Thursday, March 6, 2014

Anything But D&D ‘March Madness’ Human Blogipede – Day 7

Other blogs can be found HERE.

The questions can be found HERE.

7 What fantasy RPG other than D&D have you enjoyed most? Why?

Looking back on this question, I maybe should have specified mechanics, setting, or whatever. Still, I find it hard to limit myself to just one answer, so I won’t.

Mechanics and setting wise, I’d have to say the old Stormbringer game and Dragon Half, a Japanese RPG I’ve reviewed last year, pleased me the most. Although Stormbringer is a member of the Basic Roleplaying family, it is not exactly the same system as Call of Cthulhu for which BRP is best known, but has certain differences that gave it a lot of unique charm.

First, the game used a series of skill set bonuses derived from the attributes. For example, Stealth skills are modified positively by Dexterity and Intelligence over 12 and Size under 9, and negatively by Dexterity and Intelligence under 9 or Size over 12. Although it was a bit fiddly, it made attributes matter in a quasi-logical way that was nerfed by the pool of points used in CoC and later iterations of Stormbringer, such as Elric! and Mongoose’s version. Second, Stormbringer uses a brutal Major Wound table that rivaled Warhammer or Rolemaster in its capacity to make melee combat feared and avoided, and had us laughing out at the amputations and disfigurements even minor scuffles would provoke. Third, the point-buy demon summoning system was a marvel of mechanical elegance that I found much more graspable than the voluminous and chaotic Vancian magic of D&D, as well as emulating the source material nicely. Finally, it goes without saying that Stormbringer was set in the Young Kingdoms of Michael Moorcock’s Elric series, an antidote to Conan that dominated the fantasy scene for anyone growing up in the 70s or 80s and thus proved a very vivid gaming experience. Add in great scenarios and art (French and Japanese versions are especially beautiful) and the continued popularity of the identical first 3 editions of the game is understandable.

Dragon Half, on the other hand, was based on manga and anime parody of D&D tropes, using a simplified version of the terribly crunchy Sword World RPG. As I’ve mentioned before, the extending of fantasy tropes to their illogical ends (“Ma is a red dragon, pa was a dragon slayer who fell in love with her.”) made the games we played quite hilarious. If questing to revive the Great Dead death metal gods, making terrible puns, and failing spectacularly seem like fun to you, you’ll enjoy doing these things as much as my old group did.

However, for pure fun and playability the old Palladium Fantasy RPG could simply not be beat. It was barely a step up from the LBBs or the original Runequest in terms of art and editing, but was it ever fun. Rolling around Kevin’s gameworld, Palladia, trying to unite humans and wolfen with a motley party of doppelganger assassins, trollish hunters, giant warriors, and gnomish elementalists cured us completely of the vanilla D&D blues of Tolkien races and uninspiring settings, and made Palladium’s rules seem almost unbroken. Too bad the 2nd edition was a watered down Rifts clone that threw the charm of the old version under the bus.

I’ve wanted to play other games, notably Ars Magica and MERP, but never found the time or players – hopefully Constantcon can make this a reality after my studies finish.

No comments:

Post a Comment