Sometimes I come across a book that is well made and seems like fun and yet I still feel it’s not really for me. The Princess Bride Roleplaying Game is such a book. I suspect this game would be a ton of fun to run and to play. I even had the reaction I normally attribute to a good tabletop book, coming away with plenty of ideas for characters and stories. Yet I still felt as though it wasn’t really for me, not meant for me. It’s hard to explain.
This uses the Fudge game mechanic, which is a very rules-light system. I’m a bit fuzzy on how it all played out, but I believe Fudge is somehow a precursor to FATE (don’t yell at me if I’m wrong), which is a system I thought I’d like more than I do. It looks rules-light, but often turns out not to be. Fudge, however, is very easy. As presented in the book, you can play either a very stripped down version, or a version with some additional rules that still add up to fairly easy stuff.
The game is based on the film, not the novel. Author Steffan O’Sullivan makes it clear that the film is the primary inspiration. Though there are a few dips into the novel, it keeps things in territory familiar to folks who’ve seen the movie. The book is packed with quotes and images from the film, and O’Sullivan does a good job of capturing the setting and the sense of humor.
I think perhaps the reason I was less engaged in the book than I might be is because it’s presented very much for beginners. If you have a group of friends who like to play board games together, enjoy The Princess Bride, and have contemplated trying a tabletop role playing game (but maybe you’ve found Dungeons & Dragons daunting or off-putting for some reason), this book could be an excellent option. As a long time player and game master for tabletop RPGs, it felt like much of the book was covering extremely familiar territory. This happens in a lot of basic/starter books for games, but for whatever reason it hit me extra hard with this one. Perhaps it’s because Fudge is so easy to begin with? I don’t know. I’m not sure that there was anything in the book I couldn’t have whipped up using any number of other games I’ve run before. I suppose the same thing could be said for a lot of games, especially media tie-in games. Do I need a Tank Girl game if I’ve already got Cyberpunk 2020 and GURPS Autoduel? Do I need a Dune or Star Wars game if I’ve already got Fading Suns? That’s a debate that can get side-tracked fairly easily. I bought The Princess Bride because I like the movie and I know a lot of people who like the movie, because I like tabletop RPGs and I know a bunch of people I think would enjoy them, and maybe the name recognition from this will help me lure them in for a try. If it works, it’s worth it.
There are tons of examples of play and character creation. The book also contains a few adventures and adventure hooks, so there’s plenty for a new Game Master to work with. There are some nice maps and descriptions of locations to use in both Guilder and Florin. There’s a fold-out map of Florin, but sadly not one for Guilder. I wish the book came with both, or that the map was two-sided. I know it was Kickstartered, so perhaps that was an un-reached stretch goal?
If you’re a casual role-playing fan or a beginner, The Princess Bride Roleplaying Game could be a great gateway for you into the hobby. That does bring up one additional concern, however. The price point is fairly high for what feels a bit like an introductory game. I believe I paid about $50. for it, though I’ve seen it online for less. For the quality of the physical book, that’s not too much to ask. However, I think it might dissuade folks from trying the game. Maybe not. Since the film is a known quantity, fans might be willing to drop the money based solely on that. I don’t know. Further, the game uses Fudge (aka FATE) Dice, which aren’t super common. They’re not hard to come by and the game gives you a guide for using more traditional six sided dice, but I figured it would be good to mention it. If you have access to a game store or various online shops, acquiring Fudge Dice shouldn’t be too difficult, but it is an additional starting cost. There are a lot of suggestions for getting additional material, including downloads of printable character sheets, from their website, but as of writing this review, their website isn’t really working, with a ‘coming soon’ message, but with no date.
What’s my final thought? I wish it was produced as an introductory box set like the new Call of Cthulhu or Cyberpunk Red, with a few more physical components, like “Grandpa Wait” cards and maybe some cardboard characters, as well as a set of Fudge Dice. Maybe throw in maps of both countries, and split the book into two or three black & white books (Player’s, Game Master’s, & Adventures). The appeal to the beginner or casual player might be stronger. As it is, I absolutely think it would be a fun game to play. I can see both one-shots and short campaigns being very enjoyable. It would also be a great gift for a friend or family member who is maybe on the fence about the hobby, but really enjoys The Princess Bride. I’m glad I have it in my arsenal now, but is it a must have? Eh.