I was recently contacted by a friend and asked to look through a RPG that he’s been playing for a while called Fragged Empire. This game was written by Wade Dyer and can be found here. This book clocks in at almost 400 pages so for my sanity and yours I’m going to break it down into a couple of pieces. Keep in mind that I’m writing this as I read it, so I may change opinions about something in later reviews. I’ll try to update this and other reviews as I go.
So first off this book is huge. Lots of full color art and clocking in at 385 pages there is a lot to it, but what’s inside?
The game comes with its own setting but states that it can be used to cover most sci-fi settings. The setting looks pretty fleshed out as I flipped through the book.
The general idea is that we’re 10k years in our future and there was a genocidal war that ended around 100 years ago and the people that survived are starting to rebuild and explore solar system that had been torn up and destroyed. There are no humans anymore. Everyone plays one of four genetically modified and created species that were a result of mucking around with DNA.
Now everyone is trying to work together to rebuild, but at the same time there is a bunch of tension happening due to the war and the relatively new relationships that have formed between each race.
Fragged Empire (FE) uses a 3d6 +/- modifier system to determine success or failure. Pretty much the same as the d20 system but the numbers are going to average out a little better.
Characters don’t possess levels and instead have nonlinear character progression. This is a big selling point for me. While I did enjoy D&D’s way of leveling up, once I got a taste for more horizontal progression and less vertical power raises (more options vs power across the board ramping up) I feel that this is a more rewarding way to do character progression. This way you don’t have a level 20 dragon that is impossible for any level 5 party to take on, but instead have a fearsome dragon that a group of inexperienced people would have a harder time taking on. “High level” creatures can still be taken down by “low level/new” characters if they are clever and are geared well. (Note: There are levels in this game.)
FE says it works best for long running sandbox games and tactical mini combat. Sandbox games are my favorite to play in and run so woot for me, but minis always felt like they slowed the story down. I’m more of a theatre of the mind kind of gamer, but there are rules for mini-less combat so we’ll see how that goes when we get there.
It looks like every chapter has a little info graph on how to do what the chapter covers. For a system that looks as complex as Pathfinder/D&D this is a really good cheat sheet to help keep track of what needs to happen.
Finally this book has a lot of flavor text and stories. I’m going to skip over those for now.
Selling Points tl;dr
- sci-fi game
- 3d6 +/- modifiers dice mechanics
- horizontal progression instead of vertical power creep
- fleshed out setting
Making a Character
By this point in the book I read through a quick one page summary of each playable race and a general history of the setting.
First thing is your level. The book says you level up every three game sessions…huh…that’s interesting. No XP. I can see some merits and drawbacks. On one hand players aren’t going to be forced to play the game a certain way to earn XP. If they want to fight or talk their way through it’s all the same, so that’s good. On the other hand we’re looking at no rewards for clever play or really getting into it. Someone could just show up and advance the same as others.
I’ve used this system in the past for my D&D/Pathfinder games. It wasn’t every three sessions and instead was “When I say so”. It did work well, but it was hard to reward players in game for putting more effort into the game than other players who simply showed up. This works, but you lose the ability to entice your players.
When you level up you gain a new Trait and your max Resources and Influence is increased by one.
Traits look like they operate like feats from Pathfinder or moves from DW. Not much else to say on Traits on this chapter.
Attributes are next. 18 points to stick in 6 different attributes. Can be set from 0-5. Two being average. All of the attributes are focused on mental and physical aspects. Social is covered in skills. I like that since everyone loves to dump Charisma. Except that one guy who makes friends with the orcs. There are a couple examples on how to distribute points based on a few archetypes. That’s very helpful for new players.
Next is Fate. Everyone starts every session with 2 Fate. You can spend them on rerolls or avoiding character death by permanently reducing your max Fate by one. That’s an interesting way to allow the players to decide when it’s time to clock out that last time. There are Traits that allow you to spend and manipulate Luck in other ways, but that’s in the Traits section.
Languages are pretty standard. Everyone can speak Corp (common) but there are a few others. Language was never an interesting aspect in my games. That’s probably more so due to my preferences and my players being more concerned with poking it with a stick instead of talking.
Character Creation tl;dr
- GM decides starting level
- Pick one of the four races
- Spend points on attributes
- Select your Trained Skills, Traits and spend your Resources, Influence, and Spare Time Points on stuff (more on these steps later)
Skills are a 3d6 +/- modifier system. You’re either going against a target number (8 being easy, 16 being hard) or an opposed roll. So basically the d20 system but using 3d6 give you a more average result and less swingyness.
Skills are either trained or untrained. If you are trained you gain a +1, untrained a -2. You do not add your attribute to the roll. Your attribute can add a Description Bonus/Penalty (more on that below) but the number doesn’t affect the actual roll.
I like this for a few reasons. Being trained or untrained doesn’t make or break your chances, and there is no power creep in the skills (like you see in Pathfinder and D&D) so something that is challenging early on is still relevant later in the game. I didn’t care for when in later levels of my D&D games the thief auto succeeds in picking locks unless I made them ridiculous.
There is a Description Bonus/Penalty to the roll as well. As it reads, it looks like the GM gives out a +2/-2 to the roll based on how they feel about the description and how your relevant attribute looks. If you have a high Strength the GM could give you a +2 bonus for hitting someone over the head. The stat itself is not added to the roll. The Description Bonus/Penalty could be really good, assuming the GM is fair and consistent, but I could see player abuse happen due to whiney players. This isn’t a hit against FE, just something I’ve seen happen before and it had to be handled out of game.
Something FE does a little different is crits. If you roll a 6 you gain a “Strong Hit”. You spend your Strong Hits on a few things, depending on the type a roll. A combat roll may critically hit something or boost you.
This is a new idea to me. Crit rolls = resource you spend on how you crit. This chapter doesn’t go into what the Strong Hits are so I’ll comment on it later.
Overall skills feel kinda weird. I originally assumed that you added an attribute to the roll but that is not the case. So your modifier can be anywhere between -4 to +3 based on how the GM feels you described what your character is doing and their relevant attribute, but there is no hard and fast rule like in D&D where you simply add your STR modifier to your roll to break the door down.
- to do something in FE roll 3d6 +/- modifiers
- if you are trained in a skill you gain +1 to the roll
- untrained -2 to the roll
- gain a +2 to -2 additional modifier based on the Attribute you are using and how the GM feels about your description
- gain a bonus if you have the correct tools to accomplish what you are trying to do
- go against either a target number or a contested roll
Alright I think I rambled on long enough for one post. So far FE seems no more complicated than Pathfinder, just different math. I’m not sure how I feel about how skill modifiers are figured out since half of the modifier is up to GM fiat and numbers that don’t necessarily have hard values towards the dice. Hopefully I can get some more reading in soon and find some examples that may clarify how to go about the Description Bonus.
Next time I’ll be reading through how to get stuff (gear) and combat. Thanks for reading.