What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
After Winter Dark Campaign Setting

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Weekend R&R: BareBones Fantasy

Ok, I admit it -- I love checking out different systems to see how they work and how they play.  Part of it is trying to find something to improve or spice up games I have been playing at for many years now.  Part of it is just to find some better options that what I'm already familiar with.  Part of it is simple research which feeds into my own ideas on concepts for what I would deem a 'perfect system' for my uses.

Sometimes, it's someone else that brings this to my attention.  BareBones Fantasy is such a game.

I have been aware of it for a few weeks now and, there's been a lot of good things been said and written in the short period of time since it's been released.  A friend who runs a game I take part in decided to switch to it about a week ago and we played this past Sunday.  At first I was leery of another system change (this is a common occurrence as he too is constantly looking for the 'ideal' system) but I was optimistic given what I had heard and read.

At the end of the day, I can say without hesitation that I like it.  I *really* like it.

This little system runs very well and is easy to understand and grasp.  There are things about it that, on the surface reminds me of a couple of other concepts used in other games.  However, I have to say that the presentation here trumps many other efforts at bringing a rule system into being while keeping it completely accessible.  It is definitely in the Rules-Lite category of games.

What I like about it:  It's an 80 page book (currently only available in PDF for around $10 but with a POD option coming very soon) but smaller in size (looks around 5" x 9" with a large font).  The book has everything you need and a lot of what you don't need has been tossed.  In other words, there is no "What is an RPG" and other introductory sort of material that you will find in the majority of gamebooks.  This game assumes a basic level of knowledge concerning RPGs and runs with it.  It throws in all sort of material beyond the basic character generation and system mechanics!  If they didn't, the book would be a heck of a lot shorter than it already is!  You have guidelines to create magic items and monsters with a nice selection included as well.  You have some stuff for assist in creating adventures and dungeons with some neat tables to facilitate things, with other tables for traps and treasures.  To round out the book, you have a few pages devoted to a campaign setting / world, a glossary, and index!!

Is there anything I don't like about it?  At this point, I'm not sure if I can name something and this is a good thing.

In some ways, part of it reminded me of what Lejendary Adventures tried to accomplish -- except this is much simpler to grasp.  BareBones Fantasy is essentially a classless system.  Instead it relies on skill packages -- warrior, rogue, etc...  These skills feed off of your stats of which are four.  You select a primary skill package and a secondary one and these determine essentially what you are.  So to say this is strictly a skill based game as opposed to a class based one is not entirely correct.  But the manner in which this game does it did manage to keep the game simple and yet still provide a level of detail which a lot of gamers would appreciate.  The other game this reminds me of in a 'backwards' sort of way, is Castles & Crusades or, perhaps better yet, StarSiege.  The reason I say this is with the way that C&C is largely a class based game and not a skill-based one but, with the concept of Prime attributes, essentially help better define and differentiate a character with 'what they are good at'.  A rogue for example gets his prime (equivalent of a +6 in a d20 based game) to checks related to his background / archetype.  StarSiege didn't actually have classes and functioned more on the concept of skill packages from what I remember.  In many ways, BareBones Fantasy will do a better job than the Siege Engine games by TLG will if only by the virtue of the percentile dice instead of a d20 with a greater range of numbers to play with.  Interestingly enough... 0-5 is the equivalent of a critical success and 95-99 is the same as a critical fumble and thus, the same 5% chance you get for either a '1' or a '20' on a 20-sided die.

I highly recommend the game, even if you're just curious and happy with your present system of choice.  You can find it on RPGNow! and associated retailers.  Who knows, you may be tempted to at least try it out if not switch altogether.  ;)

Happy Gaming!



  1. I'm a die-hard Old-School player; however, I do keep my finger on the pulse of non-Old-School games, and play them from time to time. In 30 years, while I've enjoyed a number of fantasy rpg's, none have displaced B/X D&D as my primary fantasy RPG. However, BareBones Fantasy is so good that for the first time in 30 years, I'm setting B/X D&D aside as my primary fantasy rpg--now that's saying something.

  2. As someone who keeps on coming back to what feels familiar to what I started off with, I really can understand what you mean. The game is kind of refreshing but gets the job done much like what I'm already so familiar with.

    Thanks for the comments!