Monday 4 February 2019

Taking a look at Fours, a new minimalist RPG from Ken St. Andre

It's been a while. Time for the first post of 2019.

So, yeah, Ken St. Andre has released a new game. He dropped this sneaky whisper of a PDF onto DriveThrurpg, the rogue. It's called Fours and it's a super minimalist game that spawned from Ken's conversation with John Wick around how few rules a game can have to be still considered a roleplaying game. Let's dig in!

First off - the cover was designed by Gilead (presumably not of Handmaid's Tale fame). It's a Danforth-esque line drawing of a warrior lady. Pretty nice stuff. Nothing fancy, but I suppose it's minimalist.

Characters have four attributes: smarts, intangibles, power and health. They also have a class and basically a list of stuff the GM agrees they're allowed to have with them.

Classes are Thief, Warrior, Avatar (demigods who don't know they're demigods) and Wizard, with only the latter two able to use magic. Each is linked with a card suit and character creation uses random card numbers to get your attributes, with bonuses depending on your class.

I don't want to give too much away with the rules otherwise I'll end up writing the full game out, but conflict is pretty interesting, working on either a success/fail basis by picking a random card - if it's your suit then you succeed; or a struggle/compare basis where cards are compared, added to attributes and the highest wins. Aces are critical successes and deuces are catastrophic failures. In combat, the lowest total is deducted from the highest to get amount of damage done. Interesting system, but I'm not too sold on being only able to succeed 25% of the time on average. This is also how magic works - the caster freeforms it by saying an effect and they have to pick a card matching their suit.

Otherwise everything else is GM fiat, but the GM must respect the outcome of the cards.

So it seems that Fours was a bit of an experiment in minimalism, which I'm totally on board with having created In Darkest Warrens, Wired Neon Cities and Shatter6 to basically answer the same question Wick posed to Ken. I'm intrigued, but maybe not enough to play it. Still, I have the feeling that the system is (ironically) begging to be fleshed out into something bigger.

You can pay what you want for the Fours pdf.

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