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Maelstrom

In one of my earlier blogs, I looked at a selection of existing d100 systems  – RuneQuest, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, OpenQuest, GORE and the BareBones Fantasy Role-Playing Game – in terms of the number of “characteristics” (e.g. Strength, Intelligence, etc.) and “skills” (e.g. Climb, Dodge, etc.) that they employ. In some cases, the answer was “a lot”. For example, the most recent version of RuneQuest has over 70 skills. A tendency for skill-inflation between successive versions of a game was also noted.

In merging characteristics and skills into a unified system of just twelve Abilities, Hack100 is aiming for a much more streamlined approach. However, a recent eBay purchase reminded me of another similarly lean system …

“Maelstrom” by Alexander Scott was released as a Puffin paperback in 1984. It is presented in much the same way (and would have sat on bookshop shelves alongside) as the Fighting Fantasy books of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone that were very popular in the UK at the time. Although Maelstrom includes a solo adventure in the same style as the Fighting Fantasy books, it is primarily a fully-fledged role-playing game. And, what’s more, it’s a d100 system.

Characters in Maelstrom are defined by nine attributes – Attack Skill, Defence Skill, Endurance, Speed, Agility, Will, Persuasion, Knowledge and Perception, all of which are assigned a percentage rating. It can be seen that these attributes are very similar to Hack100’s Abilities. The success or failure of an action is determined using a d100 “saving throw” against one of these attributes in the usual way. Rolling equal to or below the relevant attribute means the action is successful. Modifiers can be applied depending on the degree of difficulty of the task. A low roll of 01-05 is a critical success, whilst a high roll of 96-00 is a critical failure.

Characters also select a “living” that defines their particular skills and expertise. The livings are similar to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay’s careers, and there are eleven in the basic game – Nobles, Professionals, Craftsmen and Artisans, Traders, Labourers, Mercenaries, Rogues, Priests, Travelling Players, Mages and Herbalists. Several livings also have several variants, e.g. Professionals might be Clerks, Doctors, Architects or Scriveners. The rather mundane nature of many of Maelstrom’s livings reflects the game’s setting – a “realistic” version of 16th century Britain, albeit with a twist of magic from the titular “Maelstrom”.

In other aspects, Maelstrom and Hack100 are more divergent. Weapon damage in Maelstrom is rolled-for separately (and in some cases does frighteningly large amounts – up to 5d6 for swords and 6d6 for pole-arms!). When a character’s accumulated damage reaches their Endurance attribute, they fall unconscious. Armour works like Hack100, simply reducing damage by a fixed amount.

Overall, the similarity in approach across the two systems is marked, and if I was to pick an existing off-the-shelf system to use as an alternative to Hack100, Maelstrom is probably the system I’d choose.

Other than eBay, you can still pick-up the original version of Maelstrom from its current publisher, Arion Games at DriveThruRPG.com. It’s well worth a look.

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