to increase it movement rate?
- Should the unit/group maneuver in any way?
So, the solo gamer is left with determining how to make all of these decisions. Last series I created a set of rules that dictated the behavior of the NPG. I have been asked by some readers to explore the idea of using probabilities and chance to determine the NPG decisions, rather than pure logic and rules. Given that I don't believe in purely random systems – as the NPG itself gets random, which most often is not very challenging as the majority of possible moves are bad ones – I need a foundation to build off of for determining realistic probabilities for good, better, and the best choices to the decisions that need to be made.
Back in March of 2007 I ran across a set of rules called Mythic Role Playing. Their claim to fame is that it allowed a player (or group of players) to run any role playing game (RPG) without a Game Master (GM). This had me intrigued because RPGs are notorious for requiring a lot of interaction between players, much more so than miniatures games, so if it could do what it advertised I might be able to use it for solo miniatures gaming. By April 2007 I wrote up two posts on the Solo War Gaming forum detailing how I had used Mythic for gaming solo with another THW reaction-based gaming system.
I learned a lot from that experiment, but ultimately I had missed the point of the exercise. I had used Mythic more to develop the scenario and less to regulate the decisions of the non-player enemy characters.
So What is Mythic?
Mythic is "a universal improvisational role-playing game." The key here is "improvisational, which the author states is because "the action and details in a Mythic adventure are concocted as you go along." The GM would normally define an adventure, complete with detail. In Mythic "you can start an adventure with zero details." In short, Mythic provides a mechanism for defining the details of a story, which would include numerous decisions by a number of non-player characters. In essence, this is what the solo gamer is looking for too, a method of defining decisions that the non-player opponent makes.
From the Mythic rules: "there are two concepts that are central to successfully running a Mythic adventure: logic and interpretation. The entire mechanic for generating adventures on the fly, running without a GM, and making it all work hinge on the proper application of logic and interpretation."
Logic: Used to determine what happens, or in the case of solo gaming, what decisions the NPG will make. The rule is, whatever the most logical decision is, that is what is expected to happen.
Interpretation: The logic mechanism has the player create a series of questions that can be answered yes or no. Dice are used to determine the answer (yes or no). Interpretation is required to translate the answer into either an action (in our case, on the tabletop) or to ask another logical question.
When questions are asked, rather than having a GM answer Mythic uses a Fate Chart to determine the probability of a "yes" answer. Dice are then rolled to determine if the answer is "yes", "no", an "exceptional yes", or an "exceptional no". In Mythic all questions are treated this way, including questions about hitting the enemy and the success of performing a task. When using Mythic with an established miniatures rule set (or RPG or board game), there is no reason to replace those mechanisms for the one in Mythic. Simply play the game as normal. Where you have to make a decision for the NPG – such as "where will this unit move?", "which unit will this archer shoot at?", and so on – use the Mythic mechanics.
Note that although you are asking questions from the most probable course of action to the least, as you get "no" answers and move to other alternatives, your odds may go up, not down. This is because if the dice have made you reject the most probable, it is more likely that you will select the second-most likely and so on. One way to understand this is to consider how you might reduce the choices down to a single die roll. Let's say that you have three possible courses of action: X, Y, and Z. If you were to determine the odds for each choice, reduced down to a single die roll you might assign X to occur 75% of the time (probable), Y at 20% (improbable), and highly improbable Z at 5%.
Normally you don't reduce all choices down to a probability chart because:So, you ask the question "should it be X" and the dice say "no". Your two choices, Y and Z are rated 20 and 5, making Y four times more likely to be selected than Z. So the odds of choosing Y, now that X is not a choice, is 80%. If Y is not selected, the remaining choice Z, originally rated at 5% chance, is now at 100% because it is the only remaining choice.
So simply thinking of the most logical choice, then assigning it a likelihood is easier. But once the most logical choice is rejected, each remaining choice is elevated in probability. Back to the example.
- Sometimes it is too hard to think of all the possible choices.
- It is hard to assign strict percentages to each choice.
- It takes too much time to write it all down or keep it straight in your head.
All this may sound complex, but it is not. The idea is that you choose the most logical choice, assign a percentage of probability, roll dice to determine if it occurs and take the action if it does. If the choice is not taken, you determine the next most logical course of action, assign it a probability and roll. You will keep doing this until you have an action specified, either by probability or as a default.
Next entry will be a battle report of Rally Round the King examining its use of the reaction system, and using Mythic to make those decisions that Rally Round the King leaves to the NPG to figure out.