Game: Tournaments, Fairs & Taverns
Publisher: E.N. Publishing
Review Dated: 19th, June 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
Tournaments, Fairs & Taverns is a roleplaying games supplement about games that includes a roleplaying games substitute which can be played in a tavern or perhaps at tournament or fair too. Just to repeat that without the confusion; Tournaments, Fairs & Taverns is full of games.
This is a great idea. It only takes two seconds for the GM to mention, as way of adding detail, two fellows playing some sort of game in the tavern and only two more seconds for a player to ask which game and that they’re trying to join in. The opposite side of the same coin would be a fair or tournament where it could be take the GM hours to plan the details for every stall or competition and still only two seconds for the players to decide they don’t want to enter that one. Do’h.
Tournaments, Fairs & Taverns is one of those extremely usable books. It’s the type of supplement that’ll see use in more than one campaign, more than one gaming world. It’s the type of supplement that can be grabbed and used by a GM working on a scene on the fly and can be used by a GM in the planning stages. Fortunately, T, F & T is good enough that you’ll want to use it in all these occasions. The other side of the coin is that T, F & T is highly specialised. If your high fantasy games involve missions into abandoned dwarf mines, trips to fiery volcanoes to destroy ancient evil weapons and battles against powerful wizards almost all of the time then its quite possible that you could care less about the rules for “Gin and Rabbits”, “The Laughing Stones” or the “Tower of Castilo”.
Roleplayers who want to abstract the whole game/duelling process down to a d20 role can probably do without the ins-and-outs of the suggested mechanics in Tournaments, Fairs & Taverns but there’s still enough in the book to make it worth a look at. Tournaments, Fairs & Taverns contains rules for degrees of success on d20 rolls. This is a concept that D&D has never really been bothered much about, the shades of grey not really suiting the hit/miss mechanics or even the black and white theme for alignments. You can tell it’s a bit of a squeeze to get the concept up and running in die mechanical form since T, F & T has two sets of rules; degrees of success and then multiple-opposed degrees of success. The latter needs a separate set of rules because the character about to win the game or simply doing well can be foiled by any other character, not just the one doing second best. I can think of a third scenario, such as a game of poker, which not only involves multiple opposition but can result in multiple winners (if you leave with more money than you started, then you’re a winner) and unless you’re willing to roll lots of dice for each round of cards then these rules don’t work that well.
Technically there are more than just games in Tournaments, Fairs & Taverns. There are new drinks and drinking rules too – how much you can consume before getting drunk. These offerings are not on the reason to buy the book scale but do make a nice bonus for those of us who do.
Chapter One deals with basic rules for games; cheating, house specialities, tournaments and tiers, professional gambling and team games. You’ll find new spells and feats in here too. There are just a couple of magic spells: Field of Arcane Courtesy, Greater Magic Circle and Polymorphic Aura. The relief here is that these three spells wouldn’t look out of place in any other d20 magic book and don’t open the can of worms of get-rich-quick-by-magic.
The next five chapters present games type and theme. Classic Games include the likes of racing and arm wrestling, Martial Tournaments are activities such as archery, jousting and the orc favourite of drinksmash, examples of Tavern Games are drunken daggers and troll bridge, Magical Competitions include the Baal’Meral’Ruun and the game of forms and Festival Games are such favourites as catch the greased pig and squash goblin.
Each are the games follow the same sort of layout. The target numbers (normally the degrees of success total the winner needs to reach), the mechanics (DC checks and bonuses) and then optional twists and rules. The actual description of the game is tucked in there under target numbers and just sometimes you’ll get text for a sample game.
Chapter Seven offers advice on creating your own tournament, fair or tavern. Then it gives you advice on how to creature your own tavern, fair or tournament. I kid you not. The first section is perhaps best described as quick look at strategies for each and then the second section takes a longer look. It could have been tidier.
The book finishes with a collection of samples, a tournament, a tavern and two fairs. The back of book is also where you’ll find a gathering of assorted rules; measurement units to drink size, costs for meals and some entertainers.
Many of the games in Tournaments, Fairs & Taverns came from the ENWorld community and this has helped the book greatly. There are all sorts of different flavours and styles in the games; some are serious, some silly, some are wild high fantasy and others more down to Earth. There should be at least a few games that’ll suit your campaign world.
The original Tournaments, Fairs & Taverns PDF was well received and this paperback conversion doesn’t disappoint. It’s US$19.99 and that’s a bit pricy, not for the quality or the page count (96 pages) but for the specialised subject area. T, F & T’s biggest rival must be it’s own PDF incarnation, which is so much cheaper. Tournaments, Fairs & Taverns isn’t wildly important either. Sure, it’s better if there are smooth mechanics for a game of Drunken Daggers and it’s annoying if the game slides to a pause while a GM without T, F & T ums and errs over improvised mechanics – but it doesn’t ruin the game. Umming and erring over the climatic battle against the Tyrant of Sar could ruin the game. The book provides support for an area of game play that I’d like to see supported – not one that I need supported. An expensive book full of imaginary games wouldn’t compare to the host of excellent RPG supplements out there but Tournaments, Fairs & Taverns adds a touch of class, some professional gloss and is more than the sum of its parts.
I think Tournaments, Fairs & Taverns makes an excellent gift. It’s a book I’d love to be given. Players looking for a world neutral d20 product to give to their GM on her birthday would do well to consider this one.