Monday, January 08, 2007

Run Club, Episode I

Yesterday was the first installation of the C-U Run Club. It had mixed results. Socially, it was a success. Game-wise, not so much. Dave ran Iron Gauntlets, a fantasy rpg that he'd never run, but was planning on running at Winter War, an upcoming local con.

After yesterday, he changed his mind.

Strictly speaking, I don't think that Iron Gauntlets is a bad game. I do think that it is a bit more complicated than it was presented as. The big problem, though, was that the rulebook was poorly laid out (and/or edited). Crucial information on a simple combat with a monster (the monster's armor rating) couldn't be found after a good five minutes of searching. Unless Dave was looking right past it, this seems inexcusable.

That said, the system had some niftyness to it. The game claims to be classless, but there are some sort of character roles that seem to function like quasi-classes. We didn't go through character creation, so I don't know how they work.

Magic is freeform, and reminds me a bit of Ars Magica/Mage and a bit of Talislanta. This isn't a bad thing. The character I played (Harald the Frog - a name that rocks) was an adept, which is a lot like a Physical Adept in Shadowrun (and a bit like a D&D Monk).

The basic game mechanic seems solid and flexible. Like many games, you have attributes (in this case Fitness, Awareness, Creativity, and Reason, I think) and skills. Magical abilities are treated as skills. The two are uncoupled like in White Wolf games: you usually apply Fitness to an Athletics roll, but there are situations in which you might apply Awareness or something else. You roll a number of d10s equal to your attribute and attempt to roll under your skill rating. If you get more successes than you need, you gain overkill, which provides variable benefits depending upon what you are doing.

I like the basic idea here. Straight adds between attribute and ability (as in White Wolf Games) have always bugged me, and static modifiers to skills based on attributes (as in d20) seems like an inflexible oversimplification. The mechanic is also flexible. In combat, you get an armor soak roll in which the damage dealt to you is treated as attribute dice and your armor is treated like a skill. Your successes indicate how much of the damage you ignore.

Combat involves a lot of resource management. Fortunately, it wasn't the sort of rapidly-depleting-resource-conservation stuff that I hate. It seems more tactical, and - with practice and tinkering - could be cool. I don't know. I'd also have liked to see a 'sit-tight' option that wasn't wholly suboptimal for those who don't want to mess with the tactical resource management stuff. (Maybe there was one, I don't know.)

I could see myself tweaking these mechanics and playing with them as an intellectual exercise, which is cool. They didn't work for us in the context of Iron Gauntlets yesterday, however. All in all, though, I had a good time, met some cool people, and was exposed to some nifty game mechanics. Not a bad day.

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