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Author Topic: Why Riddle of Steel  (Read 15541 times)
Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« on: May 15, 2002, 06:18:20 PM »

Hi everybody,

Christopher here, recently lurking, but now too curious to hold back.

I've plowed through the RPG.net Thread.  I've read everything here.  (Except, perhaps, Ron's review?  I thought he had written one, but don't know where it is.)

Now.  I don't have a gaming group.  Still want to play Sorcerer.  Waiting for HeroQuest.  And don't have any time anyway.  So I'm probably not running out to order this game. Nor did I happen to bump into it a WotC today, so I can't flip through it at the store...  But all this enthusiasm from so many bright folks has peaked my curiosity.  So I must ask: What is it about this game that's making everyone jump up and down?

As far as I can tell, it's like one of my fave games (Pendragon), in that it uses Passions (but in a much more proactive way, for both character actions and storyline); it's got a really cool combat mechanic and moody, powerful and downright wonderfully old fashioned (pre-D&D) magic system; and it's got a vague this from our earth is this on Weyrth kind of action going (homebrew D&D campaign via Ars Magica strained through RuneQuest).

(Note: by referencing the games above am not I assuming Jake immitated anything -- or even heard of the games mentioned.  (Though he has admitted a fondness for Pendragon.  Good man.  Such taste confirms my opinion of him from his posts -- a gentleman and a scholar!)  There's no hostility here.  The man's clearly done the job right.  I'm just looking for more info.)

Now: since my half-assed summation of the game gleaned from a few hundreds posts (most of them about combat mechanics) is probably way off, can anyone actually summarize why the Ga-Ga?  I'm really curious.  What is it about the feel, the texture of play, the something?

As far as I can tell, it's this: Riddle of Steel is the version of D&D I would have loved to run when I was in high school if the game had existed in high school. That is, a FRPG with exciting (and rational) combat resoultion, magic that's much more than a gun-of-a-different-color, an emotinally driven character and story framework, set in a campaign cobbled together from flipping through my family's Britannica.  

Yes?  No?  Discuss.

Thanks,

Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Rattlehead
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« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2002, 07:01:08 PM »

Quote from: Christopher Kubasik
As far as I can tell, it's this: Riddle of Steel is the version of D&D I would have loved to run when I was in high school if the game had existed in high school. That is, a FRPG with exciting (and rational) combat resoultion, magic that's much more than a gun-of-a-different-color, an emotinally driven character and story framework, set in a campaign cobbled together from flipping through my family's Britannica.


That's pretty much it. I mean, we all have our own reasons for liking the games we do, but those are the big ones (for me at least). Still, I think it's safe to say that the majority of us will play other games as well. I know I will. But, this is the Riddle of Steel forum, after all. Therefore, the ranting and raving is focused on that game here. So you see, we only appear to be mad - well, most of us...

The reason you haven't seen it in a store, is because, technically, it's not been released yet. There are a few places where it can be found, but generally, you have to order it directly from Jake. Oh, and it's worth the money, even if you won't be able to find a group to play with for a while.

I'm sure you'll probably get lots of other replies giving lots of reasons why this is such a cool game. Check it out, then you can decide why you think it rocks. :-D

Brandon
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2002, 07:21:27 PM »

Why TRoS?

For me, it's because it's a fantasy roleplaying game done right. I detest AD&D 2nd Ed. though I like 3rd Ed. to some extent, although the *major* gripes I had with AD&D 2nd Ed. are still there (ie, level-based, character-classes, etc.)

TRoS manages to avoid all of the pitfalls of D&D, while capturing many of the aspects I like about other games, and meshing them together in a really unique way. The format is still rough, but it's an awe-inspiring start.

As a disclaimer, though, I've not managed yet to run this game. I've fought precisely 3 duels, 2 online -vs- the esteemed Rattlehead, and one -vs- a friend I managed to bully into making a character. (Notice: the bullying paid off.. He likes the game well enough to help me sell it to the rest of the gaming group) However, any game that hooks me so intensely just from reading rules has got to be fun in the playing as well as the reading.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Nick the Nevermet
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Posts: 352


« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2002, 10:20:47 PM »

Quote from: Christopher Kubasik
Hi everybody,
As far as I can tell, it's this: Riddle of Steel is the version of D&D I would have loved to run when I was in high school if the game had existed in high school. That is, a FRPG with exciting (and rational) combat resoultion, magic that's much more than a gun-of-a-different-color, an emotinally driven character and story framework, set in a campaign cobbled together from flipping through my family's Britannica.  
Christopher


I think most of that is true, but I'll make two points, and a question:

1) I think the setting got a bum rap for most of the rpg.net thread/ramble.  There is a sense of a social and historical coherence that goes beyond just being cobbled together.  Or maybe you know people who cobble better than I :-)  In both rpg.net and here in the Forge, there has been a LOT of focus on the combat system.  While that is fine (the combat system IS interesting to be sure), I think that there are other things TROS has that are good, such as the setting.  The setting feels dynamic to me; one can understand what is going on in its current period by looking at what has happened before and where things are going.  I appreciate good settings, and I think TROS has one.  I think this is what a good setting should do: present a lot of information in a way that storylines can emerge while reading it.  That has happened while I read TROS.

2) One of the things TROS is very good at is that mechanics, chargen, setting, and book style all support each other.  I may not be using the word the same way as Ron does in his discussions of RPG design, but there is again a certain coherence about how it all locks together.  The world has a certain grittiness to it that suggests something other than high fantasy.  Combat is gritty and lethal, leading to a combination of 4 methods of dealing with combat: Avoiding it, being sneaky/smart, dying a lot, and having one's fighting capabilities increased dramatically through one's passions.  Chargen works well with deciding how a given character works with all 4 of those options.  This theme of dark/gritty/lethal is just one example of how different aspects reinforce each other, but it works through the entire game, IMO.


The Question:
Your question is phrased essentially as if your understanding of TROS is correct, then it would have been the perfect game for you to play in high school.  I'm not sure how others read this (or how you meant it), but when I read this, I saw it as a somewhat negative statement.  In other words, you would have liked it back in high school, but you've developed as a roleplayer since when.

I hope this isn't coming across as a flame, as its not meant as one.  However, I am curious what you associate with rolplaying "beyond" high-school.  At the moment, you've given a (more or less) relatively accurate list of some of the high points in TROS, and then link it to a certain standard of roleplaying ("high shool").  If you can, I would love for you to explain the standards a little more, both what it means for you to roleplay in high school and beyond.  Once that is done, I'll have a better understanding of what you are thinking, and I can answer your question better.

I hope that made sense
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1153


« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2002, 05:49:21 AM »

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the replies so far.

Nick,

I can see how you might have attached a negative connotation to my question, but I don't think I meant it that way.  (When I refer to high school, I'm referring to the time I enjoyed RPGs the most, had the most free-wheeling, emotionally based adventures, in a vaguely European fantasy setting.)

Since many of the folks on this board (in particular) had enjoyed the early games of gaming with DnD, let alone AD&D, I was wondering if there is a kind of retro-nostalgiac appeal to TRoS -- or whether or not it stands on its own as something really unique.  (Remember, a lot of people had been gushing over without having played it yet, so there had to be something in the basic feel of the game that stirred something within the heart beyond the basic use of mechanics.)

Ron, quoted on the Driftwood website, refers to RuneQuest (and places it in a historical context going back 20 years).  I didn't play RuneQuest, but again, to my mind, it seemed to harken back to something.

I'm not saying it doesn't to more than harken back, but on reading the posts, I was struck that in my imagination I didn't think, "Wow, this is new," but, "Wow, this is old, but really done well."

So, it's not a matter of TRoS being a pefect game for high school.  It's that when I read about it, it stirred memories of gaming in high school -- because that's when I last played AD&D.

Now when I read Ron's Sorcerer & Sword, I didn't think of AD&D at all.  I suspect now if I were to read TRoS, I might suddenly think more of S&S and not at all about AD&D -- and those old fantasy pulp stories in general.

But I still am curious about the retro-nostalgia issue. Is part of the appeal that it's a FRPG done right?  Is it D&D without being annoying.  Or is it something really unique on it's own?  And if so, what?

(Or, Ron, am I a fool for asking this without reading the book first?)

Thanks,

Christopher
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Lemonhead, The Shield
Nick the Nevermet
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Posts: 352


« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2002, 07:45:07 AM »

ok.  Now I understand what you meant.  Sorry about being slow :-)

Short answer: Yes, you're right


Long answer:
To answer your question, in my perspective on TROS, yes, the appeal of it is that it is a FRPG that is done well.  Making a relatively low-powered fantasy setting where combat is lethal and magic is powerful is not exactly the most undiscovered country in roleplaying.  With that being said, though, TROS proves its the 'little things' that make an RPG.  For example, I'm sure a lot of players think Spiritual attributes are a cute little detail, not realizing how much they can govern a game until a session or two into TROS.  Same thing about making strategy a major factor in combat.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2002, 07:52:04 AM »

I wish I could remember exactly how Ron described the game to me after seeing it at the GAMA Trade Show. It was something like this:

"Here we are, all us new and innovative designers making games with Authorial this and Directorial that, and trying to move away from the RuneQuest paradigm of the 1980's, and here's one guy standing up saying, 'Hey, guys - I'm not done with this yet. I think I'd rather make a great game based on these principles rather than giving up and moving to new stuff.'"

That doesn't even sound as good as he said it, but that's what I get from the game - awesome mid-80's/early-90's sensibility with a hot injection of sleek combat mechanics and a system that supports Narrativism like a screaming engine. On top of that - well, it's made for combat, and as much as you'll see people wiffle-waffle on combat, there's a good reason it's the focus of a large amount of RPGs.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Christopher Kubasik
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Posts: 1153


« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2002, 08:03:17 AM »

Great.  Now.  My digging in deeper to the question.

When it comes to movies, a movie can be great, but you don't know that until you see it.  And you don't see it unless you want to see it -- and technically, you want to see it without knowing you're going to like it or not.

So why does anyone go to a specific movie if they have no idea what they're getting into?  Because there's something about the concept -- whether via the poster, the trailer, the word of mouth -- that conveys some tiny nugget of something about the movie that makes you go, "Oh, that flash of an idea seems like something I'd like to see unfold for 90 minutes."  And so you go.

TRoS will soon hit the shelves.  Having just been at a WotC yesterday, looking at all the pretty hardcover FRPGs that are marked down by 50%, I couldn't help but think TRoS would get lost in the same mess... But clearly it's really good.  But how to distinguish it from other FRPGs.  Yes, we only truly know a game once we play it.... But it doesn't get played unless it's bought (or demoed at a con).   So, what is the "nugget" of the idea that you tell somebody about this game?  What makes somebody go, "Yes."

Cause you can't just say, "It's really good."  Every fan of every movie says that, but that doesn't move me to see his favorite movie.  It's what about that movie that's good that might or might not appeal to me that gets me to buy a ticket.

Again, too many RPG coffee table books is bad.... Promotion without content is a bad thing.  But conent without the hook is almost as bad (for the producer, not the consumer.)

While I appreciate Ron's comments that you quoted Clinton, most people who play RPGs aren't thinking in a historical context when making a game purchase.  They're thinking, "Why am I going to have fun playing this game now.

And so my question: Why Riddle of Steel?

Thanks,
Christopher
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Lemonhead, The Shield
Nick the Nevermet
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Posts: 352


« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2002, 08:18:48 AM »

Because what was the last really good gritty fantasy RPG to hit the market and make an impact?  Warhammer?  Elric & other MM-based stuff?  The riddle of steel is an option for those who like their FRPGs to be focus on a set of concepts.  The Riddle of Steel is one of the torchbearers on that red-headed step child of 'dark' fantasy that has lived in the shadow of its brother, 'Epic' fantasy for most of this hobby's existence.

Alternatively, the answer really comes down to, "because _I_ think its cool."  All rational arguments will be cenetered on this simple statement: I read it, I thought it was good, and tons of ideas for campaigns and characters came to mind.  Inevitably, thats at the core of almost every argument of "why this particular RPG?"  Now, backing up from that position, I could give an incredibly personal narrative about the fact I enjoy fantasy RPGs in general, that I was always the guy who enjoyed making the single-classed fighter because I could think of character concepts for that easily, and how my interests started shifting to a low-fantasy style... and then how TROS perfectly fit into what I had already come to love in RPGs.  I won't, though, because I just summarized the useful bits, and the rest would just be babble :)
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2002, 08:18:48 AM »

Christopher,

I think the answer to that depends on who you're trying to convey it to: there's several interesting things about RoS that different people would be interested in. Here's some blurbs from me:

 - It's got the first combat system that claims to be realistic - and actually is - and is quick at the same time.

 - Your success in a situation is dependent on not only how skilled you are, but how much you care about the situation.

 - The magic system is unlike any other, and horrifying to boot. Magicians wield godlike power, at the expense of their life.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Bankuei
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« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2002, 10:48:21 AM »

I'd say the premise is what gets me;  unlike many other settings and systems its not the usual, "Fight the super bad evil" or "oh! my angst! Where is redemption?", but instead with the spiritual attributes it becomes
"What do YOU believe in, what are you willing to do for it, and what is right(or acceptable costs) to you in acheiving that?"  That's a big question.  That's why the first thing you develop in a character is philosophy.

The gritty combat certainly is fun, but it underscores the question in that,"Are you willing to kill for this?  Are you willing to die for it?" and no, there is no resurrection.  Time to make tough decisions and deal with it.

This is what Runequest tried to do, but the mechanics didn't support protagonization.  Here the focus is on the characters.  Not the background, not the politics of a metaplot, just the characters.  Each player counts and is the hero of this story, and their spiritual attributes are the "Here's why" of it.

So, in a way, you can say ROS, despite its gritty combat, does heroic protagonization far better than being able to withstand fighting armies of thousands with 4 digit hitpoints.  ROS does the "I'm the hero" bit far better than D&D ever will.  

Chris
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2002, 11:17:47 AM »

Quote from: Bankuei
 "Fight the super bad evil" or "oh! my angst! Where is redemption?"


Oh man, I laughed for a long time on that one...it really does seem that way sometimes, doesn't it...
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2002, 05:06:36 PM »

I don't know if I can explain why I fell in love with RoS. I was very much intrigued when I read the RTC example on the website, but it was when I read the book that I really, really started to love this game. I have not played it, but I *know* I will enjoy it. It's like the Star Wars movies.. You may not have seen the new ones yet, but you know you'll enjoy them.. The only variance is in how *much* you will.

(side note: I saw SWE2 at midnight this morning... KICK ASS!!!)

For me, it comes down to being a fantasy nut. I love fantasy, and desire to roleplay in a fantasy setting more than any other setting. The default option for this is D&D, which I came to despise after playing various other systems out there... Not for the settings or the type of stories it portrayed, but purely for the system. But it's really the only game out there, unless you know about the various indie-games, or the older games which didn't "make it". TRoS is to me, new, and better than D&D ever could be. I'd enjoy it even without the comparison to D&D, but I guess I have to admit that my dislike for D&D just plays up the things about RoS that I like.
Also, any game where I find it difficult to read because of story and character ideas which ceaselessly pop into my head has got to be great, by my reckoning.

For "hook" purposes... From my own standpoint, a lot of the hook is the realism of combat, the grittiness of play, and the versatility of sorcery. From another angle, it's also the fact that it's not D&D. If you really, truly like D&D, and would rather play that for it's own sake, rather than because it's "the only game in town" then you will not like TRoS very much. If, on the other hand, you play D&D because it's the most well-known and most often played fantasy RPG, then you may just find TRoS a very, very nice change.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Rattlehead
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« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2002, 08:59:06 PM »

Quote from: Wolfen
If you really, truly like D&D, and would rather play that for it's own sake, rather than because it's "the only game in town" then you will not like TRoS very much.


I have to disagree with you here, Lance. I happen to be a long time player of D&D and I've always loved it. I also love TROS. They are two completely differnt types of game though. You can enjoy both - they aren't exlusive. Perhaps all the comparisons being drawn between the two are somewhat flawed in that they are so different. I'm afraid of how people will interpret this, but I think they have completely different "goals". Generally speaking, they have the same goals as any fantasy RPG, but the reasons people play them are different, because they are looking for different kinds of gaming experiences. I don't know if I'm getting my point across clearly, but that's the best I can come up with... :-)

I know that I've had some great times playing D&D and I plan on having many more. At the same time, I'm looking forward to the great times I'm going to have playing TROS.

In an attempt to get this post back on topic, I can tell you how I got into TROS. A friend of mine bought the book at our local store and was showing it to a bunch of us. The realistic combat is what caught my eye, at first. Then I saw how magic worked, and free-form magic is something I've always wanted to see in a game. So I got a copy for myself and I'm hooked!  I read 90 percent of it the first night I got it - something I never do with any new game. I definately liked what I saw...

Brandon
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Shadow
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« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2002, 03:25:50 AM »

I am new to TROS, still at the point of reading & grasping the mechanics, but I can speak on what grasped my interest in TROS.  My understanding was that the game strove for realism in the combat system, emphasizing accurate western martial arts.  Most rpg's focus on blanance and glitz over realism, for me that "gritty" realism TROS goes for sets it apart from other systems.  Other games lose the feel for what a given weapon or combat style is like... the magic "plusses" are all differentiate the weapons in most other systems, by and large.  A few games do add detail but with complexity and questionable realism, but this is the first one I have seen that seriously considers the merits of individual weapons & combat styles.  

I am only focusing on one aspect of TROS, but for me it answers the question of "why TROS?" at least from the standpoint of initial interest.  I can see the game has a heck of a lot more depth than just the combat, but having sampled over a score of rpg's & systems the "hook" for TROS that grabbed me was the emphasis on realism in the combats (with historical weapons & combat styles).  I don't think any other system has touched the subject of how and why some of these weapons were really used, such as "halfswording" with a two-hander in close.  I look forward to expansion along this theme in the "Flower of Battle" supplement when it comes out, but that would be a topic for another thread I think...
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