Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fighting Fantasy, The Introductory Role Playing Game (RPG) and the Riddling Reaver

I have been on a pilgrimage to complete my Fighting Fantasy RPG collection.  I somewhat distantly remember playing and owning a few of the books growing up.  I was already into D&D so the books were a "just okay" solo endeavor if I could think of nothing else gaming related to do.  Clearly they did not rank high on my to do list, which probably explains my having 3 books total growing up.  Additionally I have no particular fond remembrances of the series, yet I do own the GW Warlock of Firetop Mountain game so???

Even so, I never realized a full RPG had been created on the back of this system.  I found out about it and my pilgrimage began.  I recently came upon the final 3 books I was missing, the final book, and oddly the first in the series, greeting me (after my wife of course) when I came back from my trip.  Life is funny like that, and I think it is no coincidence.

I've studied FF and AFF as I have worked on my Roguish RPG.  This series of books became quite a phenomena.  Certainly the story, random events, varied settings, and stream of new material drove players on, but the back bone of the game caused them to play time and time again.  So let's look at the basics of playing Fighting Fantasy.

Your character has three stats Skill, Stamina, and Luck.  I like that already.  Skill, roll 1d6 and add 6.  Stamina, roll 2d6 and add 12. Luck roll 1d6 and add 6.   That my friend is quick and easy character generation!

Skill is how well you do stuff.  You test by rolling 2d6 and try to roll under your skill total, OR in a fight roll 2d6 and add your skill score, highest total wins.  Targeted and contested rolls.

Stamina-its you Hit Points. When Stamina reaches zero, you becomes a bleeding, dead zero.

Luck-this is the random catch all stat.  The adventure can require you test it, the GameMaster can require you test it, or you may declare you want to test it to see if something goes your way or not.  Test it by rolling 2d6 and trying to be equal to or under your luck skill.  Each time you test, reduce your luck score by one.  Neat mechanic, the more you test your luck, the harder it is to be lucky!

Do you see what happened there? In a about 70 words you now know how to roll up a character and the basics to play Fighting Fantasy.  GENIUS!

No wonder this became SO popular.  Even the slowest simpleton could get this, and the most erudite could enjoy it.  The mechanics did not get in your way, they added dimension to reading and exploring a story.

So why did the FF RPG bomb?  Well the basic RPG (pictured above) really was basic. The essential parts of being an RPG like equipment lists and spells are simply non existent.   The "rules" themselves are sort of an expansion upon the FF game books themselves.  Many additional pages are added to help the young GameMaster, but the bulk of the book is a mapped adventure of GM use.  Is that bad?  Not in the least, but as a full RPG (at least as I understand and enjoy it) it does not work.

What I do like are the included simple sections on how to do stuff like  bribery, searching, spotting, stealth, doors, etc.  The kind of stuff characters will want to do and how to do it in a few sentences which both can reference.  Sometimes those basic things are completely overlooked in a RPG rules set, or worse, hidden amongst pages of rules.  FF calls it out clearly and it is easily referenced.

I have the Riddling Reaver to thumb through next. It is an expansion to the Fighting Fantasy Intro RPG with "Four thrilling adventures" and some additional rules.  My issues with FF RPG were resolved with The Riddling Reaver...somewhat.

In roughly 9 paper back pages RR adds magic, weapons, and adds Unconscious player rules.  Yes all of that in 9 pages and obviously the majority (6)of that is magic and spell descriptions.  So let's look at these in a tiny bit more depth.

Unconsciousness-this mystifies me.  In the books zero stamina equals death, yet the now add rules for negative stamina so that PC's can go unconscious and not die. Call me a simpleton but why is it okay to be dead in the books but not when Young James is GameMastering?  I am sure it's because the books are tested to make death a rarity and Young James the Kill Joy GM may not have the same issue with PC deaths.  Even so I think this is weak.  I did not like it in D&D and do not here.

Weapons-While FF treated every weapon the same, RR adds a random damage chart.  To use the chart find your weapon, roll d6, and you opponent loses the stamina listed.  Some weapons lower your skill score by one or 2 points, but in exchange do more damage when you hit.  While I like weapons now having a mechanical impact on the game, the chart leaves me cold and is not something I'd like to thumb back and forth through a book finding.

Magic-Ah yes, the glaring missing thing from Fighting Fantasy.  In this Intro RPG only ONE character can be a wizard.  Yes, it is italicized in the book.  The wizard only add +4 to his Skill score roll, BUT now gets a whole new Magic stat. To that the wizard adds +6 to the roll of 1d6.  To cast roll 2d6.  If the roll is equal or under, the spell works, if not something bad happens!  (HA! I wrote the same thing, except using 3d6, ages ago for my Roguish RPG!  There is nothing new under the sun indeed!)  A total of 12 spells are available to the prospective wizard.

Overall Magic is definitely tacked on and if I remember correctly changes later in the evolution of FF into AFF.  In short Riddling Reaver adds to and expands the FF intro RPG into a more fleshed out game, but still has numerous issues to resolve. 

I like that the whole system is maybe 24 pages complete after removing the adventures. I like targeted and contested roles, I like the simplicity of 4 stats-although not how they set them up.  I don't think I would play the system frankly, but as a springboard I have seen far, far worse.

So my pilgrimage continues...

PS- I know it is being re-released (okay correctly Advanced Fighting Fantasy is being re-released) and like an idiot I will be re-purchasing.  My wisdom score is an 8 I believe.


Narmer said...

I didn't play Fighting Fantasy, Advanced Fighting Fantasy or the solo stuff in my youth. But for some reason I began collecting rpg stuff a year or two ago, starting with AFF. I like the simplicity of the system though I haven't played it yet. I may pick up some solo books too. And, yes, I'll most likely get the re-release of AFF also.

Fenway5 said...

@Narmer-Birds of a feather my friend! If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iTouch, there are a few of these books and their offspring you can download and play to get a feel for them. Some are quite good and they are handy for on a trip. The problem is, as with most electronic media, you can't share it. That is an interesting quirk no? As we become more enlightened and electronic, the more you can't share your stuff...

Narmer said...

I've got a Nook Color so I may be able download them. They would be fun to run through.

Oh, the irony. The more we're connected the more...

Fenway5 said...

True indeed! The irony is palpable!