Fantaji

[Let’s Study] Fantaji Universal Role-Playing Game, Part 7: Mods, Settings, Review & Conclusion

Hello and welcome to the last part of our Let’s Study series of the Fantaji Universal role-Playing Game. We’ll be taking a look at the last 1/4th of the book, detailing some “mods” and settings that come with the game.

Mods are technically rules extensions that push the mechanics further, and are great for imbuing your game with a specific feel.

The “neutral” mods are applicable to across different settings, and include:

Milestone Arcs

This Mod allows you to build arcs into a character story, defining a pre-set path towards their destiny as opposed to choosing random Milestones as you go along.

Power Clashing

This Mod allows you to generate more Drama when you roll better than your opponent.

Boons

This Mod let you cash in Themes for more benefits than what the default Milestone System has.

Settings

As mentioned earlier, Fantaji comes bundled with 3 mini-settings, which I believe will be expanded further once Anthropos Games is able to produce full sized books for them. In the Fantaji book, they show a complete Campaign Worksheet, giving you a glimpse of how it was planned out to help you when you make your own games.

Bloodsbane

This is their dark historical fantasy game. It’s got a whole lot of grim and gritty fantasy going for it, from a plague that has devastated the land, to a conflict between three kingdoms, and religous unrest. It’s a kind of setting that might interest fans of Dragon Age in terms of bleakness, though there’s a lot of cultural flavor in each of the kingdoms that is reminiscent to Early Dark RPG, also by Anthropos Games.

The Land of Mazaki

For Anime-ish fantasy fans, Mazaki would be your thing. With fantastical animals and multiple clashing cultures, it’s a setting ripe for action-adventure without being too depressing.

An interesting point to this setting is the importance of keeping nature in balance. The harmony of nature is already thrown off in the game, and the presence of angry feral spirits can serve as a backdrop of a full campaign.

Fans of Asian-inspired settings will also like the fact that Mazaki introduces an Elemental magic system AND a martial arts system that slots seamlessly with the core Fantaji rules.

Waning Moon

For fans of modern urban horror, Waning Moon serves as a gothic setting with demons and fey creatures in a modern world, and the humans who wage war against them. It’s pretty much inspired by the likes of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural.

It’s an intriguing setting, and I especially like the hellgate system.

Gamma Centauri

For Sci-Fi fans, Fantaji flexes its techno-muscles with Gamma Centauri, a space opera / Cyberpunk dystopia that has earth reduced to a husk of its former self, having been drained by aliens. It’s pretty bleak as far as space opera goes, but it does present a unique setting that I’ve not seen much of.

Gamma Centauri introduces a Damage Grades Mod that simulates damage dealt by things bigger than human-scale.

Review & Conclusion

Fantaji reminds me of Early Dark in the sense that both of them are clearly works of people who had a single, powerful vision. Fantaji’s approach to gaming takes narrative elements and “gamify”s them, using Drama as a currency to push characters (or obstacles) further. The “Playing To” mechanic insures that all actions serve the hidden bounds of a story’s themes and it all comes together like clockwork.

That said, the elegance of the mechanics also makes it a little difficult to grasp. I’ve read through it and I understand it, but it wasn’t easy. YOu will need to discard quite a bit of your old habits as far as RPG rules go. I definitely see spending more than a few practice sessions of work from all players to finally get it up and running smoothly, but once everyone gets it, Fantaji should run very well.

In addition, Fantaji is very well illustrated and the layout is clean. The language used is pretty accessible, though there are a few parts which make me flinch just the slightest bit, such as when it uses marketing language inside the product (it’s “crazy versatile!” being the most memorable phrase that comes to mind.)

Overall, Fantaji is an unique entry to the lineup of universal RPGs that has a LOT of new ideas. If you like generic RPGs but are tired of point buy options, you might want to give Fantaji a go. It’s not quite FATE, but it certainly feels like a fork of the idea of gamifying a narrative. Definitely a worthy addition to an RPG shelf.

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

If you liked this Let’s Study series, and would like to help me out in making more, please consider being a patron in my Patreon account.

[Let’s Study] Fantaji Universal Role-Playing Game, Part 6: Running a Campaign and Game Creation

Now that we’ve gone over the mechanics and character creation, we’ll focus on the GM-centric chapters.

Running a Campaign

I’m glad to see that Fantaji’s planning bits is close enough to other games that the advice here is useful to anyone. They open up with a discussion on story arcs, including the classic three-act structure. Recurring Themes are also mentioned here, which are a nice touch as they apply to the game time and again when they show up in different Scenes.

One of the most useful tips I saw here is to envision a Fantaji game as a central conflict that can be resolved by winning a series of key victories. It’s a handy thing to remember and helps align my methodology to tackling campaign creation in smaller steps.

I find it interesting that this chapter is the more approachable version of the prior one. While both have a lot of examples to work with, Running a Campaign does a better job of introducing the moving parts and how they’ll interact.

Game Creation

Now we’re definitely in familiar territory. I’m glad that Fantaji has a discussion of world creation. Some systems tend to be a little too in love with themselves and forget to give the necessary advice to teach new GMs how to build their own campaign setting.

There’s a lot of good advice here, helpful for new and experienced GMs alike. I like that they’ve also included a list of questions for brainstorming. As a GM who is new to this whole shared campaign creation process, it gives me something to work with beyond, “Talk it over until everyone’s happy.”

In addition I do like the fact that Fantaji brings up certain aspects of a game world that any world builder would do well to think about. I’m going through it and I’m seeing things that I wish I’d thought about when I was building some of my homebrew campaign worlds.

It’s clear that the Fantaji team are very old hands at world creation. There’s a lot of good advice and solid wisdom tucked away in these pages that would come in handy for anyone who likes building their own settings.

Next up, we’ll look at the last chapter, which deals with the Neutral Mods and settings that come with Fantaji.

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

[Let’s Study] Fantaji Universal Role-Playing Game, Part 5: How to Run a Scene

At this point, the Fantaji book goes on to talking about how to run a scene. This is perhaps one of the most GM-focused chapters, but is important given how Fantaji’s mechanics are fairly different from most others.

Thankfully, Fantaji’s mechanics are flexible in that they can handle all sorts of conflict, from social to physical. I found this particular chapter interesting as it shows different ways of implementing them in play.

I do like the fact that the authors acknowledge that different groups have different approaches, and the chapter acknowledges these and offers examples and suggestions for each. These include “Smooth Play” mods that are generally organic scenes, a method utilizing random draws for truly random encounters, and a board game style of play that creates a trail of various face down tiles.

Aside from these, Obstacles, Themes and Conditions are also given some attention, with examples of each kind of obstacle given attention. There’s a lot of them to consider, and I’m glad that each example can be used as a springboard for new GMs. Majority of the chapter is composed of detailed examples, and I would encourage careful and thorough study of this chapter to really get a grasp of the game.

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At this point it’s become clear that Fantaji is a system born of a lot of thought. The translation of literary concepts to play elements makes it a unique entry in RPGs, mechanics-wise.

However, the versatility comes at a price. It demands that you unlearn a lot of how RPGs function, and can leave readers feeling a little lost. I’m curious as to how this will work out in the long run, but I feel that I could stand to watch a session or two before I feel confident enough to run this.

Speaking of running games, our next article will cover Running a Campaign and Game Creation.

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

[Let’s Study] Fantaji Universal Role-Playing Game, Part 4: Character Creation

Now that we’ve had a chance to brush up on the 4 different tiles and how the system of Fantaji works, let’s move on to Character Creation.

The process of creating a character takes six steps:

Roll Niche
Roll Two Powers
Choose Two Traits
Set Health
Choose Milestones
Decide Starting Equipment

Niche

A characters Niche is composed of three different components that define their place in the game world. This is divided into Political, Social and Personal axes.

Each of these is given a table that you can roll a d10 to reandomly determine each component, and you string it together in a concept.

Example:

For this article I’m going to go for the default rolling option for character creation. I’m pretty certaint hat there’s nothing wrong with just selecting the components for a niche but there’s a bit more exercise of creativity if you try it randomly.

So, I roll 1d10 three times and get the following: 6, 10, 10

That gives me the following:

Political Aspect – Sympathizer, Hates the current structure, but loyal to leaders
Social Aspect – Religious
Personal Aspect – Pervert, Individualist, Misfit, Bitter

Ooookay, that’s a little harder than I thought. But let’s roll with it.

So, essentially my character seems to be some sort of priest who has issues with the current social structure, but believes in the legitimacy (and possibly the benevolence) of the leaders. He is also a non-conformist, and possibly nearly a heretic given his opposition to the structure.

Overall, not bad!

Powers

With it’s default rules, Fantaji allows characters with two Powers each. Fantaji provides several charts to roll on, and for powers you roll 1d10 for a category and another to get your specific power. Fantaji powers are Effect-Based, meaning that you get the mechanical stuff first, then the player gets to skin it accordingly.

Example:

Now that I’ve got my Dissident Priest, let’s see what powers I get. For the first one, I roll a 4 and a 9.

That grants me an Asset (Can move Drama from hero to Asset or vice versa “At Will,” All start at 2[1]. The asset in question is a Minion.

The second power roll gets me a 4 and a 6.

This gives me another Asset, and A Dynamo: Check @5: Generate DT+ for Asset (At Will)

For some reason I have a mental image of Gru from Despicable Me.

Traits

Characters begin with at least two Traits. Traits are phrases so we’ll have a free hand at coming up with what these might be. For the sake of time, I’ll use a few Traits from the list they’ve provided in the book.

I choose:

Hungry Like the Wolf
Silence is Golden

Somehow the idea of him being ambitious and yet very careful with his words fits the concept.

Health

Starting characters are recommended to have the following Health track:

[3]O
[2]OO
[1]OOOO

Milestones

Fantaji keeps track of experience with Milestones. In this case I don’t have a default setting to work with, so let’s just get something generic:

“Get invited to participate in the political arena”

Starting Equipment

For my character starting equipment should be things that would make sense for him. I suppose that given his nature, having a Dagger on hand would make sense, as well as some Flashy Robes that reflect his standing in the Church.

Character creation in Fantaji is quick, and I couldn’t help but be amused at just how it shares a little bit of DNA with Early Dark, especially with the Niche. It didn’t take very long to make this character, and I appreciate this kind of approach as it means we can get started with running a game right away without wasting an entire evening character creation.

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

[Let’s Study] Fantaji Universal Role-Playing Game, Part 3: How It All Works

Now that we’ve gone over the basics and the Combat Tiles of the Fantaji System, we’re going to spend this installment talking about how it all works.

Fantaji games are composed of Scenes, which are set up by having the following required tiles: Character Tiles, Obstacle Tiles and Theme Tiles. Condition Tiles are not a requirement, but some Scenes might start off with a few to denote key features of the environment or suggest a given strategy or approach.

After the tiles are set, the Judge then informs the players of how much Drama each of the Obstacles has. Most action scenes with opponents as Obstacles mean that they start off with some Drama to begin with.

Fantaji describes the actions in a game as a puzzle that the players have to solve. In some ways having a visual to rely on helps a lot in giving the players an idea in terms of how to tackle the various obstacles and just what was happening.

The Game in Motion

In Fantaji combat, each side takes turns until all Obstacles have been overcome or the heroes die. In a Round, all Tiles on one side takes a turn. As for the specific order by which the players act, that is left to the Players to sort out amongst themselves.

During a turn, a character can perform a Check or a Challenge. As discussed in our earlier article, checks build momentum or generate an advantage, while Challenges are direct actions or attacks against Obstacles.

Speaking of Obstacles, I think it’s a good time to go over each kind of Obstacle in further detail. Passive Obstacles are situations or hazards which do not include living beings or active agents. The important thing to note is that the challenge has no living will of its own.

Examples of these would be: Locked Door, Sunken Antidode Vial, Runaway Melon Cart or Impress the Local Crime Lord.

The Judge takes turns to build Drama for the Obstacle, representing the “countdown” I mentioned before, the point at which the Obstacle resolves unfavorably to the players.

Speaking of countdowns, Abstract Obstacles are those that make Checks specifically to build Drama, representing a rapidly escalating situation. Situations like a Crashing Ship. The Obstacle itself isn’t taking an action, but it does represent the progression of the situation towards a worse outcome.

Conditions are the most fiddly part of the game, and Fantaji spends a good amount of time discussing how to create them, as well as eliminating and Tripping them. The most interesting part are the guidelines on Skirting and Surfing Conditions. If a Condition can be tripped to trigger negative consequences, Skirting a Condition is taking an action that shows how a character takes care to avoid the Condition. Surfing a Condition is when a character takes an action that allows them to take advantage of a condition that was intended to do them harm. It’s a neat acknowledgement of player creativity and I expect to see that a lot in actual play.

This section is littered with examples, much to my relief. The mechanics of Fantaji are tactical, while still remaining rather abstract, so the examples are very helpful in keeping track of how things are supposed to work.

Next up, we’re taking a look at character creation!

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

[Let’s Study] Fantaji Universal Role-Playing Game, Part 2: Combat Tiles

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

[Let’s Study] Fantaji Universal Role-Playing Game, Part 1: An introduction

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.

Traits

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

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

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