Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Basic Fantasy Game

Today I would like to do something a little different and post a game review, something I may or may-not do in the future. I am of the generation that first encountered Dungeons and Dragons. When this game came out, those of us already in love with fantasy fiction, books, movies and the like, were enthralled. D&D (as us nerds call it) called out to the adventurer and hero deep within our pale awkward chests.

Since those days, the game and its many copycats have gone through many changes. Rules changes, company changes, and a tricky and fickle audience have transformed the game in many ways, some good, some bad. In attempts to market the game to a wider audience, many D&D products leave the passion and energy of fighting fantasy behind in exchange for a uniform design that everyone can recognize. As though all dragons look alike...

Still, with the acquisition of TSR (the big daddy RPG company) by Wizards of the Coast the newer iteration of Dungeons and Dragons gave us the Open Gaming License by which independent game publishers might produce supporting products for the core D&D game. This had the predictable result of flooding the market with a great many sub-standard products by get-rich-quick crowd, but there were also some really good products as well.

Which brings me to the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game by Chris Gonnerman. Rather than seeking to "get rich" off of a D20 license product, he set out to create something of quality. The Basic Fantasy RPG is an excellent game, with rules simple enough to pick up by young children but with enough "meat" for older players to enjoy. Though this is a D20 licensed game, it is a bit different from the present Dungeons and Dragons game.

The rules have been paired down so as to be easy to create a character. Fleshing out the characters history and non-combat characteristics is left up to creative license rather than a huge list of skills, proficiencies and the like to muddle through.

Games can take place in any world of your choosing. Historic settings (with magic and monsters), favored worlds like Middle Earth, Conans Hyboria or even a world of your own making, like The World of Ebonyr. All it takes is a little effort and a love of those settings. Of course, you dont need a setting, but can just start the game at the mouth of a dungeon and take it from there.

All-in-all I like this game. It hearkens back to childhood daydreams and wonderment, and seems to be a good way for parents to play with their bookish children. Children with a dislike of reading can also benefit from this and similar games, as the excitement of a dungeon crawl or a battle with a dragon will make them want to hear of more such tales.

The best part of all of this (for the frugal buyer) is that the Basic Fantasy RPG is available as a download for free through the website. Print copies can be ordered very inexpensively (around $8.00 for a 147 page book).

So get a copy and make some memories!



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I saw Eternity the other night,
Like a great ring of pure and endless light
-- Henry Vaughan