Monday, September 9, 2013

Metal, Magic and Lore Changes My Game

I loathe character generation sessions and usually the games that require them. If you have to have the group meet and get all touchy-feely about the pusiness of generating a bloody character then chances are the game will feature everything I hate in RPGs: Unkillable characters, negotiable results of actions, whining1.

As a GM I try not to put players into games in which they need to build a "team" in order to win the day. Not always possible, and anyway, I run games in which the players can find themselves outmatched and should, under those circumstances, retreat and gather new resources with which to win the day.

But this day was unique in that I was playing rather than GMing and the Metal, Magic and Lore game system is rather more involved than the systems I usually run and play.

I recommend that anyone looking for the "old school RPG" experience check out Metal, Magic and Lore.

The writers punt MM&L in this way: "If your idea of a perfect RPG is Pathfinder, don't buy MM&L because you'll hate it.

The game is refreshing in that it is unashamedly a Combat System with role playing bolted on. Too many RPG enthusiasts feel that it is somehow a bad thing in that a game has a combat system and that it works, but for me the absence of a feasiible combat system is an indication of sloppy thinking and bendy physics that will end up nerfing something else at the worst possible time. People howl that there is no point in a combat system in a game like Call of Cthulhu because, you know, Cthulhu, but what about the times when the PCs are up against human cultists?

MM&L features believable combat that is leathally dangerous and results in believable wounds when things go wrong. The human body has over thirty hit locations in this system.

But the joy of the system lies in that all the complicated stuff happens during character generation, when simple arithmetic is required and the process can seem intimidatingly long, but really isn't any longer than a D20 build. Once the information is in the character sheet, using it in combat is relatively easy and fast in play. A combat system that results in believable combat that can be played fast enough to enjoy the process. Colour me impressed.

The skill use is a variation on the test against a difficulty mechanic, but one that works by adding four numbers, one of which might be negative and another which may be zero. If you can add you can play this system. The combat works by using the same mechanic to figure out attack and defense values, and the magic system2 uses the same mechanic to cast spells. One mechanic to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.

And it uses the case system throughout the rulebook.

I found the game as a new discovery at RetCon IV, though it has been around since 2007. There is a large community of players worldwide, larger than might be thought for a game that proudly advertises its richness and complexity in a world where gamers shy from games as simple as Kingmaker. It warms my heart that there are still people who don't fear Arithmetic in the gaming world, and that most of them are younger than me.

And I wanted to play it, as opposed to run it.

So how could I resist when Vito, one of he authors of the game, decided to try and run a campaign of MM&L at the Legendary Realms, my local friendly game store? A day after I answered the RSVP I was eagerly reading my nice hardback rulebook and building a backstory in my head. I uncovered a puzzling oversight3 in that there was no information on the longevity of the various races with the exception of Elves in the basic rulebook. Vito said that no-one had ever questioned him on that before, (probably because no-one ever wanted to play a middle-aged Dwarf before).

And that was how I happened to spend a few hours with a bunch of other people in a character generation session, and actually enjoyed the experience.

Now I just need to write my backstory.

  1. Though chances are you'll get lots of this anyway
  2. Actually, three different types of magic
  3. Vito and I disagree over the designation "oversight"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Thank you for your honest and generous review. Well-written, and a a great article for experienced RPGers.