Thursday, 6 April 2017

Tails of Equestria

Bit of a change from Hitman, I know.
I decided last week that I could economise elsewhere, and I was going to buy Tails of Equestria, the new My Little Pony tabletop RPG from River Horse games, created by Alessio Cavatore. I wanted to do this primarily as a means to introduce my daughter to roleplaying through a property which she is invested in, and which offers some serious opportunities for teaching her.

As RPGs go, Tails of Equestria is pretty simple, as you'd hope for a game aimed at children and families, but not simplistic. Three stats and an open-ended number of talents are each rated by die type from D4 to D20. Rolls are either to beat an opponent's roll or a static difficulty. Combat is there, but while a 'scuffle' can – indeed will – have consequences, they are never outright lethal. If you have a talent that applies to a roll, you typically get to roll an extra die and pick the better result; points off for removing a maths teaching opportunity, but more than made up for by the gain in pacing. In addition you get a quirk, which is a non-mechanical drawback that the GM can use to create interesting trouble for your character, which is one of the ways of regaining Friendship Tokens.

Friendship Tokens are the game's fate/drama mechanic, and tie into the franchise's 'friendship is magic' theme. You start with more tokens in a larger group, because more friends means more friendship, and players are encouraged to donate their tokens to help a friend out with re-rolls and other bonuses. Easily the best and most innovative mechanic in the game's simple system is that if two players are willing to pool their tokens, they can be counted as more valuable than the sum of their parts to represent the fact that Equestria almost literally runs on friendship. A little less successful is the last-ditch 'exploding hoof' mechanic, allowing for a slim chance at impossible seemingly impossible tasks, which is one of the more complex elements of the rules (which is, I think, its failing.)

Secret Ants Midget Mother Cheese.
Character creation is simple – we generated three characters in half an hour, including my daughter's first PC, Secret Ants Midget Mother Cheese(1) – and plays to the strengths of the series. Mechanical variation and niche protection is slight. Earth Ponies are strong, Pegasi can fly and Unicorns can do magic, but the game encourages open problem solving and represents many approaches with a handful of mechanics to let the story shine and to ensure that the characters will tend to be on an equal footing. After a few level-ups there is likely to be more distinction, but everyone levels up together so the PCs should always be equals, although some may choose specialism and others range, and everyone will benefit from doing things together.

Without testing the system to destruction, the game seems a good fit to the license and target age range. This may well be my favourite licensed RPG now, although it's not a high bar. 

I'll report further on the adventures of Secret Ants Midget Mother Cheese and friends and they happen.

(1) Her second choice for a kind Pegasus with 'The Stare' as her cutie mark talent, after I suggested that 'Fluttershy' was taken.