Bare Bones Fantasy is a relatively new rules-lite fantasy rpg from DWD Studios, better known as the awesome people behind the Star Frontiersman. Given the overpopulated Fantasy gaming genre, I’m very interested in seeing just what kind of innovations they’ll be applying in order to make Bare Bones Fantasy stand out from the rest.
I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised to see some Star Frontiers DNA hidden in the rules. For one thing, the basic resolution system is straight up percentile. Roll d100, compare result to your Ability or Skill. If you roll equal to or below your Ability or Skill score, then you succeed. Otherwise you fail.
Skills also exist in Bare Bones Fantasy, but rather than being the large list of skills that most games have, BBF has only eight of them: Cleric, Enchanger, Leader, Scholar, Scout, Spellcaster, Thief and Warrior. These are more like skill packages and determine if a person can or can’t do something. One thing to note is that anyone can attempt actions associated with the Scout, Thief and Warrior Skills. The other five skills require that you have at least a level in them in order to perform such actions. Skills are rated in both a level and in a score. The score is calculated based on the Ability score associated to the Skill as well as the skill’s level.
So far, so good. It’s nice and tidy, and with minimal fuss.
Character creation seems to be fairly straightforward as well. Ability score generation can be done via rolling or by spending a predetermined spread of ability scores. Selecting a race applies a template to the character, bestowing a bonus to an Ability, bestows a movement score and race-specific advantages and languages.
Picking a skill comes next, with the player choosing a primary and secondary skill, and then selecting which skill starts at Level 1. Abilities are then re-calculated with bonuses from the skill choices.
The next step is specifying descriptors, which are phrases or words that describe prominent details about the character. Players must specify one positive and one negative descriptor. These are important because characters gain Development Points when their descriptors come into play in the session.
A character’s moral code is the next to be defined, with a few behavioral traits and ethics. Note that these are different from Descriptors as they deal with the question of why a character does things.
Equipment, money and Derived attributes make up the rest of the character. The process is fairly painless, and I can imagine someone going through this in about 15 minutes or so. Less if they’re used to the system.
Combat is plain and simple, and is treated as a simple attack roll. A success on the roll means that you hit and roll damage. Damage Reduction is applied after this, possibly negating all the damage from an attack.
Spells are also pretty simple with a spellcasting (or cleric skill) check to see if it activates. One interesting thing here is that the player may choose to change the special effect of a spell from one to another per casting. So a lighting bolt one turn might be a fire blast in the next. I can see a lot of happy wizards in this game.
While Bare Bones Fantasy is certainly simple and easy to learn, it is also remarkably comprehensive. From a robust listing of spells, to a weapons and equipment list that will make old-school chart loving types weep for joy, BBF is not a game with a short lifespan. There are rules for nearly everything, including the situational ones that every GM will probably look up only a few times in a campaign (like say, acid damage rules) and a healthy bestiary of monsters that will keep a game going for a very long time.
The book even contains a broad-strokes setting called the Keranak Kingdoms, which is a perfect place for new GMs to set their game without having to spend too much time trying to build a setting form scratch. There’s a map and regions described, along with the local pantheon of gods and plenty of empty space for the GM to make up his own things in the setting.
Bare Bones Fantasy is aptly named, but don’t let the title fool you into thinking that the game isn’t capable of going the whole nine yards. It’s a good game for groups who don’t have that much time to pour over books, and optimizing characters, and definitely one I’d recommend for the overworked time-scarce GM.
Simple and fun, Bare Bones Fantasy deserves to be part of everyone’s collection on RPGs.
[5 of 5 Stars!]