2012/03/31

Powers & Perils - by Richard Snider - a review


Why am i putting this bad review about P&P on my website? I am not doing Powers & Perils a favour, doing that.

Because i want to highlight the quite different reactions that the game aroused since its publication.
Maybe more than any other fantasy rpg's, Powers & Perils has always aroused tremendous enthusiasm OR tremendous despise. I find this is fascinating, and tells something about the game having something unique buried in it.

When you read and learn P&P, you need to have patience. If you read anything else while studying P&P, you are doomed to fail.

If you ever decide to learn P&P, you must devote weeks dedicated entirely to it, reading nothing else.

Never skip a page, and again, be patient. If you are in a hurry, you won't understand it and you won't like it.

Start from book I and absolutely never open book II until you finish the first one.
Never skip a page until you have fully understood the page you are in.

This is the only way to get a glimpse of this game and to appreciate the beauty that is hidden in it.






19 comments:

Hamel™ said...

Powers & Perils has always aroused tremendous enthusiasm OR tremendous despise. I find this is fascinating, and tells something about the game having something unique buried in it.

That means any game is unique, because any game has opposite reactions. ;)

Catacomb librarian said...

not really. I meant that P&P on a scale from 0 to ten has always exerted the utmost fascination (10) or the utmost disgust (0), but rarely it aroused feeling in between these two extremes.
So it's a game that aroused kind of extremes feelings and opinions.

Hamel™ said...

There's a lot of modern indie games loved/hated in the same way, so P&P is just a game like others and not so unique.

A full positive review and a full negative review mean pretty nothing, because they're too few to define the product.



And the same old D&D Hack like Rolemaster or Arduin or infinite other games, in addition.

Tony said...

I played in a P&P campaign in the late 80's and have to admit this is a fair review. There are no "quick play" rules to help the novice player acclimate to the system. In typical Avalon Hill fashion, the rulebooks read like instructions to a wargame. It seemed that every stat or attribute was noted in some cryptic abbreviation, making your character sheet look like alphabet soup. Yes, there are helpful math formulas on the character sheet itself, but this just goes to show the level of the game's complexity. Did I mention the three different types of experience points (combat, magic, and skill "expertise") players have to track?

Mind you, the game is fun.

The "long process of determining a character's characteristics" leaves room for the player to improve those characteristics with experience. They can get stronger, more agile, or expand their learning. Almost any characteristic can be improved with exercise, study, or training. This is something D&D never embraced until 3rd edition (ignoring Unearthed Arcana's Cavalier class).

My character was a dwarf warrior who was orphaned as a child and raised by a tribe of elves. This bizarre background came straight from the character generation rules and made for a stoic dwarf with a unique outlook on the sylvan folk.

P&P is a good system, but not one for the timid. I now prefer games that are less of a challenge to play (I want to fight monsters, not game complexity) but have fond memories of my elf-raised dwarf and his adventures in the perilous lands.

Catacomb librarian said...

"And the same old D&D Hack like Rolemaster or Arduin or infinite other games, in addition."

this is like saying that every movie after 1939 is, after all, an hack of "Gone with the wind"

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031381/

Hamel™ said...

this is like saying that every movie after 1939 is, after all, an hack of "Gone with the wind"

Maybe because it's the simple truth.

Rolemaster, Arduin, T&T and RuneQuest are all derived by D&D/AD&D: dice may vary, but they all use the same old game template.

And like them 99% of old games do it, like P&P.


You can call it Ferrari, Ford or Mercedes.. but you're always driving the same old car.

Catacomb librarian said...

i see we have quite different opinions on this topic.

Hamel™ said...

It's just a matter of mere crunch.

P&P could be funny, but it surely brings no fresh wind in the RPG world at all (as a system).

Like a ton of other games it takes D&D, warps it a little and calls it with a new name: but when you roll dice, you're playing the same old game.


So, it can have a different appeal but it is as brand new as Pamela Anderson's boobs. ;)

macmage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
macmage said...

Saying P&P warps D&D a little seems very short sighted and simplistic. About the only things the two have in common are the basics of an RPG - the systems are COMPLETELY different.

I love the detailed character creation. When I created my first character, it took a while to do so, but I felt I had a completely fleshed out character that already had some EXPERIENCE.

Some complain about the three experience tracking systems (combat, magic, skills) but I actually like those. Your character gets better at the things he does instead of getting better at EVERYTHING when going up a level.

The magic system is great (never did like having to memorize spells). And the random encounters and treasure generation is fantastic.

Sadly, I haven't been able to play the game in years but I always enjoyed it when I did.

Hamel™ said...

@macmage

D&D and P&P have in common two huge things: System0 and task resolution.

That's enough to make them work in the same way, because Referee/Players do the very same things in both games.

Anonymous said...

P&P does have one of the steepest learning curves I've encountered in RPGs, if you are learning it by yourself. With someone to guide and explain it to you it should not be bad.

Once understood it is actually quite elegant and not hard to play (if you aren't math phobic). It also has a very nice (if perhaps overpowered) magic system.

Alex

Phineas Cromwell said...

PART ONE: Powers And Perils, like ALL fantasy roleplaying gaming systems, is directly rooted in the breakthrough development represented by Dungeons And Dragons. The essence of this evolutionary development is basically twofold: the breathing of literal character-life into its precursor form, i.e., the strategic wargame venue, and the enhancement (to potentially infinite degree) of a narrative dimension. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson (and a few others) are forever memorialized for bringing this evolution to us, and that is as it should be. Now what is fascinating about the history of FRPGs is how, virtually immediately, a sort of friendly 'revisionist rebuttal' began against D&D. When D&D first came out (the '0th' edition), gaming groups were wondering how to handle an ever-expanding potential of new ideas; they needed to develop, in other words, their own mechanics for dealing with the newer aspects and concepts they wanted to add to the game. It was out of this 'tinkering, tweaking and tuning' that eventually gave birth to entire gaming systems. Because we are taliking about Powers And Perils, we are talking about the 'Complex Tangent Line' of FRPG history, as opposed to any 'rules-lite' orientations. The complex line often gets bashed by those of the lite and moderate orientations, mainly because of preferential reasons rooted in the subjective. I happen to be an ardent supporter of the complex 'school-of-thought'. Personally, I appreciate and am fascinated by so-called 'crunchy' systems; I feel they add to the 'art & the craft' in their own way. Chivalry And Sorcery and RuneQuest are two of the first entries in this historical line of development, with C&S being more on the crunchy end and RQ sort of straddling the fence between complex and moderate. As for P&P, its development occured somewhat later in this early era, but its roots tie in directly with those responsible for D&D. P&P's author, Richard Snider, was an extremely enthusiastic player (Arneson's words) in Dave Arneson's developing Blackmoor campaign world (the so-called "First Fantasy Campaign"). Arneson split from Gygax and TSR over creative differences concerning the direction of D&D. Simply put, Arneson had ideas to advance the game in a more sophisticated direction, e.g., lifting it above its 'character-as-gamepiece' feel (something 4E, by the way, has devolved into more than ever). Gygax, in retrospect, suffered from a myopic limited vision concerning the game that was mired down in the traits of D&D's grand-daddy, strategic wargaming. He was resistant to players modifying the rules, because he had a 'tournment rulings' mentality at the time, and felt that he had worked long and hard on the mechanics to finesse them into (his conception of ) playability and game balance. As for myself, despite the fact that I always respected Gygax for his critical part in the creation of something that I loved, I still held his limited views against him (in a friendly kind of way, that is). HOWEVER: this all changed in the early 90s when he came out with a game called Mythus. As I leafed through the corebook of this new game, I experienced an amazing revelation. To sum it up, Gygax had EVOLVED beyond his former self, and had assumed a more advanced, sophisticated orientation regarding FRPG systems, and what i held in my hand was essentially Gygax's version of ... POWERS AND PERILS.

Phineas Cromwell said...

PART ONE: Powers And Perils, like ALL fantasy roleplaying gaming systems, is directly rooted in the breakthrough development represented by Dungeons And Dragons. The essence of this evolutionary development is basically twofold: the breathing of literal character-life into its precursor form, i.e., the strategic wargame venue, and the enhancement (to potentially infinite degree) of a narrative dimension. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson (and a few others) are forever memorialized for bringing this evolution to us, and that is as it should be. Now what is fascinating about the history of FRPGs is how, virtually immediately, a sort of friendly 'revisionist rebuttal' began against D&D. When D&D first came out (the '0th' edition), gaming groups were wondering how to handle an ever-expanding potential of new ideas; they needed to develop, in other words, their own mechanics for dealing with the newer aspects and concepts they wanted to add to the game. It was out of this 'tinkering, tweaking and tuning' that eventually gave birth to entire gaming systems. Because we are taliking about Powers And Perils, we are talking about the 'Complex Tangent Line' of FRPG history, as opposed to any 'rules-lite' orientations. The complex line often gets bashed by those of the lite and moderate orientations, mainly because of preferential reasons rooted in the subjective. I happen to be an ardent supporter of the complex 'school-of-thought'. Personally, I appreciate and am fascinated by so-called 'crunchy' systems; I feel they add to the 'art & the craft' in their own way. Chivalry And Sorcery and RuneQuest are two of the first entries in this historical line of development, with C&S being more on the crunchy end and RQ sort of straddling the fence between complex and moderate. As for P&P, its development occured somewhat later in this early era, but its roots tie in directly with those responsible for D&D. P&P's author, Richard Snider, was an extremely enthusiastic player (Arneson's words) in Dave Arneson's developing Blackmoor campaign world (the so-called "First Fantasy Campaign"). Arneson split from Gygax and TSR over creative differences concerning the direction of D&D. Simply put, Arneson had ideas to advance the game in a more sophisticated direction, e.g., lifting it above its 'character-as-gamepiece' feel (something 4E, by the way, has devolved into more than ever). Gygax, in retrospect, suffered from a myopic limited vision concerning the game that was mired down in the traits of D&D's grand-daddy, strategic wargaming. He was resistant to players modifying the rules, because he had a 'tournment rulings' mentality at the time, and felt that he had worked long and hard on the mechanics to finesse them into (his conception of ) playability and game balance. As for myself, despite the fact that I always respected Gygax for his critical part in the creation of something that I loved, I still held his limited views against him (in a friendly kind of way, that is). HOWEVER: this all changed in the early 90s when he came out with a game called Mythus. As I leafed through the corebook of this new game, I experienced an amazing revelation. To sum it up, Gygax had EVOLVED beyond his former self, and had assumed a more advanced, sophisticated orientation regarding FRPG systems, and what i held in my hand was essentially Gygax's version of ... POWERS AND PERILS.

Phineas Cromwell said...

PART TWO: Now, at that point, I had already been deeply acquainted with P&P for quite a few years; it was a game that represented my personal 'philosophy' or 'school-of-thought' as I sometimes like to call it. When I was reading Mythus (which is a masterpiece), I was seeing the same ESSENTIAL principles that P&P was built upon. For me, that is significant, and speaks of the importance of P&P as a system. P&P barely had a published lifespan to be evolved in an 'official' capacity. No extensive playtesting from an official staff publishing their corrections and modifications. No sourcebooks. There was some support, but it was dictated by the era, and budget, and was almost entirely from Snider. But what was ther was very significant, for it was a very strong base, a foundation, that was unusually sound. The core of the systems, the rationale behind them, just make sense. P&P provides a great FOUNDATION to develop on. The whole long-winded point I am trying to make here is basically one of Coming Full Circle. Richard Snider's vision was kind of ahead of its time, I think (back in the early 80s). He and Arneson shared a certain kind of spirit in gaming; Gygax, for the time being, had won out. But Gygax changed after his personal debacle with the TSR experience, and his change was oriented toward what is represented by Powers And Perils. P&P is similar to Chivalry And Sorcery: they are two truly great games that got bad press because the 'majority' were intimidated by their complexity. These kinds of systems, simply put, are not for everyone. But for those they are made for (the 'art & the craft' types), their greatness and importance are understood and cherished. Actually, it is a mark of honor that they get bashed because of this preferential disavowal; but it can be unfortunate when the very existence of the game does not come to the attention of those who would deeply appreciate it.

Catacomb librarian said...

I am not you, though we both are human beings and both of us have limbs, an heart, a brain and (possibly) a soul.

I am not hamel, and hamel is not me, nor there is any way in this world we could ever be the same entity.

Hamel™ said...

I am the luckiest man in the world, then. ;)

Phineas Cromwell said...

PART ONE: Powers And Perils, like ALL fantasy roleplaying gaming systems, is directly rooted in the breakthrough development represented by Dungeons And Dragons. The essence of this evolutionary development is basically twofold: the breathing of literal character-life into its precursor form, i.e., the strategic wargame venue, and the enhancement (to potentially infinite degree) of a narrative dimension. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson (and a few others) are forever memorialized for bringing this evolution to us, and that is as it should be. Now what is fascinating about the history of FRPGs is how, virtually immediately, a sort of friendly 'revisionist rebuttal' began against D&D. When D&D first came out (the '0th' edition), gaming groups were wondering how to handle an ever-expanding potential of new ideas; they needed to develop, in other words, their own mechanics for dealing with the newer aspects and concepts they wanted to add to the game. It was out of this 'tinkering, tweaking and tuning' that eventually gave birth to entire gaming systems. Because we are taliking about Powers And Perils, we are talking about the 'Complex Tangent Line' of FRPG history, as opposed to any 'rules-lite' orientations. The complex line often gets bashed by those of the lite and moderate orientations, mainly because of preferential reasons rooted in the subjective. I happen to be an ardent supporter of the complex 'school-of-thought'. Personally, I appreciate and am fascinated by so-called 'crunchy' systems; I feel they add to the 'art & the craft' in their own way. Chivalry And Sorcery and RuneQuest are two of the first entries in this historical line of development, with C&S being more on the crunchy end and RQ sort of straddling the fence between complex and moderate. As for P&P, its development occured somewhat later in this early era, but its roots tie in directly with those responsible for D&D. P&P's author, Richard Snider, was an extremely enthusiastic player (Arneson's words) in Dave Arneson's developing Blackmoor campaign world (the so-called "First Fantasy Campaign"). Arneson split from Gygax and TSR over creative differences concerning the direction of D&D. Simply put, Arneson had ideas to advance the game in a more sophisticated direction, e.g., lifting it above its 'character-as-gamepiece' feel (something 4E, by the way, has devolved into more than ever). Gygax, in retrospect, suffered from a myopic limited vision concerning the game that was mired down in the traits of D&D's grand-daddy, strategic wargaming. He was resistant to players modifying the rules, because he had a 'tournment rulings' mentality at the time, and felt that he had worked long and hard on the mechanics to finesse them into (his conception of ) playability and game balance. As for myself, despite the fact that I always respected Gygax for his critical part in the creation of something that I loved, I still held his limited views against him (in a friendly kind of way, that is). HOWEVER: this all changed in the early 90s when he came out with a game called Mythus. As I leafed through the corebook of this new game, I experienced an amazing revelation. To sum it up, Gygax had EVOLVED beyond his former self, and had assumed a more advanced, sophisticated orientation regarding FRPG systems, and what i held in my hand was essentially Gygax's version of ... POWERS AND PERILS.

Phineas Cromwell said...

PART TWO: Now, at that point, I had already been deeply acquainted with P&P for quite a few years; it was a game that represented my personal 'philosophy' or 'school-of-thought' as I sometimes like to call it. When I was reading Mythus (which is a masterpiece), I was seeing the same ESSENTIAL principles that P&P was built upon. For me, that is significant, and speaks of the importance of P&P as a system. P&P barely had a published lifespan to be evolved in an 'official' capacity. No extensive playtesting from an official staff publishing their corrections and modifications. No sourcebooks. There was some support, but it was dictated by the era, and budget, and was almost entirely from Snider. But what was ther was very significant, for it was a very strong base, a foundation, that was unusually sound. The core of the systems, the rationale behind them, just make sense. P&P provides a great FOUNDATION to develop on. The whole long-winded point I am trying to make here is basically one of Coming Full Circle. Richard Snider's vision was kind of ahead of its time, I think (back in the early 80s). He and Arneson shared a certain kind of spirit in gaming; Gygax, for the time being, had won out. But Gygax changed after his personal debacle with the TSR experience, and his change was oriented toward what is represented by Powers And Perils. P&P is similar to Chivalry And Sorcery: they are two truly great games that got bad press because the 'majority' were intimidated by their complexity. These kinds of systems, simply put, are not for everyone. But for those they are made for (the 'art & the craft' types), their greatness and importance are understood and cherished. Actually, it is a mark of honor that they get bashed because of this preferential disavowal; but it can be unfortunate when the very existence of the game does not come to the attention of those who would deeply appreciate it.

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