Fencing & Firearms (PFRPG) PDF

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Have you ever watched a movie full of swashbuckling goodness and thought, “This would make a great game?” I know I have, and long before I played RPGs. As a kid, I loved Errol Flynn and Tyrone Powers. Many a Saturday was spent pretending to be Captain Blood, Robin Hood, or Zorro. And let’s not forget the Three Musketeers, Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver, and, yes, even Don Quixote.

The roleplaying aspects of the swashbuckler genre work well-enough with any game system. Tongue-in-cheek humor and traded bon mots don’t require game mechanics. Swashbuckling combat must be fast-paced, highly mobile, and full of flashy attacks. Unfortunately, the world’s most popular roleplaying game’s combat system doesn’t score high marks in these areas.

Fencing & Firearms (F&F) respects the core mechanics of the game but still addresses widely perceived problems with the combat rules. F&F doesn’t change racial traits, class features, or skills. It has as little impact on core rules feats as possible. Our primary goal is that DMs can take this book and drop it into their games with a minimal amount of work. F&F focuses on:

  • speeding up play,
  • keeping each player involved even when it’s not his turn,
  • providing all players with more combat options, and
  • making combat maneuvers easier to use.

And this is just the first part of F&F. The second part deals with black powder weapons and how to use them with your game.

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A bunch of alternative rules

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My review doesn't fit here, see the discussion for the review.



Fencing & Firearms
This pdf is 30 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page table of contents and 1 page OGL.

That leaves 26 pages of crunch to kick your game into swashbuckling mode. At least that’s the premise.
The pdf kicks off with two big changes that make sure that you realize the file is not kidding:
Big Change #1: In the modification proposed, there are no attacks of opportunity.
Big Change #2: Players get to roll more dice. Monsters have a fixed attack score and players roll defense rolls against the DC of the monsters attack score. It’s essentially like turning AC and attack upside down for the monsters attacking the PCs: Attack is now static and PCs get to roll a defense. That means less dice-rolling for the DM, but also, at least for me: Less fun for me.

After reading these two changes, you realize: While the new attack score can be calculated on the fly and is hardly complex, this system is more than an additional feat-tree or maneuver.

Saving throws and spell resistances work the same upside-down way in this system: You e.g. roll the dice when casting a spell vs. a set fort/ref/will-score.
The pdf continues to innovate by presenting quick rules for expanded skill usages with “Calculated risk” (-5 on one check to get +5 on another), “Fast Task” (Get the job done quicker) or “Simultaneous Task” (Get more things done at once).

Furthermore, a system is presented that enables you to accept a penalty to BAB and gain a set bonus on either attack rolls, damage rolls or AC. This usage is available to ANY character and replaces Combat Expertise, Power Attack and Deadly Aim feats.
After that, we get a selection of 4 universal feats, centering on aiding fellows, a replacement for cleave and a feat to fight with anything.

Other feats presented are 12 feats, including a better take on 2-weapon fighting.

There are also new rules on Damage Conversion & Armor: Armor-wearing characters get a DR against non-lethal damage and if an armor-wearing character is struck by lethal damage, he converts armor-bonus points of damage into non-lethal damage. This idea struck me as simple, elegant and awesome. Easy to implement, to adapt to spells and the like. Glorious.

Full-Round Attacks also get a revamp: You essentially only get a second attack that is treated like e.g. a flurry of blows, i.e. at a -2/-2 penalty. At Bab+11, this penalty is reduced. A great solution for all the people bored of rolling the “bad attacks” on higher levels.
Casting a Spell gets a similar revamp, as does taking 5-foot steps, i.e. at 16th level, you can take up to 4(!!!) 5-foot steps per round, greatly increasing mobility.

Injury, Death, magical healing of non-lethal and lethal damage, stable recovery and rest all get revamps, too.

After that, we delve into special attacks like charge, channel energy (including changes to spells and the glory and sun domains), combat maneuvers (including dreaded grapple) and the broken condition of items. That’s A LOT of covered ground.
After that, we get to the second, significantly smaller portion (~5 pages) of the pdf, the one on firearms.

This part of the pdf is less experimental and much easier to drop into a given campaign. We get 12 firearms, completely statted, 6 accessories for firearms, Craft (Alchemy)-DCs to make gunpowder, set fuses, place explosives and the like, DCs for Craft (Munitions) and 3 grenades as well as the rules for them and alchemical gunpowder.
That wording, formatting and editing for this product, as I’ve come to expect from Spes Magna products is concise and clear, artwork is minimalistic to non-existent and the bang-for-buck-ratio is very high.

Conclusion:
I have to admit something. On my first read-through, I was disappointed. Why? Because I expected some kind of feat-tree or fencing mechanic like e.g. in Nobis: Simple to implement in an ongoing campaign, a rather easy drop-in. When the radical changes and re-imagininations, that, granted, leave the core-mechanic unchanged, reared their head, I was a bit shocked. Especially due to big change #2, which I’d personally dislike, as I am one of the DMs that relishes criting his PCs.

I thought “Oh my, you’re not going to like this.” I was wrong. While all the pieces make up for a concise, faster gaming experience (which I’d especially recommend for larger groups of say 8 players…), the individual pieces can be taken out of the system on a whim. As a passionate rare-but-powerful-magic-worlds DM, I’ll be sure to use several of the rules, to be precise: The new full attack-mechanic (always hated the -10/-15 attacks), the new 2-Weapon-Fighting feat-tree, and the new healing and the armor-grants-limited-DR-rules. That’s A LOT. The second part on firearms is rather easy to drop into any given campaign, but not as cool as some of the crunchy ideas from the first part. I am hard-pressed to rate this. If you’re looking for drag-and-drop-fencing rules for an existing campaign, Sinister Adventures’ Art of the Duel might be a better buy for you. If you’re looking for variations on rules, ideas to speed up your game or want to start a campaign in the mood of Errol Flynn movies, this pdf will be like a gold-mine.

That’s why I will give two scores: The first one will be for people who have an ongoing campaign that is running well, who are content with the way the rules work: For you, this is a 3-star file.
For people, who are looking for something different, for something imaginative and a new system, for people who plan to start a new campaign and for DMs who are annoyed by rolling all those monster-dice, this pdf is electronic gold and 5 stars.
My final verdict lies between the two, as I enjoyed the pdf and the price is EXTREMELY cheap for the content, is 4.5 stars.

Dark Archive

Interesting and indepth review Endzeitgeist. My feelings are about the same as you. Some of it sounds very cool and some meh. I will add it to my cart and pick it up when money allows.


Glad you liked it and found it informative - crunch is always a bit hard to review for me, but oh well. It was worth it. :)


Thanks again for the review, Zeitgeist!

I'm pleased to see that my intentions with F&F were recognized by your review. As much as possible with Spes Magna products, I'm aiming at ideas that:

1. Respect the core rules structure as much as possible. Thus, I'm not interested in changing the math too much, altering basic assumptions (such as BAB to HD links), et cetera.

2. Are as modular as possible, making it possible for DMs to add as much or as little of the PDF as they desire.

With F&F, I specifically wanted to make combat more mobile while presenting a wider array of options for all characters without falling back on extra skills and feats.

That, and offer some simple, usable blackpowder weapon rules. :)

Mark L. Chance | Spes Magna Games


Congratulations, the, Mark! You succeeded and your system works. Personally, though, I think that the fact that one can take one aspect of the system and scavenge it, is where it truly shines and what makes it cool.

Btw.: I posted your system-modification-files on RPGaggression in a compiled review and subscribed to your newsletter.

Keep up the good work,
Endzeitgeist

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