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Author Topic: The least-worst RPG system.  (Read 2171 times)

Mishihari

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Re: The least-worst RPG system.
« Reply #15 on: August 02, 2021, 05:03:02 PM »
Sounds like you need my game.  I guess I'd better hurry up and finish it.

Wrath of God

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Re: The least-worst RPG system.
« Reply #16 on: August 02, 2021, 06:21:46 PM »
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As far as PbtA goes, I know that technically a roll is supposed to be representing a whole series of events and isn't as granular as a single skill roll in d20, but the fact that Zorro would have a very high chance of stumbling on any given attack ruins the simulation for me.  The 5% nat-1 auto-miss in d20 already doesn't sit very well with me, so the much higher chance PbtA has of the best fighter in the world not managing to stab a goblin without repercussions completely curdles my milk.

Yes, but this stumbling is not necessarily stumbling unless your GM tries to run it like D&D or Warhammer.
Let's say your Zorro objective is to free imprisoned noble savage Apaches from hands of Wicked Inquisitor Don Elon Bezos or smth.
In fiction it's shown as several obstacles, player choose how to Zorro shall deal with, which may or not trigger some MOVE.

Let's say Zorro is trying to quietly dispose of lonely guardsman. Zorro is by fiction rules - excelent swordsman. The mook is a mook. So assuming we're in swashbuckling world - the proper conduct from GM would be that mook will be disposed off. But it triggers dunno Silent Assassin move. If Zorro pass test that means zero consequences - mook was disposed off without any problem. Then let's say we have two clocks - that common new school mechanics though I think it could pass very well for old school systems with certain tweaks. One clock is measuring how close zorro is to opening prison cells, another how close zorro is to alarm guards and making his whole situation way worse.
Now problem or failure on roll is not necessarily FAILURE of action, like skill roll. But it gives DM some options to act against player. So let's say simply - you always defeat this guardsman and get one tick of your clock, fine. With perfect roll you just get two, with problem enemy also gets one - guardsman managed to make loud cough when you pierced his heart and some guardsman started to ask "Cuánto cuesta", with failure you still move forward, but enemy guardsman was so fat you failed to stop his body from failing down on a big cheap of hay for horses, guards clock goes up 2 ticks, as this body will sooner or later be found. Still you're closer to your objective.

I get if it's too meta for your taste, becasue God knows it's often too meta for mine, but ultimately stumble in PBTA and simmilar games means something very different than stumble in D&D. In D&D if you get nat 1 on Stealth roll - you are, let's be honest, immediately found by some guards, period.

Now leaving this new school apologetis with distaste in my mouth I must say I see this Alternity system very very fine. Mortal wounds that are not necessarily insta-kill, but they are inevitable death with some time - is really really awesome. Does it have any stress/peril mechanics like let's say system of this nasty nasty red fur animal, I won't mention here?

Shawn Driscoll

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Re: The least-worst RPG system.
« Reply #17 on: August 02, 2021, 07:55:23 PM »
So now that I've gone on at exhausting length about my opinions on rule mechanics, can anyone recommend a system that I have yet to mention that could also fit the bill?  I'm always on the lookout for interesting ways to play.

For skill-based RPG mechanics, I like either Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition or Serenity with its Big Damn Heroes Handbook.

Valatar

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Re: The least-worst RPG system.
« Reply #18 on: August 02, 2021, 08:59:36 PM »
PbtA things

I get the gist of PbtA's intent behind the mechanics, they want to generate drama for the table.  Which, y'know, noble goal because it doesn't have a mechanic for the GM to act outside of reacting to the result of player rolls.  It just doesn't sit well for me because one of the things I like most about RPGs is earning a big win.  Like having a double-handful of dice to throw in Shadowrun when you're burning edge and playing to your character's strength.  All the planning and experience spent to build up to a super crowning roll where you are going to be a badass for the next turn.  PbtA is in staunch opposition to that, you can never earn enough of a bonus to not have a good chance of hitting a setback when you attempt to do something. 
And when you do have a setback, it's not really for any particular reason.  Like, for FFG Star Wars, if you have a bunch of black dice in your hand, you know exactly why they're there.  There are specific penalties about what you're doing that added those black dice to your pool, so if they screw up your roll, you can say, "Oh, I made a noise while stealthily offing the guard because the floor was slippery."  And not, "Oh, I made a noise while stealthily offing the guard because I always have a 40+% chance of having done so."

Quote
Now leaving this new school apologetis with distaste in my mouth I must say I see this Alternity system very very fine. Mortal wounds that are not necessarily insta-kill, but they are inevitable death with some time - is really really awesome. Does it have any stress/peril mechanics like let's say system of this nasty nasty red fur animal, I won't mention here?

Alternity has a skill attached to the Will stat called Resolve, which breaks down into Mental Resolve and Physical Resolve.  Like the names suggest, Mental Resolve is rolled against stress, fear, mental attacks, and emotional damage, while Physical Resolve is to resist being knocked out and continuing through fatigue and exhaustion.  So yes, the game does have the concept of being debilitated by stress and fear and a mechanic for resisting it.  Since it's a modern/sci-fi game it also includes alien horrors and psychic attacks, and higher ranks in the skill improve your resistance to their rolls to ruin your day.

Plotinus

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Re: The least-worst RPG system.
« Reply #19 on: August 02, 2021, 10:18:35 PM »
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But also is slightly less interesting.
"Yes, but..." and "No, but..." are usually most interesting.
Like critical success - even D&D have it really :P That's not level of granularity clearly OP was asking about.

Raises are much more baked into Savage World's system, apply to all trait tests, and come up much more than 5% of the time. I suppose partial successes are often more interesting, but I am in the same camp as Valatar in finding it inherently annoying and fatiguing (and frustrating for the players) to have to contrive up reasons for partial failure on, like, 40-50% of all checks. I'll trade some interesting complications in exchange for the game running smoothly and the players not feeling like most of their actions are one step forward, one step back.

dbm

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Re: The least-worst RPG system.
« Reply #20 on: August 03, 2021, 04:46:38 AM »
Chipping in on Savage Worlds, in my experience of the system the extra nuance comes from dramatic tasks. Here you break down an objective into multiple steps and multiple party members can potentially contribute. This gives you much greater granularity and you can see what part of the activity the team handled easily and which bits made them sweat. There is also the possibility of complications, which moves it on again from just a series of skill checks with little consideration in between.

It’s a really good sub-system in my opinion.

tenbones

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Re: The least-worst RPG system.
« Reply #21 on: August 03, 2021, 10:06:06 AM »
Chipping in on Savage Worlds, in my experience of the system the extra nuance comes from dramatic tasks. Here you break down an objective into multiple steps and multiple party members can potentially contribute. This gives you much greater granularity and you can see what part of the activity the team handled easily and which bits made them sweat. There is also the possibility of complications, which moves it on again from just a series of skill checks with little consideration in between.

It’s a really good sub-system in my opinion.

And it's ENDLESS in its application. And it scales to literally any level of play.

Aglondir

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Re: The least-worst RPG system.
« Reply #22 on: August 04, 2021, 12:27:48 PM »
I'm going to wax poetic about nerdy mechanic things because I like them.
It had some good ideas and some very bad ideas. The skill list was absolutely painful. Too long, and the broad skills were an unnecessary complication. MOGA degrees of success is great, but there are easier ways to do it than d20 +/- dX. Classes didnt do enough to justify their inclusion.. Rolling dice for armor, IIRC? Pointles step. Three damage values for weapons, ugh.

Wanted to like it due to Dark Matter, but it was just too clunky.

trechriron

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Re: The least-worst RPG system.
« Reply #23 on: August 04, 2021, 03:34:58 PM »
I would recommend GURPS 4e. It's a toolbox generic system that you can customize to taste. Tons of options. Can be ultra detailed or light. TONS of PDF supplements available to help you customize the system.

The classic D6 game is less crunchy but has plenty of room for customization (aka WEG D6, classic Star Wars, Ghostbusters...). I'm using it as the basis of my own generic heartbreaker...  :-D (It was released under the OGL)
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Merrill

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Re: The least-worst RPG system.
« Reply #24 on: August 04, 2021, 03:58:07 PM »
One system to check out is Masterbook

Was originally released by West End Game, but has been republished by Precis Intermedia. Was designed as a kind of universal RPG, but with modifications that would fit certain gameworlds and settings (Indiana Jones, Necroscope, etc.)

Some highlights of the system include:

Skill based system with a bunch of attributes: you don't have levels, and instead gain competence in certain areas. The basic mechanic is rolling 2d10, comparing it to a small chart, and getting a bonus number that is applied to your skill total. That is compared to a difficulty number or an opposing value generated by your opponent.

Now here is where it gets interesting: not only do you have a success or failure, you have a degree of success and failure, and this is determined by another chart. You might lightly wound an opponent, or you might knock him down, inflict a wound, or even knock him our. So it is not a hit/miss system.

No hit points: death is determined by number of wounds. But you also have shock points, which can go down through injury, exhaustion, pushing yourself too hard, etc. --0 shock points = unconsciousness.  I think this is an excellent feature, and adds a lot of realism to the game.

Now healing is very interesting: first aid and medicine checks to fix you up are a skill check against how wounded you are. The worse you are, the harder it is to get you back operational.

Arbitrary DN scale allows for skill checks against virtually anything

Advantages and Compensations: are basically perks and drawbacks, but unlike other systems, Masterbook gives you a number of these based on the setting / gameworld. A Pulp Fiction / Detective setting may give you less advantages and compensations than a fantasy setting. This is to make PCs better fit the gameworld.

The game is very realistic and a bit crunchy, but not overly complicated, and it moves pretty quickly (on a scale of 1 to 10, its complexity is probably a 7, with something like Rolemaster being 10)

there is also a Master Deck (cards) that can be used in the game to introduce random elements, subplots, etc., and can take the place of initiative. It can be used in solo play.

so very cool system worth checking out

https://www.pigames.net/store/default.php?cPath=107


trechriron

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Re: The least-worst RPG system.
« Reply #25 on: August 04, 2021, 09:14:14 PM »
Yeah, Masterbook is cool. Lots of character to the game.

Was one of the first (IIRC) introductions of the "universal measures" table with a cool logarithmic progression. WEG ported that over to D6 for the magic system. Brett has made some nice refinements in the Masterbook 2e beta...
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Marchand

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Re: The least-worst RPG system.
« Reply #26 on: August 04, 2021, 10:21:28 PM »
I'm a picky bitch about my RPGing, striving for a crunchy system that strikes the best blend between verisimilitude and usability.  D20 in particular has always bugged me for a few of my opinions:

Ablative HP per level as a health mechanic sucks.  Higher level characters shouldn't be able to roll around naked in a minefield just because the mines only do 1d10 damage apiece.  A person's health, in the sense of incoming damage they can absorb, shouldn't be constantly increasing for no good reason.

Levels kind of suck.  A corollary of the above, character growth being paired entirely on a concept of levels leads to things like higher-level people being able to ignore being constantly stabbed.  I'm also not a fan of long periods of zero advancement followed by a sudden leap in power when you ding the next level.

Skills as a pass/fail single roll aren't interesting...  D20 has fairly lavish attention to spellcasting and some interesting mechanics for combat, but almost no complexity whatsoever for non-combat skills.  Doing surgery?  Roll 15+ on a d20.  Underwater lockpicking?  15+ on a d20.

...but Powered by the Apocalypse blows.  You might be tempted to think, "Oh!  That new-fangled PbtA system doesn't use a pass/fail skill check..."  Let me stop you right there.  Powered by the Apocalypse is a sham.  The way it's set up, roll 2d6 and the most likely result is that you semi-succeed, is intentionally aiming to get every action a player takes into a bargaining scenario with the GM.  2d6 is so swingy that even if you have a specialized character with every conceivable bonus, you're still pretty likely to halfway botch the thing you're best at, which ruins the world for me.  Since you have to have a total of 10 or better to uncompromisingly succeed at something, even if you have a +3 bonus, which is a very large bonus, you have to get a 7 or better, leaving a 41.66% chance of partially failing.  That is fucking terrible.  And it's terrible in service of the belief that having to go back and forth with the GM to negotiate the result of every roll is making the game better somehow.  It's not.

Weapon damage being static is bad.  A weapon that can only ever do a fixed amount of damage lead to scenarios where a given weapon cannot possibly defeat a given opponent, even taking a critical hit into account, barring houserule stuff like three nat20s being an instakill.  You can have the best swordsman in the world and he won't ever do better than 2d8+8 damage with a 1d8 longsword and a +4 strength bonus, no matter how amazingly he strikes.

Have you ever looked at Classic Traveller? Damage comes directly off physical stats, leading to a death spiral of sorts as there are penalties for using weapons with less than certain stat values. Combat is fairly lethal - an average PC can be insta-killed if they are not careful. The answer is to be careful. The system rewards planning and smart tactics both in terms of getting creative in how you set up the combat (hire henchmen, exploit terrain etc.) and in terms of mastery of the (relatively few) rules.

There is no task system in the style of the d20 mechanic. Referees come up with throws based on the situation. That could easily encompass outcomes beyond binary pass/fail. You would have to be OK with an old-school approach to rulings not rules. There is blog called "Tales to Astound" that goes into this in detail. You can google "Rule 68A" as well if curious.
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Eserhaudin

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Re: The least-worst RPG system.
« Reply #27 on: August 05, 2021, 08:39:20 AM »
I think GURPS and Savage Worlds and FATE systems are pretty customizable and easy to use for any game world. And combat tends to run pretty quickly because hit points are capped. I like using these more than D20 systems.

Trond

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Re: The least-worst RPG system.
« Reply #28 on: August 05, 2021, 08:56:02 AM »
Some obvious ones that I think you should check out:

Runequest / Basic Roleplaying - old system with no levels, and it is very intuitive, but most rolls are just pass/fail (like most systems)

Rolemaster - this one has levels, and I always felt like the system needed tweaking, but plenty of intermediate results and interesting combat effects. Lots of tables though, but I never found this to be such a big problem as some say.

HappyDaze

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Re: The least-worst RPG system.
« Reply #29 on: August 05, 2021, 08:56:26 AM »
I think GURPS and Savage Worlds and FATE systems are pretty customizable and easy to use for any game world. And combat tends to run pretty quickly because hit points are capped. I like using these more than D20 systems.
I.find that Savage Worlds can break down on the high end (e.g. Savage Rifts) where you might get -8 modifiers to hit, and then you still have to top out damage to have any effect.These can lead to frustrating combats with lots of ineffective actions.