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  • By Robert Lionheart
    Aug 1, 2010
    FANTASIA: the book of all knowing "All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be the blade that was broken: The crownless again shall be king." - Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien Let me begin with a full disclosure of any bias: (a) I do not enjoy 3.5 D&D and I prefer “old school” games; (b) I think Castles & Crusades, Swords & Wizardry and D&D 4e wonderful games; (c) New Dimension Games sent me a free copy of Fantasia and their Pirates RPG to review. I told them that if I could not give their games a good review, I would send them back. If I spend my time writing a review, it better be something worth sharing with the gaming community. HERE’S THE SHORT REVIEW: I love Old School D&D and Castles & Crusades, and I can confidently say that Fantasia is a better game... More > than both of them IF you are looking for Lord of the Rings fantasy. There is huge support for this product and the system encourages long-term campaign play. Now fly with me! AN EXAMPLE OF GAMEPLAY: Before I go into the lengthy discussion of the Long Review, let’s take a peek at some people actually playing Fantasia at this very moment. Bill is playing Ragnar, a Mortal Man of the Choron folk who is a wild Barbarian. Ted is Sprout, a Proudbottom Halfling and a daring Adventurer. Both are beginning characters at level zero. Both players showed up on time, so the GM awards them 1 Story Point each. But Bill arrived at tonight’s game wearing a faux fur cloak and a metal helm he bought at Ren Faire. This earns him 2 more Story Points for playing in costume. Ted is totally jealous. GM: “Four Orcs – monstrous beastmen, mockeries of true life, both animal and man, bred long ago in the darker years as armies of Elvish magic – leap down from the high oak branches into your camp! They scream with madness as they fall, swinging rusty hand axes.” Ted: “Holy crap! I was just going to light up some pipe weed!” GM: “Since Orcs are inhuman, you both need to make Fear checks. You need a 10. If you fail, you flee in panic.” [Both players roll D20 and add their Courage bonus. They succeed!] Bill & Ted: “Bring it on, wicked GM dude!” GM: “The Orcs carefully set up this ambush so you need to make Challenging Intuition rolls or the Orcs get a free turn.” [Both players roll 1D6 and then add the number to their character’s Intuition score. They need at least a 15 total to succeed at a Challenging task.] Bill: “That’s easy. Ragnar has a 13 Intuition. [dice clatter] Uh oh. I rolled a 1 so I automatically fail.” Ted: “I’m screwed too.” GM: “Three Orcs slash at Ragnar who has a Defense of 18. The Orcs get a +1 Attack bonus and +3 for their Ambush. I roll D20 and add the +4 bonus against your Defense. Shame, they all missed him! The last Orc hacks at Sprout, but poor Sprout only has Defense of 11. Wham!” Ted: “Sprout’s wearing his mother’s chain mail!” GM: “Orcs roll a D6 Damage Variable with + 5 for the Hand Axe and another +3 for being such vile beasts. Sprout takes 12 damage!” Ted: “Sprout has 7 points of protection, so he only suffers 5 Health wounds. Ouch, I only have 3 more health left! Oh no, now that I am wounded I suffer a –2 Fatigue penalty to almost everything!” GM: “Roll Initiative. Since the Orcs outnumber you, they roll a D10 and you only get the D8.” [The GM and Bill throw the dice. The Orcs win 7 to 6. Yeah! Uh, I mean Boo!] Bill: “Wait! Ragnar spends 1 Story Point to change our Initiative from 6 to 7. Ties go to the heroes!” GM: “So what do you do little halfman?” Ted: “I grab a flaming torch and swing it at the beasts. I’m doing the ‘keeping evil at bay’ maneuver like when Aragorn held off the Nazghul.” GM: “Make a Challenging Courage check, but at –2 because the Orcs outnumber you and another –2 for your fatigue.” Ted: “Sprout has a 14 Courage and I rolled a 5 so I do it.” GM: “Sadly, the –4 modifiers change the die roll, so the 5 becomes a 1 which always fail.” Ted: “I spend 1 Story Point to bump the 1 to a 2. Now it works!” GM: “Curses, foiled again! The Orcs hiss and cry out, leaping out of your melee range. They get a –2 to their next Initiative.” Bill: “My turn. Ragnar leaps into the fray with his battle sword! I am doing a ‘sweeping stroke’ maneuver against all four Orcs! [Bill rolls D20 plus his Combat bonus and his Sword skill. He gets a natural 20! That’s a Critical Hit.] GM: “Roll D12 to see what kind of critical hit you scored. [Bill rolls a 5] Wow. Toppled Structure: D12 Damage to all foes. Bill, describe what happens.” Bill: “Ragnar rushes past the Orcs, trailing his blade so it slashes open their guts as he passes, then the barbarian pulls down a dying oak tree on top of their heads! It lands with a massive crash!” GM: “Cool scene. Take a Story Point.” Bill: “Ragnar is a fighter so he rolls D8 for damage plus 10 for his battle sword and +2 for his Strength. I got 16 so each Orc takes 4 damage. Oh, the D12 from the falling tree does 11 damage.” GM: “Ouch. The Orcs have 1 Protection, so they take 3 wounds from your sword and another 10 from the tree. Those four are bleeding to death, but you can hear more angry screams in the darkness…” THE LONG REVIEW If you enjoyed the way the combat plays out, keep reading. There are a dozen other tactics Bill and Ted could have used in that fight from battle cries, parrying, disarming, taking a blow for a friend or making combination attacks, such as shield-bashes and hilt punches. Let’s start with a discussion about the Author and his company. MATT DeMILLE: Matt deMille is a prolific game designer, although I never heard of him or his company until I wandered too deeply into the weirdness of the web and came upon his gaming oasis. His company, www.New Dimension, boasts FIVE completed RPGs on their website plus numerous supplements and adventures. New Dimension Games won the Most Creative Small Booth award at GenCon 2004. Although this doesn’t tell you anything about Fantasia, it honors Matt’s dedication and devotion to our hobby. Matt is also a prop and set designer on movie The Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising. Check out the Dead Gentlemen Productions website for Matt’s discussion and the movie trailer. You can also buy Fantasia through their website. Again, this doesn’t tell us anything about Fantasia, but he gets a +2 Geek bonus. Matt’s writing – especially on his website – can be very boastful, eccentric and downright oddball, but it has a certain charm for those who enjoy Gygaxian prose. Matt believes his work is very cutting edge, but instead it is good old school gaming. If Fantasia was published in 1985, it would probably rival Palladium for fans. CHARACTERS Fantasia is designed to be AD&D in a faux Middle Earth, but with an interesting twist: your options as a player grow by playing through campaigns and your character becomes more powerful through role-play, not hack & loot. Story Points, which are much like Drama, Plot and Action points in other games, are accumulated by creating cool scenes and adding to the immersive experience of the game. And yes, the GM can award Story Points to promote better behavior among his players (like showing up on time). Many of the cooler and more powerful classes are not available to you as a new player, but must be earned by gaining Story Points. Also, you can add exciting powers and abilities to your character through Story Points as well. Thus, good role-players will enjoy the more powerful characters. Story Points belong to the player, not the character, so if tragedy strikes and the hero dies, the player may use his Story Points for his next character. However, smart use of Story Points will probably keep your character alive and part of Fantasia is maximizing their usage to best effect. GMs are encouraged to spread about Story Points with good cheer to keep players heroic and engaged. Most magic classes and racial specific classes require lots of Story Points to “buy” one of those characters, but it is these heroes who require the most experience with the game world to play to truest effect. If you want to play Gandalf and really be wise in the lore of the world, you must earn that right through exciting adventuring with other heroes. This may not grok with the grubbers, but it is a novel approach. In Fantasia, player knowledge is more important than your random INT score. Characters start at level zero, but they begin as competent individuals, probably with some rare equipment and maybe even a magical trinket or two. All classes have a singular goal, which must be achieved to attain 10th level, such as the Barbarian must become a king and the Mystic must transcend his mortal flesh. The character then becomes an NPC, but the player enjoys some nice bonuses to add to his next character. Again, Fantasia is not about creating one super character, but playing many characters in multiple campaigns where you as a player are rewarded for your efforts. GOODIES I love the bric-a-brac of fantasy games where the kind of tools available to the heroes really defines what kind of world they live within. Fantasia shines with copious and intriguing equipment charts. The first chart is the mundane weapons, armor and traveling equipment found in standard fantasy. However, the next chart and the next and the next are all filled with scrumptious Middle Earthish goodies that are uncommon or rare or even extraordinary. Fantasia has a quick and intuitive system for determining which items would be found in villages, towns, cities, poor pockets and rich troves, along with Elven and Dwarf lands. These versatile charts are used in character creation, determining what wares can be found in merchant shoppes and what can be found in monster’s lairs. Best of all, most of the coolest items provide minor bonuses and get used up, so GMs can sprinkle them without fearing any campaign imbalance. The versatility of the “stuff charts” to become both stores and treasure troves with built in rarity modifiers is something that other game publishers should pay attention to what Matt did here. SYSTEMS There is no “one system to rule them all” in Fantasia, so Combat, Ability checks, Magic and Skills all do things slightly differently, but none are difficult or confusing. Also, all the systems are slanted toward player character success, which is a good thing in heroic fantasy. For instance, Ability Checks are Stat + D6 vs. a TN of 10, 15 or 20, but you always succeed if the D6 rolls a 6 – regardless of your actual ability score. GAME SUPPORT Fantasia has a stunning amount of game support for small company. According to the website, Fantasia currently has 10 published adventures and 17 published "modules" which appear to focus on particular regions. Plus there is the Adventurer's Guide to the game world, an Advanced Rulebook, a book of premade NPCs, a book of Villains, plus about a dozen other supplements. I have not read any of these products so I cannot comment on them. The Fantasia website has a four page sample of the Core Rules so you can read a few pages from the book to see if you enjoy the style and the ideas of the game. Also, you get some of the better artwork as well. The Download page includes free PDF character sheets, GM note pages and three free adventures. I think you need to flesh out the free adventures before running them, but I had fun with Aren Tor and Valhellen Castle after I tinkered with them. The website also includes Q&A about the rules, Optional Rules and extensive discussion of Matt's thoughts on RPGs and his design concepts for Fantasia. Gird yourself for the purple prose. THE DARK SIDE: Even very good RPG games are not perfect and Fantasia has its flaws. Everyone has different tolerances for game flaws so judge for yourself. I rate the Visual Presentation as Average based on my expectations of a small print RPG. The layout and artwork is amateur so those looking for coffee table art books will suffer much panty-bunching. My biggest complaint is the lack of a game world in the core book, but Matt does sell several supplements that detail his world and he sells several adventures tied to particular locations. Ten percent of the text could be trimmed to make a stronger presentation, especially unnecessary rants on names you should not use (Frodo, Hawk the Slayer, Lancelot, etc) and rants on why Fantasia is better than other games. It’s very Gygaxian actually, reminiscent of Gary’s admonishments found in the AD&D DMG and Gary’s spittle spewing fury against homebrew rules and RuneQuest. There are some typos and a few rules that you will need to read twice to understand fully. I’m cool with the use of archaic English, but ixnay on the typo-ay in the age of computerized spell checkers. Also, there are some oversights in the racial balances, such as some racial subtypes gain +1 to one ability while sacrificing –1 to another, but others just gain a free point with no sacrifice. Just when you are getting deep into the coolness of the magic system, some AD&D relic whams you in the head. You are getting all jazzed by the creativeness of his crystal magyk, candle magyk and bardsong and then BAM – some weird throwback. There is no reason Red Magic should have Power Word: Kill on the spell list. I used liquid paper to cover this atrocity and renamed the spell “Immolate” so you can too. WHO SHOULD BUY FANTASIA? If you want a deeply supported fantasy game world with lots of supplements and adventures, you will find that Fantasia has much to offer in sheer quantity. I have not seen these additional works, so I can not comment on them. I rate the Overall Quality as Very Good is based on the game system as a whole, but it is certainly a Five Star Excellent if you are just looking for LotR D&D. If you enjoy “old school” style RPGs and if you yearn to adventure through Lord of the Rings, then buying Fantasia will be your best purchase in a long while. This is not the system to recreate Dark Sun, Planescape or Conan. However, it does JRR FauxTolk with great wonder and joy. When the seas and mountains fall And we come, to end of days In the dark I hear a call Calling me there I will go there And back again - “The Breaking of the Fellowship”< Less
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Product Details

New Dimension Games
February 14, 2011
Hardcover (casewrap)
Interior Ink
Black & white
1.4 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
8.25 wide x 10.75 tall
Product ID
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