Posts: 1
Joined: Sat 12 Jan 2019, 14:23

Review after first Forbidden Lands session

Sat 12 Jan 2019, 15:18

My spontaneous notes after our test session of Forbidden Lands. The group in question was very experienced of all kinds of RPGs, including Mutant Year Zero.
Pros (Good stuff):
Simple combat: Although it has some problems (see below), combat is simple. I have a feeling one would make it work really slick after some more playing.
Initiative cards: Drawing these and having them laying in front of each player is super neat. Very clear and the Feint action (Fint in Swedish) makes it very dynamic (although I wonder if Feint might be too good, as it requires no skill check.)
Randomness: For this first test session, I decided to try to involve as much randomness as possible. It was hilarious! We started out in the wilderness to try out the Journey-mechanics, which seemed great. Then one especially good randomness thing was when the players overhead a legend generated on the fly with the Legend Generator. Very funny, AND it worked for creating a scenario background. I only fudged one of the 11 dice rolls.
GM don´t know everything: This pro is linked to the randomness, but I want to mention it separately. I think it´s a great feature that the GM can be with the players experiencing something at the table which he/she really doesn’t planned ahead of the session. It brings a sense of unity to the group and forces the GM to be creative on the fly. (Note: I understand this is not for everybody – and that is not a problem! Because you can instead choose to do much of the randomness before the session, in preparation, fudging all you want and making the adventure a bit more coherent.) Another aspect of this is the nature of the game – it´s (even the “Raven´s Purge” campaign) very open to be run differently for each play group, so in theory you can GM the campaign several times with very different layouts and outcomes, and you can GM it and then play it as a player without it being spoiled for you beforehand. I guess one could call this “good replayability”, to borrow a board game term.
Nils Gulliksson: Is a god.
Erik Granström: Although the campaign setting is rather optional, it is rich and well-written. I haven´t read “Raven´s Purge” yet, but it seem rather fantastic.
Cons (Bad stuff):
The d6-system: I really don´t like the d6-system that Free League seem to force on all their games regardless of how it fits. Most of the other players agree. I really prefer a single d20 or d100 dice roll (with or without a following damage roll). I can´t really put my finger on it, but I´ll try. I think the core problem is that you often (especially during combat) must roll 8+ d6s in four different colors. It takes too long time to sort out what dice you should roll. Especially if you don’t have the special dice (Yeah, I understand we are supposed to buy those, but that will not happen, sorry). Also, rather often you roll all those dice without getting a single success! That is weird and anticlimactic.
Combat zones: I understand we are not supposed to use miniatures, or even tokens or dry-erase-sketching, for the combats, but our group got really confused with the zones and the ranged combat. Especially when there was a chase scene.

All in all, Forbidden Lands is a great game that I hope I get to GM again soon!
Posts: 23
Joined: Thu 01 May 2014, 05:25

Re: Review after first Forbidden Lands session

Mon 21 Jan 2019, 12:03

You aren't required to buy the special dice, it's abolutely optional (I don't use them myself). All you need are d6s of 3 different colors and 1 of each of the standard d8-d12.
Posts: 79
Joined: Mon 27 Aug 2018, 18:20

Re: Review after first Forbidden Lands session

Tue 22 Jan 2019, 01:29

Nice read. :)

I agree with the pros; fast and engaging combat; fun randomness that creates unpredictable results at every level – from legend generation to skill tests; a GM-experience that’s equally challenging and rewarding because of the randomness and the open-world/sandbox approach. 
Personally I also appreciate the fact that the game challenges the players at every turn: resources, skill tests, and the fact that all four attributes are “health levels”. There’s no safe spot, no way to fully control the outcome. You can stack the odds in your favour, but there’s no certain success. This pushes my players and me outside our comfort zone, and that’s where the really epic/interesting tales are told. As a GM I don’t have to put my players on their toes – the system does it for me. This goes both ways, there’s no NPC that’s untouchable. Sure, as a GM I still set the threat level, NPC stats, number of opponents etc, but I can’t protect them from a poor dice roll. I just have to live with the fact that my awesome NPC-villain might get one-shotted, just as my players need to accept the fact that their hero might get knocked senseless/collapse from exhaustion/become paralyzed by fear/break down in despair at the most inopportune moment. I roll all of my dice in the open, and we cheer or wail together when they betray the villains or hit the players hard – in a way I haven’t really experienced in other game systems. 
I appreciate the d6-system and don’t perceive it as “forced upon” the game. Counting dice aside, the fact that your attributes contribute to skill tests and constitute health levels helps making adventuring in the forbidden lands a group effort (IMO). Since a character can damage herself from pushing a skill test – and most often have to if she wants to achieve great results – she’ll loose a part of her ability and some of her “health” in the process – which gives her incentive to let other characters step forward and solve the next problem.  You can’t be the hero in every scene if being a hero cost you part of your ability – you have to share the spotlight. I don’t know if its intended, but I really appreciate it. It creates a very cinematic flow to our game, that I feel is well suited for a fantasy tale. Also, the extra dice you get from helping each other really add to the group effort thing. Up to 3 extra dice in a system where 3 is a solid skill value is awesome. Then, add another 1-3 extra dice for favorable conditions – and now your players have a real good incentive to not only help each other, but also try to come up with a favorable way to solve the problem at hand. In short, I like the “year zero engine” because it rewards the right things and adds to the story in a way that gets everyone involved. 
Regarding the combat zones, I can see the confusion. Funny thing is that it actually made things less confusing for us. The fact that you don’t have to keep track of exact positions added to our experience. This is probably a personal preference though, so I don’t see the problem with using miniatures or sketching. 
Now, do I see any other cons? Sure, there’s stuff I’m not 100% sure about – but this just brings me to another pro about the system. Its so damn easy to house rule.