Compare and Contrast: The Action Table vs. The Universal Table

After writing my last post about The Action Table!, my mind started bubbling about the particulars of the two different ways of using a similar system as presented in Crypt World and Marvel Superheroes. Just to be clear, I’m talking about the original, FASERIP version of Marvel. FASERIP refers to the first initial of each attribute in order: Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition, and Psyche. There’s been many versions of Super Hero RPG’s over the years, and there’s been a few different versions of Marvel specific games.

Both games use a system in which die rolls are cross referenced on a table to find a result. Marvel uses what they call a Universal Table, and this table lists 1 to 100 down the left side, and Attribute ratings across the top. To find the result of a roll, you cross reference what you rolled with what attribute you are testing, and the place on the table that comes up has one of four colors, White, Green, Yellow, and Red. White means failure; you weren’t able to accomplish what you were trying to do, or able to successfully attack your target. A green result means that you were successful, but only just. The minimum amount of damage was caused, the lowest level of success was attained, etc. The next highest result category is Yellow, which represents a much better result, but not the best possible. Red is the highest, and this represents the best possible outcome of the roll.

Of course, the higher the rating of the attribute being tested, the lower number necessary to roll to achieve the higher colored results. For example, a rating of Poor (4) requires a roll of at least 56 on percentile dice to achieve a Green result, whereas a rating of Amazing (50) requires only a 26 or better.

Crypt World has what it calls an Action Table. This table is similar in that it has the die roll result (called the Attack Margin) on the left, and the rating being tested across the top. Where this is different is that the die roll column is not what is rolled, but the tested rating MINUS the die roll. If you roll above your target number (which is equal to your attribute rating plus/minus modifiers), you fail, and it isn’t even on the table. If you roll below your target number, you must subtract what you rolled from the rating being tested, and cross reference that number on the table.

This is a bit more confusing than the Universal Table, so here’s an example. My hero has a Dexterity of 50. Without modifiers, I need to roll a 50 or lower on percentile dice to be successful. I’m shooting an an approaching Zombie, and with all the modifiers, I’m up to a 65 or less. If I roll, say, a 49, I subtract 49 from 65 (give me a moment while I scrounge up a calculator… math is NOT my strong suit), which comes up to 16. I look on the Attack Margin column, and find that 16 is the fourth result down, between 10 and 29. I look across on that row until I find the opposing column (which is rolled randomly by the enemy) and the letter that appears at the cross corresponds to a result, like L for Light Wound or C for Crippling Wound.

As you can see, the two games use a similar concept in vastly different ways. In my opinion, the Universal Table from Marvel is much easier to use. How hard would it be to convert the Universal Table to use in Crypt World? Pretty easy. They’re both based on percentile, and they both have four different categories of success. All a GM would have to do is decide what each of the four color results mean in Crypt World terms, like deciding how much damage a Green result gives. Even that would be straight-forward… since there are four categories of success in each, move the descriptions straight over. For example, the lowest amount of success in Crypt World is L, or Light Damage. Make the Green result equal Light Damage (or the L result for non-combat tests). Same right up the table for each color.

The hardest part would be re-labeling the columns. In Marvel, the highest non-enhanced Human attribute rating (at character generation) is Excellent (rating of 60), whereas Crypt World has a maximum of 80. Not too much different, but it could get difficult when it really matters. Juggle the numbers slightly at the top of each column, and Viola, you’re ready to go. The Universal Table would even already be ready to use with creatures with attributes way above human norms.

Personally I would prefer this method. This way, there would be no math (ick) required of the players or the GM. This does mean, however, that you would be going from an opposed roll system to a system of direct target numbers. Marvel uses shifts in columns to the left meaning more difficult and to the right for less difficult, but generally your opponent doesn’t affect your chances. Crypt World, in combat at least, has your opponent roll a d10 to randomly decide which column you roll against. I really don’t like that aspect, and as I mentioned in the previous post The Action Table! I think that should be replaced by ability checks by the opponent deciding which column to use. Read the previous post for details; I think I have the argument pretty sorted out in favor of my idea.

At the end of the day, or the beginning of play, it doesn’t matter which system to use. If you want simplicity, stick with what each game uses. I wouldn’t suggest changing what’s printed for a one-off game, but if you were going to play Crypt World (or any of the Pacesetter/Goblinoid Games that are related, like Rot World or Ronin Arts’ Star Ace RPG) long term, you might want to consider switching over after talking about it with your players. I might do the same… even if one of my players is quite stubborn and doesn’t like it when I change things (talkin’ to You, Joe!).

Please leave a comment! Tell me what you think; critiques, ideas, comments are all very welcome!

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