Getting Fragged across the Empire.

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Recently, I had the opportunity to play a new RPG called Fragged Empire, and so I thought I would have a bit of a talk about it, just in case anyone else is interested, which you should be, it’s good. Friends and I got together over the PAX weekend and we played the intro adventure called “Let Sleeping Gods Lie”.

But before we get to that let’s first of all look at the setting and rules of the game in general.xClvJcN

The setting is very nicely expansive and well honed. It sets the scene of our universe well into the future where Humanity progressed (technologically) to the point where they sort of got bored and decided not to live any more. But before that, Humanity created a race of super beings called ‘Archons’. So after Humanity all wandered off to the afterlife, the Archons started making their own races, and one of them ended up being a bit too strong, the X’ion. There was a bit of a scuffle (read: several years of horrific war), followed by 100 years of general faffing about by the races that were left. After that point, they started to get together and pull themselves out of the proverbial hole they were in and get back to existing in the universe with a bit of vigor. This is where the game takes place, quoted as ‘Post-post-apocalyptic’, where the races that exist now are working together to further themselves and get back to some semblance of good life.

The book gives good detail and background to the setting through descriptions of everything and short stories sprinkled throughout. It is easy to get a good feeling of what is going on, what has happened and what everyone’s motivations are.

When I first looked through the book, I was flooded with setting and great artwork, but didn’t see much in the way of rules. That’s because there isn’t much. When I say there aren’t much rules, what I mean is there are exactly enough rules as there needs to be, and those that exist are streamlined and easy to understand. It pretty much all boils down to rolling three six sided die. Everything runs off that single die roll, modified by skills or abilities. For example, want to hack a computer? Roll 3D6 + computer skill. Shoot your gun? Roll 3D6 + gun skill. Do a J Turn in your spaceship? Roll 3D6 + command skill. Explode someone’s face with your super psionic brain rays? Do long division with eight figure numbers while playing a kazoo with your nose and juggling live hedgehogs… wait… I mean… roll 3D6 + psychic skill. See? Simple. To increase on that basic system, there is the ‘Strong Hit’ modifier. If one or more die come up a six in your roll, you can use those six’s to do funky things. There are a couple of basic uses, such as use a six to re-roll another die or make an attack deal more damage (if said attack meets the prerequisites), but then there are other uses tied to traits you acquire when leveling up. The normal wealth system of any other game has been replaced by a resources and influence system where set money doesn’t exist and rather you have a maximum resource limit that defines the grade and amount of gear you can acquire. But that doesn’t lower your resources. The influence is more to do with getting a spaceship, plus a few other things, and generally requires a pooled amount from all the party members.

The very nice thing about the rules are the helpful tables that makes it all so much easier to understand. Throughout the book you will find tables for various rules sections, telling you very simply what you need to add to a given roll to do what you want. And this goes further when it comes to the character sheet as well. Some may say that three pages for a character sheet is long (Not myself personally, I love multi-page character sheets), but in this game it is all useful. The first sheet is all your basic info, abilities, skills and such. Everything you need for general play. The second sheet is your Combat sheet. It includes all the relevant information you need to do personal combat, such as weapons, armour, combat actions and so on. The last sheet is the Spaceship sheet, once again containing all the relevant information on your ship and what you need to do in space combat. The theory goes that you will only need one sheet in front of you at a time, for whatever the situation may be. Since I didn’t play, but ran the adventure instead, I can’t say that much about it, but this review will have the players thoughts later on.

As a GM, it was an easy game to run, and considering the amount I knew about the rules (not all that much) at the time of running, we managed to get our way through it. Three of the group didn’t know any of the game at all, it only took a brief intro to get them up to running speed. The fourth who did read the rules gave help to the rest when they needed it. During the whole session, we only had a couple of moments in which we needed to consult the rule book for clarification. We did mess things up a bit along the way, but who doesn’t in a new system. We just took it in stride and continued on playing.

The only issue I had with the game was the adventure itself. I’ve played a lot of pre-generated adventures over a lot of different systems and they are always a bit difficult to run, depending on the party playing them. Because of the limited nature of those adventures, players who pick things apart or never even so much as glance at the rails will rapidly come up against things that cannot be planned for. But, you say, a decent GM can roll with the punches and modify things as needed! Sure, if the GM knows the setting well, but with a new system and setting, that isn’t always possible. I had one of those types of players in my group, not a bad thing, just means I had to use the adventure as a sort of general idea and just go with the flow. Also, the adventure was just too big. We had a decent six hour session, and while we did finish it, that is because a good 50% of the content, I just ignored. Plus the technology was well beyond what anyone in the group knew about or had access to. All in all, I’m not saying it is a bad adventure, I’m just saying it’s a game for PCs several levels higher, somewhere deeper in the campaign, not for intro players, despite being advertised for characters of first level.

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So you have heard from the GM, what about the players? What did they think of it? Well luckily, I have that right here.

Toby –

I enjoyed the setting; it’s familiar in many ways but still unique enough in it’s own right. I liked the idea of a post-human universe and that humanity is little more than a myth or legend. I liked the rules, they were easy to understand (or the most part) and with the aid of the reference sheet for characters found that the core rule book was left untouched for most of the game. No long sessions of flipping through rules. Great! I also like the 3d6 system, having never used it or anything similar before. The ‘Strong Dice’ mechanic was a really, really good touch and gives a greater level of excitement to die rolling. I’m not quite sure how I feel about the resources limit being tied to level, however from what I read in the rulebook there is nothing stopping the GM starting the players with a higher resource maximum and perhaps less starting resources.

My only real criticisms lie with the sample adventure “Let Sleeping Gods Lie”. I felt that the supplied characters should have had a full character sheet rather than a compressed or abbreviated one and overall the mission seemed incredibly difficult. The alien ship that we romped through also felt repetitive and unnecessarily large. I feel that perhaps a smaller but more detailed ship would have been better.

If you enjoy science-fiction (Firefly springs to mind) then this RPG is for you. I’d recommend grabbing it and the GM screen for certain, perhaps the ‘Antagonist Archive 1’ and swish dice if you have the cash but would suggest skipping on the adventures and make your own.

Chris –

I do like the setting, even if it does fall back on a few established tropes. As I said to my friend on the walk back home, though – it’s nigh on impossible to generate truly original content these days. The post-human concept helps make these races their own thing, and there’s certainly great scope for taking a campaign in many different directions.

Combat felt fluid, and I felt that I usually had more than one viable option for each action I was taking. The difference between snap shots, aimed shots, and auto fire is noticeable, with each being more applicable in certain situations.

On skills: as it stands, it looks like the racial bonuses to certain skills are incredibly important in getting the extra edge, far more so than in a system like Pathfinder where there are multiple ways to get bonuses to a skill roll.

(Based on his experience Chris then went online and purchased the core rulebook and ‘Antagonist Archive 1’ – Ed.)

Jemma –

I thought the game was easy to play and when it comes to rolling for skills and combat, easy to understand. Normally when I play a game I am always asking people what to roll and what to add, this was straight forward and easy for me to pick up on. I like the setting and the different races that you could choose from, not having humans as a playable race made the game more appealing to me.

I felt though that in the pre-made adventure we ran the characters needed a bit more in the way of equipment and perhaps more things for each character to do. I also felt the ship we needed to explore was a bit too big if the game was made for a one session game, but in saying that, if it was meant to be a multi session adventure I feel that players may get bored exploring the ship due to how big it was.

Overall I really liked the game and look forward to playing it again and even running a few games myself.

So you see, generally favourable reviews! Who doesn’t like that? I know more people who are interested in the game and want to play it, and now that I have access to the rule book I can help them do so, though I would still like to get my hands on the GM screen and the Dice. I like dice.

Fragged, along with its creator, Wade Dyer, had a stall at the just passed PAX, which some of our contributors attended, so we have some photos of that to show. An interview with Wade would have been nice, but he was unfortunately too busy throughout the days to give one. Must have been all the people flocking to look at the awesome game.

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