Previously I wrote about Warrior, Rogue, & Mage, a free, old school, rules light RPG from Michael Wolf.  I announced my intention to do a playtest, and did so just a few days later.  Now I present to you my thoughts from that playtest, though they are somewhat incomplete due to circumstances explained below.

For the playtest I had three eager players and me, the GM.  I decided to place them in the city of Bekel, with a mission that would take them to the abandoned capital, Tukrael.  In order to motivate the adventure and give the characters a reason to work together, I offered them the Fortuners’ Guild.  The characters are members in the guild, which helps organize and regulate fortuners (a.k.a. adventurers).  As novices, they had undertaken a few jobs together previously, and on at least one occasion managed to incur a great debt to Murkraal, a mage high in the guild’s ranks.  Murkraal decided to serve as their patron and channels them jobs which ensure they will one day pay him back (with interest).

Unfortunately, some rainwater appears to have ruined this part of my notes from the session, and so all I have for each character is the first letter of each name: C (I think he was Charley), L (we’ll call him Lima), and A (we’ll call her Alpha).  At any rate, Charley, Lima, and Alpha were created by the players at the start of the session.  Chargen was pretty painless, though we did have some questions.  Movement didn’t appear to be in the rules (other than running “a short distance” under Combat Actions), so we decided to house rule it that each character could move 4 squares + 1 if their Warrior attribute was 5+.  That worked pretty well, so we’re sticking with that in any future sessions.  Also, my players wanted to take multiple actions, so I house ruled a Savage Worlds-like rule in which you can both move and cast a spell or attack, but at a -1 penalty to both (roll and movement speed).  Again, that worked pretty well so we’ll probably keep it around.

Charley, Lima, and Alpha had a nice spot of roleplaying with Murkraal as he offered them a new mission.  There wasn’t much going on at this point, though I hoped they would surprise me. Murkraal wanted an item from Tukrael, the capital city overrun by the undead.  While dangerous, this job would go a long way towards paying off their debt.  The item in question was a long brass tube with several pieces of glass in it that Murkraal said was related to the craft and used to belong to a rival of his last seen on the road to the dead city.  Alpha was a budding mage and took an interest in the item, which turned out to be a telescope.

After agreeing to take the job, the characters quickly left Bekel.  They chose to take the rocky, off-the-beaten-track route toward Tukrael in order to save time, but I decided that it would also be more dangerous.  A day or so into the journey the fortuners encountered a troupe of zombies wearing uniforms of the old empire (clearly quite old).  One of the zombies was even armed with a dragon rifle, though he had only a single shot and had impossibly poor aim.  They appeared to be wandering aimlessly, but decided that the fortuners looked pretty tasty.  The combat was mostly speedy, since the limited number of actions narrowed the players’ options (in terms of looking things up).  Instead of spending time on rules, they spent time considering strategy and placement, which made me very happy.

The zombies set upon our heroes in a gully, which forced the combatants to go more or less head-to-head.  Lima, a warrior friend of Charley the knight, quickly slew a zombie using his Massive Attack.  The other zombies were not quite so easily dispatched, however, and the fortuners earned their pay for that fight.  Alpha accidentally shot Lima in the leg while trying to hit a zombie with her dragon pistol, though she eventually ended the fight in dramatic style by shooting the last zombie, in close combat with Lima, in the noggin.

After finishing the first combat we were pretty low on time and couldn’t play again soon, so I threw in a roleplaying hook.   A group of rangers, international border guards sponsored by each city state, happened upon the fortuners immediately after the battle.  A little persuasion convinced the rangers that the fortuners were legit, and because the captain didn’t want them to get killed he gave them a telescope he had happened to find on a dead mage near the capital.  The fortuners returned home triumphant but bloody, and made steps toward financial independence!

All in all, the system worked well.  Defenses and health were well-balanced, and the skill/talent setup gave the characters enough options to have fun but not so many that we got bogged down.  The Mage attribute felt a bit underpowered, though it might be because our mage was a little more steampunk than traditional fantasy and so relied on her magic less.  More options for mages (or those using the attribute a lot) might be nice.  We only used zombies for monsters, but the single Monster attribute was surprising in its power.  I’d recommend that all considering using WR&M actually roll some dice to see what tricks your monsters will have before stepping into a game cold.

As far as rules light games go, I cannot recommend Warrior, Rogue, & Mage highly enough.  It was a fun system that let us really just play the game the way we wanted to.  I didn’t have to look far when I needed to come up with something on the fly, and NPCs were easy to create.  My players picked it up quickly, and there wasn’t too much of a learning curve.  There are some kinks, but it’s worth the time to play as is.  The most important thing is to keep from adding too much, since it’s just about right in terms of rules and fluff.  More on that fantasy world Michael teased would be nice (just because I like to read about other people’s worlds), but not necessary for gameplay, since it’s a good sandbox to build your own game from.