Saturday, April 1, 2017

Friendship Is Magic!

© Hasbro Studios

Regular readers have likely noticed a reduction in the frequency of posts.  This is because your humble host has been preparing to take the blog in a bold, exciting direction.  After five years of discussing role-playing games, Thoul's Paradise will henceforth be a brony empowerment blog.  Today's post will act as a transition between these interests, looking at pony role-playing opportunities.

The official My Little Pony role-playing game, Tails of Equestria (Get it?  Tails?), will not be available until later this month.  However, the “pony sheet” offers a glimpse of what we can expect.

According to the ad copy:  “Armed with core skills and special abilities, each player ventures into the world of Equestria with their pony peers, forging deeper friendships as they help one another in the whimsical world they create through every action they take.”  It looks like the dice (sold separately, of course) are the standard assortment of polyhedrals.  Interestingly, the recommended age for this game is “3 years and up.”

Other than the forthcoming official RPG, there is the Ponyfinder Campaign Setting from Silver Games, LLC.  Originally, Ponyfinder was intended as a supplement to Paizo's Pathfinder (hence the name).  The latest incarnation – a 168 page PDF – embraces Fifth Edition; however, the Ponyfinder name has been retained.  (I would have gone with Ponyfiver, but I'm not a marketing expert.)

Each pony has a sub-race (which I assume is the same as 'tribe') and a spiritual path (“an important and specific choice that sets ponykind apart from most of the other races”).  The three common sub-races are earth-bound, pegasus, and unicorn.  The less common sub-races include ghost ponies, leather wings, sea horses, and zebras.  Among the spiritual paths, there are:  Antean, chaos hunter, clockwork, doppelganger, gem pony, and sun pony.  However, the most common spiritual path is “unique destiny,” which allows a choice of ability score increase and skill/tool specialty.  'Spiritual path' is something of a misnomer; the term suggests a conscious decision to follow a particular philosophy.  However, the described paths are really accidents of birth.  Clockwork ponies, for instance, are “comprised of gears and springs.”  Instead of 'spiritual path', perhaps 'heritage' would be a better term.  Even so, the reason why 'gem pony' should be a spiritual path while 'ghost pony' is a sub-race is beyond me.  If I'm going to pretend to be a magical pony, I need a logical framework with a rock-solid foundation.  I mean, what am I, an eight year old girl?  (Don't answer that.)

Ponies “stand about four feet tall from hooves to head, and are about four feet long from front to base of the tail.”  All ponies have a “Brand of Destiny.”  We are told, “This symbol is of high importance to the pony, signifying their destiny or talent, and driving them to excel at it.”  This brand can be removed via a 'Denial of Destiny' feat.  Doing this is a “drastic act [that] defies the gods and the natural order and declares that you mean to operate under your will alone.”  So ponies don't automatically have free will, but they can obtain it.

The back cover claims, “Many spells, class specializations, and backgrounds are also usable by non ponies or other settings.”  The accuracy of this statement depends on how few items can constitute 'many'.  Regarding spells, we are told, “Most of these spells are of specific use to ponies, with limited function for other races.”  Among the dozen new spells provided, we are treated to the likes of 'Blast of Harmony' and 'Grazing'.  Two of the five new backgrounds are 'Hybrid' and 'Unbound Hooves'.  As is, some of the class specializations – such as Artifact Tender (Rogue) and Warden of the Night (Paladin) – can be used by non-ponies and are not tied to the setting.  Other specializations are not quite so flexible.  Among these are Tribal Scholar and Mobile Cannon (“Four-legged races face unique challenges when they pursue the way of the gun”).  Two other examples of specializations are Mystic Prancer (Bard) and Vampiric (Sorcerer).  Yes, there are rules for playing vampire ponies; it's a wonderful time to be alive.

Other than ponies, there are seven other playable, quadruped races in Ponyfinder.  Two of these – Flutterponies and Steelhearts – might as well be pony sub-races.  The 'non-pony' races are:  Cloven (“intelligent goats”), Griffons, Phoenix Wolves, Purrsians (“a winged feline race”), and Sun Cats.  All of these races are of 'Medium' size and all have their own feats.

The 'world' of the Ponyfinder setting is Everglow, “nestled in delicate balance between the elemental planes...a world of magic and mystery where the fey are in control and the humanoid races are secondary.”  Ponies and all of the non-humanoid playable races are considered to be fey “for all purposes.”  The 'Places of Note' chapter consists of 24 pages (describing locations like Tramplevania) as well as a one-page map.

Of course, given intelligent ponies, there must be pony gods.  The Ponyfinder gods include:  Blaze (CE), Kara (NE), Moon Princess (LN), Princess Luminace (LG), Sheila the Author (N), Sun Queen (NG), The Night Mare (LE), and – last but not least – Unspoken (CN).  I guess Chaotic Good ponies are out of luck...or maybe they just don't give a pasture patty about gods.

A fulsome history of Everglow is provided in the book with emphasis on the pony empire.  There is a presumption that Ponyfinder games are “set after the decline of the Empire,” but information for running a 'height of the empire' campaign is also provided.  Twenty-four pages are devoted to descriptions of 39 'Notable Persons'.  There are no stat blocks, just paragraphs of information about famous ponies with names like Saxon Violins, Scarlet O'Mare, and Boogie.