You favorite tabletop RPGs and why

EgonSpengler

Deity
Joined
Jun 26, 2014
Messages
9,638
I was taking a glance at Green Ronin's tabletop rules for The Expanse, just because I love the books and the show. The store page outlines a couple of intriguing mechanics:

Green Ronin said:
Fortune: Rather than Health, characters have a Fortune score that measures lucky near-misses, close scrapes, and trivial hits before the character takes serious harm. Fortune is also useful for modifying die rolls and offering players some narrative control but, watch out! Spend too much of it and your luck could run out when you get caught in a crossfire!

The Churn: A ticking counter that measures the crew’s progress through a story and just when things are going to suddenly go sideways and become even more complicated!

Fortune sounds like the game's way of implementing a kind of "plot armor." I read somewhere else that players earn Fortune through gameplay (the GM can give special NPC's Fortune, too). That description of The Churn is an incomplete sentence, but I think I get the gist, and as someone who used to often be the GM in tabletop games, something to help the GM move the story along sounds interesting. I hope it's more than just a fancy name for a "random encounters" table.

The Expanse said:
This boss I used to work for in Baltimore, he called it the Churn. When the rules of the game change.

What game?

The only game. Survival. When the jungle tears itself down and builds itself into something new. Guys like you and me, we end up dead. Doesn’t really mean anything. Or, if we happen to live through it, well that doesn’t mean anything either.
The Expanse said:
Float to the top or sink to the bottom; everything in the middle is The Churn.

I don't know if The Expanse rpg takes place in the timeline of the books or the series. I'd guess it accommodates either one. Unless you're playing the actual characters from the books or the show, it probably wouldn't matter a whole lot. One of the expansion books is titled Beyond the Ring, which I suppose could take place any time from Cibola Burn or season 4 of the show.

One thing I'm interested to see is whether space combat involves all of the characters equally, and whether and how the resolution of physical actions - not least combat - accounts for zero-gravity environments. [EDIT: Accounts for zero-G in an interesting way, I mean. Not just a penalty to non-Belters. That would be boring.]
 
Last edited:

Hygro

soundcloud.com/hygro/
Joined
Dec 1, 2002
Messages
25,250
Location
California
I think @El_Machinae is right when he says the problem is how D&D handles hit points.
They are what makes so many combats in D&D take a long time, makes many combats in D&D just about draining the player's resources (using up their magic and potions etc), and makes so many combats trivial.

I'm going to refer back to Runequest because its my favourite system and the one I know best but there are others that also do a better job than D&D. In Runequest the combats are more involved and quicker than D&D, and every blow from the weakest foe has some chance (albeit a very small one) of being deadly so combat is never trivial.
Yeah that's the worst part of the later editions, it really is just statistics based resource drain/budget as you level up, and boy do you level up fast.

In 1st/2nd edition a fighter can't reasonable expect to have more than 90 hp at level 20. Damage is the same. Also, a campaign, which you know, pretty much always collapses after a few months, wouldn't bring you higher than like level 5, maybe 2 or 3 depending on how slow the first level is. So that same fighter is sitting on 30 hp. Or 9.

But now we're at like, you hit level 8 by the time a 2nd edition char hits level 2 or 3. You have all the bonuses and the first level max start, and you heal super fast. So you're going to fight every encounter and you're going to win.
 

EgonSpengler

Deity
Joined
Jun 26, 2014
Messages
9,638
I was reading about The Churn in the free version of Green Ronin's The Expanse. I'm not quite sure I see what utility it would have for me, as a GM, but maybe other people would get something out it. Basically, you keep a count of certain things, such as when the players use Fortune to turn things their way, or when they have a particularly lucky die-roll, and when the counter reaches a certain amount, something bad happens. I guess I never had any trouble knowing when to throw a plot-twist at my players; coming up with the actual event was the hard part for me, especially on the fly. Looking at these rules for The Churn, I would have to prepare my own list of potential events in advance - knowing I probably wouldn't use all of them - and then rely on the Churn counter and a die-roll to tell me which event to spring and when to spring it. Meh. That was never something I needed help with, and I think I would resent the game telling me whether and when to do it.

I was only looking at the free version, though. Maybe the full version actually has tables of events sketched out for you (e.g. "a valued NPC is revealed to be a double-agent, working for the villain"; "the next event interrupts the player-character's downtime, catching them flat-footed"; "the PCs' ship suffers a sudden failure of a critical system, forcing them to detour to an unfriendly station"). I could also see a pre-written adventure providing detailed tables of events for The Churn, which I suppose would make pre-written adventures more interesting for the GM. I almost never used pre-written adventures, and when I did, they usually weren't good.

What really cripples the game, though, are the truly ugly portraits of some of the iconic characters from the book and tv show. :lol: Apologies to the artist, who I'm sure tried their best, but yikes. I guess we couldn't expect them to pay for photos of the actors from the show to put in the book. And like I say, the pdf is free, so maybe the actual book that you spend money on has better illustrations.
 

AmazonQueen

Virago
Moderator
Joined
Nov 25, 2007
Messages
8,478
Location
Sailing the Homeward Ocean
Yeah that's the worst part of the later editions, it really is just statistics based resource drain/budget as you level up, and boy do you level up fast.

In 1st/2nd edition a fighter can't reasonable expect to have more than 90 hp at level 20. Damage is the same. Also, a campaign, which you know, pretty much always collapses after a few months, wouldn't bring you higher than like level 5, maybe 2 or 3 depending on how slow the first level is. So that same fighter is sitting on 30 hp. Or 9.

But now we're at like, you hit level 8 by the time a 2nd edition char hits level 2 or 3. You have all the bonuses and the first level max start, and you heal super fast. So you're going to fight every encounter and you're going to win.

Yes, D&D works best at something like 4th-8th level. All the classes have some survivability and utility, nobody is so powerful that adventures have to be designed around their abilities, and 2 fighters duelling doesn't take a week to resolve.
 

PPQ_Purple

Purple Cube
Joined
Oct 11, 2008
Messages
5,163
Honestly classes are the primary reason why I newer liked D&D. I tried it a bunch of times but character creation was always painful because the class system rigidly restricts the combinations of traits and abilities your character can have. And as a primarily narrative driven player that drove me insane as it made it impossible for me to create complex, deep, multi faceted characters that I would enjoy playing. I find that sort of system to be great for video games and stuff where the emphasis is on the action. But that's about it.
 

Hygro

soundcloud.com/hygro/
Joined
Dec 1, 2002
Messages
25,250
Location
California
You can play a banana with googly eyes and still have a narratively rich experience.

What sort of traits and abilities as described by the game would you need to recombine to project forth a complex, multifaceted character to your liking?
 

PPQ_Purple

Purple Cube
Joined
Oct 11, 2008
Messages
5,163
You can play a banana with googly eyes and still have a narratively rich experience.

What sort of traits and abilities as described by the game would you need to recombine to project forth a complex, multifaceted character to your liking?
Any sort of human being really. Humans are by nature generalists. We sing and tinker and fight and dream and craft and do all sorts of things. We aren't necessarily good at any of them but be do all of them and more. Class systems are the opposite of that. They are tightly directed toward achieving one or several things mechanically and excelling at that one thing at the exclusion of everything else.

You can be the tank, the face, the damage dealer etc. And you'll be the worlds best one if you follow your class to its end. But you can't be a fighter who can also sing, keeps pet dogs and does woodworking as a hobby and has a nasty drinking habit that he pays off by cheating at cards. That would require you going into fighter + bard + ranger + rogue + what ever does crafting. And even if you somehow managed to do it and get through the slog that is character creation and convince your GM to let you play that you would be so multiclassed that you'd suck at all five.

And yet I find the second type of character infinitely more compelling to play than Strength 20 fighter with sword who is great at killing things and basically sits the rest of the story out.

And whilst some classes are indeed far more versatile than others they are still boxes you have to fit in. That is to say what ever versatility there is is baked into the class and unchanging. So you end up designing your charter to fit the mechanics that the class provides as opposed to setting the mechanics up so that they fit the character you actually want to play.

I would much prefer a system where I get a number of points to spend and a table of skills to spend them on and free reign to pick and choose what ever combination I want.
 
Last edited:

EgonSpengler

Deity
Joined
Jun 26, 2014
Messages
9,638
I would much prefer a system where I get a number of points to spend and a table of skills to spend them on and free reign to pick and choose what ever combination I want.
Champions is your game, provided you want to play a superhero. They tried to repackage it as the 'HERO System' and make it a generic rules set that you could play in other genres - sword & sorcery, sci-fi, or whatever - but I'm not sure how well it succeeded at that. In its original form, as a superhero game, I thought it was great. It was one of my gaming group's "go-to" games. And its primary strength was in the fact that you really could create any character you wanted.
Spoiler :

 

PPQ_Purple

Purple Cube
Joined
Oct 11, 2008
Messages
5,163
Honestly my preferred system has always been complete freeform. As in, no stats or dice or anything just collaborative writing on the honor system. With narrative causality as a guide instead of math and mechanics. That's what lets me really tell good stories.

All being said though my primary problem these decades is that I can't find anyone to play with. Basically I can't find a website that fits my criteria:
  1. The people there do freeform or as a distant consolation prize at least some sort of classless system that I can get a taste of for free (I ain't buying a book just to try something).
  2. The people there are heavily active. Like, I am talking at least 1 post a day or say weekly sessions or something.
Most of the forums I can find out there are either 99% D&D or stupidly inactive. Like I've seen sites where 1 post a week is considered "active" and that's just pointless.

If I had to take a guess I'd say that the play by post generation grew up and moved on or are too busy with real life to spare time for the hobby and young people haven't really gotten into it beyond D&D.
 
Last edited:

Hygro

soundcloud.com/hygro/
Joined
Dec 1, 2002
Messages
25,250
Location
California
But you can't be a fighter who can also sing, keeps pet dogs and does woodworking as a hobby and has a nasty drinking habit that he pays off by cheating at cards. That would require you going into fighter + bard + ranger + rogue + what ever does crafting.
Class features are heroic levels of ability. You are not "required" to be a rogue to sleight of hands and gamble. You are not required to be a ranger to own a pet. You do not need to be a bard to play an instrument. Your ability does not require that you are the hero of that. Indeed, if you want a narratively rich character, it would make sense that you aren't heroic in all of those things.

Most of my fighters have animals from the get go (donkeys and dogs go a long way), can often craft, occasionally a musical instrument, and some backstory that affects their personality. It comes down to the players and the DM. + There are rules to support this in all editions.
 

EgonSpengler

Deity
Joined
Jun 26, 2014
Messages
9,638
I was re-reading the Traveller character creation rules last night, and found them intriguing. In a nutshell, instead of making a fully-formed character and then trying to retroactively come up with a backstory that explains it, the character-creation process is about making a backstory, and your character acquires skills, equipment, significant events, and allies & enemies along the way. They provide tables you can roll on, but of course you could also come up with your own options and/or allow players to choose instead of roll. The game rules even explicitly say you're not bound to the six basic Attributes and could invent a whole new Attribute to fit your campaign, if you wanted.

The long version:
Spoiler :
The basic mechanic for character creation is the "Career Term", in which you spend some time in some kind of vocation. There are 36 Careers detailed in the basic book, and I assume other books include more Careers (and of course the player or the GM could invent their own). Your character starts with a home planet & an educational background, which gives you a basic skill or three, and then you begin your adult life. If you go by the book, your character starts their career at age 18 and each 'Career Term' is 4 years, but I think I would be flexible with both of those if I was the GM. For me, a Term could be 2-5 years and characters could start their life a little younger or a little older. You wouldn't want Terms to be too short or too long, because your character's age does start to matter eventually. Age is one of the reasons to stop the character creation process and start playing. (One thing about Traveller character creation is the player can basically decide how old and how experienced they are when the game begins. Thus, you could have a game like Firefly where you have Shepherd Book, in late middle-age and with a Mysterious Past, and River Tam, who's still a teenager, in the same group.)

After you decide what you want your character's first Career Term will be, you get some more skills and then roll for "Survival." Back in the day, when I played Traveller a little bit, your character could actually be killed during character-creation. They've changed that with the 2008 edition I was reading, so the Survival roll simply determines whether your character experiences a Mishap that upsets their life and forces them to change Career in their next Career Term. A Mishap isn't necessarily bad; some of them can give you another skill, but some can apply some permanent penalty. After that, you roll to see whether you get promoted. (If your chosen career is military, the promotion is literal, but even if you're a surveyor, a scientist, or a merchant, you still have "ranks" which give you more skills or attribute bonuses and determine your Benefits when you finish that career.) Then you roll an Event for that term. Events are mostly positive and usually grant you some benefit - a skill, an NPC Ally, a bonus to one of your Attributes - and some of them have a die-roll to see if you get an even bigger bonus.

If your character doesn't get booted from their job by a Mishap, you can choose to continue with that career or pick up a new one. Again, going by the book, if you want to pick up a new career, you're supposed to make a die-roll to see if you make the transition successfully. If you don't make that die-roll to pick up the new career, you're allowed to become a "Drifter." If I were GM, I might allow players to choose their character's 2nd Career Term without the die-roll, but you wouldn't want to get rid of that die-roll entirely, because unless the player decides enough is enough, this die-roll is one of the reasons your character won't just keep generating new Career Terms until they die of old age (which is possible, if you keep pushing your luck :lol: ).

Whether you got booted by a Mishap or chose to leave voluntarily, you take some Benefits with you when you exit a Career. You might acquire a nice weapon, some money, or an Attribute bonus. You can also get "ship shares"; or even a whole small ship of your own. (As I understand it, the players can pool their characters' "ship shares" together to get a nicer ship that they'll crew together, as in The Expanse when Holden, Naomi, Amos, Shed & Alex escaped from the Donnager on the Tachi. I haven't figured out the mechanics of how it works, exactly, but that's the gist of it.)

There's also a nice little epilogue to character creation: If any of the characters link their backstories, they can get another skill or perk of some kind. Further, the group gets a pool of skill selections, based on the style of group or campaign they'll be playing, or in case they need to shore up any weaknesses, or the GM just needs them to have some proficiency that they didn't select on their own.


To try out the process, I decided to make a randomly-generated character for a hypothetical campaign set within The Expanse tv series. After rolling my Attributes - good Dexterity and Intelligence, but poor Endurance and Social Standing - I decided my guy was a Belter from a working-class family on Ganymede. Taran Watros. He started out selling agricultural commodities, but he had to leave home when a war broke out. It was a perfect roll on the Mishap table: This was obviously the Ganymede Incident from Season 2 of the show. If you've seen the show, that was when Bobbi's squad of Marines fought the Hybrid, and the mirrors over Ganymede were destroyed in the fighting between the UN & MCRN fleets. My guy managed to escape the chaos on a small cargo ship, but he had nowhere to go. He decided to try his hand at recovering salvage, but that was a disaster, and he somehow ran afoul of a Golden Bough thug (who's still after him for something - this Mishap had earned me an Enemy). Taran found himself on Ceres and got work at a company where his background in hydroponics and business proved valuable. He made good friends with his superior in the company and became a middle-manager. But then came Marco Inaros and the Free Navy. The UN abandoned Ceres, Inaros declared it the capital of the Belt, and the Earth company my character was working for decided to quickly liquidate and downsize.

So now I'm ready to play. :D It's sometime around the end of Season 5 or the beginning of Season 6 of the show. My character, Taran, is in his late 30s and adrift. He has his small cargo ship, The Orestes, a little money to live on until he can find work, a handgun, and the clothes in his back. He has two NPC Allies he can call on once in a while: His former boss in the Earth corporation, and a friend from Ceres who's part of an OPA faction that opposes Inaros (perhaps they join up with Camina Drummer later?). Taran's a pretty decent businessman, with a background in hydroponics, and hey, everybody needs to eat, right? He has all the basic proficiencies to operate his little cargo ship by himself, but he's not much of a fighter, and there's still a Golden Bough mobster out there who'd like to have a little chat.

All of that is just from character creation, right from the book, and mostly random. I think I had to re-roll only once - one of my rolls for an Ally came up "an alien diplomat", which doesn't really fit the setting. And I had to come up with the details to fit the setting and my character's Career Terms would probably have to be fudged a little to fit the timeline between season 2 and season 5 of the show. Other than that, everything there was just dice-rolls. I even got the name of his ship from one of those random online generators. I rolled three Mishaps during character creation, but honestly, those all worked out pretty great, in terms of both creating an interesting background and giving the GM a villain to work into the campaign if they want to.
 

EgonSpengler

Deity
Joined
Jun 26, 2014
Messages
9,638
Class features are heroic levels of ability. You are not "required" to be a rogue to sleight of hands and gamble. You are not required to be a ranger to own a pet. You do not need to be a bard to play an instrument. Your ability does not require that you are the hero of that. Indeed, if you want a narratively rich character, it would make sense that you aren't heroic in all of those things.

Most of my fighters have animals from the get go (donkeys and dogs go a long way), can often craft, occasionally a musical instrument, and some backstory that affects their personality. It comes down to the players and the DM. + There are rules to support this in all editions.
That's right, the skills in D&D are mainly for things you'd do while "adventuring." So the Animal Handling skill is for when you want to make your warhorse knock someone down, or you want your dog to attack on command, like Jeff Bridges in The Old Man. If you just want a dog, have a dog. Likewise, the Performance skill is to earn money or get into a Duke's manor by joining a theater troupe. If you just want a character who likes to sing in the pub with the gang, you don't need the skill. This is one place where having character attributes be so impactful is of great benefit. A Charisma of 15 is all you need to be a not-half-bad singer (in fact, theoretically, you could con your way into the Duke's manor posing as a performer with nothing but a good CHA score - you'd just need to roll high enough, perhaps by figuring out some clever way to add a bonus to your roll).
 

Plotinus

Philosopher
Retired Moderator
Joined
Nov 14, 2003
Messages
16,939
Location
Somerset
Not sure. I actually really enjoy randomization of systems like this, specifically if characters are actually in mortal danger. Problem is if you're stuck with an awfully performing character for years.

My qualm is simply that being smart makes you much better at fighting IRL (having physical bases covered), but there's no way to mechanically express that, and D&D rests on expressing your actions through randomization weighed by your mechanical skills. It's more a thing that's solved with more classes, such as Artificer being a potential expression of "I'm just gonna fight smart", but classes are very particular in D&D. This is good because they have a lot of identity and play very different; but it's bad since even with the amount of customization, paths of progression and what you should use to enhance yourself are really limited. I've played other systems where Smart Fighter is possible. I still prefer D&D over most systems since it's so evocative and elegant for what it is.

It's just a shame.

I know I'm coming late to this, but this is addressed in Pathfinder (I don't know whether it inherits this system from D&D or whether it's original). A lot of combat feats require INT of at least 13. In particular, Combat Expertise (which allows you to take a penalty to your attack roll in order to gain a bonus to your AC) requires INT of at least 13, and an awful lot of other combat feats have Combat Expertise as a prerequisite. In other words, if your warrior has low INT, a lot of very effective combat options are going to be permanently closed to you. This isn't class-restricted, as any fighting character could in theory take most of these feats if they meet the prerequisites - but it is particularly relevant to Fighters, who can take more combat feats than other classes.

By the way, if you want a badly thought out RPG, try D&D 1983 version (before they even had numbered "editions"). This is what we used to play back in the day. If you're a magic-user, you have no armour, you can only wield a dagger, and at level 1 you have 1D4 HP and a single spell that you can cast once a day. Not only that, but the spell selection is random. Good luck participating to the adventure if you've got Floating Disk or Read Magic. No cantrips in those days!
 

Angst

Rambling and inconsistent
Joined
Mar 3, 2007
Messages
14,581
Location
A Silver Mt. Zion
I know I'm coming late to this, but this is addressed in Pathfinder (I don't know whether it inherits this system from D&D or whether it's original). A lot of combat feats require INT of at least 13. In particular, Combat Expertise (which allows you to take a penalty to your attack roll in order to gain a bonus to your AC) requires INT of at least 13, and an awful lot of other combat feats have Combat Expertise as a prerequisite. In other words, if your warrior has low INT, a lot of very effective combat options are going to be permanently closed to you. This isn't class-restricted, as any fighting character could in theory take most of these feats if they meet the prerequisites - but it is particularly relevant to Fighters, who can take more combat feats than other classes.

By the way, if you want a badly thought out RPG, try D&D 1983 version (before they even had numbered "editions"). This is what we used to play back in the day. If you're a magic-user, you have no armour, you can only wield a dagger, and at level 1 you have 1D4 HP and a single spell that you can cast once a day. Not only that, but the spell selection is random. Good luck participating to the adventure if you've got Floating Disk or Read Magic. No cantrips in those days!
Fwiw I'm a big fan of Pathfinder, it's just... very number crunchy in a lot of bad ways. It's interesting because it's a system that's incessantly linear but the vast volume of linear paths makes the game highly customizable. Int fighters is a thing in Pathfinder, specifically because it has offered a lot of paths within it to service that rather than being inherently flexbible and less mathy.

... And I realize this concept doesn't translate well.
Magic the Gathering jargon here.
It's hard to process within D&D systems (of which Pathfinder is a dependency) but basically in Pathfinder each class leans more towards linear than modular but with massive options within the linear systems. In MTGspeak, Elves is a linear strategy, but they've been supported for so long that there are a lot of possible mechanical paths within the class, so to say (even if the competetive ones are reasonably samey). A modular system would work as if classes weren't a thing. If that makes sense.

EDIT: While it's an old article, and the jargon is similarly somewhat outdated sometimes, I'd like to add that it's useful because it outlines why linear designs work - in DND too.
"Linear designs are more straight-forward and comforting. When you open a linear design, you know pretty fast what you're trying to do. In addition, linear designs play into a common need for game players (and people in general) to group things together. The biggest negative to linear designs is that they have a “R&D is spoon-feeding us decks” feel that often ruffles feathers."

Friendly reminder that "it's comforting" is not meant as a negative. The guy designs for people to enjoy things. He wants emotional responses, and he does not care one bit whether it's comfort or excitement or joviality or whatever. The point is that the mechanics should cause some kind of an emotional response that makes people enjoy the game. In D&D the strength of class linearity is that the classes are extremely evocative.

Basically in D&D the classes are incredibly linear but extremely evocative and easily understandable in regards to what they do. Pathfinder kinda solves this but does so by virtue of introducing so many effective subclasses that well you're doing something linear with your class but the linear thing you do is by your own volition.

An ideal system to me (which I haven't seen - and yes am still reading up on Iron Heroes) offers a modular system which allows you to build tropes at will, where linear designs of your character progression is more of an opt-in thing (honestly, similar to MTG, where it's a system of modular first).
 
Last edited:

AmazonQueen

Virago
Moderator
Joined
Nov 25, 2007
Messages
8,478
Location
Sailing the Homeward Ocean
My current RQ party, their characters could all be translated into D&D or pathfinder equivalents but since RQ is classless they aren't so locked in for the future as D&D characters.

The Humakt-worshipping (god of honour and death) warrior is closest to a paladin (a rather psychopathic one) in D&D, the Orlanth-worshipping (king of the gods and storm god) hunter closest to a ranger, the Eurmal-worshipping (Trickster) bandit not sure exactly, some blend of fighter, thief and illusionist. Only the shamen wouldn't really fit D&D although an Oracle from Pathfinder might work.
 

Plotinus

Philosopher
Retired Moderator
Joined
Nov 14, 2003
Messages
16,939
Location
Somerset
Fwiw I'm a big fan of Pathfinder, it's just... very number crunchy in a lot of bad ways.

Ah well, I like the number-crunching! When I've played RPGs that have fewer number-based mechanics and more pure role-playing (e.g. one of the Firefly ones I once played, I think Serenity), and you've got to be more creative in what you do, I don't know what to do!

The most notorious example of number-crunching gone completely out of control is of course the Sacred Geometry feat, which I suspect Paizo included as a joke and which no GM who isn't Lawful Evil would allow to be actually used.
 

Arakhor

Dremora Courtier
Super Moderator
Joined
Mar 27, 2009
Messages
38,466
Location
UK
I'm a big fan of Pathfinder, but yeah, the numbers can easily get out of control. PF2 seems to have made strides in that regard, but I haven't played any of it.
 

EgonSpengler

Deity
Joined
Jun 26, 2014
Messages
9,638
I'm curious, do folks here mainly or only play sword & sorcery games?
 

AmazonQueen

Virago
Moderator
Joined
Nov 25, 2007
Messages
8,478
Location
Sailing the Homeward Ocean
I'm curious, do folks here mainly or only play sword & sorcery games?
In recent years our group has played D&D, Pathfinder, Runequest and Call of Cthulhu.
Besides those the other games I've refereed long campaigns for are Pendragon and Vampire the Masquerade.
I'd say my RPGing is about 75% fantasy, horror coming 2nd, and SF being well-behind.
 
Top Bottom