|It's always disheveled maidens|
that dragons want, isn't it?
One of the places I disagree most strongly with FW is in the matter of how to handle damage. Since a character in the game has "hit points" equal to his Endurance, but Endurance has other functions, we end up seeing such ridiculous things as dragons with a mere 25, in relation to a typical human with about 10 or so. I'd consider a change in which the size of a creature affects the final hit point total, rather than stringently relying on the Endurance rating.
And that's it. I could comment on each monster entry specifically, but I won't bother. Instead, I'll spend the rest of this entry discussing the game as a whole.
Obviously, I like it. Or, rather, I think that there is one of the greatest fantasy games around hiding underneath its rather rough presentation. The treatment of magic and religion was ahead of its time, and in my opinion has never been equaled. Mage: The Ascension, to choose one notable example, played with the same ideas, but clothed them in a game system that was, at best, difficult for the average Referee (or "Storyteller") to use effectively. It was one of the first roleplaying games to present mass combat rules in conjunction with the main rules (as I recall, only Chivalry & Sorcery preceded it in this, though one could make a case for D&D, if Chainmail is considered). It was arguably the first roleplaying game that took pains to lay out the reasoning behind most of the design decisions (much of the first half of the book could be seen as "designer's notes" explaining the game). It integrated fairly sophisticated personality mechanics before such now-classic games as Pendragon, and well before modern, well-received games like The Burning Wheel or The Riddle of Steel. It developed the "black box" table mechanic that would become fashionable in game design for a brief period, and which powers such classic games as Chill, James Bond 007, or, especially, Marvel Super Heroes. It is, as far as I know, the first game to treat gods and other spiritual powers as individuals with goals and personalities.
But. The game's design team was very inexperienced at writing rules, and they did not understand the value of playtest or development, and it shows. There are terrible mechanical ideas (such as the need to roll dice in order to find out on which column to roll more dice to determine success), cumbersome record-keeping (the Piety Point system being only the worst offence), inexplicable omissions (a character can learn to sing, but not to play an instrument, for example, there is no unarmed combat permitted, apparently, and as mentioned monsters and animals are not provided with a measure of appropriate damage), unnecessary sexism (while an attempt to portray women as the middle ages saw them is, perhaps, defensible, the mechanics used to do so are not - for instance, by the rules, there are fewer women born to high social status fathers, and in fact emperors can't have daughters at all! Go ahead and do the math; never mind that there are more Pisces slaves than any other sign, or that Aries nobles outnumber Scorpios*). The claim of historical accuracy has holes, as well, since there were occasional medieval Christians who studied Cabala, but the game artificially limits that study to Jews and Muslims. Weapon damage is odd in practice, as a dagger does more damage than a sword at high Physique levels. For that matter, as noted above, there are problems with the specific number of hit points allowed to various characters and creatures.
There are matters of presentation that could use fixing, as well. I've noted that the lists of factors should be listed by category rather than by factor and that major sections should be set off more noticeably. I'd, personally, revise the personality factors so that they represent virtues rather than vices ("Chastity" instead of "Lust", for instance), which would occasion only minor changes to the rules. A more clear order of play should be presented, so that the Referee has more guidance for how a roll once a day for minor complaints should function, or how to give the daily Piety Point bonus fairly.
Implied sections of the game are missing. Since there are rules for mass combat, it should be expected to see (as we do in Chivalry & Sorcery or Pendragon, for example) guidelines for running a manor or other political unit that would give a reason for using the mass combat rules. Since there are explicit discussions of how a character can rise in the Ethereal hierarchies after death, perhaps a brief overview of Afterlife adventures would be in order, even if not all Referees and groups of players would use the ideas presented. And so on.
There are times that the authors allow their opinionated natures to shine perhaps too brightly. There are arguments both for and against these moments. When the authors say, for instance, "Fantasy Wargaming awards no experience merely for gathering money or other valuables - picking up 100 'gold pieces' and carrying them for a day and a half is not physically different to picking up and transporting two medium-sized bricks; it is what you have to do to get the money that counts!", it gives some insight into what they intend "experience points" to represent in the game. On the other hand, the constant sniping at other games gets tiresome at times.
With a thorough rewrite and revision, this could have been one of the greatest fantasy roleplaying games of all time. As it stands, it is still one of the most valuable for (actual and would-be) game designers to examine for ideas. It is important for the history of gaming, as well. Its reputation among online gamers is largely undeserved, and the game should be sought out for examination, if nothing else.
*Yes, I realize that this is only for characters created as PCs. The point is that the system by which Social Class is influenced by Star Sign, or even Aspecting, is a silly one, and the system by which one's father's Social Class is determined was, perhaps, not well thought-out. These are issues that could have been fixed in playtest and development.