I ran a trial MRQII game a couple of months ago - never played or GM'ed the rules before - and noted the following.
Characters were created straight from the book, had 40-50% cbt skills and 0-1 pts of Armour due to not being able to afford any better. The first combat was against a couple of scout Dragonewts stealing sheep.
The issue I noted was that the player that had gone Great Axe, when he succeeded with his skill, kicked. Even when they parried, their Shortword and Buckler was too small to reduce the Greataxe Damage. So he either did full rolled damaged to the 2pt armoured Dragonewts, when they succeeded with a parry, OR full Rolled Damage + A Manoeuver (Choose Location).
Later, fighting better armed and armoured bandits I found the - fail parry > get extra Cbt Manoeuver an issue. It still grates. Has the idea been tested/floated of shifting out the whole Levels of Success Table? ie if you fail parry and your opponent succeeds in hitting you he does not get a Manoever, but only when he specials you. The same with "Oh I fumbled my Parry" I'll roll on the Fumble Table AND my opponent with probably get 2 cbt manoeuvers against me - keep in mind, no matter how powerful your character is there will always be a 1%+ chance this will happen to you whenever you try to parry...
I understand your reasoning that Combat IS brutal, but it leads to very short combats. RQ2 had the same problem. In those days cbt skill levels in the 65-85 was when the game really shone. It would be good to extend this sweetspot somehow.
Ideally you limited the weapons characters can access in the early stages but I was not going to do anything overt. My session was a trial of the system, and it didn't do very well.
Subsequently, I have been doing a lot of tinkering on a pad of paper. Firstly, for simplicity, I just converted the skills to d20, so a 80% swordsman has a 16 skill.
Initially, I try using the D&D design philosophy, where by a player would roll a d20+16 and match it against the opponents parry - say d20+16 - the higher roll wins the contest. This resulted in a 50/50 chance of success for evenly skilled contestants, but the contest was won on the armour you had. I also trialed a 30/70 chance of success for evenly skilled contestants which worked better, but when trying to tinker with crits got nowhere - even the D&D double damage did not work due to the relative fragility of RQ Characters.
I then went back to rolling under the skill and realised that the key part of RQ, in that _if_ you make a successful parry, _no_ other roll can take away the benefit from this success. In D&D someone rolls higher so you lose the contest. However, the D&D system (rolling against another or set effect number) still has it uses. I always found the contest of spot vs sneak funny when both participants succeeded. I think the effect number roll has a use within the RQ skill system, but due to consistency/simplicity concerns it has been ignored.
So coming full circle, I am still wrestling with the RQ system. The issue I am tinkering with is the sweetspot issue. The fact is low skills of say 30% mean you have a 70% chance of not doing anything against a similar skilled opponent - which seems wrong, your are evenly matched in your incompetence. In D&D this would be 50/50. What seems necessary is that skills need to start higher, say at 65% to 80%, a la Heroquest, then you have a good chance to 'interact' with your skills. From here you need to bring in the levels of success things to enable the better (effect number?) rolls being able to take advantage of maneouvers to bring the opponent down.
At the moment I am tinkering with the Dragon Warriors system, where after you succeed in a hit, you then roll your weapon damage to see if you penetrate armour, if this succeeds you then do a fixed level of damage. I like this system as it allows your characters to be a little more robust than currently occurs in MRQ2 - as you can take 3'ish hits before you go down.
Just some Musings
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