Saturday, October 24, 2015

Bloody Weird [REVIEW]

Review of Bloody Basic Weird Fantasy Edition by John M stater.

Bloody Basic  Weird Fantasy Edition is a basic version of the Blood & Treasure RPG intended to support play in a fantasy world where errant knights, burglars and magicians  are bent on one last grand adventure, one chance to crack open the bones of drudgery and suck out the marrow of life, one final opportunity to live deeply and truly (to paraphrase the author). Let’s see if we can get there using these rules.

We get the introduction which explains the very most basics of what is weird fantasy and how to makes sense of the terminology and dice conventions used in the rules, old hat to experienced players but as this is  basic set of rules the page and a half spent on this (including the start of the Making a Character Section) is well spent.

Abilities are the classical old school mix rated from 3 to 18 and rolled 3d6 each in order as presented in the game (STR, INT, WIS, DEX, CON, CHA). Each ability has a descriptive for characters with a low score or high score in each of the abilities,a high Strength character is Mighty, a low Wisdom character is Foolish, a High Constitution character is Stalwart; I enjoy the descriptive  tags for each ability score as it helps define the ability score and in identifying and role-playing a characters. Each score offers a small modifier of +1 or -1 to associated tasks if the score is high or low. The amount of cash a character starts out with is tied to Charisma.

The races are the familiar Humans, ageless and soulless Elves, a beastly Grotesque, or a cloven footed Satyr. Humans and Satyrs may advance to level 6 (the maximum level in these rules) in any of the classes wheel the Elves and Satyrs are limited but have multi class options.

The classes on hand will be slightly familiar to fans of classic fantasy adventure but with a slight spin of the lush and lurid Weird Fantasy setting: PCs may be an Idolator, a Magus, A Puissant, or A Thief (there are 2 subclasses available as well).

Idolators serve the gods and goddesses calling upon the ultra-mundane for divine favors. Idolators may “shun” their enemies (similar to turning undead with a wider range of effects on types of targets) and cast Orisons. There are nine mystery cults that govern access to the Orisons each requiring a taboo for the idolater to gain access.    There  are 10 Orisons given for each of the 3 levels of Orison power with each briefly and clearly defined in the idolater section, all are available  if the proper mystery is known and taboos recognized with a limit based on Orison level and character level. An Idolater that violates a taboo suffers damage for Orisons already cast in a day tied to the mystery cult and loses the ability to cast related Orisons of that mystery. A 1st level Idolater could cast 3 1st level Orisons a day, a 6th level Idolater could cast 6 of the 1st rank, 5 of the 2nd, and 3 of the third. At 6th level an idolater gains a retainer (more on them later).

The Magus has access to the widest variety of magic in the game, which is good for they are fairly feeble otherwise. The Magus must prepare their cantraps each morning as they loose them from their minds when cast. Cantraps are limited to those learned and copied into their grimoires which hold but 3 spells at first level.  There are 12 cantraps of 1st d level described, and 20 each of 2nd and 3rd level.  Each magus may cast read magic from memory without the need of study and prep.  The 1st level Magus can cast but 1 st level spell a day, at 6th level they may cast 3 spells of 1st level, 3 of 2nd and 2 of 3rd level.  The Magus is not limited by taboos as the Idolater is.

The Puissant is the fighter of these weird fantasy rules. Puisants have the ability to perform feats of combat (mechanically not dissimilar to spell casting), the combat feats that may be used in a day are limited in use to by character and combat feat level.  Some of the feats are quite sensibly limited in uses per day while other seem a bit weak for the bonus gained or oddly limited for what they reperesent, it’s a good mechanic but I feel it needs a tad more tweaking.  There is a subclass of The Puissant that may be available to those with a DEX of 15 or more : the Rake; the Rake may only be lightly armored but they gain access to a few of the special abilities of the Thief.

The Thief Class should be familiar to those experience in old school fantasy RPGS, they are thieves with access to a range of special abilities resolved with a skilled task check (mor eon this later). There are two subclasses available to thieves The Demimonde that only gains experience points by spending on hedonistic pursuits they gain some benefits in the face of wonders and a retina at 4th and 6th level.  The second subclass is the Odalisque which are skilled seducers able to hypnotize an audience with their dancing and very limited spell casting at 6th level.

Each class has it own advancement chart that lists XP needed to gain a level, hit points, attack bonus, level title, and saving throws.

As mentioned above each character gain a retainer at 6th level (Demimondes at 4th and 6th level). A retainer is a totally loyal companion of the PC and may be used as a second character their initial nature is rolled randomly on a retainer chart. For the retainers loyalty one must spend 25% of EXP earned (which is no big deal since the game tops out at 6th level when retainers are gained by most PCs).

Equipment and money is fairly simple, character start with funds to buy equipment (10 GP per point of Charisma), equipment lists are given for all the essentials (including decoration for armor and clothing). A character my carry 24 light objects without being encumbered, 100 coins count as a light item, medium and heavy object count as more items. Effete character can carry less, mighty characters can carry more. Henchmen are included in the equipment section as hirelings to round out and boost an adventuring groups capabilities.

Wonder is an interesting element of these rules as PCs are not always natives to the realism they explore and there are amazing things to be witnessed in ancient places, haunted hillsides, or the edge of the world. Wonders may earn a character experience points without the need to fight monsters. When one is exposed to a wonder they may gain an epiphany which expands their abilities but may weigh down on their body and soul. Seeking wonders is both a boon and a bane to a character that may reduce CON and WIS depending on the nature of the wonder.

Saving throws are a simple system where a character needs to roll 1d20 to meet or beat a target number based on their class and level vs a general resistance including Fortitude, Reflex, and Will. Ability scores apply minor modifiers to these rolls, the author uses the descriptions to note adjustments to saving throws (I like the flavor presented in that).

Tasks are similar to saving throws with each tied to  ability scores for skilled characters. An unskilled character succeeds art a task on a roll of 18 or more, a character with a knack does so on 15 or more, while a skilled character benefits from class and level treating the skill check as a modified saving throw. Note: Charisma task are improved by the value of accouterments worn by a character (nice touch that).

Combat is fairly simple. Attack order is brief using roll high on 1d6 initiative to determine which side attacks first in a round with minor modifiers for ability scores, spell casting, and weapons used. An attack roll is 1d20 modified by attack bonus (tied to class and level) which is successful if the score is equal to or higher than the targets AC. Simple and brief guidance is given for the advantage of tactics and dirty tricks.

Healing in slow at 1hp a night or 1hp per level for full day of rest. No yo-yo combats here without the aid of magic.

Simple morale rules are given for NPCs/monsters which are workable and should prove useful in play.

Adequate and guidance is given to running and setting up adventure in Donjons and Wilderness.  A nice listing of traps is given for those wicked Donjons. A reaction table for monsters is buried in the Wandering monsters subsection of Donjon and Wilderness adventuring, i feel weird fantasy depends on such a chart as the motives of the weird aren’t always obvious.

The monster section for these rules is a delight. Each monster type gets a general set of scores for Hit Dice, Movement, Saving Throws (by category) and Challenge Level while specific monsters in each heading receive additional noted for AC, attack types and special abilities. The treatment of monsters allows for quick and easy monster presentation that still offers flexibility. The presentation also allows for a large number of monsters to be included without too much space being eaten up.

A fair section is given for treasures that may be found which includes baubles, Potions, Scrolls, Staves, Magic armor and weapons along with Wondrous items.  A bit more time spent on a few detailed weird magic items wouldhave been helpful but the section still gets the job done.

A thesaurus is given in the rules which adds to the GMs ability to provide evocative descriptions of the threats and wonders the PCs may face.

In conclusions these rules do provide a basic set of rules and framework for presorting a weird fantasy campaign. I would have enjoyed as slightly more expansive section on the duties of the Treasure Keeper (the DM/referee ) as this i doesn’t really seem to be a basic edition meant for neophytes to learn how RPGs work all on their own but for a slightly experienced player to introduce others to fantasy RPG or as a light set of rules for a more experienced group of players it does the job.

I got my pdf copy here:

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