Thursday, November 9, 2017

Review: Forthright Open Roleplay

Forthright Open Roleplay is a true evolution of role playing games. It is, both, universal and guided. Forthright has blended resolution mechanics into something graceful and intuitive. And, most important to me, it has defied my attempts at tinkering with the core system.

Forthright Open Roleplay is interesting in that it is an open role playing system. It is universal (I wouldn’t call it generic), and has enough constraint to build a framework on. In a matter of minutes, a player can generate a character for any conceivable genre, and a GM can stat opposition in seconds. Adding a Wealth tier related to the experience system makes measuring two sides in conflict easy to measure. Is the character less experienced but loaded with gear? The players can measure how that compares to some other character. That’s what I mean by universal and guided: unlike some generic systems, there’s a value assigned to abilities and gear that makes comparison easy without having to tally points and advantages or merits. It’s fairly elegant.

Forthright Open Roleplay brings a resolution mechanic that I’ve been looking for: a d20 based roll with tiered levels of success. Anyone familiar with games Powered by the Apocalypse can see where the resolution table stems from. However, how it’s implemented in the system is what sets it apart. Sure, there’s what you would expect from a low roll in the form of the action fails and things might get worse.  There’s what you would expect for a high roll and succeeding. The mid range rolls and criticals is where the game shines, bringing, as above, a guided method of using Boons (the result of critical rolls) and how, in some cases, Exchanges (the result of mid range rolls) work without resorting to Hold or, necessarily, soft moves.

This is where I came across my stumbling blocks. I tinker with systems and settings to make them better for my play style or have the setting flow more naturally. Forthright Open Roleplay has defied my tinkering. You see, my first impulse was to turn the three abilities scores into the familiar six. Then I recalled the Cosmetic Rule. Combat in Forthright, is an ability score. Did I really need Strength, Dexterity or Constitution? I considered using Intelligence or Wisdom or Charisma to elaborate on witty repartee versus force of personality. Cosmetic Rule stepped in again. Fine. I concede the Cosmetic Rule, how about an oracle for solo role playing? That’s actually already built into the mechanics with the four tiers of success. Ok, I need magic missiles and… Cosmetic Rule, file under Fighting Styles. A-ha! Fireball. Boosts. Next.

A previous review of Forthright referred to it as a haiku, and it is very true. As I explore its depths and come up with rules tweaks, the system itself says it’s already there, hidden beneath the three lines of poetry. I had thought Dungeon World would be my favorite RPG of all time, but I think Forthright is catching up. The more I try to tinker, the more the system pushes back, the closer I think it gets to winning.

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