Ambition and Avarice

ambitionandavaricethumbnailI highly recommend Ambition & Avarice by Chubby Funster.

Overall Impressions

A hallmark of the system is that it explains enough to clarify its intent, but it stops well short of being verbose. Frequent subheadings and colored text for important key phrases helps find things quickly. The author is aware of how the whole page fits together, and also how the concepts in the entire document string together.

There are small evocative pictures sprinkled through the text, as landmarks and as evocative inspiration.

Sections start with a framing essay, as if to say “This is a way to think about what we are going to talk about next. Not just the rules alone, but also why they exist, and what they are intended to manage.” A great example of this is explaining how to play before making characters. Another great example is explaining the levels of choice and the granularity of play, before getting into combat (and other rules.)

The magic uses fresh, exciting, and original spells that I would love to see at my game table.

The author concludes by saying he is not striving to be the perfect example, but rather a skilled coach who can give others what they need to run great games. I think he has done a fantastic job of doing just that.

Specific Elements

The book starts out with smooth, readable, useful advice that is perfect for a group that is just starting out. I think it is probably the best “welcome to the hobby” introduction I’ve ever read. It is not patronizing, it has solid advice, and it explains how the form and the function echo each other in a role playing game. What are we here to do, and what does it look like when we’re doing a good job with it?

The character generation process has ten races and ten classes. (I do like a good but restrained variety.)

The races all stay in the familiar stereotypes of traditional fantasy. What is more daring about them is that they are playable. The race affects saving throws, and the class affects followers–built-in expectation for followers connects characters to the game world and sets up the end game from level 1.

Descriptions are to-the-point but give a new player enough to inspire play without being overwhelmed. Character generation starts off with a checklist, so you can go down the list and make sure you’ve covered everything. That is another great feature for a new group.

Races get half a page each, classes get one page each. This remains useful for people who want to build a quick reference; they can print the pages they need, and have a tidy little packet with their character sheet. It is also visually pleasing.

I really like some of the classes he chose–cultist, knave, and knight rise towards the top for me. Plus the classes come with followers, and light systems for using those followers that involves a combination of player initiative, game world consequences, and simple dicing.

For equipment, there is quick encumbrance, and the idea of a “breakage throw” for if you hurl your pack out of the way, or it gets hit with a crushing blow of some kind. What happens in the bag?

That is one example of many of the little touches that feel like house rules that evolved over time and got smoothed down in actual play.

I really like that leveling up gives players more choices about how to change their numbers than the traditional B/X model. You can raise attributes, you can improve 1 saving throw by 1 every level, and you get class abilities.

Hit points come back pretty normally, but ability damage is far more severe–and I like that. It gives a way to really menace the party without just taking bigger chunks of hit points out.

Spellcasting is announced at the beginning of the round, and works out on the character’s initiative. That is a great compromise between “full round action” i.e. “go at the end of the round” and whipping out spells fast and furious. And, spellcasters can wear armor! I am all for it.

A concluding section for the Judge (DM) has concise tools and great advice. Especially useful are the tropes and how to use them in play. Stuck and struggling to come up with an idea? Linger here for a moment, and that blockage will sort itself out.

The character sheet is illustrated and evocative, and also has room for both mechanical information and campaign information. Right there, a new player is given a sense of what is important.

In Conclusion

These rules look both friendly and comprehensive. They are tight without being strained. The races, classes, and magic abilities and descriptions fire the imagination so you want to try them out.

This game manages to tread the same ground as other games before it, without a hint of acrimony, competition, or comparison. I sense love and delight in this work, not defensiveness or jealousy. The author wants to share the best campaign practices and “what if” revisions to give the reader the best experience at the game table. A combination of good writing, big enough font size, and careful ordering of information makes a very readable book.

So congratulations to the author, and good work! This is definitely one to instill pride in its creator. For those looking to play at the table, this system is an excellent step into territory between the original and something wholly different.

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