Sunday, January 31, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: DragonRaid

The DragonRaid RPG
Here we are. The end of the New Character Creation Challenge. First, a tip of the hat to Tardis Captain for getting this going.  This has been a lot of fun and I have considered doing it on the first of each month for the rest of the year.  Maybe not tomorrow, but who knows. 

Now for today's last character.  Ah. This is a game that has been on my radar for YEARS, decades even.  Today feels like the perfect time.  So let's make a character LightRaider for DragonRaid!

The Game: DragonRaid

Ok. This game. 

So DragonRaid got a lot of grief in the gaming communities I was apart of.  I had some Christian gamer friends that thought it was a cheap attempt to capitalize on their faith and some even did not want to mix their D&D and belief.  As an Atheist, then and now, I thought it was interesting. As someone who was interested in psychology then and someone with degrees in it now I also thought it was an interesting way to learn something, in this case, Bible verses.  I always wanted to see the game for myself.   

One thing I have to keep in mind that this "game" is not really an RPG, but a teaching tool in the form of a role-playing game. 

The game's author and designer was Dick Wulf, MSW, LCSW, who is, as his degrees indicate, a licensed Social Worker and holds a Masters in Social Work.  He had done a lot of work in psychotherapy and ministry. He also played D&D and Traveller. So it seems he actually likes and knows RPGs better than the guys who gave us Fantasy Wargaming!

Plus I have to admit the ads in Dragon Magazine always looked really interesting.  I mean seriously, that is an evil-looking dragon and should be stopped and those look like the brave warriors to do it. Even if they need some more armor*.  (*that is actually a point in the game! more later)

Ad for The DragonRaid RPG

A while back my oldest son and I saw this game at my FLGS and I told him all about it. He is also an Atheist (as everyone in my family is) and he wanted to get it so we could play the other, evil, side.  He wanted to do something with the dragons in the game (he loves dragons) and I of course wanted to bring witches into it (cause that is my raison d'être).   Plus this copy still had the cassette tape in it.  I mean that is just beyond cool really.  So yeah I grabbed it with every intention of having a bit of a laugh with it.

I might be a witch-obsessed Athiest, but I am also an educator and not really an asshole.

The truth of the matter is spending this past week with the game I just can't take a piss on it.  The author is just too earnest in his presentation of this game.  There is love here, and scholarship, and frankly good pedagogy behind the design.   I don't normally mix my professional education background with my game design work.  Yes, they can and they do mix.  But when I am writing a book on the Pagan witches for Old-School Essentials I am not trying to write a historical treatise on the pagan religions of Western Europe during the time of the Roman Empire.  I'll try to keep my facts in line, but I can't serve two masters. I have to write what is best for a game.

DragonRaid also doesn't serve two masters. It serves one and makes that work for both pedagogical reasons (to help young people understand Christianity and their Bible better) and game design reasons (to have a fun roleplaying experience). 

For this DragonRaid succeeds in a lot of ways.  For this, I simply can't do anything else but admire this game and its design.  So no playing dragons here, or me coming up with a witch class to fight the characters.  I might do that at home, but I am not going to be a jerk about it.

Besides look at everything you get in this box! I mean seriously, this is some value.

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 1

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 2, Lightraider sheets

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 3, so many books!

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 4, counters

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 5 documentation

I even got the cassette tape! I don't have anything to play it on though.

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 6, and honest to goodness cassette tape!

Thankfully you can go to the official Lightraider Academy website to get the audio files from the tape. 

This company is all in on this game and I have to admit I totally admire them for it. 

So expect me to more with this game on these pages including a full review.

The Character: Solomon

Building your character, the Lightraider, is one of the core elements of this game. It is also why we are here today.   There is a pad of Lightraider worksheets and a smaller sized pad of Lightraider character sheets.  I am betting I will need both.  There is also a blue Game Instructions Rulebook for players.

There are two books that I start with.  The red book is the New Player Briefing. The yellow book is the Dragonraider Handbook Player's Guide.  I will start with the red since it is the smaller of the two and covers the game basics. The yellow, spiral-bound one covers the in-game background.  After some background, we get to the characters on page 60 or so. There are 9 Character Strengths (Love, Joy, Peace, and more, based on Galatians Chapter 5, verses 22-23.) and 2 physical attributes.  The first nine are determined randomly on a d10 (called a "Starlot" here. the d8 is a "Shadowstone." I think that is what I am calling d8s from now on!).  Many other attributes and scores are determined via derived stats from those strengths. I see why we need/want a worksheet.  There are also 8 character abilities that are required and three optional ones. 

Note: I am not doing this as a proper review. That will come later. Today I just want to make a LightRaider.

I am going to do this properly and roll all random strengths.  Let's see what sort of character I get. Rolling is the easy part, everything else on this sheet requires a lot of math.  Not difficult math really, lots of averages, but had I know I would have worked up a spreadsheet.

DragonRaid Spreadsheet

Ok. I did a spreadsheet anyway.   This is the exact thing I would have loved back in the day. I would have written a BASIC program for my Color Computer to help me generate a character.  Even now I can see all the code in my head!  So let's look over all my numbers and see what character I have here.

Solomon's worksheet
Knight of the Way

Character Strengths
Love (LO) 6
Joy (JO) 6
Peace (PE) 5
Patience (PA) 10
Kindness (KI) 2
Goodness (GO) 6
Faithfulness (FA) 7
Gentleness (GE) 2
Self-Control (SC) 10

Character Abilities
Courage (CO) 7
Endurance (EN) 8
Hope (HO) 6
Knowledge (KN) 7
Listening (LIS) 7
Quiet Movement (QM) 8
Vision (VIS) 7
Wisdom (WIS) 4

Blend with Surroundings (BWS) 9 +2 11
Climb Skillfully (CLS) 8
Track Enemy (TE) 8 +2 10

Weapon Abilities
Solo Battle (SB) 6
Sling 7
Flail 7
Crossbow 6

Solomon's character sheet
Defensive Abilities
Evade Enemy (EE) 8 +2 10
Recovery from Injury (RFI) 6
Resist Torture (RT) 7

Belt of Truth (BT) 7
Breastplate of Righteousness (BR) 6
Shield of Faith (SF) 6
Helmet of Salvation (HS) 6
Sword of the Spirit (SS) 1
Boots of the Gospel of Peace (BGP) 6

Physical Attributes
Physical Vitality (PV) 27
Strength (ST) 4
Agility (AG) 4

You can't see it, but there are a lot of derived stats here.  For example, Blend with Surroundings (BWS) is made up of Self-Control doubled (SCx2), plus Patience (PA), plus Endurance doubled (EN).  Endurance itself is made up Joy, Peace, Patience (doubled), Faith, and Self-Control doubled, all divided by 7 and rounded down.  See why I wanted a spreadsheet.

Can't get much more old-school than this really!

Looking over this character I see he qualifies now for a special Character Role.  Normally this would be chosen later after a few games, but let's do it now.  Doing the math (again) I see he meets or passes the thresholds for Knight of the Way or Rescue Master.   Looking over his stats, mostly at his really poor Kindness and Gentleness scores it looks like Knight of the Way is the better choice.  That also gives me a +2 bonus for BWS, TE, and EE.

So. Who is this guy?

Well seeing how low his Wisdom is I thought let's name him Solomon.  A reminder of what he needs to work on. 

Solomon is a bit of loner. He is not particularly kind nor gentle.  He doesn't learn from his mistakes well (low Wisdom) but he is not stupid.  What he is however is tireless in his goal of hunting down the enemy of the Overlord of Many Names. He specializes in getting other Lightraiders behind enemy lines and hopefully getting them back out, but that is a job for the Rescue Masters. He knows if he gets caught he can resist the enemy better than most and that is where his true kindness is; if catching him means someone else avoids the Dragon Lord's torturers then so be it. 

His combat scores are good, but better with ranged weapons.  And yes despite what you may or may not have heard characters ARE expected to fight and kill the forces of evil.

His Faith is pretty good and his Goodness a little less.  I think this guy is likely more about wanting to hurt the enemy rather than helping out good people.  That will be his struggle. 

Well...the real struggle is I don't really know any bible verses so I am not going to get very far with the Word Runes.  But I suppose that is the purpose of this game really, to teach them to young adults.  This is actually a cool idea; memorizing real bible verses to have an effect in the game. As an educator, I can appreciate this. 

I will need to get into that in a future review.  

The Links

I am going to be going through this game some more.  So I am going to share my collected links here so we both have them for later.


Charlie Warren said...

I bought this game several months ago. I was surprised to find it still available online from the original company. I remember the old ads in Dragon and I was always curious about the game. I was afraid to get it because I believed it would just turn into a running joke and I might wind up feeling ripped off. I too was pleasantly surprised at the overall dedication and quality of DragonRaid. I will be doing a read through and character creation for the game at some point.

JB said...

When my best friend's family became Born Again Christians back in the mid-80s, he was no longer allowed to play D&D; his mother got him this game to act as a substitute. I only had the chance to play it once or twice, and found it quite interesting but limiting in its one-sided nature (i.e. it chaffed that I was forced to play a character of "good alignment").

A couple-four years back, I purchased DragonRaid direct from the publisher, just to check it out again. I believe it comes with a CD now, rather than a cassette tape. It is a fascinating game, well-designed for its objectives, and quite creative at marrying its world building to its system. It also (to me) seems to be the precursor to many later, celebrated design mechanics (like Pendragon's system of "virtues").

*sigh* One of these days I'll get around to writing a full review of the thing on Ye Old Blog.

meowthehun said...

i have gotten through the handbook and am ready to start writing my adventure. It is about an evil witch that poisons two of my cats, which really happened in real life in my neighborhood. Thou shalt not kill, i reason to myself, and do not pay them back. God will.
instead i made a remix of the cassette tape in a house music style.