Saturday, September 7, 2013
Review of Advanced Fighting Fantasy The Role Playing Game
I'll cite pages and quote passages in part of review. This review is for the 2011 edition of the game: "Advanced Fighting Fantasy The Role Playing Game. Copyright 2011 Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone."
I acquired a copy of Advanced Fighting Fantasy last week and have been soaking up the manual as best as I can. My purpose in buying it was hopefully to expand the Fighting Fantasy game I'm playing with my wife with a skill and magic system that's easy to handle. Also, I'd like to convert my current Dungeon World game to Fighting Fantasy as I prefer the FF system.
This game system expands on the basic features of Fighting Fantasy by adding a skill based character build, as well as more detailed combat rules, three magic systems, a small beastiary and campaign setting, and a GM guide.
To summarize Fighting Fantasy for the uninitiated, I suggest this review here: http://rpggeek.com/thread/579545/the-3-characteristic-introductory-rpg
There characters have the basic stats of Skill, Luck, Stamina and Magic. Instead of rolling 6+d6 for Skill and Luck and 2d6+6 for Stamina (as in the original FF), you get a base character of 4 Skill, 8 Stamina, 8 Luck, 0 Magic. You get 8 points to allocate to these stats. There are limits. For example, you can only allocate 3 to skill and luck, 7 to magic, 4 to Stamina (giving 2 times the points given in Stamina). If you want higher powered characters you can give more points for the characters.
Characters then get points to allocate to special skills, and pick a talent.
Special skills are just specializations that add to your base Skill when you attempt that task. So if you put a point into Lock Picking, you add 1 to your Skill before doing a Skill test. There are special skills that cover a wide variety of adventuring skills such as weapons, armor, climbing, swimming, thief skills, magical skills, knowledge skills, etc. So specializing in something lets you become an expert in minimal time, while increasing the base Skill score makes you better at everything, just at a slower pace. Characters with a higher Magic than Skill can do all knowledge tests with their Magic score.
Your character gets to pick one Talent as well that helps distinguish him. He might be able to cast low level spells with ease, befriend animals, shoot a bow with extra accuracy, heal more quickly, etc. Elves and Dwarfs also get Dark Vision in addition to anything else picked for the character.
The combat system uses the same method as FF, adding your skill plus 2d6 and the highest total wins. You also add any special skill in the weapon you're using. So if you wield a club with club skill 2, then you add 2 to your combat total.
The weapons also do variable damage, and armor soaks damage at a variable rate as well.
The weapon damage is interesting because it's not just a die roll (d4, d6, d8, etc) for damage total, but rather each weapon has a small chart for a D6 roll that indicates the damage done and this data has a space on the character sheets. A dagger will do 1 to 2 points of damage, and occasionally 3. Whereas a Great Sword will do 2 to 5 points of damage, and occasionally 6. AFF is not a high damage system. Most weapons average 2 to 3 points of damage, so it's more important to have the highest Skill + modifiers + 2d6 than to do a lot of damage.
For armor, a Cuirass (basically a shirt of Leather, Chain or Plate) will soak damage 50% of the time. A leather or chain hauberk will soak damage 5/6 of the time and full plate armor will always soak some damage. The best defense is to have the higher combat total.
There's plenty of situation modifiers for battles. Fighting in darkness, up stairs, down stairs, swimming, larger than opponent, smaller than opponent ganging up on a single target, attacking from behind, etc. The list was intimidating for me at first. Then I realized that combat Skill totals are important, so it's good to give the players as many options as possible to fight tactically.
A nice part of the battle system is you can throw 3 dice, and the third die will either give you the damage done if you won the round, or the armor soak if you lost the round. All you need to do is color the third die or otherwise indicate it as different.
The magic systems are Wizardry, Sorcery, Priest, and Minor magic. Wizardry and Sorcery spells are cast via a 2d6 roll under check, just as with Skill or Luck. The target number is Magic + Wizardry or Magic + Sorcery. The Wizardry is powered by spell points derived from your Magic Skill plus your Wizardry special skill. Magic points are restored with a night's rest. Sorcery is very similar to the Sorcery! series of books and the "Sorcery! Spell book", and is powered by Stamina rather than magic points. Many of the spells require components to function. So there's a spell to listen to an unknown language, but requires that the caster wear a green wig, whereas a spell to make a target dance requires a bamboo flute.
The priest spells come from a deity and each priest gets only 4. There's a common pool of priest spells that many deities share, and there's a special spell for each deity. For example, Telak the God of Courage and Combat gives a spell to let the priest boost his Skill and Damage for one encounter. Each spell can be used once a day, and a single spell can be used twice a day for the cost of a Luck point. While most deities give a healing spell, the limit to once or twice a day makes the Priest less of a medic than in other RPGs. The priest also has one final spell called "Salvation" that he can cast once in his lifetime to rescue himself and his party from danger. The nature of the rescue narrated by the GM.
The priest need not roll to cast his spells, they happen automatically. The intensity of a spell, such as the amount of Stamina restored by Heal, or the number of meals made by Create Food, is determined by the Magic skill + Priest magic special skill.
Lastly there's Minor Magic, which are known as cantrips. They are very basic spells that perform simple utility such as drying a soaked object, making somebody drunk, freshening food, minor illusions, causing mischief, etc. The spells are powered by magic points, and only if the spell fails. It's not clear to me whether priests and sorcerers are allowed to take this skill as they don't use magic points for their spells. Perhaps the sorcerer could power cantrips with stamina and the Priest gets them as daily freebies like his other spells.
The campaign setting is the world of Titan and the book gives a map of the world plus descriptions of the cultures and peoples of the various regions and cities. There's small a bestiary of common monsters. If you want more you can get the Out of the Pit supplement import beasts from other game systems, or create your own. There are even guidelines to walk you through creature creation.
There's a chapter devoted to creating new adventures with advice on plot hooks and adventure settings.
There's also nice random dungeon generator for creating quick adventures on the fly or even long adventures. Toss a number of dice onto the table for the number of rooms. The landing places of the dice give clues to where the rooms go, and the number on the die indicate how many exits. Then you draw the map, stock it with monsters, traps and treasure, and you're ready to go. You can theme the dungeon or just make it eclectic like The Wishing Well adventure. The generator is not exhaustive, but you can easily modify it to suit your needs. The same concept can be applied to above ground adventures, generating cities with different districts, rooms in a castle, etc. I'm psyched about this because I personally love old school dungeon crawls and it's nice to have a tool to get things rolling when my creative juices aren't flowing.
My one complaint is some proof reading errors that confused me. I struggle with proof reading (my own recent Dungeon World session had a few errors), so I'm not being condescending. Three examples: A sample boss monster character sheet has skill of 31 in Leadership (Page 121). Later in the text it's actually described it as 3, not 31.
The sample character Manath the Rogue (P.21) has a dagger skill and a brawling skill, but there is no dagger skill in the list of combat skills. Rather, there is a brawling skill that is for fist fighting as well as small weapons, including daggers. Does the rogue apply both when using the dagger? Was there even supposed to be a dagger skill?
The last example involves the use of luck in combat. The text mentions a first and second method, and then refers to a third but not describing it: The first option is to reduce the damage done by the enemy with a Luck test. If successful, the enemy does minimum damage. "...Secondly, LUCK can also be used to increase the damage caused by a successful attack. This option may not be chosen if LUCK was used to win the combat round." (Page 59) The rules for using Luck to win the combat round were either accidentally omitted, or maybe the author meant to delete them but failed to delete all references to that method. I'm going to guess that the player can test Luck to win a round of combat. Faced with a Skill 18 Earth Elemental, I'd say burning your Luck to hurt the thing is a fair trade. If your luck runs out it'll smash you to pudding.
All in all I look forward to giving Advanced Fighting Fantasy a try. It's a good all-in-one fantasy role playing game with simple rules, a fantasy world ready to run, and a decent GM guide to creating adventures. If you like to create custom characters, or if you were a fan of the Fighting Fantasy game books, then this game or the original Fighting Fantasy are for you.
I shall attempt to convert the basic Dungeon World classes to this system. I'll post a message at a later date with the results of that experiment.