Tuesday, July 12, 2011

[The Shadow of Pavis] Solar System - what makes it cool?

When I posted about me playing a Gloranthan game, I said I would post something more on the game system. Instead of just telling you how it works, I'm going to try to say why it makes me think it a good match for this game.

One of the features of the so called "Solar System", is that you have something called keys. I guess you could say they are late cousins of the Spiritual Attributes in The Riddle of Steel. For those of you who became none the wiser from that, I'll say they are triggers for things which gain you XP.

So, the fine things with these keys are that you pick them yourself during character generation. This means you get to decide what you want to do to gain XP! Isn't that kind of sweet, eh?

If you have a key like, Key of Hatred of Uz, then every time your character can show some hatred against trolls, you gain XP. Simple.

The second thing I wanted to mention is Pools. In the basic and generic Solar System, you have three pools of points which you can spend on rolls. All abilities are tied to a pool, and chuck in some of those points and you get to roll more dice and have a far better chance of success.

Like you have figured out by now, that means you can decide when something in the game is important for you and make it pretty likely your character get to shine. Also, it is a pretty cool resource management level in the game.

Thirdly, the best name of a game sub-system ever, is Bringing Down The Pain. I love it. Bringing it down is something you can do in a resisted conflict when you are going to fail, and just wont let it pass that easily. Regularly, you can't kill anybody unless you bring the pain. The vanilla conflict, if it's a fight, is a one roll affair to decide who wins.

When the pain is brought down, you go blow by blow in whatever conflict there is. For all those you you who had played a game which glosses over the nitty gritty when you wanted to dive in, this is where it shines. Having a mechanic like this makes it possible to customize when you want to have an involved game system and you just want to move on.

So why would all this make it a good fit for Glorantha? Well, I think that in a world where the mythic and the mundane are juxtaposed like they are in Glorantha, it's crucial to be able to decide when to "zoom in". RQ always had the same scale on things. I means, in a percentile system everything goes from 1 - 100 since that's the maths, right? It always makes it a bit wonky when you try to mix in godlike abilities and the fact that the power scale between a dirt farmer and some of the movers and shakers are so huge. HeroQuest/Wars tried to remedy that with "masteries" for every 20 steps of an ability, and they could then cancel each other out to reduce the system to a manageable level. While that is kind of neat, I think the Solar System manages something similar in a way more too my liking.

Another thing I like with the Solar System is the idea of gift dice. It is a neat way to make communal support a part of the system. In Glorantha you usually can't make much happen without the backing of someone else.

Most important though, I have always wanted to test the system! Now I had, and it was fun.
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