Posted by : David Guyll August 08, 2014

I'm not sure what is meant by "intellectual", so I guess I'll interpret it to mean "the most complicated", which I guess in my case would mean Shadowrun.

I'm going to specify 5th Edition as that's the only one that I own right now, but frankly I remember them all being pretty complex, just not so complex that most of my group wouldn't even get through character generation before throwing their hands up and saying fuck this, let's do something else.

Maybe it's because we generally play 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons or Dungeon World, but I had to comb through the book multiple times to make sure that I had all my shit down. All told I must have spent several hours completing my first character, and I am not sure I filled in all the blanks or even filled them in correctly.

I remember it starts out talking about how the game works (general mechanical stuff), before getting into attributes, skills, magic, and gear. Except it only glosses over those things at first (which caused a lot of back and forth between the table of contents), and once you get past that you go through character generation for reals: assigning priorities to determine what metatypes you could choose from (including a strange side bonus listed in parenthesis), how many attribute points you could spend, how many skill points you could spend, how many skill points you could spend on group skills, etc.

After you spend all of your points you can then spend Karma to buy various qualities (and also flaws), which reminds me of feats from Dungeons & Dragons. Eventually you get to buy gear, which is not only explained waaay later but has a legality rating (how hard it is to get...or maybe it determines whether it's available at all?) and often a quality rating. There was also something about having an ID card (or SIN?), but I'm a bit fuzzy on the details at this point.

I'm sure once you get the hang of it and get the ball rolling this game is a lot of fun. For me it is another one of those games that I have yet to play, but am not really bummed about because I can't help but think I could get nearly the exact same tone and feel, just with a much sleeker, faster system.

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  1. Replies
    1. I played 2nd and 3rd. I tented to go with street samurai because I didn't want to read the magic rules.

      Honestly the only reason we played is because one day the guy that had owned the book for a long time came over and said, "No one leaves until we make characters and someone shoots something".

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    2. Priorities System, or "How to Fucked Up You CharGen System", its gets better in 4th edition with using a Point Build system, not much, because the high level of granularity of the skills and skills groups be too much priced (normal skills cost 4 bp, a skill group cost 10...urgh), the dicepools now works like in WoD.

      The basic system its ok, really, and Magic System its ok, i guess.

      The problem is resides in the excess of add-on, like Smart Target, everything about Chunky Salsa Rules and nobody in right mind gives a fuck about Strength, Charisma or Body.

      Then in the 5th edition, Priorities came back with Vengeance, because everyone want a arbitrary and broken system...

      And everything have Wi-Fi and Rigger are the real Rulers of The Streets with his swarm of flying killerbots armed with gattling guns for a really low price.

      Deckers still sucks, btw.

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    3. So...basically like 5th Edition for D&D? Maybe it's a 5 thing?

      I like the flavor of the setting, as well as how they handled some of the monsters (the longer a basilisk stares at you, the slower you get until you turn to stone: I'll prolly steal that for 4Ward).

      I also like the magic system, again conceptually: you exhaust yourself casting spells, and I think in 3rd Edition you could die from it.

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    4. Mutants & Mastermind uses something like that, in the 3rd edition, Affliction bases his effect in how much you fails at a Saving Throw, something you can uses to "Save of Die" effects, become something less game break.

      And you can totally port that to D&D without changing anything, at all.

      http://www.d20herosrd.com/6-powers/effects/effect-descriptions/affliction-attack

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  2. If we want to interpret intellectual as complicated, I think Burning Wheel takes the cake. If you have never played it, it is a gritty fantasy world that strives for realism. By realism I mean you actually have to plot out your upbringing in character gen, often being stuck in your number of life choices; living in shit and poverty during actual gameplay; and generally being sick at doing anything you have not devoted your life to training in.

    Too often I find games have really cool mechanics or character creation only for them to be lacking in the actual game play department. They have really great ideas, but no rules, or at least no instructions, for using those ideas in a game. One of my favorite systems for char gen is Traveller; which, like Burning Wheel has you plot out your life choices prior to playing, but starts at the age 18 instead of birth. Making a character in Travellers feels like a game within itself. To be honest, I've made tons of characters, but was only able to successfully play the game once.

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    Replies
    1. I'd heard about Burning Wheel from Dan (mostly that it reads as kind of pretentious and switches up terms that you are used to), but I don't own and haven't played.

      The idea of randomly rolling your stuff is something I would be interested in trying, but from what I've heard it is kind of a nightmare. I suppose something not as arduous would work, like the random background generator from Heroes of the Feywild.

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    2. Traveller char-gen looks something like this:
      Assign your stats.
      Decide what plant you are from/schooling.
      now pick your career and roll to see if you get the job.
      -Yes? You may join your preferred carrer and pick a specialty.
      -No? You can either be drafted into a random branch of the military or be a freeloader bum (this is an actual career choice!)
      Receive training, specialization, and whatever else comes with the career then roll to see how good at your job you are.
      -Success? Roll to get promoted and add 4 years to your age, then choose to continue or retire.
      -Failure? Shit has hit the fan, roll to see what mishaps happen and possibly get discharged from your career. Also age 4 years anyway.

      You can keep on doing this until your character is whatever age you want them to end up. For wealthy characters you can actually buy age-reversing drugs. I made a Doctor who started in the navy before opening his own private practice; he retired at the age of 122, but only looked 34 years old. Once you retire, you get to take all your wealth, connections, and accommodations and apply them to your character. If you worked in one career for at least 20 years you can even earn pension. The goal is all the players add up their wealth to put a down payment on a ship of their choosing, then you start running amok in the galaxy.

      Forgive me if any details are hazy, I haven't played in 2 years, but I think it is cool how you can get rivals and connections and even complications like missing limbs all during character creation. I don't know how many time I have made a Star Marine who I pushed my luck too many times and he ended up with prosthetic arms and no legs because he cant afford it after getting discharged.

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  3. For "intellectual" in terms of requiring new and different types of thinking, as opposed to merely complicated, there can be only one game that wins the category: Continuum. It's mechanically very simple, but since it's about time travel, learning to think in four dimensions (and talk about it effectively) is a brain-overheating experience for a while, until you get used to it.

    The game is out of print(-ish...), but the core book, a GM-focused expansion called "Further Information", and a partially-completed companion/sequel called Narcissist are available if you know where to look.

    People jokingly refer to it as "the greatest RPG you'll never play" because playing it is such a paradigm shift and most people don't want to go through the mental exercises necessary, but even if you'll never manage to scrape together a group willing to play it, it's worth hunting down a copy just to read as an exercise in how different an RPG can really be.

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