Thursday, May 28, 2015

12 Games May: MERP (Week 4)

So if you hadn't noticed there was no week 3 to this game.  The thing is between technical issue with my internet and finding out even more issues with the system I was not able to get my Week 3 Gameplay Thoughts finished mostly because the core rules did not include everything you need to actually run the game.  Now I understand some systems needing more than one core book (D&D for example) to be run, but this is something else entirely.

If you were per say unlucky enough to only have the "core" rule book for MERP you would end up with the rules for how how to run the game and making characters, however you will have no enemies or any pre-done stats at all.  I understand making NPCs from scratch when it's others of the races that character creation covers, I find it annoying that there would be no examples, but I get it.  MY bigger issue is there is an entire section dedicated to the common monsters and threats of Middle Earth, yet not a single actual stat.  Orc, Trolls, and the like they simply point to character creation and that I can get, but when even giant spiders and wolves they mention where they live how scary they are and not a single clue as to what their stats would actually be that's just a tease.  I could make up stats, but if I'm just making things up then I'm not reviewing a system.  I could just deal with humanoid NPCs, and while that can give me a feel for most of the mechanics it does not promise on Middle Earth role playing to me.

After some digging and consulting with a friend that is well versed in MERP as well as Roll Master (the system MERP is built off of) I find out that if I want any pre-made creature I need a source book for a particular region of Middle Earth.  I'm sorry but regional source book are splat books for filling out your game with extra detail and something I support, just not as a requirement to even try the game.  This means I have to now exactly where in the world I want my adventure and buy that location's book or buy a bunch of extra books up front.  If I want a game that travels across multiple regions then I need multiple splat books (Though I'm sure I could fake it with a single good one).  Then there's the issue of unless I have a friend that tells me which ones are the most useful I could either end up with a book that gives me everything I need or just throw my money at a wall till something sticks.

Like I said I'm not against splat books as a whole, but making them nessisary to even fully try a game is a big BIG issue.  It mean groups might not even have the same set of material starting out, it assumes you know what you're going to do with a game before even trying it which is a huge mistake, and worst of all it feels greedy.  Something as simple as a handful of generic stat blocks (I'd say 10 or so) in the "core" book would go a long way.  Give us a generic orc, a wolf, a giant spider, and maybe a bandit (so I guess even 4 would cut it) and at least then there's enough for cobbling together a starting adventure and getting an idea of what good stats are (remember stats for NPCs are rolled randomly on a d100 so is a 50 average?)

In the end no I didn't get to do a full review of this system, but I did get to test most of the mechanics with NPCs and look at character advancement (it's WAY too slow of a form of advancement to actually have my players earn more than a level or two so just had to fake it to see how characters grow).  There's some things I liked such as the increased skill also increased a character's chance to crit as well as the slow natural feel to character advancement, but it's just not enough.  The books are a mess for formatting. There is a serious issue with table over haul needing to reference 3 tables and cnvert points just as many times to know your character's actual skill bonus on a roll. And easily worst of all the need of splat books to even really play the game.  If you have a friend with a good chunk of the books already or find them as a lump at a yard sale or something I'd say give it a try as there's some gold in there, but buying the books as you go (even harder as they are beyond out of print at this point) is just not worth the effort.

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