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Review – Fencing and Firearms (for Pathfinder)

10 October, 2010

Fencing and Firearms is a fascinating set of variations on the Pathfinder combat system, at times approaching a total reconstruction of them.  There is much food for thought here if you like modifying combat systems.

Fencing and Firearms is a 30-page PDF (27 pages if you remove the cover, credits and OGL pages) for the Pathfinder RPG written by Mark L. Chance and published by Spes Magna Games “Ludi Fortes – Strong Games”.

The layout is a standard single column design with many sidebars, with black and white cover and interior art from various open sources that fir the theme of this product.  The various tables are clear and easy to read and overall the entire product is easy on the eyes.

Fencing and Firearms begins with laying out the goal for this product: speed up play, keep everyone involved, provide more options and make the combat system easier.  Quite a tall order and it involves a rather extensive rewrite of the combat system to do so.

The most interesting component of the change (and part of the keep everyone involved aspect) is that players make almost all of the rolls in combat that effect their character: attacks, defense against opponents, overcoming “saves” to have spells affect their enemies and so on.  A fascinating choice that will please some players and not others.

The rest of the changes are designed to simplify and unify various concepts in an easily understandable whole.  Combat maneuvers are further standardized and clarified.  Armor in the system provides a bonus to armor class and a type of damage reduction.  A variety of other small changes are made.

While coherent and internally consistent the Fencing and Firearms rules is a considerable divergence from the standard Pathfinder rule set and could take some getting used to.  They are a solid set of rules and for those who would like to try a different take on the combat system, however they are fairly interlocked and it may be difficult to pull just pieces out of it.

The firearms rules run just over five pages and allow the addition of early (matchlock and flintlock) firearms and grenade to the game.  The rules are mechanically straightforward and the reasoning behind them well explained.  Certainly they are not campaign breaking in any way and should easily fit into an existing campaign.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThruRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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