Fantaji uses four “Tiles” that make up the Fantaji Engine: Characters, Obstacles, Themes and Conditions. Most of you will recognize that these are the primary building blocks that compose a scene in most stories, and each of these Tiles works with the others in every stage of the game.

Character Tiles are essentially the character sheets in the game. They represent the heroes and occasionally the villains (though most of the weaker opponents count as Obstacles instead.) We’ll get into more detail regarding these once we get to trying out Character Creation.

Obstacles are most enemies, monsters, problems and events that get in the way of the characters. This makes it suprisingly versatile in simulating a host of situations from passive obstacles like a locked door, to something more elaborate like being attacked by a velociraptor. Obstacles are composed of Traits, Resistance (which is the “health” of the Obstacle) and Special Powers & Rules for that particular Obstacle.

An interesting twist on the Obstacle is the “Abstract” Obstacle. This represents a type of timed conflict, where something bad will happen if the Obstacle amasses enough Drama over a set amount of time. An example of this is a time limit to stop a rampaging monster to preserve the goodwill of the people.

Theme Tiles set the scene’s emotional or thematic tenor and how characters can gain experience. As discussed in the previous article, all participants in a scene can play to the Themes of a scene. Players who enact a Theme most in a scene win the scene and get the Tile as an experience marker. These can be then redeemed later for character improvements, but more on that later.

Condition Tiles are the last of the four different tiles. Conditions are new elements that players and Judges introduce to combat in the middle of play. Unlike the Themes which are constants, Conditions are made to happen by the actions of the players. Conditions are forced upon targets, and when tripped, impose a sanction on the Drama that the target can generate. Part of the “tactical” nature of the Fantaji System is managing Conditions to drain the most Drama from your enemies while you set up for a perfect moment.

The four tiles are definitely interesting, and the system is slowly falling into place in my head. Managing Momentum is a mechanic that is quickly gaining popularity in multiple systems, and seeing how Fantaji is implementing it in such a lean manner is pretty impressive.

The Fantaji Universal Role-Playing Game is available from DriveThruRPG in PDF format for $15.00 or roughly Php 675.00

fantajiHello everyone, and welcome to the first installment of a brand new Let’s Study series tackling the latest title to come out of Athropos Games: Fantaji Universal Role-Playing Game.

You guys might remember Anthropos from their previous RPG, Early Dark, which I’ve covered in a different series. Fantaji is a different game that has a (vastly) different mechanic. I’d put it in the same category as FATE in the sense that it looks at the game from a narrative framework, something that will be more apparent as we go through the details.

First off, I was aware of this game when they were pitching it as Mazaki no Fantaji, with a kickstarter campaign that didn’t quite make it to their goal. Undeterred, the Anthropos team kept working on it, finally releasing the game as a corebook to power several upcoming settings that we can look forward to seeing in the future.

Wanting to draw more publicity to their release of the Fantaji RPG, I asked if I could get a review copy for the blog, and that’s what I’m going to be using for the purpose of this series.

High Expectations

Fantaji doesn’t really waste time setting a high bar for itself. In just three pages, it promises a game where the Mechanics encourage role-playing within your character, and where a “good” action is one that fits the story, builds up a character, invokes the themes and addresses the conflicts in a scene. The better the action taken fits with these criteria, the more effective it is in terms of “damage” or “rewards.” It’s an interesting pitch, and one that certainly has my attention.

I’ve been dabbling with FATE lately, so I’m curious to see if this one manages to win me over.


One of the bigger concepts that form the characters of Fantaji are the Traits. While they sound similar to “Aspects” from FATE, they differ a bit, as they are designed to inspire creative roleplaying. Rather than being invoked as in FATE, the Traits should instigate your hero to act. Each action is an interpretation of the Trait.

Traits are also meant to represent the core of what a hero is, rather than a facet of his being. The game takes care to call out that Traits should be open-ended and figurative.

It’s a bit fuzzy in my head right now, but hopefully this will be made much more obvious when I’m building a character, so I’ll reserve judgement on this.

Checks and Challenges

Taking actions in Fantaji involves “playing to” the Traits and Themes of a given scene. This simply means that the action has to allude or reflect the Traits and Themes in play.

A Check is usually performed to determine a “pass or fail” outcome, and is done by playing to a single Trait or Theme. This is done by describing what the character does, and rolling against a chosen difficulty with a d10. Difficulties for checks are always either 3, 5 or 8.

By succeeding, the character can use that success to generate Drama (which I assume we’ll get to later) or alter a Condition (again something that we’ll probably hear more about later.)

A Challenge on the other hand, involves multiple dice, each of which plays to a different theme or trait. The more traits or themes invoked, the more dice are rolled. Challenges often take the form of an attack.

As a challenge, the opponent also assembles a pool of dice to resist, playing to the themes and traits that they have. The two pools are then rolled, and each die that rolls beats the highest die of the opponent counts as a success.

Successes are used to deal damage, deploy status effects or alter Conditions.


Drama serves as the “Momentum” value of a character in Fantaji. As conflicts occur, the characters gain more Drama (via Checks) and spend them during Challenges to deal damage. This is similar to how combat is rumored to be handled in Exalted 3rd Edition, and it certainly does have some charm. I’m curious as to how it will work in play.

The opening chapter concludes with a quick example of play, giving a short snippet of a combat encounter to show how the Check and Challenges rules work, as well as how Drama is gained and spent.

Overall, the mechanics are pretty basic. Checks and Challenges are easy enough to understand, and the Drama “resource” as a measure of momentum is a concept that most people will understand readily. In a nutshell, Checks are used to set up Conditions or gain Drama by escalating the scene, while Challenges are used to resolve the encounter by dealing damage to the target.

My struggle lies with the Traits. Much like in FATE, there’s a lot of talk about what Traits aren’t, with precious little about what Traits should be like. Ultimately, it falls to the group to come up with a consensus on what makes a Trait a good or a bad one.

The idea of Playing to Themes and Traits is neat, but some of the justifications in the example of playing to a Trait feels more than just a little forced, to the point that it might devolve into “Narrative Symbolism: the Game.” Fantaji has a solid mechanic, and it’s clear that the designers were onto something. I feel that if Traits and Themes had more solid guidelines then it would be much easier for people like me to get into. Maybe I’ll find those guidelines later in the book.

Up next, we’ll take a look at the 4 different “Combat Tiles” that come into play with the Fantaji Engine.

The Fantaji Universal Role-Playing Game is available from DriveThruRPG in PDF format for $15.00 or roughly Php 675.00

The Return of the Let’s Study Series

Posted: June 16, 2015 by pointyman2000 in Let's Study, Roleplaying Games
Tags: ,

I think I’m finally ready to commit to some serious reading again, so we’re going to kick off a new season of Let’s Study posts on the blog!

Right now on my plate are two very interesting games: The Lone Wolf Adventure Game from Cubicle 7, and The Fantaji RPG corebook from Anthropos Games. I’ve committed to doing a Let’s Study for both of these games, so I’ll likely be alternating between them when it comes to posting.

I’m also a bit behind on reviews as of late and I’m looking to address that backlog, so do expect to see reviews of a whole bunch of titles as well. This quarter tends to be pretty busy as far as the RPG front is concerned, and already I’m seeing plenty to talk about with upcoming titles like Beast: the Primordial, which is currently going through a kickstarter campaign.

I had an opportunity to share what I had so far with Heroes of the Falling Star to the 13-year old daughter of a friend of mine for feedback. It didn’t take long for her to get back to me with positive feedback on it. I have to admit that I was pretty nervous handing it out for scrutiny since this was my real target market. In this day and age of electronic devices, I needed this game to be good enough to hold their attention.

At this point I’m waiting for feedback from several Playtest groups and just one or two more art items in time for my crowdsourcing page launch. I’m incredibly excited, I’m this close to making this a reality!

Fellow game designer Dariel Quiogue of Hari Ragat Games took a bit of time off from his work on Hari Ragat RPG to give a few thoughts on the latest Playtest Document for Heroes of the Falling Star! I’m thrilled to hear from him, and as feedback from a game designer, I’m certainly looking to patch the things he brought up.

Check out his full Preview Article HERE