One of the zaniest tabletop wargame
s ever played at a con, this one is for every cynic who's ever laid eye on a droopy lead miniature and sneered, "I could do better than that!"
The game begins as every player is handed a can of all-purpose modelling clay (Play-Doh or generic brand - whatever tastes best to you). "What do I do with this? Where's my character sheet?" There are no sheets - there is only sculpture. The clay provides the base material from which the player is charged with fashioning their Claydonian champion, an abstract beastie which will soon find itself moving handspans across the battlefield to (through your divine intervention) poke, pinch, drop and roll its puttyish compatriots. And vice versa. Did I mention they only have 20 minutes?
The rules for this game first appeared in an article by David "Zeb" Cook in issue #125 of Dragon Magazine, and were expanded in issue #144 by Paul C. Easton's Claydonia Conquers the World. It's a surprisingly subtle and robust (two words you don't often hear together?) ruleset.
You can set some of its potential body mass aside when initially sculpting and fashion them into projectiles for later use - either small pellets or a hefty Blob of Doom to cast down decisively, ending Cold War-style stalemates. The proportion of clay used in the making of the monster reflects the proportion of 50 base Hit Points it will boast.
Did you remember to give your gladiator any feet? Hope so! It gets to move handspans - outstretched tips of thumb to pinky on large playing surfaces, fists on small ones - at a roughly set rate. Similarly, the more arms you fashion for your little fighter, the more chances it will get to attack its kin. Keep in mind, however, that too many too spindly and you run the risk of your monster being permanently crippled when a hastily-glommed on limb falls off after being moved or dropped one too many times.
Every creature is assigned a "special power", as determined by a GM who gauges the creatures' body shapes and probes their creators for hints as to the personalities of these doughy fighters. If you've scooped your clay out to make what amounts of a gigantic mouth with arms and legs, the GM may well assign you the special attack power Rip Limbs Off, which permits you on critical hits to remove an arm or leg from the opponent you've just hit. You can keep these trophies in your cavernous mouth if it makes you feel better. Alternately, if the form you've arrived at is a giant scowling spiked bowling ball, the GM may deal you the attacking power Use Self As Missile - of course, both your monster and your target monster will take impact damage. Other possible powers beyond the Hit-Point-decrementing and physically-deforming attack powers include defensive ones like Missile Absorption or Repel, movement-related ones like Move Out of Turn or Trade Places, and just plain weird ones like Divide Self and the awesome and cannibalistic Absorb Opponent.
Turns are played in a fairly conventional manner - initiative is rolled on 3D6, with each Claydonian passing through movement, projectile fire, melee attack and counterattack stages, those latter determined pass/fail by rolling 8 or greater on 2D6 (with penalties/bonuses - harder to hit with but more damage - for larger limbs).
When a Claydonian dies (is reduced to 0 HP), legends maintain that a pair of godly hands (belonging to the sculptor of the victor) descend from the heavens above, cradle its broken body and SQUEEZE the fallen corpse until ribbons of charnel Play-Doh ooze out from between the fingers. Then the twisted, lifeless husk is dropped back to the field of glory as a warning to what ultimate fate awaits all but the toughest clay warrior.
Some say that the game is won when the final Claydonian warrior stands triumphal among the pulped carcasses of its opponents, but really given that everyone has had the rare experience (as an adult) of playing with Play-Doh for an hour or so on a Sunday afternoon everyone wins. The only difference is that some players' Claydonians look to be in better shape (or in any shape at all) after all is said and done.
Barring Toon, this game manages to bring out the most creative character-generation I've seen in any system. Fondly recalled opponents include the tsunami (What's its' attack? See, down here, that's a shark fin.), the computer mouse (it would, uh, "click" its opponents), the Clockwork Hopping Army Boot and, on one recent occasion, two Cthulhus in a single conflict, one incognito beneath a dapper bowler hat.
Like it or not, kids, this is about as close as any of us are ever going to be able to get to the video of Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer - fortunately, its replay value is comparable.