Wednesday, February 15, 2023

My Punk-Ass Gen-X Take on the Whole WotC Debacle

 I am in the middle of moving house at the moment, which has forced me to neglect my blog, much to my frustration. Especially as so much has been going on in the hobby as of late. Especially with Wizards of the Coast doing their level best to alienate the Dungeons & Dragons fan base at every turn. I really only have one thought on WotC left with sharing. I might even sing it:

There's no vestige of beginning, no prospect of an end
When we all disintegrate, it will all happen again, yeah
If you came to conquer, you'll be king for a day
But you too will deteriorate and quickly fade away
And believe these words you hear when you think your path is clear
We have no control
We have no control
We have no control
We do not understand, you have no control
You are not in command
-Bad Religion, No Control 
(©️1989 Polypteric Records)

Or perhaps, "See you WotC, enjoy your decline!"

I am, by all accounts the quintessential Gen-X slacker, I have had almost no employment with big corporations and didn't enjoy the environment. I have spent most of my life working for myself. I am suspicious of Sentiment, but enjoy Beauty. I am cynical towards ads, news, and mass media, yet I tend to communicate and think in pop culture quotations. I prefer to DIY where I can. And nothing is cool until I can personalize the Hell put of it. I have no interest in plastic,  cookie cutter corporate bullshit or brand names. D&D as a stopped being interesting to me when it was clear that it had gone from a vibrant small community hobby to another Brand Name™️ a few books into 3rd Edition. 

I walked away long ago. I don't care about the logo on the book. I briefly got sucked in with 5th when it looked like they were trying to connect with the lost fan base. I saw the error of my ways after buying one sourcebook.

I don't buy books for the sake of collecting.  I don't care to have mounds of sourcebooks. I brew my own worlds.  And until I had to balance kids and a small business, I didn't use adventure modules. What books I do buy, I buy to hack or to review. And I buy very few. Most of my 5e collection were gifts.

You can't sell D&D to me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Game Review: Fabula Ultima TTJRPG

Cover Art for Fabula Ultima
by Catty Trinh
©2022 Need Games
 Emanuelle Galletto
Publisher: Need Games
Marketplace: DriveThruRPG
Engine: Fusion of the Ryuutama engine & Forged in the Dark

 Fabula Ultima is a tabletop role-playing game designed to simulate what is often referred to as the Golden Age of JRPGs (Japanese Role-Playing Games). That is, fantasy console video games such as Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior, Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Phantasy Star, and Earthbound.

If you are not familiar with these types of games, they primarily we're found on the Super Nintendo and Sony PlayStation and were mostly made by the Juggernaut companies Squaresoft and Enix. (Now Square Enix) They featured Dungeons & Dragons-inspired gameplay primarily driven by option menus. While the first Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior games were very clearly clones of OD&D, the developers found that they needed to adjust the way the games worked mechanically to adapt to the limitations of the medium, which evolved into their own unique tropes and conventions. Some examples include such as creating jobs systems that let characters change what they could do, simplified Magic based on expanding point pools, and having most character classes add one or two menu options.

Obviously, the video games of the time couldn't offer player characters an open or even procedurally generated world. This fundamental difference from Dungeons & Dragons was a glaring flaw in the first couple of games of the genre. The developers discovered that they could compensate for the lack of the player characters' freedom by using the game as a medium for crafting elaborate, interactive fantasy novels with complex plots and large casts of characters.

The cultural back and forth between Dungeons & Dragons and JRPGs, especially the Final Fantasy series, and especially for Generation X is something I've written about here. I would argue that Final Fantasy IV in particular had a massive impact on how Dungeons & Dragons was played among what we now are calling "Trad" style players.

I surmise that a lot of the impulse that led to the story game branch of our hobby evolved from love of the way JRPGs told stories and structured their narratives.

Fabula Ultima (Latin for "Final Fantasy ") is precision-engineered to capture the feel and story structure of those JRPGs in the table -top format. It draws must heavily of the Super Nintendo-era Final Fantasy titles, but echoes of other series such as Ys, Phantasy Star, and Dragon Warrior are also pretty evident. It leans heavily into video game tropes such as boss fights, multiple damage type systems, and readily available  healing potions, bombs, and magical implements.

One thing that did surprise me is that they did not move into the idea of death as an easily remedied state. But more on that in a moment.

I want to note that there is a free starter document for Fabula Ultima, Fabula Ultima: Press Start that has the rules necessary for players to learn the game free for download at DrivethruRPG and the Need Games homepage.

The System

Fabula Ultima is based on the Japanese tabletop role-playing game Ryuutama and, aside from the eponymous Dragon-spirit guide and the wellness roll, almost the entirety of that game engine has been carried over. This was an incredibly smart choice, as Ryuutama borrows many of its mechanics from early Final Fantasy games. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Seed of Worlds' Unlockable Encounter Tables

 Xaoseed over at Seed of Worlds combined my piece on using encounter tables to breathe life into your worlds with a far more mathematically sophisticated table structure to create an amazing encounter table design that "unlocks" a chance at more unusual encounters as PCs explore further afield.

This is amazing motion design: PCs won't just learn about the world by having encounters, but as they move on revelatory encounters will become more frequent. This means that the as the PCs explore more they will get immersed into deeper lore, allowing a gradual discovery of the setting.

It is a pretty amazing design, and well worth your time t

o check out!