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Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2018 5:26 pm

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Dungeon Crawler

Joined: Thu Nov 20, 2014 11:21 pm
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Location: Washington D.C.
This was just (re)posted on FB by the John Wick Presents page. ... e-balance/

As a fan of Palladium, it made me think about the points made in relation to the Palladium system, and KS' stated resistance to game balance in his systems.

In many ways I see the Palladium system as not simply a "house ruled AD&D," but as an AD&D reworked by people who like to roleplay more than they like to "game." There's lots of rules, but they fulfill the purposes of conflict resolution in a story made as variable as possible. When I was a kid, Palladium was the first example I saw (and I still can't think of others off the top of my head), where not only the hero "classes" but everything from common peasants to Gods could be constructed in basically the same way. The implication was one could play anything.

The article linked above states: "Game balance isn’t about hit points or armor class or spells per day or any of that. Game balance is about helping the player tell his character’s story in such a way that he doesn’t eclipse the other characters."

One of the most common complaints I hear about the Palladium system is about the amount of time that it takes to build a character. I also find the amount of time daunting now that I'm older and have less time in general, but when I was a kid this was one of Palladium's greatest strengths. The skill selection system forces you to make a lot of marginal choices. In making those choices, many if not most of which have little effect of the "effectiveness" of the character, one is encouraged to create a full history for the character. Maybe you pick boxing for the stats, but what about the choice between auto repair or computer repair (for example)? Every available skill slot presents a choice that has to be resolved, and most are resolved through the concurrent creation of backstory.

Then there's the attribute system. The way it should be played is that one takes what rolls one makes. The rolls force choices regarding character creation. I rolled low on these, average on those, and high on the others; what am I? This was actually frustrating as a kid, because I wanted to make the cool dude I saw, or I had a preconception of a character, and I didn't want to be bothered or limited by attribute requirements and such. GURPS and later White Wolf were appealing because I could manipulate my attributes more easily based on the system, without houseruling. But generally, by rule, the Palladium system encourages actual character creation during character creation.

I'm not arguing that the Palladium rules aren't opaque, and I admit that "common sense" is less communal than one might hope at a game table. More modern narrative focused game systems achieve great things without the "clunkiness" of the old-school RPG style, and productively try to present themselves in such a way that the expectation is narrative not rules-lawyering and tactics.

But I have always felt that Palladium offers and encourages the kinds of narratives one sees in novels and movies (groups of diverse characters interacting). Most other games leave me feeling flat in their focus on evenly matched characters built around their abilities in combat scenarios. As the article says, the actual roleplaying aspects of those games are what the gaming group adds on top of what is provided in the rules.

I think Palladium games run a lot more smoothly when the GM and players expect to play a more narrative game, embrace the character creation rules as tools to help create characters with history, and the rest of the rules as available conflict resolution rolls, or rolls to mimic the limits and randomness of reality without relying on the whims of a willful GM. I think problems mostly occur when gaming groups try to play the D&D/mini oriented/"balanced for combat" style they may have grown used to from other games.

Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 4:14 pm

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I agree fully with this post with one caveat.
My players all start with the PCC/OCC they want to play and go from there, I'm not going to force a player to be something they don't want to be just because of a lousy dice roll. Ultimately these games are meant to be power fantasies. So a perfect Stat roll is not required, but a Bio or character history is.

I find mixing characters of varying power levels quite fun actually. Because it forces the stronger players to think about someone other than themselves (If superman can block every bullet and can't but hurt, but Lois dies because he's reckless, does he still "win"?).

I'm also building the campaign and the adventures around what the PCs have shown interest in and what their characters care about. We are rules lite and high on character role playing.

I find it frustrating when I see GMs with adversarial relationships with their PCs or are more interested in putting fine points on rules and determining exactly what can or cannot be done.

If a player can think of a compelling and creative plan or action, I usually let them do it. I'm more interested in hearing them explain some elaborate scheme or power combo than I am in watching them roll a D20 10 times with a minus this and such. (They still gotta roll, but it's my job to encourage them to try fantastical stuff).

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