Thursday, May 14, 2015

12 Games May: MERP (Week 2)

So last week I talked about how odd it was going back to a game like this with all it's tables and charts.  This week is no different, but I have to say when it comes to making a character there's a lot I like.

First there's the fact that all stats are on a scale of 1-100 allowing for a lot of customization and slower more detailed growth (which seems to be the name of the game with this system).  Then there's the idea that not only your race, but also what race you were raised in affect your character.  This is one of those things I always wished games would cover more than just being "half" something.  Finally there's the idea of an apprenticeship that covers your time before being a hero.  Combines they work to make pretty fleshed out and realized characters even if there's some bump.s along the road.

The Stat System: I'm actually a big fan on percentile based systems as I feel they allow for more minute customization and personal flavor.  What I found odd though is now most percentile based games are about "rolling high without going over" as in your skill level affects the range in which you can succeed and the higher dice decides how well you succeed.  This is not that system, instead its actually closer to a D20 system where skills and attributes are bonuses on top of your roll.  I'm torn on this as it seems interesting and since bonuses can get so high the swing on all but the hardest of tasks eventually becomes a given with the only question being of by how much, but a D100 is still a hefty dice swing.  That combined with the constant converting of attributes converting to smaller bonuses while skills convert to bigger bonuses meaning everything must reference a different chart to get your "real" numbers"leaves me a bit worried, but not tot he point that I don't think it COULD work out in practice.

Race Vs. Culture: This is probably my favorite aspect of character creation and like I said earlier something I wish more games would look at.  Most fantasy games ask what race you are, but not many care what race you grew up around except for maybe the occasional language.  Some could say backgrounds cover this, but being a sailor among humans and a sailor among elves tend to not change much as it's your job not the actual culture as a whole affecting you.  In MERP however you pick your race AND what race you were raised by.  They each give different bonuses with your culture usually giving you skills while your race affects attributes.  Usually this doesn't change much, but I like the idea of playing characters that were raised by another race and it actually changing what that character is and is capable of.

Apprenticeship: I'm always a fan of games that acknowledge that heroes aren't just born capable and how they handle it here is honestly a little genius.  Basically skills are broken down into categories such as weapon skills, movement skills, and so one and each profession (Class) gives defferent points in each category.  This way you don't have tropes like "Fighters don't have skills instead they get different weapon options".  Ok so yes warriors do get most of their points into weapon skills, this instead means they are also just plain better at a couple weapons or could be a dabbler in many.  Thieves are skill the most proficient in sneaky things, but again they get to choose much more what that actually means for them.  Finally part of this system is points that go towards Health and Magic.  Health is actually governed by a skill with it's own category and allows for those tougher professions to still be a bit tougher.  Magic on the other hand is completely different.  You get points, but rather than using them for skills they instead add to your chance to learning spells and yes every class can learn magic.  Each point adds a 20% chance of learning magic and each time a level is gained the player rolls percentiles.  IF the roll is below their chance to learn magic then they do.  What's really nice is if they fail those points carry over to the next level meaning until you learn new magic you're constantly increasing your odds of it happening eventually.  Some might be asking what happens if mages fail and get no magic?  Well as they get 5 points, or +100%, each level that's a none issue without making a special rule.

The Cons: Now onto my worries so far.  I have to say there aren't many, but what I am seeing might be persistence in how annoying they are.  I had already mentioned the swing worries of everything revolving around a D100 with bonuses.  The other I touched on, but I'll expand and that's the tables and constant conversions.  You see your attributes give a varying bonus to your skill rolls with a table to convert and that's pretty standard.  Then your skills are measured in ranks with each rank giving a different bonus to the actually skill roll that can be converted with another chart.  Finally your profession gives a bonus based on your level which is listed in the profession. That's already a lot of converting, but then the charts and tables are no where near each other.  What attribute affects what skill is on the fist page of the character generation chapter, the skill rank conversion table is 5 pages after that,  The professions you have to read in the professions section (not to mention IF your race gives a skill bonus which could be hidden in the middle of the fluff of the race), and finally the attribute conversion chart is roughly 20 pages into the chapter.  This means you need to hope all over to get your actual number.  Sure taking notes means this only has to happen once (per skill if you aren't careful), but it also means the second any of those numbers change you need to hop all over again.  This problem continues when you realize that the only way to pick gear is to go to the back of the book  and look for the table to fumble and crit chances for weapons as that's the only table I could find with your weapon options listed and note that isn't noted anywhere in character creation I just hand to hunt it down.

Next Week we see how everything plays out.

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