Review: Forthright Open Roleplay

Forthright Open Roleplay logo, blue with a circle angled to encompass the words

As the name suggests Forthright Open Roleplay is a system that is meant to be shared. That idea is suggestive in the mechanics which make the stakes clear before any roll takes place; the art selection, which is both beautiful and diverse; and even in the developer’s choice for licensing. While these things are not unique, it is a very rare combination even with more modern role-playing games. What I do find unique that really set Forthright apart is how the book is written. It forgoes the typical format of selling you on an image which more times than not the GM needs to provide independently of a ruleset. What it does do is presents a framework, supporting tools, and guidance on how to make use of the system using clear and precise language. Forthright takes the approach that is more like instruction manual like you would look for when developing a new skill like HTML, or using Git or some other set of a software tool.

The art style feeds into the ideas presented in the book, for example in one picture one character is standing out in the open while his ally is peeking out from behind cover. The art is diverse with a mixture of steampunk and high fantasy. It includes fantastic locales.  Characters are in motion, lost in thought, or deep in study. It is obvious they are doing things, often together with others.

Characters have three skills Fight, Talk, and Skill. When either the Player or Guide calls for a Check, the Guide clearly identifies what the results of success and failure look like. If the guide cannot think of any reason the character could succeed or, conversely, any interesting consequence that would come from failure, no roll is needed. When an action matters to the story then a d20 roll is made.  The result can be a setback (1-7), Exchange (8-13), Win (14-20), and Boon (21+). You are likely to succeed, but there is a better than average chance that it comes at a price. This means even when a character is not skilled at an action they have a better than average chance to succeed, but that success will often come with a consequence.

I find the mechanics to be simple and very intuitive. Characters are defined mechanically by their fighting stances, Personas and Skillsets. This is further expanded upon by boosts, relationships, and sanctuaries which are all closely tied to the setting and the games power level.

One of the most interesting mechanics for me are Boons. They lack the plot twist power of a Fate Point, or Drama die/points, and most closely resemble an Action points from D&D 3e/4e or Hero Points from Eberron Pathfinder. What they do well is enable the flow of Boons without the dependency on GM fiat.

The only criticism, If I can really call it that is the Guidance section. While it provides useful insight for both new and old game masters, there is a little too much business jargon. To be fair, that is less an issue with the book and more the fault of too many leadership classes and mandatory business retreats on my part.

Forthright Open Roleplay is available on DriveThruRPG for 23.99 for the Softcover Color Book and 31.99 for the Hardcover Color Book. Both options come with a watermarked PDF. As I mentioned earlier, Room 209 taking an equally open approach to licensing. They have provided a version of Forthright under Creative Commons, sans the art which can be found there as well for free.

Jonn H Perry is a husband, father, and avid gamer. Being given an Atari 800 at a young age, he developed the interest in programming and computer games. His role-playing career started by accident when he purchased D&D at a grade school garage sale, out of a cardboard box; it turned out to be one of the best mistakes he would ever make.

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