A while ago, I played the worst RPG known to the Tabletop RPG industry, FATAL, and found that, even without all the offensive material, it lived up to its name. Needlessly convoluted with its skill system, its job system hopelessly broken, and the entire game is incomplete. And yet, of the three to be considered the Unholy Trinity…
This is the only game I can play. Today’s post is going to go into detail as to why I’m not going to be playing the other two entries in the “Worst RPGs Ever” category. Before you think that these are a no brainer, allow me to preface this with a question:
If it took me a while to wrap my head around FATAL’s system, how would I be able to wrap my head around these?
Never mind the fact that one of them is literally a racist book. No, not like “oh, it has some magic items that are racist” like with FATAL. I mean, full on, no shame, open racism.
But we’ll save that one for last. Right now, I’m going to discuss HYBRID and why I’m not going to play it.
Simply put: the rules are nonsensical. If they can even be called that. With FATAL, you just need to know a little bit about math in order to play some of the game, but in HYBRID, a calculator with a LOG10 function is required. Man, I remember when the most complex calculation I had to do for RPGs was to subtract ten from my Attribute score and then divide the total by 2 to get my modifier.
Now, there are RPGs with a lot of complex math to it, but the problem is that this entire game is nothing but one large math equation. Rule #0 even has a complex, mathematical formula for how often it updates. Yes, the Rules basically have a rule for how many rules it’s going to be having. Rule #1 is not better, has you jumping from rule to rule to figure out how to play the bloody game and after about fifteen or so minutes, you’re even more lost than you were when you started.
Unlike FATAL, this game is a mess to wade through and is by far the most cryptic game of the trinity. The only thing that comes close to deciphering the mess of equations is a review trashing the game by cherry picking the rules and basically going “wow, these rules are crazy, am I right?”
You don’t know how good FATAL has it compared to HYBRID. I managed to create a character for the sample adventure and follow it through with some degree of ease. As broken as some of FATAL’s rules were, especially in how you level up, they were at least understandable than HYBRID.
The worst part about HYBRID is that, if I read correctly, it was made to facilitate multiple RPG systems into one universal one, allowing for one to play with one popular RPG system and have it be compatible with another. The reference to the Marvel event known as Secret Wars implies that this would be some sort of cool “character vs character” system where you could pit someone from, say, the Marvel TSR RPG against a D&D 3.5 character and that HYBRID would find a way to have those two fight on even footing without tripping over any conversion bugs. Reading that, it makes the name of HYBRID fitting…
Too bad the rules are incomprehensible, since a meta-RPG that uses multiple rule systems is something I’ve only seen done one other time and it’d be interesting to see another one, especially one that pits two RPGs against each other.
So, HYBRID is disappointing at best and incomprehensible at worst, but surprisingly, it is the tamest of the three, even with its own brand of sexist and racist behaviour hidden in the math.
Now, FATAL is considered the worst because of a lot of matters, especially regarding its inclusion of adult mechanics, its racism is surprisingly downplayed in comparison to the third member of the Unholy Trinity. That’s right.
It’s time to talk about RaHoWa, or as it stands for: Racial Holy War.
As you might have guessed from the title, the game is pure, unadulterated racism. The first paragraphs set up a post-apocalyptic future where players are “White Warriors”… I don’t need to continue talking about the setting. You already know right out of the gate what sort of agenda this RPG has. Every paragraph is a new chance for the RPG to drop slurs like it’s hot, making the reader more and more uncomfortable when they read it. This isn’t helped by the fact that this is related to a real-life phrase used in a real-life cult.
You remember that moral panic about D&D and how players were trying to summon Satan or whatever by rolling D20s? Well, this is an actual cult-driven RPG.
Alright, so, let’s say we do what we did with FATAL and take away the racist elements. What then? Well, for one, we just eliminated one of the core aspects of the game: the enemies. Yes, the enemies are nothing but racist caricatures. Even without the offensive racism, there’s only five enemies, with each of them having five variations of how strong their unique ability is, which makes the enemies really boring since the only thing that separates them is a typical stereotype-powered ability.
Compare this to FATAL’s bestiary. You begin with Basilisks, snakes that have a venom so potent that they kill on contact. Daimons that are engaged into a struggle over every sentient person’s soul, goblins that you can trick into leaving you alone by covering your floor with flax seeds, and need I mention the Kinder-Fresser?
The bestiary’s small, but at the very least you have a wide breadth of potential enemies to fight instead of “I just spent some time googling stereotypes, then proceeded to make five copies”. There is an enemy chart in the RPG where you can see the stats of all 25 enemies, but the person who made the PDF forgot to add the headings of what stat goes where, so at that point it’s guesswork to fix it and even figure out what exactly the enemy’s defense value or even hit point value is, something you would need to know for combat.
So, even if I were to wave a magic wand and remove all the racism from it, the way it’s made still makes it virtually unplayable. Yes, I skimmed the RPG front to back looking for another reason to not play this game beyond the obvious “it’s really racist and has ties to a cult with a sordid past” bit. However, I will admit, there are some cool mechanics to this.
Particularly, the Intimidation mechanic. Intimidation is its own stat in the game and, at the start of every battle, players need to compare their combined Intimidation scores with another. Whoever’s is the lowest then has to compare their combined Heroism score to the Intimidation score. Divide the Intimidation score by the Heroism score and you get a number that, if it’s more than 1, will net the intimidated party with accuracy penalties or, if the result is a 5, the opposing team turning tail and leaving. It’s an interesting take on a classic wargaming mechanic where you check the morale of troops.
Another cool mechanic is that guns can get experience as well. I don’t think I’ve seen an RPG where you can level up your weapons. You see this sort of thing happen with video games but never once have I seen this happen with actual pen and paper RPGs.
Sadly, these were the only two mechanics I found interesting aside from the fact that there were nine classes thought up. Everything else seemed either “meh” or “… where the hell is the actual mechanic?” It gets a leg up for having rules that are legible compared to HYBRID, but other than that, it’s a lot more incomplete than FATAL can ever claim the right for.
As a result, I’m not going to be playing either of those games. I can attempt to salvage Racial Holy War’s system and turn it into a new system altogether, free from its shady crap, but with the holes that it leaves behind, I may need to rely on an SRD to use as tape, as the rules are already pre-established and lay the groundwork for the other mechanics to be translated.
But we’ll cross that ship when we get close to Session #200. As for what to replace HYBRID with, I think it’d just be simple to do the Secret Wars module from Marvel’s FASERIP game. Until then, Bon Voyage, Gamers!