At Jon’s prompting, a group of us are preparing to take on Forge: Out of Chaos. This will be my third experience with a Fantasy Heartbreaker—Legendary Lives and Darkurthe Legends are the others that I’ve played, and you can find some materials on those games elsewhere on Adept Play. I’ve created my character for the game, and thought I’d get the ball rolling by summarizing my first impressions and taking you through my thinking as I created my character.
Right out of the gate, I was struck by the strength of the writing and layout. The rules are clear and well presented, and they lead to a system that is clearly going to work well in play. If my other games are indicative of the Fantasy Heartbreakers in general, it’s clear that they veer wildly in terms of craft, polish, and design. For all it’s strengths, Darkurthe was in desperate need of editing help, and this led inevitably to some frustrating moments in preparation and in play as we tried to sort out how all the gears fit together. With Forge, we are back in the fold of Legendary Lives: Both of those games clearly went through extensive playtesting, and the rules are presented with efficiency. The artwork is uneven, but you have enough good pieces in the mix to inspire you, and the layout and charts are rock solid. An index would be great, but with a few sticky tabs in place and some stars in the margins, I’m good to go.
Forge is clearly designed with action adventuring in mind. The combat, skills, and magic systems are heavily weighted towards conflict, dungeon delving, and the pursuit of treasure. For example, if your character wishes to dabble in one of the Pagan Magic realms (Beast, Necromancy, Elemental, or Enchantment), you initially are in need of accumulating the expensive components required to cast those spells. In the case of three of those realms, the Damage spells have the component that is the least expensive, so clearly that’s where the opening play is probably heading. My initial idea is to use my Damage-focused spells to help me get what I need to acquire the components for my more nuanced magic. The idea is that some fighting and violence will lead the way to spell groups like Knowledge, Mutation, and Protection.
Forge does have a curious world rattling around in the background. The book opens with a section on mythology and the pantheon of the World of Juravia (where the events of the game presumably take place). Some of the races are also tied into this world building. But the core book doesn’t do much to fill in that world. Frankly, I don’t know that we will miss much of this dimension. Jon, our GM, is happy to embrace the strong “let’s-see-what’s-in-yonder-cave” mentality of the game, and the players are as well. I have some vague ideas of a back story, but we will leave those elements to develop as the game moves along.
Character Creation: You Can Address Me As "Sire"
Here’s how my initial character came together.
Looking at the initial races, I was uninspired by the Dwarf and Elf, which seem mostly derivative. I’m never shy about taking a human, but Forge does have some other unique options. On the one hand, there are some monstrous human types, such as the Ghantu, which are giant one-eyed fighters with thick hides and claws. And then there are strange animal-human hybrids. One called the Merikii caught my eye: These are slender human-bird mash-ups which get a Racial Benefit of Two-Handed Melee at the expense of a -1 Strength and Thin Blood (which means my Hit Points drop more quickly if I ever go into negative). I was also thinking about dabbling in magic.
The rules let you roll and then arrange six of your core Characteristics (Strength, Stamina, Intellect, Insight, Dexterity, Awareness), so, unless you are extremely unlucky, you can cobble together the type of character whom you want to play. There are, however, three characteristics—Speed, Power, and Luck—which you roll and keep, with no switching of fudging allowed. A poor roll on Power (which gives you the reserve of Spell Points that power your magic) would make for an ineffective spell caster, so that’s really a make-or-break roll for a player who is thinking about magic. Fortunately I rolled an 11 on 2d10, which is completely average, but respectable enough to keep the possibility of magic in play for me. Had I rolled any lower, I think I would have abandoned my magical aspirations.
There are ways to fiddle with your scores. Aside from boosts and penalties that accompany some races, there are tables for additional Benefits and Detriments which you can balance against each other. For example, you might choose to improve your Magic Resistance, but then you have to take a price for that by, for example, decreasing your Poison Saving Throw. You can also spend some of the slots you have for your Skills to instead increase some of your Attribute scores. I did take Charisma as a Benefit (which gives me a +25 % to NPC reaction rolls), and balanced this with a -1 Strength (I’m a weakling).
The list of actual Skills is again heavily weighted towards aggressive adventuring actions. You get a number of Skill Slots depending on your Intellect and Insight scores. If you want Magic, you have to dedicate a whopping minimum of 10 slots to that area, and I spent an additional two to give me some added benefits in the area of acquiring spells.
As always, character creation is a game of trade-offs. My character has an impressive Dexterity, which gives him a nice +3 for his Attack Value (basically, improving his odds to hit), and he has that 2-Handed Melee ability which will come in handy. But he has a low Strength, so while he may get in his hits, he won’t be getting any damage boosts. He also has some decent Intellect and Insight scores (thanks to decent rolls and to some added Skill Slot expenditures), but he’s quite low on Awareness, which will make him easier to hit.
There are two key skills helpful for when you take damage: Field Repair allows you to repair damaged armor, and Binding allows you to heal wounds. I would have liked both skills, but looking at my Skill Slots, I felt I couldn’t afford both, so I took Field Repair. My Mirikii is only so-so on hit points, so he’s going to have to be careful.
In the sample character creation in the rule book, they used a 3d6 x 10 formula for the opening bank of gold. I was quite fortunate and had 160 gold to play with, but, as in life, the money vanishes quite quickl! I knew I was going to go for Beast Magic, and that meant I needed a Manitcore Spike (costing 35 gold) to cast my damage spells. I also needed Leather Armor (30 gold), a couple Scimitars (at 18 gold a piece), and some Throwing Daggers (amounting to 10 gold).
For Magic, you get a number of Spell Attempts / level based on your character’s Intellect. You choose a spell, spend an attempt, and then roll on some tables to determine the range and efficacy of your spell. If you roll poorly, you can reroll, hoping for better outcomes, but doing so burns up another spell attempt. I’m not a powerhouse, but I’ve got some decent damage spells, and my Attack Value Boost from my high Dexterity score will give me a better chance of success with some of them.
Beast Magic is considered Pagan Magic, and that allows you to acquire spells one level higher than your actual Magic Level. I used this option one time, and proceeded to roll atrociously on the tables (which is made even worse because you suffer a penalty when reaching for a higher level spell). So I used another Spell Attempt to reroll . . . and again rolled poorly. But the third time resulted in a decent outcome. So I have a potent 2nd Level Damage spell called Rending, but it came at a heavy cost since I had to spend 3 of my 9 Spell Attempts to get it.
So the outcome is a Merikii named Cyir (I got that from an online name generator . . . I liked it because I’ll pronounce it “Sire” and thus have everybody addressing me like I was their superior!). He’s going to be a quick and adept fighter with some usable magical abilities. But he’s going to have to choose his fights carefully: He should be able to land some effective blows, but he’s going to choose his battles carefully.
We will hopefully hold our opening session in the first week or two. I’m excited to see how things turn out. Another player is considering a Jher-em as a character—this is a small race (3’ tall) that has shrew features. I’m curious that Jher-ems are described as being peaceful, which seems out of place in the kind of direction that the game is going for . . . my assumption is that a Jher-em who is willing to battle must be a real bad-ass because they have to take up the slack for those others who rely on them for defense. As the play develops, we intend to keep the updates coming.