Shining Dodecahedron

One geek's views on role-playing and games in general.

This place is all about discussing paper-and-pencil roleplaying games. I'm Jay, and I run this joint, but that doesn't make me smarter than you. This will all work best if I say things, and you say what you think about them, lather, rinse, repeat. With luck we can all understand the hobby a little better. If you have a topic that you would like me to start a thread about, post a comment here. If you've got something to say about characters (my ongoing topic du jour), post a comment here.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Fantasy Wargaming

I was at Half Price Books tonight after dinner and I picked up a little casebound digest-sized book called Fantasy Wargaming published in 1981. At first glance (all it took for me to buy it) it looked like a reference book for roleplayers. It has lots of information about medieval Europe and a chapter about GMing. What I didn't realize until I got home is that it is a complete (according to the authors) RPG.

It's a real gem. A reaction to D&D (the author says that D&D is "in many ways...unsatisfactory") with great emphasis on in-game causality and historical authenticity. Yes, historical authenticity. Here's a quote from the Explanation of characteristics section:

Players wishing to play a female character must unfortunately take the penalties of a patriarchal society. Make the following adjustments to diced characteristics: physique and endurance -3, charisma -2, social class -3, bravery -2, greed/selfishness/lust -3. They will be excluded from combat, from all parts of the Church save the nunnery, and expected in most cases to adopt a domestic position as wife, housekeeper and servant. These factors are invariable.
Doesn't that sound like a blast?

Seriously, anybody out there complaining about how lame D20 is, take a look at some of the older games like this one. It'll blow your mind.

I'm going to have fun reading through this beast!


Blogger Bankuei said...

For a very brief time in the 80's, just after the Basic D&D box sets stopped being sold in mainstream stores, there was a lack of FLGS where I grew up. I looked in the libraries... and guess what I found? Yeah, that book is... classic grognard material.

Saturday, August 27, 2005 9:05:00 AM  
Blogger Kirt Dankmyer, aka Loki said...

Heh, that's amusing, I encountered the book in the EXACT same way Bankuei did. 1980s, D&D Basic, no FLGS, library.

Wait until you get to the bit on realistically how long traps would last in old dungeons, but especially the section that gives status for Jesus and Thor.

Saturday, August 27, 2005 2:09:00 PM  
Blogger Jay Loomis said...

*chuckle* Here's my favorite bit about the stats for God:
In the "special characteristics and notes section it says (and I quote), "Three persons. Can operate independently"


But, apart from just ripping apart this old game, let me pull something constructive out of it. Here's what I'm getting out of reading it:
1.) Back in the late '70s the tools and techniques for roleplaying were primative. We laugh at this stuff now only because we stand on the shoulders of a couple of decades worth of giants. I am certain that Bruce Galloway and crew were frustrated with D&D and were looking for a different way to do things, just as many gamers are today. The difference is that now there are lots of resources readily available. These poor guys were on their own. What they knew was table-based wargaming rules--so that's what they used.
2.) Roleplaying rules have come a long way. Even mainstream big budget games that I don't like are light years ahead of stuff like this.

Saturday, August 27, 2005 11:58:00 PM  
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Sunday, August 28, 2005 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff Rients said...

Freaking blogspam.

By most standards Fantasy Wargaming is an utter trainwreck. But I use it occasionally as a handy source for medieval info, such as how far to place cities on a map. The section where he reviews the contemporary fantasy fiction is a hoot. His take on Tolkien: great stuff but unusable for gaming!

Monday, August 29, 2005 9:43:00 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Have you seen the rules for Judaism?

Friday, September 02, 2005 8:10:00 AM  
Blogger Marc Mielke said...

A friend of mine uses bits and pieces of the combat system. With his additions, it works okay. The campaign is postapocalyptic, so he ignores the mods for gender/etc. (Given he's got a Master's in Medieval History, I'd bet he'd just use his own rules anyway)

Another interesting (if not very good) system is Element Masters, which can be sort of described as half Runequest, half-RIFTS. An interesting bit is that the ORIGINAL PCs, if they survive long enough, are special and get super-broken magical Element powers. If you die, though, you don't get any...

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Blogger thor said...

What is wonderful about the book (sorry I'm not blogspam) is that it is one of the few games that really gets ritual magic. the system as has been said befor is crap but at least they got the idea right.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not blogspam, found this book in Chattanooga, TN, in Mc(Crays/Coys?) for $1. There is mention of a follow-on campaign setting, Leigh Cliffs. Anyone found THAT one?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, did anyone ACTUALLY go out and buy this book on purpose? :) I too found it in a used books for, I think, three dollars. At the time, I was just getting into tabletop RPGs. I was still a player then, I hadn't read any of the DM guides. I found this book fascinating at the time but it ended up on my shelf. Mostly I picked it up because I'm interested in game systems and game design. I've created three RPG systems, one of which is actually playable, and am now rereading FW as part of that interest. I found your blog when I was searching for Leigh Cliffs, was that ever published?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not blogspam, if it helps.

FWG gets a lot of flack for being a terrible system. As one of the few people who seems to have actually played if, I can say that it's actually fun, flexible, and quite advanced for its time. Any action character or GM can think of is resolved by simple, logical system; there are no classes, rather characters acquire experience and levels in three areas (combat and adventuring; religion; and magic), how easily depending on the related attributes; combat is fast and fun, with the first critical-like system I've seen; and magic is completely free form. Add to that the background material and a wonderful bestiary, and it's a shame that this system didn't get a second edition with the editing and re-layout that it desperately needed.

Presentation is where it suffered most. Modifiers for different actions were formatted as paragraphs, for example (Wound -2. Fatigued -1...) Ugh.

Typos abounded, and some details were simply missing (e.g., the damage done by monsters' attacks).

To allow players to really take advantage of the free-form magic system, examples of creating spells - simple to complex and imaginative - should have been included. As it was, when we played, we stuck to the rather bland list of stock spells. The religion system suffered from the same, since its the same basic system, but you are appealing to your deity or saint to perform the magin.

Sunday, February 24, 2008 2:43:00 PM  

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