Sunday, July 26, 2015

Review & Commentary On The Fantastic Heroes And Witchery Rpg System For Your Old School Campaigns Part One

I've been playing around with Fantastic Heroes & Witchery's hardback now for a few months and its been my default house retroclone since it made it through the door here. Fantastic Heroes & Witchery is one of those clones that ticks all of my buttons for a retroclone system. But why? Well right off the bat let's go over dollar value, if your a DM then you've probably got a ton of  3.0,3.5,D20 Modern books, Pathfinder books, etc.. All laying around in your closets book shelves, etc. that you keep meaning to take to the used book shop. With this gaming Rosetta stone you can get the most out of your gaming from 1st edition right up through fifth because of the way that Fantastic Heroes and Witchery is set up. Everything is right under the one hardcover.
Fantastic Heroes and Witchery is a trimmed up and spruced up version of AD&D  which  provides a streamlined game engine with a myriad of options that is broadly compatible with any edition of the world's most popular fantasy game. You get things ported over from the 3.0 era and more like unified experience table, Base Attack Bonus instead of THAC0, or a saving throw system(a single target number, starting high and going down with experience, combined with bonuses/penalties of the targeted attribute). Saves are based on abilities, alignments are cosmic forces while character can pledge their loyality to and existence with an allegiance system. There is a complete reworking of the Cleric as well.

 The hardback is gorgeous and really nicely put together, each traditional race has its own racial classes as well as their own twists. Let's face it this game has been put together with the express purpose of  being used by experienced DM's who've been running OD&D & AD&D games from college on. This isn't a beginner or inexperienced DM's game. This a game that takes race, class, and racial class mixes them into a way that makes perfect sense to me.

While its friendly and open, the game favors not the pretentious but the experienced. You can run everything from high fantasy through pulp hero games, the author knows his stuff and the artwork provides a gritty and weird fantasy feel to it. There's even a post apocalyptic back door slip in with artifact and relic rules as well as science fantasy classes all within their own sections. The science fantasy and pulp elements including the classes get their own sections in the game.
 Right out of the gate do yourselves a favor and spring for the hardback, its well worth the price of admission with the pdf being a nice option with the huge Christmas in July sale from Lulu. For me given my eyes the hardback was the only way to go. The material here is crisp and friendly for OSR style gaming. There is a huge amount of free on line content which is growing by leaps and bounds. The science fantasy and pulp sections gets their due with a ton of on line support right over HERE.  
Don't think that the traditional high, dark, and low fantasy elements of D&D don't get their own sections either for online support.  Things like this free pdf :
A free 20 pages document with 11 classes to use in FH&W. This is a major update and expansion of a former document that proposed the Agent of the Gods (i.e. cleric), Spellcasting Bard, Paladin, and War-mage, as they were found in older editions of the game. But now, this new document adds the Draconic Sorcerer, Shadowdancer, Swan Maiden, Warrior Monk, and others. The classes as they originally appeared, but still with a FH&W twist! Eleven Converted Classes – PDF
Available right over HERE
 The alignment systems are completely reworked with an eye toward magick, religion, a complete retake on the divine and the planes as well as huge sub working of the spells all six hundred and sixty six of them. They're done with twists so the players and DM should read them because these are not your standard fare here. There are differences in the way the flavor and effects have been done.
 Details such as binding, paper quality, and how the book is put together are well thought out with an eye toward actual use. I love this fact and I know that my book has stood up for several months now and shows no sign of wearing down at all.
 I'm a detail oriented person and FH&W ticks all of my buttons as far as having everything I need under one hardback instead of twenty or thirty meaningless splat books that take up shelf space. There isn't a day that hasn't gone by when I haven't had this book sitting right next to my Lamentations of the Flame Princess hardback or my copy of AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide. Yes its that damn useful to me as a DM.
 This is a game that takes race and uses it as a complete system of rpg palette, all of the standards are there:
Dwarf, elf, halfling, half-elf, gnome, halfling, half-orc and of course human with racial classes thrown in to boot. Then some ties with the author's twists on tieflings, &  dark elves. Then some weird tales and pulp races with Tainted Humans, Exotic Humans, &  Earthlings along with Primates (ape-men), Reptilians, Revenants(undead as PC's), Winged Folk, and Witchlings (humans mutated by sorcery). All of these are slightly stronger then standard PC's. This all reminds me of Michael Moorcock's dark fantasy fiction in places as well as standard tropes from D&D editions over the years. But this is all done with an eye towards the modular nature of the game. This is a DM's game straight up, the game doesn't have a set campaign world, thank God. Seriously there is enough under the hood that a DM could write up their own campaign world in a heart beat.
Mr Dominique Crouzet  knows his material and provides the DM with more then thirty classes and spells, then back tracks on itself with a boat load of additional appendix for things taking level play above what's in the standard sections. Then you get city, town, and additional PC backgrounds, fighter options,etc. all provided with an intuitive and instinctive feel for the DM. Skill checks are based on a d20 roll plus bonus vs. difficulty with none of the skill points from third edition.
 The game has an expansive but by no means exhaustive equipment list but it provides the DM with a nice bench mark of material, there are even pulpy and science fantasy equipment here but by no means the Rifts rpg level of over glut. There is enough here to provide the DM with everything needed to run a John Carter of Mars games to a pulpy space adventure all under the same hood along with material for running a Conan style sword and sorcery game or combining all of this together. This is a game that treats OSR gaming as a whole and does it with wit and style in a system that makes senses. But this is a four hundred page book that I've been using for months now. So this review may take a part one, two, or three.

End of Part One


  1. Yeah the artwork really is a bit of a selling point for me on this one!


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