RuneQuest 6th uses a Percentile system for tests, something that I feel is pretty handy for teaching players who are new to RPGs as to how to play. It’s elegant and appeals to the common individual. You’re given a percentage chance of success, and you roll the dice. If you roll below or equal to your skill rating, you succeed, if you roll higher, then you fail. That said, there are a couple of little considerations that matter as well.
Should you roll a result of 5 or Less, then you count as automatically succeeding in your task. Likewise, rolls of 95 or more are treated as automatic failures. This is a nice touch as it preserves some of the heroism found in fantasy games while still being quite rooted in realism. There are also rules for critical successes, which occur when a character makes his roll by one-tenth of his skill value (rolling an 8 for a skill that’s rated at 80% for example) while critical failures occur on a roll of 99 or 100.
There aren’t any specific rules for contested rolls from what I can see, but I’m sure that it’s easy enough to resolve with the basic system, both contestants must roll against their respective skills, and whoever succeeds by a bigger margin wins.
I like this system, it’s easy to teach, easy to use and is flexible enough to allow for all sorts of situations. Sure it might not be as sexy or “innovative” as most of the newer RPGs right now, but there’s a certain kind of satisfaction in knowing that the system being used is one that has so solid that it can pretty much be used for nearly anything. That said, I can imagine some players thinking that it might be boring in play, as you’re only rolling 2 dice and such, but Percentile has it’s own share of tension… as anyone who has played XCOM can attest.
While we’re here, let’s take a look at the advancement mechanic of the game. Rather than the traditional Experience point methodology practiced by many systems, RuneQuest relies on Experience Rolls. These are literally opportunities to improve a characters statistics. The way they are spent is determined by what you plan to increase.
For existing skills, a player can spend an Experience Roll, and roll a d100 against his existing skill rating. If he rolls equal to or greater than his skill, then he improves that skill by 1d4+1%, if he rolls lower than his existing skill, then he improves the skill by 1%. A neat touch is that if a skill is ever Fumbled between Experience rolls, then the character gets a free 1% skill increase by virtue of learning from their mistake.
Characteristics can also be raised, albeit temporarily by exchanging an Experience Roll in order to gain a Characteristic boost equal to one tenth of the Characteristic Maximum. So for example, by giving up an Experience roll, Altan could gain +2 to strength, having given up the chance to study in order to lift weights and generally getting stronger. Unfortunately such gains are temporary, and fade as soon as the Characters stops spending Experience Rolls to maintain the stat as it atrophies over time back to normal levels.
Gaining new skills, on the other hand is much more difficult, as it requires finding a teacher or a source of education, 3 Experience Rolls, and a month of study.
Speaking of study, you can also improve skills without spending Experience Rolls, and instead finding a tutor and spending a bit of coin. These tutors can take the form of a trainer or a teacher. Trainers are characters who have at least 20% more in a skill than the character that wishes to learn. Teachers on the other hand are professionals at conveying information and their use of the Teach skill can help in speeding up the rate of learning of the student. Of course, one limitation here is that a character must study only one skill at a time, and can no longer benefit from teaching unless they’ve spent an Experience Roll after the teaching. Therefore, after learning a skill via teacher, one needs to go out and apply it in the world, before coming back to study some more.
The focus on realism mixed with a light seasoning of fantasy is something that I’ve found to be unique to RuneQuest. I like their take on experience and learning, and how characteristics are permanent. It’s this sort of not-D&D ness that I’m looking for in a Sword & Sorcery setting, and RuneQuest seems to fit that bill very well.