In the USA, there's a fast food chain called Wendy's, and for whatever reason they have released a tabletop role playing game called Feast of Legends. When I heard about it, I was as confused as, probably, everybody else. Why was a fast food joint jumping on the tabletop gaming bandwagon? Was it a big joke? Or was it a sincere foray into gaming? After all, there's a tabletop version and card game of The Witcher and Dragon's Age, and that seems like an odd regression in technology (at least, to those who don't understand that sometimes analague is superiour to digital), so why not a fast food RPG?
Amazingly, the PDF rulebook is free to download. And I mean gratis. They don't even require you to give up an email address. If so many places online weren't confirming it, I'd assume this was someone's idea of a post-modern joke at Wendy's expense.
From the first page (not counting the cover), it's clear that this is a game with a sense of humour, but it's not clear how much of it's just humour. The art is beautiful, and seeing the fast food's freckled namesake as a warrior Queen is mostly awe-inspiring. Sure, the W motif is a little too Marvel where it ought to be Tolkien, but it mostly works. At least, it works as much as everything else: it so thoroughly mixes tongue-in-cheek with serious gamer attitude that you just can't make out the true intent.
The first 10 pages describe how to build a character. The system took me a little by surprise: it uses 4d4 to roll attributes. I expected the game to be d6-based, since presumably it would be targeted toward new gamers who are more likely to have d6 than d4 in their game closet. Then again, the website for the game provides a dice roller, so it's possible that Feast assumes players won't be rolling real die.
Character classes are called Orders, and each order comes with its own unique set of bonuses and skills. Leveling is basically systemless. The campaign included in the book tells the game master when to grant players a new level, with no indication of how it's been calculated.
Combat, like so much about the book, is a little confusing in spirit. The rules are relatively clear: you get one move action, an action, and an extra action. If you do not disengage ("breakout", which counts as your action), then you are subject to an attack of opportunity ("cheap shot"). Attacks are d20-based and must exceed your enemy's Defense score (determined by their Order). It's unarguably straight out of D&D 3.5, but manages to spend only 1 side of a page on the process. On the surface, I feel like that's a great accomplishment, but on the other hand, I wonder how it holds up in an actual game. Obviously, they're choosing to lean on the "rules light" defense when rules questions come up. None of that confuses me.
What does confuse me is that in combat, should a character drop to 0 health, they "pass out from hunger". Healing is achieved by sitting down to a meal. That's funny, but the nature of battle is very unclear, and it's made no less clear from the weapon list on page 9. Playing rules as written, you'll be taking spoons, whisks, and ladles into battle (admittedly there are also knives and great forks). Maybe it's intentional, but I can't tell whether these battles are comical food fights or whether they're meant to be fights to the death.
Your character benefits at character creation based on the result of your attribute. For instance, if you roll from 9 to 12, then that stat gets a +1 bonus. If you roll 1 to 4, however, you get a -4 to that stat.
You can also give your character buffs by actually eating, in real life, food from Wendy's. I have to admit, as marketing goes, that's pretty clever. After all, gamers have to eat, and the game setting is based on the Wendy's menu, so why not integrate the two? In terms of gaming, though, it's basically a micro-transaction, or a pay-to-play system. I don't play games that let players purchase in-game bonuses. Were I to play this one, I wouldn't use the buff and debuff rules for that reason.
In just 10 pages, the rulebook is over. The rest of the 97 pages consist of a multi-part campaign, taking players through dangerous kingdoms that eerily mirror competing fast food chains. The tone is consistent: it's a tongue-in-cheek adventure with a sense of humour that, to me, seems like it probably appeals to gamers who work in the Wendy's head office, but is lost upon me. I see the humour and I detect industry references, but they don't mean anything to me, nor do they make me laugh. It could be that the humour is actually very funny to people who eat at Wendy's restaurants.
There's not much guidance for the game master in terms of what it means to be a game master, or how to improvise decisions to the myriad conditions not covered in 10 pages of rules. I get the sense that the campaign is written under the assumption that a game master using it has already run a game before, or at least has played in an RPG and has a good idea of how it's done.
I haven't had the chance to actually play this game, and I doubt I'll actually try. To me, the rules just don't seem to align with the setting. With such a wacky game world, I'd expect the rules to have bizarre feats, silly consequences, and impossible cartoon physics. It seems to me that the perfect system to use would have been Powered by the Apocalypse or FATE, so the game designers could enforce tone. As it is, the game appears to take itself seriously in spite of a runaway marketing team dedicated to working in as many silly references to the fast food industry as possible.
As a one-shot RPG system divorced of its setting, this game is actually viable, though. Character creation is reasonable, there's equipment with bonuses, monster stats, and math to make it all interact. No author or game designer is credited, so I don't know who put it all together, but it's a genuine effort that probably could be a lot of fun. It even has prebuilt characters, so it would be quick to start a game: read 10 pages of rules, grab a character, and play.
That said, there are also a lot of other rules-light game systems out there, and I'm not convinced that this one offers much above and beyond them. I'm not going to bother rewriting the equipment list (the kitchen utensils gimmick works on paper, but I can't see using it in a game) and inventing magic rules when I can just pick up a copy of Brent Newhall's Dungeon Raiders, Ability Score, or Dungeon Delvers.
For gamers, the real appeal of Feast of Legends is probably not an undying allegiance to its fast food sponsor. Whether you decide to play the game, and whether you play it as written or with a homebrew setting, and whether you even bother downloading the rules, the significant thing here is that this is a tabletop RPG. A fast food chain presumably paid at least on game designer and at least one artist to develop a tabletop role playing game to be distributed for $0. This is recursively unlikely, and it would have been unthinkable 10 years ago, much less 30 years ago when the Satanic Panic was so real that it drove people out of business and into courthouses (as defendants).
It's important for a community to have some measure of success. I wouldn't say that the gamer community would have ever defined fast food marketing adoption as a win condition for their persecuted hobby, but sometimes a win condition just presents itself. As unexpected and puzzling as it may be, tabletop gaming is so acceptable and accessible now that it comes in a happy meal (wrong franchise, I know).
If you're already gamer, then pat yourself on the back for sticking with the hobby for whatever amount of time you've been with it, and in whatever capacity. If you're just discovering tabletop games through Wendy's Feast of Legends, then welcome to a fun and friendly hobby.
Feast of Legends cover art copyright by Wendy's.