I’m here today with an awesome game from Nerdburger Games (the same company as Capers, Die Laughing, and Good Strong Hands). This time it’s slightly lighter fare, a game that is suitable for kids and kids-at-heart with adaptable mechanics for telling the sort of stories you might see from, say, someone with the surname Henson. Allow me to introduce Felt, Friendship, and Feelings.
In F, F, & F you play some sort of puppet (again, of the kinds you might see taking Manhattan, for instance) and the book lists a number of different kinds to consider. Person-like puppets look sorta human but fuzzier, anthropomorphic animals are easy to picture, small monsters and big monsters are cuddly- and human-sized creatures, alien puppets are truly otherworldly, and everyday items are objects (telephones or grapefruit or whatever) with arms and faces. Functionally, though, there’s no limit except your imagination since these types only serve as inspiration and don’t have strict mechanics.
Character creation remains very straightforward and to make a character you’ll need a name and a concept to ground your design and a description at the beginning or end to let others know what your puppet looks like. Mechanics start entering the picture with skills which come in three varieties that have familiar names: Felt, Friendship, and Feelings. I’ll talk a little bit about those later but you have ten six-sided dice to spread among them. Your character will also have a schtick (something they’re always doing like counting things or being green) and a catchphrase (something you’re always saying like “Hiya!”) and those have a mechanical purpose too. When you can incorporate your schtick or catchphrase in what you’re doing you can add the dice in your trademark pool into the roll; the pool starts at one die to start.
By the way, when I say a skill “has dice” that’s literal in this case. The character sheet for Felt, Friendship, and Feelings is a listing of the various skills and the trademark pool with boxes to physically put dice into. This does mean you need eleven six-sided dice for each player (plus a few extra for incidental gains) but also for newbies or young players the mechanics of the game are simple. When you make a skill check you just scoop up the dice next to that skill and roll ‘em.
Speaking of which, how do you actually make skill checks? Well, firstly there are 24 different skills in those three categories mentioned before. Felt skills are the means of physically doing things and they are Make a Thing, Teach, Go Wild, Tell Jokes, Perform Stunt, Wrangle Others, and Scheme. Friendship skills are how you interact with others and they are Hug, Do a Favor, Learn, Inspire, and Help as well as the more personal skills of Admit Fault and Sit Quietly. Finally, Feelings skills are about expressing yourself and letting folks know what’s going on as you Be Cranky, Be Proud, Be Happy, Be Sad, Be Kind, Be Thankful, and Be Excited.
Clever readers might note that there are seven skills in each category which is 21 total and that’s three less than I promised. Well, you can make up skills as you want so on the character sheet there’s an empty space in each category for a unique skill like playing the banjo, taking a bubble bath, collecting trash… Whatever your character loves to do.
Making a skill check means picking up the dice for that skill (plus the die or dice in your trademark pool if you’re using it) and rolling to see how many come up with 5 or higher. If you get at least one 5+ then you do the thing, even more 5+ results means you do it very well. For every success beyond the first you get to describe a cool thing happening in the scene. After you check the results you put the dice back wherever you want them to go. This means that you might start a scene with three dice in Go Wild, do something wild with a roll, then put back two dice in Learn and another in Be Happy. Or you can put one or more back into Go Wild. Or add them to skills that already have some dice in them.
I love this because it means you can always think about where you want to story to go and set it up in that direction. Inexperienced roleplayers and veterans alike can hone their skill of shaping a story collectively by thinking ahead with their dice placement. It also lowers the frustration with skill strengths and weaknesses since they’re always shifting. Maybe you really want to ride your motorcycle over a gap but you have no dice in Perform Stunt. Normally this means you can’t do it (though there are some options we’ll get to in a sec) and this could be a disappointment… but in FF&F that’s a temporary situation and probably one that happened because you decided it in a previous scene. No worries! Instead you could do something else impressive on your bike (using Inspire) or you say that you’re nervous about it and not willing to make the jump (with Admit Fault). All of these can advance the story so how do you have fun with it?
If you fail a skill check then you don’t do the thing and a Complication is added to the story. Something tricky or unfortunate or dramatic happens that moves the story forward in a way you didn’t mean for it to. Each scene will have one skill check by a character, or no check if they don’t have an option or are in the background a bit. If you do sit out a scene you can add a die to your trademark pool so that you can make a bigger splash later. The action moves quickly then and focuses on portrayals of the characters rather than the crunch of the game.
This is also the way that the characters differentiate themselves; with the skills constantly shifting around they aren’t the way for characters are unique. That falls to the schtick and catchphrase of the character, the bits they are known for. When you can incorporate one of these things into your actions for the scene you can add in the dice from your trademark pool (the one you started with and/or dice you got from sitting a scene out) to boost your pool. When you spend these ones, though, you don’t get them back so your trademark pool will be empty until you sit out a scene again.
You can also get extra dice by being the lead player in a scene. If the scene is focused on you then other players can choose to support you instead of making a check themselves (or sitting the scene out). When someone chooses to help out the lead player they give them dice, literally hand the dice over. That player rolls their check as normal and puts their dice back as normal, meaning they will have more than ten dice distributed in their skills for a bit. This imbalance can only be reset but sharing dice back so it really encourages players to constantly help each other out back and forth.
That’s the game! It’s a short set of rules but I wouldn’t call it “simple.” The tasks of redistributing dice, sharing dice between lead players and other players, and knowing when to sit out a scene… It can all get pretty strategic if you want it to. Like many excellent games, it’s very easy to get started in Felt, Friendship, and Feelings but there’s lots of room to grow.
To help with that there are eight story outlines for starting stories. They are classic buddy mix-em-ups like Become Famous, Find Our Friend, or Take a Road Trip. Every one of them comes with six Setup options and six Twists to roll randomly, and eleven scenes to play out by rolling 2d6. The ending scenes are #2 and #12 (statistically the least likely to roll) so the scene progression naturally heads to either of those resolutions. They’re all fun and can get you off the ground quickly while providing tons of inspiration and replayable options.
And that’s the thing with this game. It’s so much fun and there’s some excellent design work here, but it’s very welcoming and easily accessible. This would be a great game for folks new to the hobby or, as I intend, for kiddos getting used to roleplaying games. It’s a short game which means a very nice price point but within this unassumingly slim book is a wildly expandable and fun game.