One of the things about being someone who is virtually always online and a gamer is that we often find some pretty neat things as we scour the interwebs. Often, we get dragged down one internet rabbit hole or another. Yesterday was one of those days for me. I came across a new website—new to me, anyhow—called Tavern Tales. This is the pet project of Dabney Bailey, who is supporting further creation through Patreon. Now, I’m not sure if it’s still an ongoing project. I took a look at the updates, but they don’t seem to have dates on them. And, there’s 12 so far with a copyright date on the site itself of 2014, soooooo…..I dunno. Maybe someone who knows Dabney, or Dabney himself, will swing on by and enlighten us.
The Game is Interesting
While the title itself is an alliterative nuance to how so many fantasy adventures begin (in a tavern), the game itself does its best to put a relatively new twist on an otherwise tired concept. Some people will tell you, if you want to play a fantasy or sword and sorcery roleplaying game, you need look no further than the Red Box from TSR. That hasn’t stopped new fantasy RPGs from coming out in droves over the years.
Tavern Tales does away with the traditional race + class concepts for character creation. Instead, this system puts a lot of power in the hands of the players. It isn’t a point buy system like GURPS. At the same time, it isn’t necessarily as freeform as Fate. There’s nothing wrong with either of those games. They do what they do well.
Tavern Tales, though, straddles some boundaries. You have some basic stats to work with and traits and themes. This is where I think it gets pretty unique. Themes are relatively broad concepts such as Alchemy, Warfare, Beast, and Thievery. There are plenty more as well. These themes each have a number of talents that are related to combat, exploration, and interaction. This allows you to work toward building any type of character you would want or could imagine in a fantasy setting.
There’s a lot of relatively loose language in the abilities you can choose for your character and you are encouraged to modify that language to suit your character. For example, you might choose the Evoker Combat Action from the Arcane Theme. This allows you to describe how you create an explosion → Deal ranged damage in a blast. You can make your caster a fire mage with a typical pyrotechnic explosion, but you could also use virtually any other element there, or maybe it’s an explosion of vines or needles that work best for your nature-based concept.
One of the ways you can upgrade your talents as you level up is to add what is very similar to an aspect for Fate Core—with or without the drawbacks. The level up options are pretty neat and can vary from character to character, based on how the players and GM agree on things.
The game is not yet finished. Sure. There is enough to play there, but more is being added (as far as I can tell). There are no sample adventures to get you going, but experienced players can probably eyeball and gauge how best to set those up.
I’m not too thrilled about the dice mechanic. Players roll 3d20 and choose the middle result. So, if you’re aiming at all for the highest or lowest result—a 1 or a 20—it’s going to be pretty difficult to achieve. Now, some people are going to dig this. Some aren’t. I haven’t played with it yet, so I’m not sure myself. The statistical basis for it seems sound.
The game is free and online, available for anyone. This is pretty cool. The downside is, many players like to have a copy to flip through at the game table. Sure, you could copy, paste, then print. That’s an option. And, for all I know, it might turn into a PDF, POD, or published in some other manner in the future.
So, the downsides aren’t that bad, but they potentially exist.
Will I or Won’t I?
Truth be told, I want to give this game a try. I’ll have to find a group willing to try it out. I think I like it most for some of its concepts even if I don’t end up totally falling in love with it.
How about you fine folks out there? Anyone else familiar with this game? Anyone play it? Anyone have more details on it?