First off, kudos to Gabe for picking up the pace and posting quite a few blogs! A couple more regular contributors and RMBlog.com will be creating quite a bit of material.
Not even a month ago, I posted up a query asking about other d100 systems. Since then, Peter and Gabe have put up numerous blogs about vsDarkmaster, Zweihander, and most recently Chivalry & Sorcery. C&S aside, since it was published in the very early days of RPGs, both vsDarkmaster and Zweihander were purposeful attempts to create a newer version of early RM/MERP AND recapture the early feel and essence of the game. For me this interesting as these new games are concurrent with I.C.E.’s own path in revising RM with RMU. Basically you have 3 different mandates with each system, but all attempt to improve parts of RM that needed refinement, rewrites or new mechanics. So here are some basic thoughts on various blog posts:
Zweihander Skills. To me, Zweihander skills were very reminiscent of RM regular and secondary skills. That’s good and bad. Obviously, parsing skills leads to skill bloat, but more importantly, skills end up varying quite a bit in utility or have such defined parameters it get’s a bit silly. For an example of a ridiculous parsing of skills (to me at least):
Awareness represents the ability to visually notice minute details and sounds, scents within the air, watch for ambushes, find hidden objects and spot contrivances designed to trap or kill. You’ll use Awareness not only to visually see, also to sense using smell, taste and touch. You may also use Awareness to estimate numbers and distances.
This Skill doesn’t allow you to see through lies, sense motives or innuendo – refer to the Scrutinize Skill in those cases. If you wish to listen in on a conversation or distinctly make something out you heard, refer to the Eavesdrop Skill instead.
While some would argue that are those skills are relevant or useful in some specific situations, it’s harder to argue that Awareness, Scrutinize and Eavesdrop are equal in scope and utility. For me this is a lost opportunity to tune up the RM skill system–something we have discussed here on the blog quite a bit.
Zweihander: Trappings and Skills. I wasn’t impressed with these sections of the rules. Maybe reading the finished product will be different; I am relying on Peter’s assessment and description so I am working with second hand info. The wound “levels” is nice in abstract but it must eliminate a lot of specific magical healing (if that exists in this game). Do spells just reduce your damage classification? Without jumping ahead, I think ZH “character law” and chargen is more compelling than their “arms law” rules.
Stats, Kin and Cultures in vsDarkmaster. A lot of this was very interesting to me. If you’ve read my blog on RM chargen in 15 minutes, you might detect a similar philosophy in this game. Basically by using preset “packages” you can quickly build a new character quickly without sacrificing diversity. I’ve been using just “Culture” & “Vocation” while VsC uses “Kin”, “Culture” “Vocations” and “Backgrounds”. Treating race (kin) a package makes a lot of sense and I’m going to build into my system. I write extensive backgrounds for PC’s so I don’t generally need “Backgrounds” (although I do have a Shadow World background chart HERE). However, if I were designing a system for publication I would add Background packages as well. VsD is not the only system that tackles RM style chargen this way and I think RMU should have adopted this approach as a default. They could still provide the framework for skill buy with development points as an optional rule set but having a “cafeteria style” approach would have been more accessible to new users.
Passions and Drive in VsD. I really can’t get my head around it. Perhaps I’m jaded, but my experience is that players always default to self-interest; even if they camouflage it with clever roleplaying. Passions and Drives seem interesting, but I think it’s hard to build a game mechanic around qualitative morality.
Diseases, falls, fire, intoxication, poisons, sleep deprivation, starvation and suffocation in Zweihander. This is a pretty good list of hazards outside of combat. RMU has addressed these as well. I like ZHs use “toughness check”. I only use 2 types of RRs. “Will” based to resist certain types of spells and “Hardiness” based to resist poisons and diseases. I treat all magic the same so there isn’t a differentiation in saves vs. Essence, Channeling, Mentalism, Arcane, Essence&Channeling, Channeling&Mentalism, Essence&Mentalism. (Did I miss any?) Saving Rolls in VsD also seem simplified. That’s good.
VsD Combat. It seems very similar to Rolemaster and MERP. Maybe they felt it was streamlined or easier, but that’s not the impression I get. Like ZH, it seems like building a new and better combat system was just too much of a task. Just picking through the early RMU beta provides a number of very clever ideas that could be executed for a RM type combat system. I don’t even know what to say about the tactical round. Is it just a almost copy of RM? Oh well. It seems if it’s not much, much better than RM or MERP why change?
Travel in VsD. Feels very much like a boardgame with “campsites” and “safehavens”?
So just a few random thoughts about Gabe and Peter’s review of Zweihander and vsDarkmaster. I’m not overwhelmed with either of their combat systems and definitely not digging their magic systems. I thought there were some really good ideas in both of those systems on character builds and fascinated how other people resolved their own problems with RM and MERP. It makes you wonder what you would get if you put both of these systems and RMU into a box…