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Fireborn: Player's Handbook
Publisher: EDGE Studio
by Geert-Jan W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/03/2014 07:34:43

A great game, but not for everyone.

I really enjoyed the rpg, and still do in an active rpg group. I would highly recommend it, even if the rules may not be for everyone, as the setting in itself is awesome enough to steal from in case you feel other rules systems work better for you. As the setting should be clear to most (Dragons reincarnating, now coming back in the modern age), the mechanical side is what I'll focus on.

The game uses a system called the "dynamic D6" system. Generally this means you have 4 seperate dice pools representing 1 for active physical actions (attacking, climbing, jumping etc), 1 pool for active mental actions (looking for something, casting magic, trying to focus your mind, use a mental skill etc), and then 2 more defensive "reactive" pools; reactive physical (defending, dodging away, etc.) and reactive mental (resisting influences, noticing an ambush etc).

Now the truly interesting part (that makes it dynamic) is that you can shift these dice pools around based on your skill in an action, and the amount of focus you put into it. In example, when attacking using your fists to punch someone in the face, it is a Fire melee action. Your skill in melee is 2, and Fire score is 2. This normally means you roll 2 dice (Fire 2), but using your skill you can fcus more on your action, and gain 2 extra dice, so to roll 4 instead. However, those dice need to come from somewhere.. so you lower one of the other dicepools by 2 due to you more aggresive stance performing this action. (which may make you vulnerable to defense or other actions).

That is what I think, makes the system pretty awesome, but it gets better. During combat it makes things look a bit more like a Matrix style action scene every time an attack is performed. For each point in for example your Fire score, you can build a sequence. So Fire 4 would be 4 "small" actions in the sequence, which can allow you to jump through a window, shoot both you guns in your hand (dual wielding pistols), and roll to cover. (Jump - shoot gun left - shoot gun right - roll for cover)

This does however can make things a bit more complicated/hard to understand in how it works with defending etc. This could have benefited greatly from a better and more clear explanation, but it helps when you have someone who understands the rules to learn from. (You learn best from experience)

What makes the game a bit more metagamey is the Karma bid, which allows your player to push for a success in any action by spending Karma. Karma can be spend for 1 extra success each after the dice are rolled, and can allow an action to completely succeed if not enough successes are rolled. The defender also gets to use Karma however, so it becomes a bid...whichever one gets the biggest total of successes will be the winner, but it might still come back to a partial success if not enough excess successes are obtained. (defender successes and attacker's cancel each other out)

It is rather required however, as Karma will be the thing keeping you alive early in game when you do not have access to draconic powers (which also use Karma). Combat is lethal!

But there are ofcourse downsides to all this;

  • Combat is nice and fast when you get into it, but it takes a while tog et your head around it. Making combat and defence sequences can be hard to envision at first. And if poorly understood..makes for a complicated mess at the table with everyone looking confused. It is advised to really learn the system before seriously going into large scale complicated combat scenes. Take it easy with just 1 or two player's to slowly introduce. You will also want the Lost Lore booklet/pdf, it is recomended to answer some questions and give better explanations on soem bits of the game. You can find it still on the G+ community page for Fireborn, along with just about everythign else Fireborn that could still be saved. (why they did not make everythign available here or on the official FFG pages anymore is beyond me)

  • Combat styles are nice, and they add specific sequences you can do based on your "martial arts style", in practice however most seem overpowered due to the payoff effects they can give if they succeed the entire chain. As well as cumbersome at times, so..I generally moved towards making it more freeform with your own designs of action sequences that fit your style and providing cinematic action dice instead. (they also gain less powerful payoffs, based on the actions they take). It can work as written, but sometimes just feels more restrictive then it probably was intended to be.

  • Lethal combat v.s. cinematic combat. Combat feels like an action movie due to the cinematic "effect", but combat nevertheless is highly lethal as written. Especially the problem of guns being a bit too overpowered, made me down the damage of guns a little to not shoot everyone dead in their tracks every time one uses them. Still, guns are illegal in the game, and should be VERY hard to get. Even if you own one, the GM should be carefull to limit them, and give some drawbacks on carrying one to prevent abuse. But even without guns, combat can be over very quickly, as you have a good chance of wound penalties as well. I decided to remove the dice penalties, and first have the minor wounds completely fill up before wound penalties develop for every minor wound they would otherwise gain in subsequent attacks.

  • You have 2 characters to work through.. First a Scion character, and need to make a whole new character for your dragon self in the mythic age. There is theoption to sort of "mirror" your Scion to the mythic Age dragon version, but it severely limits your dragon in flexibility and is not recomended. It's not THAT hard to make a character in Fireborn, so it's recomended to first play an adventure or two with just the Scion character without draconic powers. Let them learn the system, then make their dragon selves and dive in for reall. There are many adventures out there that work well for this purpose. My first intro adventure was "three souls and a smoking gun", a Gencon adventure, which is found as pdf online.

This is also a game that benefits greatly from a few "helpful" bits and pieces to help speed things up. I used poker chips for Karma, using the colours to make them personal to each player, making it easy to refresh whenever after combat etc.

Having character sheets printed double sided and color coded (look for the costum collour sheets of Scion and dragon characters) is a great help. Whenever a flashback comes around, just flip over the character sheet to the other side.

It helps having stones or (even better) colloured dice for the 4 dice pools. I use stones, so if they get switched around due to stance changes, theya re easily brought back to the original situation at the start of the next round.

Making it easy for your player's (and yourself) makes this game work even faster :)

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Fireborn: Player's Handbook
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