Thursday, November 27, 2008

Comparative Review: Castles & Crusades, Runequest II and Warhammer FRP Part IIb

Comparative Review: Castles & Crusades, Runequest II and Warhammer FRP.

Part II b Equipment and Encumbrance
This second section of this part features equipment and encumbrance. In C&C, RQ and WFRP characters need to specify their equipment including weapons, armour and clothing.

Equipment - do the Arms maketh the Man?
C&C core rules do not mention a character having any equipment such as clothing or common accoutrements and each class has a different randomly determined amount of starting money. This starting money is based on the costs that a first level character would have so a cleric or fighter who will need to buy armour has a higher amount than a wizard. There is no background per se with the characters in terms of class apart from the knight's implied background with the birthright mount. Like most GMs that I know I allow for characters to have basic set of clothing for free in C&C or D&D, but everything else is paid for from their starting funds. Like most D&D based games there is an assortment of goods and services in the equipment lists. Usually a starting character will need to buy weapons, basic adventuring equipment and depending on class, armour.

RQ characters do recive a set of clothing and items appropriate to their background (peasant, townsman, barbarian or noble), in addition to a random sum of money where the dice rolled are dependent on the background. The money recieved can be used to buy additional equipment which is important for peasants and townsmen who will need weapons and armour to go adventuring. Peasants start with the least equipment and cash so would be prime candidates to use the prior experience system. A noble will normally start with armour and weapons as well as cash so is already set for adventuring, but will have obligations tied to their income. Barbarians will normally have basic armour and weapons with a strong likelihood of a riding animal too.

Warhammer Characters start with a normal set of clothing for their first career, a hand weapon (sword, axe, mace as appropriate), dagger, basic living items and the trappings of their first career with a small amount of cash (2d10 gold crowns). Equipment in WFRP has an importance that does not exist in the other two games because it is necessary to have the trappings before a new career can be entered. This is different to the assumptions about wealth in 3e D&D where a character of a given level would be expected to have equipment of a certain value including magic items, etc. There would be no problem about a D&D character reaching that level without the equipment. A D&D character without the expected equipment would be ineffective within the game unless the same situation applied to all characters and encounters were scaled to meet the absence of magical equipment expected of higher levels in 3e D&D.

Encumbrance is probably the most ignored set of rules in any RPG as very few GM or Players like the book keeping involved. I've got to admit that this has been pretty much the case in most groups I've gamed with. I've got examples with the characters that I published for C&C, RQII and WFRP. In WFRP it is clear that encumbrance is an optional set of rules. The treatment of encumbrance is roughly the same in all three sets of rules with characters carrying heavier than normal loads having reduced movement and reduced dexterity based bonuses as the main mechanical penalties. I'm not going into an extended discussion of this, largely because of the ratity of it being used.

This review includes the other parts listed below:
Part 1 Settings, Characters and Advancement

Part 1a Character Creation

Part 1b Characters and Careers

Part 3 Melee

Part 4 Magic

Part 5 Conclusions

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Comparative Review: Castles & Crusades, Runequest II and Warhammer FRP. Part IIa

Comparative Review: Castles & Crusades, Runequest II and Warhammer FRP.

Part II a Classes and Careers
This part will also feature equipment and many other things too, around the theme of characters being fleshed out.

Castles & Crusades
C&C uses a D&D style class and level system with strongly niche based classes. The core game includes 13 classes with the organisation of the book being based on the prime characteristics. The classes and their primes are:
  1. Fighter - strength. The straightforward combat specialist.
  2. Ranger - strength. The typical D&D style mobile fighter type.
  3. Assassin - dexterity
  4. Rogue - dexterity. A relatively weak class at low levels, but their low XP requirements to gain levels mean that the rogue character in a party can advance much faster than the spellcasters.
  5. Barbarian -constitution. A class that I often feel is hard to do well, like many other barbarian classes this is a berserker with a few concessions to the tribal background. This is a class in practice I'd replace with another version.
  6. Monk - constitution. One of my least favourite classes in D&D from Blackmoor onwards and something that I often try to avoid using in my games.
  7. Illusionist - intelligence. This has always been a class that I've liked since early D&D and I've often played the iconic gnome illusionist when I get a chance. The differentiation between this and the Wizard is largely based on the spell list and a few other class abilities in C&C.
  8. Wizard -intelligence. The classic D&D style magic user with limited ability with weapons and weak at low levels, but very powerful at high levels.
  9. Cleric - wisdom. The cleric is like the old D&D clerics a combination of spellcaster and melee fighter, but with no ability to use edged or missile weapons. They are part of a normal adventuring group as a healer.
  10. Druid - wisdom.
  11. Bard - charisma. The bard is useful more in larger parties where their ability to inspire can aid the other members.
  12. Knight - charisma. The knight gives a good candidate for a party leader particularly with their class ability to boost other's combat abilities.
  13. Paladin - charisma.

Each class has its own abilities with these either increasing by level, such as the spellcasters getting more spells, or having additional abilities at higher levels. A common critcism of this D&D style advancement is that character's ability progression has little relevance to what they have done in game. For example if a cleric spends most of his time in melee and gains enough XP to level from combat and treasure he will still gain additional spells even if he'd not cast any since he'd reached the previous level.

Warhammer FRP
The Careers system in Warhammer FRP is seen as a strength of the game. It does give a good handle for linking a set of skills and talents for a character rather than just having randomly selected options. As there are over 60 basic and 50 advanced careers in all in WFRP2 I will not list them all, but just discuss the approach to careers and advancement. There are also additional basic and advanced careers in the other WFRP books such as Sigmar's Heirs or the WFRP Companion.

The careers can be tied to character race as only Elves can be Kithband Warriors, Dwarves Trollslayers, etc. There are only 7 basic careers open to all four races: Entertainer, Hunter, Mercenary, Outlaw, Student, Thief and Tradesman. A character can either be assigned a career by rolling dice against a table of races and careers or be allowed to choose their career by the GM. Personally I prefer the random allocation method with two rolls on the table and the character choosing between the two choices.

For many the iconic WFRP career is the Rat Catcher with a small, but vicious dog amongst his trappings or for a Dwarf the Troll Slayer. The career does define what a character does in WFRP with it being how they would make a living if they weren't adventuring, unlike C&C where characters are 'pure' adventurers whose niche only has meaning in game terms rather than in the wider world. There does become the question of how a character can still be in his career and adventuring in WFRP, but this can be worked around by creative players and GM.

Each career has an advance scheme which allows a character to improve their attributes or gain skills and talents. This means that a character will be limited in their choices of what to spend their XP on. A character in their first career will get the skills and talents, though they can only choose one skill or talent where a choice is indicated and a free advance to one attribute. The free advance is particularly necessary for an inexperienced spell caster to give them a magic attribute of 1 so that they can actually cast spells.

In my example characters for WFRP I've shown the advance scheme with one character advanced to a second career. Each career has exits which are the next career that can be taken with this usually being a mix of basic and advanced careers. For a higher XP cost a character can enter any basic career allowing for changes in status and players' wanting to take a new direction.

There is not a class or career system in RQII in the same way as C&C or WFRP, but the characters have backgrounds that affect their starting money, equipment and skills. The prior experience system does fit characters into careers less rigidly than WFRP and allows a starting character to have a wider range of skills and better scores in their skills than the normal 16 year old from straight RQ character generation. The characters do have a background, but this does not affect their skills so much as experience.

The prior experience system allows a peasant or townsman character to join a guild to get training in their skills and also to join the militia to gain combat skills. This option is not open to nobles and barbarians, but there are prior experience rules for them too, with barbarians having different skills and weapons for foot or mounted tribes. Characters can join the mercenaries to gain experience with there being different types of unit, so light or heavy infantry or cavalry is possible. From being a guild apprentice a character can have skills that would be the basis of how they live other than by making money adventuring and this is a useful feature for RQ rather than just starting all the characters out as 16 year olds with limited skills and no other option than adventuring. In Appendix F I've shown how it works in practice.

Characters in RQ advance by using their skills or training, this is the most realistic of these three games as the improvement clearly links to what the character has done or experienced. The increase by experience mechanic requires rolling D100 with the current skill level deducted from 100 to give the target meaning that inexperienced characters improve more quickly than highly able characters which again is more realistic that a novice can improve more rapidly than a capable warrior or guildmember. There is a limit on advancing skills due to training with experience being needed over 75%.

Summing Up
The class and level system used in C&C has a strength in simplicity and ease of use, but it does mean that characters are less mechanically differentiated than in say D&D 3.5, WFRP or RQII. In WFRP all characters that complete the same career will have advanced their attributes and obtained roughly the same skills and talents, but at an intermediate stage they can choose what to maximise and which next career to follow. RQII is the most realistic system with skill and attribute use or training giving rise to advancement, but it means that it is harder to design adventures for publication as experienced groups of characters will tend to have widely different skills apart from their combat abilities.

The rest of the review can be found in the following posts:
Part 1 Settings, Characters and Advancement

Part 1a Character Creation

Part 2b Equipment and Encumbrance

Part 3 Melee

Part 4 Magic

Part 5 Conclusions