Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What to do

I haven't posted in quite a long time, and for that I apologize. But, like many of you, real life has so blatantly intruded into what I want to do. An unfortunate truth is that something must give, and that friends is the blog. Not that I have any kind of an "audience" per se, but still, I feel a little guilty.

So what to write about? My family game has dwindled down to nearly nothing with the approach of summer and the warmer weather. The girls don't want to sit inside and roll dice when they can run around outdoors and play their imagination games in a much more tactile and active manner. I don't blame them one iota. And again, real life has been rearing its ugly head, it's just tough to find the time to sit down lately.

Ah, but there is yet something I can chat about. I've been playing a game with one of the guys from my every-other Tuesday night group. We've been playing a low-level game on the off Tuesdays that we don't gather to play 4E. Neither he nor I are huge 4E fans so we've been contemplating trying other rules systems. The one that he's latched onto is ICE's Rolemaster.

Now, I've got to say, we were attempting to find something that was a little less constrictive than 4E. Or so I thought. It turns out that Rolemaster is a beast of a rules set. I'm sure that many of you already know this. I've heard it but I hadn't ever experienced it till now.

Holy Fancy Dancing Moses! That is one very serious rules system!

I'm absolutely overwhelmed with charts and tables, huge character sheets, massive character creation processes, long detail oriented battles and hugely complex systems that describe every facet of your character imaginable. I don't want to denigrate the game in any way, but I'll have to say that in my estimation, we went the wrong direction.

The other guy I'm playing with obviously likens "grit" with realism. He likes all the little fiddly bits, the things that simulate the unfortunate reality's of life. You know, things like bows breaking because you pulled it back too hard, slipping on the grass and missing drawing your sword and knocking yourself silly while fighting a bandit...Things like that.

Me? I don't mind that kind of thing, but what I don't like is having to pour through charts and tables in order to see how the heck something like that takes place. My buddy's got the right idea, he wants to just have me describe what I want to do and then he applies the rules as he sees fit. I love this...It's from the long ago days of Dungeons and Dragons, when the rules were more of a framework and less of a "how to" compendium.

The only issue w/ that is that at least one of us has to understand a decent portion of the rules. He's trying. He's been reading a ton, and really giving it his best shot. But man...there's just so bloody much. I have my doubts.

So, what to do. Do we continue on this track and slowly build our way up to a decent understanding of the rules and then, as we "get it", piece by piece, we pick up momentum and get into the real rhythm of playing? Or, do we go to a more recognizable rule set? Something along the lines of OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Swords and Wizardry, Castles and Crusades, get our feet under us quickly due to our years of experience w/ a system that's nearly identical, and then BOOM!, we're off to the races right quick.

I'm sure that due to my wording it's pretty obvious what I'd like to do. The end of my rope is nearing...I'll give the other system a little while longer, but I've always been a believer in an "additive" process rather than a "subtractive" process of gaming. What I mean by that is that it's easier to take a simple system and add complexity where needed, rather than learn a complex system and pull off pieces till you've got what you're looking for.

Anyway, I really dig the way that my buddy DMs. He's very creative in his descriptions and sets up some really awesome scenes that are very memorable and easy to submerge oneself in. One of the things that he's looking for is to recreate the games from our youth, in that he's opting for low levels and a slow advancement. He likes the scrapping for everything and relying on nothing but wits in order to win the day.

Conversely, he's not at all into high level characters that can waltz into a full-grown dragon's cave w/out fear, and in just a few short rounds, lay the beast low and walk out w/ a king's ransom. I think that I tend to agree. Although, I do like it when a character has battled, sweat, and bled his or her way up through the ranks, and is able to do things that the common man or woman wouldn't, or couldn't imagine doing.

I mean not ridiculous stuff, but some epic, song-worthy kinds of things. Like saving a village from a war band of orcs single handedly. Or driving away the ankehg swarm that's infested the local farmer's field. And yeah, maybe getting rid of that dragon that's been plaguing the dukedom lately...with help of course.

I'll keep you all updated on how this transpires.


Anonymous said...

Have you considered Chaosium's "Basic Roleplaying" or even GURPS? Both are pretty scalable.

Jeff Rients said...

MERP would be a possible compromise. It has a lot of the crunchiness your friend seems interested in, but tones down the full-on Rolemaster experience so that normal people can play it.

James Maliszewski said...

To echo Jeff's comments, MERP is a very fun game system. I played a lot of it back in the day and found it vastly more manageable than full-on RoleMaster, which was simply more than my feeble mind could handle. I think the rules are a terrible fit for Middle-earth, but we had a lot of fun with them nonetheless.

Chris said...

Rolemaster? *The* game for maths and stats undergraduates? Run away!

If you want to just dip your toe in those waters ("Roll on the ambient water temperature table, modified by the water flow and seasonal chill factor matrixes. Then cross-reference with the frostbite onset chart...") MERP is a good introduction that doesn't inflict the full-on, hardcore RoleMaster experience.

Or you could just import those aspects of RoleMaster that appeal into another system of your choice. IIRC that's how RM started out, as a set of house rules for D&D.

Banesfinger said...

The current "lite" version of Rolemaster is HARP (High Action Role Playing). It has much less chart flipping than its predecessor but ample crunch. Someone has also written a d20ified version (all d100 rolls converted to d20) for speedy math issues in the game.

Gamer Dude said...

@Jeff and @James:Yeah, MERP is an alternative actually...I've been itching to take a look at it and see if there's some kind of solace I can take amidst all of this "chart" madness.

So a funny story: When we first started down this road, my pal says to me, "Making a character seems to be quite the process, so, I've come across this spread-sheet that will allow you to input all the numbers and it will do the math for you."

Warning claxons immediately sounded in my mind, but I thought, for the sake of my friend, I'll give this thing a fair shake and see where it takes us. Besides, can those Brits across the pond possibly be THAT much smarter than us Yanks? ;-)

Apparently they can. Even with that spread-sheet, I was positively overwhelmed. So, I'll look for MERPS and give that a whirl. How about War Hammer Fantasy Roleplay? Anyone have experience with that system? Is it just as in-depth and technical?

@BanesfingerI do remember hearing something about HARP. I'll have to take a look at that as well.

Thanks for the suggestions you guys!

Anonymous said...

LOL, I somehow found myself delving into Rolemaster myself the last couple of weeks. I'd recommend starting with Rolemaster Express. Its a full rules set - total 88 pages, with 4 Classes (Fighter, Thief, Animist, Magician) and 4 Races (Human, Dwarf, Elf, Halfing). It is a bit easier to digest than the complete Rolemaster - at least in theory and is designed to expand into or incorporate whatever Rolemaster Classic stuff you want. They even have smalle PDFs that will help you expand slowly.

RPG.Net has a guy who did a Forum Review over several posts (link here: [url]http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=361628 [/url]

And I'm doing one as well over at the Dragon's Landing Inn Forums (Link here: [url] http://bbs.dragonslanding.com/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=3024[/url]

These might help you sort thru the mechanics and digest everything.

The charts from MERPs are what I remember being cool that's why I decided to try out Rolemaster Express. Anyway, I digress.

In regards to Warhammer, its d% based, fairly easy to follow, so if you wanted to go that route you could with a lot lower learning curve than Rolemaster. And actually since Warhamer Fantasy is d% based, you could in theory use all the charts from Rolemaster with a slight modification, which would be pretty cool as Rolemaster was designed at its inception to be an add on to other games. IIRC they have a PDF on their sight that or on their forums where it shows you how to covert Rolemaster for use with other mechanics. Hope that Helps, God bless.

Anonymous said...

HARP does sound like what you are looking for and it is pretty easy to pick up, sure it isn't as easy as the retro-clones, but it is a fun game. I would read the HARP forums at harphq.com because some of the rules are a bit complicated, but nothing too deep.

There is also BRP, Cthulhu Dark Ages, etc.

Anonymous said...

Another vote for HARP. I downloaded it recently and it seems like the perfect compromise for you and your friend. It is very much a scaled-down, clarified & simplified Rolemaster.

Pukako said...

Rolemaster was actually my first 'real' system as a teen, and despite playing it wrong for the first 6 months, we learned to like it, even though we removed a lot of the fiddly bits to make it playable. And the combat was AMAZING. I still remember some of the big fights...

I lost the books, but recently got a heap of the updated system from a friend that moved overseas.

It makes my brain hurt. The new character development is bad and almost unplayable, and the worst thing is that a PC is incapable of doing ordinary RPG things until they hit 10th level. But despite this, the first combat scene (three 1st level PCs v four ghouls) was almost as good as I remembered.

MERP is a good, simple system with the same mechanic. The problem is that it's designed for a Middle Earth setting, and hard to separate from that, and you can't really develop new classes.

But worth another look. Frankly, if a mechanic is annoying, remove it and use something else. Can't go past 1 in 6 chance of finding a secret door...

Gamer Dude said...


Yeah, I just actually took a look at MERP, and you're right, it's suitably similar to Rolemaster. Yet simplified enough that it's intriguing.

Your comment about character creation is EXACTLY what drives me most crazy about the darned game. Well, not your comment...the system. ;-)

I used to hate it when a character of mine died in D&D 3.5. I just couldn't stand going through the 35 steps (spread throughout 15 books) in order to come up w/ something playable.

I'm of the mind that I'd rather build something quickly, simply and cleanly and then if I want to make it "cool" I'll do it myself w/ some imagination. I don't need all of these fiddly doodads in order to window dress my PC. It's one of those things in Rolemaster that takes it one step further away from being a "game"...towards being a "system". (Think pad of paper versus a full blown laptop computer.)

And another problem that I'm finding is that each of us has to completely review the rules every time we get together. That's extremely annoying.

So, I'm going to try and convince the guys that we should give Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, or Swords and Wizardry a shot.