The league system in DreadBall is mostly a traditional campaign system much as you will see in many other tabletop figure games (not that many of them have campaign systems, but… ). I decided to stick with traditional here as running a campaign or league is a load of effort without having to remember weird rules. Having said this, I couldn’t resist adding the odd twist as you will see.
Apart from the rules described below, the league section also includes guidance and suggestions for running leagues that will help people who are new to this aspect of gaming. At least, that’s the plan.
Core League Principles and Overview
The idea is a simple mirror of sporting reality. Leagues are played in rounds. Your team plays a game, individual players become more experienced and at a certain point this cumulative experience manifests as a new ability. Players with more abilities are worth more, and the whole team is worth the sum of its players + ancillary bonuses (cards and Coaching Dice). This is the kind of thing we see in real world sports. Manchester United is worth more than Scunthorpe because it has better and more highly skilled players who are worth more.
Normal players sign long term contracts, but there are two other types of players in DreadBall: MVPS and Free Agents.
MVPs are, in effect, very highly paid mercenaries who work for the highest bidder and only for a limited time (a round at a time). This maximises their income.
Free Agents are normal players who haven’t yet been signed to a team. They are used by the DreadBall Governing Body as balancing factors in games to ensure that the crowds get an entertaining match and the sponsors keep paying.
It’s the Corporation – it’s all about money
The league sponsor who organises and runs the league, gets together with all the players once per round. This could be face to face at the club, or it could be over phone, forum, twitter, email or text. This meeting is to organise what happens in the next league round. Each team will have one league game, and can play more games if they have the time. The league game is the only one that they have to play for the league, but they can play more if they want. All the games will affect their team ranking (for good or bad).
The twist here is how games are allocated. The initial draw for the first round is random as all teams are initially the same level. In subsequent rounds, the league sponsor starts with the team at the bottom of the league, and asks that Coach who he would like to play. The sponsor then asks the next player up the league rankings, and so on; each choosing an opponent who has not already got a game this round. In this way a Coach can choose one of the teams near his own level or can pick someone really challenging at the top of the rankings. It gives the Coaches lower down the league more control over their fates, and avoids the unpleasantries of the big boys picking on the weak teams for easy wins. If you’re playing against someone much higher ranking than you it’s because you chose to do so.
When a player takes part in a match they may gain experience. This is done by doing what they are supposed to do particularly well. So, Strikers earn experience by making 3 or 4 point Strikes, Guards earn it by killing opponents or injuring them for 3 turns, and Jacks get it for either of the above. There is also a Man of the Match award to give a random player a boost.
MVPs and Free Agents never gain experience.
Player experience goes in ranks, with a player starting at rank 1. You need to earn a total of the next rank’s worth of experience to advance a level. So, a rank 1 player needs to collect 2 experience to rise to rank 2. Each time you go up a level you can roll on a table to get a new ability or stat increase. There is a table for each player role, plus a separate one for Extra Coaching (with different abilities) if you want to permanently sacrifice a Coaching Dice to roll on it. if you roll a result you already have then you get to choose from the remaining opions. If you have them all then you get to pick from any of the other role specific tables. In this way the advancement is a mixture of choice and luck.
Team Revenue and Worth
A team is worth the sum of its players’ values, its cards, Coaching Dice plus any spare cash. Player values start at whatever it costs to hire them, and go up by 5 million credits (mc) per rank they advance. Cards are worth 10mc each, and Coaching Dice 6mc. As a point of reference, all starting teams are worth exactly 100mc.
With a simple way to reduce the value of a team to a cash equivalent, the teams can be ranked in order to see who is winning the league. It also serves as a way to compare the relative potency of the teams and allow the DGB to step in and help even things up if one is seriously outclassed. This is where Free Agents come in. What is particularly interesting here is that these extra players are assigned randomly, and are not necessarily the same race as the main team. In play, this is really interesting, and has given our playtesters some very memorable games. A random player can completely change the dynamic of a team, and this is partly why they are added this way by the DGB. Whereas an experienced team might be easily able to take apart a standard opponent, they may find a unique combination a bit trickier to deal with. Any edge like this is a massive help to the underdog, never mind having additional players.
After a game a Coach collects his winnings in cash, sorts out his players’ experience and rolls for advancements if they apply, and then buys extra players, dice or cards if he wants. All of these changes are recorded on a team roster and copied to the league sponsor (as the chap running the league is called). When everyone has returned their rosters the sponsor can work out the new league rankings.
Another thing that happens between matches is that the services of the MVPs are auctioned off. Yes, auctioned.
Each MVP has a minimum that they will work for, so the bidding starts here. Unless, that is, someone paid more last round, in which case that value is the minimum they will work for now. In this way the cost to hire an MVP for a round goes up and up until people refuse to pay, when it starts to tick down again at the rate of 2mc per game they sit out.
A league sponsor must choose which MVPs are available in his league, and I would strongly advise him to be selective. Less is more in this regard. The relative availability of MVPs has a big impact on the teams, and too many causes them to be cheap and Coaches will start to rely on them at the expense of developing their own players.
One of the clever bits about it being an auction is that it can hoover up any excess of cash in the league. Hiring players is finite as you only have 14 slots on your roster. Buying cards and Coaching Dice is capped too, but you can spend whatever you like on an auction.
And So On…
There’s lots more description and detail in the wrinkles, plus rules for playing against non-league teams, playing one-off games with league teams and suchlike. But this should give you a general impression.