Fringeworthy RPG

(3rd Edition, 1992) from TriTac Systems Games, 190 p.
Game design by Richard Tucholka.
This review copyright 1993, 1997 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated July 26, 1997

Fringeworthy first came out in 1982 in a very limited edition, then again in a larger run in 1984. Neither was published in a popular format, however, and I don't think most gamers ever heard of it. Too bad - it's a good game.

Now the third edition has been released, and deserves a much better fate than the first two. The book has an attractive color cover and contains a lot of artwork (of varying quality - the average is good, though.)

Fringeworthy uses the same game mechanics as all of the Tri Tac RPGs: percentile system, very detailed and complex, with an optional very easy system provided (which I would use, myself). Nonetheless, if you want to know breakdown of damage for limbs, broken bones, blood loss, concussion, etc., the system provides a way to figure it out. Or you can just do as I do, and roll a d10: "You grazed him. He's still moving towards you!" The system uses random rolls to generate characters (a strike against it in my book), but you don't have to use the system that comes with the game. The introduction says it's also written with translating it into your favorite system in mind - this is true. So if you have game mechanics that you like, you can just lift the background and use your own game.

The setting is excellent: interdimensional exploration. This has always been one of my favorite game settings, so I'm always interested in seeing how different people treat it. Fringeworthy treats it very well: detailed, believable, dangerous, adventurous, limited in the good sense and unlimited in the good sense, too.

The game is set in the year 2010. In 2007, an Antarctic exploration team discovered an alien artifact buried under the ice. This turned out to be a dimension portal, built by a race of aliens nearly extinct now: the Tehrmelern. The portal leads to a disk-shaped platform, with a climate-controlled atmospheric force dome, in some neutral universe. The platform has eight small portals and one large one - the eight small ones lead to other spots on earth, and the large one to another platform, from which you can reach alternate earths, other planets in this solar system, and even other star systems.

The platforms are connected by "fringepaths" which are 49 miles long. Only one out of 100,000 humans have the power to pass through a dimension portal: hence the term Fringeworthy. It is assumed that the PCs are fringeworthy, and belong to the IDET (UN Inter- Dimensional Exploration Team). Or, I suppose, they could play fringe pirates, who have the perfect escape route from any crime . . .

The game mechanics of these fringepaths are well thought out and work smoothly. Certain physical energies cannot pass through the paths, which means you can't just lob a thermonuclear device through a portal to clean out the bad guys. You have to go there. There is also an entertaining section on things that can go wrong in a portal transfer. Imagine the Security Marine loaded down with high tech weapons passing through a portal and ending up stark naked with no equipment! "Warps" are also provided for a way to and from planets without having to pass through the obvious portal, which is a large ring.

There are a number of well-done alien races that players can play later - it is recommended they start as humans, and switch characters later if they really want to play an alien. The Tri Tac system of describing alien races is a model of efficiency: each one page summary has not only a picture, but a very thorough personality, biological, political, etc., description of the average member of the race. Some human societies of alternate earths are also described, though not very many - just enough to give you ideas on expanding and creating your own. There is also an adventure to Byzantium in the late middle ages - quite interesting setting.

The danger on the fringepaths, aside from fringe pirates and potentially hostile native peoples and animals, is a race called the mellor. These were a non-sentient, genetically created servant race of the Tehrmellern, who encountered a hostile intelligence that basically took them over. Mellor are shapeshifters: they can kill a human, eat its brains, and assume its form with limited access to its memories. Very dangerous and nasty foes - and they're out there!

There is also the possibility that travelling the fringepaths will awaken latent Psi ability in the PCs - there is a chart to roll on periodically to see if you develop a psionic power, and very fine selection of powers available.

Equipment and weapons are very extensively covered in great detail. If you use the high-realism Tri Tac rules, this becomes important in figuring damage.

I recommend this game very much. The setting works, the explanations of interdimensional travel and limitations work, and the unlimited nature of an infinity of worlds to explore also works. This could be used to bring all your various GURPS or Hero characters of different genres together plausibly, for example. There is even mention of a Gatecrasher-type setting, which is the first place I'd send the PCs. :-)

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