Encounter Critical by PurpleXVI
IntroductionOriginal SA post ENCOUNTER CRITICAL
What the fuck is "Encounter Critical"?
It's a short(50-page) RPG that some kind stranger(Traveller) hooked me up with, produced in 1978/1979 by BATTLE STAR GAMES and somehow racking up two goddamn editions. Let's see how it will entice us to buy and play it if we flip it over and look at the back cover.
Holy shit, guys, have you ever been quite as excited to engage in copyright infringement before? I know I haven't been!
Let's do this shit!
I know the back-of-book blurb already mentioned it, but true scientific realism and super-realistic combat? OH MAN! I'm so in! I mean, shit, I don't want my Elves and Klengons to not adhere to realism! Of course, there's also some false advertisement in there, as they insist we can both use their system to play a "game as a game" or "more as a fantasy novel," when we all know that Gamists and Narrativists can't possibly live together in peace. Storygaming scum! Get your hands off my dice!
pff sputter WHAT?
But, uh, at least character generation should be simple. We've got 9 stats, each determined by 3d6 rolls, then we pick a race, class(oh we'll be picking a class alright), traits and buy our equipment with Gold Credits (thank God for Ron Paul making our sci-fi money reasonable instead of stupid fiat currency).
For an example, I got some
Flipping ahead a few pages we pick "Wooky"(or Wookie, they seem to have had a hard time deciding how blatant they wanted to be) as our race(or we could have randomly chosen one) and roll up some stats.
Intellect(INT): 11-1 = 10
Leadership(LEA): 10-1 = 9
Magic Power(MAG): 10
Robot Nature(ROB): 8+1 = 9
Strength(STR): 9+3 = 1
And the book helpfully provides an image of a Wookie for us to use:
Did I mention someone fucking scrawled a wookie in a bikini in this book? Well they did, because apparently they hate us.
Now what do all our fucking numbers mean? Hell if I know! The book hasn't deigned to tell us yet! Except for very vague descriptions: Adaptation is for eating weird alien food, Robot Nature is "how mechanical you are, and how absorbed into the society machine; most people at the supermarket have one." We use it to make ourselves do unpleasant things, standard guard and make friends with computers.
I also think you all deserve to see the races that didn't make the cut.
That's right, we can be a goddamn Frankenstein . I guess "scientific realism" meant something different in the 70's. Hoblings are also described as "those delightful rascals from the burrows!"
For traits there are a total of four: Cave Primitive(dumb as rocks, built like a brick shithouse), Evolved/Advanced(smart but fragile, the opposite of Cave Primitive), Mutation(Roll on a d100 table and hope you don't get shafted) and Mixed Race/Bionic:
Thanks a lot, Encounter Critical, I needed to think about a Frankenstein and a Wookie fucking, and their horrible, misshapen offspring who's prone to going berserk due to critical blueballs. Jesus!
I decided that we were going to add some mutations to our wookie, so I got my volunteers to roll up three(the maximum number we can pick, though the book instructs that the "Journey Master must carefully watch all rolls" and that we have to keep what we pick.).
We got 8, 16 and 46, making for...
07-09: Magical Birthmark Companion(50% chance of evil)
16-18: Reaction to Alchemy(Potions cause Disease table%)
46-48: Edible Excretions(+10% camping for companions)
So... we've got a magical birthmark that talks to us(I think, it doesn't really say what the fuck it is), and it's... (27) evil, whispering that we must do horrible things. We're allergic to potions. And... something we "excrete" is edible. Maybe our sweat is delicious, maybe we shit licorice, maybe our ear wax is super awesome. And whatever the hell it is, our companions apparently love it so much that they get a bonus to camping trips.
Now, what mutations didn't we get?
I'm not really sure what the fuck to say. And I think I need a stiff drink before going much further(in part because I've read ahead and know what's lurking for us in the "classes" section), but I'll take two more pages so we can actually get some rules!
Which is to say, the designers of this game were idiots and decide to give us rules covering rules exceptions (high MAG skill but no training, skill %'s of 100% or over) before actually giving us rules for the 99% of the rest of the game.
"Conjure" is apparently the "magical art" of "calling for help" or "picking up a phone" and I love how "Restore Courage" is a skill they felt needed describing in detail. How the fuck could anyone misunderstand that? Oh, and, spoilers: Amazon doxy isn't just a descriptor. Doxy is one of the classes in the next section.
Next time: CLASSES! And... other stuff. I should've stuck with Graceful Wicked Masques.
ClassesOriginal SA post Encounter Critical!
Let's get a quick headcount of what exciting archetypes we can play with in EC: Warrior, Warlock, Criminal, Pioneer, Doxy(note that the Doxy class is split into two halves by 16 or so pages of tables and maps jammed into the middle of the booklet) and Psi-Witch. You don't need any special stats or races to qualify for a class, though each class has a "primary stat" which will get you an XP penalty if it's not up to scratch.
If you want to, you can be a Frankenstein-Wookie Doxy with a Leadership(includes "charisma and sexiness") of 1. Besides wacky class abilities, classes determine how much HP we get and how many GOLD CREDITS we start with.
Warriors smack shit up! Everyone else gets a huge penalty to combat if their weapon has a higher maximum damage than their Level+5, while warriors suffer no such limitations. He's also good at wearing huge armor without being crushed by its weight. At high levels he attracts either a "griffon or space monster," a super-smart horse, or another warrior of half his own level.
The warrior's special level-up limitation is defeating a foe of equal-or-greater power with a new kind of weapon. Until he does so, he cannot gain a new level.
The Warlock gets to cast real magic ... as long as he has his spell book or spell stick. If he lacks those, he can only do "basic things" like "turning invisible" and stuff he could have done on his own given time. The given example is that he could open a door with magic because, given enough time and an axe, he could have chopped it down. He also gets a generic energy/lightning attack that he can throw around as often as he likes.
His special level-up limitation is that he must invent a new spell which gets permanently added to the campaign rules if the GM approves of it.
The Criminal's special ability is crime , which includes getting a saving throw to toss the blame to someone else if he's caught committing one, backstabbing for instant kills, criminal connections and making forgeries.
His special level-up limitation is that he must engage in a new kind of criminal activity. Either something completely original or just something he hasn't done before.
The Pioneer is the idiot who dives headfirst into new places just because they're unexplored, i.e. he's a PC. He's basically a Ranger with the special ability to jury-rig stuff into workable substitutes from natural items. The given example is weaving "vacuum-squid silk" into armor or making healing potions from herbs. The more expensive the real thing would have been, the more difficult the natural version is to make.
His special level-up limitation is that he must discover a new location or secret of the wild, and provide a write-up of it.
Okay so the Doxy is a goddamn prostitute class. If you don't know what prostitutes do, you probably have some problems you should go deal with. Mechanically, however, their special ability is using their various skills to make people happy or very happy ... or to use Seduce to mind control people. Adventuring prostitutes are so famous that they can call in favours from rich and famous people like kings.
Their special level-up limitation is that they have to go, uh, perform for a new rich and powerful person.
Which we are helpfully told covers "psychics of any kind," including those who use "The Force." They're odd in that they've got no specific level-up requirement, but otherwise their special abilities are some generic psychic stuff and the ability to do charisma(leadership)-related stuff without speaking or moving, meaning that they can literally make diplomacy rolls for mind control.
Now, while doing this, I had to skip over the entire middle of the book and all its gorgeous and amazing charts and stuff, so let's just page back and have another look at that! In fact, we have to, if we want to play the game. See, the way it works is that every stat derives, at whichever level its at, your percentile chance of pulling off various things. At 20 Adaptation, for instance, you have 100% Camping, 40% Consume Alien, 90% Appease and 100% Invisibility.
Occasionally two stats contribute to the same thing, ESP and Intellect both contribute to Psi Resist, for instance, in which case you just add the two results together. All characters have all abilities, but, for instance, a Warlock might genuinely turn invisible when he uses Invisibility, while a Criminal hides behind something nearby.
a table like this for every stat
Combat is nice and simple, we roll under our Melee or Ranged % to hit, as appropriate, and if someone gets hit, they roll a saving throw(armor-based) for half damage or zero damage(if they roll under half their save value).
There's also a table of monsters, which are simply a name, number appearing at once, number of attacks, damage done with attack, attack skill, edibility, how good they are at ambushing, special abilities and how much their corpses are worth. If anyone's interested, the most edible monsters are vampires, dragons of darkness, cave oozes and bee girl queens.
almost makes me surprised there's no "chef" class
Oh and of course there's a map of the exciting CAMPAIGN WORLD.
THE REALM OF VANTH
It's a medieval, magical world where the "Vulkins" landed to scam the locals out of their gold and valuable minerals in exchange for the occasional chunk of modern steel or other similar thing that were relatively valueless to them, until a GALACTIC WAR erupted and stranded the Vulkins and other aliens on Vanth along with the locals. That's all we get for a world description.
And then suddenly a starter module! Where a Captain pays us to go to a Cave and Kill The Evil Guys, Rescue The Good Guys. The reason this needs doing is that monsters have been flooding out of the cave(summoned by a Warlock) to raid villages and kidnap virgins.
What we get is a Road with Random Encounters and then a Cave with Monsters. The cave itself reveals that the Warlock is using a machine to drain the virgins of their psychic energy so they can power up an old spaceship he's found, and the place comes complete with save-or-die chambers where as soon as you enter, your only hope is to pass a saving throw or you instantly die.
(The GM advice at the start suggests that "only" half the party should be allowed to die each adventure, or they might become discouraged)
The Boss Warlock also happens to know a spell that can instantly gib the entire party if he's a bit lucky with his damage roll. So there is that. Though to the creator's credit, his listed strategy completely disregards the "instakill the party"-spell.
And with that, all that's left of the book is the weapons tables and, hm, I don't think I ever saw a table for armor...
Oh, wait, they stuck that on the last page. Fucking sloppy.
Look at this! This is the only place the stupid armor table is! God!
Wait, is that...
Yeah, that's right, Encounter Critical is actually a joke, albeit a playable one, and one with a reasonably simple and amusing system once you ignore that there's a Doxy class in there. I read through this .PDF three times before I actually noticed the "THIS IS A JOKE"-declaration in the back, which is credit to how well it pulls off actually seeming grog-core.
It's like a truly well-done mockumentary.
And the incredible part is that it's actually got some cool ideas I would lift with no regrets, like Pioneers jury-rigging equipment out of monster bits or natural items.