I recently got into a discussion with a friend who had started playing in a Call of Cthulhu game and had some issues with the BRP system. I normally don’t get into system vs system discussions but this time I charged in.
He prefers d20 and doesn’t care for percentile systems because “if you fail a single roll l, you’re screwed and whether you pass or fail is just luck”. He says in a d20 game you get skills, natural abilities and attributes to add to your die roll and that is “hard, fast data”.
I understand there are some fundamental differences between playing Call of Cthulhu and D&D, but my take is that you normally build characters in BRP or D20 with a goal in mind. With BRP your skills, natural ability, and attributes are already in your percentile number. With BRP and d20 you can add items to increase skills and you can increase skill numbers through normal play. With that in mind, my thought is that the numbers, while shown and calculated differently in BRP and d20, are essentially the same. They just use different mechanics to get there.
I also think that no end result is “hard, fast data” when a die randomizer is added in. Granted, the +12 you get to add to your roll is good data in and of itself. In d20 if you need a 19 to succeed and then roll a 3 and add your +12 in skills, abilities and attributes, you have failed by the luck of the die. In BRP if you need to roll 60 or lower and roll a 75 you have failed by the luck of the die. The only hard, fast data in either case is that you’ve failed your roll.
I also take issue that a player(s) are more likely to get screwed by one bad roll of the dice in BRP than in any other game, at least as it relates to combat. If you fail a jump check in d20 or BRP and land prone in front of a group of 5 hostiles, that one roll has left you in a bad situation regardless of system.
As it relates to the story, ff you miss a huge clue because of one failed dice roll and then you’re entire party is just doomed, I’d have to wonder why the GM didn’t find a way to give the party another chance at it. Aren’t GMs supposed to expect the players aren’t going to do things by the book? And that they might just fail a roll on something they absolutely NEED to know to progress the story? In my book, a GM needs to be prepared for that.
That doesn’t mean they need to give them a second chance at every clue however. If they fail to find a book that would tell them that knife they found 2 scenes ago will damage the big bad better than their guns, I’d let that slide as long as they still have a chance to survive. Now, if that was the ONLY way to damage the big bad, I’d find a way to get them that clue. Maybe the old professor they visited early was doing some more research and lets them know some kind of ancient knife is said to deal heavy damage. He wouldn’t give them everything, just enough to get the PCs thinking there might be a bit more to that knife they found. It would still be up to the PCs to investigate that lead.
Filed under: Misc