Sunday 11 August 2013

5 terrible rules in otherwise awesome RPGs

Tabletop roleplaying games are amazing. They transport you to other worlds and allow you to weave immense tales with your friends while eating high carb snacks. Let's be honest - gaming is probably the best past-time ever.

But even when you're all playing your favourite game, there's usually a point when you need to look up a specific rule and realise that it's more difficult to comprehend than M-Theory and you sit around for the next hour trying in vain to figure it out.

Other times one of your more devious players realises how they can use a game-breaking spell to their advantage and become a cosmos-chewing god on earth. These are annoying times.

Here are 5 rules that sully otherwise fantastic games.

5. In Black Crusade You Can Start As A Walking Tank

Fantasy Flight's series of games based on the wildly successful Warhammer 40,000 franchise are awesome for a number of reasons, but mostly because in Black Crusade you can become a blood-draining Chaos Marine.

Black Crusade is the fourth instalment of Fantasy Flight's Games Workshop tie-ins and sees the players take on the role of followers of Chaos, travelling the galaxy in search of minds to free. It's awesome.

What's the problem?

While you can play as archetypes like Apostates, Renegades and Psykers, really the Heretek is where the mad joy is. During character creation you get items of a certain rarity. One of these items is a cybernetic upgrade called the mechanicus assimilation of which the Heretek can feasibly begin with 100 because these items are more common for the Heretek than other archetypes. If this is starting to sound dodgy, that's just because it's hugely dodgy. Furthermore, each upgrade offers you a 'machine' trait, which gives you +1 armour and no limit to how many times you can take the trait. This means you can easily start the game with 100 armour.

Space Marine power armour is rated 8.

4. In Promethean Everything In The World Hates You (And Will Kill You)

In Promethean: The Created, a game set in World of Darkness, players take control of a being created from corpses and given life by the Divine Fire. It explores themes set out in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, as players wander the world as creatures out of place, devoid of a soul but terrifically powerful. It can offer really deep and meaningful gameplay if run right.

What's the problem?

Every Promethean emits an aura called the Disquiet that comes as a side-effect from not having a soul. The Disquiet not only affects humans, but it also affects animals and even the environment around the player, causing them to feel uneasy and ultimately reject the Promethean.

That's right - if a Promethean lingers somewhere for too long it's only a matter of time before anything they have come into contact with will inevitably try to off them. Mortals go through four stages of Disquiet, beginning with disturbing dreams and culminating in the mortal getting the community together with torches and pitchforks and attempting to flat out murder the players.

While it's easy to see why the designers put this in, to emphasise the loneliness and rejection a Promethean feels, in the hands of the wrong GM the Disquiet could be disastrous.

3. Grappling In Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Is The Most Tedious Thing Ever

Dungeons & Dragons will soon be releasing its 5th edition - D&D Next, but a perennial favourite amongst fans is still 3.5. It cleaned up many of the rules in 3rd edition and offered a better all-round experience. While Pathfinder cleaned the game up more, 3.5 is still seen by many as the gold standard of D&D thus far.

What's the problem?

Goddamn grappling. It's something that should be so simple but, wow, did the designers make the most turgid mechanic imaginable, especially in a game that prides itself on being pretty bloody simple.

Basically, the attacker decides to begin a grapple. All players and the GM now groan in contempt. The defender makes an attack of opportunity against the attacker - if they deal damage then the grapple fails. The attacker then makes a melee touch attack against the defender. Again, if this fails then the grapple ends. Then the attacker and defender make grapple checks (d20+ base attack bonus + Strength mod + size mod). If the defender wins then the grapple fails. By this time everyone's eyes have glazed over and the word grapple has lost all meaning. There are also a bunch of special rules thrown in for monsters with Improved Grab that makes things even muddier. If you managed to pull all of this off then congratulations, you've successfully grappled someone.

Oh, and this is all part of a single attack.

2. In D20 Star Wars, Stunning Someone Is Equal To Killing Them

Let's face it, when watching Star Wars which one of us didn't think 'I sure as hell want to do all that shit and more'? This is why D20 Star Wars Revised is a great game - you get to play out adventures in the Star Wars universe with rules that you probably already know.

What's the problem?

You can pretty much end someone with a stun attack.

If your enemy doesn't save against your stun attack they are considered helpless. They lose all their dexterity, drop everything they're holding and become a much easier target for subsequent attacks over the next few rounds of combat. Even if they do manage to save against the attack, they are still stunned for one turn. Also, this is per hit, meaning a group could quite easily barrage a large enemy with stun weapons and then just have at it with regular deadly weapons while the enemy is in a daze. Even if the enemy breaks out of it, they would still have to use a turn to pick up their weapons, by which time they could be barraged again.

1. In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Weak Wizards Can Destroy Any Object

Before Fantasy Flight got hold of the intellectual property, Games Workshop produced the first Warhammer-based RPG - Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

In the first and second editions attributes used percentiles, like in Basic Roleplaying, but from third edition when Fantasy Flight got their hands on the game it was changed to a dice pool mechanic. All editions are really cool and worth tracking down for a session of Old World fun.

What's the problem?

In the first edition of the game there was a spell innocuously called Glowing Light. Basically it was a low-level cantrip that allowed wizards to turn objects into temporary torches. However, the spell text only stated that, "The object glows brightly for one hour, and then vanishes." What? It vanishes? This means than low-level wizards could feasibly light up an object for an hour (like someone's suit of armour, or an insanely magical item) and cackle manically as the thing is destroyed.

Do you know any other poor rules from good games? Be sure to leave them in the comments.


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