Here are some impressions on Broken Tales, the role-playing game from The World Anvil Publishing and Black Box Games about the broken fairy tales: what was the first gaming experience like?
In May we talked about the Kickstarter of a new all-Italian role-playing game with grimdark tones, that is Broken Tales.
Created by The World Anvil Publishing e Black Box Games, this role-playing game turns the stories of classic European fairy tales upside down. In fact, due to the naive desire of a child, all the villains in fairy tales had a chance to redeem themselves. However, fairy tales always need an antagonist to fight the hero, and so it was the good protagonists who became evil.
Intrigued by this idea, I have downloaded the quickstart di Broken Tales, I studied the rules and characters and tried the game in an event of my association, Gondolin APS.
In this article, I want to tell you a little about my gaming experience and my impressions on Broken Tales.
What an adventure Broken Tales we played?
The proven adventure is Iskra of the Red Hood, that is the introductory adventure proposed in the quickstart of Broken Tales.
Warning: from here on there will be spoilers about the adventure Iskra of the Red Hood
In Iskra of the Red Hood we are faced with the broken tale of Little Red Riding Hood, abandoned in the woods by her mother and joined a pack of wolves, after having undermined the leader of the werewolf and become in turn a werewolf girl. Iskra is looking for revenge and, together with her wolves, is attacking the French citizen whose mother has married the local baronet.
The characters will have to try to solve this situation in some way, also helped by the ghost of Iskra's grandmother, who died of hardship and loneliness while waiting in vain for her granddaughter.
Timing and game modes
I tried this adventure in a three-hour one-shot, in attendance, mastering a four players and female players.
None of them had ever played Broken Tales and they had varied gaming experiences: some were more accustomed to traditional RPGs based on the d20system, while others also had extensive experience of more narrative and indie titles. For my part, I have experience as a master in a wide range of RPGs, including narratives similar to Broken Tales, of which, however, I had never tried the system. (To learn more about the game system, here is a useful article!)
To make sure I can finish the adventure by midnight, I ruled out the possibility of investigating the wolf lair from the story. I therefore concentrated the investigation and the meetings in three environments: the baronet's villa, the cemetery and the magical clearing.
In total, we played four scenes in two and a half hours, counting twenty minutes to illustrate rules and settings and several other small interruptions.
We used the pre-generated characters featured in the quickstart: James the Swordsman, Garou the Old Wolf, The Amazing Nameless Pied Piper and Baba Yaga the Child Witch.
As you can imagine, all of these characters are redeemed antagonists: Captain Hook, the Bad Wolf, the Pied Piper and the Wicked Witch.
What happened during the adventure?
After meeting the baronet and his wife, Elizaveta, and asking them several questions, the Hunters immediately went to investigate the cemetery, that is the place of the crime of two young lovers, torn to pieces by wolves.
Here, Baba Yaga immediately used magic to interrogate the spirits of the two young men, discovering more information about the circumstances of their death. Meanwhile, Giacomo was contacted by the ghost of Iskra's grandmother, from whom he discovered the existence of the magical clearing.
But conversations with ghosts were cut short by thearrival of the wolves, led by their former werewolf pack leader, Greskar, now a loyal loyalist of Iskra. After a tense dialogue, the Pied Piper unleashed his Dark Self, thus calling the people of the village and putting the wolves to flight.
After a rest in the inn, where they tried to get information about Elizaveta, the Hunters headed to the clearing. Here, Baba Yaga and the Pied Piper got in touch with the spirit of the grandmother, discovering the story of Iskra. Meanwhile, Giacomo and Garou met Iskra, deciding to help her take revenge on her mother.
While Iskra and Greskar hold Giacomo hostage to make sure he isn't betrayed, the other three Hunters work out how to kidnap Elizaveta. While the Pied Piper keeps the court in check with his music, Baba Yaga drugs the woman and Garou, in the form of a wolf, kidnaps her.
The adventure ended with Elizaveta delivered to Iskra in exchange for Giacomo. Iskra and her wolves are gone, finally leaving the village alone.
What were my impressions on Broken Tales?
First of all, let's get my hands on: to get a more accurate impression of this game, I should try it for at least a short campaign. And, after this one-shot, I have to say that I got the urge to play at least five or six continuous sessions, which is certainly a good thing.
So, in light of this, take these impressions for what they are, which is the still somewhat uncertain opinion of those who have only tried the game once.
The positive elements that emerged from the one-shot
In general, Broken Tales is confirmed to have a very lean game system, widely adaptable to all the situations that the characters have had to face.
Failures in die rolls have been very few and the player and female players have proven to have one luck very cheeky. Hence, their plans have always gone pretty smoothly and they never really found themselves in unpleasant situations. It was also pretty easy for them to play around with character and character strengths, finding interesting ways to bring their Descriptors and Gifts into play.
Asking players for their impressions of Broken Tales, have all had positive impressions.
Probably, dividing the adventure into two sessions would have allowed more play with the consequences of failed dice rolls. In general, I would recommend playing adventure Iskra of the Red Hood in at least two sessions, or in a long session of five or six hours, to enjoy it properly.
The characters proposed by the story are interesting and very strong situations can also be staged. In this sense, I recommend that you warn in advance who will play with you issues who are going to deal with each other (motherfuckers and abandonment of children), especially if you don't know each other well. I also put a X-card in the center of the table, for safety.
Negative elements emerged from the one-shot
Personally, I found the character of Greskar, the werewolf follower of Iskra, a little redundant, especially in light of Garou's presence.
Certainly, Garou is the archetype of the Bad Wolf, present in many different fairy tales and not necessarily linked to that of Little Red Riding Hood. However, in my opinion and according to my tastes, eliminate the figure of Greskar and making Garou the Bad Wolf of Little Red Riding Hood would have made the adventure more interesting and personal.
Also, it would have helped make Garou more integrated into the game even if the characters decided not to fight, as it did in my one-shot. In fact, in a situation where everything has been decided with deception, magic and diplomacy, Garou has had little space in history.
Some conclusive words
I will have to get carried away with more sessions, but in general I believe that Broken Tales performed very well. Everyone at the table enjoyed and learned the rules with ease. The characters have had their moments of glory and those who have played with me have been very interested in the plot.
As a master, I found the system fast and immediate, which lends itself well to a notable one improvisation. I wish I could try my hand at a short campaign to test it again and see the characters flounder as they start running out of Soma points.
In short, I want to replay a Broken Tales. And, after an introductory one-shot, I think it's a success!