Thursday, November 6, 2008

Godlike isn't.

Tonight we made characters for the Godlike RPG. The concept is "Superheroes in WWII", which sounded kinda cool. Mechanics use the One Roll Engine (or One RollSystem?)... I was not impressed with that system at all.

  • Attributes are too restrictive. You get 6 attributes, each of which is rated from 1-5. They all start as 1s, then you split 6 extra points. So, you could have all 2s. If you want above average in anything, it means below averagein something else. Human maximum is a 5, but to get human max inanything requires human minimum in 3 other attributes - half of allendeavors.

  • Skills are limited by Attributes. You can't have a higherskill rating than the attribute it's linked to. So, for thoseattributes you have at 1, you can't get more than the lst level ofskill. There's lots of things for which you'll only roll 1 or 2 dice.

  • Success is measured in pairs. If you're rolling 1 die (lowest attribute, and noskill) you always fail. I can live with that, but it's not ideal. Ifyou've got the skill, you can succeed, but if your rolling just twodice, your chance of success is 10%. Backing up slightly, the PC with a5 in some stat, has no better than a 10% chance of success in half ofeverything he might be called upon to do. Yuck. And trust me, the 7 or8 dice he'll be rolling in his area of expertise isn't going make upfor that.

  • You get 20 levels of skills. 4 dice (2 levels of skill ona human average attribute) grants roughly a 50% success rate. 50% on 10skills out of 30+. Don't expect to succeed much. I rolled 4 and 5 dicerepeatedly in our opening scene, and never succeeded at anything.

  • There's a "Commando package" of skills you can get if you're character's been through training. It gives you 1 die in 19 skills, so it nearly doubles the skills any non-commando character has. Yet, since they're just 1 die, you'll probably still fail a lot. The package gives you a broad base of incompetence.

  • Most of those Commando skills aren't on the skill list. Since you can make up your own skills to augment the list of 30 or 40 basic skills, at first this seems like it's not a problem. The issues crop up when trying to figure out what Attributes the skills are based on, since that effects your die pool and limits how many dice you put into it. Is Knife-Fighting a Body or Coordination skill? Is Mortar based on Coordination or Brains? How about Demolitions? The book offered no help there.

  • The power system is very flexible, and definitely the selling point of the game. However, a single very basic "classic" superhero power can easily run more than 20 of your 25 points. Even then, many tricks are unattainable - the example of how the "Immunity" power functions would require having 64 points invested in the power, and even if you spent 256% of the starting character's power budget, you'd still be vulnerable to rifle shots. For freakin' superheroes?

  • Seems like making a character who isn't an extremely narrow one-trick-pony would be impossible. If your one trick isn't offensive, don't expect to ever hit a villain with your mundane stats and skills. If your trick is offensive, you'll probably score lethal headshots with every use. For anything more than a one-shot, that's pretty undesirable.

This system seems stupidly broken. A typical "mundane mortal" rarely ever succeeds at anything. We're not talking about abnormally difficult tasks - the minimal threshold for success is one pair. It's hard to sustain disbelief when grenades are duds 90% of the time.

It's called "Godlike" but your characters will feel anything but.


Ben said...

The concept is "even superheroes would have been fodder in ww2" really though. Its really part of the game, being a one trick pony and having to be quite quite careful to even live through one session. Say if you were playing a D-day game the suggestion is to have four characters ready to play, because well its d-day and all. The starting point total *is* low but if it was very high you'd turn the tide of the war on your lonesome and the basic setting wasn't meant for that. As for the skills well i'll agree partially, 2 in a skill is low BUT the book did press home the fact you should never ever roll if succes is guaranteed. A host of other games don't hold to this even if they say they do, d&d and most white wolf stuff springs to mind.

Anyway, you should keep this in mind and give it another chance. Think of it a regular joe soldiers with an ace up their sleeve instead of superheroes and you'll have much more fun.

Because really its a very good game and it hate for you to suddenly start getting bad opinions on things.

r_b_bergstrom said...

Perhaps I didn't make my point clearly enough? For me, much of the issue is that lowly mortals suck so bad. With two or three dice, they've got no chance in ... okay, hardly any chance in hell of succeeding at anything.

Something, like, say, using athletics to climb a wall that’s just over head-height, perhaps to get at the machine-gun nest from their blindspot. The GM might want to require a die roll, because you’re trying to do it in one try, during a combat round. A regular 2-physique mortal, even with the 1 dot in 19 skills they’d get from military training, has a pretty crappy chance of succeeding at this.

Or shooting a rifle. My brief read of the system again put most “realistically” built soldiers at a mere 3 dice: 2 for human average attribute, plus 1 die of military training. That’s around a 27% chance of hitting, if I did the math right. For massed extras, that’s just fine. But quite at least 4 or 5 of our 7 PCs were looking at that sort of attack pools.

Now, if the PCs were all bad-ass, like in Scion or Wushu, it wouldn’t be such a big deal that mooks are impotent. But the truth of the system seems to be that PCs will have a “1” in at least one attribute, probably two. You have to either stay well within your niche, or live with all the failures. The PCs are mooks. Or, with points distributed just a little differently, they’re badasses in combat but complete social pariahs and dullards out of combat.

I wish I’d read the XP system section, ‘cause starting characters are so unprepared for the nasty they’re facing. Like Scion, the system leaps from total incompetence to guaranteed success without very many stops in between. Could be that a little XP will bump you up in a hurry.
Maybe it’s a “scrape buy for a couple sessions and you’ll back-fill your weaknesses” system. I don’t much care for that paradigm, but it would at least give me an idea of what’s going on.

I’m okay with the heroes still being mortal, but they should at least be competent mortals. The book lead us to believe we were making PCs who’d been through some measure of commando training, but they still felt like green rookies. For a game titled “Godlike”, that seems kinda weird. In our playtest, we didn’t feel like trained soldiers, we felt like the extras who died in the opening scene of Private Ryan. I get that that’s supposed to be the point, that WW2 is bloody and nasty. However, I want to play Tom Hanks’s character, not some no-name who played “bloody corpse #2”.

I also find the grenade rules very suspect. If I give a civilian a grenade, it’s not just that he’s 90% likely to have it scatter. That I might live with, depending on how far the scatter distances are. Instead, his grenade is 90% likely to be a dud. If the 3-die soldier threw it, it’s 70% likely to be a dud. If some badass hero with lots of dice threw it, it’ll basically never dud.

That said, you’re right, I shouldn’t judge it till I’ve played more than our playtest fight scene. However, that scene showed me that I needed to revise my character pretty thoroughly, or else I’d have no fun.

r_b_bergstrom said...

I made that much more wordy than it needed to be, and the real point got diluted.

You said “think of it as real joe soldiers, not superheroes”. You have a good point there.

If that’s the case, then the issue is one of marketing. The impression I’d gotten was that it was a cinematic game, where the PCs were heroes. I guess it’s more gritty than that – if so, “Godlike” is a dumb name, as it sends completely the wrong message.

r_b_bergstrom said...

If PC mortality is going to be so high, they should have made character creation a lot faster and simpler.