I made a really great find on DriveThruRPG the other day and thought other people might be interested. Farflung is an excellent, narrative game that combines elements of FATE Accelerated and Apocalypse World to great effect. Usually when DTRPG recommends things to me I give it a passing glance but this time I was really intrigued by what I saw and so I snatched it up.
The premise of Farflunt is to create an open-ended space opera RPG of epic scale and heroic stories. This is something right up my alley and I think it’s done in a really cool way. I’ll say up front that the layout is a little busy with bright, neon colors and lots of changing fonts. The artwork, byillustrated by Mama Bliss (NSFW) and Matt Howarth, is also a little cartoon-ish and reminiscent of Octopus Pie or PvP rather than the hyper-realistic style of, say, Wayne Reynolds. Normally I like my games clean and simple with art that doesn’t mess with my suspension of disbelief so this wasn’t my favorite opening up the pdf.
If you are also in this boat I recommend you look past that. Once you get down to brass tacks this book is actually laid out very well and there is a surreal, dreamlike quality about the artwork that really complements the book once you start in on it. While it didn’t look like the kind of game I normally love, it has quickly intrigued me and I’ve spent more and more time flipping through it. Just… you know. Fair warning.
Edit: Thanks to Johannes Einloft for the technical corrections on a few points here.
The first quirky thing about Farflung that you will notice flipping through the book is the attributes. There is no Strength or Wisdom here, the attributes in Farflung are based on quarks. You heard me.
They come in pairs (just like quark flavors) which represent a subtle or forward approach to things. Each of these attributes is rated from -3 (terrible) to +3 (awesome) according to your playbook (more on that below).
Social matters are determined by your bottom and top attributes which respectively indicate a quiet approach and a loud approach (as in the bottom or top of the pecking order). Your ability to reason is split into down (working with your hands) and up (working with your mind). Finally, your general demeanor is described by charm (winning people over) and strange (freaking people out).
“Indicia” of Health
I have no idea why they chose this term (instead of the actual plural of “index”), but there are three different indices that you can suffer damage to: doing is like hit points, feeling is like social points, and thinking is like sanity. When you’re hit by something you can try to deflect harm from one track to another, but only if the damage you’re taking is indicated in your playbook (again, more later).
When any one index drops to zero you are incapacitated which means you’re out of the game for a bit. The actual result depends on which index: you might be knocked out (doing), reduced to a sobbing mess (feeling), or retreat to a fugue state (thinking). Death is rare in this game so it’s up to your group when someone actually dies.
Points in Time
Now we arrive at quirk number two. In order to power special abilities (moves) there are two pools of points to spend. Future represents amazing, nature-bending abilities that defy explanation. History represents contacts, wealth, or training that you’ve already done in the past. They’re weird names but they make sense as the two halves of characters’ moves in this epic game: you can either bank on cool new stuff or plan for eventualities.
You spend points when a move tells you to ante it, and the individual move will tell you what happens after that (you might lose it, get it back, or move it someplace else). Sometimes these future and history points end up in other pools such as eternal or battered which ties up your points from being used for other moves.
Your character comes with a handful of connections as well which give you some ability to customize the character outside of the playbook you choose.
Your connection to other players’ characters allows you to give them inspiration while your connection to NPCs allows you to give them orders. Your connection to knowledge allows you to reveal new stuff as does your connection to gear. Lastly, your connection to organizations lets you order things too like requisitioning stuff or calling for a special mission.
Connections are measured by ratings that start at 1 and go up from there. You get these from your playbook but you also can gain increases during play. You can lose points too, though, and if a connection drops to zero then you lose the connection (the person stops talking to you, the gear breaks or is lost, the group blacklists you, etc).
There’s a great introduction to taking actions here that can apply to all RPGs (putting things like dominating the table into focus and explaining why sometimes you roll and other times you don’t worry about it) but I’ll skip that for now. You don’t roll against a target number in this system; like other PbtA games you roll 2d6 and see what the sum is. You can achieve nothing (6 or lower), get a weak success (7-9), get a strong success (10-12), or a grand success (13+).
To this roll, of course, you add your modifier (which might be negative) based on your attributes and connections, and there might also be situational penalties to make it harder. The GM might also require a minimum level of success to achieve what you want, such as saying that the security system is top of the line so you have to get at least a strong success.
There are moves in all the playbooks but there is also a list of Common Moves that everyone can do. Assault (based on Strange) is your standard attack action and Schmooze (based on Charm) is your standard social roll. There isn’t really a defense roll (to keep your secrets or avoid being hit) you just have to modify the other person’s roll. Avoid (based on Bottom) is stealthing around, Block (based on Top) is taking a hit for someone, Lore (based on Down) is knowledge checks, Reveal (based on your a connection and requiring Future points) pulls out the perfect item, and Scope (based on Up) is insight and perception rolled together.
In addition there are Support Moves which allow you to help out others. Inspiration (based on a connection) can boost another player character’s roll after the fact, Prepare (based on whatever makes sense) lets you buff someone’s roll before they try it, and Order (based on your connection and requiring you move a Future point to History) let’s you direct your NPC companions or allies around.
One really cool thing is that there are tactical mechanics with all of these rolls, affecting subsequent and preceding rolls. For example, when you use Assault and you get a strong success then you get +3 to Assault if you do that next. Likewise, when you Scope a situation or person you ask a question of the GM and then gain +1 to your next action if it’s based on the answer.
There is just so much in these playbooks that I can’t shoehorn it into a review with the rest of the book. That means you can look forward to next time! Check out Farflung if this review strikes your fancy and if you get itthere will still be something for you next time since you can focus on my analysis of each playbook. Let me know in the comments if you have further questions about the game or if you already have Farflung and want to share admiration, criticism, or confusion!