Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Saddlebag Full of Kruggerands

The Dallas box set includes:
  • The Rules of Play booklet (16 pages, including covers)
  • The Scriptwriter's Guide booklet (also 16 pages, also including covers)
  • A booklet of nine double-sided character sheets (discussed here) for the pre-generated 'major characters,' plus a reference sheet containing “Information for the Director”
  • Two perforated sheets of 28 cards each (pink sheet:  15 organizational characters, one 'blank' organizational character, 12 plot devices; white sheet:  22 minor characters, 6 'blank' minor characters)
  • Two dinky six-sided dice
  • My box also includes a one-page SPI flyer touting various games on one side and magazine subscriptions (for Ares, Moves and Strategy & Tactics) on the other
The Scriptwriter's Guide contains six sections.

Two pages of Director's Notes contain universally pertinent advice for any starting Game Master (e.g., “...your obligation as Director is to provide an interesting and entertaining Episode, not to see that any particular character wins”).

How to write your own game scripts is somewhat misnamed in that 'script creation' information is limited to a half page in the two-page section.  The section also contains instructions on how to use the scripts provided with the game, but the most interesting part of the section is devoted to 'creating your own characters.'  It is interesting in that it details the “somewhat abstract” process by which Ability values were determined for the show's main characters.  Each character received a score from one to nine (relative to the other characters) in six categories:  charm (“...representing the ability to get your own way on the basis of personality”), intelligence (“ terms of both intellect and cunning”), nerve, physical attractiveness, power, and “unscrupulousness.”  (The range for 'power' goes from zero to nine.  Power is the only 'category' that translates directly to a 'Value.')  Each of the Abilities represents a combination of categories.  (“The final totals were fine tuned so that no character was excessively strong or weak.”)
     Persuasion (Affect) = intelligence + charm + attractiveness
     Persuasion (Resist) = intelligence + nerve
     Coercion (Affect) = intelligence + nerve + unscrupulousness
     Coercion (Resist) = charm + nerve
     Seduction (Affect) = charm + unscrupulousness + attractiveness
     Seduction (Resist) = intelligence + nerve
     Investigation (both Affect and Resist) = intelligence + charm + nerve

The section on Plot Devices is a list of seventy objects or circumstances that could be (1) assigned to a character by the Director or (2) obtained (unseen) by a character that succeeds in an Investigation Attempt.  Plot Devices are usually represented by cards.  However, the only plot device cards that come with the game are the dozen used with the provided scripts and those are not numbered among the seventy.  An example of a plot device is 'Saddlebag full of Kruggerands,' which allows a character “to buy out any one character at any time” (unless two 6's are rolled on the dice).  Other examples include “Alcoholic depression.  Causes player to be absent a scene.” and “A phone number on the back of a book of matches from a Grand Prairie motel.  Nice sleazy tidbit.  Can be used as blackmail.”

There are two-and-a-half pages of Character Biographies.  Each of the characters – minor or organizational – that have a card have descriptions in this section.  Some of the characters are not connected to any of the three scripts included with the game and “are provided to assist you in writing your own Scripts.”  An example:
Haynes Brusco Connolly
Born: 1935.  Place of Birth/Raised: South Boston, Mass.  Education: High school.  Notes:  Detective on the Dallas police force and a friend of J.R.  Carries a 9mm Browning automatic.
Most of the Scriptwriter's Guide is presented in two columns of text; the exception is the Background section, which is a little more than three pages in length.  The Background pages have three columns of text and a smaller font that the rest of the booklet.  This section consists of three topics – 'Texas,' 'Dallas,' and 'Texas Politics' – that provide a wealth of information any encyclopedia would be proud to include.  Seriously, it starts with the Ordovician period.  Interesting stuff, but it's better suited for a term paper than as an aid for playing a soap opera game.  Did you know that Texas – when it was an independent nation – sent a trade representative to the Hanseatic League?

Lastly, the back cover describes a Sample Scene which does a good job of showing how the game is played; a necessary example after the rules explain how to play the game.

1 comment:

  1. A "Saddlebag full of Krugerrands" gives such an evocative image and one that perfectly fits the game's setting. It's much better than "bag of gold coins." I wonder if such an item was used as a plot device in any of the TV episodes.

    Another plot device of note in the game is "Cowboy-Redskins Football Tickets."