A brief discussion on G+ got me thinking; what would I have to do to use the Advanced Fighting Fantasy ‘engine’ for genres other than the high-ish fantasy of Titan. Obviously, the gamebooks covered lots of ground here, with sci-fi, post-apocalypse, superheroes, and horror, as well as slightly different takes on the fantasy of Titan. Sometimes these played straight with the Fighting Fantasy system, but on other occasions they added in a new mechanic; FEAR, EVIL, FAITH, HONOUR etc. were all added to provide a mechanic that stressed a particular theme.
As I thought about it, I felt that a lot could be done simply by renaming the traditional three statistics. So, for a pulpy game, rather than SKILL, STAMINA, and LUCK, you could have COMPETENCE, GRIT, and FORTUNE. Of course, you wouldn’t have to rename *any* of these, but by renaming them you send a particular set of messages to the players (and you remind yourself) as to the genre expectations.
COMPETENCE I like as it captures what SKILL really means when it comes to PC Heroes, and disassociates it from Special Skills. It is easier (for me) to think of COMPETENCE as being something similar to ‘Level’, with Special Skills representing particular areas of training. It would also make it easier for me to explain that someone with a Special Skill rating of 4 is much better trained than someone with a Special Skill rating of 1, but that when it comes down to testing those skills when under fire from a Nazi agent wielding a tommy gun, well, then COMPETENCE matters.
I like GRIT, not only as it seems genre appropriate, but because it is easier to narrate the loss of GRIT when being shot at (but not struck), when missing sleep, or hungry, or when psychologically harmed.
FORTUNE? Well, FORTUNE is only in there as I thought I’d best change all three, as LUCK seems perfectly fine for a pulp game. However, as I mused over the possible alternative names for LUCK, I did find the perfect name for it in a ‘Dark Ages’ themed game: WYRD.
And then there is the fourth stat – the default of which is MAGIC – which is acts to add mechanical weight to the genre’s themes. A fourth stat isn’t strictly needed. AFF runs just fine with warrior/rogue type Heroes with not a point in MAGIC, but the presence of a fourth stat does allow a bit more variation in point distribution when making PC Heroes. But more than that, having a fourth box labelled MAGIC, FAITH, SPIRIT, EVIL, CORRUPTION, HONOR, SANITY, PSYCHIC POWER, etc., produces expectations of a particular type of game – that in this setting, in this campaign, these are important enough to be removed from being governed by SKILL, STAMINA, LUCK, Special Skills, and Director fiat. Rather, these are a source of a power, or weakness, and will figure in the adventures of these Heroes.
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