ByOsmond Arnesto, writer at Creators.co
You can never have too many dice. Until you step on one. Still can't walk on that foot. Read more from me at lumberingelephant.com.
Osmond Arnesto

One of my favorite things about role-playing games is how the people who play them or are interested in them come from all over the interest spectrum. People who are into video games, comic books, movies, embroidery, fly fishing, macrame - you'll find them all around the gaming table.

Sometimes game masters will pull material and inspiration from different forms of media, too. They might watch the first season of True Detective and get the itch to do a paranormal crime investigation. Or, they might plug in their old Nintendo 64 and their copy of WWF No Mercy fills their head with ridiculous storylines. Or, they might want to run a Final Fantasy game.

Image courtesy of Ivan Cardoza, YouTube
Image courtesy of Ivan Cardoza, YouTube

I mentioned in a previous post that even if Dungeons & Dragons is the granddaddy of adults playing pretend, the rules system doesn't fit every kind of game you want to run. There are alternatives, and there are a lot of them. Finding them is a matter of searching for them.

Or You Could Do That for Me

That's what I'm here for.

A role-player who is also a fan of the Final Fantasy series might wonder about the best way to bring moogles and chocobos to their game table. The first step is to distill what it is you like about the series. One of the biggest mistakes game masters make when adapting a video game for the tabletop is trying to emulate every aspect of the video game, down to the numbers. The problem being we don't have the advantage of being computers. Lots of numbers and fiddly bits serve to slow the game down.

Unless big numbers are what you like about Final Fantasy.

I'm All About Breaking the Damage Limit

The Final Fantasy Role-Playing Game, Third Edition was developed over the course of a decade by a collection of dedicated fans who called themselves the Returners, likely after the rebel group in the sixth game. The rules system isn't anything ground-breaking. You roll dice, and you want to get a high number or a low number, depending on the situation. What stands out is the level of granularity. For example, a player can have up to 11 combat statistics to keep track of during combat. To say you would need a calculator to play is exaggerating, but the description for the level-57 Fencer ability, Nighthawk, reads as follows:

The Fencer swings his blade and creates a dark ripple that instantly solidifies into a bolt of power, striking the target from on high. Nighthawk inflicts (27 x AGI) + 5d12, M. Armor Shadow Elemental damage, striking automatically.
Image courtesy of Keltainentoukokuu, FF Wiki
Image courtesy of Keltainentoukokuu, FF Wiki

The game itself has everything you need to run a game in the Final Fantasy world of your choosing. The writers included a history of the video game series, rules for playing as different races like the Tarutaru, pages of abilities for iconic classes like Dragoon, comprehensive lists of the video game's magic, and a guide for converting your favorite monsters for the tabletop. This work of love is being offered for free, and weighs in at a staggering 400 pages. As such, it's not what anyone would consider light reading but it would be perfect for super fans.

How About Rules-Lite Options?

What if you're more about the story of the Final Fantasy games? A small group of nobodies facing up against a great evil. Worlds that take throw fantasy and science fiction into a Japanese melting pot. Kids who are abnormally strong. A guy named Cid. It is debatable that you would be able to throw these story elements into any narrative-focused role-playing game, but maybe you don't want to tweak the rules too much to tailor to the video game series?

This is where Evil Hat's FATE comes in. The role-playing game is a flexible system that can be adapted to any setting or genre a group wants, and encourages improvisation from both the players and the game master. FATE loses the specialization found in other games, but it's a good choice if you prioritize game feel over game rules.

In contrast to the Returners game, FATE does away with raw number crunching and replaces it with "aspects." An aspect is like a descriptive phrase that defines a player's character, and can act as both a benefit and a drawback in-game. For example, instead of being a black mage who put all of their points in fire magic, a FATE character would have the aspect of "Pyromaniacal Black Mage." The entirety of your spell list might be summarized with your "Black Magic" skill.

Image courtesy of DrakeyC, FF Wiki
Image courtesy of DrakeyC, FF Wiki

But It's Not About the Destination, It's the Journey

If none of the above appeal to you, perhaps the main draw of the series is exploring a world filled with strange people, unexplored caves, and secrets to learn, all while soft piano music is playing in the background.

In that case, Ryuutama might be what you want. The English translation of the game was made possible through a Kickstarter by Andy Kitowski, and it emphasizes travel and exploration. Murderhobos need not apply. The only thing all Final Fantasy characters have in common is their decision to leave their hometown for a higher purpose. While that purpose is closer to satiating wanderlust than it is to saving the world, that doesn't mean the journey doesn't have its share of danger. Ryuutama is perfect for a Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles game.

The rules of the game are not as different from what you might be coming from, compared to FATE, so rolling dice to beat a target number won't be anything new. On the other hand, Ryuutama is as removed from the unique lore of the video game series as you can get. The character classes are Artisan, Farmer, Healer, Hunter, Merchant, and Noble. While some Final Fantasy characters might have started out as one of these, Ryuutama characters aren't going to suplex a train. Tailoring the rules for a Final Fantasy game is a matter of re-flavoring monsters and magic, but it can be likened to the game master having to edit a manuscript instead of starting with a blank sheet.

Of course, there are a ton of games out there. Some other suggestions I've heard were Anima: Beyond Fantasy and Savage Worlds, but I haven't tried them myself. What do you think?