Badass Dragoons of the Highlands - Player Postmortem

As our Epilogue winds down, we’ve arrived at the portion of this journey where I look to the players to provide input that will help me refine and improve this crazy ride. I sincerely hope folks have enjoyed the latest installment and am already looking forward to the next one. If you went down at least one history-oriented rabbit hole in the course of participating and/or spent a few evenings inside your character’s head, I consider that a win.

Since these bespoke games are invented from whole cloth each time, things that I thought were Good Ideas turn out to be Not-So-Good ideas and some Accidental Discoveries turn out to be Fun Things.

To you, the players, I would love to listen to your feedback. Certainly the general questions of:

  • What aspects did you enjoy?
  • Which aspects did you not care for as much?
  • What did you dislike about this installment?

And regarding the specific mechanics:

  • How did folks feel about submitting orders via private PM instead of the traditional publicly visible forum post?
  • Thoughts on having secret game mechanics that are revealed as the game goes on?
  • Thoughts on the RANCD system of stances for resolving combat?

If you’re curious about how any of the things that happen behind the curtain, I’m happy to answer those questions as well.

And my for own personal curiosity:

  • At what point did you realize that defeated players were ‘still along for the ride’ as souls in the surviving character?

Anything else you’d be willing to critique is fair game. I’m looking for criticism to make the next run better, so feel free to take the gloves off in your responses. My personal thanks to everyone that signed up for this outing - I loved watching this story evolve.


A lot of thoughts on this one that’ll take some time to make coherent, but for now I just want to say how much I loved how many players took the game in a meta direction and truly made it strange. I can’t recall if it was @David_Falkayn or @teknocholer who first pulled in @messana as a plot point, but kudos to each of you for playing it out so well.


I really liked the fight mechanics in general - the RANCD thing worked well, gave us a decent amount of scope for control. I had been trying throughout to not overconcentrate on the dice roll mechanics - I can get sucked into that too easily. I liked being able just to take a quick glance at what other people had done, throw up a few randomish letters and see what happened fairly quickly. I like keeping stuff hidden. Big yay on the hidden orders. Keep the mechanics away from the players (and hide some knowledge of the other player’s stats) - it helps me a lot with staying in character - ditto for only conversing with other characters when the story puts us in the same place.

At the end, I think it ran a bit out of steam - I know that was just a matter of real life getting in the way, but I don’t think the round by round idea was going to work well and I was ready for a quick finish right around the time of the hiatus.

I perhaps overworried about the impact of the bonuses, but I thought I was doomed towards the end when I couldn’t make any of the fights I wanted (my fault - due to my own lack of effort in building up my PER) and continually got stuck at the back of the queue - but it was really frustrating when it happened round after round). I could see the stronger bonuses being combined elsewhere and I thought it was nailed on that whoever won between Mr Collins and OtherPendragon was going to win. But perhaps that’s just me being a pessimistic whiny bastard because in the end my defeat was fairly close.

I got a bit frustrated for a while when there seemed to be an attempt to subvert the PvP structure, but we all seem to end up pushing at the limits of the game every time and it worked out okay. I hadn’t intended to end up playing the bad guy, but it felt like it would work with the way other people were playing and I ended up enjoying that a lot.

There’s obviously a natural problem with PvP in that either you rapidly run out of players, or you have a lot of inconsequential fights. I think you need to keep it going faster as you get to the end and as the number of voices (and fun character concepts) shrink. And I think we’re generally a nice bunch here, putting us into conflict with each other isn’t a natural fit for the way most of us play these games.

I did enjoy trying to find someway to make Zero’s story “plausible” by using real history and people to try to fit into the timelines.

Souls along for the ride? I tried to write that in to my story after I killed The Worker in Malta (at least as a kind of quickening thing), and I made some crack about Bon being in my head after the French Revolution. Not sure if that was late?


But what I should really do is offer a massive round of applause to @messana for running another one of these awesome games, and to everyone else who played and made this story so much fun.

  • ran on advertised schedule
  • lightweight decision-making
  • great premise / worldbuilding
  • it’s a great model. I wouldn’t want to see it as the only model, but where there’s humanoid (and canine) PvP, it’s a solid framework. For example, it would require little novel GM work to make a Kaiju version, a-la Mail Order Monsters.

Thank you, and all the players, for a fun romp through time.


What part of the game did you see as doing that?

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The round where people didn’t fight? Er, the first NY one?

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Ah, thanks. Wasn’t sure what you meant.

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oh boy. I have several Collins-esque discourses to share. and I’m swamped at work thru wednes.



Thank you Messana, for a wonderful experience.

And now for a brutal summary of observations from the long-winded corner of the game:

  1. Fabulous support for narrative. The PvP narrative was a HUGE success.

  2. Aces on the lean game mechanics, which gave newbies and non-gearheads a nearly level playing field against number crunchers like me. WELL DONE.

  3. obfuscated mechanics was good, up to a point. If the mechanics are obfuscated, the mechanics need to be stable, and at times it didn’t feel that way.

  4. “Ethics” were unclear. Twice what I thought was the obvious way to play lead to charges of not being in the “spirit of the game.” Add the obfuscated, at times seemingly unstable game mechanic, and I was deeply, deeply frustrated at times.

  5. I have several game mechanic tweaks. It’s important to keep every player engaged in every round. As those are detailed, I’ll submit separately.

  6. My main critique, however, is that while Messana created a fantastic structure for PvP narrative, the game mechanic was essentially PvE because it was so dang hard to match up aginst any given Player. As result, one was forced to chooses stances against the average; eg “Environment.” As a result, lot of potential narrative was lost.

The clearest way to see this lacuna was the shocking lack of taunting. Given the lethal, pairwise nature of the encounters, there should have been a lot more posturing and put-downs: “Yo Bon, you’re too drunk and limp to wield a mike stand, let alone sword”. “oh yean TD?-- come overhear and I’ll show you the right way to use a tool” (AC/DC vs Rolling Stones lyrics throwdown ensues - followed by a duel).

As three players achieved got control of who they would be dueling in the later rounds, the taunting emerged, with Zero as the primary target.

Thank You again for the IMMENSE work you put into this.

Yours in…

oh never mind.



Bark arf woof!

Errr, AHEM!

I liked the different mode of play, with the stances and so forth.

Private PMs for orders was good. It was hard for me to know what to choose, but I guess that was part of the fun of the game, yeah?

I think it would be interesting to have gameplay where you alternate with the RANCD stances one round, then some different sort of combat in the next. Just to shake things up a little.

PS: Thanks for all your hard work, man!


What aspects did you enjoy?

Players character development and interaction. Unfolding of the story, turn setups, and game mechanics.

Which aspects did you not care for as much?

So, Much. Blood. I can’t believe all my friends died. I’m such a softie. I need to play a bad-guy next time to challenge myself.

What did you dislike about this installment?

This was so different from past BA games. A lot of it worked really well. PVP was fun, secret orders were fun, the theme was great. Structurally, however, the game forced an atrophy of players and thus we had fewer and fewer player posts as the game went on. Some of this effect was ameliorated by the lounge and in-soul conversations, but with such great player contributions, I hate to see them reduced in any way.

How did folks feel about submitting orders via private PM instead of the traditional publicly visible forum post?

Fun and different. A great idea, executed [pun intended] well.

Thoughts on having secret game mechanics that are revealed as the game goes on?

Both of these were fun and something different from past games. This was a big chance to take as a GM, but was very successful.

Thoughts on the RANCD system of stances for resolving combat?

At first this looked like an opportunity to apply some strategy, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference in combat relative to the advantage of having success in early game battles.

At what point did you realize that defeated players were ‘still along for the ride’ as souls in the surviving character?

Not until I lost my head.


What a great game! Thanks so much for all your hard work @messana! And thanks to all the superb players who made this so fun. I wish I had ten votes for each of the best-of-game categories. One thing that struck me is how much history you all know. The vast majority of the historical references were lost on me. I’m pretty sure I figured out who YOwlO is supposed to be though.




Oh, most of it was great, great fun! As always with Badass games, the player base is what truly makes the games great, but this was a very solid game structure. I loved the fact that there actually was PvP, and the private instruction submission was quite cool, too.

Like others have said, the demise of other players thinned the herd more than I would have liked. The Necktie Lounge helped a lot, but the souls-inside-the-head mechanic wasn’t a strong enough element, I felt. Might be my notifications were wonky, but it didn’t seem to do anything. At least, any influence we deadites were able to bring to bear on the fights, any influence we had on their outcomes, were invisible to me. I also didn’t love the way fight outcomes were displayed. I’m sure all the data was present, but I found it too difficult to parse. I’d prefer an easier-to-read display of battle turns and outcomes.

Not much, really. Thank you for omitting the Space Banking.

Groovy. I want to try a game where BOTH submission routes are fully advertised legitimate methods.

Those really depend on the case. Sometimes they’ll be great, but other times… I can envision use cases that alter the playing field sufficiently to really make a particular round un-fun for certain players. A degree of fairness needs to be maintained, and unexpected rule changes need to be carefully deployed so as not to put a fat thumb on the scale of fair play.

They were okay, but not as useful as they might be since one was rarely sure of exactly whom one would be fighting. It amounted to a crap shoot, every time, for me.

When I was told, via DM, after I croaked. Had no idea until then. Again, my notifications may not have been reliable.

As much as I was one of the louder voices clamoring for PvP to be incorporated into Badassery, I’m not sure GAME OVER permadeath is the best usage of it, even if we can still gab from the Peanut Gallery Beyond The Veil, or even influence outcomes via Force Ghost assist/hinder mechanics. I want to see a crab-bucket PvP Badass game wherein fatalities (if any) don’t come into play until late in the game, but there’s still plenty of zero-sum maneuvering to be done as the players compete against each other. Trouble with the early BASD games was that nobody knew if we were playing for Grit or Money or what, and so competition was discouraged. Actually, that wasn’t really a problem as such, but that’s what made me want to incorporate some PvP in the first place. Cooperation is all well and good, but games (like sports) frequently contain an element of competition. This game had it in spades, but I didn’t usually feel I knew how best to compete, since I never knew whom I’d be fighting until it was too late to do anything about it. All I could do was level up and hope. And find relevant AC/DC lyrics, which was always rewarding and never difficult, as it turns out.

But holy shit, was it sublime watching Collins and Pendragon and Myfanwy and Zero and Maud and Bark and all the rest build their narratives! Just in terms of player narrative, this was the best Badass yet.


Our revels now are ended. :disappointed_relieved:

First, let me join the others and thank you, @messana for putting this game together. I can only imagine the amount of work that went into it, and the patience required in the face of certain disruptive elements.

I had never played any sort of online game like this before, and I have never seen any of the Highlander movies, so I approached it as a total naif. Taking my cue from others, though, I found the game quite easy to get into.

What aspects did you enjoy?

I really enjoyed the wide variety of characters, their voices, backstories, choice of weapons, interactions, etc. For me, that was the heart of the game. I also had a lot of fun looking up various eras and events in history to try and fit them into my narrative.

Which aspects did you not care for as much?

The actual combat rounds were less important to me, mainly because I didn’t expect to last very long, so I didn’t get too invested in who won or lost. I still enjoyed them, and of course they are the central part of the game.

What did you dislike about this installment?

I have nothing to compare it to, so basically I have no criticisms. I agree with @daneel and @Donald_Petersen that towards the end the dwindling number of players made the game less interesting, and many players seemed to drop out completely. (@Justa_Little_Whinger has come in for a lot of abuse, not least from me, but kudos for the Necktie Lounge. I think it served a valuable purpose in holding the interest of the cephalically-challenged. A similar institution might be worthwhile in future games of this type.)

How did folks feel about submitting orders via private PM instead of the traditional publicly visible forum post?

I’m missing something here, but how else would you do it? If I submit my orders publicly, what prevents an opponent from selecting the stances that ensure that they win?

Thoughts on having secret game mechanics that are revealed as the game goes on?

As the game went on, I found the play a little confusing, especially after I was out of the running. I don’t see anything wrong with it, as long as the system is basically fair, i.e. an impartial observer wouldn’t see the rules as favouring one contestant over another. For example, if a particular ability is assigned by a roll of the dice, that’s fair if everyone has the same odds.

Thoughts on the RANCD system of stances for resolving combat?

It seemed fine to me — basically an enhanced rock-paper-scissors with some randomized weighting. The more analytical types, like @David_Falkayn no doubt will have a lot more to say. My choices were more or less random, especially at the beginning.

At what point did you realize that defeated players were ‘still along for the ride’ as souls in the surviving character?

At least by Turn 4 I described the feeling of absorbing a defeated foe’s thoughts, but I don’t think I had any notion that they would continue as an individual personality. By Turn 8 I definitely knew. So sometime in that range.


In a game that is mission based, instead of PvP, cooperation is possible so posting to the thread helps other players decide their course.


Ah, got it. So not in a PvP game, then.


One thing I kinda wish had been implemented was a form of combat that would have encouraged factional cooperation, so the PvP might have included alliances and betrayals.

I know: once a Space Lizard, always a Space Lizard.



If we had had more control of who we were fighting, this would have happend naturally.

Upon arrving in NYC, Jane, Other Pendragon/MyFawny, and Mr. Collins formed a coalition to stop Zero Demos. Our principal tool was co-ordinated action to control who our dueling partners would be. It worked great, to Zero’s frustration.

As I said above, Messana built an awesome PvP narrative generator, but from the players’ perspective, not much of a PvP game.


About matching up,

High STRength+ REFlex players were systematically excluded from pairings because of how PERception drove the pairing process. In hindsight, this ended up discouraging certain players.

At a minimum, there should have been a rule that noone would ever sit out two consecutive rounds.

Alternately, unpaired players could have been swept to some sort of arena to face each other. My preferred outcome would have been unpaired players would face a historical non-player character at the destination city. Imaging being in the Melee at the battle of Kosovo and coming face-to-face with the Janisari commander!

I realize this is more work for the GM, but ideally, the destinations would have been public but the stances would have been concealed. Someone like, oh, me, would have tracked this and regularly posted who was going where, and what the likely pairings would be. As people slowly realize who they were likely to fight, they could “settle in” and perhaps modify their stances, or change destination to try to match up with someone else.

Another possible addition is each turn two individuals could declare the desire to fight each other and stay in the “armistice” city past the year of truce. Any survivors could then choose their own destination bonus. This rule would create some really interesting co-operative behavior, as there would be an incentive to find a dueling partner and NOT kill them as a way to custom enhance one’s stats. One could also see some serious narrative developing around the posturing.

Crucially, there needs to be a mechanic where everyone duels every turn to maximize player engagement.

Additionally, I strongly support someway to enhance control of who one’s dueling partner will be. This would greatly enliven gameplay, and probably also the enhance narrative


Yeah, I think it would have enhanced both gameplay and verisimilitude if players had had more choice over whom they fought.