Fantasy Realms : Mechanics In A Nutshell

Copyright 1996 By Joseph W. Teller
Edited By Kiralee B. McCauley

One of the many questions we get from people concerns exactly how the mechanics of Fantasy Realms work. Obviously we cannot present the entire system here online, as it would be very large and would also 'give away' much of the essence of Fantasy Realms.

What we can do is give an overview, which will present some of the information covered in the character translation pages, along with some new revelations.

The Fantasy Realms Mechanic is modified slightly for each world we design, so that it can better represent the concepts and ideas behind the world. This helps give each world a unique feel in play, but does not produce changes so drastic they prevent characters from being imported from one world to another.

This is important because there are two basic concepts used to create gaming plotlines : The plot that takes place in a setting familiar to the characters and introduces a threat, problem or challenge into that familiar environment; and the second concept, where characters come from one or more familiar places and travel to some new place to either explore, experience, exploit or assist in solving the problems of that place.

These two plots, the essence of adventuring, can also be mixed together. For example a problem could occur in the characters homeland that can only be solved by traveling elsewhere to confront its source, or to bring back something that can be used to deal with the problem upon returning home.

With a multiverse of inter-connected worlds/universes players can be brought thru a wide variety of travel experiences as needed. Or they can establish themselves in a familiar place and deal with its problems as well as the problems that come from other worlds.

However, if all the worlds work exactly the same, it limits the number of new and interesting things the characters can meet and explore. If, for example, the magic used in each world is tailored to that world's culture, it becomes a much more consistant and interesting whole to encounter.

Anyway, this is why the mechanics are fine tuned based upon the world. So lets get away from those things that involve the fine tuning process and deal with the general aspects of the game mechanics.

Dice
We recommend the exclusive use of d20 dice, and that each player and GM have at least one such die. The mecahnics are designed with primarily rolls using a single d20, and subsituting other dice will change the rolling curves and how things work in actual play.

Attributes
The primary attributes used in Fantasy Realms are BODY, COORDINATION, PERCEPTION, TOUGHNESS, HEALTH, LIFT, MIND, SPIRIT, POWER and WEALTH. Some worlds will include one or more additional attributes (Such as the use of FAME in Perilous Earth) but the primary attributes can be found in all the worlds. Their limits may differ drastically from world to world (ex: WEALTH in T'Phon is scaled on a 1-8, but in Perilous Earth is scaled on 1-20). TOUGHNESS, LIFT and WEALTH are attributes that are never rolled against in play.

Human range, in most worlds, is a 1-8 for all the attributes that ARE rolled against, except for POWER which is a 0-8 range (Not all characters will have POWER).

When a roll is requires against an attribute a die is rolled, with a roll of 1 being an automatic failure, and then the attribute is added to the roll. Other modifiers might be applied if the feat is exceptionally difficult. If the total result is a value of 10 or greater then the roll was successful.

Skills
This dice principle is also applied to skills. Skills in Fantasy Realms are scaled from 0 (Non-existant) to 8 (absolute expert). When an uncontested/unchallenged skill roll is made, the skill is added to the die and if the result is 10 or greater then the skill has been used successfully. Again, a role of 1 is always a failure.

Like attribute rolls, skill rolls may be modified by special conditions.

Additionally a skill may be challenged. Combat is a fine example of this. If a character has a skill in Sword and is attacking another character, the attacker rolls and adds their skill. The defender rolls and adds their COORDINATION to dodge the blade. If the defender's total is equal to or greater than the attacker's value, then the attacker has failed. Contested or opposed rolls such as this totally depend on the difference between the rolls, instead of using the "10 or better = Success" rule of uncontested actions.

The actual skills available in a worldbase differs from world to world, as do the number of skill Ranks that a character has to invest in their skills. Also how specific or general the skill lists are tends to differ from world to world. We have online an example character for T'Phon that should give you a better idea of how skills are organized and categorized in that worldbase.

In general the skill system, like the rest of the game, is designed with the assumption that a player character is an adult who will have a number of varied skills, and can perform these skills competantly. A skill rank of 4 is considered sufficient to perform a skill as a profession, a skill of 1 is someone who is just begining to learn a skill, while a rank of 8 is an expert in the skill.

The rule that makes a 1 always a failure is the system equalizer, so that experts are not infallible, and so that even a rank amateur has a chance at occasionally achieving a miraculous action, if an opponent makes a mistake.

Initiative
Initiative is rolled in combat situations, or situations where actions might take place that are oppositional to each other. The initiative roll is a contested Attribute roll - players roll a die and add their character's COORDINATION attribute. This decides who goes first, matching totals actions will occur simultaneously.

A player can choose to have their character hold action, not using their initiative roll to take action, but giving them the ability to react instantly to the actions of others.

Initiative, of course, can be affected by such factors as surprise.

Martial Maneuvers
Fantasy Realms uses a variety of martial maneuvers, based on the particular worldbase, that can be used by characters skilled in martial arts. These may expand the realism of combat activities, without bogging down actual playing speed.

Damage
Damage in Fantasy Realms is covered in a unique manner. If an opponent strikes successfully they make a damage roll. To this is added the damage base of the weapon (ex: A Dagger has a +3 Damage Base), the BODY of the attacker (If it is a non-ranged attack), and any special modifiers to damage from martial maneuvers. From this is subtracted the defender's TOUGHNESS, any toughness for armour they are wearing and any modifiers from previously received wounds.

The final resulting number, if 0 or less, means that the attack failed to penetrate and do any real damage. If the value is 1 or greater, then the combat damage table is consulted. This table (a single page in the rules) is the controlling factor. It is a progressive table, starting with simple results, such as scratches, bruises, or being knocked slightly off balance, and moving on up to the outright death of the defender. The system is set up so that attacks which kill instantly, with a single blow, are rare, though it is possible to suffer a severe or debilitating wound.

Overall, the table covers a wide range of possibilities. Many results on the table, including wounds, result in a +2 (or more) being added to all further damage rolls. Thus even the best warriors can be worn down by a number of small successful strikes, slowing from a series of minor wounds and blood loss so that more severe damage can eventually be inflicted. And because instant kills are rare, characters with less skill will not be instantly overwhelmed by an expert in martial skills.

The GM tracks the effects of the damage, so that players never see the numeric results. Instead they will be given the GM's colorful descriptions, such as, "Your attempt to dodge left put you off balance, and it will take you a round to recover. You are more likely to be hit by any attacks against you until the end of next round;" or, "That hurt, cutting right thru your armor. The air is knocked out of your lungs, leaving you gasping and unable to act. You are having enough trouble just standing and holding on to your weapon. Stunned definitely comes to mind as the term best describing your status."

This makes it easier for players to suspend their disbelief and let the game world and situations "live" for them. This is important in roleplaying, and something many games fail to do. A roleplaying game is NOT just a war game, nor a strategy board game or a card game. It is an adventure in experience, an exploration of possibilities (and maybe self), story-living and fantasy entwining.

Magic, Psionics, Powers, etc
Exactly how magic and other fantastical elements work in Fantasy Realms is very much based on the world(s) in play. Some worlds may include one of these possibilities, others all of them. Fantasy Realms is not designed for 'Historic' or 'Real World' gaming. One of the fantastic elements MUST be present in each worldbase for it to be a Fantasy Realms world.

So each world will have special fine-tuned magic systems, psionic systems or power systems, based upon the concepts behind the world. Most will require a player character to use special skills or attribute to use these features in play. It would be impossible to describe all the possible systems that might be encountered in the Fantasy Realms worlds.

In general these abilities are often contested skill or attribute rolls. We avoid 'Spell Point' systems for the most part in Fantasy Realms worlds. Most of these systems appear rather arbitrary, designed to 'depower' the fantastic in a world, or to take such power out of the hands of players for fear that it will unbalance the game. Instead, Fantasy Realms uses a short table, similar to the damage table, which is rolled against everytime a character fails in the use of one of these abilities. Results vary from the amusing to the disasterous, with the chance of a disasterous result increasing with each failure.

Character Generation Note
One side note regarding character generation : Fantasy Realms is designed with a lot of flexibility. It has systems both for player constructed characters, using point distributions, and for totally random characters, for players who don't want to have to design a character concept from scratch and are willing to let the dice decide a lot of their characters attributes and abilities.

Besides the mechanic basics, Fantasy Realms worlds are designed to encourage complex characters that have real personalities and lives beyond mere words on paper. An extensive system of Traits (Positive and Negative) are used to polish and explore character concepts and aspects, as well as optional tables and sections to better define the character.

Multiple character growth systems exist, to suit the personal preferences of GMs. Some GMs like slow steady character growth, others like character growth in spurts, and some don't like much growth at all after character conception. Fantasy Realms is designed to let the GM handle growth as they see fit.

Final Words
There you have it, your nutshell. I hope that it helps convince you to give one of our Fantasy Realms worlds a try. We believe that we've designed a simple, easy to use mechanic system that will produce sufficient color and realism, while not letting the mechanics get in the way of actual roleplaying.

Fantasy Realms is designed to be a mechanic that fits our particular playing style, and may not be suited to everyone. We believe its a good middle of the road mechanic, that is easy to use for beginers, and sophisticated enough for long time players and GMs to appreciate. It allows us to present worlds in a manner that we feel is comprehensive and understandable.

The specific worlds we present under the Fantasy Realms mechanic are meant to be user friendly and GM expandable. They can stand alone, or act as part of a cosmic multidimensional whole. They are worlds we have designed for use in our own campaigns, and reflect our interests and ideas. GMs and players of Fantasy Realms are encouraged to create their own worlds as well. We want this to be a fan-friendly series of games. Your input and help is welcomed.

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Joseph Teller August 24 1996


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