Friday, June 5, 2015

Granularity in Sentinels of Echo City

My goodness but this game is sweet. Look, I've been posting for nigh on five years now, and have posted several hundred ramblings about my games and what I write. I use 'I' in too many sentences. My own games have a special place in my heart. I think that MTDAA the RPG is a fine RPG. It does what it sets out to do, has some nifty mechanics, and is a lot of fun to play. Saga of the Splintered Realm is a great retro-clone/pastiche/homage to B/X, and does exactly what I wanted it to do. It emulates old school gaming for me in exactly the way I want to experience it, with just the right amount of rules for me. It's the fantasy RPG I want to play.

I love those two games. I also have some fondness for other games I've written. There are some cool things in the various editions of Resolute. Some of my other fantasy games have had cool mechanics or a some clever ideas.

Sentinels of Echo City just blows them out of the water. It is doing things I didn't even know I wanted it to do. But, once I see that it does them, it makes me love it more. It's like the love child of B/X and FASERIP. It's like I got into a time machine and developed THE game I wanted to play when I was 13.

This is why. In every other game I've ever created, character creation is generally made as clean and direct as possible. I want you to get your character made and get on to playing. That aesthetic hasn't changed. What has changed is the honkin' GRANULARITY built into this thing. One of my favorite things to do when I was mowing the lawn at 13 years old was to make up superheroes. I'd be mowing the lawn with a notepad over to the side, and I'd stop and run over to the notepad, scribbling hero ideas. I always put them in FASERIP terms, because I liked the scale. You knew the Hulk was stronger than Thing, because he had Unearthy Strength, and the Thing only had Monstrous (yeah, ONLY monstrous. But you get my point). I liked that there was a difference between Iron Man (Incredible Strength), She-Hulk (Amazing), Thing or Colossus (Monstrous) and Hulk (Unearthly). Yes, I remembered those and did not have to look them up, in case you were wondering.

But SoEC has more granularity; by having attributes scale 2-25, and having a decisive break between 13 and 14 (human vs. superhuman), this game measures everything with considerable precision. I LOVE it that I can debate about whether the Hulk has STR 23, 24 or 25... you could argue any of them (I'd argue 24, shifting up to 25 when enraged, but you could argue 25 all the time, shifting to 26 and crazy land.. or you could argue 23 normally, but giving him a special form of rage that grants +2 and shifts him up to 25 when enraged. They are all defensible).   I love it that you can argue whether Spiderman's DEX is 18... or 19... or even 20. 18 and 19 are "Amazing" (his FASERIP agility), but you could argue that Spidey is borderline Monstrous (20). I'd go with 19 personally (high Amazing), but you could argue either 18 or 20, and not have to feel too bad that you were off base.

In short, this game allows me to create stats that reflect supers in a concrete way that defines them for me. I love that about it.

But I also love the flexibility and open-endedness on the GM/gameplay side. You see, a 'superheroic check' is a target 30 ability roll. For strength, this includes lifting any object between 10 and 100 tons. That's a big range. But, it's easy to adjudicate on the fly. However, the granularity on the character side makes a big difference in whether or not you can lift that tanker truck that weighs 60 tons; Spiderman (STR about 15) needs to roll a 15 or better on the die to do it; the Hulk (we'll go with 25 STR) needs only a 5. And, the Resolve mechanism (you get a pool of 1d6s each turn to add to rolls, based on your level) means that Hulk rarely needs to worry about failing that check.

Okay, enough gushing about my game... now back to work!