Here at EN World, I will be discussing all-ages tabletop role-playing games, board games, or card games. Does it engage the players at the kids’ gaming table? Would it cut it at the adults’ table? Is it genuinely fun for every age? FirstFable is a tabletop RPG designed to introduce 8- to 12-year-olds to fantasy role-playing. Written by Matthew McFarland and developed by Sean Patrick Fannon for OneBookShelf, Inc. (owners of DriveThruRPG and RPGNow), it contains the character creation process, Challenge system, advice to keep the players engaged, a print-and-play adventure, in-game rewards, character sheets, and all for the perfect price – free!
Character creation is covered over two-and-a-half pages featuring four core classes – Animal Keeper, Faeries Princess (or Prince), Knight, or Pirate. Each class has:
- three preset stats (Strong, Fast, and Smart)
- three Shines (specialized skills conceived of by the player)
- one player created Weakness
- one Special Thing (magic, animal companion, etc.) agreed upon by the player and GM
The next five pages cover the system. FirstFable is wargaming-lite with all Challenges and Fights decided by a dice pool of d6s (stat + Shine +/- etc.). Rolls of four or higher are a success (Star). Non-combat Challenges require at least one Star. To resolve combat, each side rolls their pool and compares, with excess Stars becoming damage. They have a power progression mechanic, if every die is a Star, permanently add a d6 to a Shine.
The book encourages fast paced adventures built from the players’ input. To illustrate, they include The Hunt for the Wild Guffin adventure. This quest involves five encounters from chases to a riddle before a resolution that offers a light moral choice.
Does FirstFable win the kids’ table? Yes. Its simplicity is its victory. Mechanically, it is a straight line instead of a labyrinth of rules.
Is it perfect? No. It lacks a mechanism to promote player cooperation or reward role-playing. Encouraging the preteen players to work together could elevate this product. As well, the Faerie Princess is the only class with an assigned gender and she has the lowest Strong stat. By baking-in a gender stereotype, this class could harm the experience for some GMs and players.
That noted, for two or three sessions before your players transition “to a larger roleplaying game system,” FirstFable is a satisfactory launchpad. If they enjoyed FirstFable, it was released under the Creative Commons License allowing anyone to create new content. Gamers grow from players to creators and this system supports that metamorphosis.
Would the FirstFable Guide Book work at the adults’ table? No. Its power progression mechanic has no check on it. After a few good rolls, a player will have a dice pool requiring every Yahtzee set in the neighborhood making Challenges certainties and creating one-sided Fights. However, the game lets children dip their toe into the RPG waters without having to learn 200+ pages of rules. FirstFable is a chance to introduce children to a lifelong love of gaming.