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I picked up Rotworld a few months ago. It uses the "Action Table" system from the old Pacesetter games like Chill and Timemaster. In this system, there's an ability score (1 to 100) and a defense class (1-10), and the player rolls a percentile die to get a result, which is one of: S, L, M, H, C, modified by a possible K.

The way that these things go together does not seem to be predictable or systematic, nor do the meaning of S, L, M, H, or C. I like Rotworld as a set of ideas, but this system seems impossible for me to internalize. I am tempted to just use a different system for the setting.

Is there a trick to learning this system so that I won't be constantly looking at this table and the skill result tables? Is there a commonly-used simplification that can be memorized, if the action table can't? How does this system get used in actual play?

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I used to have an original printing of Timemaster and I remember those tables now that you mention them. I don't have it in front of me now though so this is a more general answer to the problem.

Remember one thing about these old games: tables were to be used, not memorised or abstracted away. This was true in AD&D too with its combat matrices that gave different edge-case results than 2e's THAC0 system. The advantages of a lookup table evaporate when you resist using them as lookup tables. They're not learned, they're used.

Advantages of a lookup table:

  • Fast. Very, very fast. There is little or no math and it just gives you the answer. (Unless you forget to keep the table in front of you at all times. Then page flipping defeats the purpose. This is why these tables were often printed on GM screens.)
  • Provide for probability graphs that are a little or very non-linear. You can have a more complex result range than with math-based resolution systems. (Unless you try to abstract the table so you don't have to look at it, at which point you lose the benefits of encoding complex relationships in a table.)

Disadvantages:

  • You do have to have the table in front of you, readily available.
  • Probabilities are usually hard to internalise. (Although this may also be an intended feature to avoid min-maxing by players.)

Try playing directly off of the table for a few sessions. You will realise that either:

  • The table works really well and doesn't need to be internalised.

    or

  • The system does honestly clash with your preferences even after giving in a good try.

… at which point, you can proceed appropriately.

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Thanks very much for the answer! I should note that it's not just the one action table, which I could probably deal with. I'd print it and laminate it or something. It's also that every skill seems to explain on its own what LMHC mean. I suppose that if you can memorize the order or meaning of LMHC (large, medium, high, colossal) you can fake everything but combat, which is spelled out on the one page... –  rjbs May 3 '12 at 20:49
    
@rjbs I think this is the same (or a very similar) table to that in Chill and I found that it was relatively easy to fudge the meaning for a variety of investigative skills, ranging from "you find some" to "you find a lot". To the extent there were specific details associated with a given level of success, that was usually stated in the module/adventure being played, so not amenable to memorization anyway. –  Vatine Apr 19 '13 at 11:04
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