Friday, February 8, 2019

Rulenomicon the Reviewing

Started a few months ago to go through my Role Playing Game (RPG) collection and give a stars rating to each of the items listed on my Rulenomicon page. I just finished up with Zweihander, the last game on the list, today. Here is a guide to what I mean by each star

blank   - Not rated yet
*          - Not playing this one
**        - Might play this one if someone else is GMing and I have nothing else to do
***      - Interested in playing. GMing, or stealing ideas for my game
****    - Will be studying this one again and actively trying to convince others to play
*****  - RPG perfection I am dropping everything to switch to this (no games rated this yet)

My star ratings are based on a quick flip through of the games which are mostly pdf files on my hard drive. They are somewhat capricious based on my initial impressions. I wanted to focus this list on RPGs so I have not rated items that turned out to be board games, miniature games, card games, campaign settings, or anything else other than an RPG (I may remove these from the list in the future). I guarantee I have called someone's RPG baby ugly. However, I do have some specific things I am looking for. Overall I am interested in systems that generate characters quickly, have rules that are simple to learn, but have enough complexity to make the game interesting in the long haul. I am more interested in campaigns than one shot adventures so character advancement is important. "Fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons (5e)" is my current go-to game, so an important consideration for any game is what does it do better than 5e. Since this is a review of rules I focused my attention on character creation, combat resolution, and spell casting. Rule sets vary in size from 1-page microgames to 400+ page tomes. Most of the games under 10 pages lacked enough complexity to sustain a long-term campaign and keep it interesting, so were rated lower. The 400+ page ones were treated more leniently as long I could find a core 20-30 page rules section which spelled out the base rules (a good table of contents helped with this immensely). The ability of the rules writer to explain things clearly and concisely without excessive use of acronyms and jargon was important. I have a great deal trouble with so-called "story games" as many of these reduce the resolution to a single dice roll, and also expect character reactions to be determined by dice rolls as well. One of the things I enjoy most about roleplaying is people working together to cooperatively solve problems, so games emphasizing intraparty conflict did not fair well in my ratings. I am biased towards fantasy settings, so modern and post-apocalyptic settings got rated a little lower (steampunk and hard sci-fi probably are somewhere in-between).

 I definitely have an opinion on which dice rolling mechanics are best. D20 is my favorite as the probabilities are easy to calculate and one can add a significant number of modifiers without skewing the rolls to badly. D100 is next although since most of the games I see are doing things in 5% increments so they would better just using a d20. 2D6 can work but probabilities here are no longer linear and adds greater than +3 seriously skew the results. A number of games are dice pool based, calculating probabilities for these games is a serious challenge which make them not my favorite. Dice pool games where all but the top few dice are ignored have some possibility. Dice pool games which count the number of successes by the number of dice exceeding a certain number seem workable as well, but don't try to sell me custom dice with plusses and minuses, or funny symbols. Rolling dice pools and adding them together seems the road to disaster as the chance to beat 1d6 with 2d6 is less than 10% adding more dice just makes it more likely you'll roll closer to average with each and decrease these odds. Some systems which limit the range from 2d6 to 4d6 with the assumption that the two dice roller is a novice who is going to probably fail and four dice roller is a master who is going to succeed are barely tolerable. Once you start throwing in extra dice when high numbers are rolled, low numbers canceling out high numbers, and different color dice doing different things calculating probabilities becomes challenging in the extreme, but it probably only slightly shifts the one die versus two dice inequality.

P.S. Blogger refused to accept my MSword formatted table, so you'll have to accept a text based layout for now.
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