Avalanche Press was a relatively small publisher during the d20 boom, notorious for its birds-with-their-bobs-out cover art, at times shoddy craftsmanship and its focus on historical/mythical campaign settings for the d20 system. Today we check out All For One & One For All by John R. Phython & F.S Kessler, a 64-page (less if you count the OGL, 1 page Dumas biography, credit page, introduction page and Index) campaign supplement for running historical games during the 1600s in the style of Alexandre Dumas’s Three Musketeers. It is not very well executed and has some staggering implementation problems but also some intriguing ideas and rules for emulating the swashbuckling style that make it an interesting, if flawed product.
The 13-page introduction to 17th century France is one of the stronger parts of the book overal, doing a good job at conveying the overall feel of the place without getting bogged down in minituae or details. Anyone actually intending to play this thing will have to do copious wiki-surfing but provided you can find a semi-accurate map of 17th century France there is enough information to run the setting.
The game takes place either during the reign of Louis XIII and his shadow-war with the villainous Cardinal Richelieu or during the war-torn years of Louis XIV’s (The Sun King) grandiose and cruel reign.
The amount of information that is conveyed in 13 pages is impressive. A terse yet comprehensive overview of the reign of both kings is provided, Cardinal Richelieu’s role is fully covered, France’s role in the Thirty Years War and its reason for siding against the Catholic Holy Roman Empire despite it’s Catholic population given significant attention and so on and so forth. Attention is paid to the lifestyles of both the aristocracy and the commoners, the general atmosphere of Paris is masterfully conveyed (opressed peasants being taxed to starvation by a decadent aristocracy), the battle between the old order of the Church and Aristocracy versus the rising powers of the Bourgeoisie, the ruthless suppression of the Huguenots and Protestants, the rise of the Humanist Movement, taxes, the role of Etiquette, the state of medicine, Crime and Punishment and of course the role of Disease.
Words cannot express how impressive this primer on 17th century France truly is, all without wasting your fucking time. While anyone intending to run All For One will no doubt have to do further reading (i.e Alexandre Dumas’s works at the very least), this primer is an excellent starting point that is beyond reproach. Stonking Great. Exactly what a historical supplement needs. Tip of the hat to F.S Kessler & J.R Pythyon Jr.
The rot starts to sink in in chapter 2: Classes; Where it is discovered insufficient consideration was given to playtesting the game and making sure all of the mechanics are actually useful in play. More on that later.
All for One does not allow spellcasters of any kind, in fact, the only class that is permitted unaltered from the core-rulebook is the Rogue (the commoner and expert classes are presumably still available for npcs). The book correctly points out that if you are going to play a female character in this game you are essentially restricted to either a Noble, Rogue or a Priest (presumably a Catholic nun). In addition, Literacy is a feat, not a given, and has to be taken separately for each language.
New classes are made available in the form of the Noble, a foppish class whose class features consist mainly of increased Social standing, the ability to request monetary favours for various escapades provided they serve the King and all of France, the ability to romance various Paramours with their own resources and class levels, and finally the ability to call in favours. An interesting idea for a class, somewhat hampered by the fact that a lot of these abilities will rely heavily on GM discretion and the structure of the campaign to make them useful and to prevent abuse. The codification of Social Standing as a class ability is very interesting and probably appropriate, essentially barring filthy lowborn normal soldiers (anyone not going for either the musketeer or the Cardinals Guard prestige classes in this game is an idiot in this game) and rogues from gaining influence at court, exactly as God intended! Dump all of your stat-points in Charisma. Cannot be taken after level 1, which makes perfect sense.
A second new class is the Priest, always a Catholic, who starts out with no weapon proficiencies (apparently no one has armour proficiencies in the 17th century, fucking nonsense but characters away from the battlefield are unlikely to use armour anyway so fuck it), two Literacy feats and with a few low level clerical spell-like abilities (Bless, Cause Fear, Doom, Divine Favour and so on) and social standing talents. This is the only de-facto spellcasting class in the game, and it is made abundantly clear these abilities are miraculous and the direct will of God, not actually magic. An interesting ability is gained at the seventh level, the Bishop ability, which functions as an extra skill. Starting from the 7th level, Priests may make a DC 35 Diplomacy test 1/level in order to qualify for the Bishop prestige class (provided the previous Bishop is not still in office), and this extra skill may be used as a bonus on this check and this check alone. While you may Lay on Hands, the game makes it clear this is only done to save lives as a way of artificially preventing misuse. Breaking your vow to God means you lose all class features. An interesting take on the support class, with the Bless Water ability being useless in a game that has no undead or outsiders. Perfectly good on its own, and the only way to qualify for the Physician prestige class before reaching 10th level.
The soldier class is a modified fighter, with ranks being gained at certain levels as well as a monthly salary (extremely useful in a time of widespread poverty and famine). The lack of armour rules in the game ensures that combat at high level will be appropriately deadly, but this could be modified for historical versimilitude (i.e restrict armour to padded, breastplate and full plate, divide all light/medium AC bonuses by 4 against projectile weaponry or something, wearing armour in the city or at court means the loss of status, Panache points (covered later), Diplomacy/Etiquette penalties and so on). If the game is to emulate the style of Dumas, this class will be used mostly as a springing board for the musketeer or Cardinals Guard prestige classes, unless the PCs are idiots.
With the exception of the Rogue, all classes are beholden to higher authorities, so it is almost certain you will either work for the Crown or plot against it (presumably under the authority of some higher power). All action revolves around the Court.
Prestige classes are pretty cool; the Cardinal Class gains massive influence talents, a coterie of servants and Cardinals’ guard and at 10th level, the ability to excommunicate a bitch (which inflicts 2 permanent Wisdom and Charisma damage on a target and makes them the enemy of the church and all of christendom), but does note this ability should be used sparingly. I cannot take the Divine Power ability 1/day seriously but this can be overlooked. The ability to Remove a Curse is useless in a historical game where no class has the ability to lay a curse (1). I guess you could use it to counter the effects of Bane or Doom. The Cardinal’s Guard is a fighter class that effective immunity from the law, a wage and some bonus feat and will probably be used to bolster the ranks of the player’s enemies. The Intendant is a spy and assassin sworn to the Catholic Church and, again, virtually immune to normal prosecution.
The Musketeer class is likely to see considerable use in a campaign based on the works of Dumas and is therefore relatively easy to qualify for. Any player character save the priest with a Dex of 13 wanting to qualify for it should be able to hit it at the 6th level, if not at the 5th. Musketeers that forsake their loyalty to either the Crown or their Fellows naturally lose all class features. Aside from a plethora of bonus feats as he increases in rank, as well as room and board and a valet, one of the main reasons for aspiring to the musketeer class is the ability to gain Social Status even if one is not a member of the aristocracy or the clergy (and given the influence of the Court in this setting, about as essential as monetary wealth and food).
The last class that is virtually essential to the PCs provided they do not wish to enter service in the Corps Musketeers with amputated limbs or with bodies ravaged by smallpox is the Physician, a class that is very hard to qualify for (Heal is a class skill only for priests, yet Alchemy is not, and both are prerequisites for the physician) and provides a host of useful abilities that the game stresses are the result of poultices, potions and splints, not magic. The physician is one of the few ways in which one can be cured of a disease without suffering permanent stat loss even upon survival, and at the 10th level that will almost never be attained, even provides an unlikely way of saving limbs from having to be amputated (they can still get gangrenous however). It would have been helpful if the time the physician needs to spend on care had been more firmly recorded, but for now, given All for One’s rules on disease and Grievous Injuries from firearms, you had better get one of these pronto. In a catastrophically sloppy omission, the cost of hiring an NPC physician is noted nowhere in the book, so the GM will have to do the heavy lifting once more. Note also that in 1600s France NOTHING CAN CURE GANGRENE. IF YOU HAVE GANGRENE IT IS IMPERATIVE YOU CHOP YOUR LIMBS OFF AS SOON AS POSSIBLE BEFORE IT REACHES YOUR HEART AND EATS ALL YOUR CONSITUTION POINTS.
Since this is a d20 supplement there is a chapter devoted to Feats (with an odd sidebar on there being no alignment in 17th century france). This should come as a suprise to absolutely no one. Feats in d20 supplements are the WoD equivalent of prententious flavour text. Beyond the existence of the Amputate feat, not much is going on here. The obligatory pistol and gunnery proficiencies and means of getting bonuses for said weaponry. Skills are a mess, but an interesting mess. All magical skills have been removed (despite the fact that concentration is still listed as a class skill for priests fucking edit your work) and the brewing skill has been added (uninteresting, file under Craft (Brewing)) as well as the charisma-based Etiquette Skill (essential for dealing with the nobility and well thought out, failure means having to leave or losing Panache points), the Bribe skill (use should be obvious, nicely thought out with various modifiers), the Gossip skill (succesful use of which inflicts charisma damage on the target, critical failure is a faux pax, the skill needs a duration but GM’s discretion is probably okay here) and the Seduction skill (useful and well described but needed more situational modifiers and codification though some will like the open-endedness of the seduction skill). In AfO&OfA, every class is a seductive powerhouse, making seduction class skill for everyone, even priests (useful for befriending the local street urchins?).
Equipment section is ho-hum, a third of a page on different types of coinage that makes the equipment section harder to read, a list of banned equipment from the standard game and a very small section on existing equipment with new prices. Stats for new weapons like muskets and cannonballs are given elsewhere in the book, making the whole hardy to absorb as a whole. In addition, no stats are provided at all for Cutlasses, Sabers and Stillettos, though we can probably cobble the stats together from some other source. Fucking sloppy. In addition, the game is missing stats for armour (a decision I understand, but since a part of the game is set during the Thirty Years War some armour is almost certain to come into play if the players are going to go campaigning) and services like a physician, hiring a stage-coach or sending a letter.
The fourth part contains matters of style and substance. A most notable addition are the Panaché rules, first introduced in a previous supplement. To emulate that swashbuckling style, all characters may take a penalty on certain rolls equal to their Panache level (causing their attacks to inflict more damage), but mainly earning them the adoration of the crowd for their bravery and heroism. This adoration takes the form of Panache Points, which may be spent on charisma checks (incredibly useful in AfO&OfA), morale bonuses for buddies, reflex saving throws SO YOUR FUCKING LIMBS DONT GET BLOWN OFF or to temporarily gain the use of a single feat (like, say, Whirlwind Attack). The amount of points you obtain from various stunts varies with the size of the adoring crowd and the CR of your opponent (if your opponent outmatches you too hard you are considered merely foolish and you actually lose Panache points for attempting this) and your Panache point reservoir decreases over time, prompting your players to take risks and act NOW! You lose 3 points at the beginning of each session and 1 point per day. Nice. Fucking up at Etiquette will lose you Panache points, thus tying the new rules together, however tangentially. This is one of the more innovative and cool rules that I have seen so far, even though I still do not understand why you can get Panache points from taking on difficult challenges with no spectators. Overall, an interesting way of motivating players to perform dash-daring feats of bravery and heroism.
An awesome if thematically dissonant addition to the game are the rules for Grievous bodily harm. Projectile weaponry in AfO is deadly as fuck. I am not kidding. Anyone taking more then a quarter of his hit points in damage or a critical hit from a firearm gets to make a DC 20 Reflex save (making high reflex saves pretty fucking vital). THIS INCLUDES CANNONS BITCHES. If you fuck up, one of your limbs is mutilated (Will save or essentially pass out, one of the few instances of Will saves seeing use in the game, other then for the purpose of resisting Priest abilities) and needs to be amputated or you die of gangrene within 24 hours. Gangrene has no cure. NOTHING CAN STOP GANGRENE. If you don’t fuck up, you still need to make a fortitude save DC 15 or YOU GET GANGRENE. TIME TO VISIT THE CHOPPING MAN MONSIEUR OFNOTHING. In short, if you start AfO without either the Lightning Reflexes feat (which you might get for free if you take a certain path) or the Great Fortitude feat, you are an idiot. Even if you survive the amputation, your Dex goes down by 1-2 points for each limb you got mauled (depending on whether it is a hand or a whole arm). No rules are given for the effect of a missing limb beyond that but I think the GM can sort this one out. Take note that if your buddy does not have the Amputate feat he gets to make a DC 25 heal check with a -4 penalty (-8 if you don’t have ranks in heal). Failure means YOU BLEED TO FUCKING DEATH.
Pistols & muskets are not godlike. They both have a misfiring chance (20%), you need to sink a feat into using them properly or you get an accuracy penalty to hit (in addition to the proficiency feat you need for them), they do not work in wet weather and reloading them is a time consuming process. Nevertheless, get yourself one or more masterwork pistols since it is the best portable weapon in the game.
Cannon rules are nice but too vague. Aiming cannons is hard and reloading them takes time. All Cannons can be fired with just one Crewman, which makes no sense and they should have included rules for multiple gunners to reduce reloading time. A misfire or loading a cannon with the wrong type of cannonball means a breech burst and, probably, everyone within 10 feet having to visit the doctor for some sawing and hacking, if not being killed instantly. The rules on aiming a cannon are kind of vague, but I assume you aim against AC 10 since it deals its damage in a 10 foot radius (half if the terrain is wet or muddy since the cannonball cannot bounce and you get less debris). There are some very barebones rules for shelling a structure with the drawback that every structure is treated the same but since the use of cannon is likely to be something of a rarity in a musketeers game I can live with this. Inelegant but workable as a stopgap measure is what I am saying. Given the way the rules work, anyone inside a building that is being shelled is likely to be dead long before it collapses (probably accurate).
The third member of the coterie of horsemen that will murder your musketeer before he reaches his 1st level in the prestige class is the Disease rules, which are appropriately realistic and therefore, extremely brutal and unforgiving. Most of the diseases require a physician to treat you and inflict permanent stat loss even if you survive, some are just incurable like Tuberculosis. The only ones that are somewhat survivable are Influenza and Pneumonia. As I have stated before, get Great Fortitude and Lightning Reflexes at level 1.
The fifth part covers adventuring in AfO, and gives us a nice overview of the Louvre. The only fucking problem is that there is no map. Also no map and description of the Bastille. Appreciated but too sparse. The game also has the gall to suggest that you might want to run a campaign where the PCs are spies in Spain, essentially rendering most of the setting material set in FRANCE fucking useless. Eat shit. The other suggestions are fine, namely, to set it in the Rhineland during the war or in Court, or in Paris, to sniff out some Protestant Treachery.
I was ready to throw up my hands, give this thing a 4 for nice ideas with sloppy editing and incomplete execution, but then I read the quest hooks. They are amazing. Short, detailed, exciting, yet never generic. Cardinal Richelieu’s cousin is secretely passing on information about France’s next plan of attack to the Spanish, but Richelieu is convinced of his innocence and will attempt to block any attempt to stop him thus the PCs must stop his henchman and his band of thugs from carrying secret military documents to the french border. The mysterious Red Fox is raiding French lines and turns out to be a deserted musketeer in cahoots with the Germans who cannot bear the thought of warfare against fellow Catholics. One of Louis XIV’s paramours has been kidnapped by starving peasants who desperately need money to feed their families. Protestants led by the fanatical Calvinist Fermin have stolen gunpowder and are using an ingenious plot to smuggle them back into Paris as wine barrals to blow up the Notre Dame during the Cardinal’s speech at mass. Fermin is willing to die for the cause. During one of Louis XIV’s many hunts a rival aristocrat decides to finish off the PC’s once and for all.
Sheer poetic inspiring genius. No more then a third of a page each, richly detailed and embedded within the setting, and usually consisting of a challenge, adventure as well as some sort of moral decision. Perfect. Makes me want to run this.
We end with a fairly useless section detailing the statistics of Cardinal Richelieu as well as four of the three musketeers. They should have abbreviated them to the later day WoTC statblocks, which would have left them room to detail Louis XIV as well as more peripheral characters like Milady or the captain of the Cardinal’s Guard. Now it feels like an afterthought. Too little too late. We end with a useless 1 page biography of Alexandre Dumas, as though they had room to spare.
All for One and One for All accomplishes a lot in the 59 of its 64 pages that are actually useful. Nevertheless, it is incomplete and gives you only an outline to work with. Anyone wanting to actually make this playable would have to do research on 17th century france, get a map of Paris, read Dumas’s Novels for inspiration and probably do some serious houseruling. If you are willing to put in that effort, at the very least this game gives you enough to get going, both stat- and plothook wise. And no mass combat rules in a game that gives out Leadership feats like they are going out of style.
Pros: Great emulation of the spirit of Dumas’s novels. Rich in useful and atmospheric historical detail. Panache rules encourage risk taking and dash daring heroism. Focus on swordplay an etiquette instead of yet another wizard-wankery game. Appropriately brutal firearm and disease rules. Proves you do not truly need magic to have yourself an interesting setting.
Cons: A lot of the rules feel unpolished and will require some GM arbitration or fine tuning. Feels incomplete. A lot of wasted pages for what is already a very short supplement. Extremely deadly as written, even if you do not use disease as an element.
Bottom Line: Anyone interested in historical roleplaying who remembers and does not hate pre-bloat d20 could do a lot worse then this sleek little model. Just be ready to put in some effort. Suprisingly non-shitty, or maybe I am just biased towards historical settings. Go for the rapiers, stay for the Gangrene.
Final Verdict: 6 out of 10 musketeers bleeding out their lives in the muck of the Rhineland, their pistols slowly sinking away in the trampled mire, horses screaming as 18-pounders draw lines of arterial red through companies of young men. Mutilated, they clamber up, lungs burning with tuberculosis, arms weak with starvation, clutching battered sabers and pressing velvet gloves on bleeding stumps, raising a salute to the setting sun and screaming un pour tous, tous pour un! as the ground thunders with the oncoming charge of Imperialist Cavalry.
(1) The sailor class from the Black Flag supplement (which also pioneered the priest class) has a curse ability at high levels.
Edit/Postscriptum: Some people may suspect that I exagerate the deadliness of Firearms in AfO&OfA. Let us take a closer look. We shall hypothesize a 1st level soldier with 16 dex and 14 con and str, not uncommon if you use a point-buy system. He starts out with a beefy 12 hit points, enabling him to survive a single hit from a musket (1-10) or pistol (1-8) with absolute certainty. He neglects to take the Lightning Reflexes Feat or the Great Fortitude feat because he doesn’t know.
Sadly, anyone taking more then a quarter of their hit points (which in this case means 4 damage or more), suffers from Grievous injury, which means that anyone taking a hit from a pistol has a flat 62.5% chance of suffering the possibility of Grievous injury (FROM A SINGLE PISTOL HIT) or 70% chance with a Musket. In addition, any critical hit from a pistol inflicts a possible GRIEVOUS INJURY as well as inflicting double damage, and pistols crit on 18-20 (which may be improved as per improved critical) and muskets on a 17-20. Even if your character has loads and loads of hit points, there is still a flat 15-20% chance you will sustain a Grievous injury from a blackpowder weapon. But what of high AC? No such thing bitch, no armour rules! The only thing that can conceivably save your ass is the Expertise feat, allowing you to reduce your attack bonus to improve your AC. It is capped at 5. Even at first levels against the most well-protected foe, a 17 is enough to hit you.
So what if Jaques, 1st level Soldier, does indeed take such a hit? His 16 dex gives him a +3 to his reflex save, which is otherwise +0. He must immediately make a Reflex Save DC 20, which he passes on a 17 or better, giving him a 20% chance. Even if he passes, he must make a subsequent Fortitude save DC 15 to avoid gangrene 24 hours later. Fortunately, Jaques is very tough and Fortitude is a good saving throw, so his total bonus is +4, which means he has a 55% chance of making his save. His total chance of emerging unscathed from a single hit with a possibility of grievous injury is 11 %. GET LIGHTNING REFLEXES AND GREAT FORTITUDE GET THEM.
Jaques chances of surviving amputation are pretty slim. Given the high level and exorbitant requirements, physicians are going to be rare and expensive, but the Amputate feat is available from level 5 onward to anyone who can scrounge together 8 ranks in heal. Since a 1st level soldier can’t exactly expect the tender ministrations of the King’s physician, we shall settle for the minimum of expertise required to get the job done. Battlefield Surgeon Pierre has 8 ranks in heal and a wisdom of 14. He must operate on Jaques. The DC for the surgery is 25, so Pierre has a 30% chance of saving Jaque’s life, if he fails Jaque bleeds out. The surgery inflicts 1d8 extra points of damage but this will rarely matter. What is far more significant is that Jaques now loses a limb and at least 1 point of Dex, meaning his chance to avoid further Grievous injury has been reduced. All in all, projectile weapons in AfO are serious buisness.