Podcast

145 – Weird RPG Mechanics

The Mythcreant Podcast

Some roleplaying games are good, some are bad, and some are just weird. This week Jonathan returns to the podcast to chat with us about the strangest RPG mechanics we’ve ever encountered. From self-sealing stomachs to lethal Perform checks, we talk about rules that leave us scratching our heads, wondering what the designers were thinking.

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Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

3.5 D&D

Pathfinder

Sound Striker 

Old Call of Cthulhu

Everything is Dolphins

Riddle of Steel

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Transcript

Generously transcribed by Perspiring Writer. Volunteer to transcribe a podcast.

Chris: You’re listening to the Mythcreants podcast, with your hosts: Oren Ashkenazi, Wes Matlock, and Chris Winkle. [opening song]

Oren: This episode is brought to you by our patron: Kathy Ferguson, professor of Political Theory in Star Trek.


Oren: Welcome, everyone, to another episode of the Mythcreants podcast. I’m Oren; with me today is…

Chris: Chris.

Oren: And returning special guest host…

Johnathan: Johnathan!

Oren: Yeah. We got you back on here cause I want to talk about weird RPG mechanics, and I figured if you were here, you could maybe point some out that weren’t from D&D. Cause basically all of mine are from D&D.

Johnathan: But D&D’s my favorite; why are you like, getting up in my turf.

Oren: Oh. Well, I don’t know. I thought maybe- cause like, you like D&D, you would find some weird ones from other systems. [laughs]

Johnathan: But the weird mechanics are why I love D&D so much, so…

Oren: I guess that’s a fair point.

Chris: I think D&D fans are more in the habit of just pretending only D&D exists, and therefore- [laughs] -only talking about D&D, even when it’s critical. Plus, D&D’s just a treasure trove, right?

Oren: I mean, any time you have a- especially 3.5, because it’s so sprawling and huge, and so, it has- and it’s like, super simulationist and they have like, a weird ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ design philosophy for it, so it just has a lot of bizarre stuff. But I was fibbing, not all of my examples of weird RPG mechanics are from D&D, but definitely, most of them are. [laughter]

Johnathan: A preponderance, for sure.

Oren: Okay, Jim, you’re the special guest; do you have one that you want to start with?

Johnathan: My favorite weird mechanic? My favorite weird mechanic is just, any sort of mechanic that allows you to harm people through a skill check that doesn’t have a static use. And my example for this is- the Pathfinder system has bards, cause it’s an adaptation of 3.5, and there’s a special bard subtype that allows you to make Perform checks to damage enemies.

But the Perform skill is arbitrary; you decide what you want to do for your Perform, so it’s Perform, parenthesis, and usually it’s like ‘lute’ or ‘singing’ or ‘storytelling’. But whatever you choose, when you’re the subtype, you will then proceed to do actual sonic damage to people, regardless of what your Perform check is.

So, my favorite is Perform (Finger Guns), where you just look at people, do finger guns, and they take like, a million damage and maybe die. But it could be anything. It could be Perform (Roll Your Eyes), Perform (Interpretive Dance), just any number of things causes people to explode while within a certain distance of Bards.

Oren: I mean, presumably, you want something that can be performed in a single round. Like, Perform (Shakespeare)? Maybe a little harder to pull off there?

Johnathan: I think, for every round you’re performing Shakespeare, you can just do damage to them, so every bar.

Chris: I like the idea that there’s like, a time- like, time goes faster when you’re performing, right? Cause, I’m sure in the D&D system, it still takes a specific amount of time, like, a round. So, I guess, technically, if you put Perform (Shakespeare), there’s a- you suddenly speed up in time and manage to perform the entirety of a Shakespeare play in that one round. [laughs]

Johnathan: I like that theory. I think it more probably translates, just saying ‘to be or not to be’- someone’s head explodes. [Chris laughs]

Chris: That’s good, too.

Oren: How much damage does that actually do? Is that comparable to what other classes are doing at that level?

Johnathan: It used to be more so; it’s been errata’d to do a lot less damage. Right now, it does 4d6 damage, and every four levels, you can add another 4d6, but every dose of 4d6 costs one of your Perform rounds for the day. So, you can actually run out of ammo pretty fast. But it’s essentially unleashing a single target Fireball+ every round. It’s very brutal. And you add your Charisma bonus to the damage.

It used to be- beforehand, you did a certain number of d8s, and you could split them between multiple targets, and each d8 added your Charisma modifier in damage. What? [Oren laughs] You could consolidate all the d8s onto one target, and each one added your Charisma mod. So, by level 8, you would do like, 8d8 plus Charisma mod times 8, which is usually 4 or 5 at that instance. [Chris laughs] And it’s just like, a tactical nuke.

I got really excited, and then I did a little digging, and there was the errata to change it to the 4d6 plus Charisma mod dosage system. And if you stack the dosages, you only get to add your Charisma mod once. Which is a huge letdown for me, as you can imagine.

Oren: Yeah, that’s not nearly as broken. But- [laughs] -the other thing about that that sounds particularly useful is- unless it has requirements for this. I feel like you could use this as a sneaky ability, because you can pick some kind of performance that’s easy to hide, like Performance (Finger Guns), and then you just do that under the table, then no one sees that you did it, and someone’s head explodes.

And you didn’t cast a spell or anything; it’s not even clear to me if that would set off a magic detector. I feel like you could use this for an assassin. It’s pretty cool.

Johnathan: It is a supernatural ability, and it absolutely- I’m pretty sure sneak attacks are just when you do damage from stealth, and they’re denied their Dexterity bonus. Like, spells would. Although, it’s not technically an attack; it’s a performance standard action. This is the Soundstriker class, by the way. I just looked it up because I did a bad job of preproduction. [Oren laughs]

But the Pathfinder- the SRD hasn’t fixed it. The Pathfinder SRD everyone uses has the old version where it does 1d8 plus Charisma bonus per level, which starts at 6th level. And that’s not an attack.

Chris: It sounds like you could be pretty sneaky with it if you convinced the GM not to actually have people roll initiative, and actually start a- [laughs] -start a timed battle round, right?

Oren: Well, that’s what I mean, is that most abilities, if you do this, it’s like, if you deal a lot of damage, it’s pretty clear that you’re the source. Like, if you cast a high-level spell, it’s usually- you have to move your hands in weird ways and say words, and if you stab someone, you have to stab them.

But it sounds like this could be abused to just do a ton of damage to someone and have it not be obvious you were the source of that damage.

Johnathan: Absolutely. It is sonic damage; and actually, in the errata, it’s a ranged touch attack, which makes it sound like it would fall more in line with being a sneak attack without the DM fussing with you. With much less damage, of course. But it absolutely- if you have Perform (Shakespeare), you could just be on stage, and someone is watching you do Shakespeare, and suddenly, they take 8d6 damage plus 5. For no reason.

Chris: This is a particular person, it’s not like, a range? It’s not like an area effect spell?

Johnathan: No; it is to a single target, but you can break it up into chunks of 4d6 to attack multiple different targets.

Chris: That makes it extra funny, because if you imagine, you’re performing up on stage; for some reason- like, everybody hears you. For some reason, only one person dies. That is the best assassination ever.

Johnathan: It’s pretty impressive. And especially, depending on how high fantasy your setting is, if there’s a bunch of bards running around blowing people up, someone might be on to you. But if it’s like, super unique, no one knows it’s even possible to explode heads with finger guns or singin’ real good.

Chris: Just send your target some free tickets to your show. And you’re done. That’s it.

Johnathan: Absolutely.

Oren: Wait, could you do this through- I forget; in D&D, does Perform cover written artwork? Could you do Perform (Poetry) and write it down, and it would be like, super Explosive Runes?

Johnathan: I think you have to actually read the poetry.

Oren: Oh, okay.

Johnathan: I don’t think your Perform check…

Oren: Can’t deliver it in the mail?

Johnathan: I don’t think so. [Oren laughs] I’d have to do more research into that. Let me get back to you.

Oren: Okay. Well, one of my favorites- to take this out of D&D. One of my favorite bizarre RPG mechanics that I’ve run into is from old Call of Cthulhu. They took this out in Seventh Edition, cause Seventh Edition made some improvements.

But old Call of Cthulhu used to have this skill called Martial Arts, which was separate from actually attacking someone with an unarmed ability, cause in old Call of Cthulhu, you had to invest in Kick, Punch, Throw, and I think Headbutt? [Johnathan laughs]

Chris: Wait, are Kick, Punch, and Throw separate skills, and then all of Martial Arts is one skill?

Oren: Yes.

Chris: Wow.

Johnathan: Kicking people is so different from punching them. It’s an entirely different limb. [laughter]

Oren: It’s very different. So, Martial Arts wasn’t actually for attacking anybody. What Martial Arts did was, if you made an unarmed attack roll- I’m pretty sure it was limited to unarmed. I don’t think you could do this with melee weapons. If you rolled underneath your Martial Arts skill level- cause rolling low in Call of Cthulhu is good; you double your base damage.

Which means that, if you have like, a kick, which in base Call of Cthulhu, does a d6 of damage, you just double that, and you get 2d6 of damage. And if you are an unarmed character, you probably have enough strength to give you plus 1d4 damage bonus, which means that your kicks are doing more damage than a gun. It’s like, super wire-fu combat martial arts in a cosmic-horror RPG.

I abused the heck out of this the first time I played a serious Call of Cthulhu campaign, cause I just happened to roll really well, cause we were doing the whole like, Call of Cthulhu, you roll all your stats and it’s super random, so you could end up either playing like, a superman who’s good at everything, or an octogenarian who can’t do anything. And I got towards the higher end of the scale, and so I was just a super beefy guy who ran around kicking Deep Ones.

And it was like, ‘yeah, this is fine. Whatever.’ [Chris and Oren laugh]

Chris: Speaking of randomly rolled stats, I do have one- don’t have much of a head for mechanics, but I do have one example of a mechanic that turned out to be pretty funny. And it was from randomly rolled stats.

We played this one-shot a while back called Everything is Dolphins, and it was a good time. It was just a fun game. I wouldn’t do it for an entire campaign, but it was fun and novel for a single session, and super cute. But it had randomly rolled stat generation, and I rolled 2, the bottom, for the attribute that- I don’t know if it was called Stamina or Constitution, but it was equivalent.

And that controlled- cause you’re all playing dolphins. You’re all playing, kind of like, little anthropomorphic dolphins. And that controlled a number of things, including how long you could hold your breath underwater. And also, like, any time you did something, or you got hit, it would take a breath from you, which was also- I think there was a breath economy in the game.

So, I had this dolphin that could not stay underwater for any length of time or do anything, because I rolled super low on this really essential stat.

Oren: Well, we did give you scuba gear. [laughs]

Chris: That’s the thing; the game also had equipment, and you could give me like, a scuba tank to breathe out of that gave me like, ten more breaths. [laughter] So, I went- I think I still was like, a one-hit-kill character, though. I still- I think I even died in that game, and then you were like, ‘no. We’re just not going to have you die, cause that would not be fun.’

Oren: It’s Everything is Dolphins, man. It’s not grimdark sea mammal game. Everyone’s going to live for this, okay? [Chris laughs]

Johnathan: Sometimes dolphins die in the real world, okay, and I need dolphin simulationism inside my Everything is Dolphins game.

Chris: So yeah, so I was a dolphin that couldn’t really breathe well that had like, scuba gear that actually gave me- it actually made me more powerful, in many ways, than the other characters, except for like, the slightest hit and then I would just croak. [laughter]

Oren: Well, that game also had the Mean Look ability, which was just like, ‘roll Charisma to stunlock your enemy. Forever.’ And it was amazing. Cause like, Everything is Dolphins was written by, I think, a ten-year-old, if I recall correctly. So, the fact that it functioned at all was pretty impressive, in my opinion.

But like, any system that has you roll completely randomly for stats is going to generate some weird results. Like, there’s a reason very few people do that for D&D anymore, and why Call of Cthulhu Seventh Edition finally caved after six editions and gave you some option to make your stats other than ‘roll randomly once for each stat and that’s what you get.’ [Chris and Johnathan laugh]

Just cause it- they eventually figured out that people don’t really like being the guy who rolled really crappy on their stats while another person in the party rolled super good, cause now like, the swing in capability between them is really steep.

Chris: Yeah. I would say that it adds a very slapstick element to the game. And for a game like Everything is Dolphins- it’s a fun novelty game, and so, having a few slapstick features that were not like, rigorously balanced game mechanics, for a session was not that bad. But for something like Call of Cthulhu that’s supposed to be super dark and creepy, having mechanics that end up feeling slapstick is not so good.

Oren: And I mean, it’s one of those things where like, it can actually help in a one-shot, right? It can really- if you’re playing a one-shot, at least for me, your mileage may vary. But if I’m playing a one-shot of Call of Cthulhu, it can help me get into the spirit of the disempowerment scenario if I roll really badly, and it’s like, ‘okay. I guess my character is just some shlub who’s really not good at anything.’

And I’m going to go and like, look at Deep Ones and be terrified, and be really messed up about it.

Johnathan: I think the inverse of that is true, though. Like, the idea of rolling an ubermensch and just being so overpowered, and then being confronted with like, ‘yeah, you’re better than everyone else in the party, but the Deep Ones don’t give a shit.’

As long as Call of Cthulhu is done correctly, and you can’t fight shoggoths, and it just prevents you from addressing them physically, being overpowered relative to your party can make you feel even more disempowered. Like, if you’re just used to the complacency of being superior, and then being put in a position where you’re just an insect, can heighten-

Cause if you’re used to just being worse than everyone, and then demons from another dimension show up, and you’re still worse than them, it’s like, ‘oh, I mean, this is par for the course. I got swirlies in high school, and now I’m being taken to a sunken world where my insides are outside. This is regular.’

Chris: Assuming that you can’t kill an Elder God with a karate kick, because you put your martial arts stat up to like 100%. [laughs]

Oren: And like- but for a campaign, I wouldn’t want to do it, right, because I would get really sick of playing Shlub Mcgee for like- after the first session. It’s like, ‘okay, I had fun playing it once, but now I would like to be able to succeed at a skill check occasionally. [Johnathan laughs]

Chris: For sure.

Oren: Speaking of things that add slapstick, my absolute favorite weird mechanic ever, that I’ve probably talked about at some other point on the podcast, is what I call the ‘stomach door.’

Johnathan: Ooh.

Oren: Yeah, welcome to the stomach door. It is in 3.5 and in Pathfinder, but they actually made it a little less ridiculous in Pathfinder. So, I discovered this way back in the day when I was looking at the random monster manual, and I noticed that there was an entry for Tyrannosaurus Rex. And I was like, ‘I don’t really imagine dinosaurs showing up in my D&D game, but why not?’

So, I looked up the entry for Tyrannosaurus Rex, and it was like- one of its abilities was ‘Swallow Whole,’ and I was like, ‘okay, that’s interesting.’ And it’s like, ‘it swallows a medium-sized creature whole, and they take like, 2d8 constricting damage or whatever, and like, a d8 of acid damage.’ And I was like, ‘okay, that’s fine.’

And then I was like, ‘they can cut their way out?’ And I’m like, ‘ugh. Okay, that’s gross.’ [Chris and Johnathan laugh] And then, I kept reading, and it was like, ‘after they’ve cut their way out, MUSCULAR ACTION closes the hole, and if the T-rex swallows somebody else, they have to do it again- [laughter] -they have to cut their way out a second time.’

And I was like, ‘okay, guys. What do you think muscular action is? I think we need to have a talk about that.’ [Chris and Johnathan laugh] So like, my favorite part is this idea that you can cut your way out of a T-rex from the inside; this will not kill the T-rex. Not only will it not kill the T-rex, but the hole will just magically close itself. And then it can just start again.

And in Pathfinder, they changed it so that once you do that the first time, the T-rex can no longer- and like, any creature with Swallow Whole, it’s not just the T-rex. The T-rex can’t swallow anyone else whole again, presumably because it has a giant, gaping hole in its stomach?

Johnathan: That bums me out. I wish they didn’t say it can’t swallow whole, they just change it to, if it swallows someone whole, they just go straight through like a slip-and-slide. [Chris laughs]

Oren: That’s- [laughs]

Johnathan: Its mouth still works; I don’t see why he can’t try.

Oren: That’s what I- that’s how I would rule it. It was like, ‘well, apparently in this setting, you can have a giant, gaping hole in you, and it’s not a big deal cause you haven’t run out of hitpoints yet. So, just go down and enjoy the ride and pop back out. It’s fine. You can make a game out of it.’

Johnathan: The weirdest part about this is- because I like, from a mechanics and from a combat perspective, the ability to isolate party members, especially ones that are problematic in some way to resolving the encounter or trivializing it, you like, put them in a pocket dimension or inside the monster. And that’s like, fun and a trope and stuff.

I just don’t understand why they gave it to quote-unquote ‘real monsters,’ like Tyrannosaurus Rex or some other giant beast that’s presumably an actual animal that showed up for some reason, when you could just isolate it to magically constructed monsters.

Like, if a giant Frankenstein dog swallows someone whole, and they cut their way out, your players aren’t going to throw a fit over quote-unquote ‘muscular action’ fixing the giant zombie-dog’s stomach, cause like, it’s magic. Who cares?

Oren: Well, I mean, if it’s a giant zombie-dog, you could say that its zombie-dog regenerative properties fix the hole. You wouldn’t have to say, ‘muscular action.’

Johnathan: You could get like, a giant Clayface sand monster that swallows people, and they have to fight their way out, and the sand reforms. The fact that they thought it was a good idea to put it in the T-rex stats is really what kills me here.

Oren: That was where I first found it. [Johnathan laughs]

Johnathan: And I know it’s in other ones, too. I forget which ones, exactly. And it just- the stomach dimension is- I love that you brought that up, because it’s an old classic that never gets bad.

Oren: I mean, the stomach dimension is like, one step further down the ladder from the Grapple dimension, right? It’s like, Grapple dimension but more extreme.

Johnathan: Yeah.

Oren: Do you have another one you want to use?

Johnathan: I love the Leadership feat.

Oren: Aww, yeah. [laughs]

Johnathan: The Leadership- sticking with D&D, my bread and butter; the Leadership feat was abused against me quite heavily. For those unfamiliar, the Leadership feat-

Oren: Who would do that? [laughs]

Johnathan: My good friend Randy would do that.

Oren: Fair enough.

Johnathan: He did it first. The Leadership feat allows you to get a buddy that’s a level or two lower than you, and then, the more Charisma you have and impressive things you’ve done- and a bunch of arbitrary measurements that don’t show up anywhere else in the game, that’s like, ‘do you have a castle? Have you done a cool thing? Are you a lord?’

All these random peripherals that are never accounted for in any of the other rules make your Leadership feat better, and it lets you get more and more little buddies- like, individual NPCs that do what you tell them, and they’re usually like, retainers or messengers or whatever. But my friend got a cleric partner, and then a billion smaller clerics.

And he was level 9 at the time, so he had a level 7 cleric, and then a bunch of level 1-through-4 clerics, all prepping only Heal spells, and it just completely removed any ability for me to harm the party.

Chris: So, here’s my question: can you make your GM roleplay all of your followers? Like, all of them? [Oren laughs]

Johnathan: I don’t know if you can make him do it… But you can definitely say you’re not gonna, sort of back him into a corner; they might start handwaving it and just make them all faceless. But if you try to- a good trick to corner your GM into having to do a bunch of- generating a bunch of names and character voices, when you know they don’t want to, is to line up all your followers and go down the line, and ask them their name- [Oren and Chris laugh]

And like, ‘where do you come from?’ ‘Oh, cool, how old are you? You have any brothers or sisters?’ My players did this to me the other day when they found a storage room for a bunch of dead bodies, and they were like, ‘oh, what’s in this one?’ And it was like, ‘it’s this type of dead body.’ And like, ‘oh. What about this next one? What race and gender, and how old is it?’ And I was like, ‘guys. It’s just a bunch of drawers full of dead bodies. Please- please stop.’

Oren: ‘Alright, I’m going to cast Speak With Dead. I wanna find out about this corpse’s past-’ [Johnathan groans] ‘-and like, its wants and needs.’ [laughter]

Johnathan: Speak With Dead is the worst. I have to- I started making it like, super against religious doctrine, so like, as long if- people can still do it, but it’s frowned upon, and I’m telling them their god hates them for trying to cast it. Cut it out.

Oren: That’s like in Mage, when you get someone who has a couple ranks in Spirit, and suddenly they want to talk to everything. It’s like, ‘oh, hey man.’ You hear about a thing that happened, and it’s like, ‘I want to talk to the table, and ask the table what it saw.’ And it’s like, ‘I don’t know what the table saw. I don’t know how perceptive a table spirit is. I just don’t know!’ [Johnathan laughs]

Chris: I- you know, that honestly sounds kind of fun to me. I had some fun with my players in my last campaign roleplaying grass, and you guys liked the grass. But no, imagine, for every single item…

Oren: I mean, it’s fine, to a point, right? It’s just that like, Spirit magic gives you the ability to talk to- it gets confusing, especially when you have to start thinking about, ‘okay, does the house have a spirit? Or is there a bunch of spirits within each part of the house? Like, how do you subdivide your spirits?’ It gets confusing.

Johnathan: You gotta do it Voltron style, where like, the house is one spirit, but it’s comprised of a bunch of smaller spirits, like Wall spirit and Ceiling spirit. And so, you can talk to the pieces, but you can also just talk to the house.

Chris: Yeah, so there’s extra NPCs for the GM to roleplay.

Johnathan: Just a million billion of them. I had a player- speaking with plants, I think is one of my favorites, cause like, plants, you can sort of- since they’re kind of technically alive, they have wants and needs, they get thirsty. But they don’t have eyeballs. I’ve had success with players talking with plants. Especially if they’re druids or stuff.

Oren: Well, my favorite thing about the Leadership feat is that it’s- it puts the GM in a really awkward position, where like, if a player is really trying to abuse the Leadership feat, what they do is, they do something like what your friend did where they make everyone a cleric who heals, or they make everyone a low-ranking sorcerer who memorizes nothing but Magic Missiles.

And so, that puts the GM in a weird position where they can like, either just accept that every combat is going to roll over now, or they can start using a lot of area effect abilities and just completely wipe out all of the PC’s followers. And then that- that sort of thing creates a really bad atmosphere at the table, where it’s like, ‘you specifically spec’d this encounter to rob me of my abilities.’ It’s like, ‘yeah, I did. It was really the only option I had, man.’

Johnathan: I ended up forcing them into a multi-hour grind against a paladin literally chained to two clerics of a higher level, so- they brought that on themselves. I have no regrets.

Chris: I would just be like, ‘social conflicts from now on.’ [laughter] ‘Only social conflicts.’

Johnathan: But then you run into the Aid Another problem, where all of their clerics are assisting their Diplomacy roll, making that DC 10 check to add +2. [laughter]

Oren: Just like, a bunch of clerics shouting, ‘you should believe him!’

Johnathan: ‘Believe them! It is real!’ [Oren and Chris laugh]

Oren: I mean, you could also run into this problem, like- our friend Spencer once, in a campaign that he was running, made a barbarian who was specialized in breaking gear. [Johnathan laughs] Cause he was just really mad at Jim for like, making a super-overpowered fighter. And so, this barbarian rolls up and attacks Jim like ten times; and doesn’t deal him any damage but makes all of his gear explode.

Johnathan: All of my beautiful gear…

Oren: And it was like, ‘okay. Alright, Spencer, I sympathize with you here; I understand that Jim’s fighter is way overpowered. But at the same time, that was kind of rude. Now his fighter can’t do anything.’ Although, I think you figured something out. You were a clever player.

Johnathan: Yeah, I did something for it. But in my defense, it was his fault for making me the house weapon-master of that Drow house. Like, you can’t make me house weapon-master and expect me not to requisition +5 everything.

Oren: That was a little weird. It’s like, ‘wait, so we have house resources? We can just use that to buy equipment now?’ ‘Just do it; it’s fine.’ Although, speaking of overpowered equipment- we’re almost out of time here, but I have one more, that’s also not from D&D, that I wanted to bring up, which is the tactical nuclear rapier from Riddle of Steel.

It’s my absolute favorite weapon. Cause like, thematically, I like rapiers. I think they’re cool. And Riddle of Steel is a super detailed, really grindy- not grindy, crunchy. Really crunchy roleplaying game that’s supposed to simulate sword-fighting at like, gruesome levels of detail.

And it was clear that the author wanted to simulate how a rapier can inflict a fair amount of damage on a person without a lot of strength behind it.  Cause of the physics of like, putting all of your strength into a very, very narrow area, so you get a lot of pounds per square inch of pressure. And if you’ve seen Firefly, you know that it takes an arbitrary amount of pressure to cut skin.

So, they wanted to simulate that. But, for some reason, the way they decided to do it was just, ‘give the rapier a really high damage bonus?’

Chris: Huh.

Oren: And I was a little confused by that. So, the rapier just has a really high damage bonus, which allows it to- not only to kill anyone who’s not armored, but actually penetrate armor better than, say, other weapons like a mace or something that’s specifically designed to penetrate armor, just because of a weird quirk in how the rules worked. And the rapier is also more accurate and faster than any of the other weapons.

Chris: Oh, geez.

Oren: Yeah. So, it’s like, if you play Riddle of Steel rules-as-written, you can walk up to someone who’s wearing full plate mail and then just like, stab them with your rapier, and the rapier will cut right through the plate mail like it’s made out of butter and just skewer them.

Johnathan: Obviously historically how rapiers worked, right? They just-

Oren: Right. That’s- if you look at a lot of accounts of historical battles in the medieval era, not only- first, rapiers existed.

Johnathan: Yes. Very much so.

Oren: Of course, they didn’t. [Chris laughs] But then, also, everyone on the battlefield was armed with a rapier, right? They just charged into battle with them. [Chris and Johnathan laugh] So, that’s my favorite, just like- it’s broken, so I almost didn’t include it, but it’s just so bizarre in context. [laughs]

Johnathan: It does- it really breaks the simulation. Which is the strongest point of Riddle of Steel, is how simulationist it is in like, doing swordfights intricately, which is an interesting concept. But then the rapier just busts it wide open, and A: doesn’t work how rapiers should’ve, and B: is better than everything else. Which- I wonder how it made it through playtesting in a game that is really aiming to be that exact.

Oren: Having done some playtesting of my own recently, I’m pretty sure the answer is that it was added really late.

Johnathan: Oh.

Oren: I could be wrong, but like, that seems to be the cause of a lot of things being overpowered, is that they- either they get added late, or they were added by one person who liked them, and nobody else liked them enough to test them, is my best theory.

Chris: The answer is, it was not playtested. [Johnathan laughs] Through whatever cause, it was not playtested.

Oren: Alright. Well, we are out of time for this episode. Thank you, Jim, for coming back to talk about weird role-playing game mechanics.

Johnathan: Thanks for having me.

Oren: Alright. Those of you at home, if anything we said piqued your interest, you can leave a comment on the website at Mythcreants.com. Otherwise, we will talk to you next week. [closing song]

 

Chris: This has been the Mythcreants podcast. Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton.

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Comments

  1. The Kerrins

    Some more weird mechanics from Shadowrun 2nd ed. And it also makes sense of all artwork they have on the early editions with the mage flying. the Cannon Companion as I remember and a couple of rules in the back one of which is if you are falling your init is 30 (which as I remember gives you about 4 actions a round and is generally at the very fast end of the fast.) so what you do is have a levitation spell spell locked to you that will kick in when you are at about 1′ above the ground and cut out when you are 2′ or similar and you have the best initiative in the party
    Another is that you take distance fallen (in meters) L damage so if you are a low body character you can kill yourself tripping over
    And with grenades as they only do serious damage and are an area effect weapon you cannot stage them up so you end up being able to survive a grenade dropped right next to you in an enclosed room

  2. warpstar

    Shadowrun 4th edition had an interesting item called barrier foam that is suppose to be used to make a small wall for cover. I had a player who had the bright idea to use on people to make instant coffins. That character ended up becoming a serial killer

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      That really reminds me of the instant keep in 5E DND. 10d10 to anyone in it’s area when you summon it, and you get a cool tower to hide in.

  3. Sean D. Daily

    So those Perform checks turn you into the People’s Poet? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnZnnkJxoC8

  4. Deana

    The rules I don’t get are the carrying capacity of the characters in every game system I’ve ever played. This spills over to the standard equipment builds which are usually heavier than the character.

    A 140 lb character who can carry 255 lbs. (without a bag of holding, a horse, cart, or automobile, etc.), really?

    Max in the real world is around 50% to 60% of your body weight (and that is for trained SF soldiers and other mega-athletes, not normal people). That would require severe disadvantages to speed, stamina, and dexterity.

    A more reasonable maximum would be 1/3 your body weight, but even then you’re going to be beat. So my 140 lb example should be carrying less than 45 pounds.

  5. Mark Smith

    Carrying capacity is even worse- above a certain size 110 pounds or 50 kg who can carry 25 kg maybe the bigger you are the less you can carry.

  6. A Perspiring Writer

    If that table spirit’s anything like Stick from the Stormlight Archive, don’t expect anything useful.

  7. A Perspiring Writer

    There’s a transcript here now.

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