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Saturday 2 July 2022

Anyworld, Anywhen, Anywhere

The Anyworld Tabletop Roleplaying System is a generic system designed to handle any genre and any setting using quick, dicepool mechanics and handfuls of six-sided dice. Published by Netherborn following a successful Kickstarter campaign, the complete rules to play the game all the way up to mass battle rules and miniature skirmish rules, along with rules for generating unique magical items and creatures and enemies. The core rules also come with six introductory adventures, one each for the zombie apocalypse, post-apocalypse, superhero, fantasy, space opera, and modern horror genres, as well as an omniversal setting that allow for Player Characters to visit any world. All packed into a one-hundred-and-eighty-page book. It is designed as a toolkit and as written, to support both player-driven and Game Master-driven play.

The Anyworld Tabletop Roleplaying System very quickly gets down to explaining its rules. A Player Character has six attributes—Strength, Toughness, Agility, Precision, Mind, and Spirit—which are rated between one and ten. If a player wants his character to undertake an action, he rolls a number of six-sided dice equal to the attribute and each result of a four, five, or six is counted as a Success. Results of six explode and can be rolled again to possibly generate yet more Successes and even more sixes and more exploding dice… One of the dice is counted as the Fate die and is a different colour. If the result on the Fate die is a one, the outcome of the action is accompanied by a Setback, whilst if it is a six, it is a Critical Success. It is possible to succeed and still suffer a Setback or fail and roll a Critical result. A Critical Failure occurs when a Setback is rolled, and the result is failed. Advantage reduces the target number to be counted as a Success, whilst Disadvantage increases the target number. A player can also spend Edge to negate Disadvantage or gain Advantage, and also can expend Skill points to add a die to a roll. The number of Successes required for an action vary from a Target Number of one or Easy up to Epic or seven or more, with two being Routine and three being Challenging.

Combat—which Anyworld Tabletop Roleplaying System slides into without any demarcation—uses the same mechanics. The Target Number to hit an opponent is equal to his Evasion score, derived from his Agility attribute, a Player Character has a move action and an attack action per round, and initiative is determined with Agility tests. In Close Combat a defender can attempt a single Dodge and a single Counterattack. Strength or Precision is rolled depending upon the type of attack. Damage is a combination of the weapon’s base damage plus the extra Successes rolled beyond the Target Number. Armour reduces the Damage, and the remaining Damage value becomes a Target Number against which the defender’s player rolls his Toughness attribute. If successful, the defender shrugs off the damage, but if not, the defender’s player rolls three six-sided dice and deducts the Damage value from the result which is compared to the Damage Table. A critical hit reduces the roll of three six-sided dice to two six-sided dice, the results ranging from staggered or stunned all the way down to wounded or wounded. Wounds reduce a character’s Health Level (of which he has five) and injuries necessitate a roll on the Injury table for even greater effects. Rules also allow for stun damage, unarmed combat, two-weapon fighting, and more.

Madness is gained by failing Spirit checks following encounters with the horrific or the traumatic, including being in combat. Fail means gaining points of Madness and if a subsequent Spirit is failed against the points of Madness, the Player Character gains a mental trauma, rolled on the Trauma Table. Unless the Trauma is permanent, it can be overcome should the Player Character’s points of Madness are reduced to normal.

Character creation in Anyworld Tabletop Roleplaying System consists of choosing an array of values—Balanced, Mixed, or Specialist—to assign to attributes, and then selecting an Archetype. Each of the Archetypes—Gifted, Flexible, or Skilled—grants Experience Points to spend on Traits and Ability and Ability Upgrades, Gear Points (or GP) to spend on equipment, and both Skill and Edge points. A Player Character also has an ‘Essence’ which describes the core of the character, such as ‘Cybernetic Enforcer’ or ‘Wondering Swordsman’ (sic). Once per session, this can be used to gain Advantage on a check and is also used by the Game Master to award Experience Points. Similarly, a Player Character has a Flaw such as ‘Mean’ or ‘Outcast’, which can be triggered to add Disadvantage to a check once per session. This gains the Player Character an Experience Point.

Henry Brinded
Essence: Stalwart, But Nervous Classics Scholar
Flaw: Deafness
Archetype: Skilled
Strength 2 Toughness 3 Agility 3 Precision 3 Mind 5 Spirit 5
Traits: Expertise (Classics), Leadership, Skilled
Skill: 4
Edge: 3
Gear Points: 20

Traits are divided into Mental, Social, Speed, Brawn, Combat, Shooting, and Unique categories, and further divided into basic, advanced, and special traits in each category. For example, Insight is a basic Social Trait which grants a Player Character Advantage when his player rolls a Mind check to detect lies or read body language, whilst an Advanced Shooting Trait like Killshot grant all aimed attacks the Deadly quality which means that the attack deals a critical hit if the Fate die rolls a Success. Abilities push the Anyworld Tabletop Roleplaying System into the realms of the fantastic, with powers such as Bolt, Flight, Might, Morph, Phasing, and more, all the way up to Immortality and Impervious. In addition, each of the Abilities upgraded not once, but three times. Gear is purchased using Gear Points or ‘GP’. There is an emphasis in the Anyworld Tabletop Roleplaying System on arms and armour, and especially the qualities that either can have to give the wielder an advantage or extra bonus, all the way up to being sentient. There are a few limitations too, but not as many qualities. In general, there is the means here to create some individual weapons and armour, and so help make each Player Character different.
For example, Henry Brinded and his team have located a secret cult temple in Rome. As a result of the ensuing fight with the cultists, the temple is about to collapse, but Brinded knows he needs to study the invocation on the wall, an invocation to the abominable god the cultists worship. His player will be rolling five dice for his Mind attribute. The Game Master tells him that he needs to roll four Successes because the task is formidable due to the poor condition of the invocation. She also points out that the task is being done by torchlight and Brinded is in a hurry, so applies Disadvantage not once, but twice! So now Brinded’s player need to roll not four, five, or six to gain a Success, but a six only. However, Brinded has the Expertise Trait of Classics, so gains Advantage on translating the Latin of the invocation, reducing the number needed for a Success from six to five. His player spends a point of Edge to reduce it even further, back to four, five, and six, and then, because Brinded has the Skilled trait, adds two Skill dice to the roll instead of one. So now Brinded’s player is rolling seven dice and attempting to roll four, five, and six. He rolls two, three, five, five, five, and six, plus six on the Fate die. That is five Success, plus the critical result on the Fate die, which means that Brinded not only succeeds, but spots the intentional error in the invocation. Which means he will be better able to reverse the invocation and at the right time, cast it to dismiss the cult’s terrible mistress…
For the Game Master there is advice on handling challenges and NPCs, and preparing a game. This includes both one-shot and campaign games, and it shows how the Game Master can create random adventures or collaborate with her players to create a campaign setting. The advice is decent and supported with several introductory adventures, each one in a different genre and each one suitable for a one-shot or even a convention game. Each comes with a background, some points of interest, and in some cases one or more alternate ways of play It begins with ‘Diner-Bite’ in which the Player Characters stop at a diner whilst the USA is caught in the middle of chaos. This arrives at the diner in the form of on-the-run, undercover crooks, with a dead policeman in the bus who will soon turn into a zombie as will the poor little boy who looks sick, but whose family is hiding the cause of his sickness. The optional way to play is have one group take the roles of the crooks and another be the diner patrons. Typically, each of these six introductory adventures is two or three or so pages in length, presenting a decent outline and possibly a campaign starter. ‘Rise from Ruin’ is a post-apocalypse setting much like the Mad Max films, whilst ‘Fallen Heroes’ is a stand-up-knockdown confrontation with a supervillain who has captured the city’s premier superhero team. Of course, the Player Characters can come to their rescue or even play villains who want to take kill the superheroes themselves, or there could be one group of players roleplaying the supervillains whilst the other plays the superheroes. ‘Ghosts in the Flesh’ is a bloody horror romp a la Hammer Horror, whilst ‘The Thing in the Woods’ is a straightforward monster hunt in a fantasy setting. ‘Red Colossus’, the last scenario in the Anyworld Tabletop Roleplaying System is the Space Opera genre and the longest in the book. After being attacked by pirates, the Player Characters and their space freighter take refuge at the nearest mining base only to find it also threatened by the pirates and terrible outbreaks of radiation sickness.

Penultimately, the Anyworld Tabletop Roleplaying System includes a description of ‘The Outer Realm’, an in between network of routes and places between multiple worlds. Certain persons, known as Travellers, can detect the routes between places, whilst others, Shapers, can modify the reality around them. There is the chance that the Player Characters can become Travellers or Shapers, the latter gaining abilities such as teleport or telekinesis. The downside to the latter is that can become a Reaver, lusting for ever greater power and ability. Several strange locations are also detailed, and there is overall a weirdness and an unreality to the whole of this in-between place. Rounding out the volume is a bestiary and a set of ready-to-play characters, for use as examples, Player Characters, or NPCs.

Physically, the Anyworld Tabletop Roleplaying System is decently presented and illustrated, all in black and white. However, its organisation does hamper ready play even as the system is relatively straightforward and easy to understand. There is no index or even a glossary, and for actual ease of play, many of the roleplaying game’s tables could have been reprinted at the rear of the book instead of multiple blank character sheets. Similarly, an example of character creation, as well of actual play and the rules would all have been useful. In fact, all of these are inexcusable omissions by any standard, let alone those of modern roleplaying book design.

Overall, the Anyworld Tabletop Roleplaying System, issues with organisation aside, is straightforward and easy to run and play. The result is that Anyworld Tabletop Roleplaying System provides cinematic and pulp action style roleplaying across a variety of genres without getting too complex and by keeping play fairly fast with handfuls of six-sided dice.

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