Monday, December 23, 2013

[Adventures in Fantasy] Book of Creatures and Treasure

The final book of the Adventures in Fantasy role-playing game boxed set is Book III: Book of Creatures and Treasures.  This slim, 49 page manual has a Pepto-Bismol colored cover with red letters and the material inside is also presented in red lettering.  I am sure this was done for copy protection back in those days but it can lead to some rough reading.  The cover art depicts a lone dragon sitting with wings spread and one foot on what I can only assume to be a giant’s skull from the size of it.

The words of the introduction take up approximately one-third of the page.  The authors explain their main source for the creatures came from “the myths of Europe and the Mediterranean while some creatures come “from other sources” but those other sources are not mentioned.  The aim of the creature section was “to provide a mythos composed of those creatures that comprise the major segment of our mythological heritage” and to describe them with “the attributes and background they possessed in the myths of their origin”. There are also a few words about treasure in the introduction.  The random treasure tables have been set up for a large amount of variation while not allowing too much treasure.  The sample artifacts included came about from the research of the author.  These artifacts should be rare and the treasure tables have been designed to reflect that. 

The creatures section of the rule book contains 31 pages of information.  These 31 pages are split among 29 pages of creature descriptions and a 2 page list of basic creature information at the end. Every entry contains the name of the creature along with average hit points (hit points without rolling), movement (flying also), alignment, body type (for combat purposes), and hit dice (for when you want to roll for hit points). This information is typically followed by a short paragraph or two describing physical appearance, culture, intelligence, weaknesses, and some encounter notes.  The information seems sufficient enough for game use and, most importantly, the reader is not smothered in a mountain of details and statistics that seems to be the norm in many modern game systems.

The largest entry in the creatures section – and the one that most people will probably find the most interesting – is the one detailing Dragons.  The information on Dragons takes up 9 pages of this section because there is no static list of entries to use.  Each Dragon is unique and must be generated before campaign play.  Every Dragon has 13 Characteristics – Form, Age, Size, Sex, Intelligence, Egotism Index, Greed Index, Personality Index, Alignment, Breath Value, Magic Rating, Interests, and Hoard – that are generated by rolling on a series of provided tables.    

The typical length of most of the other creature descriptions is around one-third to one-half of a page.  Of course, there are some descriptions that fall outside of this range. Bits of mythological information can be learned by reading the creature descriptions.  Bugbears are closely related to Goblins and their name was intended to mean “Goblin Bear”, Ogres are the offspring of the Troll and Trow, if Black Elves are exposed to sunlight they will automatically turn to stone without a saving throw, and Vampires can change into 6 different forms.  It is nice to see some actual mythology used for the monsters and also some connection to stuff like Hammer Horror.  Some players will probably dislike the fact that Adventures in Fantasy is very human-centered because many of the monster races have weakness or other disadvantages that will make them highly unattractive for use as player characters.  The only other negative that I can really see is that this is just the basic game and there were many supplements planned that would have expanded Dragons, the Jinns, and others; nothing more was ever published so one can only imagine what might have been. 

The second half of the book uses 18 pages to cover topics such as gemstone values, miscellaneous treasure, magic items, and artifacts.  Following a brief introduction, there are three pages of charts and explanations.  The General Treasure Chart determines if a treasure consists of coins, gem/jewels, miscellaneous treasure, or magic items.  There is also an individual treasure chart with the results affected by activity, location, and social status for solo encounters.

The next nine pages of the manual cover the subject of magic items.  This section begins with some basic information about magic items.  There are two types of magic items:  natural and artifact.  Natural magic items derive most of their power from the material used in construction while artifacts are granted their power mainly from the workings of the maker during construction.  Characters can even begin play with a family heirloom magic item on a successful roll against their age. 

The magic items included in the game are split into five basic groups: swords, armors, amulets, talismans, and miscellaneous. The magic items avoid the straight up “sword +1” and similar labels that seem to plague many games these days.  Swords are very individualized with attributes such as unbreakable, pierce rock, magic dispeller.  Swords may even turn on a character if found instead of inherited.  Armor has an enchantment level expressed as a percentage bonus to defense and only one armor bonus can be used for improving defense.  Amulets function like armor because they are “always on” when worn and Talismans function like swords and have to be put into use.  These items grant the user abilities such as increasing saving throws, increasing strength, warding against magic, granting future knowledge, or an assortment of other benefits.  I did not notice any cursed items but maybe that was planned for a future expansion.   

The final five pages contain details for artifacts in the game.  The largest part of this section is an alphabetical listing of 24 miscellaneous artifacts.  Some examples of the artifacts include The Bow of Locksley, Waters of Life, Flying Carpet, and the Wand of Light.  The descriptions seem pretty clear and easy to comprehend.  I get the impression they would be quite fun in play with sense of discovery and a little bit of unpredictability in some cases.  This section closes with a sample campaign artifact table that one can use to randomly determine which artifact is discovered. 

This was the easiest book in the Adventures in Fantasy boxed set for me to fully grasp.  I admit that the other two books had me scratching my head in spots.  I do not think it is necessarily because they were difficult reading but because they seemed vague and even contradictory to me at times.  After making it through this manual with relative ease I am really interested in going back through the other books and giving it another shot.  Maybe I will do that sometime in the future…

Okay, I am not quite done yet.  I do have some other stuff I would like to do with this game including:

I have searched for a character sheet for Adventures in Fantasy and have had no luck at all.  I have some published stat blocks provided by a fellow blogger that will help me design a character sheet to make available for download.

There were three reference sheets in the boxed set.  I am in the process of cleaning these up and making them available for download.

I am interested in going back through the rules and noting some house rule decisions that will help me understand this game better.  If I am successful at this task then I will make those notes available for download.

If I get really motivated then I would definitely be interested in developing a new game based on my perceptions of Adventures in Fantasy.  This game would be written in the same way that Tunnels & Trolls was written as a reaction to Dungeons & Dragons.  I make no promises…



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