My Strained Relationship With Fantasy Flight Games

I recognize that I’ve let this go a bit, I’ve been bogged down with schoolwork, my writings elsewhere, and other stuff that I’m juggling. But perhaps I can start with one of my many articles stuck in the draft stage. Since this was the one that I’ve been sitting on for a while, I figured I’d start with this one.

I don’t seek to have any kind of beef with a game publisher. I also kind of recognize that any game publisher is a business, like all others. But at the same time, there’s still plenty of garbage that publishers put the consumer through. Wizards of the Coast has earned my ire for making me pay twice for something I already own in D&D Beyond, and while I can understand why they did that, I still don’t particularly like it.

A Dishonorable Name

But, after doing the Genesys review I posted, I quickly found that there more things about Fantasy Flight Games that irritated me. And a lot of it had to do with Legend of the Five Rings. I want to play Legend of the Five Rings because damn I love samurai. But then I found out that Fantasy Flight Games was going to publish it.

And if you have read my Star Wars and Genesys articles, you’ll know that you have to buy custom dice for that game too.

Yep…Custom dice for every game. That’s always the case with Fantasy Flight. You can’t use your polyhedral or Fate/Fudge dice. You can’t even use a standard d6.

While this is presented as a unique aspect of the system, I find that the stuff that FFG produces clearly is more about extra stuff to sell than designing interesting play experiences.

Your Money’s Worth

There’s a brilliance to it, actually. Having proprietary dice that you need to buy is not just a good idea as a purchase. It also has a psychological effect of engaging the “sunk cost” fallacy. Your financial investment in the dice makes you more driven to get your money’s worth. Buying a proprietary set of dice also means purchasing the idea that you’ll use them.

This also means that the consumer is locked in by the vendor. One cannot buy Chessex dice or other brands, perhaps you can use a third party app on your mobile device. But as a rule of thumb, you have to get your dice from them as well.

I’ve heard people describe FFG as the Electronic Arts of tabletop and that’s not too far from the truth. There are times when I want to like what they produce. Their production values are always consistently high.

But when I hear about something they’ve put out, it’s only a matter of time until I get the catch. There’s gonna be custom dice, there’s gonna be sourcebooks, there’s gonna be unnecessary core rulebooks that are largely identical but just different enough so they can sell it to you again.

DIY In Name Only

I quickly discovered through my attempts to make Genesys work that producing homebrew content wasn’t as easy as it was for other systems. To call it a DIY RPG is only true in the loosest sense. It’s clear that the efforts to make content is deprioritized because they want to sell you sourcebooks for their internal IPs.

There’s also no GM screen or cheat sheets for the game at all. Not even a dice reference sheet (which boggles my mind) has been produced. The premade adventure was a Terrinoth one which falls apart if you’re unfamiliar with the source material and lacks necessary context.

It feels like there’s something good underneath all of this, an enjoyable game that I’m sure could work. But it feels like most of my time is spent trying to figure out what I need to buy next as opposed to actually playing the game. As for my samurai, I’m sure that I can find ways to run it elsewhere.