Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gave Fantasy Dice a Whirl

Recently, I picked up Fantasy Dice and we gave it a whirl, but before getting to that, a bit about the game itself.

As presented, Fantasy Dice is a generic system that you can play historical or gritty fantasy right out of the box. It also provides all kinds of switches, knobs, and advice for shaping the system to not only fit but to also to help build your setting.

The advice's intent is easy to intuit because there's an internal consistency woven throughout the game. The task resolution system is pervasive. Use it to sneak away, engage in combat, cast a spell. Now, you may be thinking that such an approach may sound boring. But trust me, it's not.

The game uses the full spectrum of normal polyhedrals: D4 through D12. Your character's attributes determine the number of dice you roll while your skills specify the type of die to roll. Roll the pool and take the highest vs. either a target number or vs an opponent's roll. There's more.

You can dynamically scale your die pool to better fit the situation at hand. Let's say you're facing a low target number - 3 and you've got 1d10 as your pool. Well, you could roll that D10 or you could scale the pool down to multiple D8s or even farther down to even more D6s. Scaling also goes the other direction. If you've got a pool of, say, 4D6 and the target number is 7. You can't hit it no matter how many D6s you roll. So, you scale up to fewer D8s or even fewer D10s and so on. Something else to consider is that there are degrees of success and failure. Scaling allows you to play a situation conservatively or you can go big. Pretty nifty.

Now, a bit about combat. Scaling applies here as well but it's not the only tactical layer available. The basic maneuvers include attack, counter attack, interrupt, parry, block, dodge, overpower, and overwatch. You then have a choice of tactics which include aimed attacks, deadly attacks, feint, focused attack and defense, harass, snapshot, and targeted. The options really do a good job at helping to model both melee and ranged combat without bogging you down with too many options.

Players also can choose paths for their character. This is a defined growth track for a given character. For the most part, these are named maneuvers to mitigate conditional penalties making them different from, say, feats. If you select Way of the Swordsman, for example, you can learn maneuvers such as various types of riposte, remise, thrust, slash, dual wield, and so on. If you select Way of the Archer you can learn maneuvers for aiming, reloading, and so on. By splitting the combat tactical layers out like this the author made the whole thing very approachable.

In no time, we went from just scaling dice to using the basic maneuvers and path options.

Okay, how does damage work? Weapons inflict a wound level and type. Certain maneuvers and good rolling increase the inflicted wound level while mediocre rolling, armor, and maneuvers reduce it. While you track all wounds taken, only the effects of the worst one is applied. After the action is over, tally up the wound specifics; things like bleeding, broken bones, and internal trauma. This keeps the game fast and simple.

Fantasy Dice is pretty danged GM friendly. All of the enemy combatants that I ran were examples right out of the book and for the most part were expressed as a die pool, weapons, and armor. We're talking 1st Edition D&D levels of complexity here.

I mentioned it earlier, but I wanna say it again, I really appreciate the internal consistency. It really makes the game approachable and I felt confident making rulings on the fly.

Test Scenarios

Throughout the test scenarios the PC wore leather armor, vambraces, greaves, and a leather cap. So, not heavily armored but carries a short sword and shield and is quite skilled.

In the first encounter it was the PC vs a man-at-arms wearing a sallet helm, brigandine over mail. His skill level was one step less than the PCs. This encounter was over in 9 seconds. The PC won initiative and struck the man-at-arms on the arm hard enough to stun him which made his attack easy to evade. The next turn the man-at-arms was struck on the same arm again causing a stun effect. On the third and final turn the PC enjoying the advantage of the stunned opponent jammed the short sword at the face of man-at-arms causing a nasty wound that knocked him out of the fight, begging for his life.

Just by swinging the short sword it was difficult to get past his armor. The jab to the face was a combat maneuver. Afterward, I determined the specifics of his wounds. There was nothing permanent. The accumulated wounds simply broke his spirit.

In the second combat encounter, it was a stupid street thug armed with a club and a dagger trying to mug the PC from behind. His ambush attack roll was really bad so it was soaked by the PC's armor. The PC drew the short sword, and even with the penalty, struck the mugger in the face with the blade. That was it. Game time was about 3 seconds.

In the third combat encounter, the PC was attacked by two street thugs. This time the PC wasn't successfully ambushed and had time to prepare shield and sword. The PC won initiative and sliced one of the thugs in the leg immediately knocking him out of the fight. The second thug got bashed with the shield but all he got was a bloody nose. The thug's counter attack slammed onto the PC's arm but didn't do much. It was a superficial hit. But he used the opportunity to run away succeeding on the dice roll using his speciality of knowing the town.

In the fourth combat encounter we tested ranged combat. The PC found where the thug lived and waited for him to come out of the house in the early morning. The PC had total surprise and launched an arrow striking the thug in the abdomen. The result was terrible bleeding, a broken rib, and deadly internal damage. I then determined if he would survive or not. The thug's friend failed to stop the bleeding so the shot thug's condition worsened as he was taken to a surgeon on the payroll. I scaled the dice to see if the surgeon could hit the target number to stop the bleeding and start healing. Failed. It was just a matter of time, the thug was a goner.

It was extremely handy to be able to just handle modifiers while running/playing and then determine wound specifics afterward.

My only complaint is about the book's organization. I've found myself flipping through it looking for a bit of info that I know is in there somewhere. Though since I have the PDF I can lean on iBook's search functionality.

Don't let my gripe about organization put you off. Fantasy Dice is not only well done but it's a great value. Definitely check it out.


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