Biases and Experiences with RPGs

Why do some people hate certain game systems or certain mechanics? For some, it’s because they gave them a fair try and truly don’t get along with them.

For others, it’s because they didn’t understand the rule, didn’t play it right, or had a bad referee. For instance:

Well, I mean… real talk: I hate, HATE, critical hit and botch tables. And I have ever since MERP/RoleMaster. 10 minutes into playing my very first MERP character (a Bree Hobbit Burglar), I was chasing an NPC bad guy thief across the rooftops of Bree in the middle of a moonlit night to get The Thing and stop The Plan and I botched, rolling, “your fall turns into a dive; you land on your head and die.” No Save. No HP loss. Just instant death. Because table.

(From Reddit)

Sure enough, that result is there on the Moving Maneuver table. At 120. Now, MERP (and Rolemaster) is a percent-based system. So, how do we roll 120 on a table that should run 1-100? At the bottom of the table, there’s a list of modifiers based on maneuver difficulty, which is, by the rules, given by the gamemaster before the task is attempted. To get 120 on this table, the player would have had to roll 100, then apply the +20 Absurd difficulty modifier. This is the worst possible result you can get on this table, and you can, literally, only get it when attempting an absurdly difficult task.

Am I saying the story didn’t go down like this posted said? No. There are a few possibilities, though:

  • The gamemaster didn’t give the difficulty before the task, as stated in the rules – which means he didn’t know the rules, or ignored them to withhold the difficulty.
  • The player chose to willingly attempt an absurdly difficult task, and therefore to accept the repercussions.
  • They played the rules very, very wrong.

And now we have a player who hates critical tables (and probably Rolemaster as well), because something went wrong, once, in a game.

That’s all it takes – one bad moment – for someone to form a lasting impression. It’s important to speak up when something rubs you the wrong way about a game, or when a rule doesn’t make sense, or doesn’t fit the sort of game the group agreed on. (Your group did discuss what sort of game everyone wanted, right?) Take a moment, discuss things, and work together to resolve the differences, whether it be re-reading a rule to understand it more thoroughly, re-rolling something because information wasn’t clearly communicated, or even stepping back a bit in the fiction to correct something.

(The player also, by telling their story, may have swayed someone else with little experience away from Rolemaster, especially if they’ve heard lots of other people (many of whom have admittedly never played it, and are just repeating what they’ve heard) talk about how bad Rolemaster is to play.)