The first of many Fabled Lands source books has been released. This one concerns the rules for character creation and role playing. It also has details on the city of Yellowport, the sulphur choked city that most players of the original solo gamebook series would find themselves in.
The RPG introduces new rules to the system that the gamebooks never had. There are two new characteristics – muscle and intelligence, two new classes, skills (abilities that all characters could possess), powers (abilities that only players of certain classes could possess), rules for multiclassing and spell lists.
The system still retains its simplicity whilst being incredibly versatile in terms of character creation. Since its world is based on the sandbox gamebook series, the flavour of the classes and the description of many aspects of the Fabled Lands – its history, its geography, its religions, its animals and monsters and its civilisations – are all immensely detailed. Finally, it contains an in depth look at Yellowport and some of its personalities. Hopefully, these descriptions of this rich and varied lands that is the Fabled Lands will continue in its future sourcebooks.
Fabled Lands was a series of gamebooks written by Dave Morris and Jamie Thompson. The idea behind the books was to create what is now known as a sandbox setting. Twelve gamebooks were planned but only six were published.
However, the gamebooks have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity with beautifully designed apps, reprints of the first four books and now an RPG version. Now, Greywood Publishing plan on releasing a sourcebook for each of the twelve Fabled Lands books with the Sokara (the land from book 1) book out in September and the Golnir (the land from book 2) book out in December.
Ease of Reading
|A sample page from
Order of the Eternal Knight
I found the sourcebook a very easy and interesting read. Game information is presented in a clear systematic way so it is pretty easy to find on a page. The contents page is very detailed, listing all of the headings in the book, so it is easy to see what the chapter is about. It is also easy to see which chapters you may want to miss out if you are anxious to start a game and don’t want to read what the setting is all about.
The game rules are very simple but they are still very well explained and examples are given for combat (the only vaguely complicated part of the rules.) Those of us who have already read the Fabled Lands gamebooks will already have a good knowledge of the background of Harkuna and the basic rules. You will just need to learn the new rules made for the RPG. Also, those of us who have used a D20 system will find some skills and rules familiar. Those of use who have read both could start up a quest or two in next to no time.
One of the cons in the books is that it uses terms before they are defined and that it lacks an index or glossary for you to look them up.
This means that you will have to read all of the rules before you get a good idea of how they work.
The map of Harkuna (it is black and white in the source book)
This is taken from the Fabled Lands Blog.
I’m the sort of person who just wants to get the information, but aesthetics are important to a book, so I will give my inexpert opinion. The book itself is about the size and shape of A4 (it is a bit shorter and a bit wider.) It is softback with a colour illustration on the cover and black and white illustrations inside. There are a few full page illustrations of scenes in rooms and bits of buildings. There are plenty of smaller illustrations though, including pictures of a member of each profession, a picture of each monster (unfortunately, they are behind their description so we can’t see them in their full glory) and other scenes. I prefer the sketches to the computer generated images, but that’s a personal preference.
Now I will go through the chapters of the book and what they cover.
Chapter 1 – Character Creation
|A character sheet|
Character creation is a five step process:
1) Choose your character’s background.
There are several backgrounds that you can choose from with a short description of what your life was like in that particular background.
Choosing your background gives you access to a skill or some equipment or money.
2) Generate your character’s description.
Here you randomly generate the physical description of your character – age, height and build. Extreme values have a small effect on your stats. For example, being extremely small gives you +1 on hiding tests and -1 on jumping tests.
You also have a good and bad personality trait to prevent you character being a set of numbers on a page. Role playing to them gets you extra experience points.
3) Generate your character’s ability values.
The abilities you have in Fabled Lands are: Charisma, Combat, Intelligence, Magic, Muscle, Sanctity, Scouting and Thievery.
Those who have played with the Fabled Lands system will be familiar with all of the abilities apart from intelligence and muscle which sound quite self explanatory.
Your stats are determined by rolling eight six sided dice and assigning a value to each of your abilites. You may re-roll if the total value of the dice is less than 20.
4) Generate your character’s stamina value.
Roll 1d6 and add 6. This is your character’s stamina value. If it reaches 0 or less then every round, the character must roll 1 die. On the roll of a 1, they die.
5) Choose a profession.
There are now eight professions in the Fabled Lands RPG. Each one has a primary ability assigned to them. That is, you can only be part of the profession if that ability is 5 or higher. The professions with their primary ability values in brackets are – barbarian (muscle), druid (intelligence), mage (magic), priest (sanctity), rogue (thievery), troubador (charisma), warrior (combat) and wayfarer (scouting).
Professions get a range of skills that they can choose from and a list of powers that are unique to each class.
The professions are flavourful and there is a description of how they fit into the Fabled Lands. This is better than having a generic fighter.
Making a character is quite a quick, simple but versatile and flavourful process. It is made more versatile by the fact that when you advance rank, you can either get a new power or train in a new ability. You also get more skill points and you could also take up a new profession.
Chapter 2 – Skills
Those of us who have played D20 will find this chapter very familiar. There is a list of 30 skills, the ability they require and the professions that make use of them. There are simple modifier tables for the skills.
The skills section is quite simple and straightforward in the description and mechanics of the skills.
Chapter 3 – Spells and sorcerers
In the Fabled Lands gamebooks, you did not have to choose from a list of spells. Instead, you were given the option of using your magic skill in the sections of the book.
The RPG has produced eighteen schools of magic, each with three spells although the number of schools and the number of spells in a school can always be increased. Some of the schools of magic are: aeromancy, beastology, divination, healing and telepathy.
Spells are cast by performing a test against magic with a difficulty set by the spell. You can expand on some spells such as the duration or the number of people that they can effect if you increase the difficulty needed to cast the spell. However, you cannot cast a spell with a difficulty higher than 10 + your rank
Chapter 4 – Equipment
Here, you find a list of weapons (both ranged and close combat.) Each weapon is given a combat bonus value, a cost an encumbrance value and its type (is it basic or military – some professions are only trained in basic weapons.) Ranged weapons are given a short, medium and long range.
Chapter 5 – Combat
Combat is quite simple to learn. You roll 2d6, add it to your combat value then subtract your opponent’s defence value to calculate how much damage you have done. This was how it was done in the gamebooks.
There are some additions to combat rules in the RPG. Every combatant now has a strike value which is determined by rolling 2d6 and applying modifiers (for example, small light weapons increase strike value whilst large cumbersome ones decrease it.)
This is the order of who takes their actions.
Each combatant also has a number of action points (usually 2) per round. The chapter then describes some actions and how many action points they cost. All of the actions are pretty standard and anyone familiar with D20 combat will recognise a great deal. For example, moving costs 1 action point, striking costs 1 action point and charging costs 2 action points.
Chapter 6 – Deities and religion
Here you will find a description of the Gods of Harkuna, how you become and initiate into their religion and the powers that priests of each particular god can obtain.
Chapter 7 – City services
This short chapter gives you the details involved in buying, maintaining, manning and sailing the different types of boats and the ins and outs of being a merchant – the price fluctuations of cargo and the elements of banking, investments and buying a house.
These rules are similar to the rules in the Fabled Lands gamebooks, but they are more detailed so, as with the rest of the rules, even if you know the gamebook rules well, it will do you good to read the RPG rules.
Chapter 8 – Harkuna
One of the great strengths of Fabled Lands is the detailed World in which it takes place. This had to be created due to the fact that the premise of the gamebooks was that you could explore every corner of Harkuna.
I admit that I’m the sort of person who cares more for gameplay and stats than the mythos of a fantasy world. However, I found reading about the history and geography of the Fabled Lands very fulfilling. The world map in this chapter is extremely detailed and well drawn. The descriptions of the different countries are very informative and evocative.
Chapter 9 – For the gamesmaster
Once again the writers of the Fabled Lands RPG make it clear that they haven’t created it for ‘roll playing’ and bog standard dungeon crawls, but that the gamesmaster should be there to bring the world to life. There are tips on creating a quest and story telling which will help do this.
The chapter then goes into awarding experience and common situations such as listening, bargaining and eating. Situations have a difficulty rating set to them which the gamesmaster can use as a guideline. There are also rules for weather and sea travel in case the players want to take up being merchants or want to explore the Violet Ocean.
At the end of the chapter, there is an in depth description of the city of Yellowport complete with statistics of important personalities who live there. I anticipate that the Sokara sourcebook comes out
Chapter 10 – Monsters and enemies
Harkuna is a human centric world where intelligent non humans such as faerie inhabit out of the way places. The book does not encourage any race but human for the PCs (it does not give any option to have a non human character in the character creation chapter) but it does give stats for several faerie folk which a smart DM can extrapolate from (however, this will not be in keeping with the flavour of the Fabled Lands)
Each monster is given a threat level, but the book points out that it is to only compare the monsters with each other as different characters with different powers will find different monsters challenging.
The chapter contains some Fabled Lands favourites such as the Scorpion Man and the Ratman. It also mentions that ghouls can be repelled with a mixture of iron and salt (a reference to the quest in The War Torn Kingdom.)
Appendix – Lair of the Ratmen
This is a short quest adapted from a quest in The War Torn Kingdom where the characters have to descend into the sewers in Yellowport to kill the king of the Ratmen because they are stealing from the merchants’ guild. It is a good example of how a quest could look.
The Fabled Lands RPG is simple, versatile and easy to learn with good explanations of rules. It gives you everything you need to start a simple quest. If you have read the Fabled Lands gamebooks, you could use these rules to adapt some scenarios from the gamebooks in order to run as RPG quests. This could keep you going until September when the Sokara sourcebook (based on The War Torn Kingdom) is released. I am looking forward to it as I enjoy reading about the world of Harkuna. I believe the reason why I like this world so much is because I could actually go to every obscure corner of it in the gamebook. Fabled Lands has plenty of source material to work from and it can be used to create endless quests.
For more news on Fabled Lands, you can visit the blog, here.
This is the second review of an RPG sourcebook and I intend to review the Lone Wolf RPG in the future. Please tell me if I have missed something out, or written too much. Should I go through every chapter? Should I list good and bad points? What do you look for in an RPG review?
Also, what do you look for in a gamebook review?
Please leave a comment. I like comments :).