Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Advanced Fighting Fantasy New Rulebook impressions #1

While I am not yet finished here is a to date impression of the new AFF rulebook  It will be a mix of impressions, probably not a true “review” but honestly as I am not playing it, it seems dishonest to call this a review as it's based on read through only.  Keep that in mind as we go through.

AFF RPG book is an 8.5x11 170+ pages perfect bound soft cover. It features part of the original cover on front, but half of the cover is what I’ll call text blocked.  The look does not fit with the previous editions, nor with the FF book line in general whether classic or current.  The FF series of books themselves feature full cover art, and it’s a shame these do not.  From a branding perspective it breaks the tie between the two.  That may have been the goal to establish this as wholly separate, but that makes as much sense as a bikini coffee stand.

I’d have rather seen full color homage art done that pays respect to the past but keeps in the theme of the established FF brand.  Second the originals were roughly 4x6 book sized.  While not practical from a merchandising standpoint, I think digest sized would have created the FF feel and spoke to the brand as well as creating that sense of a new beginning.  The out sized 8.5 x 11 does not fit the FF established brand in my own opinion-so who does it appeal to? It isn’t crunchy enough for a grognards and I think the opportunity was missed to appeal to the nostalgia of old gamers, as well as appeal broadly to new ones in an unimposing format.  Instead it’s sort of muddled not really reaching either.

The book starts off with the original intro from 1985 edition along with a new one for the new edition.  The basics of what is an RPG, and then into game play specifics like, dice rolling, attribute definitions, combat, magic, armor, and damage are described.  This takes about 6 pages-then you get an adventure.  Yup before you learn how to make a character, or even see a pre-gen character you get an adventure.  I found this awkward and if I were not an experienced player I think I would be left more confused.  In the original you had a GM’d walk through helper dungeon, and this new adventure mimics the presentation sort of. It is not a direct port over from Dungeoneer.  

What is awful is the map itself, it is hand drawn and not by any of the geomorphing talent on the blog circuit-more like me circa age 12.  Perhaps that is to make it feel more easy or simple, but it comes off amateurish and unimpressive in a new edition.  Especially since the original in Dungeoneer had terrific art.  It’s like your kid drew a map on a piece of blank paper in appearance, underwhelming would be the best way to describe it.  

Both adventure and map-are not as good as the original Dungeoneer..  Again the outer redesign of the new editions seem to be trying to appeal to a non-FF crowd or possibly a minimally nostalgia based crowd so direct lift and use of assets and layout may have felt out of place to the designers.

Character gen has changed, and I can’t say for the better.  It’s now point based with everyone getting the base value for skill stamina and luck, and a zero for Magic. Then you get 8 points to spread amongst them, with a max addition to each stat like you can only add a max of 2 to your skill or 7 to your Magic.  

Frankly the hallmark of the FF books in my opinion is the random characters generated.  The natural bell curve of 2d6 took care of much of the vagaries of randomness-but did not kill it.  This kills it.  In the back of the book you still have the option to randomly generate attributes, but I wish the author had swapped these and made “build a hero” an option in the back instead.

There are the same options for adding classic races with their bonus skills.  The skills them self have not changed really and armor skill determines the level of armor one can wear. If you are wearing armor above your skill-then your Skill attribute is penalized.   Included are some pre-gen archetypes: Thief, Wizard, Dwarf Warrior, Elf Archer, barbarian, Warrior-Wizard, etc. Oddly these are laid out horizontally and not vertical? Again I am unsure why that decision was made but I think it was a poor one making you turn the book to study them.  It breaks up your reading pattern. Worse is yet to come,then you get a blank page.  

Oh that blank page, representing opportunity lost in so many ways!  Thus far I have counted 2 blank page sides and some only partially (25% maybe) filled with text…then the rest left blank.
My mind reels at this decision.  No classic full page art from the original to use? No classic cover retrospective? No dungeon maps or one page adventures? No what we have learned so far capsule summary? No pre-gen characters or enemies or featured creature?   Nope, it remains just a blank page and a glaring reminder of missed opportunities.  Does it symbolize something deeper in the production of this edition of AFF? I think it does frankly, but that’s gamesmanship from the dugout.

More to come…if you are interested

(Side note on the business model of bikini coffee: I am no prude, but this is about money not morality.  These stands take out roughly 70% of your potential and established coffee hut market (women, families, and most married guys) so you are left with only some guys: the skeezy, lonely, and creepy who want coffee and a bit of something else…which seems like a very small demographic, and maybe not one you want around your employees or business. Besides how many successful global coffee chains can you name like this? NONE! So that’s your business model?  Think again…)
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