Wednesday, 2 September 2015

FATAL Critical Failures!

For a blog I'm doing research for (will edit link in here after I post it) I was researching other games systems, ones that did things poorly or horribly, and what they did that I should avoid for my own. During the process, I encountered some interesting (and shocking.. NSFW.. I mean for the average non roleplayer its Extremely NSFW in which writing I found my self cringing and re-writing this blog) roleplay systems, amongst the complaints from standard systems, Often people would cy...

At Least its not F.A.T.A.L!

Oh, and Gang Rape was the
plot for character
team building / formation.
For those not in the know.. FATAL is a system, created by Byron Hall, who probably didn't do a lot of market research into making RPGs, but did a lot of research into medieval environments, much of which seems to be D&D, medieval movies from the 80s, maybe some shlock horror, the Rutger Huer Movie "Flesh & Blood", typical teenage basement dwelling humour.

Whats not surprising is the amount of flak he got for daring to publish his ideas (well, a PDF at any rate). As it stand FATAL is listed as the worst, for all time so far, worst RPG system ever..

So of course I had to download it.

I downloaded the first version : Fantasy Adventure To Adult Lechery

The title gives away main reason why people hate it.

This the 2nd version cover..
The More safe for work version
Its a Great big overly detailed, and I mean comparative to Rolemaster or GURPS overly detailed, list of so many things a Gamesmaster should consider (and then discard what doesn't match their system) when designing their own system, Its just that FATAL included ALL of them.. 900 pages of rules and rules and rules..

Now, there are some glaring problems with it.. Layout, Design, 900 pages, tables of tables.. It could be salvageable, if it had some kind of underlying something to it worth salvaging. The book goes into great detail about diseases, phobias, psychological traits, aspects of dealing with life as a medieval peasant. Occupations, Skills and Equipment.. all before telling me how to play the Friggin game.

And Oh, My Gawd is it overdone.. 4 lines to explain what water is, another 4 for milk!.. If players need a Thesaurus of common terms, maybe you have the wrong kind of players..

So I'm not going to go any further, (as much fun as it could be) into picking apart a bad system, Discussing how, splitting it into Standard rules, Gamesmasters rules and the Adult material could have helped, nor how the Structure or format needed to be more player, others have done before me. I'll focus instead on what a lot of people have focused on.. poorly.. the Adult Lechery.

If you read the reviews and counter reviews of the author, you'll come across how the bulk of people focus on the fact that your character can have an [here it is... no.1 reason for its ranking ] anal circumference, because, if and when you get raped, you need to know how much pain you're going to be in.

In comparison to the size of this blog.. that one line represents the percentage of filth in the book. But for 900+ pages, thats still 20 odd pages of filth.. and another 100 pages of dubious material.. And for typical human reasons, its the only thing anyone will ever remember of it.

So Why Write about this filth?

Normally I might read up on hundreds of pages of articles, double check my references, make sure what I'm writing about has plausible credibility to it.. I do the same for my own system. I might never point out some things I read, because its not what I like to share with others..

Yet like a car accident, We imagine how it might have been us.. and I looked back at my earlier works and wondered... would I have been so unlucky if I published in 1998?

Total 100% accurate of how players
Act in game, but real life?
Then, while travelling by train across south Russia these last few days, I had some pdfs in my tablet I could read, and one of them was Critical Failures. .. About a DM who has the power to send his a group of players, who are behaving like the worst players you could get, to the fantasy world they're playing in, when their behavior gets them into trouble, time and time again...

I didn't feel like I was reading something that someone had made up, I know people that behave that way.. I don't roleplay with them, and probably never would, but I remember being 12 and sorta maybe acting that way. So I could identify easily with who they were

The writing of Critical Failures is poor, language badly chosen, some serious flaws in the style, but heck, its better than mine half the time, and at least the guy wrote it and made it available for download.

But the funniest part for me, I didn't feel like they were playing D&D, even though that's the parody the author went for. No, I felt that they were playing FATAL.. and Byron Hall was the DM, and the RPG Net were the players... and then I took a look back at the RPG environment of the 80s and 90s and felt sorry for the Author of FATAL.. because it looks like that's what he's gone and done.. Made the RPG for the audience that has since, grown up, while the Author had not.

In the 80s all manner of things, with 20/20 hindsight, seems racist, sexist, misogynist immature and just plain wrong. RPGs were not immune, depending on the system & Gamesmaster, Characters would typically devolve into murder hobos, ultra powerful bad guys, or all manner of worse. Half of today's memes are based on 80s RPG fail.

So FATALs Author seems to be a GM whose inclusiveness went over board.  instead of putting down his foot and saying.. "hey guys,too much.. this is never going to be popular on the market.." no, instead the author thought that all roleplayers were like his group.. raping and pillaging across his game world.. so he added more rules to match all the consequences..

I got out of the standard roleplay scene when this seemed to be happening around me. Players were joining the brand new Vampire games, where killing and raping innocents became part of the norm. The teenage angst of lack of control in the real world bleeds into the control they need to exert in the roleplay world, lashing out at anything that offends them, and with power, allows them to avoid or beat back any social problems that may arise.

Lessons to be learnt

It asks the question, Why do we roleplay? Is its the Escapism? to get away from this world that we lack the skills and control needed to be successful and the desire to be so? To go to a place (even if its in our minds) to be able to be skilled, powerful and in control?

Is this an immature desire? I've had maybe a few handfuls of 'adults' in my life try to tell me that roleplaying is a childish thing, and that I should grow up. Now that I'm 40, a dad, I've researched what games are, what play is, what is a roleplay game, and how roleplay has a very critical aspect of learning about it. Gamification is mired in roleplay, Schools actually teach us to role play scenarios out, in order to solve problems.

"Train A is headed from the West at 20km an hour, Train B from the East at 30km an hour, they start 100km apart, at what point do they crash?"

Albiet, your not playing a Train, but the puzzle is set in a way that allows the student to visualize the problem in real terms, which is one of the cores of what a roleplay game is.

The Concept of Games & Play has been coming up in my discoveries over the last few years, and I'm quite seriously considering my PhD in this field. How much of the desire to roleplay is the desire to escape our own mundane vs the playground of the mind to learn?


My Own system went through stages, Complex, Simplified, Improvements, Mess, Restructuring. If I had published at any stage prior, I'd expect to be ripped to shreds by the RPG community for attempting to publish anything less than a half decent set of rules.

The current 'popular' RPG seems to be rules lite, narrativity styled RPGs, possibly due to the influx of females to the gaming industry over the last 20 years, So attempting to bring a new system, more complex than most, is bound for failure, let alone adding sexuality (No, mum, not that kind of roleplay), obfuscated layout, and adult themes (plus, claiming its all historically accurate).

Yet I have a complex system, So I guess I have empathy for this guy.. he thought that his differentiation, that 'thing' which would make his game interesting, is the first person to publish a game which dealt with the smut & puerile humour that many games devolve into. To cater to those teenagers and their angst at a lack of sexual experience. Not realising, that is the worst kind of roleplay, and the community as a whole would rather pretend it never existed, than admit that yes, once, they too tried to 'get it on' with a barmaid, and the teenage GM asked to roll for penetration.

Post Script

Further topics on this to come:

* Will Roleplaying games of the future be boring, or will Roleplay become obsolete, if we get too politically correct?

* How to Use failed roleplay systems, and identifying failure within successful systems, to build a better system. (Building a better mousetrap?)

* What IS roleplay, and what IS a roleplay Game? Does a conversation about a vorpal sword working on a Jabberwickerbasket count?

p.p.s. I Always thought it would be fun to run a roleplay group of evil (i.e. bastard) characters, while several other roleplay groups of good guys were hunting them...

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