Cover for Tri-Tac FringeworthyFringeworthy (1984)
Publisher: Tri Tac, Inc. (www.tritacgames.com)
 Copyright: (c) 1982, 1984 Tri Tac Games
 Advancement: Level/XP-based
 Features: extensive hit location system, detailed rules for other physical stresses, guidelines for multiple levels of technology

Fringeworthy is a detail-packed game system first published by Tri Tac Inc. back in the early 80s. I like this title (and it’s close cousin that I happen to own, Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic) for the sheer volume of data provided on a variety of topics. The ’82 version can seem dry and chart-laden at first casual glance, but taking the opportunity to truly think about any randomly selected page can lead to some interesting extrapolations… the type of thing I truly love to find in an RPG rulebook.

Character Sheet

Fringeworthy Character Sheet page 1The first page of the character sheet for Fringeworthy doesn’t really hint at the level of detail in the game itself, but does give some feel for how  straightforward the character definition process is.  Determine characteristics, select skills and determine starting scores, determine basic hit points, determine starting equipment, and begin.  All fairly standard and easily understood.

Setting

An ancient alien race referred to as the Tehrmelern built an near-infinite system of Rings that allow nearly instantaneous passage between various planets, alternate realities, and even dimensions.  They also created a race of helper beings called Mellor, peaceful shapeshifters through which to communicate with more primitive races.

In the course of exploring new worlds, one of these Mellor came across a hostile intelligence which over time infected and mutated nearly the entire race into psychopathic killing machines.  The Tehrmelern were overrun and destroyed, but succeeded in largely locking down their system of portals to prevent others from suffering the same fate.

Millenia later, humanity discovers one of these portals deep within the ice of Antarctica, and begins to explore the universe…

There are some obvious similarities with the more recently developed Stargate storyline/mythos, but there are many differences as well.  The central link to ancient earth mythologies is nowhere to be found, and the portals of Fringeworthy, while similar in form, are postulated to operate quite differently than the system of gates in Stargate.  Fringeworthy actually conjures up more visions of Lovecraftian ancient alien horror, than of the technology-driven universe of Stargate.

Attributes

Fringeworthy uses a fairly standard set of basic attributes, with a few derived characteristics thrown in as well.  Basic attributes essentially consist of the D+D 6, plus an Agility score, a Luck score, and an Accuracy score used in ranged combat.  Throw and Dodge characteristics are derived from averages of selected basic stats.  There is also a “Crystal Use” score, tied directly into the setting of the game, which is somewhat of a percentage based score, and a Psionics score which is vaguely skill-like in it’s implementation.

Basic attribute scores are determined by rolling 4d6-4, with additional subsystems provided to increase those scores somewhat during play.

Advancement

Advancement in Fringeworthy is also fairly straightforward, a prototypical XP/level affair with a twist or two.  XP is awarded for completion of activities (at the GM’s discretion, of course) and upon obtaining certain totals, the character advances in level.  Each new level grants the character additional hit points and skill points to be spent.

Characters start with a sizable number of hit points based on adding their Strength, Constitution x 2, and an additional d10 (up to 70 for a normal character).  Each level gained adds an additional d10 or more thereafter.

Skill points gained via level advancement can be spent to improve skill scores, open new skills, even increase attribute scores.  The character earns 1d4+(level-1) skill points each level attained.

Outside these two elements, level does not have much impact during play, which is rather distinctive from the typical D+D/D20 design, and can lead to some interesting differences in play.

Detailed Resolution

Fringeworthy starts to get truly detail-driven at the combat resolution level.  Without getting too specific, let me just give a few examples. 

  • In combat, the human body is divided into 8 major areas (including the allowance for a tail), and each of those areas is then broken down further into a few dozen possible locations, as detailed as “Mandible, Jaw Left” and “Spleen, Right”.  (How can you not like a system where you can target someone’s Spleen?)
  • There are three pages of detail on various diseases, including descriptions of various transmission vectors and the follow on impact of various symptoms (nausea vs. sneezing vs. fever).
  • There is a half-page chart detailing the basic “sustenance value” of a variety of potential edibles, from Apples to Yeast.
  • Rules for handling the hydrostatic shock from firearm hits are detailed.
  • There are detail charts for handling bone damage, bloodloss, and spinal damage.
  • There are a half dozen pages (at least) just listing various models of firearms and defining ranges, damage types, reload rates, etc.
  • Handling and recovering from burns gets almost a full page, including differentiation between heat burns and electrical burns.

Many people might not want to go fully to these levels of detail, especially in a pen-and-paper setting.  However, each line is an idea that could potentially be pursued and fleshed out, and become an opportunity for additional gameplay, especially in a CRPG/MMO setting.

Further resources

Fringeworthy is a Tri Tac Inc. system that is readily available for purchase on CD via their website, along with many other solid and intriguing products (check out the Bureau 13 products for some interesting angles on mixing tech and gothic horror, for example).   Anyone interested in learning more should definitely go over to the Tri Tac site and dig around.