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Asymmetrical BRP/D100 Games?


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I've been wondering lately, how many BRP-family games are out there which use an asymmetrical take on player characters and NPCs? The only thing which comes immediately to mind is Mythras, which seems to have a "mooks" sub-system of some sort (I'm honestly not very familiar with Mythras, but it was something I noticed when reading through Shores of Korantia).

I know PC/NPC symmetry is historically "feature, not bug" for BRP, coming out of RuneQuest where you could hypothetically play anything in the monsters section. This is an approach which D&D has broadly taken too, in the editions I'm familiar with (3.5/Pathfinder and to some extent 5E). Here, I'm thinking of "symmetrical approaches" as meaning that player options and gamemaster options for how a character interacts with other characters and the game world are broadly similar. A good example of this symmetry is to page through the RQG Glorantha Bestiary or the Gamemaster Adventures book and see the pages of full statblocks. D&D 3.5 did the same, although I think 5E breaks that mold slightly (in particular, I'm thinking of how players have spell slots, and how spells seem organized as actions/options for monsters).

For asymmetric examples, I'd point to 13th Age (based primarily on my skim of 13th Age Glorantha and not a chance to actually play it) as the most likely game people on these forums may be familiar with. My recollection is that each monster basically has a physical and a mental resistance players need to overcome, and a handful of abilities which each use the monster's physical attack or mental attack and do varied damage, or maybe have a bonus effect.

I think an advantage of asymmetrical design is that it's usually designed to reduce the mechanical burden on the gamemaster. BRP tends to have increased mechanical burden, both in creating antagonists, and in playing them, due to its simulationist elements - things like hit locations, wanting full characteristics for NPCs, and so on. Those aren't necessarily bad design choices, but I'm curious if other ways have been tried.

One idea I've been mucking with in my "if I ever made my own D100 game" notes file is minor wound and major wound damage thresholds, with predetermined effects. For players, there'd be hit locations and some randomization for what sort of wound was inflicted, but for antagonists it'd probably be a default, maybe with a D6 chart tacked on in case the gamemaster wants to implement variety. I'm curious in particular if a similar idea has been implemented before, and if it was effective.

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Magic World, page 221. Offers a simple scheme where NPCs are classified as  Minor / Average /  Experienced  / Heroic / Epic with simplified assumed skills all at one value except preferred skill(s) at another, and typical armour / weapon ratings.

e.g.: Minor: All abilities are at 8, preferred skills at 30%, other skills at 15%. HP = Con/2 (4), 1-2 points armour. Weapons always do 1D6 damage. 

Edited by NickMiddleton
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This is the system I use, from the upcoming Space Cowboys RPG

Mooks/Mass Combat
When large numbers of allies or adversaries are
called for, use the mook system. Each mook has a
Ranking from 1 to 6. Roll a d10 equal to or under
Ranking to attack. All mooks act on Strike Rank
10, and have a number of HP equal to their
Ranking. Average mooks are Ranking 4, Sergeants
are Ranking 5, and Lieutenants are Ranking 6.

Edited by hix
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My system has three grades:

  • Mooks: One hit and they are out of the fight... not dead mind you, just out of the fight. With this I'm thinking of very basic Troops, from Fyrd type levies to the guard at the car-park/parking lot. Basic weapons skills + 1d10 for the squad/group/troop, etc.
  • Sergeants: Roll 1d4+2, and this determines how many hits till they are out of the fight, or if their HP are exhausted or if they receive a Major Wound, they are out. If they are hit, it takes one melee rest till they can fight again. HP is 10. Combat skills are 45% + 1d10.
  • Lieutenant: Basic, "full statted" NPC. As normal BRP NPC's with combat skills starting at 45 +2d10.

For the two lower grades, the number of hits that they can take is a crude "morale" system intended to mimic what happens in movies and TV. Mix and match grades as needed for desired result.

This is my most current system, but it is completely untested. In the last many years playing has been the norm rather than GMing.

SDLeary

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6 hours ago, Crel said:

I know PC/NPC symmetry is historically "feature, not bug" for BRP, coming out of RuneQuest where you could hypothetically play anything in the monsters section.

I've long hailed this as a feature, too.  However, in actual play I first found myself using a generic stat block for multiple NPC opponents, and then found that my pencil notations consistently hovered around less than a half-dozen essential stats, so I started creating highly abbreviated stat blocks that I'd actually use.  The specific stats would vary according to which BRP game we were playing (RQ2/3 was always a little more complex than CoC, for instance).  I don't think I ever went as far as employing super-simplified "mook" rules, but I would adjust the abbreviated stats to provide greater or lesser challenge as needed.  I'd still deal with the occasional frustration/amusement of the weakling NPC who rolled lucky and would hang on by an improbable hit point or two when the GM's objective of the encounter was to just move along to the next scene -- a "mook" would be taken down by a number of successful rolls-to-hit, not by hit points mitigated by armor and dodge/parry.

And, of course, the stat blocks were always compatible with the larger rules sets, so if an NPC ever stood out for any reason, I could expand the stats into a fully-realised character.

!i!

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I think most if not all BRP games use asymmetrical design in one way or another. It is somewhat inherent in a RPG, if you expect the player characters to last. If things were more symmetrical then begging PCs would go up against typical NPCs and have something of an uphill battle, and probably wouldn't last long enough to have any sort of campaign. Even if things were even the PCs would likely lose a character or two in each adventure.

Heroic characters in fiction have the ability to buck the odds, and this is usually represented in a significant advantage is stats and skills. 

I also thing the streamlining in stat blocks for NPCs has evolved because minor characters don't need detailed individual stats, nor does the game benefit when they have them. I think this is something of a shift in thinking over the years too. In RQ and early RQ2 we got individualized stat blocks for the bad guys, down to individual trollkin, based on some idea that it made the monsters more distinct from each other, or made them more fleshed out, when if fact, most of that detail won't show up in play. A point of CON or INT here and there doesn't make much of a difference in a set piece combat. I think that later on it was realized that the stats could be streamlined and made more generic without really sacrificing characterization. So we started to see various generic grades on opponents in RQ3 and Pendragon, as well as generic NPC types in Stormbringer and CoC.

 

One of the perks of how this evolved though is that a GM is free to expand upon or streamline NPC stats pretty easily if desired, unlike RPGs that treat NPCs entirely differential than PCs (like AD&D or The One Ring). In a BRP game it's not hard to turn a generic Stats 10 Skill 40% guard who gets away into a fully detailed character, if you want to.

 

 

 

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I love BRP, but I most confess that I also really like the notion of assymetrical rules - not so much the mooks thing, but rules that think about how adversaries and NPCs of all power levels can be run in a simplified way that is appropriate to the fact that, as opposed to the PCs, they are not the protagonists of the story.


Examples from games I've run:

Numenera/Cypher System - Adversaries are basically one number (their level, signifying how generally dangerous they are on a scale of 1-10) and two to five special effects. That actually works pretty well, but it requires a lot of GM adjudication when PCs try to go for the weak spots.

The One Ring: Adversaries are handled different in lots of small ways - they have "pre-programmed" moves that get triggered by certain die rolls, they have one attribute instead of three, they have "group skills", they have a different "story point" ressource than the heroes (heroes have "Hope", adversaries have "Hate"), they can't decide to take an aggressive or defensive stance ... it's a really well-designed system, and the assymetric bits are a significant par of that ...

Gumshoe - That's one that is, kind of surprisingly, largely symmetrical, but newer iterations (The Yellow King, Swords of the Serpentine) are breaking with that. To me, it never really made sense that Gumshoe is/was symmetrical, because it is a system that is based around expanding skill pools point by point, which is a PITA when you are  a GM have to bookkeep skill pools for several adversaries.

 

I think BRP could do well with something along the lines of "The One Ring" - a little more generalisation and simplification for NPCs and monsters, but nothing as radical as boiling them down to just one or two numbers.

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13 hours ago, Jakob said:

I love BRP, but I most confess that I also really like the notion of assymetrical rules - not so much the mooks thing, but rules that think about how adversaries and NPCs of all power levels can be run in a simplified way that is appropriate to the fact that, as opposed to the PCs, they are not the protagonists of the story.

This is what I had in mind when I asked the OP - mooks was just an example rule I'd actually seen.

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I really don't like asymetrical rules.

I mean, if I want that a NPC goes down easily, I give him few Hit Points. I don't need a "mook" rule for this. Of course, it means I'd have to change standard BRP rules, because it would require me to put negative CON in order to have NPCs with less than 7 Hit Points. But I would apply the same rules to PCS and NPCs.

I also won't bother creating NPCs using the character creation rules used for PCs. I'd just write down the important skills, and assume "default" values for others.

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6 hours ago, Mugen said:

I really don't like asymetrical rules.

I mean, if I want that a NPC goes down easily, I give him few Hit Points. I don't need a "mook" rule for this. Of course, it means I'd have to change standard BRP rules, because it would require me to put negative CON in order to have NPCs with less than 7 Hit Points. But I would apply the same rules to PCS and NPCs.

I also won't bother creating NPCs using the character creation rules used for PCs. I'd just write down the important skills, and assume "default" values for others.

So, you're saying, you only like assymetrical rules when they're house-rules? 😁

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6 hours ago, Mugen said:

I really don't like asymetrical rules.I mean, if I want that a NPC goes down easily, I give him few Hit Points. I don't need a "mook" rule for this.

The problem that I aluded to above is cannon fodder opponent, poorly armed and armored with only a handful of HPs...and astonishingly good rolls while the players flubbed.  I actually had a situation once where a goob NPC tried hiding in a closet from the advancing player characters, then in a series of improbable rolls on both sides, came on like John McClane from Diehard.  The hilarity was appreciated by all, but it derailed the adventure.

Now, was that a bug or a feature?  Years later I remember the session fondly, and it never would've happened with mook rules.

!i!

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6 minutes ago, Jakob said:

So, you're saying, you only like assymetrical rules when they're house-rules? 😁

Limited stats aren't necessarily assymetrical.  Only relevant stats are used, values are within normal ranges for species and profession, and identical rules are used for both sides.  That last bit is the most important thing -- standard rules for all sides of a conflict.

!i!

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21 hours ago, Jakob said:

So, you're saying, you only like assymetrical rules when they're house-rules? 😁

I don't consider character creation in BRP systems as "rules". I see them more as guidelines to create fully fleshed characters.

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2 hours ago, Mugen said:

I don't consider character creation in BRP systems as "rules". I see them more as guidelines to create fully fleshed characters.

I consider them as the rules for player characters, not for NPCS.

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On 8/5/2020 at 11:07 AM, Ian Absentia said:

The problem that I aluded to above is cannon fodder opponent, poorly armed and armored with only a handful of HPs...and astonishingly good rolls while the players flubbed. 

Yes, that's actually one of the good reasons for games where only the players roll. I have seen player characters take a crtical hit from the first attack from a minor NPC at the start of a campaign, and it is quite frustrating, and can stop a campaign dead before it can even get started. Still, this is the system where Rurik Runespear got killed by a trollkin. 

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1 hour ago, Atgxtg said:

Yes, that's actually one of the good reasons for games where only the players roll. I have seen player characters take a crtical hit from the first attack from a minor NPC at the start of a campaign, and it is quite frustrating, and can stop a campaign dead before it can even get started. Still, this is the system where Rurik Runespear got killed by a trollkin. 

I had a player 30 years ago who was constantly beaten by lowly skilled NPCs. But he managed once to one-shot the "Big Bad Guy" of a session : Critical + failed parry (the NPC had 90%) + good damage roll = Dead.

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1 hour ago, Mugen said:

I had a player 30 years ago who was constantly beaten by lowly skilled NPCs. But he managed once to one-shot the "Big Bad Guy" of a session : Critical + failed parry (the NPC had 90%) + good damage roll = Dead.

Yeah, dice are funny that way.  I went though one infamous weekend where I went through five characters because the GM constantly rolled a crit on my characters in the first encounter. Nothing personal (although some other players were starting to suspect something),, just sometimes the dice roll a certain way, and there isn't much you can usually do about it. I had one character survive only because I was able to counter a critical hit with a critical shield parry, much to the GM's relief!

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19 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Yes, that's actually one of the good reasons for games where only the players roll. I have seen player characters take a crtical hit from the first attack from a minor NPC at the start of a campaign, and it is quite frustrating, and can stop a campaign dead before it can even get started. Still, this is the system where Rurik Runespear got killed by a trollkin. 

I don't understand wanting to protect the player characters from the world in which they exist.  If the threat does not exist, if they face no challengers, I do not see the point of playing.  A low level "mook" actually scores a victory against a player character?  Great!  Keep them on their toes, humble them a bit, remind them that they are not gods who can do as they will without consequences.  

How can the campaign be dead from such an incident?  I do not understand that.

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3 hours ago, ThornPlutonius said:

I don't understand wanting to protect the player characters from the world in which they exist.

Because if reality we don't want the player characters to get killed off. It is counter productive to maintaining any sort of game. If you are familiar with the Paranoia RPG, imagine trying to rule a campaign in a setting where characters die off like they do in Paranoid but without clones to step in and take their place.

BTW, all RPGs protect the players characters from the world in which they exist to some extent. That's why you never see adventures where begining player characters go up against expert villains. Logically, it sahould happen, and logically the  PCs, especially starting ones, should run into NPCS who have them out skilled, but that rarely happens, as we all want the player characters to continue on.

It's part of the whole heroic character idea. We all want to see the heroes overcome the bad guys, yet if we ran it entirely fairly, the heroes would ususally get killed by better skilled, more numerous opponents.

Quote

  If the threat does not exist, if they face no challengers, I do not see the point of playing. 

I agree. You need a threat to keep the game exiciting.

Quote

A low level "mook" actually scores a victory against a player character?  Great!  Keep them on their toes, humble them a bit, remind them that they are not gods who can do as they will without consequences.  

Not necessarily. Look, let's say your are running an adventure where the players are on their toes, doing everything right, and then get killed off because some inept NPC with Firearms at 20% happens to roll a couple of 01s at extreme range. Yes it can happen, but the end result isn't all that satisfying.

Quote

How can the campaign be dead from such an incident?  I do not understand that.

Imagine how Star Wars would have worked out if Luke had been shot and killed by a Stormtrooper while trying to escape from Tatooine. It's pretty much movie over. The main hero is dead, and the secondary heroes are either captured (Leia) or reluctant to help (Han).

Also, imagine what happens in a typicval RPG if a player character gets killed off five seconds into the first fight and has to stop and write up another character. Especially in a game where characters have special talents. If the group had someone who could fly an airplane and that character goes down in the firefight on the cargo jet, at 20,000 feet, it could easily be game over.

 

Now this ins't to say that player characters should always be protected, just that for certain types of games it might be necessary to give them some partial script immunity, especially in more cinematic campaigns, in order to keep the right feel for that setting. It's much the same with Super hero RPGS. In real life big strong buys who fall out of skyscrapers tend to die when they hiut the ground. In comics, they shatter the concrete, make a hole, and get up a bit dazed. 

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6 hours ago, Runeblogger said:

I'm intrigued by that Space Cowboys RPG

I sent you a copy of the playtest book. I'll also say I dig your blog, good work.

Edited by hix
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2 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Also, imagine what happens in a typicval RPG if a player character gets killed off five seconds into the first fight and has to stop and write up another character.

This is exactly why I hate Stormbringer and it's derivative. 3 Campaigns, 5 characters and less than 2 hours total play (with 3 different GMs).

I dislike them for other reasons, but my main point is exactly here.

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4 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Because if reality we don't want the player characters to get killed off. It is counter productive to maintaining any sort of game. If you are familiar with the Paranoia RPG, imagine trying to rule a campaign in a setting where characters die off like they do in Paranoid but without clones to step in and take their place.

BTW, all RPGs protect the players characters from the world in which they exist to some extent. That's why you never see adventures where begining player characters go up against expert villains. Logically, it sahould happen, and logically the  PCs, especially starting ones, should run into NPCS who have them out skilled, but that rarely happens, as we all want the player characters to continue on.

It's part of the whole heroic character idea. We all want to see the heroes overcome the bad guys, yet if we ran it entirely fairly, the heroes would ususally get killed by better skilled, more numerous opponents.

I agree. You need a threat to keep the game exiciting.

Not necessarily. Look, let's say your are running an adventure where the players are on their toes, doing everything right, and then get killed off because some inept NPC with Firearms at 20% happens to roll a couple of 01s at extreme range. Yes it can happen, but the end result isn't all that satisfying.

Imagine how Star Wars would have worked out if Luke had been shot and killed by a Stormtrooper while trying to escape from Tatooine. It's pretty much movie over. The main hero is dead, and the secondary heroes are either captured (Leia) or reluctant to help (Han).

Also, imagine what happens in a typicval RPG if a player character gets killed off five seconds into the first fight and has to stop and write up another character. Especially in a game where characters have special talents. If the group had someone who could fly an airplane and that character goes down in the firefight on the cargo jet, at 20,000 feet, it could easily be game over.

 

Now this ins't to say that player characters should always be protected, just that for certain types of games it might be necessary to give them some partial script immunity, especially in more cinematic campaigns, in order to keep the right feel for that setting. It's much the same with Super hero RPGS. In real life big strong buys who fall out of skyscrapers tend to die when they hiut the ground. In comics, they shatter the concrete, make a hole, and get up a bit dazed. 

[I'd reply point by point, as you did to my post, but I don't know how to do that and get the formatting that your comment has.]

I prefer a sandbox to a prepared adventure.  Let the players have their characters discover where the danger is and when to run away...or charge in to a glorious bloody death! 

NPC gets a lucky shot?  No problem.  It happens, but not often.  So, no worries.  It is what "Hero Points" (or whatever a given game calls them) are for.

I am not terribly interested in the "heroic player" idea.  I am also not interested in superhero games.  Nor am I interested D&D and its derivatives and evolutionary descendants.  Been there and quickly grew tired of that style of play.

Star Wars would have been a different story.  So, what?  Part of what I enjoy about RPGs is adapting to unexpected circumstances, both as a GM and as a player. Let the story emerge with strange unexpected twists and turns.  Let's see what the players can figure out and enjoy the journey.

Create multiple characters before play.  Figure out how to work the alternate into the mix.  Skill sets change?  Adapt, improvise, and overcome.   Perhaps the original goal needs to be delayed until players can find a way back to that path.  Or, perhaps it is abandoned as new opportunities are discovered.

Enjoy your style of play!  I acknowledge that it is popular.  Nobody is required to agree with me.

 

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6 minutes ago, Kloster said:

This is exactly why I hate Stormbringer and it's derivative. 3 Campaigns, 5 characters and less than 2 hours total play (with 3 different GMs).

I dislike them for other reasons, but my main point is exactly here.

I understand you point, but it's not so much a failing of Strombringer per say. It can happen in most RPGs.

To some extent, it's a necessary evil. If you take away that element of risk then the players get complacent and things get boring.

 

 

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1 minute ago, ThornPlutonius said:

[I'd reply point by point, as you did to my post, but I don't know how to do that and get the formatting that your comment has.]

Oh, you quote the post, go to the spot where you want to replay and then hit the space bar a couple of times. Usually, it breaks up the message. Usually.

2 minutes ago, ThornPlutonius said:

I prefer a sandbox to a prepared adventure.  Let the players have their characters discover where the danger is and when to run away...or charge in to a glorious bloody death! 

That's certainly a valid approach, and one that I favor as well, but it doesn't fit every genre or style of play, nor every gaming group.

2 minutes ago, ThornPlutonius said:

NPC gets a lucky shot?  No problem.  It happens, but not often.  So, no worries. 

Except when it happens at just the wrong time, or too often. As I said before, I once has a weekend where I lost five characters to crtical hits from minor NPCs. It actually derailed things when one player character can't survive to the second round of combat.

2 minutes ago, ThornPlutonius said:

It is what "Hero Points" (or whatever a given game calls them) are for.

Yes, if the game your playing has them. In fact Hero Points are one of my favorite ways to handling that, as it gives the players some protection against "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" without nerfing things to the point where they don't have to take things seriously.

2 minutes ago, ThornPlutonius said:

I am not terribly interested in the "heroic player" idea.  I am also not interested in superhero games.  Nor am I interested D&D and its derivatives and evolutionary descendants.  Been there and quickly grew tired of that style of play.

That all well and good, but you aren't everybody. Different people play different sorts of games, with different styles of play and different expectations. It's why there is standard Call of Cthlhu, Pulp Cthulhu as well as several other Cthulhu based RPGs out there. If it were "one size fits all" everyone would be playing D&D. 

2 minutes ago, ThornPlutonius said:

Star Wars would have been a different story.  So, what? 

So to capture the feel of a Star Wars adventure you have to run things in a Star Wars style. Luke has to be able to make that "one in a million" shot that blows up the Death Star or the film doesn't work. Which is precisely why all the Star Wars RPGs out there have some sort of hero/character/force point game mechanic

2 minutes ago, ThornPlutonius said:

Part of what I enjoy about RPGs is adapting to unexpected circumstances, both as a GM and as a player. Let the story emerge with strange unexpected twists and turns.  Let's see what the players can figure out and enjoy the journey.

Me too. It also why, for the most part I don't like to fudge stuff, or play with a GM who does. But a GM also has to set things up so that the players have a good chance of succeeding. 

2 minutes ago, ThornPlutonius said:

Create multiple characters before play.  Figure out how to work the alternate into the mix.  Skill sets change?  Adapt, improvise, and overcome.   Perhaps the original goal needs to be delayed until players can find a way back to that path.  Or, perhaps it is abandoned as new opportunities are discovered.

Or perhaps you just don't succeed. Again it depends a lot of what sort of adventure you are running. If the adventure is such that the consequences for failure aren't world changing, then failure is fine. If, of the other hand, failure results in WWIII or Cthulhu getting his 6AM wake up call.. then consequences can be campaign ending.

2 minutes ago, ThornPlutonius said:

Enjoy your style of play!  I acknowledge that it is popular.  Nobody is required to agree with me.

You as well.  I think our styles are fairly similar. I just wanted to point out that not everyone nor every game plays the same. For instance both Pendragon, and Prince Valiant are written by Greg Stafford and are set in Arthurian Britain, but they both play very differently. It not just my style of play as the GM, but each particular game's style of play.

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