Marvel RPG System Revised

Here are some of the house-rules I use when I run Classic Marvel Superheroes on Roll20 for my game group. If you play in my games bookmark this page, otherwise enjoy this sample, there is more to come. 

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Marvel RPG System Revised – Feat rolls and Time & Movement

Feat Rolls general rules. Most feat rolls have a stated Intensity. A character may assist another if they have Abilities within one rank for a +1CS (p.19).

  • If the Intensity is MORE THAN 3 Ranks lower than your Ability, the feat is automatic.
  • If the Intensity is LOWER than your ability, you need a GREEN feat roll.
  • If the Intensity is HIGHER than your ability you need a RED feat roll.
  • If the Intensity is MORE THAN 1 Rank higher than your Ability, the feat is impossible.

Resource feats house rules: Each resource feat made reduces the resource rank for the week. The Resource rank is restored (all penalties removed) at the end of each week when the characters funds are replenished (TGIF).

  • If an item’s cost is more than 3CS lower than the Resource rank, the feat is automatically successful and the Resource rank is now at –1CS penalty.
  • If the Cost intensity is lower than the Resource Rank, then a Green FEAT roll is required and the Resource feat is now at a –2CS penalty.
  • If the cost intensity is 1CS higher as the Resource rank, then a Red FEAT roll is required and the Resource feat is now at a –6CS penalty.
  • If an item’s cost is more than 1CS higher than the Resource rank, the feat is automatically failed and the Resource rank is now at –1CS penalty.

Movement in “Areas” is based on Endurance or on a Movement Power. NOTE; 40 Areas = 1 mile

  • Feeble = 1 area/ turn.
  • Poor – Excellent = 2 areas / turn.
  • Remarkable or higher = 3 areas / turn.

Movement through a window or door costs 1 area of move. (If this ends the character’s move then he is standing in the window or doorway).

Breaking through a door, wall or other obstruction requires a Strength feat against the material strength of the obstruction and costs additional areas based on the material.

  • Up to Poor cost 1 area.
  • Up to Excellent costs 2 areas.
  • Up to Incredible costs 3 areas.
  • Greater than Incredible causes the character to stop movement and lose all momentum.

While moving the character can turn up to 90 degrees without losing momentum. Any turn greater than that cuts movement in half (possibly ending the move). Taking another action while moving reduces the move by half (minimum one).

Time is based on 6 second “Turns” (about the time of one comic panel).

  1. Judge determines actions of NPCs and other events.
  2. Players state their intended actions for the turn.
  3. Initiative is determined on 1d10 + Intuition modifier.
  4. Dodge, Block, Evade and Change Action* rolls are made.
  5. Each participant now takes their actions in initiative order.

​Changing an action requires a YELLOW Agility feat and then all actions thereafter are made at a –1CS penalty.

​On a green the character may choose to take no action.

​On a white the character must follow through with the original intended action.

Multiple actions in a turn:

A character may move half speed and still take one action without penalty.

Moving at full speed uses the entire turn (character may Charge an opponent).

Multiple “non-combat” actions in a turn are increased in difficulty by one color rank (p19).

Multiple targets; A single attack using Slugfest, Energy, or Force may affect multiple adjacent targets with one roll at –4CS. This may also be used to Escape multiple grapplers at –4CS.

Multiple Attacks Characters may make additional attacks with a successful Fighting feat roll:

  • Remarkable intensity for 2 attacks,
  • Amazing intensity for 3 attacks.
  • If this roll is successful the attacks are made at –1CS each.
  • If the roll is failed only one attack is made at a –3CS penalty.

An Overview of Mystara

May I present Bruce Heard’s Mystara Facebook Fanpage description in its entirety, with a complete background of the setting and list of products (from wikipedia) detailing and expanding upon this incredible and diverse game setting. I wanted to make this information available to my players and all fans of the setting without them having to sign up for a Facebook account. I did not create any of this and have kept all the links and original content present (although I did move the links to the bottom of the article and kept the setting info at the top).
Please check out Bruce Heard’s current projects at http://bruce-heard.blogspot.com/

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Mystara Known World map by Thorfinn Tait http://mystara.thorfmaps.com

Mystara

General Information

Founded in 1980, Mystara is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role playing game. Although it has officially been dropped from production by its creators, many fans continue to develop and evolve this fantasy setting jointly, continuing its original theme of group development.

Development

Mystara originated as the Known World, a semi-generic setting used in early adventure modules, first mentioned in the Module X1, Isle of Dread, which was expanded upon in various D&D modules and sources, particularly a series of Gazeteers.

Mystara began as several semi-independent projects by different teams of writers who were each assigned to the task of developing different cultures and nations that would exist in the fantasy world that was supported by Dungeons & Dragons at the time. Their work was gathered and compiled, blended, and combined to form a fantasy world, Mystara.

The D&D Gazetteer series details the game’s Known World setting. Each Gazetteer treats one nation or empire, and has three basic elements: cultural and geographic background, features, and adventures. The cultural and geographic campaign background section offers a brief history and timeline for each nation; basic geography, climate, and ecology; and, fundamental social and political concepts of the region. Each Gazetteer also offers a list of scenario ideas appropriate to the campaign setting.

Mystara Planet

Mystara’s outer surface consists of three principal land masses: the continent of Brun, the continent of Skothar, and the continent of Davania, plus the island continent of Alphatia (up to AC 1010). In the officially published material, the Known World concentrated on the eastern portion of Brun along with the lands of the Sea of Dawn. The continents of Mystara resemble those of the earth approximately 135 million years ago.

The inhabitants of Mystara are diverse: humans of all races can be found here, along with myriad creatures such as elves, dwarves, halflings, orcs, and dragons.

Some of the notable nations of Mystara include the Thyatian Empire, the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, the Principalities of Glantri, the merchant-run Republic of Darokin, the Emirates of Ylaruam, the Dwarven nation of Rockhome, The elven Kingdom of Alfheim, Halfling lands of the Five Shires and the chaotic Alphatian Empire.

The continent of Brun

The most commonly known land mass on Mystara’s outer surface is actually a tiny portion of the continent of Brun itself. In the officially published material, the Known World concentrated on the eastern portion of Brun along with the lands of the Sea of Dawn.

The Known World

The Known World has cultures and a level of technological development that resemble the Europe of our Earth around the 15th century, but without gunpowder. Nations of the known world display a great range of government types. Some nations are populated entirely by demihumans and/or humanoids. By common convention, the boundaries of the “Known World” are those covered in the world map as originally published in the module X1, The Isle of Dread, plus Norwold, the Isle of Dawn, and (pre Wrath of the Immortals) Alphatia.

As the name implies, the “Known World” covers the most notable nations of Mystara, the ones most commonly used in Mystara-based campaigns and featured in fiction (both officially published “canon” and fan-based). It includes the Thyatian Empire, which could be compared to Byzantine Empire; the Grand Duchy of Karameikos (which includes the town of Threshold, the default setting of many classic D&D adventures), comparable to medieval southeastern Europe; the Principalities of Glantri, which is similar to medieval western Europe, ruled by wizard-princes; the Ethengar Khanate, a Mongol-like society; the merchant-run Republic of Darokin, which is based somewhat loosely on the mercantile states of Medieval Italy; the Emirates of Ylaruam which have an Arabic flavor; the Heldannic Territories, ruled by an order of religious Knights devoted to the Immortal Vanya, similar to the Teutonic Knights; the Atruaghin Clans, which have an Amerindian feel; the nation of Sind, based on India during the rule of the Mughals; the Northern Reaches Kingdoms of Ostland, Vestland, the Soderfjord Jarldoms, based on Scandinavian kingdoms at various periods of history; the Dwarven nation of Rockhome; the elven Kingdom of Alfheim; the Halfling lands of the Five Shires; and the Alphatian Empire, ruled by wizards and other spellcasters.

To the distant Northwest of the “Known World”, across the Great Waste, lays the mysterious lands of Hule, ruled by Hosadus, also known as “The Master”. Also on the periphery of the Known World are the Kingdoms of Wendar and Denagoth, the first an elven-dominated nation and the latter a mountainous and dark realm of evil, with ill-intentions towards Wendar. The Adri Varma lies between Sind, Wendar, the Great Waste, and The Black Mountains, forming the northern border of Glantri and defining the northwestern limits of the region.

The Savage Coast

Mystara includes the Savage Coast, a coastal area located in the south central part of the Brun continent, to the south and west of Hule. This part of Mystara is affected by the Red Curse, a sinister enchantment which eventually kills its inhabitants through mutation unless the (fictional) metal cinnabryl is worn in contact with the body. This area was published in its own boxed set entitled Red Steel, and later republished on-line as the Savage Coast. Its swashbuckling flavor is very different from that of the “Known World”, closer in atmosphere to that of the Age of Exploration than the fantasy middle-ages/renaissance tone of the Known World. The Savage Coast is complete with gunpowder (“Smokepowder”) weaponry. The specifics of the “Red Curse”, which include mutilation of the body and extreme degeneration of physical and mental health, also tend to keep the inhabitants of the Savage Coast within the region, as debilitating effects result if they leave the cursed area.

The continent of Davania

Even though most of the Known World civilizations historically originated from this part of the planet, it did not see much development while the Mystara product line was still in production. The only major appearance of the continent was in Dragon magazine, where parts of it were sketched out during the Voyage of the Princess Ark series, by Known World Product Manager Bruce Heard. In recent years, many Mystara fans have been turning their attention to Davania with fan-made material.

The continent of Skothar

Very little was officially developed for this part of Mystara. Ever since the Mystara product line was discontinued, fans have created their own material for this part of Mystara.

The Hollow World

Mystara is a hollow planet, with a habitable surface on its interior called the Hollow World. This world is lit by an eternal red sun at the center of Mystara, and serves as a “cultural museum,” preserving the societies that have become extinct in the outer world. The existence of the Hollow World is not, in general, known to the inhabitants of the outer world. The poles are actually huge, subtly curving holes that allow passage between the outer and inner world, although it is a long, hard trek through a cold, unlit, stormy and anti-magic area. The curvature of the holes is so subtle that explorers from either surface do not notice the transition until after it is already made, causing quite a shock for most.

Moons

Two moons orbit the planet. Matera is a moon much like our own, whose phases govern lycanthropy (werewolves, werebears, etc.). Only the Immortals inhabit Matera. They live in a city, Pandius, where they can meet and watch over Mystara. Patera, or Myoshima to its inhabitants, is an invisible moon that cannot be seen from Mystara. Patera’s inhabitants have a culture similar to that of medieval Japan.

 Blackmoor

Mystara (like Greyhawk) also incorporated the Blackmoor setting by placing it in the world’s distant past. Blackmoor evolved from a feudal kingdom into a highly advanced civilization, using more and more powerful and destructive technology. It ended itself in an apocalyptic explosion so devastating that it changed the climate and geography of the planet as a whole.

 

Products

GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos Aaron Allston 1987
GAZ2 The Emirates of Ylaruam Ken Rolston 1987
GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri Bruce Heard 1987
GAZ4 The Kingdom of Ierendi Anne Gray McCready 1987
GAZ5 The Elves of Alfheim Steve Perrin 1988
GAZ6 The Dwarves of Rockhome Aaron Allston 1988
GAZ7 The Northern Reaches Ken Rolston 1988
GAZ8 The Five Shires Ed Greenwood 1988
GAZ9 The Minrothad Guilds Deborah Christian Kim Eastland 1988
GAZ10 The Orcs of Thar Bruce Heard 1988
GAZ11 The Republic of Darokin Scott Haring 1989
GAZ12 The Golden Khan of Ethengar Jim Bambra 1989
GAZ13 The Shadow Elves Carl Sargent Gary Thomas 1990
GAZ14 The Atruaghin Clans William W. Connors 1991
Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia Aaron Allston 1989 Boxed set

PC1 Tall Tales of the Wee Folk John Nephew 1989
PC2 Top Ballista Carl Sargent 1989
PC3 The Sea People Jim Bambra 1990
PC4 Night Howlers Ann Dupuis 1992

Hollow World Campaign Set Aaron Allston 1990 Boxed Set
HWR1 Sons of Azca John Nephew 1991 Accessory
HWR2 Kingdom of Nithia Blake Mobley, Newton Ewell 1991 Accessory
HWR3 The Milenian Empire Anthony Herring 1992 Accessory
HWA1 Nightwail Allen Varney 1990 Adventure
HWA2 Nightrage Allen Varney 1990 Adventure
HWA3 Nightstorm Allen Varney 1991 Adventure
HWQ1 The Milenian Scepter Anthony Herring 1992 Adventure

Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure J. Grubb, A. Allston, T. Reid 1994 Boxed Set
Glantri: Kingdom of Magic M. Cook, B. Heard 1995 Boxed Set
Hail the Heroes T. Beach 1994 Adventure Boxed Set
Night of the Vampire R. Baker III 1994 Adventure Boxed Set
Mark of Amber A. Allston, J. Grubb and J. Rateliff 1995 Adventure Boxed Set
Player’s Survival Kit John D. Rateliff 1995 Accessory
Dungeon Master Survival Kit S. Schend 1995 Accessory
Poor Wizard’s Almanac III & Books of Facts A. Dupuis 1994 Accessory
Joshuan’s Almanac & Book of Facts A. Dupuis, E. Tornabene 1995 Accessory
Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix J. Nephew, J, Terra, S. Williams, T. Woodruff 1994 Accessory
Red Steel Campaign Expansion Tim Beach 1994 Accessory
Savage Baronies Tim Beach 1995 Accessory & Adventure
Savage Coast Monstrous Compendium Appendix L. Coleman, T. James, T. Zuvich 1996 Accessory

Mystara video games

Video games set in Mystara include the Capcom arcade Beat ’em up/role-playing video games Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom (1993) and Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara (1996). Other Mystara video games are: Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun (Sega Genesis, 1992), Fantasy Empires (PC, 1993), and Order of the Griffon (TurboGrafx 16, 1992).

Novels

Dark Knight of Karameikos (October 1995), by Timothy Brown, (ISBN 0-7869-0307-4)
The Black Vessel (August 1996), by Morris Simon, (ISBN 0-7869-0507-7)

First Quest

Rogues to Riches (February 1995), by J. Robert King, (ISBN 1-56076-825-8)
Son of Dawn (May 1995), by Dixie Lee McKeone, (ISBN 1-56076-884-3)

Dragonlord Chronicles

Dragonlord of Mystara (July 1994), by Thorarinn Gunnarsson, (ISBN 1-56076-906-8)
Dragonking of Mystara (July 1995), by Thorarinn Gunnarsson, (ISBN 0-7869-0153-5)
Dragonmage of Mystara (April 1996), by Thorarinn Gunnarsson, (ISBN 0-7869-0488-7)

Penhaligon Trilogy

The Tainted Sword (October 1992), by D.J. Heinrich, (ISBN 1-56076-395-7)
The Dragon’s Tomb (April 1993), by D.J. Heinrich, (ISBN 1-56076-592-5)
The Fall of Magic (October 1993), by D.J. Heinrich, (ISBN 1-56076-663-8)

*Page Admins
Bruce Heard
Website http://bruce-heard.blogspot.com/
Facebook © 2014 · English (US)

*Also visit:
http://pandius.com/
http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/thepiazza/bb/viewforum.php?f=3
https://www.facebook.com/groups/thepiazza/?bookmark_t=group
http://www.facebook.com/groups/mystara.reborn
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mystara
http://bruce-heard.blogspot.com/

Player Feedback form

Many years ago I used printed feedback forms for games I ran. Mainly because I had so many games going when I was a kid that I couldn’t keep track of who had been on what adventure and what group they went on it with. Well I just stumbled onto that feedback document in my google drive. At some point (probably around 2005 or 2006) I wrote it up sometime last year I must have uploaded it to google with all my other gaming notes. So here it is, edited and updated as a google form. I am sharing to see how well it works, and how it compiles the information. I think in the future I will be requiring these for XP rewards. It sure used to help a lot when I had a binder full of them sorted by campaign.

GM Bully – feedback

I really like this video and I think you should go and subscribe to this guy right away. But I disagree on two points, and I disagree strongly enough that I felt I needed to talk about it.

1. I like it when players add to the story and try to drive it in their own direction. It is a great source of ideas for me and I don’t mind giving them narrative control like that since I know they are getting what they want out of the story. If what they are trying to add to the story doesn’t fit, like a magic shop on an island of cannibals for example, then I let them know that. If they persist after that, they are nagging and “bullying”.

2. I know that losing control over your only playing piece in the game is terrible. but many games, especially older games enforce this. If you are playing a fantasy game and a mage charms your character, or you are struck by a fear effect in a horror game, then you are compelled to act in a certain way, or not at all. Sometimes it isn’t obvious to the character why this is happening. Sometimes the source of the compel is unknown and finding out about it is a part of the mystery. If your GM says “you feel an overwhelming sense of dread of dread as you approach the gates and you turn away from them in fear” then you as a player should ROLEPLAY that out and go with it. Don’t ever assume your GM is trying to ruin your fun. There is a reason for whatever they are doing although it may not be apparent at that moment. Few things are worse than having to give away metagame facts (like invisible spellcasters or cursed items) just because a fussy player wants an explanation to a situation where they feel you “must” be breaking the rules. Don’t be that player. Wait until a break to bring it up. Let the GM know it bothered you, and if you aren’t satisfied with how it is handled, let the GM know that too… out of game. Maybe your playstyles just aren’t a good mix and you should not be gaming together. Whatever the case, there is no good reason to throw a fit and ruin the fun and immersion of everyone else in the game.

I am looking forward to seeing more videos from How to be a Great Game Master, and I would like to know what YOU think about the topic. I will be watching the comments on Youtube, or you can talk about it here. I am sure there are plenty of people reading this thinking “you should NEVER take away player agency over their own character”. So go ahead and shout it from the rooftops. I will be watching for it.
Game On!

Ravenloft Scions

Ravenloft scions

What if the people who thought they escaped Ravenloft never really did? What if instead, mental projections manifested from their thoughts and ideas reached out from Ravenloft near areas where the dimensional boundaries were weak? These thoughts could be made real by the same reality altering powers which first spawned Barovian from Strahd in the first place. These are the energies which the plane uses to shape and reform itself to accommodate all the new lost souls who get pulled in. The powers which manifest the mists, allowing the sentient pocket dimension to tap other worlds for more souls.

So the mental projection, a perfect facsimile of the character, emerges from the mists feeling they have escaped from Ravenloft! But have they? There would still be the original soul, trapped in Ravenloft. That character would emerge from the mists back in demiplane of dread. Possibly in another location. They may not even realize they were still trapped. When they figured it out, it would just seem something went wrong, and they never really escaped. What they wouldn’t know is that no one ever does.

Instead, whenever a character leaves the mists there is a chance they send out a fragment of themselves, a scion, to another reality. The first scion would presumably be sent to the character’s home plane. It would be an exact duplicate of the character and no mortal magic or science could discern otherwise. However, each new one would be different than the last and be sent to a different reality. But the more times the characters try to escape, the more scions they make. The differences would start becoming more noticeable, different backgrounds, social positions, powers, alignment, items, etc.

The Lords of Ravenloft would rarely escape the mists, if ever. These are exceptionally evil souls which the Demiplane of Dread feeds on to create new realms. If the characters were to ever run into a scion of a lord of Ravenloft it would most defiantly exist in its home reality, and would be a perfect copy of the original entity. Deviation in the scions only occurs after multiple copies.

Others, including heroes of great renown, might try escaping again and again. Eventually giving up and submitting to a life in Ravenloft, waging war with its dark pawns. Each time they tried to escape they would have created another scion of themselves, in yet another reality. All these alternates scattered among the multiverse explains so many remarkably similar characters.

For example, Fistandulus from Krynn, Elminster from Faerun, and Etienne D’Ambreville from Mystara. All three of these characters are ridiculously powerful wizards with direct relations to gods of magic, avatars, chosen ones, etc. Consider the possibility that these characters are all scions of the same archmage trying to escape Ravenloft. We know that Etienne and his entire family came through an amber mist from Averoigne, a gothic horror France. And we know that they then disappeared again with their keep Chateau D’Ambreville through the same mist, only to later reappeared with a new chateau similar but different to the previous one. What if they never really escaped Averoigne? What if Averoigne is a realm of Ravenloft (based on the fiction of Clark Ashton Smith) and each time the residents of Averoigne thought they escaped, they instead they created another duplicate? Arch-mages across the multiverse who are immortal avatars of magic.

Sometimes a character in Ravenloft dies while there are scions out there in other realities. The demi-plane would recall one of its scions, typically the lowest generation, to take the character’s place. The scion would eventually realize, if not immediately, they are back in Ravenloft. Most often with anyone who was nearby at the time. They would probably start looking to escape again, possibly succeeding in creating more scions. This constant loop serves to draw more souls into the mist for the demiplane to feed and grow.

Compare the original Ravenloft adventures for the first edition of the game to the second edition material, and the third edition material, fourth edition, fifth edition. Ravenloft keeps changing and growing, feeding on the fears of its inhabitants and shaping itself to the evils of its Lords. Keep in mind however, the Demiplane of Dread doesn’t always follows the rules and nothing here is beyond its power to overcome. Weird things can happen, and if Ravenloft has need of a situation it could create the conditions whether it follows this format or not.

I think this not only explains a lot of things, like why people who have been to Ravenloft always end up going back, but it also gives to potential to create alternate versions of characters and even run dead characters by switching alternates.

These ideas come from partly from Marvel comics, with Kang and his alternate selves, or all the alternate spider-man incarnations. Partly from Star Trek with its alternate realities and the energy ripple in Star Trek: Generations. And of course ideas developed in countless games of Ravenloft game ran by fantastic DMs, including Dan Walsh, Mike Paulhus, Rob Cast, Ron Studley, Eddy Boswell-Correa, Evan Johnson, and others.

Here is an example; In a game run by Dan Walsh, we had the chance to escape the Mists of Ravenloft. There were two portals out, but only one was real. One portal led to a grassy hill, on a sunny field, with a peaceful hamlet in the background. The other one led to a raging storm-tossed sea; in the distance was a ship which didn’t look to have much of a chance against the storm. The heroes argued about which portal to take and ended up parting ways. The ones who went through the village portal found themselves still in Ravenloft. The scene was darker on the other side, the sky was gray and the buildings were worn. The mists are cruel and deceiving. The others found that they had escaped onto a ship, but that ship would eventually make its way back to the Demiplane of Dread. Ravenloft never really lets go of you.

None of this is meant to challenge any copyrights or intellectual property. I am just a very grateful fan who loves gaming and sci-fi/fantasy. Thank you to all the original creators and to the excellent Game Masters I have had the privilege to play under.

How Fate Works

How Fate Works006

I just had a conversation with someone about the Fate RPG, and I hit some points that I would like to share.

Fate uses Aspects instead of crunchy mechanics. Think of a large power armor suit. It would be;

  • Big and bulky powered combat suit.
  • Full sensors and life support for 3 days.
  • Has a long-range missile weapon system.

That is it. That armor is statted out and ready to play now. During the game, any time you would say “yeah but I am in this big and bulky powered combat armor”, then you spend a Fate point token to get a +2 or a re-roll of the dice. Simple right?

So it’s more about how well you describe your stuff, and how important that stuff is to you in game. If you have ever seen Guardians of the Galaxy, StarLord’s walkman is just as important to him and to driving the story, as his blasters or his jet boots. If you want your “Pet Slime Beast” to be as important as your blaster rifle you can put that in as one of your Aspects. Whenever you spend a Fate point token to tag your “Pet Slime Beast” in the story, it grants a +2 or a re-roll to the task at hand.
PLAYER: “but he lets stay for free because he can’t get over how cute my pet slimebeast is and couldn’t bear to turn us out into the cold… right?”
GM: “okay you get a +2 and the innkeeper lets you stay the night”.

Characters are made as a group because other people can tag your Aspects to give you Fate point tokens that you can use later for more bonuses. So someone could to tag your “Big and Bulky” power armor to say you can’t get around to them in time. You get a token that you can use for a +2 or a re-roll on something later. It is super fast playing and easy to grok once you let go of looking for stas and limitations that other RPGs have trained us to do.

The game uses funky dice, but it’s basically 4d6,

  • 1 or 2 is NEGATIVE,
  • 3 or 4 is NO MOD, and
  • 5 or 6 is POSITIVE.

So if you have +2 in Computers, and a “Neural Interface Jack”, your total modifier is going to be +4 with those tasks. You are typically going to get a Result of +2 to +6, with your actual skill (+4) being the most common result. It is possible to roll +4 or -4 and generate a Result very different from your skill (computers + neural interface + high roll could generate a result of 8!) But it is very rare. Tasks aren’t as swingy as a d20 game, if you are good you are typically always good. On the virtual game table everything is rolled with [[4df]], and I have set up a button to click to generate this result.

There are other facets of the game, such as Approaches and Stunts, but once you know how Aspects and dice work, you are ready to play. And now you are…

What drove me to OSR games.

ADVENTURE
I loved d20 when it was released, but it became bloated and overly complex. Then Pathfinder seem to be the holy grail of gaming, running like precision clockwork, only to fall prey to the same sickening bloat of expansion book after expansion book. I had begun to feel that gaming had lost its magic for me. There were no more risks. Everything became so mechanical and predictable that the sessions weren’t fun anymore. Challenges became a simple matter of adding up a few bonuses.

“Okay so if one player assists me for a +2, and one player casts bless, and I use this masterwork item, and drink this potion, then we will have enough to do this no problem. No no, don’t waste that spell, we only need a 16 and this way I can do it by taking ten”.

That is what ruined gaming for me. That is what sucked the thrill out of adventures. That is what killed the magic of RPGs. And Old School Revival brought it back to life! I went back to Old School games because I knew that any current edition would just keep grinding out new material. They have to sell books after all, it’s a business. But I realized that the GAME hadn’t lost the magic, it’s not that the hobby wasn’t fun anymore. Rather it was that the editions we were playing. The heavy mechanics and the arguments over a mere +1 bonus. Because the player knows so much about the mechanics that they feel cheated if an unknown element effects the expected outcome. They know the target difficulty of almost any task, and therefore they know exactly how much that +1 matters.

Characters shouldn’t always know what is affecting their chance of success and failure. You don’t get to know that you are about to be stung by a bee on your way to the car this morning. You don’t get to factor that into your plans ahead of time and adjust accordingly. Likewise, the characters may not know about an invisible spy, or a magical effect which protects their target. They may not know that their weapons have been sabotaged during their last rest, or any of a multitude of other “surprises” that were supposed to come to light in a big plot reveal. But instead of these things causing the players to think “in-character” about what is happening and why, they would often result in bickering about how it could be possible that this rule on page X isn’t working all of a sudden. Everyone wanted to be Neo in The Matrix, to be able to see the ones and zeroes behind the facade.

And even when the rules weren’t causing arguments, they still often managed to sap the fun out a game session. How much fun is it to hunt across your character sheet front to back, top to bottom, looking for a bonus? Checking rulebooks full of powers and abilities, trying to hunt down that +2 that will ensure your success. The other players are losing interest while the GM is staring at you ready to tell you the results, but you continue to stall for time, saying “wait I know I get a bonus to that from something.” While you can get caught up in that type of thinking under pressure, and believe me I have, it isn’t really fun for anyone at the table. It isn’t the kind of heroic action which most RPG games aspire to.

Many newer games and independently published RPGs have great mechanics that focus on quick action resolution, or focus on a particular theme or playstyle. These mechanics can often be transported into your game and can be used to mitigate some of the crunch of newer systems. One mechanic I like is this;
Any one thing in your favor grants a +2, any two things grant a +5, and three or more things grant a +10. So if you are trying to pry open a door on 1d20, and you have a strength bonus, a crowbar and a buddy helping out, you get +10.
That is a lot easier than hunting for bonuses, and it rewards the group for working together. But new mechanics can also be very confusing or disorienting to a game that is already very crunchy, or to a group that is not comfortable with house rules. Sometimes it is better to just play the new game for a few sessions and then recommend using the rule in your d20 game.

When it all is said and done, I have found the simplest way to revitalise my interest in the hobby, was to look at all my current stories through the lens of Old School game rules. All the excess mechanics melt away, leaving the most important story elements behind. Characters are described by their deeds and background rather than their modifiers and bonuses. Situations are handled by interacting with the game environment rather than by hunting for something on a character sheet. Social situations in a game are played out instead of being resolved on a die roll.

As a final note, while it is true that you can run a crunchy, mechanic-heavy game that embraces all of these themes, that is often more a result of what you and your group brought to that game, rather than being a play style that is supported and rewarded by the mechanics of the game you are playing. Make sure you are having fun with your games, don’t let them become a chore. Keep on gaming and keep rolling 20’s.

6/18/2015
Vikshade Technolich

Note; This article was written last year before I got into the FATE RPG. Expect to be seeing more about that in coming weeks.