Episode 101: Fundamental GURPSiness

I think that your modern game has a different sort of crunch.

In Traveller the crunch is about “this is the sort of starship you can build” and “this much armour protects you against those weapons”. In modern games it’s just as complicated, but it’s about “this is how your trust X” and “this is what you can get your group to do for you”. This is obviously much harder to model (because biological things are squirmy and slippery); but it’s also much harder for someone to argue against on grounds of realism.

One of the Wharties is interested in running Blades at some point so I may eventually play it…

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There it is! And my name is in the show notes.

Previous discussion of JB007 and my nagging of @RogerBW to play and review it may be found in an old thread on these very forums.

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I’m glad to see that the Sages of High Wycombe have taken up cash-for-comments cost recovery.

If I give you thirty quid, will you make favourable comments about discussion of roleplaying games on the tekeli.li RPG forum?

In all honesty I have to say that it’ll probably happen anyway.

Well, yes. But it is mean of you to count on that, and besides, it would be good to promote the general RPG discussions a bit.

No, no, I mean that I’ll probably say that (the suggestion having been made) whether or not you send the money. (I am a very bad salesman. I think this is what makes me a good game demonstrator – many gamers don’t like to be “sold” something.)

@1:13:00 or thereabouts, I agree on the corrosiveness of random character generation. As has been shown with other primates, we have a sense of fairness and can recognize when someone is getting favorable treatment. Even if we are reasonable people and can consciously deal with a character who is underpowered (relative to others) through no fault of our own, I think there is still a subconscious resentment and frustration that can bubble up, even if it only manifests as simply not having fun.


Fun in gaming is remarkably fragile. If I’m in the wrong mood the best game in the world can seem tawdry and second-rate.


But before the baton of a gaming legend you can have fun in the feeblest adventure with rules from the dark ages of RPG?

Well, if you want to put it that way…

With the right people I could probably enjoy an uninspired mechanistic dungeon bash, but I’d be a Casual Gamer in the Laws taxonomy, there for the company rather than for the game. (In fact when I’ve had enjoyable games of Terraforming Mars, which I should say is a game that many people other than me enjoy tremendously, that’s been why.)

I’ve been saying for years that a good GM can make any game (i.e. mechanics) good, and a bad GM can make any game bad. How that interacts with the scenario could be more complex; I suspect there are published plots which simply don’t work no matter who’s running them.

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A good GM knows how to tailor an adventure to the players and the PCs and knows how to ignore or interpret the rules to maximize fun. At some point of tinkering, it cannot be said that the good GM is running the published plot or the bad game and they are instead running something of their own creation.

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I liked 007 RPG a lot in it’s day.
My friend adapted it to Space Opera.
It’s quite playable.
Confidential is the retro clone from Expeditious Retreat Press.
Ambush was an excellent VG squad level game.
My friend and I have played a lot of Bond using Fate Accelerated, it works well.
007 was very well suited and I would play it again.
Some of the IPR issues were resolved later…
I disagree about the fixed professional expertise being a problem.

If you want to try a B/X version, try Modus Operandi from Fortifer Games.

With regard to making gear head games less crunchy for lighter play… @RogerBW has it right, the GM just manages the design work in the background. Lots and lots of pregenerated stuff is available.

Classic Traveller, and Mongoose Traveller are very light with regard to actual player facing mechanics. The recent Traveller Companion has a package approach to character generation if you want to avoid the lifepath generation, although that is really quite a fashionable concept.

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The genre, or the RPG from FGU?

My friend Tonio Loewald adapted JB007 (with elements from SPI’s Universe and Commando) to make an SF game: ForeSight. It worked very well, and I’d still GM it if I could get players.

The RPG from FGU…
I think JB007 is about to have its revival…

In fact there are 2 retro clones:

Double Zero: DriveThruRPG.com - Dancing Lights Press - DoubleZero System - The Largest RPG Download Store!


Classified: DriveThruRPG.com - Expeditious Retreat Press - Classified - The Largest RPG Download Store!

What’s the skinny on DoubleZero? I have Classified, which is usable but does not make me love it. The author changed “Ease Factor” to “Difficulty Factor”, which set my pedantic hackles up to no good end.

Edited to add:

What the hell, it’s only US$8 for the core rulebook and gamemaster’s guide in a discount package. I’ll buy it, read it, maybe run it, and drop a review on this site.

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The plug was in the podcast, so the cheque is in the tip jar.

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Ouch! DoubleZero is a complete clunker, which I would find unplayable. The Easy Mode supplement would seem to address the problem with characters tending to fail too often. The fatal flaw is that in any difficult task the only possible outcome is a high-quality outcome. Easy tasks add the chance of getting successively inferior successes, but don’t alter the probability of an Excellent result.

Suppose that we have a typical player character with a Dex of 12, who has the Fire Combat skill with the Handguns concentration, and that they take a shot at someone with their pistol. The GM rules that this is a Standard difficulty Skilled check, so the PC gets a +1 Modifier Adjustment for an applicable Concentration. The adjusted Mx is 4 and the PC has a 48% chance of hitting. If the percentile dice roll is

  • 01–12 the effect will be Excellent (double damage)
  • 13–24 the effect will be Above Standard (rolled damage +2)
  • 25–36 the effect will be Standard (rolled damage)
  • 37–48 the effect will be Below Standard (rolled damage -4)
  • 49–00 Failure (miss)

It is not possible to get a result of Acceptable (half damage) on a task with Mx 4.

Now suppose that that character is forced to take a Skilled Hardest shot (because of range and other conditions) with a rifle. They get no bonus for their Concentration in handguns. The adjusted Mx is 1 and the PC has a 12% chance of hitting. If the percentile dice roll is

  • 01–12 the effect will be Excellent (double damage)
  • 13–00 Failure (miss)

It is only possible to get poor results on easy tasks. On hard shots you always either bullseye or miss the target completely.

DoubleZero is not the RPG for me.


Ah, bah! I’m sure there’s someone out there who’d argue against this, but I agree: if you have only a tiny chance ot success, it shouldn’t automatically be the best-possible if it happens. I’d go further and say that ideally the distribution of success quality should be the same within the success space, whether that space has a high probability or a low one.

(One way of doing this would be to have one roll for success and a second for quality.)

(And something blatantly unrealistic like Pendragon doesn’t even try to do this.)

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A better way, when you are using percentile dice (which DoubleZero does), is to use the units die as an effect die.

If you read successful rolls ending in “0” as QR1, those ending in “5” as QR2, those ending in “2”, “4”, and “6” as QR 3, and the rest as QR4 you get a result that is a bit more generous and rather like the distribution in JB007, or to be a bit nicer mathematically and easier to learn: make final “0” give a critical, “4” or “8” give a special, “3”, “6” or “9” a solid, and the others a bare success.

That will not produce the nice effect in JB007 that as chance of success rampages on above a hundred your proportion of excellent results and beautifully-placed shots rises a at the cost first of bare and then of merely competent successes. But DoubleZero is rigged not to produce success chances above 90 anyway (and there is a hard limit placed at 99 in the Easy Mode). So they presumably wouldn’t care about that.

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Sounds like JB007 or Classified still hold the Walther