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Name a RPG system you can't stand.

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Well, I disliked D&D 4e because it slapped the iconic D&D brand name onto a set of mechanics that didn't feel much connected to the game's best traditions. I admired its ambition to make all character levels as fun and rewarding as the "sweet spot" levels 7-14, but the whole MMORPG-on-paper motif just turned me off so badly that none of the character levels were fun or rewarding to play through. It was a design detour that I felt would have been better wasted spent on a no-name product line, rather than D&D. To my mind it derailed the development of the brand for several years, and while it could be argued that D20 was getting long in the tooth, I feel that D&D 5e was the sort of successor design we should have gotten after 3.5e. We'll never get those awful 4e years back... ;)

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Oh, I think the SF RPG living steel had a great setting and an unplayable system, the phoenix command system which was really impossible to play.

 

It had a nice setting and some unique aliens, plus an interesting world. I wish the owners of leading edge games would allow someone else to develop living steel with a gear oriented PLAYABLE RPG system. Hero, gurps, fusion, EABA, whatever.

 

Wasn't Living Steel part of the Dragonstar Rising universe/system?  If it's what comes to mind then I have to agree completely.  Cool concept, but the rule set was really really bad...

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I recall references to the game so lethal your character could die while being rolled up...

 

Oh yeah. They modified that later so that the Survival roll just ceased character generation halfway through the 4 year term - discharged due to injury. Reverting to the original rule was kept as an optional "Iron Man" rule, though :)

 

But having characters die during generation in a dangerous career was nothing - real bragging rights were if you managed to get a character to die of old age before starting play (I managed it once or twice, but I was rolling up a LOT of NPCs). Which was pretty unlikely - you normally mustered out aged no older than 46 - but if you'd rolled particularly low physical stats it could happen... and would represent a sickly character dying of something rather than senescence per se

 

And it shouldn't be overstated. Traveller character generation is pretty quick and easy, so if you get unlucky it's no chore to roll up another one. For the most part a character only has to make 2-3 survival rolls of 3+ or 4+ on 2D6.

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Actually random generation combined with a lifepath system that could kill you had interesting consequences. It was remarkable how many inept dimwits seemed to think that the Scout Service was just their ticket to success.

 

 

And it shouldn't be overstated. Traveller character generation is pretty quick and easy, so if you get unlucky it's no chore to roll up another one. For the most part a character only has to make 2-3 survival rolls of 3+ or 4+ on 2D6.

1 in 36 or 1 in 12 odds of death seem non-trivial.

 

However, as you note, pick the service with the most benefits and keep rolling. Someone will beat the odds eventually, and you won't be playing the dead characters, or banned from the game for having too many characters killed in the creation process. A similar mentality to fiddling with those early D&D artifacts - sure, 99 out of 100 characters are maimed or killed, but sooner or later I get the 1% lucky guy who gains vastly excessive powers.

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The odds of death are 1:1. No one gets out alive.

 

Geez, have you never heard of spoiler alerts? :)

 

Timemaster (Pacesetter 1984) was one I owned (probably still have it in storage somewhere) that I found annoying, though I can't really recall why. Ditto for the Dream Park one (R.Talsorian 1992).

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Ok couldn't quite remember exactly but I was thinking "that was harsh"

 

Yeah, the concept of game balance is something that I think Palladium never really understood. The better skill packages could give a pretty significant advantage compared to the lesser ones.

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Game balance is a very challenging design goal when the game mechanics are as complex as in a typical tabletop RPG.

 

In the early versions of (A)D&D, rarity was supposed to serve as a form of game balance, as if having fewer Paladins in a campaign was an effective way to make everyone in a party feel like equals. Instead of recognizing the intrinsically unbalancing effect of really high characteristics, the system worked such that players who happened to roll high were further rewarded with access to premium character classes with still more super powers. If you were to "price out" characters in D&D using a point-buy abstraction as an analysis tool, you'd very quickly expose the flaw in such a system. But rolling up characters like that is like winning the lottery, and deep down most players would rather have a chance at winning such a lottery than be forced to adhere to an intrinsically balancing framework like that imposed by the Hero System.

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Instead of recognizing the intrinsically unbalancing effect of really high characteristics, the system worked such that players who happened to roll high were further rewarded with access to premium character classes with still more super powers.

 

Indeed. The main effect that I encountered from all that was a miraculous shift of several standard deviations towards the high end of the "random" distribution. Not to imply anyone would cheat. :)

 

You occasionally saw it in Traveller, though there really weren't any "premium" careers, just ones that better suited your rolled character or not. Nothing was actually barred, although later editions did screen allowed careers by homeworld (which you could freely choose normally). Plus you would qualify for SOMETHING. Fail the enlistment roll and you got drafted (possibly into the service you tried to join).

 

Pretty much everyone ended up with a similar number of skill rolls and you got to choose the rough category to roll on for them, and those rolls were flat D6 ones with all results being useful. High stats in Trav were nowhere near as important as D&D anyway and the 2D6 range (plus probable improvement during character creation and mustering out) usually meant most characters were on an even footing. You were far more interested in getting skill-2 or skill-3 than adding a point of DEX in most cases. 

 

A player who rolled up a D&D character whose characteristics were all 9-12 would be behind the 8 ball and be justifiably annoyed. A Traveller player who rolled all theirs in the 6-8 range was fine.

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I still remember the 12 year old me, sitting in a room until late at night rolling up 1000s of sets of characteristics so that I could pick one to use in an upcoming game.

 

To me, I was not breaking the rules - I had rolled six numbers in sequence quite legitimately and had the ream of paper to prove it. It did not strike me that I was gaming the game balance... :-)

 

I would hate to encourage any young gamer to follow my example...

 

Doc

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Phoenix Command was unplayable, it was so insanely complicated it just couldn't be done.  Seriously, the guns had Champions-style writeups.  I don't mean one power, I mean the whole character.  Muzzle velocity, grains of gunpowder, angle of attack, type of armor, exact location, shape of bullet, it was incredibly detailed and presumably realistic but... you'd need a Cray just to fight a battle.

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I still remember the 12 year old me, sitting in a room until late at night rolling up 1000s of sets of characteristics so that I could pick one to use in an upcoming game.

 

To me, I was not breaking the rules - I had rolled six numbers in sequence quite legitimately and had the ream of paper to prove it. It did not strike me that I was gaming the game balance... :-)

 

I would hate to encourage any young gamer to follow my example...

 

Doc

 

You weren't the only one using creative alternative roll-up schemas to get the character you really wanted. As D&D evolved, each edition added more variant methods to rolling up starting characteristics, including point-buy methods. It was painfully evident to anyone who understood game design that TSR was acknowledging the fact that players wanted to craft the characters of their choice, not play random assortments of traits they might not like. The superiority of point-buy systems was indirectly validated, even if few (outside of the Champions player base) realized it at the time.

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Yeah, 4d6 drop one, arrange as you like was what we typically used. Except for that one campaign where Unearthed Arcana rules were being used and we all rolled superheroes as a result.

 

Even later versions of Traveller such as Mongoose adopted "arrange as you like". I think it had an optional points based creation rule too, from memory, but as I've previously noted the random characteristic rolls really didn't dominate Traveller character creation anyway.

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I still remember the 12 year old me, sitting in a room until late at night rolling up 1000s of sets of characteristics so that I could pick one to use in an upcoming game.

 

To me, I was not breaking the rules - I had rolled six numbers in sequence quite legitimately and had the ream of paper to prove it. It did not strike me that I was gaming the game balance... :-)

 

I would hate to encourage any young gamer to follow my example...

 

Much better to write a computer program to handle the die rolling instead of doing it by hand.

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