Sep 3, 2013

How many points did I have again?

Babbling at the Counter #06 – Pen and Paper

How many points did I have again?

So, I'm continuing with my columns about simple role playing systems. Last week I talked about creating Values on the spot while GMing (
For today, I promised to tackle the topic of Logistics. This time I'll divide the analysis into two broad categories: Character Customization and Rolling the Dice. Shall we begin?

Character Customization:
Sometimes, it's not about how the game handles conflict. Some people need to invest themselves on their characters, so they feel them more alive. A "complex" system in term of Values (as described last week) can create that feeling. A character can be strong and resilient, but slow. Or strong and fast while fragile. Or even fast, resilient and weak (that strikes me as a bad build, but they must have their reasons). So, even if a Warrior, a Knight and a Thief are all melee classes that deal damage based on their “Combat Prowess” (see last week’s examples), you expect this Value to be different, even if only because they have a different Speed Value (in our example we said Combat Prowess equals [Body + Speed]).

The point is, if all you do is assign points to "Soldier", sometimes it gets hard to see if you are supposed to be fast or strong or both. And it gets worse if you compare it to another character. Taking Risus (again, as the example, we can take a "Commando 4" vs. a "Mercenary 4". Outside of combat, it's pretty obvious how each one is different: For example, when calling their contacts, one would call people on the military or government, while the other might call soldiers of fortune and black market merchants.
But in combat, how are they different? It's implied they both can fight hand to hand or with firearms. They might be even supposed to know how to lead a team on the field. Is there really a difference between my “Commando” and your “Mercenary”?
The answer is both yes and no.

No, because there is no mechanical difference between them, so we both take four d6 for our rolls, and we have the same chance of success or failure.
On the other hand, yes, they a very different. Wasn’t my Commando specialized in jungle combat? In my story says he is, so, instead of punching you in the back of the head as a surprise attack, I’ll hide under this table and grab you from the feet, like I did hidden in tree roots back in the day. Mechanically speaking, as far as Risus is concerned, it’s the same to punch you or grab you. If I win the opposed contest, I’ll damage you. If I don’t I get damaged. But doesn’t the second one feel better? In terms of narrative, it’s at least more personal for the character.
So, what happens when you’d rather have a numerical bonus instead of feeling warn and fuzzy inside (good narrative feels nice)? Well, some games have specializations, so you get a bonus if you include some kind of concept on your action. Instead of “Commando 4”, it would be “Commando 4 (Jungle Combat)”. As my action ties to my specialty, I could get a bonus.

That’s an optional rule that can be implemented in almost any game, if needed be.

Rolling the Dice:
Ok, now you have the character you want and each action she does feels right, unique and according to concept. Then you try to tackle a guard only to discover that it requires a roll of 4d6, 2d8, 1d12 and 1d3. Every result over half the dice value adds a success to your attempt, and every 1 subtracts a success. Except for the d12, that one can add but not subtract.
Following me so far? Even though this is an extreme example, I hope the idea is clear enough. It’s really hard to play when it’s hard to remember how to do things, from the players’ point of view.

Every one of you must have seen something like this. You are deep in battle, the enemy commander is escaping and only the fighter can stop her. But he only has a sword and she is too far away for a melee attack! Maybe he could throw to try and incapacitate her. So… how where the rules when you throw a melee weapon? How many of my abilities apply to a ranged attack with a sword? Which Value should I use, Body or Speed? How much damage does a thrown long sword do?
See? It took us right out of the story and into a rulebook. And let me ask you: how often should that happen? Never, most of you must say.
Even though the player had memorized and written down every aspect of his combat style, he just didn’t thought he might need to make a ranged attack with his sword. He had a bow and everything, but in this singular and unique situation he didn’t had time to reach for it.

The story shouldn’t suffer just because a weird situation (rules wise) happened. Unless the aim of the game is tactical combat, where everyone has to constantly check their position and every possible action they can try, the rules shouldn’t be constantly checked.

Well, I’ve really gone overboard with the word count today, haven’t I? Hope you all found this interesting, or at least useful. See you next week.

- The Storeman

No comments:

Post a Comment