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.
[5 of 5 Stars!]