Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Musings: Your Favorite Mechanic

And no, I don't mean the guy who repaired your catalytic converter last week. I'm talking about your favorite resolution system, favorite character creation mechanic, favorite damage implementation - what one rule, method, or mechanic really just gives you the warm gamer fuzzies?

My own pick? Rolemaster's critical hit system. I know there are RM lovers and RM haters out there, but you gotta give it up for a game that has damage results like "meat-chopping strike severs leg at the thigh", "hot winds dance around foe", "blow turns hip to dust", or even "foe runs around screaming while ablaze for nine rounds, then drops dead". I played in three full campaigns and a handful of one-shots using Rolemaster, and whether it was us dealing out the crits or suffering their brutal effects, it was always entertaining to read the critical hit description and discover what had happened.

Also, on a mechanical level, the critical hit system worked very well to diferentiate between crushing, slashing, impaling, and other damage types. Wounds inflicted with a mace were different than those inflicted with a spear or scimitar. Victims could suffer broken bones, torn ligaments, bleeding, concussion, severed limbs - any number of awful things could be inflicted on those poor unfortunates. I even know of several people who would use the crit tables outside of Rolemaster and used them with AD&D, just to add a level of detail to what is otherwise a very abstract damage system.

So, gentle readers, what is your favorite RPG mechanic, and why do you like it so much?

9 comments:

PatrickWR said...

Savage Worlds' raise mechanic. The target number in that game is 4, all day long and forever. For each multiple of 4 by which you beat the target number, you get a raise, which translates into more damage, a better social outcome, etc. And all dice explode in SW, so it's possible to get crazy results on a single d4 roll. That's how I almost killed a character last night while DMing my fantasy game...

Todd the Viking King said...

Traveller's 2d6 Mechanic. The Odds, Bell Curve and Elegant Simplicity of the Mechanic work with anything from Stone Age Rocks & Spears to Space Bending Armadas with Weapons of World Destroying Proportions.

Truly one of the first Universal Systems that still work quite well.

Tacoma said...

I like the logical outcome of Shadowrun's negotiation mechanic. You roll some number of d6 (a number equal to your Negotiation skill) and each die needs to meet or exceed a target number.

You don't care about how high a single die rolls, you just care about how many dice succeed and how many fail.

But in the negotiation mechanic, you choose how you want to allocate those dice. You can get a better deal, or get the item bought/sold faster.

There's a saying that goes "Good, Fast, and Cheap. Choose two." And that could easily be the basis for a game system. You roll, and apply the dice you roll to three qualities of your action.

An attack can be Powerful, Accurate, or Fast. Rebuilding a car can be Cheap, Sturdy, or Fast. You have to decide which of these is important to you.

With a poisoned knife, maybe you care most about Fast and Accurate. If you're building makeshift fortifications with limited supplies maybe you care about Cheap and Fast. The other of the three will suffer.

While I like the original Shadowrun mechanic, and I like this continuation of it, I understand these are slow at the gaming table. Honestly, I still use DM discretion and a d6 or d20. Best mechanic ever.

Thasmodious said...

Savage Worlds raises and aces is definitely up there, but I have to say my favorite would be 4e's skill challenges. I just love the approach of taking a skill based situation and turning it into a full fledged encounter instead of a single die roll. I'll use skill challenges in any system I run that has skills (like Savage Worlds). I like the increased opportunity for player creativity, roleplaying, and time that comes from making skill based encounters.

Another favorite comes from Savage Worlds and a number of other games. And that is using dice as ability and skill scores. Instead of "18", you have a d6 or d8. It's simple and elegant, still comparative, and shortens the dice rules in a system by quite a bit. You know what you're rolling and why you're rolling it.

Chgowiz said...

1d6, the simplest Oracle that I need to tell a story.

P. S. Mangus said...

For me I would point to the Madness Meter from Unknown Armies and NEMESIS. I feel this is the best game mechanic I have seen that helps track a character's mental stability in game terms. On the meter you have four bars: Violence, The Unnatural, Self, and Helplessness. During the game a character receives failed or hardened notches in these areas, depending on the situation and how the character handles things. As the notches swing the meter back and forth on each category a player can look at the Madness Meter and know exactly how to roleplay their character instantly.

Matthew James Stanham said...

Heh, heh. Much love for the Role Master critical hit tables! I do not really have a favourite mechanic, though in recent years I have come to really appreciate the genius of hit dice as a short hand [i.e. communicating fighting ability, saving throws, and hit point range in one notation].

John said...

Pendragon's Opposed Character Traits. You don't really want to charge the two Saxons, but you are Prudent 3 / 17 Reckless. Let's hope your friends follow you ...

Chris said...

Bizarrely, given my customary loathing for all things dice pool, I'm a big fan of AEG's roll-and-keep mechanic (as used in L5R and 7th Sea). I think of it as WW's system done right.

The raises system (in increments of +5 to the DC) and the opposed DC auction system made for an intriguing and nuanced resolution system.