The Bastard System is Born

Hello All,

Last week on Monday, June 13th, 2016, The Fattest Goblin made the second announcement about what we had going on after Little Goblins was announced the week before. The entirety of the Bastards "stuff" likely was overshadowed by our much larger announcement that we now have a license to produce official Castle Falkenstein materials, and in the past 10 days,that's mostly been what we've talked about, for obvious reasons.

That same day though, June 13th, was the first of my own "vacation" that was really half-a-trip to pass off my toddler to Grandma & Grandpa for a few days and the other half-a-trip to go to the Origins Gaming Fair in Columbus, Ohio. At Origins, I had the chance to meet The Janitor and a few of the Goblin Hoarde in person, which was great fun. But on Monday to Wednesday of that week I was able to fit in what would be a week's worth of design and development for me since I wasn't constantly chasing my 3-and-a-half year old around the house.

And so, the Bastard System was able to get the attention it needed to start to bear fruit. My mad dash of development still needs a  few weeks to be fully fleshed out, but the past year of research and brainstorming about how to "improve" on the ideas and lessons learned from last year's attempt to make Bastards & Battlegrounds got a solid shot in the arm (or arse, more likely). 

I talked a bit about the development of Bastards & Battlegrounds in my blog last week where I was talking about the creation of the Goblin Hoarde, but the following text is being pulled right from the introduction to the first book, The Bastard System.

One day long ago, Rick Hershey -- owner, publisher, and artist-extraordinaire of Fat Goblin Games -- put forth a challenge to the Goblin Hoarde. On a certain Friday (June 12th, 2015), he would begin a 24-hour Design-A-Thon Challenge to create a new tabletop roleplaying game (RPG), from the ground up. This project would try to have an “old school” fantasy adventure game feel, and be made to hearken back to classic RPGs from the 1980s. And this grand fantasy RPG project was meant to be named Bastards & Battlegrounds. Over the course of those twenty-four hours, many minds got together and threw things at him. He caught as many of those ideas as he could, wove them together into a beautiful tapestry, threw that one away, and then did as he pleased because HE was The Fattest Goblin.

That 24-hour challenge morphed into a week-plus of game designing, brainstorming, writing, and editing that was then abandoned like the bastard-child-of-a-game-designer it was. Between then and now, this game had to live the life it’s designed to let you play; it grew up on the streets, learning to exist without help, safety, security, or certainty of publication. It wasn’t so much a ‘labor of love’ made with the affections of caring, loving developers; it was That-Which-Will-Not-Die. In the past year, wild ambition gave way to thoughtful development, long hours of research along numerous avenues, back-of-napkin-design, and shower-epiphanies that culminate not in a single one-off all-in-one game, as originally intended. Instead, a core system has been developed that is sleek and built for the kind of future expansion a small press in the big, scary world of publishing can manage.

The Bastards Roleplaying Game System (BS, or Bastard System for short) is meant to be an irreverent, humorous take on tabletop gaming and “geek culture” in general that so many of us have fallen in love with over the years. This first book is a “core rule system” that is designed to be lean and setting neutral, with planned micro-expansions going off in innumerable directions. The Bastard System is as much love letter to comedy places on the Interwebs like and, as it is a product of frustration from trying to develop for other existing systems -- ones that too often are focused on things like ‘balance’ or ‘fairness’ or “power creep” to be willing to create the kind of basically broken (by “gaming” standards) situations we all enjoy consuming in our TV shows, movies, video games, comics, and books. 

Expect to see a plethora of setting books with support for the Bastard System like Bastards & Battlegrounds that will be chocked full of the same knights, wizards, goblins, and dragons that you have already seen in your favorite fantasy roleplaying games, but with little twists here and there. Also keep a weather-eye out for Hardboiled Bastards, a pulpy detective noir setting with harddrinking private dicks looking into ‘mysterious disappearances’ and butting heads with nosy journalists and fatales of both the femme and homme variety. And even things like SuperBastards, where you can play super-powered individuals against arch-nemeses with deviant plans for world domination. Or you’ll be able to mix-&-match, so that your super-detective is chasing down a magic-wielding, mind-bending elf with purple skin – because that’s never been done before, right?

Numerous other expansions, supplements, and lets be honest – splatbooks – are or will be planned. We could release Band of Bastards, a WW-II themed expansion so you can play as Allied soldiers on a suicide mission behind enemy lines. Or Dastards & Bastards, a French musketeer themed setting where you can buckle some swashes and battle “All for One!” Or we can go with CyberBastards, with a near future, transhuman setting where the line between humanity and machine-kind has become blurred. And if we’ve done our job well, and created BS right, short and simple releases should be able to add the needed flavor components to let you play whatever setting you can imagine.

This book and the game that it represents is meant to only be the beginning of a much larger system, that is fun to play and easy to pick up, and requiring few specifics. The RPG industry has a vast array of existing materials, from single adventures to whole licensed world-settings, and the design of the Bastard System is meant to let people playout their power-game fantasies with caricatures of the kinds of tropes commonly found in speculative fiction stories that range from high fantasy to grimdark reality to hard science fiction, and a million places in between. For the sake of brevity, only a limited system is presented, but Fat Goblin Games intends to release additional expansions, splatbooks, bloat-books, and to milk the system for all it’s worth --- we mean “provide players with the kind of expansive, quality gameplay experiences they expect from their tabletop roleplaying game” or some marketing boilerplate text like that. Regardless, keep your eyes on FGG’s website (, Facebook page, and/or the online-retailer of your choice to see the latest and greatest in the Bastard System gaming supplements.

And so, that's how it's meant to begin. A bit of humor, a bit tongue-in-cheek, and as much a deconstruction of gaming as a viable game. 

Now, long time followers of Fat Goblin Games have likely "heard that all before" and its all really general and generic. I had, before the whole old website died on me, a bit more posted about the actual system from last year, but I figured I'd give a minor overview here and now. Especially after hearing about three dozen different games (board to RPG to card, etc.) described last weekend at Origins, I apologize if I speak in the gibberish of game-marketing.


The Bastard System is being designed around a "2d6 + modifiers" dice-mechanic, which isn't exactly unique amongst games out there, but it's such a popular topic and point of comparison to the d20 System that I wont even bother trying to argue about the statistics if you are into that kind of thing (just follow any or all of those links instead). The main take away is that rolling multiple dice instead of a single one is more likely to lead to 'average' rolls, as 2d6 is significantly more likely to roll a 7 say than a 1d12 or 1d20 would.

But a fun "twist" we plan to add to the system is that rather then normally trying to "hit' or get a result equal to or greater than a static number, be it a DC or TN or a whatever, the vast majority of the time you will always be making an opposed check against a similar roll. So the Bastard System isn't so much a "2d6+Modifiers vs. Set Number = Success" its "Your 2d6 + Modifiers vs. Their 2d6 + Modifiers" and the intention is to create opportunity for a "Difference" between these values, as that Difference will related directly to the level of success, or level of failure, of the action.

Additionally, most RPG's are described as either being "rules-light" which use few, often fluid mechanics and lead to more "narrative" gameplay, while "rules-heavy" games try to have some specific bit of mechanic for every possible situation, with vast 500+ page rule books and taking the "simulationist" approach.

Before I really started to do the research into multiple gaming systems, I might have said that the Bastard System is "rules-light" but really, my own background in d20 System and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, which are "rules-heavy" to say the least, and comparing what we have developed to games described as "rules-light" we're really making Bastards to be "rules-medium" or "rules-average" if that were a thing. 

We're including a lot of the ideas -- like attributes, abilities, skills, talents, etc. -- that you would normally see in any tabletop RPG, but we're also playing with them a bit, using the terms and ideas "a little differently" than people might be used to, and also trying to make the system interesting and easy enough for new gamers as well as old.

Publication Plans

I've rambled a bit long on this, but in part that's because I am not sure when I'll do another blog-post about it all and I wanted to offer up enough to get and keep people interested. We don't have a 'hard date' set for when the first book in the system, tentatively simply titled The Bastard System, will be released, but it will be soon and "when it's all done." 

The current plan is to release this and treat its release as an "Open Beta Playtest" and as such, the core book will be available on a Pay-What-You-Want basis via some sites and for cheap or free on our own. Part of the release may get "pushed back" a bit as in addition to core book, we want to ideally release three radically different support books to help showcase the range of the system. These will include a lot more setting-specific materials and likely be sold for a low-price, but not quite "given away" like the core book will be.

 Beyond these books, we've clearly have a LOT going on at Fat Goblin Games. The amount of and the speed of future support will likely be dependent on reception of the books and sales, and we've even got a few new and creative ways we might want to try to work with any potential audience for this book that might exist. 

That all said, we really hope you'll check it out. The past year+ of working on the Bastard System has been a great alternative to the normal day-to-day development for systems I normally work on. Many of the things we plan on doing are specifically because of "design problems" we've encountered while trying to set up or create something new and different for an existing system, and found it wanting.

Lucus Palosaari, Editor & Project Manager at Fat Goblin Games (Like us on Facebook!)

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