Halflings & Giants Variants

Jerry Holkins (Jereford K. Holkrim, Tycho Brahe, Ominifous Haerwardran, of www.penny-arcade.com and www.acq-inc.com fame) posted a pretty good dice game for use in his ongoing Twitch-streamed D&D Game Acquisitions Inc.: The “C”-Team (I am Proficient in Punctuation checks, and that bit right there gave me disadvantage. Nerds.)

I liked it a lot. My brains began to twist and crackle, as they do.

Then this statement by Amy T. Falcone of Strip Search and Acq Inc. fame suggested a costume themed party aligning with the circumstances in which they played this fictional dice game, a kind of blind push-your-luck betting game called Halflings & Giants.

My first thought was “Please let it be at PAX East.” My second thought was – why wait for Halloween? Make it a Child’s Play Charity event – costumes required with a door price donation. I suggested as much.

And then my shit started to crank at a frequency that may have yielded unsavory results. I thought, “Oh, what if there were a way to include, as the centerpiece, a celebrity charity poker tournament, but playing Halflings & Giants?!”

And then I thought, “Well, it’s not great for Tournament play…”

The basic rules are that one player plays as the Halflings, rolling 2d6. The other player plays as the Giant, Rolling 1d10, with agreed upon stakes. The Giant sets the “Knee” (or target number) by rolling the d10. Any roll of 2-10 is a valid target number and play continues. A roll of a 1 is called a “Kick” and the Halflings represented by the d6s are “Kicked” by the Giant and that player loses.

Assuming a Knee of 2-10, the Halfling player then rolls 2d6, hoping to get a total on two dice greater than or equal to the Knee, but less than an 11 or 12, which represents the gaping Maw of the Giant. Rolling an 11 or 12 results in being Eaten, and the Halflings lose.

Rolling double 1s (snake eyes, in traditional parlance) summons a snake that scares the Giant away, and the game is pushed – bets stand, and the game starts again.  Rolling any number below the Knee causes the Halflings to be kicked and the Giant wins. Rolling any number above the Knee causes the Giant to topple and the Halflings win.

Rolling doubles of any number that isn’t 1 allows you to Split the roll. Choose one of the dice to remain as that value and roll 2d6 again. Remember, your goal is to exceed the target number and not reach the Maw. So if the Knee is a 4 and you roll double 2s, you win, no need to split.

The Giant represents the “House” and pays more to the Halflings if the Knee is higher. A knee of 2-3 pays 1:1. A knee of 4-6 pays 2:1. A knee of 7-9 pays 3:1. A knee of 10 pays 5:1.

This piece isn’t often used in friendly games but reflects the difficulty. The push your luck piece comes when rolling doubles – if you roll double 2s and the Knee is 8, you need to keep a 2 and roll two more dice, hoping the value of this roll does not exceed 9 (Maw value – 2 for the value you initially rolled). If you rolled double 2s again, somehow, you would be at a total of 6 and need to split again, now shooting for your next two dice to yield less than 7 total. If you succeed, that’s Legendary as hell.

Then I said, “But there may be a way to fix it into a thing that’s tournament-ready. And if I haven’t seen it on the internet yet, then I’ll give it a shot, why not.”

This inspired me to come up with a way that this game could be played by multiple people against one another and the house. Below is “Fearless Rogues Hold ‘Em”, which is a draw-poker inspired variant with a touch of inverse Liar’s Dice in there. If you don’t know what Liar’s Dice is, it’s probably one of the oldest games in the world. The biggest change in the rules is that you’re not fixed to 2 halflings per player, and a player isn’t out until they’re out of money or they’re out of halflings. When it’s down to House vs 1 Player, it’s back to normal Halflings vs. Giants rules, but the Player may have gained significant advantages and built a large pot by the time she or he gets there.

I’ve mostly done some very simply maths in here; some of it’s bad and some of it needs to be fixed. My guess is messing with the Maw target isn’t going to work tons and there will be more ‘abusive’ games where the new splitting mechanic can make a game harder and harder to win. This game can also just be played as Halflings & Giants: Rogues Hold ‘Em by removing the Fearless rule that’s mentioned in the text; I think that would likely make for a longer, more casual game.

The house does collect the pot if all Halflings are Kicked.

*** EDIT: ***

I’ve updated the betting rules and clarified the options for Fleeing (which is what I’m calling folding). Check out Jerry’s excellent and much simpler original dice game over at twitch.tv/pennyarcade; you can actually play the game right in the chat.

**************

Fearless Rogues Hold ‘Em

Players: 1 Giant, 2-6* Halflings

Each Halfling has 2 dice.

The House rolls Giant plus 1 / 2 / 3 d6s in individual cups based on number of players in the game. (1 cup for 1 or 2 players, 2 cups for 3 or 4 players, 3 cups for 5 or 6 players).

While there are more than 2 players, the Maw is 10 through 12 as opposed to just 11 & 12.

 

Each player’s cup starts at 2d6.

 

The house rolls the Giant and places it on the table, covered with a cup. The house then rolls each cup with 2d6 in it, presenting the die whose value is nearest the Giant (e.g. if the giant rolls a 2, and a Party roll produces a 5 and a 6, the House plays the 5 to the Party. If the Giant rolls a 3 and the Party roll produces 2 and 6, the 2 is presented). This is public information on the table. These dice compose the Party.

 

 

Play proceeds from the House’s left to right. Each player has the chance to roll their dice secretly and decide whether to Flee, Trip (make a play for the Knee) or draw from the Party and then choose to Trip or, if it’s available, Split. If they choose to draw from the Party, they draw one of the party dice from the table and discard one of their dice such that they have a hand of two dice. The house then plays the remaining party die from that cup to the table. In a Fearless game, only the first player may choose to Flee as opposed to Splitting or Tripping after Drawing; otherwise, each player declares if they Flee or Trip with their current hand. If Fleeing, they scoop their dice into the cup and place it right-side up. When a player Flees, their ante is forfeited, but they cannot be Kicked or Consumed.

 

If a player has rolled a hand that includes a double (any two dice of the same value), they can choose to Split. Instead of the normal rules for Splitting, the player gains an additional die into their cup and “folds,” sacrificing their ante and removing themselves from play this round.

 

After all players have had a chance to play, the table may engage in an optional betting round. See the section below called “Liars and Thieves” for some popular betting options.

 

Once the play and optional betting phases are complete, the House reveals the Giant and compares to each of the players’ hands in the order they were declared, proceeding to the House’s right. If the Giant is a Kick, the first player to play a Trip loses a die and all subsequent players Flee. Each player who plays a Trip compares their score to the Giant’s result; a roll equal to or higher than the Knee results in a victory. A roll below the knew results in a kick, causing that player to lose a die from their cup.

 

If any player rolls the Maw, they are Consumed and lose both dice from their hand and forfeit their bet. If any player rolls the Snake, all players to their left Flee, and a new round begins.

 

A player that Flees can neither be Kicked, consumed by the Maw, or make a bet in the betting round.

 

The player that is closest to the Knee wins the round, but pots are often split among all players that win. If there is a tie, the pot splits.

 

At the end of the round, each player antes up with a buy-in. The buy-in is a fixed amount per Halfling die in your cup. If you do not have sufficient money to ante-up with your deck of dice, you are out of the game. If you do not have any dice, you are out of the game. The House matches the buy-in.

 

In subsequent rounds, the starting player moves by one to the right. If a player received additional dice via Split, they can roll those dice in their cups as well, but they can only ever choose to play two of the dice they roll to their hands. A player can never have more than 2 dice in their playing hand at any given time. If a player Draws from the Party while in possession of only one die in their hand, they need not discard that die.

 

Play continues until all Halfling players but one are eliminated. They then play a standard round of Halflings vs. Giants for the entirety of the pot, with standard stakes. The House may optionally forfeit if the stakes are unmanageable.

 

 

Thieves and Liars

After each player has had an opportunity to declare their play, a  betting round may be instituted. This is an optional round of betting that can raise the stakes and alter the strategy of the game, but is often omitted in friendly games. There are two common forms of betting, often referred to as the “Thieves and Liars” methods, described below. The Circuit of Thieves presumes that every player believes they have the best hand or purports to believe that to damage another players’ pot. The Liars’ Den emulates parts of the popular pirate game “Liars’ Dice,” with slightly altered rules.

 

 

The Circuit of Thieves

The most common form of betting is the Circuit of Thieves, which is a simple gamble on a win – you declare an amount of money that you believe your hand to be worth, hoping that you win the round. Once you place your bet, the next player to bet cannot bet lower than that amount. If they lack sufficient funds, they can go “All-In” to call your bet or choose to change their play to a Flee (if they had previously Fled or Split, they do not bet in the betting round, as they are out of this round of play). Fleeing at this point sacrifices their play but does not require them to match the standing bet. Betting can continue in this manner around the table until all of the players have “called” the bet, meaning they have each matched the standing bet or have gone all-in.

 

In the Circuit of Thieves, betting is done in reverse order from the play phase, so that the last player to choose their play (Trip, Split, or Flee) is the first player to bet, proceeding to that player’s left (House’s right).

 

The Liars’ Den

In this betting variant, each player makes a proposition in the betting round regarding the number and value of dice currently in play. For example, the first player to bet might bet on “Four 2s.” Their guess is that, including the Party dice, the Trips on the table contain at least Four 2s. The next bettor may now bet that there are Five or more 2s, or that there are Four or more 3s – this is called a raise. They have two other bet options: Snake or Tumble. When calling the Snake, you make the bet that a player on the table has rolled a Snake. If no Snake appears, you are Consumed, as though you had rolled in the Maw. If a Snake does appear, you and any other player that bets on the Snake split the pot instead of pushing the round. Any bettor that calls a Tumble believes that the house has rolled a Kick and splits the pot for the round. Once all bettors have declared, play proceeds as normal – the player that wins the round bets first next round. Whenever a round ends without a winner or during the first round of play, the first bet goes to the last player to have declared their play.

 

Fat Nerd to Chic Geek | Round 2: Week 1.1

So, we’re back at this again. The last time I tried to start this, I made the mistake of doing it just after our 1st year anniversary and also just before we left for our 2016 Dublin-London journey extraordinaire. So, like, you know what you can eat in Dublin? Well, jeez, just about anything.

So I did.

Then, after we came back, we started on our whirlwind tour of our health insurance coverage – how it works, what is covered, and just about every piece of minutiae related to healthcare expenses.

In the midst of all that, a few important things came up with my doctor and my blood work and everything. The short version is I’m just short of the pre-betes on a couple of key factors. Still, it’s time to work hard at this. The recent installation of what Katherine calls a “Mega-Wegs” within shopping distance is quite useful to the healthiness endeavors. I’ve also joined a gym, just a basic Planet Fitness dealio, and am keen to make my first sojourn there. Which I shall do on the morrow! So, let’s do this pals.

(Perhaps not my most inspired post, but I wanted to remain consistent)

Thought Dump | League of Legends Design Thoughts I

So, this is probably going to be the first of these, and there may be several. The reality is that this won’t mean a lot to most people who come to my blog, but it is a bunch of ideas. A few important things to note, these thoughts assume a basic familiarity with League of Legends and are back-dated to earlier states of the game. For the purposes of my sharing this with the world, I’m going to be trying to include the patch number of the game when I wrote this stuff down. A lot of things, systemically, have changed since some of these ideas were written down and I will try to clarify those where I can. I’m going oldest to newest, so that should be interesting. The vast majority of these are re-designs of existing champions with an eye toward two things: enhancing the thematic expression of a character and improving what Riot calls the character’s effect on “game health,” which based on their design ideology aims for a few things in a modern sense but at the time of writing might have meant different things.

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Back Again

I’m back posting my blog again. I have struggled with how to attack it again, and I continue to struggle – one of the problems with having a singular voice that you chuck out into the ether is that, in stage performer parlance, the ‘room is dead.’ There’s not necessarily a response, not necessarily an echo that lets you feel like you’re being measured. That means that when you fall silent, the vacuum doesn’t necessarily notice. There’s a pretty terrible equivocation you could make to the significance of human experience on a universal scale, but the point is that I actually feel that in a very real way. When I disappear for six to eight to twelve to thirty-six months, I enter a perception that, in having failed to throw my voice into the vacuum, I have demonstrated some fundamental failing as a creative person – that as someone who seeks to create in the world, not dumping my voice out into it, regardless of how ‘live’ or ‘dead’ the room is, is a kind of moral failure.

It’s weird, because people don’t by and large care – after missing my blorg for a few weeks, they might resign themselves to another of its intermittent disappearances, but chances are, because I’ve never sought to grow my audience, really, and thus my audience is generally just you, dear friends.

So let’s talk about why I haven’t been here – the short and long is that I have been dealing with depression and anxiety. Feels good to say that, I’ve said it before, but it’s important, to me, to keep it at the forefront. This isn’t an excuse, really, so muchh as it is me revealing the facts.

Over the past four months, maybe five months, the world has kind of beat up on our little family. It’s not that we’ve been massively disenfranchised or whatever, just that we’ve had some circumstantial hardship and a lot of really great support from friends and family. Rundown:

  1. Katherine got really sick in a weird way. It’s been ongoing for the better part of three months, and it feels like we’re getting out of the woods now, but nonetheless…
  2. During the depths of her illness, we came across and ultimately rescued a Chihuahua/Terrier mix puppy. This is the first puppy for either of us, and it’s been a  lot of work, work that has fallen on all of us, including our families, and work that sometimes I’ve been the only one able to do because of the above-mentioned sickness.
  3. My grandfather, John Robinson, died. This one is relatively recent. A death in the family is always a tragedy, despite his readiness for the end to his life – this one was particularly complicated by some of the events in my life that have contributed to my anxiety.
  4. My work situation has changed in interestingly complex ways. For obvious reasons, I can’t get super deep into that on here, but it has been a big factor. It changed pretty drastically over the last month or so, but it has been a slow burn toward this point for a few months.

So that’s what’s up. High-level, undoubtedly. I’m getting counseling and resolving as much of the rest of it as I can, but it’s been a lot.

In the interim, I’m facing other strange, new health questions related to my weight and I’m finally well enough on the other vectors to start taking weight loss seriously, which I am now doing. So FNtCG will resume and/or continue. I have lots to say about board games and my own efforts, and I’m going to d a few radical things:

I’m going to dump my most private game design stuff here. I need to stop living in a vacuum on some of this stuff. Even if no one can care who ultimately reads it, I can’t sit here with a folder full of League of Legends champion design notes with the ludicrous “notice me senpai” dream of someday impressing Patrick “Scarizard” Scarborough or any of the other Riot dude and ladies I follow on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/whatever. I’m going to start exposing my thoughts here because that’s important – and unsurprisingly it was my amazing wife who helped me remember that.

The other night we were talking about her Social Media presence (as a performer, that phrase isn’t actually ridiculous to her). I was comparing our relatively private, hands-off approach to the approach of some successful actor folks I know from way back when (Hey, Kasters, if you’re reading this) and I said something she really liked: “Any person who endeavors toward the Creative can’t avoid the Conversation.”

And that’s what stuck with her. She insisted we tweak the quote before I start putting it on mugs or whatever in my egotism (now available at cafepress.com/noitsnot [Just Kidding]), but the point of it was not lost on her and she kinda turned it back on me.

That’s how we find ourselves here. This is my monologue in the Great Conversation that constitutes the modern socio-digital landscape. Thus I cannot let it go gentle into that good vacuum.

So… I’m back again. Please like/share/retweet and whatever. It’s time for me to get real about this. Posts will try to stay to 500ish words and will range from exposing my ideas about games, their design and play, to conversations or even story notes from the D&D game(s?) I’m running.

So I’ll check you next week, when we’ll talk about me losing weight (again) and why at not-quite-32, that ain’t no joke. Take care everybody, and hope to see you back here soon.

Pop-Dev | Netflix Shows (Voltron: Legendary Defender & Stand Up Specials)

Going to try my best to keep in the format of “post more often with fewer words,” because honesty it makes me feel more accomplished. That’s an ironic thing, by the way, given one of the two topics we’re touching on. This isn’t, by any means, an exhaustive list of excellent Netflix shows (like, at all. Orange is the New Black, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt represent a small sample of the hot sauce slathered about that streaming pile of delicious), but these are a few new entries that really stand out for a number of interesting reasons.

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Fat Nerd to Chic Geek | Round 2: Week 1

Week 1 is in the bag. Again. And it wasn’t a bag of doritos, which I guess is a sign of improvement? That said, it was a fraught week. I didn’t get a chance to get solid workouts going, which stinks, but I’m working on sorting it out. Mostly achieved without carbonated, high-fructose libations, save for a cheat day that was Father’s Day.

This also coincides with our (Katherine and my) one-year wedding anniversary. We had a pretty amazing time recreating our wedding night at the Hotel Monaco.

…so I guess there is a kind of exercise I didn’t have access to the first time around. Still, going mostly to water and eating better has yielded the shedding of a few pounds, as it did before. I forgot how tough the first few weeks of dieting is, but I have the faith borne of evidence that it gets better. Things accelerated to a place where I enjoyed my efforts after only a few weeks, so I have high hopes for this time around.

Pop-Dev | Overwatch: The Good, the Bad, the Watch

A couple of things up front:

Overwatch is great.

It’s not just that’s it’s:

  1. Fun
  2. Easy to start, hard to master
  3. Gorgeous
  4. Got incredibly high production values

It’s that it’s all of those things combined and rolled into a design philosophy that hasn’t been executed to this level of complexity in a new way in almost a decade. That doesn’t sound like much time, particular for other entertainment mediums, but five generations of computer hardware have emerged and been supplanted by faster, smarter systems in that time. A full 12 Call of Duty games have released in the intervening time, and at least that many spinoffs from that genre. 10 years is a long time in a medium that’s only existed in any real sense for 40 years.

 

 

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Fat Nerd to Chic Geek | Round 2: Week 0

And then, upon the preordained time at the Circle of Stone, ye will be visited unto by measurement, and, your weighs found to be in surplus and your means of wellness proven lackluster, will know the doom of the Daemon Beetus, which will onto thy humors attach and lash you with frailty until thy sweet release is found only in the warm blanket of Death. 

NOT TODAY, ANCIENT PROPHECY. GET F*****K’D!

Fat Nerd to Chic Geek, Round 2: The Skinnying! It’s Happening!

We, heretofore and for all times stretching into eternity referring to my lovely and charming wife, Katherine, and my self, just finished celebrating her 28th birthday. Part of my gift to her and selfishly to myself is to start taking my weight and my health way more seriously. Which is how we find ourselves here. And I cannot believe it to be real, but the last most consistent posting to this blogospace was a full and true four years ago.  At that time, I was writing a series of article posts called Fat Nerd to Chic Geek. They chronicled my adventures and efforts to no longer be such a grossly overweight man-pudding and to be something more in line with a healthy male member of the species homo sapiens.  Unless I get dat X-gene dough, for that homo superior goodness.

That was a really successful effort. I went from 250 pounds to 198 at my absolute lowest. I chronicled my efforts and felt good about them. It was easy to get started and get going because of how few requirements life had for me – no job, no place, no social life, no significant other. With none of that going, it seemed inexcusable to also have such little sense of self-worth that I couldn’t be bothered to keep my body healthy.

But now we’re four years later. And you know, it took four years and a lot of pain and suffering, to do it, but I’ve managed to find all those pounds I’d previously lost. I found them and I found 38 more.

As of today, the first day of Fat Nerd to Chic Geek Round 2, I am cataloging my failing here, not as a bleak condemnation upon myself but as a moment in time for a point of datum (that’s the singular form of data, son). I weigh 288 pounds. Which is more or less 20 stone, and the fact that one must measure their weight in stone in order for it to capture enough of force of terror is significant.

It is also the very first day of Fat Nerd to Chic Geek Round 2: The Skinnying! It’s Happening!! Yes, that’s the full and formal title. I am currently divesting myself of all consumption of soda, I had my last one, a zero-calorie aspertame laden affair just two hours ago and now I banish that demon from my mind and my heart. I am saying no to high fructose corn syrup. I am rejecting my bad habits borne of expedience and ease and now embrace health as a lifestyle decision meant not just to make me feel better but to prolong my life.

 

So! Here it is. Week 0-1, a promise and a beginning. This time I’ve got a job, a house, a commute, a wife, two cats, and a dog. Because beyond wanting to be better at life, I’ve got too much to live for to kill myself a little more every day.

As one might have said in a 90s action flick, this time? It’s personal.

Status (and some other thoughts)

So, Fat Nerd to Chic Geek Round 2: The Skinnying! It’s Happening!!! is delayed slightly. For those not in the know, I apparently did something stupid to my foot during Fat Nerd to Chic Geek Round 1 and the old injury snuck up on me recently and immobilized my right foot in a walking boot for the better part of the last 4 months. It proved pretty not useful for running, walking, taking stairs, driving, or doing anything, really, so I’m delaying my return to vigorous exercise until I have a better handled my recovery.

You may have noticed the corresponding hiatus from the blogging. I have been, in no minced words, pretty depressed for the last few months. I’m taking care of it and myself to the best of my abilities and to the extent of consulting professional help for it. My wife, coworkers, and friends have been super supportive of the effort to address these psychic woes, so it’s been easier than expected. Not without its bumps, mind, like any time someone is navigating a depressed state, but easier than I expected.

So, I want to get back to blogging, but I also want to make it clear that I may have relatively very little to say on matters filmic anymore because Movies with Mikey is an amazing web series that absolutely murders any capacity I have to think independently about film. I find Mikey’s thought process, if not his eventual conclusions, so enthralling, and because I sort of acknowledge the inherent futility in discussing a complex, multi-dimensional medium in a relatively single-dimension space such as text, I’m loathe to try to present some independent pontifications on the matter. I will occasionally post links to his content with my textual (and sensual — wait, what? whoa.) responses.

The series presents some just amazing visual cues to help you understand just how much thought and effort goes into the creation of a film. It’s so worth your time to realize just how fucking much the best directors, cinematographers, designers, artists, and writers put into the construction of these movies, many of which, when taken as a whole, are not the most amazing movies ever. The beauty and joy of the show is that Mikey points out deftly how they can, even shy of film perfection, contribute something meaningful to the medium and to the world. Even if he thinks Last Action Hero is the best movie of all time.

 

(I recently rewatched it, and, actually, ok. Shane Black. Shane Black. Shane. Black.

Shane.

Black.

 

…really is as amazing as I always thought, because somehow this ancient time warp of a piece is actually just as good as Mikey says it is.)

 

The Force Awakens

Obviously we have to talk about this. The Force Awakens happened, and, even though it lacks a great acronym (TFA just looks weird. It shares more with TPM than ANH, ESB, RotJ, AotC, or RotS), I think it was pretty fun. This is going to be what passes for a review, with two important caveats:

I love this movie. I love this movie.

And second: Spoilers below. I mean, spoilers. 

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