Saturday, March 17, 2012

ZeFRS Chapters 2-4

Fellow OSRers rejoice! If for no other reason, brothers and sisters, than the casual ambiguity laced throughout these rules. I love this stuff. So much of it is left open to interpretation, and at the same time leaves the prospective referee feeling comfortable enough to deliver that interpretation. Some rules sets have had passages that left me scratching my head and flipping back and forth until I became disenchanted and moved on. Not so, here. Several times I found myself slightly confounded, and just said to myself "I'll worry about it when it comes up" and kept right on reading. Also, in these chapters, I spied certain passages that I felt needed modification. When I've finished my reading I'll collect my house rule ideas and post them for critical review.

For now, though, Chapter Two: Talents . . .

I fully expected this to be a standard listing of this type of thing, and for the most part it is. There are magical talents listed, which, I assume, are fully detailed in the Magic chapter. There's a fair description of them in this chapter, though, and they are quite flavorful and moody. One thing that struck me while reading these is the cost of magic, in the toll on the caster's body. In many cases the caster acquires a weakness each time he casts a spell, successful or not. At first I chaffed at this a bit, thinking it was very restrictive. It may yet turn out to be, once I've read the Magic chapter. Another thought occurred to me, however. Casters of magic in this game are threatening, simply in the fact that they are able to command these terrible powers. Sure, a necromancer may develop a cloven left foot for even attempting to raise my character's dead grandmother and animate her corpse, but, would my guy want to risk pissing him off? I like that thought. Of course, the spells have to be powerful enough to warrant the gamble, and that remains to be seen. As I noted above, house ruling is a simple matter, and scaling risk/reward should prove to be no problem, if I perceive an imbalance.

Chapter Three covers the Resolution Chart. It's very straight-forward. I'm sure at the time it may have seemed a little gimmicky, but the bottom line is, it works. It is in these two short pages that we run upon our first Ambiguity. Some modifiers result in "column shifts". If you're interested, and without the rules, you can refer to my previous post for a look at the Chart. Anyway, these column shifts seem to have been ill-defined from the outset. There are the individual columns, and these are also bound by heavier column lines in groups of 4 or 5. So, the question arises, What constitutes a column shift? Is it counted by individual columns, i.e. a -1 shift takes column 8 down to column 7? Or, is it counted by the larger, grouped, columns? It gets even fuzzier from there, so I'll stop. Sounds like a muddy mess, right? Here's the thing: All it takes is one simple decision from the referee, and the problem is solved. Make a ruling, before play even begins, let everyone know what it is, and get to it.

Chapter Four is Combat. This combat features some things I traditionally desire in a combat system. Armor reduces damage, the chance to hit is based on attacker's skill, modified by defender's skill, a "damage point" system which models a character's ability to prosecute the fight, backed up by a specific wound system which allows a sense of uncertainty.

Let me expand on that damage point thing. Characters have Damage Points, bought up at character generation, and I'm assuming, improved through play. These damage points seem to represent most of what hit points do: luck, favor of the gods, endurance, ability to shrug off a blow, etc. Damage Points are fewer, and not automatically improved as the character advances. Once all the damage points are gone, further injury invites the possibility of unconsciousness or death.

Then, there's the whole Specific Wound thing. If a hit is truly grievous, it causes a Specific Wound, regardless of armor or other factors. This wound, based on location and damage type, can result in anything from losing the use of a limb, to death. A character so abused is allowed to roll to avoid the effect.

There's a section on Mass Combat, which I haven't read yet (I wanted to get this post in). I know I'm probably forgetting some things I wanted to mention. If I remember them I'll pass them along. For now, it is time to read that Magic chapter . . .

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