Bundle of Fantasy Age

The Fantasy Age RPG main books: Great fast hack-and-slash system with just three classes, random-roll ability tables, a ton, like pages of lists, of talents and “specializations” for classes, without a ton of skill bookkeeping. 3d6 roll-over mechanic with one funky Stunt Die, and a ton of little case-point rules rather than a big unified “System”. In Jeff Rients’ Threefold Model, AGE is Retro-Stupid.

The Starter Collection is a great deal for $10. Whether the expanded bundle is worth $15 more is debatable.

I loved the Dragon Age: Origins videogame, but the second game was an abomination, didn’t make me want to try the third one (which I hear is better, but I’m past caring). Thedas (the world of Dragon Age) has some annoyances, with powerless priests of a nonexistent god thinking they can control mages who literally control life, death, dreams, and elements; and squishy, stupid humans thinking they can control longer-lived and vastly more competent Elves and Dwarfs.

It’s a tolerable dumb setting in a computer game, but it’s nearly unplayable disaster in a tabletop game. Thedas went down in flames when my players hit it in the first box set: Looting & burning out the Chantry was much higher-profit and lower-risk than fighting darkspawn. That said, there’s a lot of lootable setting, monsters, and such for Fantasy AGE in the Dragon Age books.

Wil Wheaton’s Titansgrave is a nice post-apocalyptic science fantasy setting, however the main book is mostly a very linear adventure, not a hexcrawl or gazetteer of the world. Choo-choo all aboard the plot railroad.

I picked up the whole bundle, because I only had the first Dragon Age box set and why not, and I think I’ll get some use out of it. I’m more annoyed that they have a GM screen for Dragon Age, but not Fantasy Age.

Princess Bride RPG?

I’m an enormous Princess Bride fan; I loved the film, but then read the book which is better, with less intrusive framing, not having the Wonder Years brat, and having more detail than just what’s on camera. I’m sure William Goldman’s as mad at himself for being unable to make a proper sequel as all readers are, but it’s still galling. Everyone else can pump out a dozen doorstop fantasy novels on a theme, Buttercup’s Baby doesn’t have to be perfect, just good enough.

I’m also an enormous FUDGE fan, having read & commented on Steffan O’Sullivan’s development of it on USENET, and I’ve used it for many one-shot games. I don’t think it works great for a campaign, but it’s a perfect quick game since you barely need rules, just the Trait Ladder and 4 Fudge Dice or a 2d6 or 3d6 dice table. Download some of the books at FUDGE Files, or pick up the books. A Magical Medley is a fantastic supplement with multiple weird magic systems.

So today I see Princess Bride RPG, by SO’S and using FUDGE, has a kickstarter (via Tenkar’s Tavern)! Chocolate & peanut butter! … However, $25 for a PDF is not acceptable. I don’t like to pay more than $10 for a PDF, $20 is excessive but for a few things I’ll do it, but anything more than that I need print. The $50 print level looks more reasonable, if high, but I’m not sure.

The Quick Start is very nice-looking, but hm.

  • Photos from the movie used instead of art in most places; which is fine, but I would like them to not just be headshots staring at the camera, choose some action scenes, maybe?
  • They’ve changed the Trait Ladder up a point to Superb +4 down to Terrible -2 (originally Superb +3 down to Terrible -3). Why make it incompatible with existing FUDGE materials?
  • 3 Attributes, 15 Skills, ~20 Gifts/Faults, down from the 6 Attributes, 100+ Skills, 50+ Gifts/Faults in Five Point FUDGE, or the long choose-what-you-want freeform lists in core FUDGE; I don’t always use such a large list, but it’s kind of nice to have the detail level if you want it. But as a list for a storytelling game, it’s functional, I suppose.
  • “Grandpa Wait” points instead of Fudge Points, making every player be smarmy little Fred Savage who needed a good drowning.
  • Unlike earlier parts, combat and damage use every option, including min-mid-max from the core rules. I don’t think the standard wound system is a good fit for swashbuckling, and for Princess Bride in particular, knocking you to Incapacitated in just 2 solid hits, 1 on a lucky attack. Duels take much more time and effort in the Princess Bride movie and book.
  • A “Mostly Dead” wound level is added after Near Death, which while a good gag, is redundant.
  • Sample GM adventure. Linear railroad “story”, mostly if-then tests and some sample dialogue. There’s no map for the inn/stables, which is likely to be a fight scene. The other location has a photoshopped top-down map without keys; it’s only 3 buildings, but guess which is which.
  • No magic or miracle system is presented. Princess Bride is Ruritanian adventure, so there won’t be spell-casters exactly, but there are quasi-magical potions and poisons, weird beasties, Miracle Max, the albino’s weird torture machine, and so on; some suggestion of that should be in the game, and I see no hint of it.

Almost everything in this you can do better with the FUDGE 1995 rules (or 1993, if you prefer that edition, as I do), aside from a little flavor text. Read the book and watch the movie again, and you’re ahead by $50.

Update: I see that Steffan O’Sullivan had a reddit AMA on Princess Bride. A few things stood out:

  • “The target audience is, first and foremost, Princess Bride fans. They may or may not already be roleplayers. This means a lot of basic instructions to be sure someone isn’t lost.
    Then there are a dozen sample characters, one per page ready to print out, including one whole party specific to one adventure. There are some sample adventures and a lot of adventure seeds. There are lots of tables in case the GM needs to generate things – they take up room.
    Lots of detailed ways to customize new character Professions.
    An appendix with every Gift, Fault, and Skill defined in game terms.
    Lots of illustrations – that’s de rigeur these days in the RPG world – and white space for readability – ditto.
    Two chapters on combat: one for new roleplayers, then a large chapter of options for more experienced folks who want to recreate the clifftop duel blow by blow.
    Add a light tone to try to make the reading pleasurable, and it adds up.”
  • “Toy Vault really only has the license for the movie, not the book. The licensor was very generous in allowing us to dip into the book so long as it didn’t contradict the movie, so we did that. But I actually like the gaps in the story world. It’s part of its charm.”
  • “New rules … hmm. Maybe the Life’s Not Fair points. Not so much rules, but attitudes. The RPG world has expanded enormously since Fudge was first published, largely in the direction of more player input into the world and setting. So I’ve incorporated some of that. (Not too much, mind you, I still like the GM to have more control than the players. But more than I used to allow.)
    I also felt that since the characters are larger than life, and the only real combat is between what are essentially two PCs, that only players should roll the dice for combat. Allowing the GM to roll for NPCs places too much importance on NPC skills. There’s not enough of that in the movie to justify its inclusion in the main rules. Count Rugen’s dagger throwing is about it. Otherwise, it’s entirely Inigo’s skill involved in the fight with the four guards in the castle corridor. And it’s largely Westley’s skill that is important in the fight with the ROUS. Of course, there’s an option to allow the GM to roll for those who just have to have it …”
    [mdh: I do like the only-players-roll rule, 4.33 PCs vs NPCs in FUDGE 1995.]

Adventuring in Stone Halls & Serpent Men

Have brought in a lot of lessons learned from using SH&SM, more optional rules, and reorganized adventuring to be more convenient. Layout and proper art pass are still on my TODO list, but not for a while longer.

Moved the download links to a permanent page:

  • Stone Halls & Serpent Men

  • Editing:

    • All fractions now display super/subscript.
  • Characters:
    • Stat death now happens at -5 (equal to 0 on 3-18 scale) instead of -6 (equal to -2 on 3-18 scale)
    • Hit Point options
    • Assassin’s Stealth gets more detail
    • Hunter skills get more detail
    • Prestige Professions all require Level 4
    • Alchemist gets Create Chemical
    • How to roll social status for NPCs
    • Earthborn starting equipment
  • Equipment:
    • Took 18th C lanterns out of medieval tech, gave Dwarfs Shadowvision instead of Darkvision
    • Purchaseable poisons
  • Combat:
    • Multiple Attack Initiative
    • New Combat Stances for more tactical, martial arts choices
    • Weapon vs Armor (Optional)
  • Adventuring:
    • Moved to a more useful location.
    • Explain dungeon depth and Level.
    • Law & Order
  • Hazards:
    • Combined details of Search, Invisible, Stealth, Tracking Scent, Keen Senses.
    • Cave-Ins
    • Advanced Deprivation
    • Insanity, using Curses for the effects, rather than a Freudian list of disorders
    • Intoxication
  • Magic:
    • Low-mana and high-mana environments affect MP
    • Doubling spell range & duration with extra MP
    • Optional: Material Components
  • Bestiary:
    • Terror effects added to several monsters
    • Bear variants
    • Cat, Dog, Crocodile, Frog
    • Ghost, Wraith, Spectre combined & expanded
    • Skeletal Warrior, Knight
  • Treasure:
    • Adjusted many monster treasures (mostly down)
    • Made treasureGenerator.html to roll random treasures.
  • Referee:
    • Place Names
    • Weather
    • More Traps
    • Community Events