Over the weekend we took Warrior, Rogue & Mage for an actual tabletop test drive.
For those not familiar with it: WR&M is a free ~40 page fantasy RPG put out by Michael Wolf from Stargazer’s World as a free PDF under the Creative Commons license. So right out the door, the barrier of entry is lowered significantly thanks to a rules set being not only free, but pretty easy going on the printer in case you wanted a physical copy instead of passing a laptop at the table.
The big thing to know about this game is that Warrior, Rogue & Mage aren’t classes (matter of fact, there are none in the game!) but instead are the actual attributes for characters. It’s interesting to consider, since elements of all three encompass more than just Physical/Mental/Social markups. Along with the three stats that players divide their points in, they also have a broad list of skills that are akin to a list like you would see in more modern D&D editions (probably closer to 4E), and the player at creation chooses 3 to be trained in. Each skill has a corresponding Attribute (W,R or M) and being trained grants a +2 modifier.
Dice mechanic is pretty straight forward: Roll 1d6, add attribute related to your task, add +2 if trained, beat difficulty number. It feels very similar to a d20/D&D system, but simplified quite a bit. Of course, 6’s “explode” in this system, which allows the player to keep rolling and adding to their total. This is for both task resolution and damage rolls.
The Extra Bits
There is more to the system, of course. There’s hit points, a Defense value and Fate Points. HP and Defense are about what you expect them to be: Defense is the number to roll to hit you, can be increased by armor. Hit points is how much damage you can take, etc. Fate Points are interesting as they allow a player to spend them to cheat death (literally making a killing shot count as a miss), add to their rolls or even be spent to give the player a tiny bit of narrative control on the scene. For example, a random NPC may approach the party and a player may blow a fate point to say “Hey, I know this guy, we met in a bar a couple years ago!” It’s minor control, but can be used to help out the players in a scenario. One of my players even used it to tack on just a little bit more to their treasure findings (a couple Dragon Rifle rounds became a few). The catch with these points is they don’t regenerate naturally; instead, the only way they’re handed back is when the GM rewards them.
Characters also have a list of Talents they can pick from. These are sort of akin to feats in D&D, and cover a good range of options to help flesh out your character from the others. If you play using the optional races, non-human characters get to pick up some special racial talents for free (but they also get some nasty weaknesses.)
The magic system that is present is pretty straight forward, and offers plenty of flexibility while still keeping it regal and utilitarian. It’s mana point driven, and spells are broken up into levels of “Circles”. Essentially, the spell levels determine the cost in Mana as well as the difficulty to cast (there are no character levels in this system.) What’s interesting is that anyone with points in Mage may learn spells, so creating “hybrid” characters is pretty easy. And from what I can tell, there is no “right” way to “crunch” it….mixing it up, specializing in magic or ignoring it completely is all relatively sound choices in this system.
An interesting footnote here: For those who aren’t too comfortable with magic and spells being easily picked up, there is a “Warrior, Rogue & Scholar” option for lower-magic settings. Scholar is applied instead of Mage as an attribute (purely cosmetic change), and for those who want to learn spell casting they have to tack on a Spellcaster Trait to learn the 1st Circle spells. Later, they can become an advanced caster and open up the higher tiers.
A “Spring-Board” Product
The game was written with the idea the reader is already experienced in Role-Playing Games. The 40 page booklet contains more than enough to get started with and stands on its own just fine. However, one part stressed is that a lot of it was written for open interpretation, and some areas are kept purposefully simple or vague for GM’s to come up with their own rulings. In some areas, GMs and players who are wanting a robust, fleshed out game with tons of options might be disappointed. But for “gamer tinker gnomes” like myself, who love toolbox systems that encourage the reader to build upon and flesh out, this game is pretty neat-o. I’m hoping with the use of the CC License that we see a lot of homebrews and awesome player-made options spring up online.
I’m already abusing the piss out of the system by converting my campaign idea for Rolemaster to it, and so far it seems to be brilliant. I’m running a “post apocalyptic fantasy” steampunk setting with it, and so far it’s been very easy to use the rules as a guideline to scheme up new concepts. It’s easy to tack in new talents or skills without breaking the system, and we’ve already schemed up conversions for other magic types and even a new race into the rules (Shel really wanted to play a Charr from Guildwars…on a motorcycle.)
Beware the Exploding Dice
I will give the warning that the exploding dice mechanic can seem to bite a person’s face off with relative ease in this system. If there was anything I felt needed to be changed, is perhaps figuring a way to scale this mechanic back a tad. In our game session Saturday Night, my dice were out to kill my friend Josh’s character. This could be either a boon or a bane for some; on one hand, this means even the weakest of foes and characters have the opportunity to dish out some serious damage or miraculous skill rolls. On the other, it can lead to some horrendous party wipes and what was supposed to be an easy encounter suddenly becomes the end of a campaign.
All that aside, it’s a welcome addition to my game shelf. It’s up there in my approval along with High Valor and Savage Worlds.
Rules-Lite, but still with a dash of crunch and detail. Consider it Approved.