RPGNow.com
Browse Categories













Back
Other comments left by this customer:
Forbidden Lands Core Game
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Matthew T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/07/2018 05:30:17

I would recommend it for two audiences. For many around my age, the team at Free League have created the game were wishing for back when we were twelve. All the possibilities that the games of the early eighties offered us, are here finally realized. Intuitive mechanics make combat gritty and heroic, magic thrilling and even resource management entertaining and fun. For people starting out in the hobby, this is an excellent value box, that gives you everything you need (apart from dice and a pencil) to build your very own world of adventure.

I was a Kickstarter backer and so have had early drafts, completed PDF's and now the physical product for a little while, so I may be predisposed to liking this game. And I am. But my expectations were high, and I have not been disappointed. Yes, obviously I would recommend this game. We played a one-off scenario, and my players wanted more. One of the starts running his own campaign on Monday.

Design Physical versions are sold a boxed game, a conceit that reflects its origins. In Sweden many games RPGs are still boxed, in the way that early Dungeons and Dragons, Runequest and Traveller were. The publishers, Free league (or Fria Ligan), set out to create a modern take on the classic games that some of us remember from the early eighties. So by boxing this game, they are not just conforming to the Swedish market, but also asking the rest of the world to remember the good old days. Which brings me to the illustrations. In creating their modern but retro game, Free League were inspired by the black and white drawings of Nils Gulliksson, who illustrated the first Swedish language RPG, a Runequest clone called Drakar och Demoner. Indeed most of the illustations are classics from the early days of Swedish gaming, complimented with newly commissioned pieces from the same artist. These have a certain beauty which younger gamers might find difficult to fully comprehend, especially when compared with the exquisite full-colour work of Martin Grip in Free League's other fantasy game, Symbaroum. There is certainly a degree of nostalgia in their appeal. What it means for PDF purchasers though is a small file size, speedy and responsive, and printing bits out own't drain your colour ink. The Swedish format also gives you a small page size, ideally suited to tablets.

Playing the game The heart of the system will be familiar with players of Mutant: Year Zero; Coriolis; and Tales from the Loop. Of the three, its closest to MY0. Which is entirely appropriate because it is a game of survival, in a fantasy world that has had its own apocalypse of sorts. Like that game, it is best played with enough dice of three different colours. There is a custom set available (more on that in another post) but MY0 veterans can play with those, and lets face it d6 are not something most gamers are short of. Most rolls are made by pooling a number of "base" d6 for your attribute, with a number for your skill and maybe one or two for your gear, and rolling. All you need to succeed is one six (which is marked with crossed swords on the custom dice) to succeed, but more successes improve the effect of your action - more damage in a fight, for example. If you fail, or if you want more successes, you can "push" the dice, rolling again. But the cost of this can be harsh - you can not re-roll any base dice or gear dice which came up one. And these, plus any more ones you roll on your base or gear dice, will do you, or your gear, damage.

This version of the dice pool might seem complicated at first, to those who have come from Coriolis or Tales from the Loop, but you soon get the hang of it, and it creates a wonderfully nuanced and narrative flow to the game.

Unlike MY0 or its sister games, Forbidden Lands also uses d8, d10, and d12, mostly for magical artefacts, but I particularly like the Pride mechanic, which enables a player to name one thing they are very good at. Once per game session, when a player has failed a vital role even after pushing their dice, if they can explain how their pride applies, they get to roll the d12. This has a greater than 50% chance of turning your failure into success, and not just one, but up to four success, which could mean a critical effect. The catch is, if you roll 1-5, your pride was obviously a false one. You strike it from your character sheet and must play a whole session before you can pick something to replace it.

Its a tough combat system, your strength attribute is your "hit points", and only the most exceptional character will ever have as many as six. Given even a glancing blow from a heavy axe can deal three, your players will find combat short, gritty, exciting, and something to be avoided. A quarter day's rest will restore all your attributes, but if you are broken in combat, you also take a critical hit, for the possibility of permanent damage, a slow death or, if you are lucky, a quick one. My advice to players is hit first, hit hard, wear armour, and take up archery.

Character generation is speedy and fun, especially if you use the random system found in the Legends and Adventurers booklet. If you do though, note that unfortunately a number of talents are named in that booklet that don't appear in the Players Handbook. In Horseback Archer becomes Horseback Fighter, and we had to replace Scrounger with Quartermaster. I guess the talents named were in an earlier draft. If random generation isn't your thing, then there is a simple point-buy alternative. One feature I particularly like is that you can start out, young, adult, or old (unless you are an elf - elves are ageless). As you get older you loose attribute points but gain skills and talents. Talents I should say, are specialisms and abilities that turn your relatively broad skill set into a very individual character.

I am generally not a fan of magic systems based on lists of pre-defined spells, but that said recognize the difficulties of creating more freeform RPG magic systems, especially in regards to spotlight  balance in games where not everyone is a magic user. This is spell list based but flexible in the casting. Players should learn quickly though that magic is risky - a couple of unlucky rolls can see you cast into a terrible hell with no hope of return - as a PC at least. The risk can be mitigated with preparation though, taking time to write your spells down and gather ingredients.

Which brings me onto a key philosophy in the game. This system makes resource management easy and fun to play. By breaking activities down in quarter days, by using simple mechanics like resource dice for ammunition, food and water, and a carrying capacity defined by lines in your gear list the system neatly abstracts and gamifies the more simulationist tendencies of (what we used to call) wilderness campaigns. We've played a couple of adventures so far and my players have enjoyed the scavenging for roots to supplement their food supplies. The resource management has not got in the way or story, indeed its has informed  the narrative.

There is one resource that you can only get through failure. When you push your dice and take damage (or wear for your gear) on ones, you also earn willpower points. Willpower powers magic spells and a good number of talents. There has been some debate about this mechanic. Some people are unhappy that only physical strain earns you the power to do spells (players start with no willpower and can only store up to ten points), or they can't see a connection between taking damage and gaining resolve. It may not lend itself to immersion, but I like the way it builds the narrative beats - your triumphs are all the sweeter after failure, after all.

The World Part of me wishes the setting was a humanocentric one, like Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones or The First Law books, but this is a retro game, and so of course there are not just humans, but Elves, Half-Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Orcs, Goblins and (less obviously retro, except perhaps to Traveller players) Wolfkin. Swedish genre author Erik Granstrom manages to give us all the nostalgic fantasy tropes our heart desires but put a subtle spin of novelty on them which makes this world strange and beautiful. Part of the strangeness is due to this world being described mostly in myth and legend, with some of the stories contradicting each other and very little (but just enough) explaining the "true" ecology. The elves in this game have a marvelous yet non-game-break-y immortality that makes them seem truly alien. Halflings and goblins have a link that is both novel and yet a reflection of the Frodo/Gollum relationship, and Dwarves build the world as much as mine it. Humans in this world are the invaders, and orcs the (by no means hapless) victims. There is just enough cliche to recognise and plenty of novelty to explore and excite the imagination.

One of the best assets of the GM's Guide (and the Legends and Adventurers booklet) is the help it offers in world building. There are three sample "adventure sites", none of which offer an "on the rails" story, but NPCs, motivations, and opportunities that allow your party to truely create their own adventure. On top of these sites however there are random generation tables that enable any GM, even the greenest, to confidently prepare an adventure in advance. A quick thinking GM could even create an adventure on the fly, while it is being played.

As I was ready the GM's guide indeed, I was thinking this  might well be a perfect gift for a young and aspiring potential GM. It could be an ideal first RPG even. All you really need (apart from dice) for a world of adventure is contained in just one box. Who is it not for? Well, I know somebody who hates dice pool systems, and prefers a d20. It's not for him I guess. But even if you are wary of dice pools, let me reassure you that this one is simple, fast and fun.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forbidden Lands Core Game
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Feng Shui 2
Publisher: Atlas Games
by Matthew T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/05/2015 16:31:15

For those of you that bought this game when Hong Kong was still a British territory, this new edition is an amazing improvement on a classic. Rules have been streamlined, settings updated, and (if you bought the Daedalus edition) the glue has been improved! OK, so by "improved glue" I mean new improved non-falling-apart-y PDF format.

If you waited for the more robust Atlas Games edition of the original, then Feng Shui 2 has improved full colour design and better artwork.

But let's face it, if you bough either version, you already backed the Kickstarter. Who wouldn't, given the chance to breathe new life into Furious George and Battlechimp Potempkin?

So, those of you looking at this as a first time purchase - what's in it for you?

Detailed terrain maps, accurate simulation of combat tactics, accounting systems for both money and ammo, and a character creation system that takes three hours to complete, are NONE of the features of this game. Instead this is a ruleset that allows players to do cool stuff, without thinking too much about anything.

Want to crash through the mansion's gates in your sedan, and do a handbrake turn on the front lawn while you partner stands through the open sunroof, shooting mooks with a pistol in each hand? Piece of cake. Want to jump to your certain death while lassoing a demon so that you'll choke him to death at the same time as breaking your fall? No problem! These and other crazy stunts are things my own players have done in an effort to make their characters look cool and blow stuff up.

A great system for picking up and playing, that works for a one-off or an extended campaign. Robin D Laws' conversational writing style is both informative and HIL-AR-I-OUS!

Buy it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Feng Shui 2
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Firefly: Smugglers Guide to the Rim
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Matthew T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/21/2015 05:17:40

I'm giving this a five star review, because I think it's a more essential supplement to the Firefly RPG than the previous Things Don't Go Smooth. The main reason for this is the addition of a reputation mechanic that looks like it will be a lot of fun to play. I worried when I read about four "factions" that the 'Verse was going to be divided into "Goodies and Baddies" but I' pleased to see that the factions are shorthand for four loose sets of beliefs, and indeed, the game forbids mention of said factions within the game's fiction, explaining they are tool for operating the GMC side of the Reputation mechanic only.

That said, the book also offers some more archetypes, and extra Distinctions, that riff off the idea of the four factions. All good grist to the mill, and I noted with interest an archetype (with new distinctions) that would have been a great help to one of my players who, when we started, was trying to create a Blue Sun scientist type.

A good part of the book also expands the mapped 'Verse, adding lots of detail to the Kaldisa and Blue Sun sub-systems. I like the approach taken here, not just limiting every idea to the western motif's found in those all-to-few original episodes, but pushing the boundaries and adding colour in a way that leaves plenty of space for each grouso's own take on the 'Verse. There of lots a episode seed ideas in this section.

But there are also two fully written up episodes, one by Margaret Weis and one by industry veteran Greg Stoltz. The Weis one is weaker (in my opinion) - it relies too much on players running the original crew, and doesn't offer much help in adapting it to my player's characters. So for example in hinges of the players doing a mission to save Jayne's Mom. There is NOTHING in my crew's 'verse that their characters (or indeed the players) would love as much as Jayne loves his Mom.

Stolze offers us a meatier scenario in his episode and one that involves two actual game-world Factions, which works to emphasise the difference between such a group in the diagesis and the faction mechanic in the rules. This one of course offers ways to get the Serenity crew involved in the action, but also pages more help about using player generated crews.

All in all, and excellent addition to the game. If you can afford only one, buy this in preference to Things Don't Go Smooth. (Of course, Things Don't Go Smooth is lively too, if you can afford both).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly: Smugglers Guide to the Rim
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Firefly Role-Playing Game Corebook
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Matthew T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/16/2014 04:37:20

As a RPGer of some thirty-odd years, brought up on systems like Traveller, BRP, Rolemaster and even (for a couple of early sessions) basic and AD&D, it's taken me some time to get my head around the Cortex Plus system.

I'm not new to narrative systems. I'm a big Fate fan, and I couldn't quite see why Cortex Plus seems to cling onto aspects of old-style RPGs (for example polyhedrals) which games like Fudge and Fate had long since eschewed.

Last year, I played a session or two of the Gencon preview edition of the Firefly Roleplaying Game, with one of my groups. The experience wasn't overly positive. I did urge Browncoats to buy the episodes, because they were cheap PDFs, each one comes a summary of the rules, and they are ... well, they are like a new series of Firefly. But I had my problems with the preview book itself - my group struggled with the rules, as GM (or game master) I felt I had to do too much dice-rolling, and I wasn't convinced by the design. I was particularly rude about the deep blue character sheets. These pages, which were expected to be printed out and given to the players would either drain your printer of blue ink, or were undreadable if you chose to print them out in greyscale.

The PDF of the finished Corebook has now been released, and the printed hardback edition is on it's way. I'm pleased to say my biggest gripe, the blue character sheets, has been addressed. In this edition they are a far more elegant design, with a mostly white background. It shows the company listens, and reacts, and so makes things better.

Since writing that review of the preview edition I've also had the chance to get to grips with the rules. I still think that, as GM, I have to roll the dice too much, but now I better understand why. And what I've come to understand informs what I am about to say:

You should buy this game.

Obviously, if you are Browncoat and a role-player, you were going to buy it anyway. You'll likely have pre-ordered the hardback already, and you are already enjoying the PDF. I'll warn you now that you might experience some difficulty in getting your group to play the game as written, but we'll come to that later.

Right now I want to speak to the Browncoats who aren't interested in Role Playing Games:

You should buy this game.

Why should you buy this game? Because if you are a Bowncoat who isn't into Role Playing Games, this is the game for you. Even if you are the Browncoat who has tried a Role Playing Game, and you know, honestly, that they are just not for you, then THIS is the game for you.

Because the Firefly Role Playing Game isn't so much as game as a Story Engine.

The roots of Role Playing in military simulation were evident. Dungeons and Dragons strived to simulate (an admittedly fantastic) reality with dice, using conventions that might have made sense in war gaming but were clumsy and frankly incredulous in storytelling. Hit points, for example, came from the concept of unit strength in war gaming, but don't make sense in one-to-one combat. If somebody hits you with a sword you suffer broken bones or internal organ damage. You don't say "Don't worry, I still have half my hit points left" and carry on. For a couple of decades, designers of subsequent games tried to address this problem by making the simulation more realistic, which often meant more complex but actually just as abstract.

But it doesn't need to be that way. In the Eighties, a game called Toon eschewed the simulation of reality to emulate the madcap antics of Bugs Bunny and the Loony Tunes cartoons. In the Nineties the game Feng Shui did the same for Hong Kong action movies. In Feng Shui if a character didn't have a name they wouldn't have any hit points. You could take them out with just one punch, just like in the movies. These were two early examples of narrative driven games, where the story you tell becomes more important than the tactics of battle.

In the new Firefly RPG, no-one has any hit points. You don't roll dice to simulate the effects of a gunshot on your opponent, you roll dice to explore the effects of a gunshot, or an argument, or a kiss, on the story. And anybody can be taken out of the scene with the effects of just one punch, or even just one kiss.

The Firefly rules are the first I've seen that can prompt the devastating effects on Inara of Mal's fling with Nandi Heart of Gold. Whenever a chance of failure might make the story more interesting, the player concerned rolls a pool of dice based on the aspects of their character that best fit the narrative. The two top scoring dice, when compared with the score on the GMs dice, tell you whether you succeed or fail. But if any of your dice roll ones, even if you succeed, things get more ... complicated. its not entirely bad news though. Not only does the complication add a twist to the story, the player gets a plot point, which they can spend on improving their future chances of success, buying off complications when the opportunity arises, or adding aspects of their own invention to the story. In high stakes rolls, like combat, everyone can be, will be, taken out with just one punch, or bullet. But if you have a plot point, you can use it to stay in the scene and take an injury instead. And that injury isn't just a number of hit points, it's something you can describe, like a cut across the chest, or a bullet in the gut.

Firefly isn't the only game that does without hit points. And lots of more modern games feature things like plot points, but in most they are rewards that give you bonuses in the game. In Firefly they are an integral part of the engine that transforms a session from one where the players might feel like puppets in a story game master has already written, into a collaborative storytelling environment, where nobody, NOBODY, quite knows what going to happen next.

More experienced gamers? I know you've already bought it, but I want to leave you with one warning. If your group is used to more traditional, tactical games like Dungeons and Dragons, they may react with horror at the lack of hit points, armour class and experience levels. Try and convince them that they are not playing a simulation, but telling a story. Tell them it's a story that gives them more control that they've ever had before, but one with all the twists and turns of their favorite TV show. If they are still uncertain, recruit some newbies into your group without any of the hang-ups of old-skool gamers.

Because you need to play this game. It's the next six seasons of Firefly.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly Role-Playing Game Corebook
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Displaying 1 to 4 (of 4 reviews) Result Pages:  1 
Back
0 items
 Gift Certificates
Powered by DriveThruRPG