Goblin Bet

Goblin Bet is a website that presents an endless sequence of D&D 5th edition monsters fighting each other one-on-one. You bet pretend gold pieces on the outcome. Like the similar-in-concept Salty Bet, none of the money is real, you can’t pay for extra currency and it can’t be exchanged for anything. In fact, the game won’t let you drop below 50 gold, so you might as well bet all-in if you get to that point.

The game follows a rough tournament structure. It starts with eight low CR creatures 1/8th to 1/4th, that fight each other in a branching kind of format. (There is nowhere to view the bracket, this has been determined largely through observation.) The winner gets to advance to the 1/2 CR round, where it might die quickly, but it might not. Most monsters are granted one added advantage randomly from a variety, and some of them are pretty powerful.

The brackets continue: 1 CR, 2 CR, 3 CR, and up and up, until around the 16 CR range. The higher the Challenge Ratings, the harder it is to figure out the winner of each match. A few abilities, in the combat system the site uses, are ludicrously powerful. We watched a Giant Crab stop over two complete brackets, at one point taking out a lion, because it had an ability, Stong Grappler, that was basically inescapable, so once its opponent was grappled, it just got advantage on all its attacks, and the opponent had disadvantage. In 5th edition D&D terms, “advantage” means, when you roll, roll two dice, and use whichever value is higher, and “disadvantage” means roll two dice and take the lower value. It’s a huge factor.

A lot of the fight outcomes come down to things like this, which you have to pick up by watching many matches. Flight, to give another example, is pretty strong, because it lets a creature keep attacking and retreating, forcing opponents without missile attacks to sprint sometimes to keep up, wasting turns. Often there will be fights where the outcome will be decided by whoever rolls better; it’s best to save your pretend money when that happens, and wait until there’s a fight with a clearer outcome.

It’s surprisingly addictive, and there’s an included chat that’s often pretty entertaining. I’ve enjoyed it anyway.

Goblin Bet

Time Extension: Why Do So Many Japanese RPGs Use European-Style Fantasy Worlds?

Time Extension has come up here a lot lately, hasn’t it? It’s because they so often do interesting articles! This one’s about the propensity of Japanese games to use medieval European game worlds, the kinds with a generally agrarian society, royalty, knights, and their folklore counterparts elves, dwarves, fairies, gnomes and associated concepts.

They often fudge the exact age they’re trying to depict, with genuine medieval institutions sitting beside Renaissance improvements like taverns and shops. Nearly of them also put in magic in a general D&D kind of way, sometimes institutionalizing it into a Harry Potter-style educational system.

Notably, they usually choose the positive aspects of that setting. The king is usually a benevolent ruler. It’s rare that serfdom and plagues come up. The general populace is usually okay with being bound to the land. The Church, when it exists, is sometimes allowed to be evil, in order to give the player a plot road to fighting God at the end.

Hyrule of the Zelda games is likely the most universally-known of these realms, which I once called Generic Fantasylands. The various kingdoms of the Dragon Quest games also nicely fit the bill. Final Fantasy games were among the first to question those tropes, presenting evil empire kingdoms as early at the second game.

Dragon Quest
(All images here from Mobygames)

John Szczepaniak’s article at Time Extension dives into the question by interviewing a number of relevant Japanese and US figures and developers, including former Squaresoft translator Ted Woolsey. I think the most insightful comments are from Hiromasa Iwasaki, programmer of Ys I and II, who notes that this Japanese conception of a fantasy world mostly comes from movies and the early computer RPGs Wizardry and Ultima, that the literature that inspired Gary Gygax to create Dungeons & Dragons (which in turned inspired Wizardry and Ultima), especially Lord of the Rings and Weird Tales, were generally unknown to Japanese popular culture. Developer Rica Matsumura notices, also, that there is a cool factor in Japan to European folklore that doesn’t apply, over there, to Japanese folklore.

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord

It’s a great read, that says a number of things well that have been bubbling up in the back of my head for a long time, especially that JRPGs recreated both RPG mechanics and fantasy tropes at a remove, that they got their ideas second hand and, in a way similar to how a bunch of gaming tables recreated Dungeons & Dragons in their own image to fill in gaps left in Gary Gygax’s early rulebooks, so too did they make their versions of RPGs to elaborate upon the ideas of Wizardry and Ultima without having seen their bases.

Why Do So Many Japanese RPGs Take Place In European Fantasy Settings? (timeextension.com)