Category Archives: Random musings

Where is the FUDGE Fantasy?

I am rather taken with the FUDGE system. It is a long way removed from my usual mainstay of Rolemaster but reading the Ghost Ops quickstart and Early Access booklets was a real eye opener.

So I set out to try and find a ‘pre configured’ FUDGE fantasy game. I liked the sense of realism that GO provided but so far I am not finding what I am looking for.

A search of RPGNow produced only slim pickings, the closest thing to a fantasy game is Gatecrasher Science Fantasy Adventure which is not what I am looking for.  I want something more like Game of Thrones and don’t really need the SciFi elements.

So am I looking in the wrong places?

Am I really meant to build it myself from the FUDGE rulebook?

Of all the FUDGE systems on offer, that I have seen so far, they all seem to lack that compelling setting and slick implementation that I found in Ghost Ops.

I have found in the past that there are so many RPGs available that if you cannot find what you are looking for it is quite likely to be because you don’t actually know what you are looking for. A year ago I was in exactly that place. I knew I would recognise it when I saw it but I didn’t really know what I was looking for.

I want a system where combat is truly dangerous, where characters are defined through their skills and are capable right from the start.  I want a setting where magic is rare and more ritualistic than fireballs and lightning bolts. I want monsters to be rare but horrifying. Think along the lines of a FUDGE implementation of Call of Cthulhu in Hârn.

So any suggestions because I am not finding anything? Is this something I am going have to build myself? Is this something that others would want to play?

5th Edition Session Zero

Yesterday evening my players and I met to speak about D&D 5th Edition, the Tal’Dorei setting, and eventually create their characters. I was actually surprised how much thought the players have already put into their characters. Overall everyone was quite excited and pretty quickly everyone had a solid concept for their characters.

We actually didn’t talk that much about Tal’Dorei, but focused more on the mechanical aspects of the game and what races and classes were available for player characters. Initially I planned to restrict the race choices to what was listed in the Tal’Dorei book, but when someone mentioned their interest in playing a Kenku rogue, I decided to allow it. Overall I have decided to give my players much more leeway when it comes to what was available to them. In the past I have probably been a bit to restrictive and in a way too protective of my vision of the campaign, but this time I wanted to be more open to their ideas. And in the end I am sure it will make them much more invested in the game which is a win for all sides.

After about 3 and a half hours of talking, laughing, number crunching, and character planning we had the following lineup: a dragonborn sorcerer, a tiefling wizard, a kenku rogue, a drow warlock, and a tiefling blood hunter. Oh my! Aside from the dragonborn sorcerer, which is lawful good, the others have more “flexible” morals, but I asked them not to make outright evil characters. One player couldn’t make it yesterday because his car broke down on the weekend, so we have another character to create before the party is complete.

At the moment the party doesn’t have a dedicated healer, so I have to be careful not to cause a TPK in the first session, but if we’re careful this shouldn’t be an issue in the long run. We already scheduled the first real session, which means I have now about one month to come up with their first adventure, prepare handouts, and create any maps needed. We agreed to try to schedule a session every month, which is a pretty relaxed pace, which suits me fine at this moment.

We also talked briefly about the tone of the game. With the character choices they already told me they are interested in a rather dark game, which suits me fine, and we also decided that intrigue and politics may be a thing, but definitely not the focus. Aside from that I can basically throw at them what I wish. At this moment I am cautiously optimistic when it comes to this new campaign. A lot of campaigns have failed in the past, or I have burned out way too quickly. But this time, I am way more relaxed and my players seem to be genuinely invested. Things are looking good!

The Long Way To Tal’Dorei

Repeatedly I have praised D&D 5th Edition as my favorite edition of the venerable fantasy RPG, but I’ve actually not played it that often nor would I consider myself part of the D&D 5E community. Over the last few years I was much more focused on other games. I knew that people were recording their games and then uploaded the videos on YouTube, and I’ve watched a couple of actual play videos to get a look at how other people played certain games, but it took me a while to look into the phenomenon which is Critical Role.

TalDoreiWhen I first heard about Matt Mercer and Critical Role I was pretty skeptical. Why should these D&D actual play videos be any better than all the others out there? Heck, it’s probably just another WotC PR stunt, I thought. But when I actually checked the show out and did my research I realized that it was actually a home game which turned into a show on Twitch, and it was definitely a real game and not some scripted bullshit. And yes, Matt and his friends are really, really good!

Matt is a pretty good GM. His NPCs and descriptions are awesome. It’s obvious that his skills as voice actor are helping, but he’s also well-prepared and dedicated to his game. The players are also voice actors and they love to roleplay. That’s probably the only thing which can be considered a problem with the show. While it’s fun listening to their banter, the story moves at a very slow pace. With over 100 episodes with a playtime of about 3 to 4 hours each, it’s impossible to keep up or even catch up if you have a full-day job and other hobbies than watching Critical Role.

But even if you watch just part of an episode you can watch how much fun a D&D game can be. Watching Critical Role made me want to run my own D&D game – as I’ve mentioned before – and as a first step I bought the Tal’Dorei campaign guide as published by Green Ronin. It looked nice, but I wasn’t overly impressed. The campaign world is actually pretty generic D&D fare. After leafing though it a couple of times, it went back onto the shelf while I was considering coming up with my own homebrew setting.

Unfortunately creating a homebrew setting is not just fun but also hard work. And my game design attention deficit disorder reared its ugly head again. I couldn’t make up my mind what elements I wanted to include in the setting. Every new idea was just too awesome to be left out, but it didn’t fit with the rest of it. It was a mess. After mulling the issue over for a couple of days I looked into alternatives. Nentir Vale, the implied setting of D&D 4th Edition sounded awesome on paper, but WoTC never released a proper setting book. Information about the world was spread about a couple of 4E adventures, sourcebooks, etc. and I wasn’t really willing to buy more 4E books. So I discarded the plan to use the Nentir Vale and looked for another setting to use.

In the end I came back to Tal’Dorei. At a second glance it’s weakness is it’s greatest strength. It’s not very original, which means that everything works as you expect it from D&D (and that’s a good thing – especially with newbie players). What has been published is also not very detailed, but there’s enough information for me to build one, but not enough to be overwhelming. The book is also schlock full of adventure hooks and Matt also shares his sources of inspiration for each area. This should make running games in Tal’Dorei a breeze. Luckily none of my players is a Critical Role fan, so they wouldn’t even notice any discrepancies between Matt’s portayal of the world and mine.

At the moment I am busy reading the Tal’Dorei setting book a second time, while planning an introductory adventure. After being on a GM hiatus for almost a year now it feels great planning a new campaign!