The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

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The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Tue Jan 13, 2015 1:27 pm

Rather than put pen and paper stuff in the boardgames post, I thought we could do with a straight-up pen and paper RPG thread. A place to discuss news, post about our games, discuss systems, and so forth.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Tue Jan 13, 2015 1:52 pm

So, right now I'm a player in a bi-weekly D&D 3.5 game. The game is mostly straight up combat - we go from combat encounter to combat encounter. It is a fun board-game style D&D game, but there is little sense of character and almost no role playing.

I'm running a D&D 5th edition campaign with my kids (11 and 13) plus two adult friends. This isn't a kiddy campaign - I'm running it as a regular D&D game, and the kids have been up to the challenge. There is a fair blend of RP and combat in my games.

I have also been invited to be a player in a monthly Savage Worlds game. The setting looks to be traditional fantasy. I love me some Savage Worlds (I've run two campaigns myself, one fantasy, one Deadlands Reloaded.)
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Tue Jan 13, 2015 2:00 pm

As shown by my last post, I'm currently looking at running or playing three separate RPGs - and they are all traditional fantasy. Eventually, that is going to burn me out. I've been thinking that, in a few months, I might switch my own game (the game with my kids) to something else. Savage Worlds is always an option for me. I've considered FFG's Star Wars line. I've got the first core book, and I've played a bit, so I know what I'm looking at.

I was also considering Traveller, which I've never played. I've heard that the new 5th Edition isn't as good as the previous Mongoose release, and had a few questions:

~How are the rules? I've developed a preference for rules-light games rather than games that require thirty minutes and twenty pages of tables to resolve an attack.

~How easy do the rules make improv?

~Does the game use or require miniatures? I've got plenty of miniatures, but the vast majority are fantasy. What about tactical maps?

~How is ship combat?
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Cylus Maxii » Tue Jan 13, 2015 3:17 pm

re Traveller:

T5 is an ugly mess of tables and I doubt it will go very far. If you're interested in Traveller, Mongoose Traveller (MgT) is the way to go. Basically its a re-write of original Classic Traveller (CT) that adopts the best of Megatraveller (MT) and bits of some others. Its is the best by far. I will answer your questions assuming MgT is the choice.

Rules: CT is/was rules light and so is MgT. The whole design point of Traveller was to focus on role-playing vs. roll-playing. You can easily referee a game with every table you need for skills use and combat on your GM screen. All rolls use d6 (usually 2d6). The referee decides the general difficulty (easy, routine, hard, formidable, impossible). The number they need to meet or exceed is based on the difficulty. Skills and stats usually apply. Additional modifiers are easy and can be tweaked on-the-fly for circumstances, equipment, support, range and so on. At GM discretion, you might be allowed to use a related skill. Most skill checks are unopposed and singular. There are common-sense straight-forward rules for the rare occasions where checks are opposed or if there are chained rolls. In those cases, how much you succeed by is compared between opposed rolls or gives a modifier to subsequent tasks in chained rolls.

Improv: This is easy. From the beginning, CT was designed to be a generic system for Sci-Fi play that would be adaptable and extensible for almost any application of the genre. There are currently sourcebooks out for MgT for Judge Dredd, Babylon 5, Hammer's Slammers and others. They have secured the rights for Star Trek and should be publishing that book very soon. The skills system is flexible and skills have broad definitions and a lot of cross-over. The game assumes that there will be lots of improvisation and adaptation. There are lots of social skills to encourage interactive solutions. The amount of GM discretion supports a GM style that is adaptive and uses the carrot and the stick.

Miniatures/Maps: In CT/MgT combat, miniatures are optional and minis from other games could easily be adopted. Rules are fairly straightforward with skill, range and target cover being the primary functions determining ability to hit the target. You can also delay your attack action to aim or dodge. Armor affects damage reduction. Minis can help in combat to determine line-of sight, range and potentially factors like facing or hard/soft cover. The combat system is not maneuver heavy enough to really require strict movement rules and minis. It tries to keep melee as simple as ranged since ranged is more prevalent.

Ship Combat: Space combat runs with similar processes, modifiers and rolls to ground combat and uses evasion rather than cover. The maneuver of the ship can be used to close/extend range or to provide bonuses to a pilot evasion roll. You can do tactical maps and vector-based maneuvering but it is never worth it since it just uses a ton of math to end up affecting only the range. Its only useful in mass combat, which would almost never happen. Ship systems are damaged incrementally reducing their functionality until failure. Damage goes first to armor and then to a ship system and then to structure if the system has already been disabled. Ships can easily be disabled long before they are destroyed. In practice, the expense and delay for repairing a ship is a strong PC deterrent to engaging in space combat. As a GM, some of my favorite times have been when players were stuck downside while a ship got repaired for a couple of months. They got into all sorts of trouble trying to make enough money for their ship payments.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Tue Jan 13, 2015 5:17 pm

That actually sounds fantastic - almost exactly what I've been looking for. I'm guessing that this is where I want to start?
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Smoove_B » Tue Jan 13, 2015 6:03 pm

I don't have any experience with Traveler, other than I just read about their successful Kickstarter from 2012 in the Designers and Dragons book. No idea how that relates/compares/fits in with the 2008 edition you linked but from what I understand the KS 5th edition was released in the middle of 2013.

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Tue Jan 13, 2015 7:19 pm

Smoove_B wrote:I don't have any experience with Traveler, other than I just read about their successful Kickstarter from 2012 in the Designers and Dragons book. No idea how that relates/compares/fits in with the 2008 edition you linked but from what I understand the KS 5th edition was released in the middle of 2013.
That was Traveller5, which is what Cylus was referring to when he said:
Cylus Maxii wrote: T5 is an ugly mess of tables and I doubt it will go very far. If you're interested in Traveller, Mongoose Traveller (MgT) is the way to go. Basically its a re-write of original Classic Traveller (CT) that adopts the best of Megatraveller (MT) and bits of some others. Its is the best by far.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Smoove_B » Tue Jan 13, 2015 7:23 pm

You kids with your abbreviations! :D

I'm glad someone knows this stuff. I have the new 5th Edition Dungeon Masters Guide sitting on my desk. I think I've had it almost a month now, haven't even touched it. Being an adult with adult things I should be focusing on is no fun. :cry:

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Isgrimnur » Tue Jan 13, 2015 8:31 pm

You want a mess of tables? Try miniature naval wargaming with Seekrieg.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Isgrimnur » Tue Jan 13, 2015 10:24 pm

Bullets might have someone's name on them, but 20 kilos of ANFO is more To whom it may concern

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by IceBear » Tue Jan 13, 2015 11:39 pm

I am currently playing an Age of Rebellion game on Roll20. I'm playing a medic and am spending my time "stimulating" the other PCs :P Looking forward to the session to be over I'm afraid to say...too many players now so it's dragging out :(

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by hentzau » Tue Jan 13, 2015 11:45 pm

I'd love to be playing an Age of Rebellion game right now...
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Zarathud » Wed Jan 14, 2015 12:06 am

I have to download and schedule a few sessions of the Paranoia RPG kickstarter playtest rules over the next few months. I want to see where they're going, and get a feel for the changes of actually playing with cards. What I've read is that that the character creation idea is pretty good but the typically characters end up rolling too many dice in their strongest stats.

However, the Kickstarter timing of early June 2015 delivery isn't going to work for me running sessions at the Origins Game Fair entirely. That's too late to get playtest feedback and too early to show off a final production version. That leaves me with putting together a new Venture Brothers mission with a Sci-Fi theme using the old rules but adding a few ideas from the new edition (likely the cards). I'm hoping the new season will help with inspiration. Setting up a custom mission really helps with the pacing and preparation.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by raydude » Wed Jan 14, 2015 10:36 am

This talk of RPGs has gotten me thinking of when is a good time to get my oldest child introduced to them (she's 6 1/2). Then I saw this: Little Wizards. This could be her gateway game. I'll have to download the free sample and see if she likes it.

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Smoove_B » Wed Jan 14, 2015 10:40 am

Adventure Maximus was another one I read about for kids.

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by miltonite » Wed Jan 14, 2015 10:56 am

I am currently running a D&D 3.5 game once a month. Arcanis is is the only one from the forums that is playing and it was from his nagging that made me run it. We have had 2 sessions so far and they have not yet met the HMFIC but they are getting closer to finding out about him. Arcanis knows what is going on since he was my sounding board for a story arc but all the others are completely in the dark. If you guys want I can write up AAR's if there is interest.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Holman » Wed Jan 14, 2015 4:55 pm

Blackhawk wrote:That actually sounds fantastic - almost exactly what I've been looking for. I'm guessing that this is where I want to start?
Yes, that book has everything you need. Everything else is optional supplements and fluff.

Definitely go with Mongoose Traveller and avoid T5.

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by raydude » Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:43 am

miltonite wrote:I am currently running a D&D 3.5 game once a month. Arcanis is is the only one from the forums that is playing and it was from his nagging that made me run it. We have had 2 sessions so far and they have not yet met the HMFIC but they are getting closer to finding out about him. Arcanis knows what is going on since he was my sounding board for a story arc but all the others are completely in the dark. If you guys want I can write up AAR's if there is interest.
I'd like to see some AARs. For me the most memorable experiences of playing RPGs have been the random funny moments that arose in player to player interaction. I don't get a chance to play them anymore so it would be cool to read about them.

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Cylus Maxii » Thu Jan 15, 2015 6:06 pm

Blackhawk wrote:That actually sounds fantastic - almost exactly what I've been looking for. I'm guessing that this is where I want to start?
Nope: Try this one. It is the 2nd or third revision and has the errata corrected.

Also - check out the sites for Freelance Traveller, Traveller Downport, Traveller Wiki, and my favorite, Traveller Map

You should also look into the most active forum for Traveller - Citizens of the Imperium, which is a sub-site for Traveller Downport

I also highly recommend going to the Core Rulebook page at Mongoose Publishing. There are links there for character sheets and so on. You should download the developer's pack since it has the System Reference Documents (SRD) that are used if you want to write materials for publication. The core rules for vehicle design and so on are in there for free without buying the supplements.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Thu Jan 15, 2015 7:13 pm

Thanks!

Also: Holy crap, that's a lot of map!
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Cylus Maxii » Fri Jan 16, 2015 11:45 am

I'm happy to help. I just wish you lived nearby so we could game together. FWIW - I have the majority of the published core MgT materials (~80%). I don't have any of the alternate settings. I just run/play games in the included setting, The Third Imperium. In any case, if you want to ask about the quality/content of any of the supplemental materials, just ask. The first one I would recommend is the GM screen.

Traveller is one of the earliest PnP RPG systems that was designed from scratch to support role-playing. D&D was derived from miniatures rules. Its been around since the mid 70s and has a great established community. I hope you enjoy it. One thing to note is that Traveller is not level-based and there are no XP. You pregen a character's history and skills and then take them onto the world. After that, whatever they learn is in-game. Learning a new skill, or improving one takes a ton of work and has to be played. There are still tons of rewards in the form of accolades, equipment, titles, ranks, contacts, licenses and so on. I hope your gamers can adjust to that. Its a ton of fun to let go of the min-maxxing and leveling and just have adventures. Have fun with it!
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by IceBear » Sat Jan 17, 2015 1:25 pm

Going to play with my local group tonight.... First time since late October. Probably going to be playing Shadowrun, but bringing my starter set for The Strange in case our GM bails at the last minute again

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by hentzau » Sat Jan 17, 2015 2:07 pm

I fell in love with Traveller from the moment I saw it's iconic 1st edition box:

Image

Bought the base boxed set, and the Spinward Marches expansion...and never played once. I generated a lot of characters for the game though. I loved the fact that you could die during character generation.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by IceBear » Sun Jan 18, 2015 1:04 am

Using ultra lights we managed to land on the deck of a cargo ship, sink it (making it look like an accident) and plant incriminating evidence on the ship's captain. A successful run all around

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by IceBear » Mon Jan 19, 2015 12:21 pm

Picked up The End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse off drivethrurpg yesterday. It's from Fantasy Flight and supposedly the first in a series of books (going to be an alien invasion one, a robot uprising, wrath of the God's, etc). Supposedly a narrative system and you're supposed to create a character based on yourself and try to see if you can survive the end of the world.

Here's a YouTube video on it:

http://youtu.be/ww5qUyXtT5k

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Zurai » Tue Jan 20, 2015 1:31 am

I'm currently running a Pathfinder game with the Mummy's Mask adventure path on random days (whenever enough people can attend) for a random number of people (minimum of 4 players, but we theoretically could have up to 8 on any given night if everyone shows up). It's a Pathfinder AP, so it's mostly combat with some roleplaying thrown in. I'm becoming disillusioned with the Pathfinder system, though. I hope I'll finish this AP out (about 2/3 through book 2 of 6 now, we won't finish until end of this year at the earliest I expect) but I'm starting to feel a little burnt out.

So I've been brainstorming new game ideas, since nobody else is willing/able to DM right now. I think my absolute favorite RPG system, Burning Wheel, would go over well with the group (several are already familiar with it but we do have a bunch of people who we only recently introduced to tabletop RPGs), so I've been looking at that. I've also been playing a lot of X-Com with the Long War mod recently. Then I had a brainstorm: why not plan out an X-Com campaign using the Burning Empires ruleset?

Burning Empires is a sci-fi version of Burning Wheel which has its own built-in setting, but I don't have any problem doing the needed alterations there. My idea is for each player to make a ordinary Joe (/Jill, about half the table is female and they're more consistent attendees than the guys for the most part) who then gets thrust into the middle of the secret humans-vs-aliens war in the first session. My thought is to have them all be at a certain public building for their own reasons when an alien terror attack hits town. They have to survive on their own for a little, running from Thin Men like the terrified civilians they are, then X-Com shows up, kicks Thin Man ass, and then basically kidnaps the PCs and any other remaining civs because they can't leave witnesses to the alien menace.

From there I'd run the PCs as (possibly reluctant and recalcitrant, which works great in the Burning Wheel system) members of X-Com, being put through basic training to give them basic survival skills then sent on a couple milk run missions against downed UFOs with a couple veteran NPCs ostensibly in charge to get them some needed experience. Then they'd get another mission which should be easy but ends up as a trap and the vets get wiped out (thinking this is where I introduce psychic aliens with Mind Control, make them MC the vet leader), leaving the PCs to either extract and recover or beat the mission on their own. From there, they'd be their own fire team, given missions by X-Com Command every so often, drawing from all the types in the X-Com game plus less combat-y stuff like helping Council nations set up their own defenses, spying on EXALT, liasons with secret societies which aren't members of the Council but which might provide aid, etc.

There's all kinds of potential here for intrigue, intra-party friction, absolutely chaotic and dangerous combats in amazing setpieces, sweet player-made technological toys, and all in a setting which is both familiar to everyone ("So you know that really nasty 'terrorist' attack in Nigeria a little while ago? Yeah, that was actually an alien attack that slipped through our defenses.") and still fresh and exciting (plasma rifles! MEC suits! psionics! gene mods!).

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Wed Jan 21, 2015 1:15 pm

Cylus Maxii wrote: In any case, if you want to ask about the quality/content of any of the supplemental materials, just ask. The first one I would recommend is the GM screen.
Now I'm asking! I'll be looking into a printable landscape alternative to the official screen first, though, as I really try to avoid portrait screens these days. I have a World's Greatest Screen, and someone has doubtlessly put out custom inserts for it somewhere.

So, other than that, what would be the first couple of supplements I should consider? I've heard that the supply catalog is a good choice.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Wed Jan 21, 2015 2:22 pm

Updating this from the boardgames thread:
Blackhawk wrote:Had my weekly 3.5 D&D game. This group is starting to grate on me. One DM and five players (including me.) The DM was stoned the whole time, as was one of the other players.
That was the last session. Two sessions ago, we searched two floors of an empty tower, walked to the road, sold some stuff to a merchant, got in one fight with one monster (a hydra), then finished going down the road. This took nine hours.

I just told the group I was done. I have better uses for my time.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by IceBear » Wed Jan 21, 2015 3:07 pm

Yeah, I think I'm done my Age of Rebellion game. We're playing over Roll20 and while the system is supposed to be fast and narrative, playing online seems to cause things to run slower than in real life. Anyway, there are now two married couples, myself and another guy (we're the only two original members besides the GM) and the last time I played I sat in front of my computer for about 4 hours not really doing anything other than listening to everyone else doing something. Since I have to stay up for a few hours after my normal bedtime to participate and I feel like ass the next day I think I might call it quits. When there was just three of us it seemed to go a lot faster...not sure why just two more people seems to have slowed things so dramatically.

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Zarathud » Wed Jan 21, 2015 4:29 pm

Sounds dreadful. How many times did the thief check for traps? Or someone ask if they were drunk yet? I will play an unfamiliar system with good role players over a beloved system with idiots.

This is why I run Paranoia. If you suck, you might die often enough to get the hint.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Cylus Maxii » Wed Jan 21, 2015 4:44 pm

Blackhawk wrote:
Cylus Maxii wrote: In any case, if you want to ask about the quality/content of any of the supplemental materials, just ask. The first one I would recommend is the GM screen.
Now I'm asking! I'll be looking into a printable landscape alternative to the official screen first, though, as I really try to avoid portrait screens these days. I have a World's Greatest Screen, and someone has doubtlessly put out custom inserts for it somewhere.

So, other than that, what would be the first couple of supplements I should consider? I've heard that the supply catalog is a good choice.
The supply catalog is a good choice. After that I might pick up one of the class supplements. My favorite of those is Dilletante - its full of random classes from nobles, to drifters, to professional athletes and gamesman.

If you are trying to generate adventures - then check into 760 Patrons. If your character enjoy commerce/trade, then get the Merchant book and maybe the Starport Encounters book which have lots of detailed cargos and adventure seeds. If you need more setting materials - then maybe buy the Spinward Marches book.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Wed Jan 21, 2015 5:08 pm

I don't have a game yet, nor do I have an immediate plan for one. I have a vague plan to run something in 'a few months.' I've got a group ready to go, but we're working on something else at the moment.

I've got the core book now, and mainly want to get a few resources ready for when the time comes.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by IceBear » Sat Jan 24, 2015 11:33 am

Finally going to run "The Strange" tonight. Don't think it's going to go over well with my group, but it's just a one-shot to see.

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by IceBear » Sun Jan 25, 2015 1:31 am

Well, that went much better than expected

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Thu Feb 05, 2015 9:21 pm

This is entirely hypothetical, as I don't need another new game right now, but what is the best superhero game out there? My preferences remain for games that are quick to run and easy to improvise with over games that get bogged down in rules and tables (I love D&D 5e and Savage Worlds, while D&D 3.5/Pathfinder are what I'd consider bogged down.)

As far as flavor goes, I prefer classic cape-and-tights superheroes over dark, moody superheroes (despite Batman being my favorite - Batman is good dark, Watchmen less so.)
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Smoove_B » Thu Feb 05, 2015 9:36 pm

I thought Champions was the uh..champion for super hero games? Never played my self and I only know about the various editions and changes from reading that Dungeons and Designers book. No practical advice to offer, though I guess if you have experience with City of Heroes and Champions Online you have a bit of idea of what to expect as both are based on the Champions rule set.

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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Thu Feb 05, 2015 10:21 pm

Which I do, but all the dice rolling ends up being behind the scenes. Fallout, after all, is indirectly based on GURPS, and Neverwinter Nights 2 on D&D 3.5. They give a feel for the system's atmosphere, but feel (mechanically) completely different than their underlying rules systems play.
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Zarathud
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Zarathud » Thu Feb 05, 2015 11:08 pm

I played Mutants & Masterminds a few years back. The character creation system is built around buying powers with an effect. Fill in the backstory of the power as you choose. GM can apply bonuses to checks based on the backstory when appropriate. We had players who were able to tank, blast, melee, control and build tech. All of them had something to contribute at a few points in the session. Two were crazy min-maxers who were awesome but had major weaknesses as a result. I was impressed.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by hentzau » Thu Feb 05, 2015 11:40 pm

I played Champions for years. It is my favorite superhero RPG, followed by Mutants and Masterminds. M&M is much faster to run, but Champions really truly gave you the feel of playing a superhero. And character creation is great. No randomness, all point buys.

There aren't a lot of charts for Champions. Pretty much once you know how combat runs, you only need a character sheet and a hex map and counters. But combats are LONG. Sometimes a couple of hours. But some of the most memorable RPG moments I ever had were playing Champions in college. I've pitched tons of my other RPG stuff over the years, but I have never thrown out a Champions character.
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Re: The Randomness of the Pen and the Paper

Post by Blackhawk » Fri Feb 06, 2015 12:14 am

Those long combats are a killer for me. It is the reason why I avoided playing Pathfinder with the kids. Sessions are limited to four hours usually (which is a long damned time for and 11 year old to sit still.) Doing one thing the entire time makes for headaches.
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