So I've been interested in RPGs lately that don't try to emulate D&D or something else, but rather attempt to emulate the classic Japanese RPG video games such as Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Fire Emblem and so on. So today, I bring you my review of one of these games known as the ZODIAC Final Fantasy RPG.
ZODIAC is written by a Mr. S. Ferguson, though the project has been passed down to C. Bearden (as both are called in the credits). ZODIAC is a somewhat simple game system that pens itself as a game that allows people to play in the high-powered worlds of the Final Fantasy video games. The pdf is free and only 71 pages, so you could easily read it in a sitting.
The main draw of the system is character creation. In ZODIAC, there are no races and no classes. Instead, there is an extremely detailed power-creation system that allows you to make any class you can dream of? Time Mage? Sure. Invoker? No problem. Dragoon? Go right ahead. It's extremely easy to adapt almost any class from any FF game you can desire.
This power system continues into equipment, which allows characters to have strange weapons and armors in western fantasy, such as brushes or fancy hats, while keeping them on the same level of your Doomaxe of Kill Everyone. With this, you can make Relm all the way to Lightning with no hassle.
Characters are one of two things: either Tech Users or Blue Magic Users. Tech users build their own powers, be they magical, physical, or somewhere in between. Blue Mages get their powers from monsters they fight, stealing the Cactuar's deadly 1000 Needles attack of the Marlboro's dangerous breath.
Stats revolve around a point buy system, and characters can reach level 99. The base system is d100, and the actual combat and adventure rules only take up about 5 pages. The main bulk of the file is the huge amount of power options.
Monsters are similarly built via powers, and there is a neat little system to include boss monsters. The GM should allow a lot of prep time to build monsters, though, as they can both utilize normal Techs and exclusive monster powers.
What's missing? Two staples of Final Fantasy, Limit Breaks and Summons, are not included in the core document, though adaptations can be found on the game's website. The pdf also has no art, but the layout remains clean and understandable. There's also no included character sheets, though they can be easily found.
The only other drawback is that the powers are kind of intimidating to build. The actual methods on building them are easy, but the options are staggering and can give the impatient GM a headache. The powers all seem relatively balanced, however.
ZODIAC would be great for those who want to emulate the Final Fantasy feel without being restricted by a class based system. It's also good if you'd like to just play pure high fantasy games, as the characters are basically gods once they reach level 75. There are a wealth of options here, and this tiny little pdf has some pretty sharp teeth.
I give ZODIAC a 9/10. It's not perfect, but the system is fantastic and I love the primal, elemental based axe-warrior I made as a test character.
ZODIAC can be downloaded for free at http://zodiac-ffrpg.wikidot.com/