mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli

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Oubliette: "Skill Plus Attribute."

(Cover to Galaxy magazine, June 1963, by McKenna.)

The was a post a little bit ago on Grognardia about "Class people versus Skill people." I'm fine with class games, but I do find them...sort of hard to take seriously? Unless the Classes are built into the setting. In Legend of the Five Rings you have the option to play a Bushi samurai warrior, a Shugenja samurai magician, a Courtier samurai politician...or, if you are an advanced player, something else. Now, that class system makes sense, because it reflects the setting, but really it is limiting. It makes L5R a game about playing samurai in Rokugon...but not anything else, really. kingtycoon likes that & describes it as a feature of the game, which is reasonable. He's said that every setting should have its own rules system. An interesting demand, one I see the merits of. I'm not sure I agree, entirely, but I think I'm willing to agree that there is no ultimate umbrella, that the dream of GURPS being universal is impossible. That being said, I do think a flexible & generic system works best-- maybe not for every game, but you can certainly hit a style, a genre. With Oubliette I've always gravitated towards the generic. In the first campaign I used the d20 system, but pretty heavily house ruled, with a generic class system of fighter, magic user, skill user & survivor, with all the class features swapped into feats. In the second campaign & third campaign I've used the World of Darkness system, & I'm very happy with it. I guess that makes me a member of the "Skill" group-- specifically the Skill Plus Attribute camp. I like that Skill Plus Attribute gives me the ability to bring two facets of a character to bear. Being able to make someone roll seemingly mis-matched pairs gives me joy. You're good at mountain climbing, but your co-climbers aren't? Roll Manipulation & Atheletics to help them in their ascent! You can only communicate with the ape-men with grunts & primal threat displays-- roll Strength plus Intimidate, etc. That kind of stuff creates a diversity of challenges, & allows you to great a ton of multi-faceted characters. & it beats just a skill based system, even a derived one, because of that-- a "Athletics roll" is not as evocative as a "Manipulation plus Athletics roll," if you ask me. Now, I think about the benefit of the "Class" system in portraying societal or genre roles, & cast my mind back to the last system I used heavily-- Shadowrun. I ran straight-up Shadowrun, & I still admire the system's lethality, but that is neither here nor there. The thing that sticks with me most? Are the archetypes. Sure, they were pretty terrible-- why were those sample characters so badly made?-- but because they elegantly laid out ideas for characters. Deckers, Gang Bangers, Riggers, Detectives, Native American Warriors, Technoshamans, Street Samurai-- they lay it out for you like a buffet. Not to mention that Jeff Laubenstein's art totally sold it. I think that is a clever solution to the class conundrum, & it drops a ton of ready-made NPCs in the Narrator's lap.

What is my point? I don't have a point, I'm just running my gob. Thinking about the World of Darkness rules, & about edition changes. Here is the thing-- a lot of edition swaps throw the baby out with the bathwater. Look at Dungeons & Dragons-- that game's revisions aren't a series of refinements but rather a series of reinventions. World of Darkness might have made some terrible choices by abandoning with storylines-- I get how Vampire: the Reqiuem cleaned up a lot of the problems & clutter in Vampire: the Masquerade, but maybe alienating your core audience was a bad business move-- but they sure did improve on the math & rules by a huge margin. Now I can't stop looking at the World of Darkness & thinking about house rules & a new edition. For a new edition, there are a few tweaks that I think need to be made. I've mentioned that derived Attributes get under my skin-- they should all come into play, somehow, if you ask me. That is a fairly fundamental bit of mechanical rejiggering, but it wouldn't be a big deal. You might need to invent some new attributes, move some things around, but it wouldn't be that hard. I spend a fair amount of time pondering it, in fact. Now, wanting to play around with Character Traits is a much bigger deal, a fundamental shift. One I really am increasingly leaning toward-- I just bought a copy of The Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game, which whets my appetite further. That is a much bigger idea-- the notion of cleaning up derived Attributes isn't alien to the system, nor are other minor complaints I have, like wanting there to be a Perception skill. That is just housekeeping. Other house keeping issues include weapons & armor & the host of peculiar mechanics available in the game's rules. Same goes for the question of any given Power or system of Powers-- those are all details, you know? It really is a shame that White Wolf's publishing position is so precarious. I hold out hope that when CCP's Vampire: the Masquerade MMO comes out that will provide White Wolf the impetus to launch a new line of V:tM books, & provide a much needed flow of cash. Maybe that isn't even on the table; I'm not privy to their behind the scenes stuff. I guess if I had to summarize my argument, it is just that a flexible generic system can be really great to run a cross-genre game like Oubliette. Post-history, post-apocalyptic, post-post-apocalyptic, post-science-fiction, post-fantasy...
Tags: attributes, house rules, oubliette, rpgs, traits, wod

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