We interview Alessandro Piroddi and Luca Maiorani, the creators of Fantasy World, PBTA role-playing game published by MS Edizioni!
This year we are seeing many interesting Kickstarter campaigns starting and ending well. We recently talked about titles like First they came, Inferno, Little Katy's Tea Party, The Journal of Fantastic Linguistics, Gods of Metal: Ragnarock, Lands of Legends e Shintiara, only in 2021.
So today we present a new RPG that will soon start its campaign on Kickstarter.
We are talking about Fantasy World, the role play PbtA (Powered by the Apocalypse) created by Alessandro Piroddi and Luca Maiorani, and published by MS Editions. Fantasy World aims to give the tools to create fantasy stories that are not necessarily tied to the mechanics and narrative tropes of D&D. To find out more, we decided to interview its two authors: Alessandro Piroddi and Luca Maiorani.
Alessandro Piroddi is a game designer who has already written and published several experimental titles, in which he explored the possibilities (and impossibilities) of game design. Instead, Luca Maiorani is an illustrator and columnist specializing in game design.
At this link you can find the preview of the Kickstarter campaign, which will start On Monday April 26.
instead, Thu there is the Facebook page and Thu the Facebook group.
How did the idea of Fantasy World?
The first source was my personal frustration with Dungeon World (DW) in particular, and the whole world of PbtA games in general. I say this starting from a place of love for Apocalypse World and its vast progeny of PbtA games.
Without getting lost in a black hole of game design delusions, let's say I felt the lack of an RPG that offered the experience of the "fantasy adventure" in a way more similar to what we read in book sagas and TV series, that not how much you play like D&D we got used to it.
Don't get me wrong, there are tons of RPGs out there that offer "different fantasy" in a brilliant way. Let's think about On Mighty Thews, Trollbabe, SCUP, Mouse Guard and many others. But they are often designed to be intense but short experiences, or to explore a very specific idea, or simply adopt a level and quality of "crunch" that doesn't suit my personal tastes. Too much, too little, too focused on things that interest me little, etc.
And nothing, after a few attempts to fold DW to do something it was not designed for, I decided to abandon it altogether, save for very few very superficial details, and start from the original source (Apocalypse World 2) to create my vision of a fantasy RPG.
I just add one thing, just to add some color to the story. When Fantasy World was born, I had nothing to do with the project. Fantasy World he is practically three years old, and in this period of time I have been involved in the project for about a year and a half.
With Ale we had more or less similar ideas. Except that its working on Fantasy World it is much earlier than my reasoning on the subject, which arise from a certain narrowness that I had been facing for some time Dungeon World and other PbtAs.
The fact is that one day I decide to chat with him for a long time to understand the philosophy behind it Fantasy World and see if it was compatible with the ideas that were maturing in my head. Every time I said to him: “Look, I would modify DW so and so to achieve this ", Ale replied with:"Fantasy World it already does ". And nothing, the third identical answer had me totally won.
Regarding the game system, we know that Fantasy World is a PBTA. What new mechanics have you proposed to give your game a unique touch?
Personally (and controversially) I find the most innovative element to be having presented the classic PbtA mechanics in a finally clear, clear and unambiguous way.
I find that innovation is worth little if the base is not solid or is poorly maintained and usable. I know, it sounds very boring. But thankfully it's not the only standout feature of Fantasy World...
Narrative damage, blood and belonging
I could therefore mention the system of Narrative damage, which makes the way of describing and telling "tactical", bringing everyone's attention to what happens and how it happens, instead of rules and numbers. The result is very dynamic and brutal.
To my surprise, some call it reminiscent of an Old School style of play, which supports a more mature and emotionally impactful approach to play than the often very lighthearted and light way that other games offer.
I could mention the system of Blood e Membership, which allow you to create diverse and multifaceted characters in a more open and inclusive (and interesting) way than the old monolithic concept of "fantasy race". Again, few but impressive mechanics that allow players to create characters as classic or as weird as they wish.
Problem, Doubt, Company and World
And then the mechanics of Problem e Doubt. Not only do they create a personal and emergent story arc for each PC, but they are at the heart of the character growth system, both in terms of new powers / abilities, and in a human and personal sense.
And the setting creation procedures e Company, structured to avoid at the root a wide range of problems typical of fantasy games, which in Fantasy World they simply do not exist.
The section of the World it's something I've worked hard on. I wanted a novice novice to be able to read it and learn to play, using each element in a practical and simple way. Rules, not advice. Procedures, not guidelines. Techniques and tools, not philosophy.
Curiously, the same material was also very popular with non-PbtA game veterans, because it helps them tremendously to transition from their old habits to those required by the PbtA format.
You have defined the playable stories in Fantasy World as "dramatic fantasy". Can you explain this concept better?
The original English concept is “dramatic fantasy”, which in Italian translates directly, but has a different shade of meaning. What he wants to communicate is: a fantasy where the human themes, always at the center of all the great genre fiction, from Game of Thrones a Mistborn, from The Lord of the Rings ai Dresden Files, are at the center of the game.
All of these works touch on different themes in different ways, but they all tell stories where those themes are THE reason the plot events happen. Action exists to serve the issues. It is a basic foundation of almost all fiction, from books to movies.
On the contrary, many RPGs focus on the plot, on the action, touching on some issues only in a secondary and tangential way, or leaving a void that Players and GMs can, if they want and ability, fill "in some way".
Fantasy World it simply starts from different assumptions. Try to create maximum emotional involvement and attachment at the table.
Try to get the players and the world amounts of PCs and NPCs and setting. That it matters how they relate to each other. That it matters to him (as in a good novel) to find out what happens next.
It is a principle common to many PbtAs, e Fantasy World it tries to adhere to it with all the strength it is capable of.
The mental leap necessary to enter the tones and mood of Fantasy World it's understanding that you don't play to defeat a dungeon, or be the best player, or create a performing character.
You play to find out what will happen, and in this the structure of Fantasy World, stripped of many “dungeon crawling” vestiges, takes by the hand and helps bring to life those novel stories that Ale is talking about.
NPCs are not monsters to kill, but they are "real people" with personal goals, just like the PCs are, and from this clash of objectives the drama arises. The rest of the game structure only supports the drama, helping players (including the World) to tell their story here and now.
Two of your goals in writing this manual are clarity and accessibility, so that the rules, mechanics and concepts of the game are explicitly explained. What are the concepts that you felt the need to explain better?
Many games, including PbtA, often offer advice and guidelines without explaining in practice how to make them, assuming that players and GMs know what to do and how to do it. With Fantasy World I took the trouble to put all this plainly, assuming that the reader had no tools or experience outside of the manual. This has influenced everything, both on the Players side and on the World side.
Something that I have rarely seen in other manuals is the clear explanation of the "narrative positioning". This in Fantasy World it is the basis of many systems and therefore the explanation was put at the beginning of the manual, in the fundamental mechanics. It is used to manage the difficulty, the damage, the activation of the Moves, etc.
Much care has also been given to wording of the text (English, but soon we will also properly revise the Italian translation) of all the Moves, in order to avoid doubts and gray areas. Players and the World should never negotiate the use of mechanics, except in a few cases, and very quickly. On the contrary, these solid and clear tools are meant to help everyone express themselves better and be more creative with less effort.
As anyone who has been following my blog for some time will know "Games from the Nuraghe”, Over the years I have spent rivers of virtual ink to explain in detail how to start a PbtA game (sometimes generic, sometimes very specific). How to manage narrative positioning, how to stage an exciting fight. And, in general, how to survive a whole series of rules and behaviors that, if you're not used to it, may initially seem strange or anti-intuitive to veterans of classic games.
Many PbtAs are actually beautifully written, but often lack clarity.
As Ale pointed out, Fantasy World instead it tries to dispel the myths. It goes down a little deeper, removes the veil on the unspoken and try to clarify and write down all the damn procedures necessary to play. Everything Everything.
For some it may even seem redundant, but trust me: that's what I think a manual should do.
The idea of making the Fellowship a specific element to be created in the game, before even the creation of the characters themselves, is an extremely interesting idea. What prompted you to include this mechanic? And what companies have you seen being created in this way?
Anyone with years of playing behind them, especially if practiced with many different friends, knows that they often stumble upon some classic problematic behaviors. It's so common that it's featured in countless memes, but when it comes to your table, it's never pleasant.
With Fantasy World I wanted to cut the bull's head by structuring the game for avoid these problems in the bud.
But it's not just this. The idea of making the Players imagine their main characters first of all as people, and then as people framed in a certain type of relationship and context, and only then, as a last step, to make them think about Class and powers and statistics ... is all functional to the experience of dramatic fantasy.
Then there is another element, this more valuable for the world, which is worth mentioning.
The four Compagnia archetypes in fact represent four of the most typical fantasy campaign models. By first choosing what type of campaign to play, and only then creating ad-hoc characters for it, the work of the World is made considerably easier.. He is offered on a silver platter very clear elements of what the group wants to play, and how, and with a cast of custom-made PCs. The whole (like so many other elements of Fantasy World) without Players and Mondo necessarily being aware of this effect.
They just play, choose the options they find most interesting, answer the questions posed by the manual. And as a result, they get an artfully set campaign.
How does the idea of the Company marry with the possibility of having clashes between player characters?
The game focuses on the Company. There are clear procedures that literally make PCs leave the scene if they abandon it or who oppose it.
But this is presented as a positive result. In fact, in Fantasy World each Player is put in a position to express your PG honestly and sincerely, to the extreme. All this though in a healthy and peaceful environment that protects the interests and enjoyment of the entire table.
In this sense, all the moves of Fantasy World they are meant to work when applied to both NPCs and PCs. And the dynamics of communication between players and the world mean that internal confrontations between PCs are resolved in a functional and satisfactory way. An enrichment of the game, rather than a problem.
I will say more, these clashes, when they arise, arise because they actually interest the players.
Fantasy World puts everything on the table, in front of everyone. There are no hidden, whispered decisions or covertly written cards with the GM. Everything starts at the table and the players are always aware of what is happening. They decide how to create the company, they see everyone's characters born.
And therefore in this context it is easy (and also a lot of fun) build on the ideas of others, perhaps even sowing the seeds of future contrasts which, gradually, scene after scene, can come to the surface and become fiery.
I happen to see such fights in play: never forced, but free, always beautiful to play.
Fantasy World is a very different game from Dungeon World, and consequently also from the stylistic features of D&D. What are the biggest differences? And what are the contact points?
For the differences I think I have amply given examples in the previous answers.
In a recent discussion the idea was expressed that Fantasy World be the polar inverse of DW e D&D in terms of game design. Where one game applies mechanics, the others overlook and leave unspoken. And vice versa, where the former is kept vague and minimal, the latter implement rules and systems. It is not valid on everything, but almost.
The points in common are therefore few, but precious. Fantasy World has maintained a series of terminologies and elements that, although different, wink at classic archetypes of the fantasy game.
This is seen above all in the booklets of Classes, where it is easy to recognize the classes of D&D, then resumed from DW.
This was done because those Classes are somewhat neutral Archetypes. They define what a PC can do, not who he is as a person, or what role he plays in the story.
This makes them more versatile and flexible for a game like Fantasy World in which there are many other systems that lead the Players to instill their own meanings and ideas in the characters, and to discover in an emerging way the identity of their PCs and their role in the events they will play.
But even here the similarities stop at the level of archetypal structure, given that the way in which each Class is made differs significantly from how it is made in DW or in D&D.
Said in a more direct way than what Ale already expressed: Fantasy World totally abandons the vestiges of D&D, and Dungeon Crawling in general.
As we have already said, he has other goals, other ambitions and wants to embrace them 100% without hesitation. Sure, the quotes here and there to great games from the past that have given us a lot, emotionally and cerebrally, are there, but they are this, quotes. Dungeon World, a game I owe so much to and love a lot, is still caught somewhere between a free and literary fantasy and a dungeon crawl fantasy D&D. Instead, Fantasy World chooses different paths.
Plan to insert safety mechanics in Fantasy World? If so, which ones will you use?
Yes and no.
Fantasy World proposes as the "Single Golden Rule" a procedure that allows everyone to intervene on unwanted content. But it is presented less as a security system (like the famous X-Card) and more as a tool in common use for everyone always.
This is then reinforced by many elements scattered throughout the regulation that lead the game to be more close-knit and collaborative. Where in a very traditional way the World plays the world and the Players play their protagonists, the way in which the conversation at the table takes place and the way in which it activates the mechanics is very focused on the concept of consent e participation.
Let's say that more than offering many different security tools, the regulation offers a very versatile one and then tries "secretly" to accustom Players and the World to behave in an empathic and respectful way with each other.
The images that will accompany the manual are certainly an important element to inspire those who play. What are their sources of inspiration?
Sincerely? A little bit of everything.
Our initial will, especially mine, was to have myself as the main (and by now the only) illustrator of the whole project. Not only for economic reasons (eheh!), But also and especially because I wanted to test myself on such a large and monumental work.
A premise on style and imagination
So we had to build all the visual imagery on my skills and my verve. This, by now I think you have all noticed, owes a lot to more colorful cartoon. Hence, it goes a long way from the classic illustration typical of RPGs, and especially fantasy RPGs.
Where a realistic pictorial is used a lot, I abandon myself to the clear line of matrix Belgian franc, with many forays manga, Disney, American. Where dark and gritty are so fashionable, I love brighter colors, a warmer imagery and full of sense of wonder.
Mind you, the dark and the pictorial are things I love. But to say something personal and new in an environment where those two elements are very abused, you have to be such monsters. I'm not. My strengths are different and it is on those that we have decided to beat, building around them.
But not only. We also wanted to communicate something different from the usual, because after all, even the game itself is a fantasy a little different from the classic.
The main inspirations
This is the premise.
The main inspirations are, without a doubt, the works and comics of Gael Bertrand, which has a very personal way of drawing fantasy. A way that has struck me and that, of course, I have studied to the point of nausea.
But there are many other inspirations. First of all animated series like Avatar and the JRPG, to whom I owe a lot in terms of imagery. Some manga and anime (Toriyama above all), wonderful comics like Kairos by Ulysse Malassagne and a lot of Franco-Belgian stuff.
I also love more classical and Tolkien imagery, but when I abandon myself to creativity, it is not those works that I draw on. For this reason, perhaps I am told to have a “younger” look in my way of approaching illustration, because my source of inspiration are things more from the latest Gen Xrather than the 80s.
Can you reveal us some gems that you will pull out just for the Kickstarter?
We can tell you that Siliꓘa it won't be the only official setting for FW ...
We can tell you that Luca and I will not be the only authors to put our hand to such settings ...
And we can tell you that there will be prominent names both Italian and international ...
We can tell you that, if the campaign reaches the desired levels, there will be one or two new features in the "Classes" department of the manual ...
And then we can not tell you more. That's too much already. Erase everything! Withdraw the interview ah! 😉
I can add that I've just finished working on a cover for a second secret manual, and it's a cover I'm very proud of.
Everything else is top secret.
If I had to miss something, they would come looking for me and replace me with a penguin who uses me as a Luca-dress. A creepy thing.
Two conclusive words
Waiting for the Kickstarter, our interview ends here!
We thank Alessandro Piroddi and Luca Maiorani for answering our questions in such depth.
What to say? Fantasy World it is probably one of the titles that the undersigned expects the most this year. I can't wait to have it in my hands to find out what it will be able to do.