I received an AD&D intro set as a birthday present when I was 10. Within a few years, I owned Stormbringer. By the time I got out of high school, I owned every Champions product I could find.
Maybe it’s different for other people, but in my circles, arguing about RPG systems is all the rage. This has problems with combat, that has problems with magic, and everything is broken one way or another.
I’m not going to bore people with all of the systems I’ve played and what I think of them. There’s only one system, actually, that I want to comment upon at the moment and that’s Legend of the Five Rings’ d10 system.
Lots of gamers love the genre. I don’t. I’m of the belief that the L5R CCG is the coolest CCG in history (also one of the most unbalanced but that seems to be considered a feature rather than a bug). I’m okay with the world for role-playing. It’s got cool stuff. It’s evocative. It avoids some things that annoy me. I have about as many problems with it, though. Main problem I have is that it’s very hard for players to get into the mentality of someone in L5R’s society. Some people don’t even try. Others try, but it comes across as fake. In my case, I don’t even want to embrace the society’s philosophy.
Anyway, the system. The system is broken. Very, very broken. I consider the game functional from rank 1 to rank 2 (if not necessarily fair). Sometime before rank 3, you reboot. Others may have different opinions, but any time I see rank 3 or above in action, the mechanics just become ludicrous. To me, that’s okay. There’s plenty of gaming that can be done at low ranks.
It’s also fun. Not being a powergamer, the fun isn’t in the brokenness – my main character in the living campaign for the game is in the Omoidasu School, which is about as useful as being on perpetual recess. I just enjoy rolling dice in the game, something I can’t say for d20, White Wolf games, percentile systems, 3d6 systems, and others.
Certainly, having openended rolls appeals to me. I’m also a fan of Feng Shui’s dicerolling system (and prefer exploding Fortune Dice). I would put my finger on another feature, though, that makes playing the game stand out so much from the crowd. I enjoy extreme results with a bias towards success. Plain old “I hit. I miss. I succeed.” just isn’t that interesting. Failed die rolls in L5R feel like critical failures. The world and system encourage extremes. The lethality of combat makes missing potentially disastrous. Failed social rolls can be worse. Meanwhile, when you know you need to do something hideously difficult, rolling a bunch of tens is always a possibility.
There are those who believe balance in RPGs is impossible. I don’t dispute that, though I believe striving for balance will always make for better games. L5R may be particularly unbalanced. Well, whatever. If you can’t have everything, at least you can have fun rolling dice.