Friday, April 10, 2009

A First Look at Fight On!

Okay, so this isn't the review to end all reviews: I haven't finished reading all four issues yet, and I haven't used any of it in play, so expect more detailed reports when that time rolls around. But even without reading every word of every issue, I've still got this to say: Score one to Fight On! for accessibility. This thing is aces for the old-school-curious.

Now, I say this as someone who knows her way around some old school blogs. I've been reading about megadungeons and OD&D and sandbox games for a while, so none of this is news to me. But I'd be surprised to see people picking up Fight On! without at having heard of the old school renaissance, so whether or not someone who didn't have that prior knowledge would understand it is neither here nor there.

For someone like me, who's got a general idea of what's going on but no real practical experience with it, Fight On! is perfect.

First off, there's the alternate rules and crazy add ons. Everything from magic items to alternate sub-systems of spell-casting to awesome combat tweaks. There's demonstrations of what you can do with random tables; I'm thinking here of "The Devil's in the Details," by Kesher, which also provides a nice familiar fantasy counterpoint to the really wacky things like "The Space Wizards," by the quite likely mad Paul Czege. It's all very easy to work into a game -- which makes me think that I really ought to be playing this, now.

Then there's the adventures. Again, there's a lot of variety: short, long, location-based, event-based, "normal" fantasy, wacky crashed-spaceship type stuff, and a few showing off some classic settings, Tekumel and Wilderlands and the like. Just like the rules add-ons, they're good demonstrations of what you can do with a good dungeon, and many of them practically beg to be dropped into a campaign immediately -- or used to start up a new one.

Finally, there's the how-to articles. "The Wilderness Architect," by Victor Raymond, was particularly eye-opening: here's a way to set up a campaign without getting bogged down in details. Just grab some dice and go. With this as your wilderness (or James Maliszewski's wilderness map), a bunch of adventures to drop in on various parts of the map, and The Darkness Beneath as your tentpole dungeon, you literally have a campaign ready to go.

It's a campaign you'd still have to put a little work into to set up, and it's a campaign that would naturally evolve as you ran it. Fight On! pretty much begs you to go out and start making up your own stuff, but if you're not ready to jump in right away, the magazine still eases you in to that kind of play.

But the main use I see myself getting out of these books is explaining this stuff to my friends. Good art, interesting to read, and explains by doing: this is something I can hand to the people who have been tolerating my crazy rants on the subject and show them what I've been telling them about. I can even leave it strategically strewn on a game table, so they think they're picking it up and thumbing through it on their own accord.

The title's pretty great for that, too. You tell someone that you're reading "Fight On!" and they listen to you.


  1. Nice review. A lot of what I enjoy about Fight On! I also enjoy about Castles & Crusades—namely, usable with a wide array of old-school products without being exclusive to any one. And the articles are absolutely top-notch.

    The coolest thing about Fight On!, I think, is that you have this entire community basically sharing and building from the ground up. It’s the same thing with the retro-clones—this time around, we are writing the supplements, making the dungeons, sharing the charts and tables. And that’s all without any overriding sense of strict canon. There’s this tremendous sense of community and sharing that I just love—enough to go out on a limb and submit my own articles for FO!

  2. @Odyssey: Thanks for the kind words! I'd love to hear about it if you use any of the DitD stuff in actual play.

    Paul Czege, while quite probably quietly mad, does a great imitation of a sane person and exemplary game designer. Check out his truly excellent My Life with Master.

    I also love the fact that FO! is almost like some amazing Bag of Holding that you can just keep reaching into to either enrich yourself or save your ass. The rapidly accumulating adventures are worth the price of admission alone, and the Tekumel stuff is priceless.

    @Zach1st: You nailed exactly why I keep contributing, even against the sometimes tidal vicissitudes of Real Life---afaic, the Community IS the game.