The 100th FATAL Session

Let’s get the elephant out of the room here.

I’m going to be playing the most infamous RPG in all of history. The reason it’s so infamous is because of its excessive nudity, violence, racism, sexism, and other such dark themes, all handled with the same maturity as a fart joke. Most every reviewer that’s tackled this game have brought it up time and time again about how bad it is.

But the gameplay is seldom touched upon except if it’s related to the aforementioned themes, such as gender-specific stat boosts, jobs involving… erm… hiding the weasel, or even spells one could find better versions of in the Book of Erotic Fantasy. I heard bits and pieces of how bad the gameplay is, like how the levelling system is broken, as it gives you XP depending on what mundane activity you do. For melee-style classes like the Gladiator, it’s via how much damage you do. Get three of these classes and you can level up faster than an average character in D&D.

Part of the reason I’m doing this is to see if the RPG can be stomached by removing these dark elements. The other part? Gotta mark the 100th session with something.

Actually, my character doesn’t start at base level 1. He’s 56 years old and began roughly around the age between 7 and 10. I then calculate the square root of the years he’s been in the job and I get my level of 7…

… Why did I need to do complex math to figure that out?

So, now I gotta quickly level up my character six times. Thankfully this just means skill points to distribute. This means I roll 7d10 to get the number of points to put in. This is on top of the skill points I get from my race (a d8 minus 1) for a grand total of 45 points.

… It turns out I gotta roll that dice 55 more times… What. The. Fu-

[Roll…]

So now I have 285 points to spend. But, as I noticed, skill modifiers make it so that I can only dump 100 skill points to make the skill modifier not in the negatives. So, I’m gonna try and reroll it, but this time based around what I needed to roll when my character’s at certain ages, as you’re meant to roll different kinds when your character’s either an infant, an old man, or anything in between.

So, new total here is 315. It wasn’t that difficult thanks to Roll20, but holy crap this game requires a computer to fully stat up a character.

Rather than detail every skill in the game (because there is a lot), I’ll list what my character knows. The backstory is that he was raised at the age of 7 to be nothing but a killing machine for the sake of the arena spectacle.

  • Brawling: (+3)
  • Dismemberment (+3)
  • Flail: (+3)
  • Gauntlet: 1 (-99) [-15+3]
  • Impaling (+3)
  • Intimidation: (+5)
  • Light and Medium Armors
  • Mangling (+3)
  • Net, Weighted: 110 (+6)
  • Seduction: 8 (-99) [-15 + 6]
  • Spear, Trident: 110 (+6)
  • Sword, Gladius: 110 (+6)
  • Trickery: (+3)
  • Wrestling: (+5)

You see what I mean with the low skills meaning negatives? I don’t know how these will work for skill checks without my character stumbling everywhere, so I’ll rule it more as the modifiers are capped at 15 on both ends. And for some reason, Seduction is a Gladiator skill. Because of course it is. Though, I remembered I had tackled the skills before, but I didn’t realize the rabbit hole that is levelling up and skills.

But, we’ve finished it. I now have a properly statted up character for the game.

I wasn’t thrilled to come. I had a battle with some Kinder-Fresser lined up. They were good opponents. Strong, brutal, and it makes the audience easier to root for me to ultimately end them. Most would rather not have child-eating ogres in their midst.

But instead, I was hired by a small kid to investigate the happenings of his town. Kid was out gathering firewood when all of a sudden, the entire town up and vanished. Used what little savings he scrapped up to hire me, managing to outbid other, more trustworthy clients who were more than happy to have me bust some legs. Obviously, the money wasn’t going to me, but rather the city’s Gladiatorial Circuit. As I was legally obligated to help him, I had no choice but to go.

We arrived at the hamlet where I began the investigation. Sadly, I was no detective. In fact, there was no reason for me to be out here. My job is to crush skulls, not find missing people. The plan was simple. Do the bare minimum of work and let the kid know his money was better spent on someone with more skill than murdering.

With that, I began searching…

This is where we get to skill checks. It’s rather simple once you get past the complex mathematics and point dumping, which makes me wonder why the system is so complicated in the first place. 3d10 plus any modifier (if there’s multiples, it’s the average). I’m not sure if untrained skills mean I’m at 1 (and thus have the -99) and looking up that famous review shows they riffed on an older version that used a completely different means of rolling, I basically threw up my hands.

So, screw it. I’m gonna roll.

[Search Check: 18]

I noticed a set of horse tracks. Recent… They went to each cabin in the hamlet. But… They’re too recent. The boy hired me this morning, so there’s no way this was something as simple as a mass kidnapping, as much as I wanted to say that was the case… Another sign of their recent raid was a pile of steaming-

… I’m going to nope that. For those asking, yes, that is a detail in FATAL. Because FATAL. Markdown time.

[Roll: 15, One of your character’s (or whoever it is whose actions caused you to roll on the table) attributes (randomly decided) goes up by 2 points, regardless of the limit.]

… You realize that FATAL’s stats go up in the hundreds, right? Whatever, I can improvise. The horses’ stats are buffed by 50 points. Okay, let me look up the Bestia- THAT’S NOT THE BESTIARY!

Joking aside, there doesn’t seem to be a complete monster manual of sorts. There is a monster manual, but it only goes up to Half-Orc. Meaning that, even if I wanted to, I can’t get stats for the horse. FATAL barely has any complete book, including the core book.

Yes. The core book isn’t even complete. Though, it’s only the appendixes that get that short end of the stick. It’s almost like the creators themselves realized what they’re making and gave up right at the end.

So… Yeah, no buffed up horses, so the next statted up character we’ll come across will get 50 points to their Drive and Intuition. Moving right along…

“Boy,” I asked, “did anyone in the hamlet have horses?”

[Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 29, SC goes to 2]

“No… We’re a small group.” The boy said.

“I see… Mind if I check the inside of the houses?” I needed to confirm that it’s an invasion.

[Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 49, SC brings it down to 47. SC goes to 4]

“No! I know your kind. You’re a monster in the skin of a human.” He points to my feet as I noticed the dead grass. “You’re going to steal something from us! I know it!”

“Fine. Then you go!” I shove the boy into one of the huts. “You see anything off?”

[Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 93, SC brings it up to 97]

[Unexpectedly: 11, Limelit]

“Yeah.” The boy came out with a rusty zweihander. The boy had dragged the sword across the ground, struggling to lift it.

“I’ve seen this sword before and it was a shiny silver, not rust brown!” I took the sword from his hand and flexed it with ease.

“I see… So, what do you propose happened?” I asked.

“Someone stole it and replaced it with a phoney!” The boy said.

“Exactly! Telling from the tracks, it seems that someone took advantage of the situation and stole the sword. Though, they haven’t gone far…” As I said that, amidst the sunset, we saw a plume of smoke. “You thinking what I’m thinking?”

[Purpose: To Knowledge. A:97]

[Unexpectedly: 10, Pattern Change]

Welp, time to change up the story. What’s going to be our wedge?

[Zero Dice: A gear surrounded by fire]

[Q: Does the kid know what it is? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 75, SC to 1]

“Yeah… My father read stories about this… Something that would outdate swords and spears.” He said.

“Outdate? Don’t make me laugh, boy. Whatever it is, it’s quite possibly where the thief is. Come on.” I marched to the smoke, the boy following me. If this rusty zweihander is indeed the thief’s, I’ll return it to him…

Through his gullet.

Scene end! I like the fact that I’m spinning a bit of Steampunk into this, it’s kinda weirdly cool to see.

Before we begin the next scene, I’m going to declare that the Chaos Factor is the Warp Factor for the Adventure Script system. The scene went in our control, so it’s a 4. I’ll roll two dice. The first is Chaos and the second is Warp. Hehehe, Chaos Warp.

[Chaos Warp Roll: 0 & 2]

Ooooooh boy. So! This is what’s going to happen.

First off, the standard scene interrupt:

  • Event Focus: 17, NPC Focus.
  • NPC: 4, horses.
  • Event Meaning: 55 & 36, Disrupt Bureaucracy

Next up, the Adventure Crafter.

  • Theme: 4, Social
  • Plot Point: 29, RETALIATION: Whatever is happening in this Turning Point, it involves an element of retaliation or revenge.

I think I know what’s gonna happen next.

As we headed to the campfire, we heard several pounding sounds, followed by a loud, resounding neigh. The boy went ahead and I followed. What we found was… bizarre.

We found our thief, but he was battered and brutalized at the hands… no… hooves of his killer. Yes… His own horse killed him. While the boy retched and tried not to lose what little lunch he had, I resisted the urge to laugh my ass off.

Yes. That’s literally the twist I went with. Wanna know the reason why? Because the Horse is going to break the system. Here’s how:

This thief is named Mauger the Mutilator (ironic) and the game says he’s the only hope the party has to discovering the whereabouts of the hamlet’s inhabitants. In other words, the horse derailed the campaign. Let’s see what else it does.

[Q: Is the horse maddened? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 57, Surge making it 59, SC to 2]

With no warning, the horse turned to me and galloped.

And now we begin combat… {crosses fingers} please don’t be bad please don’t be bad please don’t be bad…

Okay, first stumbling block.

In order to figure out initiative, you need to figure out the breadth and reaction time of a character. While easy for me to figure out for my character, it’s not as easy for the horse. First, it has no stats so it takes the stats of its master. Next, I need to scour the long tables to see what his reaction speed modifier is because the game doesn’t tell me.

Lastly, you need to figure out the delivery penalty, which is determined from what your weapon is. Rather than figure it out for us, the game has you calculate the entire process. Thankfully, the simplest is as easy as “multiply height by weight, then multiply by weight distribution”, which considering the Zweihander has an N/A thing, is a good thing…

[The result is 830]

Okay! Never mind! Let’s just stick to the modifiers!

So, initiative’s done. Now to get to the gritty part of the fight. The game follows an intention-based combat system. Meaning that each character decides what they want to do at the beginning of the round, then, if something happens that makes them change their mind, they need to do a skill check to do so. Personally, it’s a rather interesting system that I’ve only seen done once in an old 0e or 1e D&D game and even then, I believe it was a house rule.

Speaking of, the rounds of combat take place across three seconds rather than the six that 5e allots, which might supplant the idea of the intention-based combat mechanic. In 5e, six seconds is enough for someone to change what they were thinking on the fly in universe. So three seconds fits the nature of giving people not enough time for that course correction. This does irk me a bit since a battle that’d take about an hour or two to fully play out of character would basically be about thirty seconds on average in the universe of the game. I go into more length about that here but for right now, let’s continue…

The way combat concludes is interesting. If a character is knocked to 20% or below their total Life Points, they’re knocked unconscious as opposed to how D&D works with the hit 0 and you fall unconscious. You’re dead when you hit 0 in FATAL compared to the total health in negatives/Constitution score in D&D. For the sake of “Current Armor” (this game’s AC), I’ll assume my character is wearing leather.

The horse was the first to strike. I rolled out of the way of its charge, grabbed the shiny zweihander, and struck when I took the chance. The horse whinnied as I nicked it. I looked to the boy.

“FINISH HIM!” I yelled as I tossed him the rusty zweihander.

[Q: Does he manage to catch it? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 4, SC brings it down to 0]

[Unexpectedly: 20. Random Event Time]

  • Event Focus: 35, Introduce a new NPC.
  • UNE:
    • NPC: 89 & 38, Defective Laborer
    • Power Level: 87, Slightly stronger.
    • Motivation: 23 & 14, Indulge Technology
  • Event Meaning: 35 & 56, Construct Hate

Only for a large figure in metallic armor to grab it. It tried to swing, only for it to miss.

[Q: Does the kid know what this is? Purpose: To Conflict. A: (+10 for knowing a similar thing) 52, SC to 1]

“No way! It’s… A Construct!” The boy exclaimed.

“A Construct? I asked.

“Yeah! A being made from nothing but metal and coal! I thought this was merely fantasy!” He said as the horse got ready to charge. Another miss as I used the momentum to slash. With one, full-powered swing, I cleaved the horse and brought it down. I gave a few breaths before turning to the boy, his body coated with minimal blood splatter.

“What the…” As the boy muttered, I scoffed.

“You should have hired an investigator instead of a gladiator. Now then… Who would this person be?”

[Q: Does the Construct speak? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 66, SC going to 1]

Another Random Event.

  • Event Focus: 54, Close a Thread.
  • Thread: 3, Fight the Kinder-Fresser
  • Event Meanings: 38 & 59, Inform Randomness
    • Random Event: 10, NPC Action
    • NPC: 1, the boy.
    • Event Meaning: 20 & 44, Truce Prison

I think I know how this will go.

I recognized the shape of this metallic being… A Kinder-Fresser! Before I could do anything, the Construct grabbed the boy.

[Q: Does it eat the boy? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 10, SC bringing it down to 8]

To my surprise, the Construct didn’t eat him, but rather carried him off. I chased after it, which was easy given how slow it was…

End of scene… There was a lot of stuff out of our control, so let’s update the list… And here we go.

[Chaos Warp Roll: 5 & 1]

So while not a scene interrupt, it is altered. Going as per the Solo Mechanics, I am to drastically change one thing about the next scene… And I think I know how this will go…

The chase concluded in a cave. I hid behind the rocks as I noticed the Construct bring the boy to what seemed to be a man in dusty old clothes.

“Excellent… With this, my plans to ascend shall be put forth!” He pulled out a knife and started to play around with it.

“W-who are you?” The boy asked.

“My name is Se-”

Okay, his name sounds dangerously close to an NSFW word so… {pulls the lever}

[Markdown Mechanic: 4, The events that caused you to roll on the table are erased. Continue play without that event in mind.]

So his name’s erased and is replaced with the name of Rerecros.

“Rerecros, and you, young boy, will be the final piece to my evolution…” Before he could place the blade on his face, I charged out…

And thus we begin another combat…

That is until I noticed his spell list…

Alright. I’m going to remove a lot of these, causing the Markdown Mechanic to come down on his ass. Thankfully, he only has three spells that are removeable (with the third being subjective because it has some non-sex related uses).

[Markdown Mechanic: 19, Your character (or whoever it is whose actions caused you to roll on the table) is marked for death and must die by the end of this session.]

Okay… Obvious.

[Markdown Mechanic: 5, A character who is five levels higher than your character (or whoever it is whose actions caused you to roll on the table) appears as an antagonist.]

Ooooooh, he boned.

[Markdown Mechanic: 17, Your character (or whoever it is whose actions caused you to roll on the table) is suddenly transported to a monster filled dungeon.]

Well, I know how this ends.

In a panic, the sorcerer casted a teleportation spell… Right into a den full of Kinder-Fressers, which soon became a misnomer with the screams of pain I heard…

[Q: Because it’s a construct following Rerecros’s instructions, does that mean the Kinder-Fresser Construct deactivates? Purpose: To Endings. Roll: 7]

Though, to my surprise, the Construct didn’t deactivate, and instead charged in his master’s place.

Cool, so we still get initiative.

I blocked with my sword before I gave him a slash of my own. I took out a huge chunk of armor as I tell the boy to find some rope.

[Q: Is he able to find some? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 85]

He was able to and managed to throw the rope over the Construct’s neck.

“PULL!” I shouted.

[Q: Does the Construct attack the rope? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 24]

He kept busy with me and yet still managed to miss. I took out another chunk of his armor just as the boy tugged on the rope. He managed to do so, knocking the construct over. It got up just as quickly as it fell, then set its sight on the boy… However, with a well-timed stab in its venerable armor, I killed the Construct. Twas nothing more than a beast in armor.

“Wow…” The kid’s jaw dropped as I wiped the blood of the zweihander, all before handing it back to him.

“There. I did the heavy lifting. The rest is up to you.” I said before I walked off.

“Wait! You’re not coming?” He asked.

“I killed the source of the problem. My job is done. Saving the villagers… That’s your job.” Before I made my way, I turned to him. “Hey, if you ever want some muscle… or even figure out how to lift that, I’m going to be staying at the arena for as long as I can breathe. Feel free to contact me at any point.” With that, I return back to the coliseum where the boy’s commission paid for some of the repairs done to it.

Another day, another FATAL battle…

And with that, we are done! Okay. Let’s get it out of the way:

FATAL. Is. Complex. And I don’t mean the cool kind of complex where there’s different layers. I mean it’s needlessly convoluted and a streamlined version only half-asses the game down to a facsimile of a simpler RPG you could have been playing instead.  

Character creation is a chore because you barely have control of how to make it, the professions are pointless and sometimes even broken in how to gain experience, skill modifiers are confusing to figure out, combat, while interesting at first, is just as complicated as the rest of the entries, and worst of all, most of the RPG is not safe for humanity!

People were not lying when they say it’s one of the worst, if not the worst, RPGs of all time and the purpose of this was to see if that’s because of the NSFH content or if there’s something deeper. Ladies and gentlemen, I can safely say that, yes, even with the content removed, this RPG is horrible. Not just for solo play, but for play in general.

I tried to play this game, but there’s a lot of rules and calculations that overwhelmed me to no end. It didn’t frustrate me, though. The only point where it did was when it came time to figure out skill modifiers for skill checks.

As I said before, the dice you roll is 3d10. On a simpler RPG system, this would use small numbers for modifiers, as the Thresholds/DCs needed to pass the skills are within that 3-to-30 range. However, FATAL has skill modifiers that go beyond that range on both ends. All it takes is a really good or crummy roll to make your character have a skill modifier going into the two hundreds. And then there’s skill points, which you need a good amount to put in if you want your modifiers to not be -99 or less… more? How do you calculate in negatives?

Whatever, point is that the skill system, which is what makes the entire RPG live and breathe, is more broken than Cactus Solo’s RPG. Yes. I went there. Cactus Solo has a roll under system that, due to random character generation (much like FATAL, ironically), makes situations hard to succeed at, but at the very least, it’s all within a fixed system that doesn’t go ludicrous with its numbers. Funny enough, the only thing FATAL does right with its system is its Armor Class, since it’s basically D&D’s Armor Class calculation but with an added modifier of whether you put five points in armor or not.

Oh, and while I’m dunking on the game, the campaign is stupid too. It’s literally just a string of events that don’t even tell you how things are resolved. Just “fight bad guy” and expect the players to move along. Hell, Mauger, who the game brings up would outright end the game if he doesn’t give the information by any means, is superfluous save for his rusty zweihander swap, since the actual person who tips off the villain’s hideout is a random maiden who basically comes in and out of the story in no time flat. The only benefit this has is if you want to expand on the characters after you finished the scenario, to which I ask:

Why the hell do you want to continue playing FATAL!?

Now, with all the negatives I have, there’s actually a positive I can give it. And before you ask, no, it’s not one of those anti-positives like “at least it’s over” or “at least it’s incomplete.” … In fact, it being incomplete is kinda more of a negative to its part but… let’s think positive here…

The setting is actually kinda decent. … Granted, without the sexism, racism, anythingism, and all that crap. It’s a setting where low fantasy mashes up with high fantasy, allowing you to have a mishmash of tropes like heavy focus on peasant life or political intrigue crossing over with staples like fantasy races and magic.

Some of the races made for this game like the Anakim or the Kinder-Fresser have incredibly dark stories that would fit a very low-fantasy setting rooted in medieval history and folklore. Even some of the subraces have cool little tidbits, like how the nails of Hill Trolls were so much like obsidian that humans back in the day sought after them to make arrowheads.

The occupations, while mostly useless and broken, gives a rather unique spin to the character creation system. Your character doesn’t have to be a rogue or a fighter, but rather an acrobat or even a basket-weaver. And some of the AP conditions (how you get XP), when they’re not “how much damage you do = your AP”, are pretty neat, like how the acrobat needs to skills in a life-threatening situation or the bailiff gaining 10 AP per case won against other villages.

Spells are incredibly varied and cool-sounding in concept. That said, there are definitely some spells that are duds or even crappy spells to use, like the spell “Evil Sleep III”, which only kills human adult males.  Yes, not sleep, kill… Though, props for there being a spell simply titled FATAL, which is basically the Armageddon spell from the Ultima series in which you kill all life on the planet.

However, that’s all the positive I have to give. The downside is that it is mired in a lot of poorly done themes. As a review points out, this game could have done those themes better, effectively holding a mirror to the dark past that humanity has and even some of its uglier traits. After all, some of these folklore monsters come from people telling stories about how an excess of something always leads to something bad, like a Wendigo representing overconsumption or how the Kinder-Fresser has influences of the boogeymen that parents tell their kids to avoid by doing good behaviour.

And yet, we get a mess of math equations and misogynistic/racist/ableist game mechanics that makes FATAL the game it is today. And the worst part is that it’s unsalvageable. It’s best to just pick up another game and, if you really want to, steal the fluff (NOT the crunch) of the game to put into that other game. Maybe something… grim and perilous?

In any case, I hope you enjoyed this solo game of one of the worst RPGs in existence to cap out on 100 sessions of Solo RPG Voyages and even 5 years at that! Where do I go from here? Well, that’s for me and you to find out. Bon Voyage, gamers, and may your solo games be wonderful.

2 thoughts on “The 100th FATAL Session

  1. Your suffering is so palpable. If even removing FATAL’s disgusting parts it’s still a mess I’m all the more convinced that whoever designed it did it to make people angry.

    I was honestly curious about trying FATAL for myself in a controlled environment (aka Solo, just like you did, to ensure that no creepy players or DM would go into the gross stuff) but you’ve convinced me that it’s not worth it.

    Like

    • Yeah, if the mechanics itself weren’t so obnoxious with its calculations and just did normal stuff like finding a consistent modifier system to complement the 3D10 system or even a simple initiative system like how I did it (d100 + half the character’s height), then the game, without its disgusting parts, would have been at least below decent.

      Like

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