The thing about role-playing, is as you go on, trying new systems, new expansions, it’s clear no system is perfect. The first proper system I tried was Tunnels and Trolls, which glories in some of the best weapon tables you’ll find. Then when you play another fantasy system, you’re wondering why they’ve only got 2 different axes for your character. Playing T&T first spoils you for axes. And polearms. Not to mention knives.
Then there’s the mechanisms. The form used in Vampire, and quite a few others, where you decide a relevant skill and stat for every task, and roll that many dice, looking for a number of successes. Brilliant, very adaptable, and covers just about anything. However, if you roll ‘1’s, they count as failures and possible fumbles. My beef was that if I was very good at something, I’d be rolling loads of dice. Lots of opportunities for 1s.
Traveller – an early game with a superb background (all you other lot, sorry, GW did not invent super-hard Imperial Space Marines). Great weapons, good world and background system. But game mechanics suck. The GM is encouraged to write up all possible tasks in what is a needlessly complicated formula.
Warhammer Role Play, in its now various forms. Great background, good character development, and a percentile system. However even as an advanced fighter, you’ve only got about a 50% chance of hitting something. F that. If I’ve developed a fighter, played him a fair bit, I don’t want him missing half the time. That may be realistic, but hello, fantasy role play, there’s a clue there.
So, then you look to adapt systems. An easy example is MERP, for basic role-playing in Lord of the Rings territory. Thing is, you play the rulebook, and you soon find out there’s only 3 different critical results. This can get boring. No problem, their parent company do a much more complicated system, Rolemaster. So you buy the RM combat book, and use that. I’ve done this for years. I find RM too complicated generally, so prefer MERP, but wouldn’t dream of using the basic combat system – any combat system that doesn’t let you cut some guy’s nose off is not worth having.
Then, you adapt further, by having in-house rules. These are generally stated by the GM, whose word is law (there’s a pun here). An example is in Cyberpunk, I very rarely let players aim for hit locations (head shots). I realise it’s great to go for head shots, double damage and so satisfying, but if players can do it, why can’t their targets? So, no.
Which leads me to the point of this article, which I will probably follow up on. Why not create your own RPGs? If you are doing it on an amateur level, and never intend to publish or in any way profit from it, would it be so bad to rip chunks of different games, and merge them? Clearly if that is illegal, I’m not condoning it and would never do something so bad…
Although Traveller background with Vampire mechanics (and no 1s), tempting…

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