Monday, July 9, 2012

Which Game System is Best?

After having played D&D for the better part of a decade our group was getting a bit jaded with 3.5, and decided to try 4E when it was released. At first it was fun, then it became boring - mechanically.And then the errata and then some more errata and then, just when you thought it was safe, more errata. It seemed that whenever you went into the character builder to level up your PC, some cool ability, or magic item (not that there were all that many worth having!) didn't work the way it used too and your PC was less effective than before. Whether this was due to some poor design choices early on or whatever who knows. Certainly there appeared a lack of external play testing.

Anyhow, we moved on. I've always been a fan of Micheal Moorcock and had wanted to play Dragon Lords of Melnibone since I purchased it way back in about 2000, when we were just starting to play 3.0E. Chaosium advertised their D100 version Elric! (the latest incarnation of Stormbringer at the time) in the back of the book - why I didn't start checking that game and system out earlier I'll never know and always regret. So, we move to the present and we're looking for another FRPG to play. One of the guys starts a Warhammer FRP campaign, which was fun, but personally I didn't like the careers that much. I looked at BRP - mainly due to the Moorcock thing and then discovered RunequestII by Mongoose and subsequently the Elric of Melnibone RPG (see my other post). We also played a few games of Savage Worlds, which while I'm not overly keen on the mechanics, certainly lives up to its premise of fast, furious and fun! Recently I've taken a look at the Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG and ran the 0-level adventure in the book. Bloody good fun! Would I like to use it as my goto game? Probably not.

The thing is, that after being exposed to D100 based games, D20 and other level based games just don't do it for me anymore. The mechanics couldn't be simpler, while providing a high level of complexity - if you want it. It is a very robust mechanic and I can understand why it is very popular, apart from having a fling with the DCC game, Runequest in one version or another will be what I run from now on.

But which system is best?

To be honest I don't think that question can be answered, at least not definitively. It is entirely a matter of preference. I played in a Pathfinder game recently and had a blast, but I still prefer D100. At the end of the day, it comes down to what you enjoy playing, your groups 'style' and your GM.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Elric of Melnibone RPG

This game published by Mongoose Publishing and written by Lawrence Whittacker is an exceptional adaptation of the world of The Young Kingdoms (and others) as penned by one of fantasy's most prolific and influential authors, Micheal Moorcock. For gamers who like, gritty, lethal combat and low-magic Swords & Sorcery adventure over the high-magic, stylistic, abstract combat of Epic Fantasy, you couldn't ask for a better game. Well, I suppose you could, but you'd be hard pressed to find it! Though Goodman Games, I must admit, have an excellent product in their Dungeon Crawl Cassics RPG.

The game uses Mongoose's revised Runequest system, known as Runequest II or MRQII and now renamed to Legend. The core mechanic is percentile skill based and uses opposed rolls for the majority of task resolution. This makes it very easy to explain and learn even to newbies of RPG's.

The game has a long history; originally published as Stormbringer (the name of Elric's vampiric greatsword) by Chaosium and using the original Runequest system with the introduction of Sorcery and Demon binding magic sub-systems, the game proved very popular, particularly with fans of the novels. Under this guise there were several versions published each offering further refinements. Mongoose then obtained the rights to the Runequest and the Eternal Champion Licence under which they have published two versions of the game, as well as the Hawkmoon RPG using their original Runequest rules.

The magic system in this version of the game is what, in my opinion, sets it apart as it faithfully adapts the magic from the novels as a game mechanic. There is no longer demon binding, however there is demon summoning - a dangerous practice and fraught with peril! Spells as such, are gone and have been replaced by Rune magic, not to be confused with the runes of Glorantha the original setting for Runequest and where the game got it's name, these Runes are specific to this setting and manipulate various things. Whilst at first glance they may appear a bit weak, particularly coming from players of say D20 based games, they are quite powerful if used intelligently without being game breaking as some magic systems can be.

Another key factor is the use of Cults, common throughout all iterations of the Runequest game and settings using this system, the Cults of the Elric of Melnibone really capture the flavour of the Eternal Struggle a major theme of, and the deities, of Moorcock's Eternal Champion serious of novels.

I highly recommend this game to anyone interested in adventuring in the world of Elric and The Young Kingdoms or any other low-magic fantasy setting.

You can read a summary of our adventures here.