Here’s another new publication by +Mark Hunt, The FRONT, currently available via Lulu as print on demand (POD), and soon DriveThruRPG and RPGNow with PDF and POD. This is one of the many projects Mark worked on during nine months of chemo. In the interests of full disclosure, I am credited as a proof reader, and also put together the table of contents.
The FRONT is a bare bones RPG with a kernel based on the original roleplaying game. It has six 3d6 stats with a variation on the name so that Awareness is used instead of Wisdom. It is abbreviated AC, think of Awareness Check. It was easy for me to miss that. All other abilities are the standard. HP has different options for the GM to consider. It is a game with high lethality for characters. There are challenge rolls for combat, and d20 roll under rolls instead of saving throws.
Character generation is a quick 3d6 in order and swapping any two stats. There is a d20 table for pre-war career, which then leads to a page each for class.
There are four initial classes with various roles within the military, mainly geared towards the front lines. They are Combat, Intelligence, Leadership, and Reconnaissance. Each class has a section on what it has for combat training, abilities, special features, and starting equipment. Since this represents soldiers at war, there is no buying of equipment. On gaining a level, each class has a roll to requisition from the quartermaster.
Encumbrance is simple, a character can carry one piece of gear per point of strength.
Each piece of equipment has a usage die. If an item is used in a given turn, one rolls a usage die. If a 1 or 2 is rolled, one moves to the next smaller sized die. For example, a usage die might be a d12, each time a 1 or 2 is rolled the usage die is reduced, first to a d10, then a d8, d6, and finally, when a 1 or 2 is rolled on a d4, that item is used up. This is a simplified way to keep track of gasoline in the jeep, ammunition for a given weapon, etc. It reduces the amount of paper needed to track supplies. There is a usage die graphic on the included character sheet. As an item is used up, move the marker or usage die to the appropriate location.
Movement and distance is abstracted to close, nearby, far away, and distant. For 0-5 feet, 6-60 feet, and 60-120 feet. This is part of the simplicity of the game.
Weapons are presented with a generic description, such as pistol instead of Colt .45 or 9 mm Luger. Each weapon is listed with its usage die and the number of dice for damage on hits. Weapons are further explained in the text following the table. There are hand thrown grenades and rifle grenades with different ranges, but the same damage. Machine guns come in light, medium, and heavy, with different crew size parameters, and bonuses and penalties for attacks.
Combat is also simplified with challenge rolls. It is roll low, so a 1 is great and a 20 is bad. A 1 on an attack deals double damage, and a 20 while avoiding an attack receives double damage. NPCs only roll to attack. PCs only roll to avoid attacks. Roll under STR for a melee attack, and under DEX for a ranged attack. Roll below STR or DEX to avoid taking damage from melee or ranged attacks. Advantage and Disadvantage comes into play when something is ruled to be particularly easy or difficult.
Saving throws are eliminated so that rolls are against abilities of STR for things that cause physical harm, such as gases. DEX is used for dodging things like a trap, or avoiding the blast of a flamethrower. AC (Awareness) checks are used to avoid mental effects. I missed that AC was the short notation for Awareness on page 5. Being a long time gamer, I see AC and immediately think “Armor Class”.
Hit points can be figured in different ways depending on the style of campaign desired. Use the CON score as the number of HP and roll a d6 for each level, or for really gritty, roll a d6 each level. If a character is reduced to 0 HP one rolls after the fight is over, if the character’s party wins, to see what happened. Anything from MIA, POW, or death, to merely knocked unconscious.
Healing is slow. Certain things, like med kits help, but it still takes time.
Experience is low 5 points to get to second level, and 100 needed for 10th level. XP is earned for surviving one mission, major encounter, etc.
The section on campaigns offers up ideas for the major focus, such as partisans, resistance, elite (special forces), soldiers pressed into service from far off places, etc.
There are no frills, just a bare bones system for getting to play quickly. The classes and gear are focused on the GI, but one could easily port it to the forces of other nations. Gear is generalized, so that one can extrapolate any weapon desired. There is a suggested system for the GM to generate the toughness of enemy soldiers faced. A quick presentation of a possible weird war scenario is given with fantasy type creatures.
Big fail on the TOC, I didn’t get the pages numbers lined up very well. I was fighting Google Docs changing the formatting and messing up nearly all the pages. We ended up having me edit the Word Document, then send it back to Mark. I will have another article on my thoughts about collaborating on self published products.
What I liked:
You can be ready to play a session in a few minutes. The rules are a framework designed to work with most OSR type clones. Creatures and spells could easily be used unmodified. The difference in combat is minor. If you want a WWII scenario, you have a framework here to handle it.
One could easily port these rules to WWI, Korea, Vietnam, or even a more modern setting. These rules are even abstract enough to go even further back to muskets.
This is about as rules light as you can get in 48 pages. It is only 24 pages when taking away pictures, TOC, OGL, and other pages that are not rules.
What I didn’t like:
Using Awareness instead of Wisdom with AC for the abbreviation, was harder for me to make the connection. The direct connection is most clear where it is spelled out on page 5, and listed on the character sheet. It is slightly less clear when an AC check is used for avoiding mental effects. This is a minor niggle, and not of much concern, once it is clear what it is. A simple restatement of what AC is for on the part about attribute checks instead of saving throws on page 30 would avoid this.
[NOTE: Mark made an edit to change the abbreviation for Awareness to AW. He will use AC for the armor of vehicles in a new book.]
What I’d like to see:
Since consumables have a usage die, I would like to see a page of usage dice printed, with multiple rows of usage dice. For example, there is a row of usage dice at the bottom of the character sheet for ammunition. Filling a page in the rules with that might be helpful to some. One can use placeholders, such as dice, paper clips, coins, etc. to mark what usage die applies to which piece of equipment. This would be easy enough to do oneself with an index card and paperclips to track the usage die for different types of equipment.
[NOTE: Mark made a full page of the usage die chain available in the PDF.]
When dealing with rules light systems, one should not assume that familiar abbreviations mean the same thing until verified that they do. Terseness is the focus for rules light systems. If you need everything spelled out for you and lots of table and options to fill in all the details, this game is not for you.
This game is light enough that it should work well for story gamers that need fewer rules, and will work well for those who like more roleplaying. Obviously, it is great for those who just want to generate a character and start playing.
I just got word that the first supplement for the OSS/SOE is in the works.
[UPDATE: There is now a G+ Community for the game.]