From Bits to Chits: Fable 2

John-Michael isn’t the only one who gets series! In From Bits to Chits I’m going to rant about video games that would make a good transition to board games. Plenty of games have made their way to the table, including Warcraft, Halo, and Eve Online. Besides video games being adapted to the table, what great digital gameplay could be adapted to analog?

Morality is a common theme in computer RPGs, but how often is it an aspect of pen and paper games? Obviously, Dungeons and Dragons has always had an alignment system, but in my personal experience with D&D, the system is in only place to dictate what your character is allowed to say and do. Star Wars RPGs (D6 and D20) run the opposite route, however, and allow good GMs to constantly test the PCs in order to draw them to the light or darkside. I think these games are the extremes, and most other games fall between “let’s be good guys” and “let’s be bad guys.” Mechanics encouraging ethical tug-of-wars are rare.

The Fable video games, however, are almost entirely focused on representing your character’s moral compass in game terms. Doing good deeds results in an angelic appearance, special discounts at shops, and throngs of children begging for your autograph. Infamy, on the other hand, results in a fearsome visage that frightens away nearly anyone you meet. Fable, available on Xbox (the original was also ported to PC), allow you to stamp your legacy throughout the land of Albion.

The free form nature of roleplaying games give GMs and players the ability to run the game however they want, but I’ve found that players are hesitant to try something if it isn’t explicitly in the rules.

It would be simple to convert the basic combat of Fable since the game has three simple stats and a variety of powers, but the unique aspects of the games would need some creative thinking to implement. The heroes’ actions and renown could control a stat similar to D&D’s social skills, but the number wouldn’t be static. It would allow characters different options depending on how NPCs viewed them. Usually, these results are simulated by granting characters bonuses and penalties, but a fluid stat would encourage players to be aware of their actions and maybe even attempt to manipulate it. More importantly, it would encourage GMs to force players to consider their actions. Most RPGs have a lot going on, and mitigating the accounting would make the roleplaying easier to manage.

But a Fable game doesn’t have to be an RPG. An adventure game would be another obvious way to adapt Fable, but I think a card game would be more interesting. I don’t mean a CCG, but more like a fixed card game.

Imagine a Thunderstone style game where the heroes constantly improve their equipment before heading into a dungeon each turn, but they must also add quest cards to their decks. These cards could be redeemed for Good or Evil points, which can be spent on rewards or even be their own victory conditions. Tales of the Arabian Nights asks you to set your score goal between two opposing tracks before the game begins, and I think a Fable game would benefit from a system like that. You may be trying to finish the game with more good tokens, but the short term rewards for evil could be so tempting.

AEG is releasing a new CCG this summer, called Phase, where players struggle between good and evil. Cards will be double sided with one alignment on each side, but I don’t know much about the game beyond that. It will be interesting to see how far the game takes its duality theme.

Another great feature of the Fable games is ability to own property and start a family. Munchkins would love another way to gloat about their in game wealth if they can show of their real estate, pets, and families, and in a card game, property and family would be a great scoring mechanic. Fable 3 allows players to become king or queen, and how much cooler is that than bragging about level 20?

It’s unlikely we’ll see any type of Fable game that isn’t a video game, but that’s what this column is for. I get to fantasize for 800 words, and maybe I’ve even inspired someone to add a cool new mechanic to a game they’ve always wanted to develop. I’ve at least though of some neat ideas I would like to work on. Besides, it isn’t impossible that Microsoft would consider marketing Fable more. They’re pretty liberal with the merchandising of Halo, granted that is a juggernaut brand, but Fable 3 will be available later this year and could be bigger than ever.

I don’t know what the next column in this series will be, since the game I’m currently enthralled with is the already penned and papered Dragon Age. JNB suggested I do a column on Left 4 Dead, but I think the world would be well served with a Civilization Revolution board game, don’t you?

6 Responses to “From Bits to Chits: Fable 2”
  1. John-Michael Gariepy says:

    I’m sorry we never played the 1984 Marvel Superheroes rpg. We will have to when I am back in New England. One of the features of the game is that characters don’t gain experience; they gain or lose Karma. When Peter Parker stops a bus from careening off a bridge, he gains 50 Karma. Since Dr. Octopus escaped while Spiderman was distracted, he loses 20 Karma. He also loses 5 Karma for ditching a date with Mary Jane in order to save that bus full of kids. Later you can trade in Karma as an insurance policy to auto pass rolls. It works in reverse, too… negative Karma can be used by the bad guys…

  2. David says:

    That sounds like the best game ever. Do you still have it?

  3. John-Michael Gariepy says:

    Oh yeah… I kept meaning to break it out, but it requires… timing. Trying to convince people that an RPG made in 1984 is still relevant is tough. Then there’s the power level problem.
    Let’s say the adventure is supposed to include the Avengers. There’s a list of characters you can play, but the module insists that one person should play Captain America, and one player should play Thor. The player playing Thor gets to completely wreck house, while Cap… not so much so. I could throw ten Captain Americas at Thor, and my money would still be on Thor. But even this is liberating… DnD spends so much energy making sure that players of different classes with different abilities are about the same in power level. 1984 Marvel doesn’t care. It just assumes that being Captain America is cool enough, and that players are mature enough to have fun dealing with the differences.

  4. David says:

    We just played the Doctor Who game, which has similar issues. They try to balance it by giving humans more “Story Points,” but the doctor practically never needs them anyway.

    I don’t notice anyone I play with to be especially power hungry, so I think we could get away with it if we played.

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