Here are our first impressions on Fabula Ultima, based on the one-shot presented with the quickstart of this role-playing game, published by Need Games.

In this period, we are rehearsing some RPGs and writing our impressions. You have already seen the first such article last week, when we talked about a one-shot a Broken Tales.
This week, however, we want to talk to you about ours first impressions on Fabula Ultima. In fact, we had the opportunity to try the adventure proposed in quickstart of the game, within a playful evening organized by the association gondolin.
In this article, therefore, Davide will tell us about his experience during a one-shot a Fabula Ultima.

Impressions on Fabula Ultima: the material

The quickstart is a fifty-page pdf that acts as a tutorial to explore the themes and mechanics of the game. It does so through a very simple and fast adventure, which however shows all the basic mechanics of the game.
As a product, the pdf looks good. Already from the title Press Start, aim a lot to get into the idea of ​​playing a JRPG.
For those who don't know what that means, JRPG stands for Japanese Role Play Game and indicates the whole video game series like final Fantasy and other similar titles.

La graphics of the quickstart is good. The illustrations are few, but well distributed in the text and the paragraphs clearly articulate what we are talking about. So we have what the players should read during the session, the illustrated rules and even some text boxes explaining what direction the style of play should take.
I don't read many quickstarts so I won't make a comparison, but I have to say this was clear, quick to read and made me want to play Fabula Ultima.

Among the first impressions of Fabula Ultima is the appreciation of the quickstart title
Among the first impressions of Fabula Ultima is the appreciation of the quickstart title

The context of the session

I tried the quickstart of Fabula Ultima during one of the one-shot evenings I do with my association, as part of a summer festival.
They played outdoors, in person and in the evening, which resulted in several distractions: from screaming children in the park, to the building opposite playing house music for 90 minutes. We had very tight deadlines: three hours, from 21:00 to midnight. Many role-playing nights last an hour longer at least.

Who participated in the one-shot?

The undersigned did the master. I did not know the project of Emanuele Galletto, the author of Fabula Ultima, if not fromNeed Games announcement, so I did not follow the development phases of the game.
I was attracted to the game initially for the aesthetic factor, but reading the quickstart sparked my interest in the mechanics as well.

About mine relationship with the JRPGs, I have played several video games of the genre, but I have never finished one because grinding bores me. So, as much as I usually appreciate mechanics, themes and aesthetics, the fact that you have to spend hours repeating the same fights bores me terribly, which is why I inevitably gave up all the Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Legend of Dragoon, Dragon Quest, Star Ocean and Rogue Galaxy
The other players present at my table were interested in the game e JRPG lovers. They all had some RPG experience, but they had never played together, and only a couple had played with me before. Some wanted to try Fabula Ultima to relive the experience of final Fantasy, while others were more focused on putting game-specific mechanics to the test.

The sequel to the Press Start adventure
The sequel to the Press Start adventure

First impressions on Fabula Ultima: chow did the session go?

Let's first see how the session took place and what were, therefore, my first impressions of Fabula Ultima based on what happened.

The cards

The Quickstart comes with four pre-made characters and the storyline of the adventure is built around them. The characters are quite varied, in terms of abilities and roles to be adopted in combat. In addition, they have been well designed to interact a lot in combat, with a good buff-attack-protection-heal cycle. 

One thing I particularly liked about the cards is the having divided the various elements of the card into "unlockable" sections. As in a real one video game tutorial, the mechanics are illustrated gradually, from the most basic to the most refined.
This structure is very useful, in my opinion, because normally, when illustrating a new game, players are presented with the card and go through each element. Thus, we end up pouring on the poor neophyte a tide of mechanics that he cannot absorb.
Instead, spelling out what you need to know about the card as the session progresses was a great idea. 

The players chose the cards a lot based on the illustration of the character and the short description that I read aloud. They were very good at trusting that you needed to know the bare minimum to get started, and that allowed us to get started right away.

The first scene and the basic mechanics

The game starts with a lightning-fast introductory scene and quickly opens up on an emergency. Then, the characters are asked to individually say what they are trying to do and what approach they take. Based on these indications they will take their first test. This scene introduces the basic mechanics of the game. 

Thus, I illustrate the basic mechanics, that is the characteristics. In Fabula Ultimain fact, there are four characteristics and each of them is assigned a die that expresses its value. The larger the die size, the better you are at that characteristic. Character characteristics traveled between d6 and d10. Negative and positive statuses can increase or decrease the die size.
When called upon to take a test, the player decides the approach and the master decides which characteristics to use. Usually, two features are used, but it is also possible to use the same feature twice. The relevant dice are rolled and added together (modifiers may or may not apply). 10 is medium difficulty, 7 is easy and 13 is difficult.
On the first test, all players failed. 10 was not an easy number to reach for them throughout the game, except in the final.

The second scene and the relationships between the characters

The second scene provides a better introduction to the characters by describing their social interactions and we did a round of questions about the characters.
Each character, in its own way, also had narrative authority over certain elements of one's own story. In fact, whoever controls a certain character establishes, for example, the nature of the ruins they will enter and then one must stick to what has been established. Another character, the inventor, is responsible for the whole aspect magitech and, when in doubt, it must be listened to on that field.
This is not a strong and clear narrative authority like that of Archipelago e Flotsam, but throughout the quickstart it is often recalled to stick to what was established in that first round of questions.

At this point, quite directly, the characters are directed to their quest: go down to the center of a crater and stop whatever has fired magic rays at their ship. We are in a JRPG and in a one-shot, no one should complain about the railroading!

The first fight

The quickstart of Fabula Ultima involves a couple of fights: one after the first 4 scenes against a couple of generic minions and monsters, and a bossfight.
As much as the quickstar hints that conflicts may be other than physical in nature, we all know what we came here for: MENARE, Japanese-style.

The first fight is to see the basic actions and some of the special powers of the various characters. The nice thing is that minions have special strategies, attacks and weaknesses so not everyone can hurt them, so the party has to coordinate.
I had to speed up the fight a bit to get back on time and I let the third minion run away when the party got rid of the second one.
After this brief fight, there was an interlude to heal himself, delve into the mechanics of the inventory and possibly do some role playing with an NPC. Then we proceeded to the bossfight.

The bossfight

The bossfight lasted three rounds, which in real time resulted in 30 minutes of play about.
The battle was tough and the players were particularly determined to overcome the challenge. They used all their skills and came close to defeat.
The fight has reserved some surprises and has stuck to the classic styles of the JRPG.
The mechanics of the Objective were not used, i.e. the possibility of setting a goal during the fight and filling a special clock (at Blades in the dark) to get it. Since we were running out of time, the enemies didn't use Ultima Points either to heal (it would have lengthened the fight), or to escape the fight (I would have been sorry not to give players the satisfaction of killing them).

The coolest thing I saw was when the players got organized, given the turns and agreed on a strategy, talked openly about which skill would be best to use and in what order.
Very often, when there are similar games, everyone thinks about their turn and doesn't care what others are doing, or we talk to each other, but with the guilt of making metagames. Both are attitudes that I don't like. Here it was good to see all players equally involved and coordinate each other
Perhaps it is the feeling that remained most impressed on me at the end of the evening.

The cover of Fabula Ultima
The cover of Fabula Ultima

First impressions on Fabula Ultima, based on this session

Let's now look at my first impressions on Fabula Ultima. Play this session it made me want to play more, which is exactly what a quickstart should do. So kudos to Emanuele Galletto and Need Games!

Positive factors: rhythm and atmosphere

The game flows well. It has mechanics that are learned quickly, but on the combat front it offers many interesting choices and tactical options. Not all games that want to propose a simple and light regulation succeed. Instead, here with few dice and few rules, the players still enjoyed working out combos and strategies. This bodes well for the game and its longevity.

The second thing I really liked is how everything contributes to lowering you into the atmosphere, from some goodies in the graphics of the card to the evoked atmospheres. But, for example, the mechanics of Fabula Points and Bonds also help give that JRPG twist about the fact that emotions, relationships and inner strength can help you push your limits. A gem, I repeat.

A doubt about the potential repetition of the clashes

Among my first impressions on Fabula Ultima there are also a couple of doubts as to how some mechanics can recur over a long campaign.
First, let's talk about the monsters. They have vulnerabilities, resistances and abilities that can be known to players and characters thanks to the possibility of "studying" the enemies by revealing statistical data about them. Given a certain monster whose quality is known and given a group of adventurers, once the best sequence of actions has been established, it will be possible to replicate the strategy with the next monster. This is exactly what JRPG does, and it is why repeatedly fighting the same monster according to the usual established strategies becomes repetitive and boring for me.

In RPGs, the same thing usually happens less frequently. In fact, the terrain and objectives of the fight tend to make the battle different, even if there is the same group of three goblins room after room. This, of course, as long as the master knows what he is doing and hasn't created a dungeon of only 3x3 square empty rooms. At that point, you are playing a JRPG even if you don't know it!

In Fabula Ultimaon the other hand, the “terrain of the fight” factor is purely descriptive and does not affect the rules. I hope that the Goals factor can vary the clashes instead, otherwise repeating the same monster more than once could be boring!
By reading the PDF of the full game, a campaign of Fabula Ultima it gives its best between 20 and 50 sessions. I hope the bestiary is varied enough to ensure that fighting doesn't become a repetitive routine!

A doubt about the relevance of the role in Fabula Ultima

My second question is about the factor role. In my session, the interpretation part was little or nothing. Of course, times were tight and we were there to see how the game and its combat worked. Hence, there was little interaction between the characters. I hope this is due to the nature of the quickstart and my rushing.
Surely, Fabula Ultima it will be rehearsed in a long campaign with more relaxed tones, at which point I'm sure we will be able to bring out some scenes full of sentiment as well.

A few concluding words about my first impressions of Fabula Ultima

In short, in my opinion, the quickstart of Fabula Ultima is well done: flows well e has a very good approach to illustrating the game. This approach, in my opinion, should also be repeated in other similar products, because it is very useful and effective.
The game, from what I have seen, I really liked it and it made me want to plan a longer campaign.
Try it, and let us know!