1 - Fundamental Knowledge

1.1 - Dramatic Fantasy

Fantasy World is a game that focuses on dramatic fantasy adventuring.

Dramatic fantasy is not about soap opera melodrama among teen wizards, although this could be a lot of fun- please someone make this game!

Dramatic fantasy is about the very personal conflicts, internal and external, that turn a bunch of drifting murderers into a group of heroes. It's about the consequences of their actions, and how they affect both the Protagonists and the world around them. It's about the tough choices and personal sacrifices and joys and sorrows and scars and hopes driving the Protagonists through their adventures. It's about the things that make you care about what happens.

When you don't care, something as epic as saving a kingdom could feel like a trivial and bothersome chore. When you do care, something as trivial as keeping a promise to a random village kid can feel epic and fulfilling. What this game's rules do is help you and your friends inject this level of meaning and engagement into whatever kind of adventure you end up playing.


If you already know everything about everything and can't be bothered to wait and follow the book's pace then here is a compressed summary of the key elements at the core of this game:

At the heart of Dramatic fantasy adventuring are these elements:

  • Social ties are important.
  • Accountability for one’s own choices and actions is central.
  • Morality is not something trite and pre-packaged, but an ongoing critical conversation with oneself.

On top of all this, Fantasy World adds particular attention to three key points:

  • The Fellowship is at the center of the game and expresses how and why the Protagonists stay together.
  • Violence always has costs and consequences for everyone involved, whether physical, emotional or social.
  • Player characters are the Protagonists of the emerging story revolving around their personal Issues and Doubts.

No matter how you personalize the setting, these things will always be true:

  • Magic exists.
  • Gods are silent.
  • Cities are rare.
  • Travel is perilous.

The Common Moves (rules about PC actions) that everyone can perform are split like so:

  • Action moves = Take a Risk / Intervene / Sway
  • Info moves = Look Around / Read Someone / Recall Lore
  • Violence moves = Brawl / Threaten
  • Adventuring moves = Journey / Long Rest / Restock
  • Special moves = Epilogue / End of Session

The playable Fellowships are:

  • Shields - Local defenders and agents of the law.
  • Knives - Local scoundrels and rogues.
  • Hearts - Traveling heroes on a great quest.
  • Coins - Traveling mercenaries and treasure hunters.

The playable Classes are:

  • Captain - A capable leader at the head of a resourceful crew, facing dangers and voyages together as one.
  • Knight - A bastion of virtue, bestowing guidance, judgment, and retribution upon an imperfect world.
  • Maker - A creative mind that thinks outside of the box, taking on the world armed with curiosity, knowledge, and technology.
  • Occultist - A practitioner of arcane arts, keeper of forgotten knowledge, and wielder of sorcerous powers.
  • Priest - A worker of miracles, wielding the power of religious faith and fervor.
  • Scoundrel - A criminal by trade and an adventurer by vocation: resourceful, connected, dangerous.
  • Troubadour - A wAnderer and a wOnderer, shaping the world with their art and wiles.
  • Veteran - A battle seasoned fighter, bearing the wisdom earned in the face of Death and adversity.
  • Wayfarer - A true explorer, using their expertise of plant and beast to journey through wilderness and cities alike.
  • Wildcaller - A child of the land, linked inextricably to its elements and spirits.

Is This For You? Yes!

Your First PbtA

Beginner Friendly

Deep & Rich

Fantasy World is a tabletop roleplaying game in the PbtA family.

If you're wondering what an RPG even is, worry not! I will explain all you need to know to go from zero to expert in the easiest way possible.

If you are a veteran roleplayer but are new to the ways of PbtA games, you're going to be fine too. I'll show you the lay of the land, the whys and hows, and all the juicy bits this kind of system has to offer.

And if you are well-versed in many different PbtA systems, I hope to pique your interest too. Fantasy World tosses out the window a few things that are considered standard (or even trending) in many PbtA games, turns unspoken guidelines into explicit procedures, and adds some original mechanics into the mix.

But, Why Fantasy World?




Most Powered by the Apocalypse games shine because of some amazing idea that sits at their core. But too often they also end up prioritizing style and novelty over clarity and practicality.

A common result is that the rule book alone is not enough to learn how to properly play, requiring previous expertise in PbtA systems to fully understand the game's inner workings.

Another common problem is the lack of clarity in how some mechanics work, leading to the need for on-the-fly negotiation and interpretation of things that should instead be unequivocal and straightforward. Moves are very susceptible to this.

This state of affairs prompted me to write a game that starts from a simple and familiar idea, ye olde fantasy adventure, and then focuses on being as user-friendly and pragmatic as possible.

My hope is to help people better understand other PbtA games too, how they are different, how they are similar, how they are brilliant and, sometimes, how they bump into problems. And to present a few ideas of my own, to try and push the envelope a bit further.

It might not be a veritable PbtA Next... but that's the general direction I'm aiming for.


So... what is this game?

Ye Olde Introduction

World & Protagonist roles

Play Materials

Fantasy World is a game of narrative action, adventure, and exploration set in a fantastical world of your own devising.

It requires the presence of three to five participants.

One participant plays the role of World, while all others take on the role of Players. Both World and Players will act in the game through the lens of fictional characters specifically created for the purpose, referred to in this text as Non Protagonist Characters (NPCs) used by the World and as Protagonist Characters (PCs) used by the Players.

In Fantasy World there are no winners or losers, as the aim of the game is to experience together an engaging story of adventure. Characters may fail or succeed, die or prosper. No matter what befalls them, you "win" if the ensuing story moves ahead and entertains the people playing at the table.

To play you need to know these rules and to have a few items ready on hand:

  • At least two six-sided dice (2d6), but two dice for each Player is more comfortable.
  • Some paper,pencils, and erasers.
  • A printout of the Common Moves Sheet (but one for each participant is better).
  • A printout of the World Sheet, Agent Map, and Agents Sheet.
  • A printout of the Class Playbook each Player is going to use.
  • Some snacks and beverages.

The Act of Playing

What you do at the table could be summarized as a conversation.

All participants go back and forth talking about their fictional characters immersed in some fictional situation, describing what they do, what they say, how they feel, and what it all looks like. Sometimes you talk over each other and interrupt one another, sometimes you wait for your turn to speak and allow space for others to express themselves, and in all cases, you listen and build on each others’ ideas.

This conversation becomes a game when you add rules to influence it. The rules define who can say something, when they can say it, and how it can be said. They also inject uncertainty and risk into what you say and ensure that important narrations have meaningful consequences.


In general, each Player has the right and the responsibility to describe what their Protagonist says and does, while the World describes, well, the rest of the world around the Protagonists...

World - There's a shut window on the west wall.

Player - I open it. Outside I see a tall mountain and...

World - Err... no wait... you can only say what your PC does and says and thinks and feels. I am the World and it's up to me to say what your PC sees and hears and... what's in the world, you know?

Player - Oh, ok then, what do I see out the window?

World - Well, there actually is a mountain, why not? But it's far in the distance, to the west. It is day and...

How Long it Takes to Play

Game Sessions

Campaign Play

One-Shot Advice

Fantasy World has no definite end.

Usually you will play for one to three hours, which is a game session. Most likely you will have told an interesting and meaningful piece of a story, but not the whole of it. Thus you will keep building on it during future follow-up sessions. It is common to play one session every week, but many groups do it as often or as sparingly as they like and can.

Eventually you might reach the natural end of a story arc, or wrap up some loose ends and decide that this is where your adventure could end. This usually takes around ten sessions and is called a game campaign. Some campaigns could be shorter, others could take longer, and some can even string together several story arcs.

Because of this, I strongly advise gathering participants with space in their lives for this kind of commitment. Playing super-short campaigns is possible, even ones that explore a complete story arc in the span of a single one-shot session, but this usually requires special arrangements to expedite things and special expertise on the part of the World to move things along faster than usual. This kind of play is meant more as a way to demo and showcase the game than to actually enjoy all it has to offer, as many features can only emerge over a longer time span.

1.2 - Knowing the Rules

Fantasy World is not a pick-up or a play-as-you-read kind of game. Before play can happen the World needs to carefully read the whole book.

If they are willing to do some extra work, they can let the Players start with little or no knowledge of the game, and then explain only what is needed, when it is needed. However, the game runs at its best when everyone knows the rules.

Players are encouraged to read this book and/or to learn its procedures through active play, and then to use such knowledge to help the World do their job. When someone (even the World) forgets or misunderstands some part of the rules it is everyone’s duty to point that out and correct them.

The One Golden Rule

The One Golden Rule is all about personal taste and mutual respect. The rule is active at all times throughout the whole game and it simply states that everyone at the table must like what everyone else says. What does this mean in practical terms?

The One Golden Rule is about how things are described, how each participant tells in their own words what they imagine is happening.

If anyone at the table thinks “this looks wrong, it feels out of place, I don’t like it” they can and should say so. Just one unhappy voice is all it takes to veto that specific description, with no vote or negotiation. Just ask the minimum amount of questions to understand what’s wrong and how best to change it.

World - The town herbalist introduces himself as Dildo Fukkins and...

Player - Err... seriously? Come on! It's funny, but please come up with a more serious name.

World - You finally reach the outskirts of the forest, with its tall palm trees and...

Player - Wait, weren't we on a snowy mountain? It feels weird to have palm trees in such an environment. Are you sure they are specifically palm trees? Couldn't they just be pines? Or something?

World - ...and then it rends the flesh from the creature's neck. You hear a ripping wet sound...

Player - Hmm, it's all cool but... could you please tone down the gore?

Player - Enraged, I punch the stone wall, smashing it to bits!

World - Mmm, that's a bit too action-movie-y for me. Could you make it less over the top?

What it is NOT for

Sometimes rules make things happen: this is indisputable.
If a dice roll causes your PC to take damage, and you don't like that, the One Golden Rule can't make you change the events to undo the damage. At most it allows you to request that the event be described differently: in a less graphic way or in a less humiliating/ridiculous way or perhaps in a more dramatic way or including/excluding some detail that is important to you. But the event takes place as established by the rules.

Sometimes choices make something happen: this too is indisputable.
If the World decides to perform one Reaction instead of another and consequently describes the environment and NPCs in a certain way, and you don't like that, the One Golden Rule can't make you change events to undo the effect of the Reaction.
If a Player makes a choice and describes his PC acting accordingly, and you don't like that, the One Golden Rule can't make you change events to force the Player into a different choice. As before, in either case, you can request a change in the description of how these events happen.

Explicit Trust

Sometimes there could be a good in-fiction reason to offer a seemingly jarring and out-of-place description. When this reason is clear to one participant (usually the World) but obscure to the others (usually the Players) it’s ok to ask for a bit of leeway “Trust me on this, they really are palm trees!

This is an important difference from most other games, as Fantasy World encourages Players and World to not trust each other implicitly, but rather explicitly. It encourages everyone to always express doubts and problems and weird sensations so that others can acknowledge them and either openly ask for some extra trust or accept the critique and somehow address the issue.

Used sensibly, the One Golden Rule helps people listen to each other and have a more civil and friendly game conversation, helping everyone to voice, solve, and often prevent a whole category of very common RPG problems.

Safe Play

The One Golden Rule is not, strictly speaking, meant as a tool to make the game “safer” but rather as a practice to make the game “better” by facilitating communication among the people at the table. That said, it can also be used as a safety instrument.

First, the One Golden Rule works as a problem-detector.
Ignoring or abusing this rule highlights who is behaving badly, disrespectfully, or disruptively. In such cases, the game has to stop. No game can fix social problems for you, so stop the game, talk it out as human beings, possibly as friends, and try to understand each other. Sometimes the problematic behavior will turn out to have been just an unintentional mistake or some sort of miscommunication. Other times, deeper issues might emerge. Play should resume only if possible and desired. There is no shame in admitting that a specific combination of people are, for whatever reason, not able to play a certain game together. Acknowledge it, set the dice aside, and do something else that you all can enjoy together.

Second, the One Golden Rule can be leveraged in a protective way.
Remember when we said that this rule can’t be used to change the choices made by people at the table? This still stands, but it also highlights how an argument such as “it’s not me, this is what the character would do” has zero legs in Fantasy World. You, the person sitting beside me, are choosing to behave in a certain way. So while the One Golden Rule doesn’t grant the power to instantly veto your choice without appeal, it nonetheless clarifies how everything happening at the table is because of deliberate Player and World choices. No childish in-fiction alibis are allowed.
This, on top of training participants to give voice to their game-related needs and issues, and by providing a formal/mechanical tool to do it, facilitates the conveyance of any sort of request. So while there are no direct tools to say “Nope, cancel this whole thing”, it is perfectly natural to express something like, “I find the thing you are choosing to do problematic, could you please not do it?

1.3 - The Point of this Game

Most other games require someone like the World to plan a story ahead of time. Or to guide Players through one of many possible pre-determined story branches.

Not in Fantasy World.

It is not needed, and actually detrimental to the good outcome of the play experience. The World is not a storyteller. They are just a Player with different tasks.

In Fantasy World both the World and the Players share a single true objective, one core reason to sit down and play: to find out.

Find out things about the characters. What kind of person is my PC? What do they love and hate? What do they desire and fear? What are they willing to do about that? What will the sad farmer NPC do when confronted with this choice?

Find out things about the setting. What lies hidden in the forest? What marvels and terrors await beyond the next hill? How are the inhabitants of this land like me? How are they different? What would they consider art? Are the stories about the legendary treasure true?

Find out things about the ongoing story. Will the ork warlord conquer the salt plains? Will the spider queen poison the eternal fountain? Will the Fellowship save the dragon from the evil princess? Will our Priest preserve their faith?

You play because you don’t know. The answers could be anything. Possibly something you never would have expected. Of course, you have a hand in how things play out, but you will also need to be open to foreign ideas, be willing to be surprised, partly let go of what you hoped for, and embrace what others put on your plate. If you are determined to have things go your own way no matter what, then there are going to be problems when both the rules and the other participants eventually push back. Don’t be that person!

Core Elements

The tone and details of your campaign will depend on the moment-by-moment choices of all participants: some will go for a bleak and gritty outlook, others will bask in the light of epic high fantasy, and others will try for comedy and hijinks, etc. That said, a few elements will always be present in any iteration of Fantasy World.

Dramatic Fantasy

This kind of fantasy puts emphasis on social ties. Protagonists don’t exist in a relational vacuum: they come from somewhere, they care for something, and in general, they are tied to a network of people who have names and faces and meaning within the Protagonists’ lives. This is then mirrored in every other character in the narrative, be they secondary characters, random people, even animals and monsters... and the “villains” of the story.

Another staple of this genre is personal accountability for one’s own choices and actions. Whatever you do, or don’t do, has an impact on other people’s lives, the consequences of which will be shown by the narrative.

In dramatic fantasy, the morality of actions is never inherently and obviously good or evil. This does not mean that good and evil do not exist, or that everything is relative and thus nothing matters. No. Instead, these stories engage the Protagonists in an open and critical discovery of what good and evil mean for them, personally. The gods are silent game truth has a lot to do with this element.


The game follows the story of a Fellowship of adventurous Protagonists. The scene-by-scene action can often see each PC doing their own thing individually, but overall the Fellowship is always united and working towards a common goal.

The emergent story might go in a direction where PCs will want (or have) to leave the Fellowship. This is possible and interesting, but in so doing the parting PCs will also leave active play, turning into NPCs. Their Players will continue to play by creating new PCs that fit the Fellowship and its goals. Theoretically, if it made sense in a hypothetical future, Players could have these ex-PGs "come back" and regain their direct control.


Violence has swift, brutal, and messy consequences. Stepping into a fight is no laughing matter, and even in victory the wounds suffered will have a meaningful impact as there is no way to instantaneously heal them. Getting hurt is easy. Being healed is hard. This is intentional.

Fantasy World is often much less violent than other adventure games because of its serious approach to the topic. Taken lightly, violence is meaningless and most games present it as an effective tool to solve any problem. Taken seriously, it puts Players in front of difficult and interesting choices both on the tactical and the emotional level.


Although the World is a very important participant, as they literally run the world, the Players are the true engine of any story. Right from the start their Protagonists can make a difference, push things around, and change society. But they will also face risks, be held accountable for the consequences of their actions, and might also fail in their endeavors.

To succeed in anything they have to act smartly and proactively. They are offered opportunities, but it is up to them to realise or squander them.

Fantasy Genres

Whether you play by referencing an outside source (a novel? a comic book? a movie? a video game?) or an original creation to which all participants have contributed, the important thing is to make sure you have "adapted" it to the core elements just described. The rest is secondary and can be rendered as you see fit. The tone of the story can be light and hopeful, or grim and cynical. It can feature high bombastic wizardry or low subtle magic. You can easily steal the trappings of other fantasy genres to tell a Fantasy World version of those stories. All of this is made easy by the game mechanics and doesn’t require much effort or awareness.

A Fantasy World version of Lord of the Rings would still be a wondrous and epic journey, but without the binary morality. Fantasy World frames everything, even animals, objects, and places, as "people" (I'll explain this well later) and so Sauron, as powerful and alien an entity as he may be, would still be presented and handled as "a person": driven by motivations, hopes, fears, meaningful relationships, past experiences, etc. Could one bargain with Sauron? Could he be blackmailed? Or deceived? Could he be redeemed? Could he be understood? Could one be "corrupted" by his logic and worldview? What about his followers? Are they all incapable of change?
In Tolkien's text, the answer to all of these questions is simply "no." Evil is evil, good is good. In Fantasy World, however, these are open-ended issues where the very act of asking the question and pondering the answer constitutes the beating heart of the game experience. It's a matter of "the journey matters more than the destination."

Most of the Cosmere stories written by Brandon Sanderson would fit right in, as they really are a varied patchwork of very different narrative genres tied together by them happening in the same setting and sporting the same “hard” magic system: the Mistborn book series blends elements of caper story, coming of age story, war story, detective story, and more into one sprawling saga, made unique by its peculiar metal-inspired magic. And while in Sanderson’s universe “gods” can meddle quite a bit in their world’s affairs, they are also “just people”: very powerful magical entities, but in no way omnipotent, omniscient and infallible and, as such, the Protagonists’ choices remain open to critique and their own sole responsibility. The Fantasy World version of these stories would simply lean a bit harder on this distinction, at least as far as the Protagonists are concerned.

Harry Potter-like sagas work very well within the boundaries of Fantasy World, and the same goes for stories like the ones portrayed in the Dresden Files and Rivers of London series. Only, with a focus on the ensemble of Protagonists making up a Fellowship rather than on the individual “chosen one”. Similarly, narratives like the ones from The Witcher or Game of Thrones can easily be played with Fantasy World if one zooms in on the events surrounding a single Fellowship rather than spreading out to follow multiple separate storylines.

Fluid Play & Breaks

Playing this game is not a performance.

The show must not go on at all costs.

Winging it when rules are not clear does not usually lead to satisfying results.

In Fantasy World the best way to achieve immersion, engagement, and fluidity of play is to take a short break whenever needed. Fantasy World asks the participants to be creative and spontaneous, to improvise ideas, dialogues, descriptions, and important choices. The rules make such activities as easy as possible, but play will still require energy, especially from the World. Calling for a short break every once in a while during a session will help everyone to stay fresh, make better choices, and enjoy the game more. Take breaks even in the midst of fast and furious fictional action! At the table there is no need to rush: think things through, ask for suggestions and help, or just take a breather.

With just a bit of practice, the rules in this book will become familiar and easy to use, but it's still quite natural to sometimes forget a detail or to have conflicting opinions on what a rule says. Don’t argue! Instead, take a short break to check what’s in the book. A few minutes invested in page-flipping during an early session will help everyone learn the rules properly and promote faster and more fluid play in future ones.

When the text fails to clarify how to use a rule, then it is recommended to defer the decision to the majority of the table. Again, don’t argue! Just lay down the options, vote, and move on. If the vote is inconclusive, then the World breaks the tie. A lengthier discussion about how to interpret the offending rule in future sessions can and should happen after the session ends and possibly sometime before the next play meeting. This gives everyone time to reflect on how things went, how they would like them to go in the future, ask online for help and clarifications, etc.

Things to always do

While playing there are a few things that any participant can do which will improve the game for everyone:

  • Ask questions like crazy. Be curious about each other’s characters and the world around them.
  • Make maps like crazy. And sketches, diagrams, and any kind of ephemera that seems interesting.
  • Seriously... ask questions! The World should ask all kinds of internal questions to the PCs (how do you feel about X, what do you want from Y, are you being sincere with Z, etc,), while Players should ask questions about anything, especially when they feel stuck or lost and don't have a clear idea of how to pursue the Protagonists' goals. The answers will often give hints about possible next steps, pushing the game forward.

Timeline of Play

After you have finished reading the entire rulebook, these will be the steps for preparing and conducting the game:

  • Game Prep
    Decide who will play the role of World and who the Players will be. It is necessary for each Player to have a copy of the Class Playbook they choose to play. It is helpful for everyone to have a copy of the Common Moves Sheet. The World must have a copy of the World Sheet, the Agent Map and the Agents Sheet available. Having blank sheets of paper on which to take notes will probably be helpful to everyone. Gather your dice, pencils and erasers, some drinks and snacks, and you're good to go!

  • First Session
    The World leads all Players through the First Session procedures, explaining fundamental rules, helping out with the creation of each PC, their Fellowship, and a few basic details of the game setting. These activities are already active play as everyone is already imagining and describing stuff, planting the seeds of future stories and getting to know the Protagonists and the world around them, discovering the places where their lives are unstable, tenuous, and unpredictable. This directly feeds the World in the creation of lively and engaging locations, characters, and other game elements (all called Agents).

  • Subsequent Sessions
    The World builds and escalates on what happened during the previous session, pushing the situation, following the logic of the Agents to its conclusion, acting and reacting to the Players’ choices and actions.

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