Game: Flashing Blades
Series: Flashing Blades
Review Dated: 11th, January 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 25
Average Score: 6.25
Flashing Blades is one of those ancient, forgotten RPG’s – the sort you normally find selling for a discount price at the back of game shops (usually in an old cardboard box together with such obscurities as ‘Land of Adventure’, ‘Dragonquest’ and similar titles). With FGU’s recent re-release of the game (along with other old favourites), Flashing Blades may well pick up a few new fans before it is once again relegated to the bargain bin.
The setting is 17th century France, the time of the Three Musketeers, Cyrano de Bergerac and numerous other swashbucklers. Flashing Blades does a good job of remaining faithful to the genre, with an emphasis on the history and adventure of the setting. That being said, background information is a little sparse and some GMs might find it difficult to run the game without doing some research themselves.
As is typical of many other RPGs, Flashing Blades uses broad character classes (Rogues, Gentlemen, Soldiers and Nobles), each with their own list of skills. In comparison to more modern RPGs, the character creation system seems a bit archaic. It is adequate however, and is redeemed by the use of advantages (such as ‘wealth’, ‘contacts’ and ‘gentlemans lackey’ – a sort of loyal servant) and secrets (disadvantages, such as ‘duelist’, ‘compulsive gambler’ and ‘don juan’).
The area in which Flashing Blades comes into its’ own is combat. Personally, I am a fan of simple and concise combat systems. While the combat mechanics of this game do not fall into either category, they are by no means overly complicated. Instead, they do a good job of recreating the feel of duelling and swashbuckling. Combatants choose attack methods (such as sword thrusts and lunges, or dirty fighting techniques like tripping a foe and then stomping on him), along with defensive actions such as parries, sidesteps and dodges. When your character scores a hit, you choose a body location (such as the chest or an arm) and roll twice on a hit location table. The closest result to your chosen area is where your character actually hits. These mechanics really do make a change from the usual roll-to-hit, roll-for-damage variety of many other RPGs.
The game also includes mechanics for gaining positions within the clergy, military, bureacracy and various orders. These concepts add depth to the ‘downtime’ of the game, but are fairly useless for those players who just want the occasional swashbuckling adventure. The game also includes three scenarios, though only one of them (‘monsieur Le Droit’s secret’) has any depth to it.
Ultimately, Flashing Blades is an enjoyable but flawed RPG. Its’ age shows, both in design and overall appearance. It makes no attempt to accomodate female characters (GMs would need to do some work in this regard, perhaps modifying the character classes or adopting a less faithfully historic tone to the game).
If you’re a fan of the genre and don’t mind doing a little work tweaking the system, this game will be a welcome diversion. On the other hand, if you really don’t know your Cyrano from your Scaramouche, you might want to leave this one alone.