07 March 2023

Fumbled First Foray into Fighting Fantasy

I tried—honestly, I did—to finish The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (the first Fighting Fantasy book), but I'm tired of wandering the maze. It was fine until I got stuck there, but now it's a boring dungeon trudge—junction after junction, dead end after dead end, knockout gas, random monster, trudge, trudge, trudge. I finish the adventure not in victory or defeat, but in resignation. Defeat would have been preferable. I have neither the time nor the patience to continue.

Perhaps other books in the series offer a more rewarding experience, but I am closing this one in disappointment. I think I'd rather give the traditional role-playing game it evolved into, Advanced Fighting Fantasy, a go.

[This article is Part 3 of three. To read the first part, turn to Part 1. To read the second part, turn to Part 2.]

27 February 2023

Accessible Gaming Quarterly Year 4 Crowdfunding Project

I shall be posting this to each of my five gaming blogs because the cause is worthy and time is of the essence. Jacob Wood of Accessible Games has launched Accessible Gaming Quarterly Year 4, a crowdfunding project on Kickstarter to produce four more issues of Accessible Gaming Quarterly, "a zine about accessibility and inclusion in tabletop RPGs." As it states on the project page, "This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Thu, March 9 2023 11:59 PM EST." AGQ provides a much-needed service in this hobby, and I hope you will join me in lending support.

Jacob Wood is also the designer of several role-playing games based on Fudge including Monster Kart Mayhem, Psi-punk, and Survival of the Able.

Purchase Accessible Games products here.

26 February 2023

Further First Foray into Fighting Fantasy

"This is taking longer than I thought," I wrote previously, followed by "TO BE CONTINUED."

It pays to map accurately when playing Fighting Fantasy, but even so, one can get hopelessly lost in mazes if one refuses to search for secret doors because searching for secret doors often carries an unreasonable and monotonous penalty.

I'm still lost in that maze.

Fighting Fantasy (as many, but not all, will know) is a series of fantasy adventure books published in the UK that is something like a hybrid of Choose Your Own Adventure novels and Tunnels & Trolls solitaire adventures. It requires two six-sided dice, a writing utensil, and some paper on which to record your character and make a map of the location to be explored. You can even dispense with the dice by randomly flipping to any page and reading the dice result at the bottom.

A brief section at the back of the book provides rudimentary rules for creating a character and interacting with the fiction in a limited way. First, you determine your Initial scores of SKILL (1D6+6), STAMINA (2D6+12), and LUCK (1D6+6), all of which are likely to fluctuate throughout the adventure. [Italics not mine.] You are given Provisions for ten meals, a sword, a shield, leather armor, a backpack, and one of the following: a Potion of Skill, a Potion of Strength, or a Potion of Fortune. (I don't know if starting equipment varies from book to book, but this is from The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.) There are very simple rules for fighting battles, escaping from battles, testing your LUCK in and out of battles (the correct term is Test your Luck [italics not mine]), and restoring lost SKILL, STAMINA, and LUCK.

Once you have your character recorded, you are ready to begin by reading the first entry during which you will usually be presented with two or more options. The option you choose will direct you to another entry elsewhere in the book, which will in turn present two or more options. You map your journey as you go, sometimes engaging in battles, sometimes fleeing them, using resources, gaining resources, finding clues, interacting with characters, and generally striving to make it through the adventure alive and preferably richer.

Overall, I was impressed by the flow of the adventure and how the rules and fiction interacted, at least until an iron gate slammed shut behind me and I was forced to wander a maze with no apparent escape. I still think the solution is to find a secret door (as annoying as the process is), and I'll try again, but before I do, let me mention my frustration with combat in solitaire gaming.

I am frustrated with combat in solitaire gaming.

Choose Your Own Adventure novels had no rules for combat. You simply hoped you made the right decision. Tunnels & Trolls solitaire adventures were revolutionary in that they used the same combat rules as T&T proper, which was good because you were rolling dice and recording damage, but it was bad because you were rolling dice for both combatants over the course of multiple rounds and you were constantly recalculating the Monster Rating of your foe, which altered not only its capacity to withstand damage but its capacity to inflict damage. Fighting Fantasy avoided the death spiral mechanic, but you're still left with rolling dice for both sides over and over until one or the other dies. You can choose to escape from a battle, but only if the text gives you that option and only if you can survive the loss of 2 points of STAMINA as your enemy gives you a parting blow. In any event, the excitement of battle quickly turns to boredom as you roll dice, record damage, roll dice, record damage until your mind wanders or you nod off. I honestly think the solution is to resolve every battle (in both FF and T&T) with a single contested roll or, at most, a best-two-out-of-three series of rolls.

Meanwhile, I shall try again to escape this damnable maze.


28 January 2023

First Foray into Fighting Fantasy

January the 22nd, 2023

After years of curiosity, I ordered a copy of my first Fighting Fantasy book, which is also the first Fighting Fantasy book ever published: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain by Steve Jackson (UK version) and Ian Livingstone.

It arrived today.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, a Fighting Fantasy game book.

In a moment, I shall play it.

[Time passes.]

This is taking longer than I thought.


21 January 2023

Table: Decision Maker/Indecision Breaker

When you know for certain that you don't know what to do, avail yourself of the Decision Maker/Indecision Breaker table...

Decision Maker/Indecision Breaker

Roll 1D6

1. Tarry quietly.
2. Dawdle noisily.
3. Wander cluelessly.
4. Stumble clumsily.
5. Dance obliviously.
6. Slumber soundly.


08 December 2022

Table: Devastating Deathblows

Whether it's a critical hit or a coup de grâce (or both), the Devastating Deathblows table provides sudden death with simulated pixelated realism for any role-playing game deemed worthy of its awesome, blood-soaked glory. Use with wild abandon.

Devastating Deathblows

Roll 1D6

1. Instant decapitation.
2. Body shattered.
3. Body pretzelized.
4. Heart bursts.
5. Torso implodes.
6. Head explodes.


22 November 2022

How to Create a Swashbuckler in Zorro: The Roleplaying Game

Cover art of Zorro: The Roleplaying Game, published by Gallant Knight Games.

Zorro: The Roleplaying Game, published by Gallant Knight Games in 2020, "gives you all the tools and information you need to experience the swashbuckling, dramatic, and cinematic action of the legends and stories of Zorro!"

The burb on the back cover continues;

Players will be able to work alongside Zorro as part of Zorro's Legion, or even take on the role of the legendary hero! The book is rife with details about Zorro's adventures in Alta California, as well as providing rules to emulate the legendary actions of this masked hero of the people.
Featuring two full adventures, a solo adventure, numerous adventure seeds, 15 templates for characters, character creation, and a full bestiary of foes and animals, this high-paced game is powered by the newest edition of the D6 System from legendary publisher West End Games!

Zorro: The Roleplaying Game offers two ways to create a player character: templates and full customization. In the first method, the player selects a template complete with attributes, equipment, background, and personality. The player provides the character's name and description and distributes 7D (seven six-sided dice) amongst the character's skills. Templates include:

  • Faithful Friar/Sister
  • Enterprising Local
  • Brave Doña/Don
  • Brash Soldado
  • Sniveling Don/Doña
  • Sneaky Sister/Friar
  • Thieving Scum
  • Rabble-Rousing Rebel
  • Clever Horse-Trainer
  • Nervous Bandit
  • Scheming Scholar
  • Stalwart Doctor
  • Military Maestro
  • Experienced Cavalier
  • Charming Musician

Creating a customized character involves more steps, but is a simple process. Distribute 12D amongst the five attributes. No attribute may be lower than 1D nor higher than 4D. Distribute 7D amongst the character's skills. No skill may be higher than 2D. Defense numbers are then calculated: Dodge equals Perception x 5; Parry equals Agility x 5. Name the character, describe the character, compose a brief background, and select equipment.

Both methods are equally valid, but for the purpose of this article I shall choose full customization.

Compadres, please meet my first character for Zorro: The Roleplaying Game:

Name: Gustavo Lobo

Idealistic Poet

Agility 3D
      Melee 1D
Brawn 2D
Knowledge 3D
      Languages 1D
      Scholar 1D
Perception 2D
      Driving/Riding/Piloting 1D
      Investigation 1D
Charm 2D
      Persuasion 1D
      Willpower 1D

Dodge 10
Parry 15

Languages: Spanish, Nahuatl

Equipment: Fancy clothes, journal, sword, 100 dinero

Background: Gustavo Lobo is the son of a don and doña. He was educated in Spain where he acquired a love of literature, philosophy, and duelling. Upon his return to the New World, he embarked on a journey across Mexico where he learned the language and some of the surviving literature of the Aztecs. Equally motivated by art and justice, he has devoted himself to fighting oppression, preserving culture, and inspiring others.

Appearance: He is a man in his twenties with lively eyes and dark hair (already tinged with gray) that tends to flare out at the sides like a flame. He is of medium build and average height with broad shoulders.

Zorro: The Roleplaying Game has an intuitive, streamlined approach to character creation and an action resolution system to match. The skill system is focused on the likely activities of swashbuckling heroes and their enemies, which prevents the rules from being ungainly. I think it's a well-executed refinement of the D6 System, and I hope they use it to good advantage in adapting other swashbuckling genres. I can't wait to run this game.

[For more articles in this series, visit How to Create a Swashbuckler.]

[This article is cross-posted in Theoretical Swashbuckling.]

10 October 2022

Dice Pools of Reasonable Size

Simple dice pools are amongst my favorite innovations in RPG rules engineering, especially when the dice have six sides, but there is a downside: adding the results of Big Gobs of Dice. Here I am referring to the standard dice pool made famous with Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and The D6 System, i.e. abilities are represented by a number of six-sided dice that you roll in an effort to equal or exceed a target number or beat the roll of an opponent. Sheer elegance in its simplicity!* The problem, my friends, is that the number of dice one must roll and count becomes unwieldy and — after a while — a tad wearisome. What to do?

One could substitute binary dice or coins in the manner of Prince Valiant or Faery's Tale, which doesn't reduce the number of randomizers, but does increase the speed with which the average player can add them; or one could read the dice normally, but reduce the number of dice rolled. The latter method I call

Dice Pools of Reasonable Size

This method requires a complete rethinking of character abilities and target numbers, but the key is Extreme Simplification. (Enjoying the uppercase shenanigans? Excellent.) Extreme Simplification enables Easy Memorization resulting in Maximum Fluidity of Play. (O.K., enough shenigans.) In other words, we will reduce the number of dice in the pool to the minimum possible that is required. Abilities (characteristics, attributes, etc.) will vary from 1 to 3, with 2 being average. Specialties (skills, talents, etc.) will vary from 1 to 2, with one representing competance and 2 representing mastery. At most, a character with the highest possible attribute and mastery in a skill will be rolling 5 dice.

Such a change in the size of dice pools will naturally require a change in target numbers. I propose the following difficulty chart:

  • 4 = Low Difficulty
  • 8 = Moderate Difficulty
  • 12 = High Difficulty
  • 16 = Extreme Difficulty

I think this could probably be applied to any D6 role-playing game, but I have not yet playtested any of this. Use at your own risk. And please comment if you do (or if you have any thoughts whatsoever on the topic).

* The Middleman forever!

11 August 2022

RPGaDay 2022: Day 11

If you could live in a game setting, where would it be?

Still from the movie Ghostbusters (1984).

My first instinct is to say the setting of Ghostbusters, because I'd really like to be a Ghostbuster as my day job (or night job).

[I just noticed that the first six words of this answer are identical to this one, which was also about Ghostbusters, so I think it's fair to say I have the instincts of a Ghostbuster. Sign me up!]

[For more information on #RPGaDay (or #RPGaDay2022 specifically), read this.]

02 July 2022

We Interrupt This Blog

In May, I posed the question, "What should I write about next?" In early June, I revealed the results of the poll. It is now early July, and although I am not ready to post the Teenagers from Outer Space and ACE! RPG articles yet, I am cross-posting (or is it re-posting?) this article from Applied Phantasticality (1 August 2017). Just to whet the appetite. And buy some time.

RPGaDay 2017: Day 01

1. What published RPG [game, world, or adventure] do you wish you were playing right now?

Cover of two editions of Teenagers from Outer Space, a role-playing game by R. Talsorian Games.

I am in the mood to play multiple role-playing games and settings at any moment, but at this exact moment I feel the urge to play Teenagers from Outer Space by Mike Pondsmith. Published by R. Talsorian Games in the late 1980s, it is "set on an Earth where fun-loving space aliens go to our high schools and party with the Earth kids. In the game you play the part of a teenager — alien or human — and have adventures fighting mutant monstrosities, saving the world from ravening rabbits from the X dimension, and getting your homework in on time." In other words, you engage in sci fi teenage high jinks.

The game system is simple and transparent (features I find very attractive and all too rare), and the writing is whimsical without being forced. The character attributes (or Statistics) offer a clear picture of the flavor of the game: Smarts, Bod, Relationship with Parents, Luck, Driving, Looks, Cool, and Bonk. (Bonk is how much punishment you can take.)

The cover art for the two editions offer somewhat different visions of the game. The first, by Mike Ebert, is suggestive of manga, whereas the second, by Wayne Barlowe, reflects the 1980s America in which the game was written. My own instincts draw me inexorably toward a sci fi 1950s interpretation inspired by the movie that inspired the game's title (plus every other sci fi and/or monster movie of the 1950s). Or a blend of all three.

Teenagers from Outer Space is light, easy, comedic fun, which is exactly what I'm in the mood for right now.

[For more information on #RPGaDAY (or #RPGaDAY2017 specifically), read this.]