As you can tell from reading my review, I'm into Fantastic Heroes & Witchery. Rather than wait to use it or let it sit on my shelf, I decided to run yesterday's game with FH&W. Because reading a rule book isn't the same as using it, this account should be just as valuable as my first impression.
The session was scheduled for 4.5 hours, plenty of time to make characters. Especially since A) I didn't have any pre-made - I've fallen way behind since coming back from vacation, and B) character creation is one of the best parts of FH&W. Here's what the players came up with...
- A tiefling half-elf warlock named Zatar, steeped in black magic, in service to dark forces, and aligned with Chaos. His goal was to seek out forbidden lore which would make him a more powerful warlock. At the game's start he was a cult of one but desired to have followers.
- A halfling rifleman named Otus, wearing full plate and carrying a laser pistol, as well as, an automatic pistol. Could that character be anything except comic relief? Time will tell...
- A tainted human who had spent far too many hours peering into the void, where the Great Old Ones anxiously bided their time. Always on the lookout for supernatural horror, Abigail became a savant (scientist and gadget/tinkerer).
- Bakki was a tiefling dwarf, kicked out of his dwarven community on his 100th birthday for showing his demon blood, the Gothi (religious and political leaders) was determined to wipe out all dwarves in retribution for his excommunication.
- Last but not least was a winged folk thief named Shara, an outcast from her people.
It probably would have taken two or more hours if I'd let each player pour over the book, reading each race and class entry. So, I briefly went over the pros and cons of each. Actually, there were very few cons - just different pros. Some options had more pros than others.
For instance, you got to roll three times on this table of special demonic powers if you picked a tiefling (half-demon template which can be added to any "parent" race). Besides having a hell mark such as horns or a tail, there weren't any drawbacks I could see. That's why the party had two tieflings. And I'm a little surprised there weren't more.
BTW, I think every single player availed themselves of the racial name suggestions provided in the appendix. Nice touch!
Not only was my first experiment with FH&W, it was also the initial playtest of Revelry in Torth. After a little backstory and tangential encounters, the PCs made their way to Aryd's End, arriving as their festival of masks was at its apex. The masked festival was part drunken orgy, part Edgar Allen Poe / Thomas Ligotti excuse for esoteric villainy.
Oh yeah, before we began, I created a short list of rumors and had each player roll to see what they'd heard about Torth or Aryd's End...
- The Great Vault of Torth is a repository of lost knowledge, scientific and technological, as well as, magical.
- Dragons return to the skies every seven years to feast upon the innocent souls of Torth.
- Sorcerers are bound by an unholy blood oath, their immortal souls consigned to the devils with which they traffic.
- The Festival of Masks is an old tradition dating back to the Age of Dragons.
- There's an insidious link between demon worshiping wizards and the scourge of the skies - dragons.
- A secret society lurks in the shadows of Torth, rising in power until capable of conquering the land.
- Once, all of Torth was ruled by a three-headed dragon.
- The super-science beneath Torth still lives and breathes.
As you can see, there's a lot of dragon stuff going on. Assuming the kickstarter funds, parts 2 and 3 of the trilogy will focus more on the draconic aspects of Torth.
True to its sandbox nature, Revelry in Torth became what the PCs made of it - a hunt for treasure... gold, specifically.
Weapon proficiencies, ability scores, and player-character flavor were the only distinguishing factors between combatants. At 3rd level, I believe every single PC had a +1 attack bonus. Probably would have been different if someone had chosen a fighter, but, really, how could they, when there are dozens of classes to choose from?
The rules themselves, went much like any modernized old school D&D game. Most of the mechanics were relegated to the background. There was a welcome synergy of old school and latter edition ingenuity.
Oh yeah, the spells... I know Dominique Crouzet, the author, had re-written pretty much all of them and then placed them in either a white, grey, or black domain, but I had no clue how strange, powerful, and dark they were. I'm talking about black magic, specifically, since both spell casters had demon blood and loved Chaos. There was demon summoning, some sort of death blossom, and a fiend conjured for the sole purpose of robbing either a rich man or 100 peasants within the city. And we're just talking 1st and 2nd level spells. Definitely added to the dark flavor of the game.
Without giving too much away, the PCs saved the city (and their own skins). It was a good session and I was quite impressed with FH&W. Asking for feedback at the end, the one comment echoed by multiple players was how unbalanced (meaning straight up awesome) tieflings were. Balance isn't necessarily a great thing for an old school game, so that's up to the GM. If, like me, a GM's more interested in taking his game to the dark side than standard medieval fare, there's no problem at all.
p.s. That session inspired this article over at Draconic Magazine.