Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Conan and Roll-under systems

There is a new Conan game coming out.
http://www.modiphius.com/conan.html

While I am sure it will look great and have a lot of things going for it there are a couple of things that bug me off the start.

First I like my systems anymore to be simple. I like rules that "get out of the way" and let me play like I want.  Presently the only rules-heavy system I play is D&D and that is only because I have absorbed the rules to the level of abstraction.

Secondly I don't care for "roll under" mechanics either.  The new Conan is a 2d20, roll under system.  Generally speaking roll under games require lesser rolls to be considered better than higher ones.  There is an counter-intuitiveness to this.
Yes there are some great games out there that are roll under such as BESM 2r and anything using the Chaosim Basic Role-Playing (Call of Cthulhu, Runequest).
And there are some games where you need to roll high but still keep in under the targeted number.

I am just not a fan of those.

If I want to play a "Conan" game then I want something that has the right feel to it. Like Original D&D or better yet, something like Spellcraft & Swordplay.  Simple mechanics (2d6 roll over). It is both grim and cinematic at the same time.

What are your thoughts on Roll Under games?

12 comments:

spriggansden said...

Yeah, seeing that the system is roll under killed all interest I had in the game. I could perhaps live with it if the rest was marvelous, but with every new bit I learn about the 2d20 system, I care even less.
I keep sticking to Barbarians of Lemuria, but perhaps this new game will get some great setting books? Setting books almost always work with any game system.

Timothy Brannan said...

Barbarians of Lemuria is a great choice. So is Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

Edward Hamilton said...

I've always felt exactly the other way around, although I'm not sure why. I think it's because I view the dice as "the enemy" in an RPG. Usually when dice start to roll in an old-school game, it's bad news. High numbers make the dice feel powerful, and powerful dice are lethal.

I dislike the way that roll-high systems tend to get unbounded, with the targets and modifiers being constantly subject to inflation. "Roll 1d20+17, and compare that to a target of 28." Ugh. I'd much rather just keep everything in the 1 to 20 range, and roll-low systems are much more disciplined about doing that.

The other practical advantage of roll-low systems (less true for 2d20 than 1d20) is that they automatically convert to percentages. If you're target is 7, then just take 7 and multiply it by 5%, and that's the chance of success. It's 35%, easy!

When I try to do it the other way around, it requires an extra step of math. If I'm trying to roll-high against a target of 14, is that a 30% chance? A 35%? A 40%? Hold on, let me get some scratch paper...

Nicholas Bergquist said...

I admit, I prefer roll-under mechanics, at least partially because of my love of GURPS, AD&D 2E and BRP, but also because roll-under systems tend to have more bounded levels of development....there's typically an "upper cap" to the system after which development becomes unrealistic or superhuman. The D20 system is at least partially responsible for my preference....the majority of design complaints and problems with high level play in D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder for that matter stem from the roll-high mechanic without cap limits. So for me, a roll-under mechanic is a good thing; it suggests that there will be hard limits and the design must necessarily consider the bell curve of the dice in probabilities, rather than a boundless roll-high mechanic with endless escalating modifiers.

Tom Doolan said...

I have to admit to being indifferent to the system itself. I can go either way on the high vs low debate. However, based on who is working on this project (mainly artists, writers and consultants), I am really looking forward to it. The idea that it will be limited to the REH-written canon is intriguing. I like some of the pastiche, but a lot of it is dreck. I think overall this will be a very high-quality product, and will probably be pretty easy to convert to your system of choice.

rjschwarz said...

I prefer roll under.

You go through life going 30% chance of this, 75% chance of that. On 1d00 that translates perfectly.

70% chance, roll a 70 or less. Seems natural.

Mark Craddock said...

Due to nostalgia, I have a fondness of roll under games in practice (I love you AD&D 2e's Non-Weapon Proficiency system). But in play, I share your disconnect with lower being better. And while I'm seeing a lot of big projects coming from Modiphidus, aren't some of these the same blokes behind Cubicle 7 which launched with several pending high profile projects? My point, they are promising quite a few games in 2015 (Mutant Chronicles, Infinity and Conan)!
I don't wish the ill, but at this point in my life I'd probably just use 5th Edition and the Mongoose Conan stuff to play it.

Red Orc said...

I've never understood why anyone would prefer a roll-over system. It just seems counter-intuitive to put extra steps in what could be a simple mechanic.

The most simple mechanic for determining success for a character would be to say 'roll skill level or under'. That could be a perceantage or any other number-based stat - after all a d20 is a d% that counts in 5s and a d6 is a d% that mostly counts in 17s. So saying 'character has level 2 skill with a sword' means you roll a 1 or a 2 to succeed.

It wouldn't be easier to say 'they are level 2 so take their level off the die you're rolling and get above what you have left'. Can't see why anyone ever thought that was anything other than an uneccessary complication.

But people get very irate about this. I was involved in a game development project a few years ago where the designer pulled the plug and as far as I know completely shut up shop because I suggested that his preference for subtract-and-roll-over system wasn't as logical as a roll-up-to system. Pity too, as I think the group of us had done some good work on the project.

Jeff said...

I generally have no preference, either way. Roll under is usually lighter on the rules at the table, but high in character prep, as you are basically precalculating every thing. Roll high seems the opposite, and more time is spent figuring out if the roll succeeded, or not.

But, yes, roll under IS counter intuitive. And, it seems a bit clumsy when higher levels of play are going on, as you have to do start to do calculations at the table.

Jeff said...

I generally have no preference, either way. Roll under is usually lighter on the rules at the table, but high in character prep, as you are basically precalculating every thing. Roll high seems the opposite, and more time is spent figuring out if the roll succeeded, or not.

But, yes, roll under IS counter intuitive. And, it seems a bit clumsy when higher levels of play are going on, as you have to do start to do calculations at the table.

Mildra said...

My attitude has always been "depends on the game". To me, roll under or roll over are like cans of paint, its how they are *used* in a given game that matters to me.

Aiden Macleod said...

Okay, I've been playing RPGs since the '80s. I've playted alot. I recently switched to GURPS from Savage Worlds, because GURPS is just plain better, (for me). Anyway, I got Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition because I just love me some Mutant Chronicles, (the setting, NOT the rules) which are atrocious. Iread, then RE_read the 2d20 system core rules, and read them again. All I've got to say is, WTF has this RPG become? For instance, the rules are scattered all over the place and not straightforward at all. It took me 10-20 minutes of page flipping and cross-referencing before I actually found out what the eight attributes were. GURPS was easier for me to learn than THIS clusterf*ck of a system. Sorry if I sound pissed, but I am, So, I've already done a conversion of MC to Savage Worlds, (which after 3-game sessions, worked really well), but GURPS is the system for me, which I'll be finished converting MC into in the next few weeks. Sorry about the rant. Maybe I'll check out the new Conan, and if I like it, I'll set it up for GURPS as well. As far as the 2d20 way of doing things? I'd rather have my teeth pulled.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...