Monday, May 21, 2012

Obscure Games: Fantasy Wargaming, Part Two

Last time, we looked at the introductory material briefly and the character creation in some more detail. Now, we're going to look at the action resolution systems.

First of all, you have to keep in mind that gaming was different back in the olden days. Most people who played "roleplaying games" were wargamers. They had very specific ideas on what gaming was for, and those agendas were at a variance to many modern ideas on gaming. Simulation was the order of the day, and game rules were intended as a means of making simulation possible. Surprisingly, some of those ideas have reemerged in the story gaming community for entirely different reasons.

For example, the first full resolution system in the game is for Leadership of the party. It is assumed that the the character who has the highest Leadership value will be leading the party, acting in the same function as the "Caller" of early D&D. That is, the party would discuss what actions they wanted to take, but it was up to the Leader (or Caller) to make the final decisions as to actions that the players' characters would take and present those decisions to the Referee. This was formalized in Fantasy Wargaming by means of the Leadership value. In any party, there would be three leaders. The primary leader was the character with the highest Leadership. The highest Leadership among characters from the other two classes (that is, those whose primary levels, from the choices of Combat/General Adventuring, Magic, and Religious, were other than those of the main Leader) were Deputy Leaders. If there was disagreement in the party, a Deputy Leader could Challenge the Leader directly, or characters with lower Leadership could Challenge by going through the intervening Leaders. Challenges would be resolved by calling out the Leader in the Leader's arena of expertise (combat for a Combat/General Adventuring Leader, magic for a Magic Leader, and so on) if the Challenger and the Leader shared primary class, or by appeal to the party for support if of a different class or if the Challenger wished to avoid overt conflict. Specific rules are given for how to resolve this (time limits for presenting the opposing cases), and the character who gains more Leadership value support from other party members wins the Challenge (requiring a clear, 10% superiority by the Challenger for successful Challenge). The losing character loses Charisma and Leadership points for the rest of the adventure, or until a successful counter-challenge. Similar resolution covers simply questioning the orders of a Leader.

Yeah, that's really very different from the way that gaming occurs today, isn't it? The assumption is that individual characters are a part of a group, not a group of individuals. This could definitely work to help give a sense of pre-modern social structures in a playing group that is amenable to it.

Another set of rules that may seem odd, compared to the way gaming is done in most cases today, is the section on Temptations. This is a method of resolving matters that are important to the character, but not necessarily to the player (such as the temptation of seduction, or the whispers of a demon attempting to drag a character into betraying his friends). If the Referee thinks that a player is not roleplaying his character in these circumstances, the Temptation rules serve as a semi-impartial court. Basically, the character compares his personality factors (Greed, Selfishness, and Lust, mainly, but also Bravery) against various degrees of temptation. This system is not perfect, but is at least serviceable for what the designers were attempting. It wouldn't be until Pendragon that a similar system would be designed that improved on the idea. However, the important thing is that the system shows off the main resolution mechanic of the game. Various factors are summed, a "Luck Die" rolled for variation (which can be modified by a character's special traits from the "Bogey table"), and the result compared to a D100 roll on a chart, giving results from "Accept with alacrity" to "Reject with indignation". This is the original of the "Black Box" systems that will become fashionable with the Pacesetter games (Chill, Timemaster, and Star Ace, mainly), as well as Marvel Super Heroes. Persuasion is the next factor covered in a similar way, using slightly different factors, but the same chart and general approach.

Despite the fairly heavy-handed approach of these rules, recent games like The Burning Wheel have returned to very similar systems, so they can't really be said to be bad or entirely alien to the methods of current gamers on the face of them. I'd like to see them made a little more subtle, if I were to revise the game, but that's not really what we're doing here, is it? As the rules stand, they're usable, and an interesting indication of how modern OSR concepts like player autonomy were not really regarded by everyone back then.

The rules continue on to discuss one of the neatest little "chrome" rules I've seen. Each game day, the Referee rolls 2D6 for each character. On a 12, the character suffers a minor complaint for the first 2-12 hours of the day, which reduces all Luck rolls by 1. Examples given include head cold, violent diarrhea, abject melancholy, hangover, feelings of rejection or inadequacy, or post-coital tristesse (so you don't have to look that one up, it's a type of sadness that sometimes follows sexual activity). The Referee selects what exact complaint is suffered, but I'd suggest that working with the player would be the best idea.

Standard rules for fatigue, starvation and fasting, and healing come next. Hit points, by the way, are Endurance points. When hit, Endurance is reduced. Points return at a variable rate based on the level of activity, from 0 to 1½ points per day.

Experience points for combat and general adventuring are defined similarly to D&D, with 100 points base per opponent's combat level, divided by the character's current combat level (I assume that a level of zero is treated as 1 in this calculation, however this is never specified! This oversight will also become a problem elsewhere, as we shall see), or the chance of success for a general adventuring action subtracted from 100, then divided by 2. That is, if there is a 50% chance of success for an action or saving throw, XP are (100-50=50/2) 25 points if successful.

This is followed by the section on performing various adventuring feats, from finding secret doors and compartments, opening locks, or negotiating an obstacle (which is a general process that can be applied to anything from climbing a wall to leaping a chasm) to picking a pocket or escaping a trap as it is sprung. This is basically the section on Thief skills and saving throws. These systems are all basically like the one for Temptations, where a value is determined to provide a column on a black box table. The table in this section can be considered the basic one for the game, as it is used for all of the activities listed and gives results of "Failure", "Partial success", and "Success". I assume that XP are given for the category of success, so that a character who rolls a Partial success will get experience as though the Partial success chance was the chance, while those who roll Success get the higher value from the lower success chance (e.g. column 1 gives a Partial success chance of 82 or less on 1D100, while Success is 54 or less; XP would then be (100-54=46/2) 23 points for Success or (100-82=18/2) 9 points for Partial success).

This does get a little unwieldy in play, but if the players are simply told to write down an amount, or if the Referee keeps a sheet sectioned off for each character that she updates as needed, it is, as I recall, not that onerous. Certainly less so than, for instance, keeping track of END loss and recovery in HERO system. The authors do take a swipe at XP for Gold systems, but as with all opinions in games, they mainly serve to identify the author's biases.

One idea I had was to import the Glory system from Pendragon as the XP system for Fantasy Wargaming Combat/General Adventuring levels. I think that this would work well, and keep the tone of the game, while making XP tracking a little less unwieldy. (I'm probably going to keep on making little notes like this, toward a hypothetical second edition of the game, as it were.)

Next time, we'll start discussing the combat system.

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