Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Test played Reviews: JAGS Revised

I wanted to release all of my information used during the search for the game that I did the last few months, except compile all the information together into one post. I'll begin with JAGS - Just Another Gaming System - the winner of my search.

I will work my way down the list of games, each getting a separate post, collecting all of my notes.

JAGS RPG is available free in PDF form at

Looking at available material and scoring the availability of material

JAGS Revised (2006, 2015)(Re-implemented version coming soon) - A - The available playable material exceeds my expectations. They provide the core rules and an archetype compendium of powers playable material, both in their entirety on their site. As mentioned, I will consider the possibility of using the indie game instead of Hero System, using the powers in the archetypes compendium as a magic system.

Phase 1 - First Reading Evaluation

JAGS - At first glance, I thought it would be overly complex. After reading, I see that it is filled with tons of examples. A bulk of the book is examples. Dice of 4d6 - where rolling a 6 = 0. So results are 0 to 20. It's a roll-under system as well. It uses 2 types of points: character points (training) and archetype points (unusual abilities). Interesting is the two levels of stats, the more expensive primary that sets the base rate and the secondary that is based on the primary, which three of them can vary from the base rate (up or down). Modifier traits explain the variations. Costs of skills depend on the type of skill. Included in the core are martial arts, street, science, military, knowledge, occupation, social, and general skills. Combat initially looked overly complex. I realized that the 20 page example prior to the combat section broke things down to the point where someone who has never played a RPG may learn. They do have their own jargon, which takes learning as well.

I like how a character can attack more than once per turn, depending on one's pool of REA which is sort of like action point pool. Combat actions are very specific. Several type of Hand-To-Hand attacks exist, not just fist and kick. Armor absorbs damage. Defensive moves are available if one has any Reaction Speed (REA). There are two types of damage: penetrating and impact. There are four ranges of long range weapon attacks (guns & bows - thrown has their own weapon range. Many types of move actions are available. Wounds are recorded as damage points and conditions.

The Archetype books has the archetype powers that AP can purchase. They are divided into generic traits, innate powers, cybernetics, fast company (action hero), psionics, domain control (elements & forces), and has a section on how to modify archetype abilities.

Although not in book form, there is a fantasy book which has items, races & class info (JAGS doesn't use races and classes but there is some info in the fantasy book for fantasy races and archetypes). A monster book also exists which has many fantasy creatures. The spell book has 18 colleges of magic.

This is an extremely interesting alternative to the other capital letter games, and it may be able to use some of their material with a little conversion.

Initial investment is the core book and the archetype book.

Phase II - My Criteria Evaluation

First the rough spots.

I could find no game play and very few reviews. But the entire game is available online, so I don't need secondary sources. I did check the few that I did find for opinions and insight. However, my grades are based primarily on my own research and evaluation of the JAGS Revised, JAGS Omnibus (Revised Archetypes), JAGS 2 (Light), JAGS Fantasy, JAGS Magicians, JAGS Magic, and JAGS Monsters directly.

Upon opening the core book the first time I was overwhelmed with text boxes, many types of fonts, examples everywhere, and comments on rules. In the drama section, several table formating errors break up the tables break into several pages - page 220, 234, 238, & 240. It looks messy, intimidating, and confusing with boxes everywhere - hence the no points for aesthetics and understandable. JAGS 2 (JAGS' 60 page light rule version) which I found much later, would get Bs for those two scores, but this evaluation is for the Revised core.

System wise, consistency also received no points since many of the tables don't seem to follow the same style, much like GURPS, though a bit worse. But like GURPS, I assume this is to bring realism to the game, which necessitates a system for each type of function. There is also a different system for combat, challenges (drama), and social influence (charisma effects) much like GURPS.

I could not find a good creature creation section beyond a quarter page of 'creating a Boss' notes. In JAGS Monsters, I found all of the standard monsters and a few more interesting creatures organized into humanoid, beasts, dragons, legends, fey, elementals, undead, cursed, constructs, killers, funhouse, and tech - a great variety of monsters.

Spell regulation is by spell points (sp) in the magic book and REA based in the archetype book - so I gave it a mediocre score. A ton of spells are available in JAGS Magic and can be made from JAGS archetype powers in the omnibus book. The magic book has 18 schools of magic with 20 to 40 spells per schools - categories. The archetype powers have thousands available, all categorized probably a hundred categories and can be modified into limitless powers.

The data recorded is meaningful and is used in more than one way. I especially like that 3 primary attributes - physiquereflexes, and intellect -form the basis for everything else in the entire game. Those three primary statistics are extremely important and meaningful. The character details, traits, skills, and archetypes almost directly tie to the 9 secondary statistics (3 per primary stat), which are directly tied to the 3 primary statistics. I don't like the concept of 'buying' like I mentioned about GURPS, but this game the details are organized and relates to the main stats more directly rather than replacing or minimizing. They emphasize the main stats and are grouped logically rather than alphabetically.

For combat, it exceeds my expectation. It is an initiative based system where a persons reaction speed (REA) helps determine order. But REA also is a pool of action points per round. A character can chose to do multiple actions directly based on the REA stat size - 3REA for short actions (reactions like defense), 5REA for medium actions (attack & spells), and 8REA for long (run away). In addition, skills and powers can increase or decrease the size of REA - like having a level 3 expert skill lets you take a 4 REA attack using that skill once per round. These aren't the only three actions. There are probably 20 to 50 actions (I didn't count). Some powers and skills increase the pool, allowing more actions per round. After your initiative 2REA lets you wait and act after another character or interrupt another character's actions if you have available REA. You can strike before and after another character in the same round - or 2+ attacks in rapid succession before another character can act. Or two different characters. It all depends on that important reaction speed - reflex-based stat (dexterity in other games).

As for playable species and classes, JAGS fantasy has templates for 12 races (missing halfling & gnome, though I found it on the old website archive). Eight class archetypes are presented - standard fantasy classes. Though these both are just collections of archetype powers and skills, and any class or race can be made.

JAGS - Just Another Gaming System
10 Major Criteria & 10 Sub-criteria JAGSGrdPts
1. Depth -A4
a. Meaningful -A4
b. Utilized Functions -B3
2. Flexible/Adaptable -A4
3. Consistency -E0
4. Understandable -E0
5. Character -A4
a. Behavior tied to character -B3
b. Unique Character -A4
6. Combat System -A4
a. Turn/move/action -A4
b. Attack speed/ hastened/quicker -A4
7. Spell System -B3
a. Spell Regulatory -C2
b. Spell Breadth -A4
8. Creatures -C2
a. Standard Fantasy -B3
b. Creation -D1
9. Content -A4
10. Aesthetic -E0

Grade B+
Reviews read or watched 2
Set of reviews from product pages 1
Gameplays read or watched 0

Key to Criteria
10 Major Criteria & 10 Sub-criteria1. Depth - how meaningful and utilized are the data & functions are used?
a. Meaningful - does data recorded makes a difference in the game?
b. Utilized Functions - are there multiple uses for data recorded?
2. Flexible/Adaptable - how usable is it with other custom settings?
3. Consistency - how many different systems are there within the game?
4. Understandable - are concepts defined before they are presented, Or is it just a rule dump without explanation?
5. Character - how is behavior explained and can characters be unique?
a. Behavior tied to character - how well does the data determine how a character behaves?
b. Unique Character - can the characters stand out from other characters of similar nature?
6. Combat System - are the mechanics interesting and innovative?
a. Turn/move/action - does the game use the same boring turn based mechanics?
b. Attack speed/ hastened/quicker - will having higher quickness make the attacks go faster and multiple times?
7. Spell System - does the game use the boring overused spell set?
a. Spell Regulatory - how does the game use data to limit magical powers?
b. Spell Breadth - is there a wide variety, yet coherently grouped collection of spells?
8. Creatures - how many provided creatures are available?
a. Standard Fantasy - does the game provide the expected common monsters and creatures?
b. Creation - are there creature creation rules so that I can add my own creatures?
9. Content - is the overall content presented in the core detail depth and have variety. Do elements differ in sufficient degree among other data?
10. Aesthetic - does the game have a subjective coolness factor?

I plan on using the A, B, C, D, and E again, this time tying them to points so I can convert it into a total value for the game.
For each criteria
 = 4 - beyond my expectation
B = 3 - great
C = 2 - sufficient
D = 1 - below my expectation
E = 0 - horrible, unusable

Total evaluation = sum of criteria/20

Phase III Testing the game.

Character creation took me 1hr 30min. 10 min attributes, 20 min traits & skills, 30 min archetype powers, 30 min gear, money, and derived stats. The character is very much like my intended character concept with musical magic, parental flaws, clumsiness, and a strong sense of duty of living in his father's shadow. Yet he is quick reacting, musically gifted, and knowledgeable with tribal and regional mythology learned from his story teller mentor. Very nice!

I like that the three basic attributes of physique, reflexes, and Intellect thread entirely through the game. Choices to change the secondary stats result in traits directly related to the initial three such as weakened, sickly, quick, or clumsy. 

While there are many background, personality, appearance, and relationship traits I do wish that the social bonds were a little more realized and ingrained rather than optional traits. If so I would have given the game a 4. 


Primary stats
Physique 11
Reflexes 12
Intellect 12

Secondary stats

Strength 11
Reaction Speed 13 Quick
Constitution 11
Willpower 12
Reasoning 11 Dull/Simple
Build 11
Coordination 12
Agility 10 Clumsy
Memory 12

I then added traits.
Beautiful Voice 4 1 music, persuade, showmanship
Musical Genius 4 2 musician roll
Strong Sense of Duty -4 1 follow, negative if go against father's reputation
Coward -4 1 to 3 combat

I had decided to make my own archetype, rather than base it on the old JAGS Fantasy. Also I picked the powers from the archetype domain powers to use as spells. I ended up with a nice selection.

For skillsMusical Instrument Expert lvl 3 6+2 18
Showmanship Expert lvl 3 6+2 17
History (Mythology) Professional lvl2 3+0 14
Melee Master 4lv 16 10

For archetype Powers
Dreamer Dreams of the past 2AP 4DP Wil
Sound Control 4AP
Healing Aura Song 8DP healing pool 2AP 4Rnds
Distract 1AP

For Gear I focused just on getting a weapon and armor similar to the other games.

Broadsword Melee Dam+6 PEN Str11 Blk+0 AT1.1 AT2.1 AT3.2 AT4.3 Medium
Heavy Leather DR3 Pen Def5 Str10 Stealth-1

Derived Stats
1 Bonus damage based on Str Beautiful Voice

1 Charm 1
1 Persuade 1

12 Damage Points
13 Grapple Off
11 Grapple Def

4 Walking y/s
5 Running y/s
7 Sprinting y/s

13 Initiative Roll
11 Perception Roll

The skill tests went smooth much like the other games. It's just the skill or attribute +6 to -10, roll under with 4d6, #6 reads 0, giving a number from 0 to 20. The probability seemed to focus around the 10 as the most probable number.

I did have to go to the front of the book, pages 12 to 20ish something to find the skill rules, whereas the skills are listed just before page 100. That reflects my E scores for consistency, understandable, and aesthetics from phase 2. Sometimes I had to hop around the book to find what I needed.

I found the combat fun much like Hackmaster but it had a different dimension. Instead of weapons effecting speed, the reaction speed affects speed, as well as the choice of short, med, or long actions - using up the Reaction speed stat as a pool for actions. Very enjoyable. After missing it the first attempt in a round, I enjoyed stabbing the Quydn semi-reptilian humanoid a second time and almost killing it because of my good reaction speed plus a reduced attack due to melee level 4 mastery.

The books explanations are very much longer than the actual time to do the combat, even mentioning small details. I would have given the combat a 4 if there was some sort of hit location indicator like d100 or resolution chart like RMU. But the core combat I really enjoy.

Magical powers are colorful, fun, and has a huge variety of possibilities both in the archetype and the old JAGS Magic book. In my test, I didn't use the casting cost from JAGS Fantasy, rather I just used the REA time from the archetypes. So it played more like Radiance abilities.

I think that JAGS played like I thought it would. The core book is a mess, but once I found stuff it was enjoyable.

1) total grade from phase 2 2.85
2) character creation test 3
3) skill system test 3
4) combat system test 3
5) magic system test 3
Total score 14.85
Average 4 pt scale 2.97

It does the most out of all the games in all facets of my criteria. Excelling in character, combat, magic, monsters, and depth of game. Even though other games did better at certain aspects of my criteria, this game has the least amount of stuff that I need to change - mostly just by adding stuff on top of the foundation. Heck I can even use it for different genres. I might have some horror up my sleeve somewhere!

Book Evaluation For images to the final hardback color JAGS Archetype Omnibus, see here.

No comments:

Post a Comment