Monday, 24 June 2019

AFF: I'm a man of many talents

...but posting more than every few weeks seems to be beyond me!

AFF starting PCs are, by contrast, much more competent - they're called Heroes by the game, after all. They have a broad range of (Special) Skills, and a usually able to get by by their 'raw' SKILL alone. If you have three players around the table (AFF works best, in my opinion, with small parties) chances are their Heroes will have lots of overlapping competencies. So what sets them apart?

Role-playing, you fools!

No, sorry. There is something else. AFF2e adds Talents into the mix. These weren't found in Dungeoneer (the first edition of AFF), but an embryonic talent system was found in the gamebook series - I know for certain they were to be found in Jim Bambra and Stephen Hand's Dead of Night, and that something very similar was found in Jamie Thompson and Mark Smith's Sword of the Samurai[1]. Indeed, the Talents from Dead of Night are translated into AFF in the Heroes' Companion, but the core rulebook lists 32 different Talents.

These range from Ambidextrous, Animal Friend, and Arcane... through to Swashbuckler[2], Trapmaster, and Weaponmaster. Not all of these are equally powerful. Many have an effect in combat - and AFF games will likely involve plenty of that - others, such as Status (punchline - the Aristocrats!), Natural Linguist, or Learned will find use in other situations... and the Director should pay heed to this. A player choosing these for their Hero should be assured by the Director that they will come into play at some point - but equally players should be reminded to *make decisions* on behalf of their Heroes that will bring their Special Skills and Talents into action.

As with Special Skills, there is no reason why a Director, perhaps in collaboration with their players, should not introduce more Talents, using the existing Talents as a guide. Talents could certainly be re-skinned and given flavourful, evocative names. There is no reason why, for example, Armour Training could be renamed Vymornan Legionary, though players and Director need to be on the same 'cheat sheet' when it comes to understanding what each Talent encompasses.     

Players choose one Talent for their Hero at character creation. Non-humans might start with other Talents intrinsic to their species - Dwarfs and Elves both start with Dark Seeing. The Rhino-Man, given as an example of creating new Hero species in Chapter 11: Optional Rules comes with both intrinsic armour and weapon as Talents, alongside Strongarm from the standard list.

Talents in AFF are one of the little gems hidden in the system. Their nothing special, in themselves; they're not complex, or innovative, you don't read the list and go 'wow', but in play they can be used to effectively add character to your characters - I don't like players building intricate backstories for their Heroes, but using their Talent to give us a glimpse of their Hero's history? Yes, absolutely. 

[1] One of the things that AFF has going for it is not just the material in Arion Games' own line of books, but the vast back catalogue of gamebooks (and fan created material). Some inspiration can be taken from the way in which the 'dead' Director (keeping with AFF terminology) of the gamebooks offers idiosyncratic methods of resolving actions and encounters, and lots of inspiration can be drawn from the straight, high-strength, system-neutral flavour - including great black and white illustrations that look great on the player-facing side of a Director's screen. Some of the later books might be a bit pricey, but the first 30 or so are normally pretty cheap. 

[2] Stellar Adventures (AFF in space! - a complete game in its own right which does not need AFF2e to be played) does away with the Swashbuckler Talent and allows all characters to use their Dodge Special Skill to reduce damage. This is one of a number of (minor) improvements that Stellar Adventures introduces to the AFF system.

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