Buoyed by the positive response to my previous post I am still thinking through the practicalities of my alternative take on an RPG based on the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. I am writing up a playtest document which I intend to share soon. I’m using the working title The Wee Orange Adventure Game. Naming things is hard.
I have character generation sorted (see below about magical characters though):
Roll or choose your Skill and number of Background traits:
1: Skill 10, no Backgrounds
2: Skill 9, 1 Background
3: Skill 8, 2 Backgrounds
4: Skill 8, 1 Magic-using Background
5: Skill 7, 3 Backgrounds
6: Skill 7, 1 Magic-using Background, 1 standard Background
I was already pretty clear on how Skill and Luck checks will be working, that’s kinda the linchpin for the whole endeavour after all:
When trying to accomplish a difficult or dangerous task, you need to roll less than or equal to one of your stats on 2d6 to succeed. If this is a task relating to your character’s backgrounds then you need to roll under Skill. Otherwise it is a roll against Luck and as with any test of Luck it will drop by 1 point after the roll, whether it was successful or not.
You might notice that this can lead to the slightly odd situation where characters with a high Luck and a lower Skill are actually more likely to succeed with tasks unrelated to their Backgrounds. I want to make it clear that I am 100% OK with this. Firstly, Luck will disappear fast if you are trying to use it for everything. Secondly this sounds like a perfect way to emulate the comic relief sidekick who may well be pretty unreliable at all the tasks they are supposed to be doing, but every now and then they manage to turn it around when they need to by achieving something hilarious and/or unexpected.
The combat system as presented in the orange Fighting Fantasy book is very light touch. Opposed combat rolls to determine either “You hit!” or “You get hit!” work great in a solo gamebook but when you’ve got two crowds of combatants wailing on each other it doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny. The orange book doesn’t actually have any sort of initiative process, and I just noticed it doesn’t even have monsters ever actively attack, they only do damage if the heroes miss. It’s good enough for Apocalypse World I guess.
I’ve got a process for combat which I’m fairly sure will work, but I need to try it to find out if it is fun. Basically everyone rolls 2d6+Skill for their Attack Strength which is used for both to-hit roll and initiative. Attacks are resolved from highest to lowest, clearing up any ambiguities in the sequence without adding any new rolls into the mix. My two concerns with this are that players could choose to attack the monsters which have rolled low on their Attack Strength, which is kinda gaming the system and could take the threat out of combat, and the GM will have to roll Attack Strengths for all of their monsters at once. I have a couple ideas on how to handle this, it’s mostly procedural tweaks but as I said, I worry that it won’t be fun enough.
I’m working through some ideas for differentiating between weapon choices without making things complicated. The default load out in FF is ‘Sword’ I want to expand on that with some simple rules for heroes who decide they want a battle axe or a shield or whatever. Something like this:
Two handed weapons apply -1 penalty to Attack Strength but let you roll damage twice and take the higher roll.
Shields add a +1 bonus to Attack Strength.
Axes give a bonus to breaking doors and chests
Flails allow you to win ties in combat
The original orange book FF RPG didn’t have magic, every PC was simply an adventurer with a sword. I kinda want a magic system of some sort, it’s a big part of fantasy gaming and it helps differentiate characters. This is tricky though because I basically have a choice between having an open-ended build-your-own spells system, which can easily get too complicated and can end up dominating play, or I can add in a list of spells, which will double the page count and can feel like homework for players. Also it would mean writing a spell list, because I can’t copy any of the three spell lists in the Fighting Fantasy books (which is a shame as the spells in the Sorcery! gamebooks are pretty great). I do have a potential solution though, I just need to ask Mr Eric Nieudan if it’s OK if I borrow it from him…
There is a third option of following the example of Knave where spells aren’t something you learn, they are equipment which you carry. I’m not sure about how that would work in play, it certainly fits the idea that PCs start as almost a blank slake and it must feel pretty amazing when you find a new spell which suddenly upgrades you from lowly adventurer to all-powerful lightning mage! When it comes down to it, the only real difference is that you can’t start out as a magic user, you have to become one through adventuring. Thematically I think it fits, Again, it’s something to try in playtesting. I’d still need to write up a list of spells to find though, so perhaps it could just be an option for GMs to decide what’s right for their own game.
So that’s where I am, I’ll get all this written up soon and share it one way or another. Probably on itch.io, then we can get it to the table and find out if I’m onto something here!