Product Review – Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game 3rd Edition

Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game
Author:
 Chris Gonnerman et al
Artist: Erik Wilson, Steve Zieser, Matt Finch et al
Publisher: Basic Fantasy Project
Page Count: 166 (printed) & 170 (PDF)
Binding:  Perfect Bound or Hardcover
Available Formats: Softcover, Coil Bound, Hardcover & PDF
Cost: Softcover – $5.00, Coil Bound – $9.30, Hardcover – $15.95 & PDF – Free
Company Website: http://www.basicfantasy.org/

PREMISE
Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Gaming (BFRPG) is another of the many Old School Retro clones (OSR) that puts another spin on this genre. The spin is mild and rules tweaks are relatively different enough to make this a fun one book RPG; more on this later. BFRPG is a game system that pays homage to yesterday’s RPGs. That is to say, they have taken what was great about old school D&D and using the Open Gaming License (OGL) have created a new system without losing that old D&D-esque feel. Here’s how the project leaders describe BFRPG.

The Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game is a rules-light game system modeled on the classic RPG rules of the early 1980’s. Though based loosely on the d20 SRD v3.5, Basic Fantasy RPG has been written largely from scratch to replicate the look, feel, and mechanics of the early RPG game systems. It is suitable for those who are fans of “old-school” game mechanics. Basic Fantasy RPG is simple enough for children in perhaps second or third grade to play, yet still has enough depth for adults as well.

So, as I was saying, they took what was good about the old system and made it something new that is distinctly unique. It is my opinion that this game is a hybrid of basic and 1e D&D as there are prominent aspects of each merged together to give us BFRPG. The best part is that all the rules are housed in one book!

It should be noted that BFRPG is a collaborative community project. Anyone can be a contributor to future versions, revisions, supplements and modules. Please visit their site to learn more about their collaborative efforts and their current needs and wants in a variety of areas.

MECHANICAL OVERVIEW
Instead of summarizing the basic mechanics like I would normally, I want to cover some of the mechanical aspects that stood out to me as I read through the rule book. Wow, where to start? There are lots of things stood out.

  • Class and race are separate
  • There are only four 4 classes and four races to choose from
  • Individual initiative is no longer an optional rule
  • Armor Class is ascending
  • Armor values are higher than other ascending AC combat systems*
  • Lots of optional combat related rules included (charging, evasion, etc)
  • Implemented the use of an Attack Bonus (AB) in addition to stat bonuses**
  • Includes simple and practical unarmed combat rules
  • Includes a very robust bestiary
  • Includes random tables to aid GMs on the fly

* BFRPG gives Plate mail armor value of AC 17. Swords & Wizardry which also uses the same ascending AC system and it gives Plate mail armor a value of AC 16. Neither rating factors in the defensive value of a shield.

** Attacks are determined by rolling 1d20+AB+Stat bonus (strength or dexterity) to arrive at the final attack total. As is the norm, this total will be used to determine what Armor class it hits.

I like the split between race and class, this is a nice change from many of the other Retro Clones on the market. While your options are limited individually, together, they give you many combinations with which to work with. It should be noted that at the Project’s website above, there are no less than 10 additional classes and 4 additional races being playtesting at this time.

Individual initiative has advantages; It really does allow for a more fluid and dynamic combat narrative, but it does tend to slow combat down in other systems. I see no reason why this couldn’t have stayed an optional rule as it is in most of the other Retro Clones out there. That said, I am not discounting it yet. I want to see it in action to assess it how it works with the other runs. It may, in fact, not affect the length of the combat scenes. To provide a frame of reference, many of the traditional D20/OGL games on the market are plagued by exceptionally long combat scenes. We’ll see how BFRPG compares!

PROS
The layout of the book is real tight which helps to keep things condensed. There is so much information packed into this relative short book! The bestiary is rather robust, not all-inclusive, just robust. The contributors went out of their way to include lots of optional rules that a GM can implement if s/he wants.

The mechanical rules are compatible with the myriad of old D&D modules that exist; not to mention the plethora of newly produced modules for the OSR. All you really need to do is convert the AC to ascending. There are also modules and supplements that have been published specifically for BFRPG.

CONS
Due to the tight layout of the book, there are things that I would have preferred to see grouped together instead of being separated. For example, the cleric’s turning table is located in the encounters section and not with the class information. The encounter section really should have included a summary of the combat sequence. It’s discussed in the order in which things need to happen during combat, but a summary would have been helpful.

The ascending armor class is an aspect of the D20 and Open Gaming License movement that I don’t particularly care for. The use of it here doesn’t make this a bad system, just something I will have to get used to. Especially considering the way in which the armor types are rated. To be fair, the slight differences are probably related to the use of the Attack Bonus. I wish they had included an AC conversion chart (descending/ascending) as well.

PARTING SHOTS
What can I say? I am sucker for all things Old School fantasy! This game, despite the few issues I have with the layout and mechanics, is going to be a great addition to my collection. I really like the merging of Basic D&D and 1e D&D elements. They have truly created a neat little hybrid game that seems like it will scratch my OSR itch!

Despite not having played this system, I well versed in the OSR and Old School versions and variations to be qualified to assess the rules system as written. This one is being added to my “to play list” for sure.

~ Modoc

 

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Jack says:

    Reblogged this on Tome and Tomb.

    Like

  2. Hey, thanks for the nice review! I think you really get where we were going with the whole game.

    I just wanted to reply to your comments about armor class in BFRPG. In Swords & Wizardry, ascending AC starts at 10 and goes up, whereas it starts at 11 and goes up in BFRPG… but a 1st level guy in S&W has the same chance to hit a given AC as a 1st level guy in BFRPG, because our combat tables advance a bit differently.

    We get the same results using different numbers, in other words.

    We don’t have a conversion table because it’s simple math. To convert from a standard descending AC value (regardless of BX or 1E or S&W or OSRIC or whatever), subtract the number from 20… and to convert in the other direction, do the exact same thing. To convert to an S&W AC, deduct 1, and to convert from S&W to BFRPG, add 1. If by chance you have an unarmored man in a 1E adventure, just change the AC 10 to 11.

    Again, thanks for the kind words! I appreciate every review, and I try to respond to them all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. modoc31 says:

      Chris

      Thank you for the blog comment and the clarification on the AC system. I totally missed that little fact on my read through. Now it makes sense why it was off by a value of one.

      All told, I am looking for to playing this system very soon. I also got the Adventure Anthology 1 so I have adventures on hand and ready to go.

      Cheers
      Modoc

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  3. I’ve been playing BFRPG for several years now and agree with you that BFRPG feels like a Basic D&D/1E hybrid (leaning more toward the basic side). That’s what appealed to me from the start. I’ve successfully used the BFRPG rules to run players through vintage modules for both old school D&D and AD&D. The few conversions necessary (e.g. AC) are simple enough to be done on the fly. This has allowed me to use BFRPG at local conventions to not only introduce players to OSRs but to classic adventures from the early days. I think when you do get a chance to play the system that you’ll really like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. modoc31 says:

      Jason,

      Thanks for your comments. I am really forward to giving this game go. I am actually looking at what I want to run using these rules. I have about 50 old D&D modules. Not to mention a variety of OSR modules like the Adventure Anthology for BFRPG.

      Can you recommend any particular modules that worked exceptionally well after converting it to BFRPG?

      Modoc

      Like

  4. I ran TSR 9190 “In Search of Adventure” which is basically all of B1 – B9 combined into one long campaign. It was super easy to use. No more prep time was required than normal for any adventure. The players had a blast. None of them had every played Basic D&D much less any of those old modules and they enjoyed the setting as well as the game play.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. modoc31 says:

      Jason,

      Thanks for the suggestion. It just so happens I own that module. May have to give it some serious consideration.

      Modoc

      Like

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