Friday, April 29, 2011

Open Friday: Favorite Quirky Rules

I've already made it clear that I actually like a lot of the rules in D&D that others single out for opprobrium, but D&D's not the only RPG with quirky rules that I love. For example, I adore Traveller's experience rules, which, among other things, limit a PC to increasing a single skill by one level for every four years he dedicates to that purpose. It's in fact one of my favorite experience systems in any game, but I know it's loathed by a lot of gamers, who seem to think it removes character growth from the game entirely, when, in point of fact, it rather elegantly decouples such growth from mere mechanical improvement.

So what are your favorite quirky rules from a roleplaying game?

28 comments:

  1. One of my favourites is from Feng Shui. If a player has read the monster section of the book and uses that knowledge to give themselves an advantage, then the GM is to double the monster's statistics and attacks against that player. That's deliberately quirky though, so may not count.

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  2. There's a lot I like from Flashing Blades, but the system of social climbing through buying positions is superb. Swordbearer's famed accounting-free economic system is still one of the great innovations, copied by a surprising number of games over the years, from The Burning Wheel to Epiphany.

    I know it isn't popular because of the math, but I also like the method of determining lifting capacity (and base hand-to-hand damage) in Villains & Vigilantes.

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  3. The quirky thing about Traveller is that it *does* have experience points, only they call them "credits" but they are what let you get more powerful by acquiring better weapons and armor and spaceships. I always thought it was interesting how the game was chasing money instead of abstract "xp".

    I played a bunch of RQ2 and the quirky rules in that game are almost too many to list.

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  4. Can't you Die during Character creation in early versions of traveller? ... Thats quite funny in a sad, bite your tongue kinda way.

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  5. Though I'd imagine most of your readers would balk at the idea of this mechanic being "quirky," my old gaming group had an immense distaste for WFRP 2e's career system. I on the other hand think it's awesome (and generally think WFRP 2e is almost perfect system-wise).

    I'd also have to say random encounters, which many new scholars look on as kinda stupid. I loves me some random encounters.

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  6. I suppose random entries on various Rolemaster tables don't count, but I still find myself quoting them to this day...

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  7. I adore the way that L5R handles Insight (leveling up, if you will) in that a samurai who has dedicated his life to the sword can suddenly gain the necessary enlightenment needed to learn his school's next technique by acquiring a skill in, say, calligraphy or flower-arranging. It just seems to fit the aesthetic of "You aren't a real warrior if you don't know some courtly arts".

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  8. Mine's pretty boring, but it's the only one I can come up with.

    THAC0. It's quirky and odd, and I love it!

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  9. To this day I prefer Mechwarrior 1st ed to its descendants based solely on the critical hit table. In a game with military grade weapons, it makes sense that you might have your foot torn off, or lung pierced. It may be my favorite random table of all times.

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  10. Of the top of my head, WFRP's specification that a crit that beheads an opponent sends the head flying "2d6 feet in a random direction. For some morbid reason, that always made us laugh. :)

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  11. Once of my personal favorites is clerics in OD&D having to choose between Law and Chaos to advance to and past 7th level.

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  12. One of my favorites is the only AD&D rule giving Rangers (was it?) one attack per level vs. creatures under 1 HD.

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  13. That anything can be a characteristic in a PDQ game (such as Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies). So you might have an Excellent [+4] Hat With A Feather. And that if you get shot, your hat (or your Good [+2] Cost Accountancy) can absorb damage (and may not work as well subsequently), and in doing so may then provide a story hook for further adventures.

    [It's the only game where I have ever heard the phrase: "He punched me in my nationality."]

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  14. One of my favorite quirky rules is the Temporary Insanity test from Call of Cthulhu. Basically, if an Investigator loses 5 or more points of Sanity from one Sanity roll, they must make an Idea test. Failure of the test results in a repressed memory, and success provokes Temporary Insanity.

    I've had many surprised players over the years, that have said, flabbergasted, "You mean... I want to fail this test?"

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  15. Feng Shui, which I'm running right now, has some wonderfully quirky rules in addition to what Kelvin mentions above. If anyone names an unnamed character he goes from being a 1 hit mook to being equal to a player character. Also if anyone declares that mooks are too easy to kill all mooks get +5 for the rest of the campaign.

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  16. I can't remember which GURPS supplement it was but an optional rule for simulating 80s style action films was the concept that when the hero stripped off his shirt (a la Rambo) the higher his Defense (I can't remember if it was active or passive defense, or both) would go.

    Alright bad guys - I'm taking off my shirt and putting on my headband... NOW I mean business.

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  17. In the original 'City State of the Invincible Overlord'(CSIO) by Judges Guild there are rules for engaging 'WOMAN'!

    Success at Repartee; allows a check of the Woman's Inclination(Disposition + modifiers) towards the PC. If she is so Inclined they can start a relationship, if the PC buys the Woman a Gift. Not happy with how much she likes you, buy more gifts for a reroll.

    Negative Inclination resulted in a check for other Suitor's reactions, if any. Some results were very fun to play; Jealous Suitor seeking PC, Suitor & Friends seeking PC.

    Oh, the 00% result was "DEMON LOVER ENRAGED."

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  18. Exalted, in which the Charm "Heavenly Guardian Defense" (sic?) is not only a perfect melee block, it's specifically applicable to things you can't block. So, you can use it to perfectly block Creation so as to not take falling damage, perfectly block a nuclear blast, perfectly block certain narrative-shaping powers of the Fair Folk, etc (all cited by the authors at one time or another). The fact that it drains a scarce resource and carries other particular limitations actually makes it a fairly balanced ability.

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  19. "One of my favorites is the only AD&D rule giving Rangers (was it?) one attack per level vs. creatures under 1 HD."--Andrew

    That rule applies to all fighters.

    In the AD&D Players Handbook, at the bottom of page 25, under the FIGHTERS', PALADINS', & RANGERS' ATTACKS PER MELEE ROUND TABLE, it says...

    "This excludes melee combat with monsters (q.v.) of less than one hit die (d8) and non-exceptional (0 level) humans and semi-humans, i.e. all creatures with less than one eight-sided hit die. All these creatures entitle a fighter to attack once for each of his or her experience levels (See COMBAT)."

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  20. "I can't remember which GURPS supplement it was but an optional rule for simulating 80s style action films was the concept that when the hero stripped off his shirt (a la Rambo) the higher his Defense (I can't remember if it was active or passive defense, or both) would go."--Osskorrei

    That optional "Cinematic" "Silly Combat Rule" was included in several GURPS books covering genres in which it can be appropriate. It's restated in GURPS Compendium II: Combat and Campaigns like this...

    "Bulletproof Nudity: PCs can increase PD by undressing. A ragged t-shirt or skintight bodysuit is PD 3, stripped to the waist or skimpy underwear is PD 5, total nudity is PD 7. Add +1 for female PCs."

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  21. "Can't you Die during Character creation in early versions of traveller?"--O'Flux aka SteveEG

    Sure can. But the probability varies widely from one occupation to another. If I recall correctly (somebody please correct me if I don't), Marine and Belter (asteroid miner) are the two most hazardous careers. But most other careers are pretty safe.

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  22. @Ed Dove - Thanks for posting the actual GURPS text.

    Ahh... it still makes me chuckle.

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  23. "Ahh... it still makes me chuckle."--Osskorrei

    There's a GURPS rule limiting the "Enemies" disadvantage that I disagree with and don't use because the example given to justify the rule implies such potentially interesting and hilarious story possibilities that I laugh just thinking about them. The rule itself isn't quirky, but the example given to justify the rule is...

    "You may not take more than two Enemies, or claim more than -60 points in Enemies. (If the whole U.S. government is out to get you, the fact that your old college professor has lost his mind, and is also after you, pales to insignificance.)"

    That always makes me think of how, in the movie "The Return of the Pink Panther", while Inspector Clouseau is trying to recover the Pink Panther and capture the Phantom, Clouseau's boss, Chief Inspector Dreyfus, goes insane and starts trying to kill Clouseau. And, even compared to all the schemes and conspiracies surrounding the Panther, Dreyfus's insane assassination attempts do not pale to insignificance. In fact, the last one determines the outcome of the climactic scene. And they're funny too.

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  24. I usually enjoyed a rule in Top Secret SI regarding Education skill checks. They decided that Education skills were there to fill gaps in the Players' knowledge, not the Character...so if I knew something in real life (the game example being knowing that Tunsia become a republic in 1957), my character did too, no check needed.

    Was great for a young trivia-buff...

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  25. I liked the pummeling, grappling and overbearing tables from the 1st edition DM's Guide. They were ridiculously unwieldy, requiring much adding and subtracting of modifiers depending on the attacker and his opponent. The rules were also broken insofar as a strong or simply fat character could take out an otherwise vastly superior opponent simply by resorting to weaponless pugilism. "Thanks to weight-related modifiers, my 300-pound first-level ranger just flattened and stunned that 150-lb. 10th level assassin."

    Andrew may have been thinking of the AD&D rule that gives rangers a melee damage bonus of +1 per level against "giant class" creatures, a broad category that includes just about every humanoid and giant species in the game.

    However, I do love the rule giving fighters one attack per level against creatures with less than one hit die. Because it's cool hacking down 14 goblins in one round. Recently, I discovered how fun the rule could be when high-level fighters run into nilbogs.

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  26. I also liked another of the GURPS optional rules that shows up in a couple of the books; goes by a name like "Imperial Stormtrooper school of marksmanship" - basically, if you use it, rank-and-file enemies automatically miss the first time they fire at the PCs.

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  27. Zarcanthropus, oh yes, well remembered!

    I also enjoyed the rule which said that if a player mimed the action of a pump shotgun, and made the noise, their shotgun would do more damage than normal.

    I do love the attitude of that game.

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  28. GURPS Goblins initiative and social status rules.

    Initiative: whoever says "I whack 'im!" first strikes first. Nice and simple and vicious.

    Social status: ranged from -3 (lowly guttersnipes) to 8 (His Majesty King George, God Save 'Im!). It modified *everything* from reaction rolls if you left your home area (thus explaining why all strangers and foreigners are beastly and unpleasant) to skill use and combat rolls against characters of a different social class. This latter was explained as the existing social order actively reflecting the divine will.

    So Bill Sykes (status -1) could try and rob a bishop (status 7), but he was likely to come off worst, simply because God doesn't like it when you try to bash the bishop. ;)

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