Red Box Fantasy
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  1. #1

    Red Box Fantasy

    Red Box Fantasy RPG seems at once both familiar and new. It's characters and creatures are slightly more powerful than the equivalent AD&D or Rules Cyclopedia ones, but were pretty much made with those materials in mind. However, mechanically it holds many similarities with traditional d20 products. You have three saves, the ability score bonuses work the same way, with the difference being they stop going up after a score of 24 (bonus of +7). It seems in general, it was made to be an easily accessible way for a GM to take 3.5 players, and run them through older materials without all the hassle of having to convert them or teaching the players an entirely new system of mechanics from what they were used to.

    It runs quickly and smoothly. We managed to get through Temple of Elemental Evil over summer break, playing only 4 hours a week, with plenty of time left over to play other stuff as well. It only took a small amount of time for the players to adjust and get used to the differences in the rules. There was some small complaint from the optimizers in the group. Red Box Fantasy is designed to have a smaller range of power amongst player characters. This means it's hard to create a bad character, but it also means you can't really create a world beater either. The characters have more survivability at low levels as well. In fact, the preferred method of rolling up characters stated in the Player's Portfolio give the characters no negative ability modifiers, and no modifiers above +2. This could be a sticking point for some players or groups.

    So far there are three products out for Red Box Fantasy. There is the Player's Portfolio, the Gamemaster's Guide, and the Big Book of Baddies. Each book is paperbound and ranges from around 150 to 170 pages. They also cost only $15 per book of $5 for the pdf versions. They are produced independently so the production values aren't the best, but they are a lot better than what I was expecting. The Player's Portfolio is available for pdf download for free. This was all we had when we ran through Temple of Elemental Evil, and is really all you need to start playing old adventures with the new system.

    The biggest change from D&D to Red Box Fantasy is character creation. You don't choose a race and a class. Rather you choose an "archetype." Archetypes include both the race and the class. What this means is what would otherwise be the same class has changes from race to race. Sometimes the changes are small and sometimes the changes are larger. This gives a very distinct feel to some of the archetypes. The dwarven rogue equivalent is really a crossbow wielding trapfinding ranger. The halfling cleric equivalent is a mixture between a face rogue and a cleric. There are about 27 archetypes in the Player's Portfolio spread out among Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, and Gnomes.

    Thematically, the biggest change are gnomes. In Red Box Fantasy, the gnomes are basically clockwork tinkerers in a steampunk sense. All the gnomish archetypes are based around this idea. You have Gnomish Gadgeteers, Gnomish Physicians, Gnomish Sappers, and Clockwork Gnomes. This does not pervade any of the other races, and you could change the effects to magical while keeping the mechanics the same.

    Basically, if you would like to dust off some of your classic adventures, or maybe write something new with an older feel, check out Red Box Fantasy. Since the pdf of the Player's Portfolio is available for free download, you have nothing to lose.
    Last edited by Reneshat; Monday, 30th November, 2009 at 01:05 PM.

  2. #2
    Nice review, here is where you can download that free Player's Portfolio directly.

    Paige Oliver's Storefront - Lulu.com

  3. #3
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    Sounds interesting with the archetypes and what you said about playing quickly. I may have to check this out.

  4. #4
    "Thematically, the biggest change are gnomes. In Red Box Fantasy, the gnomes are basically clockwork tinkerers in a steampunk sense."

    Too bad...I lost all interest in the product with that...

  5. #5
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    This review leaves a lot of questions. There is too much refering to older editions as if one can understand what the game is like by this. What dioes it take from rules cyclopedia? What does it take from 2ed? What are the classes and races? There are 27 archtypes so do not all classes and races go together? What levels does it cover? How does it do spells?

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Crothian View Post
    This review leaves a lot of questions. There is too much refering to older editions as if one can understand what the game is like by this. What dioes it take from rules cyclopedia? What does it take from 2ed? What are the classes and races? There are 27 archtypes so do not all classes and races go together? What levels does it cover? How does it do spells?
    From the Rules Cyclopedia I would say it takes much of the character generation system. You don't select a race and class, you just select an archetype, which defines both. It is also possible to multi-archetype.

    The included archetypes are Human Brawler, Human Berzerker (optional), Human Druid, Human Healer, Human Magic User, Human Paladin, Human Sneak, Human Warrior, Dwarven Battlepriest, Dwarven Tracker, Dwarven Warrior, Dwarven Wizard, Elven Druid, Elven Gish, Elven Hunter, Elven Sorcerer, Elven Thief, Elven Wizard, Clockwork Gnome, Gnomish Gadgeteer, Gnomish Physician, Gnomish Sapper, Halfling Archer, Halfling Armored Turtle, Halfling Burglar, Halfling Duelist, Halfling Evangelist, and Halfling Wheezard.

    The fluff of the gnomish archetypes is indeed "steampunk", however it can painlessly be changed to "magic" without really changing anything.

    I believe the monsters have a real 2nd edition feel to them and I think that is what the reviewer was referring to.

    The game covers a technically infinite range of levels, however it is much like 1st and 2nd edition in that most classes will eventually cease to gain any new abilities other than hit points. If I recall correctly the last stated level that any archetype gains anything is 37th. Higher level characters don't really need to be close in level to adventure together. The difference between a 20th level and 30th level character isn't all that great, while the difference between a 30th level character and 40th level character is minuscule.

    Spells are basically Vancian D20 style (although some archetypes are spontaneous casters). The spell system includes the old long memorization times of 2nd edition (a high level caster might take more than one day to recover all of their spells). The spells you expect are all there (some have name changes), along with a few others.

    Spell durations are simplified, almost no spells have durations in rounds anymore, they are either instant, last the length of the combat, or last 1 or more hours. There are of course a few exceptions, but not many. Ranges generally don't change by caster level, and areas of effect have generally been changed to squares and cubes in order to be easier to calculate on a battlemat.

    Red Box Fantasy: Unleashed Errata (which is maybe 70 percent done) will really ramp up the number of character options, and does include generic classes (for multiclassing with races that are missing that sort of archetype).

  7. #7
    Just wanted to announce that the PDF versions of all 3 of the existing Red Box Fantasy books are now free to download.

    http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?contributorId=292230
    Last edited by paigeoliver; Saturday, 7th September, 2013 at 03:06 PM.

  8. #8
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    Thanks, will definitely take a look at them.

  9. #9
    The archetypes sound intriguing. I've found archetypes to work better than having separate classes and races for games based on specfiic settings. As long as there are still a couple of ways to personalize the characters, meaning that two characters with the same archetype can still be sufficiently 'different' from each other they work well and help to create characters more quickly.

  10. #10
    Thanks!

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