Fantasy wargaming cover-to-cover, part I

"Fantasy wargaming" was published in 1982 and is deeply rooted in medieval history, trying to recreate the feeling of that period. It does a tremendous job in that sense, as i hope to highlight later, especially in trying to convey the feeling of the incantations available to magicians and what to speak of the cleric's faith, on which their ability to call their divinity is founded.

Together with "Chivalry & Sorcery", i know of no other vintage role-playing game so focused in detail on the medieval time period and in this respect the first lenghty part of the book is worth reading just for this fact, regardless of its usage as a fantasy game.

Fantasy wargaming (FW), is in my top ten old school fantasy rpg, and it should really be rediscovered.

Go read the introduction below and find out why the author believes that "D&D is unsatisfactory".


5 Stone Games said...

Nice catch.

I was given this book as a lad and while I saw the flavor I didn't see the value in it.

Also I was more than a bit offended by stating Jesus and other facets of Christianity

Its still a pretty remarkable piece of work and as it never achieved much popularity can be seen fairly often in used bookstores and remainder shelves.

faoladh said...

I look forward to reading your take on the game. I wrote a multipart review/readthrough myself a couple of years ago, which you may find interesting. Mine starts here.

Catacomb librarian said...

Yes, i am aware of your multipart review and of Mike Monaco's as well, i think i'll never reach your degree of detail, you made a really good work and expounded the game for anyone interested.

Mine will be a personal intimate look into this game, because i have a special fondness for it and so i must write something about it.

faoladh said...

Excellent! I am also, obviously, quite fond of the game. The more people writing about it, the better!

Bhoritz said...

One of my favorite old games. I think that it only lacked better organisation (mostly putting the modifiers in their own tables and unto a GM screen) to make it easily usable. It is a game which would have benefited from a retrocloning.
It also contains the only explanation I have ever seen to have several monotheist and polytheist mythologies alongside in a coherent way (I mean, all of them being true in their own terms).
I toyed with the idea, more than once, to launch a new campaign with it.

Catacomb librarian said...

How could one retroclone this game? I mean, we should take into account copyright issues and so forth? Or would it be possible to retro clone it regardless of them?

Bhoritz said...

Retroclone is regardless of copyright.
As only the expression of the game (the way it is written) is copyrighted, retrocloning is simply rewriting the same rules differently.

Now it is more appropriate to retroclone with the author authorisation (as was done when TSR Conan was turned into ZeFRS, or as Mr Pettigrew has accepted, I think, for Flashing Blades).
But it is not needed, and if I remember correctly the author is dead which makes getting an authorisation impossible.

IIRC, someone proposed to have a try at retrocloning the game on RPGnet. I volunteered to illustrate it, but it was abandonned.
If you think it could be done, I would gladly participate.

Catacomb librarian said...

Yes, it is here:


That's an interesting idea. The only thing that might be a problem is that the first halfof the book is not rules, but explanation on medieval life, as you know- so i wonder how that part can be retrocloned without copying the text as it is.

faoladh said...

mikemonaco and I have done some work toward making a retroclone of FW. I set it aside when I started to find myself wishing that I could simply change certain sections to match my current preferences. I want to be sure of my intentions with the game: whether to make it a true retroclone like Labyrinth Lord or OSRIC, a modified retroclone like Swords & Wizardry, or a game inspired by the original like Adventures Dark and Deep. All three are legitimate approaches, but I can't do all three at once.

Bhoritz said...

My preference (not only for FW, but more generally for any retroclone), would be a true retroclone, giving a true image of the game, with any modifications added as an appendix or in another document.
I suppose I prefer that gamers have a chance to discover the game as it was before choosing (or not) variants.
This, of course apply to the content of the game, not to its presentation. For exemple, in the case of FW, I would prefer the modifiers to be kept the same, but to be presented in a more practical way.
Just my 2 cents,....

Bhoritz said...

...the first half of the book is not rules, but explanation on medieval life, as you know- so i wonder how that part can be retrocloned without copying the text as it is.

That would probably be more difficult than rewriting the rules but not impossible.
The problem is that, whilst not included in the rules, this part explain why the game world is that way. For exemple the part about magic and religion is mandatory to understand the rules.

On the other hand, I think that the chapter about fantasy literature would be impossible to rewrite. It is an opinion piece and rewriting someone opinion would be quite weird.

faoladh said...

Bhoritz: I can understand that view. For me, writing a strict retroclone is the most difficult approach, as I have pretty strong opinions about what I would like to see in a game.

In addition, like OSRIC, there are parts of the game that I simply won't include (notably, the sex-based modifiers, but a few other things as well), and there are other things that I definitely will be changing (I intend to expand the "Bogey" table to a full 100 possible results, for instance, as "no result" is boring), even if I end up making it a relatively strict retroclone. Further, there are some areas of the rules that, from my experience of play, were clearly never playtested. Some numerical values may need adjusting as a result, though obviously I want to run the originals, and the adjustments, by a blind playtest group first.

The earliest games had an advantage in that they were designed in play, and so playtest was built into their design. This also resulted in sometimes obscure design choices that didn't seem to make sense - most notably visible in the design of D&D - even though they were actually rather clever. Later games were written first, which is to say that they were designed instead of evolving, and failing to playtest the rules is the biggest area of failure in them (this became worst in the 1990s, I think).

Bhoritz said...

Oh I would also certainly make changes in the game for my own use. I don't think I have ever played a game without houseruling it. I don't remember how I used FW at the time, but I would be very surprised if I had not changed things. Playing "by the book" was not usual in the 80's anyway.

It all comes down to the difference between making a (probably better) "second edition" of the rules or providing the original one.
I find both interesting, so I wouldn't exclude any approach.

Catacomb librarian said...

I would personally opt for a strict retroclone (if i had to choice among the three approaches outlined by Faoladh, though a modified retroclone has some charm to me as well).

So, i would provide the original one but with a clearer layout, and maybe adding or deleting some pieces away (the way OSRIC did).

The real problem for me is not re-writing the rules, i could do that without much effort. The problem would be the interior art. I should find (hire?) someone who could provide some good od school art should i rewrite this.

Bhoritz said...

If you are interested, I would gladly do the art for free. You can see what I do here: http://drawcrowd.com/bhoritz/projects
The appropriate style for OSR would probably something like the bard girl with the candle, but anything is possible.

Catacomb librarian said...

I quite like your art style, and in particular that image of the bard girl..i think that style would suit a new edition of FW perfectly.

Now let me have a look at the text of the book, i already started to take entire pages of it and putting them to WORD (text) format, and that is not showing particularly difficult.

If we have the text and we can work on the interior art as well, all there is left is to extrapolate the tables from the original book and re-writing them (maybe a software like Microsoft Excel would do the trick for us, but there may be other (smarter?) ways to do so.This must be done because i can't just scan the original tables and put them with copy/paste on a retroclone.

If you want to leave me your e-mail,we can continue talking about this in private.

Bhoritz said...

That's quite exciting. You can reach me at Bhoritz at gmail dot com.

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