Friday, May 9, 2014

Back Into Space - The Warpstorm Trilogy begins

Following Chaosium's announcement that the publication of the 7th edition rules for Call of Cthulhu has been further delayed, I discussed with my group whether we should wait until the finished rules are published, and run Horror on the Orient Express in the way it is intended, or continue to play using the quickstart rules, or even go back to 6th Edition.  The consensus was to wait, so in the interim we have returned to a campaign which has been on my list of things I want to run for some time: The Warpstorm Trilogy for Rogue Trader.
"In Frozen Reaches, the Explorers find themselves facing an impending Ork invasion and working to save the planet of Damaris. But first, they will need to organize squabbling factions and establish a united front. This is no easy task, as powerful forces are working against them from the shadows...  The exciting adventure continues in The Citadel of Skulls and culminates in Fallen Sun. Do you have what it takes to brave the dangers of a warpstorm?"

Re-entry to the Rogue Trader system was a little rocky.  I had forgotten just how much complexity exists in such an old school system.  While not radically different from other Old School style games, Rogue Trader requires players to reference multiple sections of the core rules, and if they want to utilise all the options the system provides, reference specific sections in multiple books across the range.

On top of that, fairly routine actions (such as travel through the Warp, acquiring new items etc.) require a 3-5 stage process, each with a discrete set of mechanics, tests and modifiers, to say nothing of combat in both space and interpersonally.  It led me to wonder - what is the point of all this complexity?  What is this game doing (intentionally or otherwise)?

My conclusion is that all these mechanics and details provide a veneer of balance, and serve to effectively camouflage the degree of GM fiat that occurs in most traditional games.  To an extent the mini-outcomes these micro-systems produce can be used as a creative crutch by the GM, fleshing out details to add to descriptions and providing some colour.  However, as these systems also require the GM to specify difficulty, other variables and then situate the outcome in a meaningful context, they do not check GM fiat in any meaningful way.

Thus far, the mechanical complexity of Rogue Trader has been tiresome, convoluted, and just a little bit wonderful.