Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A reflection on Rolemaster - tweakablility

Having been in a conversation about Burning Wheel, a game built very tightly to a specific specification, I think back on how amazingly modular Rolemaster is.

Anyone who have seen the long series of companions published for the system probably know what I mean. Almost any part of the system can be tweaked, added to or subtracted from. It would still be Rolemaster! I think I have at least four different initiative systems in my collection, and that not counting the fan made stuff free on the internet!

I think that was the same thing that made me a fan of GURPS back in the day. Take the parts you like and the core is still the same. Learn some basics and then you know the game, but there's more flavour if you need it.

Contrast that with modern iterations of D&D.

Do you remember how convoluted, complex and contradictory the 3rd ed D&D rules became when you started hacking them with all the splat books that came out?

I still look favourably on Rolemaster, and even though I don't expect to play it again soon I almost always start make up new and exciting rules tweaks as soon as I start to read it. I like that quality in a game.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A depressing read

Since Traveller is a game I have a very complicated relationship to, I don't know if I dare to get ideas about starting a game of Traveller. But, you can always read your gamebooks, right?

I've been reading 1248 Sourcebook 1: Out of the Darkness lately. It's number one in a series of books expanding the time line and concepts of the Traveller edition knows as TNE, or The New Era. TNE have caught a lot of flak from the fans, and for good reasons.

The guys at GDW lasting impression in the rpg hobby is How To Ruin Your Game Setting. A sad one.
This book have a long section where all the threads from older sources are tied up into a long history from 1116 to 1248 Imperial time. Many times I find time lines be of little use, but in this case its kind of needed, since older source have included information about what would happen, and tying it all together takes some time.

It's an impressive effort, and author Martin J. Dougherty have managed to include a lot of back history, and reasonably often making sense of them. Still, the lasting impression is one of failure.

Mind you, it's not a failure by the author in his task of assembling the data and presenting a gameable setting. In that I think it probably does as well as could be hoped for. No, the impression of failure is rather the theme of 132 years of pure misery in the game setting. Step by step civilization is rebuilt after the madness that was the civil war of the Rebellion, and the senseless slaughter that came after with the unleashing of Virus. But, as soon as someone forms some stellar state that can rebuild, another hammer comes along and beats them into dust again. Frankly, it's unbelievably depressing.

More problematic is the idea of 130 years of warfare. Considering that multiple times the wars degenerate into orbital bombardment with spinal guns and nuclear warheads (case in point - Vland) it's hard to believe that anything would be left. And you know what, smoking ruins makes for a boring game setting.

So, while something emerges that looks like a setting that could actually be fun to game in, the way there is depressing. To say the least.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Rolemaster combat variant

Way back in the days, Rolemaster was one of those big systems used in fantasy campaigns all over the place. Then the company who published it, I.C.E. suffered some setbacks and eventually folded. Through all this a few new iterations of the game saw the light of day, and being an old fan of the system, having started my GM career with MERP, I own more than a few of these books.

Now the company is back again, and it's time for consolidation and a new edition of the rules. Will it be viable in today's marketplace? I have my doubts, but for old times sake I took a peek at the play test documents.

One thing I never liked was how every weapon in the system had its own attack table. If for nothing but logistical reasons, it was unwieldy. But, it also made no sense. While the difference between getting hit by a small piece of sharpened metal and a bigger one might might be significant, the steps in between were just way too fine grained. It was often lauded as realistic, but in reality that was a simulationist dream. But, in MERP and in RMFRP they did something else.

In those variants of the rules (I consider them all to be kind of the same, even HARP), you had groups of weapons, like one handed edged weapons. It was easier to handle, and kept a level of verisimilitude. Today, considering the effects of what this about to model, I came upon an idea of how to present this even more concisely.

The individual hit points matter little in RM. What kills you is the critical hits, which are divided into levels of severity. So, I thought why not boil it down to those crits? Since a critical shows up in the upper level on the hit charts, you can see how big a percentage of the hits are of a specific level. Those percentages could be rolled in tandem with the attack roll, skipping the roll on the hit table. If you beat your opponents roll, add the overlap to the crit roll and see what level of crit you inflicted. It will make a bunch of simplifications to the RM system, but keeps some of the flavour. The obvious thing missing is of course the difference against different kinds of armour. Maybe I can shoe horn that back in somehow as well, given some time.

I wont be able to do a proper play test, since I'm lacking a group to test with. But, I felt like throwing it out there for anyone who happen to see it, and for my own archival purposes. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What the eye can see

Right now the eye is half closed, sleeping and waiting the arrival of those days when free time and gaming is plenty. Some of you who have been faithful readers might still be around. Thanks for your patience! I have managed to get a few sessions of gaming in the last months and will have a few posts coming in the near future. Still, I make no promises and posting will probably continue to be sparse for a while more.

Take care, and game on.
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