10 Million Ways to Die The Ultimate Combat Sourcebook
Designed by John Curtis III, Craig O'Brien, and Coleman Charlton
Reviewed by C. L. Yona
"Beam catches jugular and spine. He can't even reach up to try and stop the blood."
91-95 E Laser Critical.
Well, nobody has ever said that combat was supposed to be pretty. The above example is one of the nearly two thousand possible critical damage results presented in Iron Crown Enterprise's (ICE) RPG sourcebook 10 Million Ways to Die. This nuts-and-bolts type of tome also includes attack tables for thousands of weapons, ranging from the basic 'stick-it-in-the-bad-guy' dagger, the devastating Kalishnakov AK47 assault rifle, to space opera weapons such as plasma rifles, laser pistols, and, of course, the Star Trek phaser.
The opening "How Does it Work" chapters give a somewhat abridged overview of the Rolemaster Fantasy Roleplaying combat system and how it can be used with the information in the text. The explanation is extremely well thought out and presented in a manner that will allow the GM to either embrace the system completely or pick and choose elements for his or her own system. In addition, tables detailing situational modifiers such as cover and flanking attacks are given. Also deserving of praise is the definition page, which doesn't assume every reader is familiar with every, or even any, of the common terms in the text. By using a system with criticals, the GM can move away from the "bash-it-relentlessly-until-it-runs-out-of-hits" type of combat. Indeed, 10 Million Ways to Die has a number of very good things to offer.
Means of combat, whether they are by hand-to-hand melee weapons, projectile weapons, open hand attacks or even the tooth and claw of an animal, are broken down into sub-classes which are served by a specific attack chart which calculates possible damage against a variety of armors. The effects of each weapon are further individualized at that point. A falchion and a broadsword may both use the Heavy One- Hand Bladed Weapon Attack Table, but the falchion delivers an extra 50% of the hits indicated. A Star Wars blaster carries a bonus making it slightly more accurate than the Star Trek Phaser, but Kirk's weapon of choice carries more than double the energy for rounds. Most weapon types have a base type of critical which corresponds to their chart; Early Revolvers use Ballistic Puncture criticals, Laser Weapons use laser criticals, and so on. This makes the damage done by a certain weapon seem more appropriate; a club is not going to do the same type of damage that an arrow would. Furthermore, one option offered provides an easy-to-use table for variation on the critical caused by some tables instead of just doing slashing criticals, a broadsword becomes capable of inflicting crushing and puncturing damage as well.
The variety offered is impressive. The critical tables are wildly broad in scope. There are charts for everything from stunner blasts to crushing blows to martial arts sweeps and throws. Weapon miscues, referred to as "fumbles," are included for each type of weapon. A fumble with a muzzle-loading weapon has markedly different results from one with, say, a spear. This sort of attention to detail makes combat results seem much more genre-specific and thus more realistic. ICE also allows the tables to be infused with their dark humor, a welcome addition. Fumble badly with a two-handed melee weapon and you'll be told, "Worst move in ages! You are out for 2 days with a groin injury. There is a 50% chance that your foes will be out for 3 rounds, laughing."
10 Million Ways to Die also makes a savvy move by including notes for converting the information contained for a number of popular gaming systems such as AD&D (or is it now D&D3?), Legend of the Five Rings, and Shadowrun, to name a few. There's no question that the book is designed for the RMFRP system and hopes to catch new users, but recognizing that not everyone will be willing to convert to a new system and making allowances for that is a shrewd decision.
Of course, not everything is perfect. 10 Million Ways to Die has a few typos, including one on the back cover (!). I would have liked to see attack tables included for grenade/fragmentation weapons and splashing attacks such as by holy water or a Molotov cocktail. Some critical charts are included but aren't mentioned in any of the attack tables, such as Tiny and Radiation. A table for spell attacks is also lacking, but that is somewhat understandable given the size and intricacy of the RMFRP magic system. Still, a single generic bolt attack or ball attack spell table would have been a welcome addition, especially since the elemental critical charts are included. After all, magic is certainly one of the 10 million ways to bite the dust. Or to be turned into dust, or frozen and shattered into dust, or crisped into dust, etc.
Even with these dislikes, I still find myself recommending 10 Million Ways to Die as an extremely useful tool for any GM, especially those who utilize the RMFRP system. The obviously well-researched information and the attention paid to detail should help individualize and spice up most campaigns. Even the cover, with the color photo of a street tough festooned with blurbs detailing numerous gruesome deaths, is attractive and a welcome taste of the humor to be found inside.
"Beam shatters hip joint with heat expansion. It's a Kodak moment."
61-65 E Blaster Critical.
Ten Million Ways
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