Wednesday 23 November 2011

Old School Revival

Old news, perhaps, but Mongoose have their very own Old School Revival going on. Their house sci-fi system is Traveller, which apparently looks a lot like Classic Traveller (1977). And they’ve announced that their house fantasy system will be Legend, aka Mongoose Runequest II, which, again apparently, looks a lot like Runequest 2 (1979).

My copy of hardback Traveller arrived this morning, and I have the Legend core rules on order down my FLGS. Both are available in digest sized books (and if I do run Traveller, I will be tempted to buy the digest sized rulebook to be passed around the table), with the Legend core rulebook looking a steal at £9.99. On the basis of the reviews that I’ve read, I’m expecting to like both systems a lot. Deadly combat, characters differentiated by a manageable skill system that places them firmly in the world, and ‘realistic’ advancement systems. Oh, and deadly combat. Did I say that?

Traveller looks a lot less intimidating than I had taken it to be when I read about it in the 1980s. Part of that intimidatory presence was what was written and said of character creation – I was left feeling that it was too complex. And compared to Basic D&D, it is. That is a low bar, though. But a greater part of that intimidation was the result the adventures in White Dwarf and Gamesmaster International. They always seemed so interesting and exciting (and the same goes for my late-1980s exposure to Call of Cthulhu), but as a dungeon-hacking player and DM, I really couldn’t understand how you would run a game that involved anything other than a succession of corridors and rooms, largely populated by monstrous combat opponents and stuffed with randomly rolled treasure. We played D&D, and only D&D. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was our model. We played… poorly.

In fact, (Mongoose) Traveller looks a relatively clean system, built around 2d6 skill checks, while Legend displays its Basic Roleplay descent in its d% skill checks. Both have easy ways to determine levels of success or failure. Both systems look (relatively) easy to GM, and more importantly, easy for players to understand and build consistent decision-making on. Both have character creation systems that aren’t over long, but look like they’ll do a very nice job of connecting characters to the world/universe in which they will adventure.

It seems, whether I like it or not, that I am taken with rules systems that involve character creation that uses careers or the like to tie players to the world and their own history, I like advancement systems that do not produce superheroes, I like skill systems that suggest styles of play other than 'kill everything' (and methods for the mechanical resolution thereof), and I like combat systems that are dangerously deadly, even to experienced PCs. Or, at least, I have come to like systems with these components.

I can see Traveller and Legend becoming become my systems of choice - it'd be nice to support an existing RPG publisher, and FLGS, rather than put most of my disposable income into the hands of eBay traders, and to play a game that is actually in print (with magazine support - see Signs and Portents).

For further 'Old School' goodness, Mongoose also publish Paranoia and the Lone Wolf roleplaying game.

This blogpost has not been brought to you with Mongoose. This is not an advertorial. It has just ended up reading that way.

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