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THE SECRET FIRE Roleplaying Game $24.99 $12.99
Average Rating:3.3 / 5
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THE SECRET FIRE Roleplaying Game
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THE SECRET FIRE Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Secret Fire Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2012 06:28:10

The Secret Fire came out to much hoopla and goings on last year.

I have always meant to review it, but never sat down to do it. Now, depending on my mood I go back and forth between this being a great homage to old-school play and even to Gygax himself to it being a fantasy heart-breaker with delusions of godhood. It will be interesting to see where I am by the end of this review.

Like I mentioned above The Secret Fire came out to much hoopla last year before Gen Con with this whole campaign blitz on how it was going to change role-playing and how it was going to be the biggest thing since D&D. I talked a bit about that around Gen Con back when it had changed it's name from Legends & Labyrinths to The Secret Fire.

Of course give yourself some credit if you get the reference correct.

It didn't quite set the world on fire. Secret or otherwise.
But I can't blame the author, George R. Strayton (also the screenwriter for the Dragonlance animated movie and some episodes of Xena), for being excited. I would, and have, done the same.
One thing I am going to give the Secret Fire right now. It has style. The art is not fantastic and the formatting is a bit odd, but I enjoy looking at this book.

Forward and Introduction
Ok this part is cool, if maybe a touch corny. Learning to play D&D on Halloween 1979. Sure that sounds cool and I don't doubt it, but if that were true for me I might not say that because so many wouldn't believe. But that is not the point here. I know this, that kid learning to play D&D on Halloween would have loved the hell out of TSF. Oh. I gave the game a freebie now I need to take one away. Look I know this game is important to the author but reading THE SECRET FIRETM all the time is really annoying.
All that aside, I like this part. Why? Cause Strayton deep down is a kid that loves to play D&D and this is his 300+ page love letter to it. I like that he wants you play normal folk that could get killed, I like that he was "stuck with the dwarf" back then. If this is his mission statement then I am all aboard with it.

Quotes from Gary Gygax are good. Quotes from Gail Gygax advertising your game, not so much. One more point given, one more taken away.
Part 1 is your typically "what is role-playing chapter but also some descriptions of what makes TSF different. I am torn on this one. While I like that this is not the kindergarten discussion on what is role-playing and what do you do, there also seems to be a lot back-patting here. TSF does this better and TSF does this... great, but tell me that in the game sections. BUT....I also often lament that we don't see enough of what makes Game X different than Game Y. If he makes good on these promises then we should be ok.

Character creation. The classes, or callings, are pretty straightforward; cleric, warrior, thief and wizard. The big four really. They have some neat features. Levels only go to 10 and you know what, I kinda like that. The races are also the common four, Dwarf, Elf, Human and Halfling. I would have liked to see some more, but there are some neat twists to the races. Tables of what the races do, like Many Dwarfs...(roll a 1d20) and Some Dwarfs... (roll a 1d20), that is kinda cool really. Easily added to any sort of D&D-like game.
Instead of hitpoints we have wound levels, similar to some damage track systems I have seen. I like how damage effects movement and combat. Again, nothing revolutionary here, but still nice.
There is a random table of personality traits as well. I am sure would like this, but I prefer to figure out my character's personality in the playing, not the the rolling.

This is the chapter on character Trademarks. They act like qualities/perks/drawbacks from other games. Interesting. Given the amount you can get I would have liked to have seen more, but this is a good list.

Your weapons and equipment chapter.

Energy Points are discussed here and are used to power "Special Effects". In a way they work a bit like Drama, Hero or Fate points. While like like these kinds of mechanics, they are not really "old-school" since they allow the player more control over the dice. While a plus in some respects I think the old-school purists will dislike it.

PARTS 6 & 7
Details the Elder Gods and prayers respectively. Prayers are of course the spells that Holy-men can use.

Details the spells in the game. Like the Prayers, there are a lot of unique sounding names for some familiar looking spells. I like that. "Read Languages" sounds dull, but "Comprehend Texts (The Great Unknown)" sounds so much more...eldritch.

Details the skills characters can have. The advice listed is that most time the character succeeding or failing should be obvious. This chapter should only aid in the cases where success is uncertain.
Skills are a roll-under mechanic compared to the necessary ability. The listed skills modify these dice rolls (3d6 to 7d6).

Details adventuring. Not a bad chapter, but mostly narrative.

This chapter details Engagements or what if typically called combat.

Scenario Design. Lots of advice and random tables to stock your dungeons.

Is monsters. The stat blocks look pretty familiar and would not be difficult at all to add to any other game.

Treasure. What I liked most here was the creating Talismans. I have done talismans as well and they are a little different here than mine, but still fun. Like the spells there are a lot of unique items here. If you need to spice up your magic items, then this is a good place to start.

Details the world. Not a lot of detail mind you, but enough to keep you busy.

Deals with level advancement. How to do it, what to do about it and the like.

Is an adventure, the Dungeons of Madness.

There are also a few Appencies, including a combat chart, links to the Gygax Memorial Fund, and a bit on why the game was made AND, interestingly enough, an alternate XP point award table to things the players can do outside of the game. I have done this with my kids to great effect.

The Appendix D, or suggested reading does come of as a bit pretentious. But...these are all in fact good books.

Bottom line
Again, this game didn't, and probably won't, set the world on fire. BUT there is a lot of cool things here that can be easily added to a D&D, S&W, ACKS or B/X Companion game.

It is easy to see what the author is trying to do here. I get it. I think the game though comes off a little like D&D Fate.

I will also add that TSF character sheet is one of the coolest ones I have seen. It, like the game, as a sense of style I really like. Another point in favor of this game, the website for the game is full of all sorts of goodies. http://www.secretfire-

I guess in the end I would give it 4 out of 5 stars and use it as a kick-ass resource. It is a good enough game by itself, but I plan on using it as an add-on.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
THE SECRET FIRE Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Secret Fire Games
by Christopher S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/01/2012 07:28:01

THE SECRET FIRE was a big disappointment for me. The writing style is awkward, self-aggrandizing, and rather difficult to get through. Honestly, it reads more like someone's notes on their home-brew RPG rather than a polished, finished product meant for an audience. There are a few interesting ideas buried in the pages of this book, but none of them are as innovative as the author continuously claims they are. This book did not need to be over 300 pages, nor do I feel it was worth the (reduced) price I paid for it.

Listen to a full review of THE SECRET FIRE on the Idle Red Hands podcast, here: http://www.idlere-

[1 of 5 Stars!]
THE SECRET FIRE Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Secret Fire Games
by Matthew B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/25/2011 12:07:51

This is not a bad game at all. I definitely appreciate its tone and the underlying philosophy. Everything one needs to play is contained in one book, which is always a good thing. I haven't had a chance to play the game yet, but from what I've gleaned from skimming through the book, the system seems to be a solid interpretation of the OGL.

Although the layout is decent, I was a bit disappointed by the interior art. I know that illustrations are expensive to come by, so I don't fault a small press too much for not having art that leaps off the page. I guess I would've been more impressed if this product had deviated a bit further from the OGL. Instead of classes, what if one picked a race and a series of trademarks? That would've been more interesting.

Taking everything into consideration, I think that The Secret Fire is a solid game.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
THE SECRET FIRE Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Secret Fire Games
by John W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/12/2011 18:20:54

The Secret Fire (TSF for short) RPG is an interesting blend of an old school clone and modern player reward system. At its core TSF is not too different than the rules found in first edition D&D or the old D&D boxed set, roll a d20 for attack and so on. There are changes from those older rules, no saving throws, a d6 powered skill system, and hit points are exchanged for a ‘level of injury’ style system that is not the same as but similar to White Wolf’s health track. In all the rules are simple and anyone who has played D&D of any edition can play TSF with only the slightest of learning curves. What really separates TSF from games like OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord, is its use of game mechanics that encourage role playing.

Players chose a trait from each alignment with one being dominate and decide how closely they will follow that choice or deviate from it. There is an excellent list of racial qualities players select from, one trait common among their race and one that separates a character from the their racial tropes.

Players start with and are constantly developing an affinity with one or more of the elder gods and color in the center wheel of their character sheet as these influences evolve. I was skeptical about this at first but it provides an interesting quick method of determining a character’s past choices and influences.

Most important is the use and exchange of Energy Points (EP). Players familiar with Fate will enjoy the role playing rewards that are similar to that system, but while Fate requires the constant use of Fate points to achieve favorable results, TSF players will find that EPs are not required for every roll. They can however allow the player to perform combat bonuses and stunts, speed the searching of a room, or alter/tweak the results of a spell, for example. EPs are earned through role playing alignment traits and generally making decisions “in character” such as a 3 intelligence warrior lighting himself on fire and leaping on to a fire susceptible foe when reason points to more logical choices.

The game is well made, interesting to read, and best of all introduces modern game mechaincs that have been largely missing from fantasy rpgs. Check out the game's dedicated website or a youtube interview with the author George Strayton. It also bears mentioning that 10% of TSF profits are dedicated to the Gary Gygax Memorial Fund.

Highly recommended!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
THE SECRET FIRE Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Secret Fire Games
by Chris E. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/19/2011 18:22:43

I was quite excited when I first started reading The Secret Fire and it includes some very interesting ideas but also some major flaws.
The deal breaker for me is the two different systems for resolving skills (an innovative system using D6's) and the combat system that uses a D20. Why the skill system could not have been carried forward for combat resolution is beyond me. It appears it was decided that this is homage to the original D&D so we must use a D20.
To be honest the game seems to me different areas of the rules to have been designed by different people, then cobbled together.
The production values and artwork are nothing to write home about but acceptable for the price.

[2 of 5 Stars!]
THE SECRET FIRE Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Secret Fire Games
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/14/2011 15:33:47

The Secret Fire builds upon the Old School D&D Engine and adds some of gaming's modern advancements while still remaining true to its roots. If you are a D20 / 3e or earlier gamer, TSF should feel familiar to you. At the same time, a lot has been changed- mostly for the better in my opinion.

Gone are ever expanding pools of Hit Points. Instead, you have wound levels that actual mean something to your character. Combat is deadly and a last resort, especially if the party hasn't planned in advance.

Class-wise, its the 4 basic core classes, but the simple and intuitive multi-classing system (as past of the Trademarks a character can choose) should allow one to create easily customize their character.

Atmosphere-wise, it outdoes LotFP Weird Fantasy in many ways and that's a fairly hard standard to attain.

Over 300 pages long and I'm still working my way through it. Very well put together from what I've read thus far (and I've been randomly bouncing around it).

[5 of 5 Stars!]
THE SECRET FIRE Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Secret Fire Games
by Christian S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/14/2011 15:11:19

I wasn't very excited about this release at first, having only read the weird and pompous claimants on the TSF-homepage. I thought what an arrogant nad overbearing man could write something like this. I don't know why I bought the book, but I did. Turned out that I like it and Mr. Strayton seems just a little bit too existed about "his" game.

As an "old-timer" I enjoyed reading the book. To be clear: the book and writing has its flaws and is sometimes a little bit confusing (especially for non-english speakers). I would have liked it to be more structured. First time reading left to some question which I were unsure about being clarified. Second time reading clarified some of them. But there are things hidden in the text, some of them I just can't seem to remember. Have to read a third time. There some errors there, sure. And there are some terms which are probably left overs from D&D. Perhaps it would have been better to just have kept the terms we all use and know.

Now to the game iteself: this is the first time an old-school game awakened in me the gold old times where your imagination ruled over the dice. This game is definately not a game for min-/maxers and people who love detailed rules for every occasion and I hope that this will hold true for future supplements. I'm definately looking forward to running a game, and do hope that the pdf will be reworked and clarified. There ARE some nice ideas here, even if they are completely or partially stolen from other games (or perhaps not). BUT to be honest: what game today is so innovative that it does not borrow from others?

[4 of 5 Stars!]
THE SECRET FIRE Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Secret Fire Games
by Sean D. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/12/2011 19:11:22

A bizarre mish-mash of mechanics from every edition of D&D, Fate, White Wolf, and a few other games; combined with strange mechanics (like coloring in parts of your character sheet to represent...something, I still don't know what), buried under bad purple prose and an incredible ego. For a game claiming to be "innovative" there's a lot of stuff here that's clearly unoriginal. Claiming to "carry on Gygax's legacy" with a straight face, this is a game that could have been interesting in the hands of an decent writer. Instead, it's just another fantasy heartbreaker with an inflated sense of self-worth.

[1 of 5 Stars!]
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