Remember When It Was Fun
Posted by chyrondave
I like role playing games, as you may have gathered from past blog posts. I like them because they are (usually) designed to stimulate the imagination, allowing the players to create their own story while having a little fun along the way.
Granted, I never really got a lot of chance to play many role playing games (or, RPGs if you will). Growing up, I lived in a neighborhood without a lot of kids my age, even fewer who were into role playing games. But I liked reading about the rules, the character generation, the game play. And, over the years, I have read about a lot of different games, from way back when to the present day.
What sparked me to think about this is my completion of the rule book for the latest RPG set in the Marvel universe, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game, and how the word “basic” in the title is highly misleading.
For me, the best role playing games are the ones in which you can dive into with only a basic understanding of the rules, at least for players. Roll some dice, create a character, start to play. It was one of the keys that has made Dungeons and Dragons so long lasting. Granted, the rules have been tweaked numerous times over the years, but the same basics are still in the game. Each player creates a character by picking a race, picking a class, then rolling the dice for statistics. And it did not take much to figure out what those stats, strength constitution, dexterity, intelligence wisdom and charisma, stood for. From their, it was possible to spend a night gaming without the need of a slide rule and an advance degree in particle physics. Rules were added over the years, often in supplement books, but again, the core was still there. You needed to roll number X or greater to hit creature Y. If you succeeded, creature Y was hit and your weapon did damage. If not, you hoped that creature Y got a bad roll and did not hurt you.
Over the years, other role playing games appeared, usually playing on a theme. Star Frontiers was a galactic adventure, Gamma World was a post apocalyptic battle for survival, Top Secret entered the world of the super-spy, and yes, even my personal favorite, Marvel Super Heroes Role Playing Game, was based off the Marvel Comics.
I checked out a lot of the other games, though usually only to the degree that I would read the rules. While I was able to find some people who played Dungeons and Dragons, I never was able to find anyone who played these other games. Many of these games became the inspirations for some of my earliest writing ideas, though many never really congealed into something good. Some of them lasted a little bit. Alien races from Star Frontiers would eventually reappear, reworked to fit the d20 system (named because of the focus on the 20 sided die as the principle means of determining actions). Most would not last.
I did tend to gravitate towards the Dungeons and Dragons games, along with my Marvel RPG. I at least knew some people who played D&D, and the randomness of character generation in the Marvel RPG kept my mind active. Many of the characters I generated through the Marvel RPG would eventually become the characters in the comic ideas I began to write. And, while my drawing skills kept some of these early scripts as just that, these characters would eventually be used in one of my National Novel Writing Month works.
In checking out some of the other RPGs, I found I had some issues with the rules. DC Comics first break into the RPG world was a bit too complex for me. I don’t remember it lasting all that long, though a new version has recently come out that uses the Mutants and Masterminds rules, which uses the Open Gaming License (or OGL) to allow it to use the familiar d20 based D&D rules for its system. I never really checked out the Star Wars or Star Trek RPGs, so I could not comment on either of them. And while the gaslight adventure of the Call of Cthulhu role playing game was an intriguing world, I got turned off my the concept that most often, player characters would either die or be driven to useless insanity.
The dark world of Call of Cthulhu brings me to White Wolf’s entries into the role playing universe. All of their games are collected under World of Darkness, which branched off to various sub-worlds (Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Mage: the Ascension, and so on). This RPG appealed to me since it focused on storytelling rather than on hard core rules. While I figured I would never actually get to play this game in any of its sub forms (some of the rule concepts I had some trouble grasping), I could at least read the source materials and draw inspiration for my own stories, even if they were only going to see light online.
Which brings me to the reason why I wrote this post in the first place: Marvel Heroic Role Playing Basic Game. This is the latest Marvel RPG to appear on the scene, and the fourth overall. I have mentioned the first, a percentile dice based system (roll to ten sided dice, one represents the tens digit, the other the ones), created by TSR. TSR would later reintroduce the same under their SAGA system. I never checked out this version, but I don’t think I would have liked the whole card-based system. The third version took a radical approach and eliminated the use of dice all together, using counters to keep track of actions and stats. I never really liked this version. Which brings us to the most recent version, created by Margaret Weis Productions. Dragonlance fans will recognize the name. I recently finished reading through the rule book (which I am including in my 100 books in 366 days), but was not thrilled by the rules I read. In truth, I found them rather confusing, to say the least.
The game is reliant upon dice pools. But, unlike the dice pools of the World of Darkness RPG, various different types of dice can be used. Instead of a standard roll 5d10 and take the best three, this one has players rolling a combination of d6s, d8s, d10s, and d12s, some of which are discarded to a doom pool for points to be used later, some used to figure out the actions involved. Reading over the rules, I have no idea how the game was supposed to be played, even after reading the examples. Gone was the classic, “roll a d20, did you get better than 12? then you hit.” Even gone was the old Marvel RPG system of rolling 2d10 for percentile and using the chart to figure out whether or not you hit based off an opposing power level. I continued to read on, finding myself more confused, and more longing for the glory days of the original system.
At least the resources for the original game are still available online.
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About chyrondaveAvid comic reader, amateur writer, music fan, and someone with opinions, lots of opinions.
Posted on May 7, 2012, in Media, Opinion, Personal, Role Playing Games and tagged Dungeons & Dragons, Gamma World, Marvel Heroic Role Playing Basic Game, Marvel Super Heroes, Marvel Super Heroes Role Playing Game, media, Opinion, personal, Role Playing Games, RPG, Star Frontiers. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.