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Hands of Fate Core Rules - Print Version
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/23/2014 16:51:58

First, let me explain why you should throw away all those nerdy dice (except the d12, the best die) and only play RPGs with cards from now on. Card-based RPGs are better in every way, preferably playing-card-based – the probabilities can be adjusted by the system with more precision, there are more ways to shift player and GM control of a situation through hand size, refreshes, draws and plays, and in general cards are just one hundred percent better than dice in every situation forever.

Well, okay, maybe not in every situation. Designing for playing cards is harder than designing for dice (quick, what’s the probability I can deal you five cards and you won’t have a pair? Wrong.) So there’s a lot of half-baked card-based RPGs out there. And because a lot of gamers grew up rolling their nerd dice, they can’t get over a hand of cards like they can with the instant feedback of a die roll. A good friend reported to me he was grouchy over a recent playing-card based game we played because “I was looking at my hand, and thinking about the mechanics, and not thinking about the game”. Well, you could do the same with dice and a character sheet! But you learned not to, so you don’t. There’s definitely some cultural shifts that gamers have to make in order to have fun with entirely new and different types of resolution systems.

You may have passed over Hand of Fate because you saw the cover, you looked inside, saw the art was your typical low-priced fantasy art and the layout was your typical rpgnow fantasy RPG offering, but I gave it a second look because it uses playing cards and I love playing cards. I think you should give it a second look too. There are several reasons:

First, this is an exceptionally complete, concise game. It contains not only character creation, a magic section for a magic system that includes a spell list, a GM’s section giving a simple explanation of the GM’s job in the game, a monster section, a setting outline, a sample adventure and an appendix of tables, all within 170 pages. In this millennium, when there are 5-600 pages of “core” D&D or Pathfinder, it’s great to see an organized, cut-down fantasy RPG that nevertheless covers all the bases.

Second, it includes a narration-passing system to permit player contribution to scenes and situations, but puts the GM in the position of a coach or referee to help keep everyone on track with the right types of tone and content. It’s often difficult to handle narration-passing games that are using fantastic situations because the lack of boundaries means players can feel adrift, not sure whether they should use their power to contribute a new, bizarre thing or keep it down to earth. (There’s a reason the best Fiasco playset is the Nice Southern Town, for example.) Hand of Fate urges GMs to help players with their contributions with suggestive questions, providing ideas, and generally keeping things moving in the right direction while still being open to their ideas. It strikes a good balance that’s definitely needed for fantasy and which other fantastical narration-passing games sometimes lack.

Now let’s talk about the system. It’s of moderate complexity, starting with three core attributes, Power, Intelligence and Cunning, and breaking each of those out into 3 sub-attributes. By combining the various numbers of these attributes with skill ratings, you develop a relatively small number which is your Hand for a particular task. You draw your Hand, and if the cards you draw are the right type, you could get bonus cards to generate a higher total. Beat the target number and succeed at what you’re doing, gaining some of the aforementioned narrative power to describe how your character succeeds.

What’s most interesting about this system is the way that special Talents are handled. Say you have a Talent that lets you effectively smash someone with your shield (note that you can always say you’re smashing someone with your shield if you’re successful at fighting checks, this is a separate mechanic). You get to activate that Talent when you draw an Ace or Jack of Clubs – the greater rarity of the card pull means that the impact of your Talent can be dramatic – you force the opponent to discard their current best card, even if it means they don’t get bonus cards. As you improve in a talent, you can expand what cards can “activate” it. This creates a feel that makes using your special abilities exciting. You don’t feel like you’re just tapping a power, instead you’re taking advantage of an opening or exploiting an opportunity.

There are many magic systems offered, from the benedictions of calling upon gods, to sorcery based on four elements. Each has their own unique spin, which although it enhances the flavor of the magic, it does make it harder to evaluate whether it hits the same probability high points as the base system does. Indeed, the main way I can see to improve Hand of Fate is actually to simplify it – to boil down all those different magic systems into the main card pulling system. It would take a lot of work and maintaining some pretty strict rules about balancing the probabilities and potential outcomes, but I think it could be beneficial. As it stands, I don't see how one could reasonably expect a GM to grasp all the different magical subsystems. (In fact, the "monster manual" portion primarily focuses on just creating unique special effects for the monsters, a system to do that would be fine.)

All in all, this is a solid, well-put-together playing-card based game, which means that it tickles my fancy and gets a favorable review from me. There are simple bookmarks and it’s easy to navigate. I definitely recommend checking it out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hands of Fate Core Rules - Print Version
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Monsters of Karth
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/16/2013 12:57:38

Far more than a mere 'monster book' this sets the scene for many creatures from a collection of 'ordinary' wild animals (and domesticated ones, too) to exotic and spectactular ones that may serve as full-blown NPCs or interesting adversaries (or both).

Lavish illustrations and loads of background, from that which a naturalist might study to the lore and tales told about each one, accompany the necessary game mechanics to run each one to good effect. In many cases, the text provides ideas for when your characters may encounter the beast in question, sometimes even a full adventure involving it starts coming to mind!

Creatures are grouped by type, where appropriate, which makes it easy to flip through to select just the one that you need. A 'corporeal undead' monster for example - skeletons, ghouls and more. Notes on religions revolving around the undead are in the text, adding extra depth to what otherwise might be a mere monster list. More demons than you can shake a candle at, and plenty of novel creatures not to be found in other games.

Ogres and orcs, dragons and drakes... even dangerous plants (!), there is a fine succession, a veritable parade for you to flesh out your world with. Slimes and oozes, spirits, swamp fiends and swarms - on they come!

An excellent monster book!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters of Karth
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Hands of Fate Core Rules - Print Version
by Ben O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/21/2013 18:23:56

This is one sweet system.
Sure I am a little biased as I am one of the play tester and the author is my GM but I can tell you that this has years in the making. The blood on the cover is from playing card paper cuts. Jimmy (the author) has been GM'ing his entire life; as have all the testers. This is a cumulation of all the best features of all our favourite games. The system has brand new concept and system unlike anything else. The author has been tirelessly tweaking this for ever.

After finally getting your hear around not saying 'roll the dice' I can guarantee all your other games will end up on the shelf next to that 1st edition D&D that you hold on too just for sentimental reasons. Everything becomes either too simple or too complex and you will start dreaming about playing that Jack of spades as a dramatic lead at that most opportune moment. I know this, as I do.

Buy this book. Tell your friends to buy this book. Or may your hand be forever full of 2's.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hands of Fate Core Rules - Print Version
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Creator Reply:
Haha thanks for the review, Benny! The biggest challenge was trusting ourselves to play a card game with a professional magician!
The Guide to Karth
by christopher c. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/16/2013 20:38:19

First off let me preface this by saying I don't own the Hands of Fate rule-set that this game is a campaign setting for. That being said I will say that I truly enjoyed this read and think it is a great product for what it is. As an introduction to the setting it does a fine job of creating atmosphere and gives the reader a decent sense of immersion that most setting books are missing. I would have liked to have seem some artwork here and there, but I understand from reading the writers own webpage that he's not a great artist...something I can totally relate too. The fact that he had the foresight to not clutter the book up with weak art is a good thing.

The only thing that I didn't care for was that there were only a few references to the mechanics and no really detailed important people. I would have liked to see some more examples of individuals statted out and such so I could understand how people, races, and places relate to one another. Although as a free product I can appreciate that the writer may be holding off on all of that for a future release.

All in all a good read, well worth the price, and a good primer for a setting for a new system

Chris



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Guide to Karth
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Creator Reply:
Christopher, thanks for the great review, and for your interest in the product. I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head with your assumptions here, and yes, I'm a terrible artist and in trying to keep my costs low I decided not to include artwork in The Guide to Karth. I've held out on stating up the characters mentioned as I wanted the Guide to be usable for any system, but one of the features of the Hands of Fate system is the ease at which NPCs and monsters can be created on the fly. They can simply have 3 stats that determines their Intelligence, Power (of the physical kind) and their Cunning. There are other things you can tack on if you wanted to flesh them out more as well, but essentially the game focuses more on what the players can think up. One of the mechanics of the game promotes collaborative storytelling, "Passing the Narrative" as we call it, as a reward for passing a Skill check. Players that add advantages for themselves find them countered by the GM later in disadvantages but players who add to the complications of the party gain bonus XP. There are more free products in production at the moment, nearing completion, including a monsters book (the beta is available from my website) and a more thorough look at the different magical styles in the game. Once again, thanks for the great review!
Hands of Fate Core Rules - Print Version
by nick v. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/09/2013 05:42:00

A really interesting and surprisingly simple system using standard playing cards instead of dice - with each number and suit holding significance. The mechanic for shared narrative control with successful skill checks is also very cool and gives a stable framework for exactly that which makes 'pen and paper' RPGs awesome - the fact that ANYTHING is possible!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hands of Fate Core Rules - Print Version
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Hands of Fate Core Rules - Print Version
by Colin B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/08/2013 23:59:05

This is a good quick to learn system, that i have enjoyed playing. Character Generation is simple and fast yet allows depth to your character. The combat system after a few run through's is quick and fast and can be very deadly (I know have almost lost two characters in what would normally be quick easy combats due to the fate of the cards.) The magic system like the combat is quick and fast and yet can also be used for complex creations quickly as well. Over all i enjoy this system and hope to see more from this author.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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