But Then

Sometimes players zag when you expected them to zig. It happens to all of us. Often it’s easy to just adapt your current adventure to the changing situation. However, sometimes it isn’t…

Source: The Backpocket Adventure | Gnome Stew

It helps to remember that RPGs got their inspiration from pulp fiction stories, the sort of tales where coincidences keep popping up like first graders on Christmas morning. So your players decide to go gallivanting off on some diversion, big deal. Who says the bad guys aren’t already there?

So your players go off to the City of Townsville instead of the Town of Citysville. Mojo Jojo is supposed to have something nefarious planned in Townsville, doesn’t mean he can’t have something planned in Citysville. We’re not exactly talking about reality. Heck, we’re not even talking about good writing. If you want things to just happen because you damn well feel like it, let them happen.

Besides, in real life events don’t have to make sense. When running an RPG you don’t have to make a publisher or editor happy, as long as your players get into it.

The Body Concerned

The Corpus

In this chapter we are given a look at the physical side of matters. The naughty bits are just a part of it, but they do loom large in the eyes of many.

In short, Hall goes into physical details to a great extent. In American culture we do tend to see certain matters regarding our anatomy as beyond the pale, though other cultures don’t always see it that way. Still, it does matter more than some would like to admit and at times it does need to be dealt with. Byron Hall’s problem lies in how he handles the matter, and that handling is clumsy.


First is the character’s age, and according to the chart presented it is possible for him to start play at birth. Now originally I thought you could have starting age go back to a negative number, but as it turns out you’re supposed to keep to positive numbers, and for this system that includes 0. Once division and subtraction is done, the average starting age of a human character is 21, though higher or lower ages are possible.

Age does affect the abilities and sub-abilities, with infants having a body length some 20% of an adult and a weight 5%. But, apparently age has no effect on matters such as intelligence or wisdom. Which is odd, because in real life age does make a difference

Body Proportion

Here are charts presented for determining such matters as height and weight. At one end a female dwarf could be 2’11” while a male ogre could be 10’9”. Where weight is concerned a female elf could be just 52 pounds with a male ogre or hill troll 799 pounds. But keep in mind that height also affects weight. So a 129” tall male ogre with a weight of 799 pounds would get another 420 pounds to add to his weight. And that weight of 1219 pounds would mean he gets a +12 to Strength. This is in addition to his bonus for race, sex, and height. You get right down to it, gruagach ogres are strong.

Reach is another matter, with humans having a reach equal to half their height. Span is another matter, being equal to height, plus the width of the shoulders. Were I an average human being my span would be about 8 feet, but since my arms are unusually long and my shoulders some 3 feet wide my span is close to 10’. Bantu and Northern European men have unusually wide shoulders.

Next we get into matters such as body-mass-index―BMI, body part proportions; distinguishing features; hair and eye color; skin color; hair length, thickness and type; facial feature; and what you could call a freak of nature.

The Naughty Bits

Now we get to the impolite features. And to be honest with you we do vary a lot where those are concerned. Elves tend to be small in that department, while Ogres and Trolls can be intimidating. In fact, an Ogre could have an anal circumference at full extension of 30”, while the largest human head has a circumference of some 26 inches. What that means is left as an exercise for your unseemly imaginations.

Now FATAL is not the only RPG that goes into such matters, though it is rather rude with how it goes about it. There is the Lamentations of the Flame Princess, which does handle matters better, and, The Complete Guide to Unlawful Carnal Knowledge―author unknown, which handle the matter much better than FATAL does.

You get right down to it, FATAL is a fantasy heartbreaker, something written because the author thought he could do better than DND, but failed miserably. All the stuff about sex and naughty bits got added and mishandled because Mr. Hall really didn’t know how to handle them appropriately

And Next

Then comes matters such as foot size, fist size, handedness, and head size. Then there’s the matter of pregnancy, which involves matters such as the length of gestation―for Kobolds it’s some 30 weeks, while for Elves it could be as long as 90 weeks, complications. There’s also a chart for premature birth, though nothing for unusually long pregnancies.

You get right down to it, FATAL goes into detail, detail you may not want to get into. You’re free to call it a bother, I’m going to look at it as inspiration.

When a PC Ails

Last up are allergies, intoxication and disease. In FATAL you get descriptions of allergies and disease, with Diabetes Type2―here called here Diabetes Insipidus―given a truly inaccurate description―ask James M. Ward about his experience with Type2 Diabetes some time, losing a foot is no fun.

Intoxication is what takes up the bulk of this part of the chapter, with alcohol, marijuana, and psychedelic mushrooms being covered.

My Assessment

Including these things is up to you as far as I’m concerned. Including them to the detail FATAL does should be given special consideration. They can add to a setting, but only if handled with care, consideration, and more than a bit of maturity. From what I can see, how the author handled them really can’t be called mature and tells me he was young when he first wrote the guide, and just too stubborn to correct his work when he revised for the new edition.

You get right down to it, he understood his audience and how they would react. But he also made the mistake of assuming that how he handled things would get an audience. We can be a finicky people and when you dare to insult us―even if you really didn’t mean to―we can have quite a negative reaction.

I’ll be honest with you, after getting this far with FATAL I’m coming to the conclusion that it is not the worst RPG ever published. I haven’t read it yet―I have a copy of the file―but from what I’ve heard Rahowa―Racial Holy War―is even worse in just about every way than FATAL. At least with FATAL there are parts you can use if you feel like it. It’s not something you want to use as written, but still there is potential here.


In chapter 3 we’ll be looking at how FATAL handles abilities, which cover such matters as Physique, Charisma, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Wisdom. There are also sub-abilities, but we’ll get into that in the next post in the series.

And Everybody Hates the Jews

Race and Gender

In this chapter, we are given a look at the races of FATAL, and how FATAL handles the matter of the sexes


In FATAL there are some 16 races. Now Hall does acknowledge that they are actually different species, but since we’re used to calling them races that’s what he calls them.

There are Dwarfs and Elves, but there are also races such as Bugbears, Kobolds, Ogres, and Trolls. Then there are the Anakim, crossbreeds between demons and humans. There are differences statistically between the races, with Strength―as an example―ranging ranging from -60 for an elf―light or dark―to +275 for a Gruagach Ogre. Which means that the Average Elf has a Strength of 90, while the average Gruagach has a Strength of 425―given a base range between 1 and 199. There are other modifiers, such that Elves typically have a common sense of 160, while Kinder-Fresser Ogres have one of 120, which means that they’re not what you’d call wise.

When you get right down to it races such as Ogres and Trolls are rather nasty sorts. But next to even the Kinder-Fresser Kobolds are downright vile. In FATAL the Kobolds are not what you’d find in other RPGs. No, in FATAL the Kobolds are human in appearance by and large, but they are also arrogant, nasty, cruel, and out to enslave all the other races, even Anakim. And treacherous on top of it all.


Which brings us to the matter of how the different races get along. By and large they don’t. In fact Hill Trolls rather dislike each other in general. In FATAL the different attitudes are given a numerical rating ranging from one for races that look favorably on another, to five when the race in general would sooner see another race expunged from existence. Based on that you can then learn what an individual thinks of another individual, even when they’re of the same race. Depending on the roll of 3d10 it is possible of a White Dwarf to utterly despise another White Dwarf, or for a Kobold to actually be great good friends with a Light Elf. Not very likely, but still possible.

Here is where I can see great potential for role playing, though you don’t have to agree with me.


In this part of the chapter we get a look at how Byron Hall thought of Men and Women. In his world by and large Men were superior.

All races exhibit the sexual dimorphism where males are most often larger and stronger than the females. While this is true of humans and wapiti in reality, among animals such as the blowfish it is quite the opposite. And even when the guys are larger and stronger when you’re dealing with an animal such as H. sapiens you’d better treat the smaller and weaker party with a fair degree of respect. Still you do get the situation where female Elves of either type get a -90 to Strength, while male Gruagach get a +305. The only advice I can give you is to use your talents to the best of your ability, and let him have his talents.


With such as the Kinder-Fresser and Kobold running around I can see where you’d think there’s nothing that could be considered good here. But then you have races such as the Dwarves who can shape change. For instance, White Dwarfs can change into butterflies, and often do so, so they can go flitting about under the moonlight. Black Dwarfs turn into screech owls instead.


However, Dwarfs and Subterranean Trolls also turn into stone under the light of the sun, so Dwarfs do prefer to go outside their caverns and tunnels at night. And if you’re wondering how to tell a Black Dwarf from the others, they have the feet of crows.


We’re at the end now, next time we’ll have a look at chapter 2: Body.


FATAL Failings

Part One: Introduction

Before we get started please be aware that what you read here is really more a critique than a review, though of necessity reviewing is a necessary part of it. I’m also doing this critique chapter by chapter because I feel that that is necessary if I’m to pay this work full credit.

The first thing to note is that the author, Byron Hall, has a voice. I like voices in my writing. Unfortunately, Mr. Hall’s voice is most often that of a pissy brat. He also over writes and insists much too much when dialing back on the verbiage would serve his cause much better.

The introduction itself can be divided into the following parts, starting with an introduction to RPGs

The Introduction to RPGs

First, actually, is Byron insisting that FATAL is historically accurate and quite realistic. I’d expect that in his mind it is indeed historically accurate and realistic, but for us who have a firmer grasp on historical accuracy and realism FATAL is not quite there. Later in his work Mr. Hall claims that he did actual research, but I suspect he preferred to use those result that agreed with his a priori assumptions and ignore what contradicted him.

Beyond that his description of what an RPG is actually makes sense. You get right down to it an RPG is an exercise in playing a role, most often in a make-believe world based on he make-believe worlds of myths, legends, fables and story. He’s also right when he says that events in an RPG are not completely up to the players and GM, but more a matter of what blind fate has to say.

The Necessaries

Next is a look at the tools you’ll need to play FATAL, which are pretty much the sort of thing you’d need in most any RPG. This could be better explained, for I find the wording stilted and confused. I suspect that Byron Hall wanted to be clear but has no real understanding of how to write clearly.


Next up is a look in general at the roles one plays in FATAL and the process of character creation. Mr. Hall does insist that character creation is fun, but that’s his opinion.


The last two items deal with the mechanics―known here as the Mean System, and a warning concerning the supposed maturity of the RPG. As to the latter, like so many other people I rather doubt Byron Hall has any real idea of what mature subject matter actually means. In all honesty mature subject matters deals not with what is dealt with, but with how it is dealt with. As we get further into the RPG I think you will find that FATAL does not actually handle mature matters in a mature way.

The End

That’s it for this post in the series on FATAL. Next up we’ll have a look at chapter one: Gender and Race.