The Hall of RPG Oddities — Where is Dating Included? Part the Last (very, very NSFW)

Putting ponies on the same page as any mention of FATAL is really a horrible thing to do, but this pretty much encapsulates my initial reaction to the game.

Putting ponies on the same page as any mention of FATAL is really a horrible thing to do, but this pretty much encapsulates my initial reaction to the game.

Years ago I remember reading an article about a pair of avant garde artists whose painting had been slashed by a vandal. Far from being horrified, the artists were elated. The reaction of audiences, they said, was an integral part of the artistic experience. If the vandal was to come forward and identify himself, the artists went on, they would give him full credit as one of the work’s co-creators.

Mind you, not every artist would be as understanding as those guys, but the story illustrates an important fact — that an audience’s response helps define a work of art. Without viewers, the Mona Lisa is just another painting. Without listeners, the Beatles are just another band. And, most importantly to the matter at hand, without readers, FATAL would have been just another shitty self-published rpg by just another self-important douche.

The very act of self-promotion requires a fair amount of hubris. At the very least it requires a thick skin, self-confidence and the ability to withstand rejection. While Byron Hall and his cartoon pals may have lacked a couple of these, they more than made up for it in the hubris category — almost psychotically so.

As we’ve seen in the previous entries, FATAL (aka Fantasy Adventures to Adult Lechery or From Another Time, Another Land depending on what mood you caught Byron in) was a mess whatever you called it. Byron’s attempts to placate his critics resulted primarily in lowering his level of offense from 11 to about 10.75, and the vileness of his underlying attitudes remained on painful display in both “editions” of his game.

Let’s Make a Character!

Byron Hall and Burnout -- the early years.

Byron Hall and Burnout — the early years.

Let none say that Byron Hall wasn’t generous with his game. In addition to .pdfs of both editions, he also made available a variety of other works in progress, including his monster and setting books. Other than the fact that they are all written in Byron Hall’s usual inimical style, there’s nothing really remarkable about them, so I’m not really going to bother with any descriptions.

Other items (such as the rockin’ FATAL Theme Song for which see the previous entry) were released as well, but the most utilitarian of these items was the DOS-based FATAL character generator!

A quick perusal of FATAL’s proposed cover (the one with the Anakim and the kobolds fighting over the naked porn starlet) reveals (in addition to the “Parental Advisory” warning) the declaration that there is a “FREE CD ROM Inside!” as if FATAL is some kind of nightmarish breakfast cereal with a horrific prize in every box. Presumably the character generator would have been one of the many useful FATAL-based utilities included on the free CD ROM, but as it doesn’t run for shit on Windows, this would probably have been just another sad example of how pathetic FATAL truly was.

In any event, I’ve managed to get ahold of the character generator, but I have to run it with DOS Box to get anything like coherent output. Given the extreme detail, tediousness and the utterly random nature of FATAL’s character generation rules, this utility is something of a godsend. Unfortunately, like the game it supports, it’s a piece of crap.

So let’s generate a character, shall we? My first attempt yields a female dark elf with the following statistics:

Character Name: Aedeldreda

Gender: F

Race: Dark Elf

Age Category: Young Adult

Height: 8 inches

Weight: 2 pounds

Siblings: 0

Social Class: Serf

Age: 0

Max Age: 750

Eyes: Black

Skin Color: Black

Marital Status: Unhappily Married

Birth Rank: Only child

Birth Status: Legitimate

Hair Color: Light Brown

Hair Type: Thin, wavy

Hair Length: 1 inch

Vision: Far-sightedness, 15 feet

Facial Feature: Big nose

Perceived as weak and curious

Birthplace: Capital City

Birthday: 6/4/5100

Most Attactive Feature: Face

Most Repulsive Feature: Buttocks

Sub-ability Score Mods

PHYSIQUE: 62 (-21)
Physical Fitness: 89 (-6) Sprint: 19
Strength: 28 (-50) Damage: (-50%) C&J: 14 Bench: 29 DL: 43
Bodily Attractiveness: 23 (-56)
Health: 111 (6) Int/Vom: -6% All: 0 Ill. Imm.: 60%

CHARISMA: 102 (0)
Facial: 141 (20) Description: Enticing
Vocal: 73 (-13) Description: Normal
Kinetic: 102 (0) Description: Ordinary
Rhetoric: 93 (-3) Avg. Speech: 145 or 195 (50%)

DEXTERITY: 101 (0)
Hand-Eye Coordination: 112 (6) Finger Prec: 1/32 inch
Agility: 120 (9) CA Bonus: 3 Brawl: 2 Stand: 3
Reaction Speed: 78 (-13) Deep Sleep Recov: 2
Enunciation: 96 (-3) Max Speech: 190 Casting: +10%

INTELLIGENCE: 104 3
Language: 87 (-6) #: 2 Vocab: Experimental
Math: 109 (6) Highest Math: Geometry
Analytical: 106 (3)
Spatial: 117 (9) Unfamiliar Object Assembly: 500

WISDOM: 119 (9)
Drive: 95 (-3) Hours Resting: 17
Intuition: 121 (12)
Common Sense: 136 (17) Likely to: Probably has the trust of close friends
Reflection: 124 (12) Earliest memory at: Age 2

Life Points: (11) Unconscious: 2 CA: 13

Piety Points: (36) Magic Points:

Breadth: 4 BMI: 22.0313 BMI Status: Overweight

Disposition
Ethicality: 91 Morality: 1
You are: Ethical w/Neutral tendencies Immoral

Temperament
Sanguine: 8 Choleric: 98 Melancholic: 100 Phlegmatic: 55
Primary Temperament: Melancholic Secondary Temperament: Choleric

Starting Funds
Silver Pieces: 109

Handedness: Right-handed

Foot Size: 1

Head Cicumference: 12.3345

Sexual Features
Vaginal Circumference Potential: 5

Vaginal Depth Potential: 0.873333

Anal Circumference Potential: 7

Nipple Length: 0.25

Cup Size: A

Hymen Resistance: 58

Areola Diameter: 0.5

Areola Hue: Light

Tongue Size: 2

Sexuality: Heterosexual

Debauchery: 1

So there you have it — the unfortunate Aedeldreda is a young adult, despite being unhappily married at 0 years of age, and is all of eight inches tall. Her nipples are .25 inches in length, which for a normal-sized woman would be proportionately about two inches each. Her tongue, on the other hand, extends for a full 25% of her total body height, which makes her very popular at social gatherings. She has a gorgeous face, but hideous buttocks. While she is a dainty eight inches tall, her head is 12.3 inches in circumference, which translates into a diameter of three inches. I’ll save you the trouble of doing the math — this means that if Aedeldreda were six feet tall, her head would be 27 inches in diameter. Also, a Size 1 shoe is 4.5 inches in length. You can do the math on that one.

And to top it all off, she is a serf, so it’s highly unlikely she’s going to go out adventuring anywhere. Especially with such a huge head.

So, besides generating some decent laughs, the FATAL character generator appears to be about as broken as the rest of the game.

Edition Wars

Another decent illustration. Hopefully the artist was able to get work elsewhere after his involvement with FATAL came to light...

Another decent illustration. Hopefully the artist was able to get work elsewhere after his involvement with FATAL came to light…

The differences between the two editions of Byron’s life’s work are enlightening, especially considering his attitude about imperfections in his awesome game. On the more mundane side, the original Adult Lechery version (henceforth FATAL 1.0) had shitty photoshopped photos of Byron and his friends screwing around with weapons and looking like dorks instead of the professional illustrations that graced Another Land (henceforth FATAL 2.0), and the Aedile was called the MM or “Maim Master.” The races are the more familiar types — humans, dwarves, seven flavors of elves, half-orcs and halflings (Fallowhide, Harfoot and Stoor). Byron even provides us with a handy-dandy table of derogatory racial slurs for each PC race (Anakim are, of course called “Stovepipers” “due to their thick manhood” which in addition to spotlighting Byron’s endless obsession with the dimensions of sex organs, also implies that the entire Anakim race shares a single penis).

The key difference between the editions actually appears to be Byron’s increasing sensitivity to criticism, and his desperate attempts to explain away his obsession with deviant sex, body functions and gruesome violence. Whereas FATAL 2.0 includes repeated (cut and pasted) assertions that sex and violence are “serious issues,” all version 1.0 says on the topic is “The information in this game does not represent the world-views of Fatal Games, nor is extreme violence or extreme sex condoned by Fatal Games. Instead, the information is included for comprehensiveness.”

Mind you, both sets of rules contain the following rules, which I forgot to mention in the previous installment, but which bear repeating in case anyone starts to feel sorry for Byron Hall or forgets what a woman-hating piece of shit he is:

If a human male successfully overbears a female, it is possible that rape may occur. If a male seeks to have his way with a woman at her expense and whether she likes it or not, he may attempt to Intimidate her to allow him to rape her without resistance. On the other hand, he may be enraged or prefer to continue without asking. If an Intimidation skill check is successful, then double the effective weight difference used in Overbearing above. In any case, he will have to overcome her clothing or armor. If naked, there is no modifier to the Rape roll. If either of them is wearing clothes, then the Rape roll suffers a + 5 penalty, + 10 for both. If either wears light armor, then the Rape roll suffers a + 10 penalty, + 20 for both. If either wears medium armor, then the Rape roll suffers a + 20 penalty, + 30 for both. If either wears heavy armor, then the Rape roll suffers a + 30 penalty, + 60 for both.

The Rape roll consists of rolling percentile dice, and the rapist wants to roll lower than the weight difference as used in Overbearing, doubled by Intimidation if used, and the roll is modified by clothing or armor. If the roll fails, then the woman manages to escape from the clutches of the rapist, and 80% of the time manages to land a Brawling blow with Crucial Damage to either the Penis (01-50%) or Testes (51-100%) of the would-be rapist. Further, if the roll fails then she either escapes prior to penetration (01-60%) or during the violation (61-100%). If the roll is successful, then the man does with her as he likes.

As an alternative to these cumbersome rules, I offer the following modifications:

How Byron Hall recruits playtesters.

How Byron Hall recruits playtesters.

If a well-hung male troll successfully overbears Byron Hall, it is possible that rape may occur. If the troll seeks to have his way with Byron Hall at his expense and whether he likes it or not, the troll may attempt to Intimidate Byron to allow him to rape Byron without resistance. On the other hand, the troll may be enraged or prefer to continue without asking. In any case, he will have to overcome Byron Hall’s clothing or armor. If Byron is naked, there is no modifier to the Rape roll. 

And so on. If Byron’s email address were still active I’d definitely offer the above as an optional rule.

Also, as previously noted, FATAL 1.0 had a lot more offensive racist stuff, much more gruesome and blatantly unrealistic critical hit charts and really, really long lists of random magical effects and random magical components, many (most?) of which were really, really juvenile, sexist, racist or offensive (and some that were several of those at once). When called on this, Byron of course played the humor card, as the whole “historical accuracy” argument seems to have collapsed, since I can’t think of a single solitary historical citation that includes such things as:

0089 Caster grows a hole in their forehead, though somewhat similar to a lubricated vagina.
0090 Next time caster defecates, their intestines fall out of their ass, though still loosely attached.
0091 The illusion of a disembodied 3d10’ long schlong appears, trying to fuck whoever has the most LP in 500’.
0092 Illusion appears of a male human pulling his pants down, cutting off his scrotum, and offering some…

0200 Caster tries to fist-fuck the next sleeping female they see, no matter when or where.
0201 Caster now prefers mating with farm animals, and is now a zoophiliac.
0202 Caster develops a fetish to drink their own sperm once at each meal.
0203 The next female with Charisma over 120 orgasms upon seeing the caster.
0204 Caster strokes or fingers themselves, as is appropriate to their gender, once in each direction in public.
0205 Caster only wants to have sex, especially oral, with women on their [sic] rag.

0366 A tooth kicked out from the last bitch that refused to fuck you – reusable until the next time
0367 A sliced piece of skin from a slovenly slut that was suplexed onto a stone – expended
0368 A gemstone that has been worn in the concave chest of a loser for one month – reusable
0369 The defecation remaining on an arm after full insertion into the ass of an ass – reusable for 1 day

0540 A fingernail torn from the middle finger of a woman who fingers herself – reusable for 1 month
0541 The tongue of a woman who fantasizes about small cocks – reusable for 1 week
0542 The shaved pussy-hair of a smelly little trollop that has an unkempt pussy – expended
0543 A ring that has been lost in a fuck-hole for 3 months or more – reusable (although it reeks)
0544 Parchment that has been lifted so gracefully by the suction of a schoolgirl’s twat – reusable
0545 A marble shot from the vaginal depths of a pregnant prostitute – reusable
0546 The juice on someone’s face who has just eaten a hairy snatch – expended

Among the random weapon magical abilities is this gem (only one of many):

Ravishing, of: Whosoever possesses this weapon will be compelled to ravish members of the opposite sex. More specifically, the possessor will attempt to repeatedly force this weapon into a random orifice of any character with a Bodily Attractiveness exceeding 100 and who fails to correctly answer the following questions. All questions must be asked:

1. What is my favorite color?

2. What number am I thinking from 1 to 10?

3. If my weapon liked you, would you like it back?

The victim must answer each question. If one of the questions is answered incorrectly, then the possessor will gain 1d20 LP until the weapon ejaculates within this victim. If two of the questions are answered incorrectly, then the possessor gains 2d20 LP until the weapon ejaculates within this victim. If all three questions are answered incorrectly, then the possessor gains 3d20 LP until the weapon ejaculates within this victim.

If the weapon does not ejaculate within this victim within the next day, then the possessor must repeatedly force this weapon in a random orifice of themselves until it ejaculates. Either way, this weapon ALWAYS ejaculates. After 1d20 rounds of penetration, this weapon ejaculates gray splooge. If the victim is female and the weapon ejaculates in her vagina, it WILL impregnate her. She will give birth in 1d6 days to a randomly determined type of weapon, though it will also be a weapon of ravishing. The mother will die upon weaponbirth. The Ravishing property only functions every five days, when its weapon-testicles become overflowingly full. 

…And so on. I’m actually sorry that I’m posting most of this, but as I’ve said it really has to be seen to be believed, and believe me, this is only the tip of a very large, very vile, very very crazy iceberg.

Meanwhile, in an entirely different (and not shitty) rpg...

Meanwhile, in an entirely different (and not shitty) rpg…

Honestly after reading the first 100 or so such entries you stop feeling ill and start feeling both jaded and slightly sorry for Byron Hall and his friends, since generating that much repulsive crap must have taken them months… or years.

So enough of my illustrations of Byron Hall’s attempts at humor. Suffice to say, the two editions are both deeply stupid and offensive in their own way, but in the end I will say that FATAL 1.0 is repellent, infantile and sociopathic, but while FATAL 2.0 jettisons at least a portion of its juvenile sexual attitudes, it nevertheless comes across as even more sociopathic, since Byron Hall is clearly an adult who knows very well what he’s doing.

With such a wretched, diseased pile of filth hiding amid the gaming community, and with Byron Hall convinced that FATAL Games was destined to be the next White Wolf Publications, the fuse was lit and the explosion was inevitable. And when it went off, it shook the entire rpg world to its foundations.

The Review

Those who have followed the sad history of FATAL refer to “The Review” in the same hushed, reverent tones as Roman enthusiasts use when speaking of Caesar crossing the Rubicon. The date of April 10, 2003 will live forever in the hearts of gamers everywhere, for it was the day that someone finally called bullshit on Byron Hall.

Earlier in the year, Byron had posted a .pdf version of Fantasy Adventures to Adult Lechery on the website of FATAL Games (www.fatalgames.com, which the observant will note is now a page devoted to on-line browser games) and was waiting for the accolades to roll in. Surely the game that described it self as The most difficult, detailed, realistic and historically/mythically accurate role-playing game available would soon take the moribund and doctrinaire RPG industry by storm, sweeping its creator and his tight coterie of loyal companions to the heights of fame and fortune. Soon, Byron Hall thought, everyone will be talking about F.A.T.A.L.

In this, he proved entirely correct.

I cannot do justice to the masterpiece that is Darren MacLennan and Jason Sartin’s review. It is a work that will live forever in the hearts and minds of honorable gamers and designers. It is a towering example of good triumphing over evil  and justice overtaking wrongdoers.

Well, maybe I’m overstating a little bit. Whatever — you can read it here.

Messers MacLennan and Sartin didn’t really start out with the intention of setting the gaming world aflame. They just saw a repulsive and ugly roleplaying game and decided to respond with a massive, detailed and very funny review. The case could be made that their review shed far more light on FATAL and its creator than they deserved. Likewise, the case could also be made that in trying to spotlight how offensive the game was, they crossed a few lines of good taste themselves (linking to “Tubgirl” for example… euchhh). And finally it could be argued that the whole controversy was a tempest in a teapot, since MacLennan and Sartin were, by their own admission, simply having fun and trying to be amusing. Whether they succeeded or not is anyone’s guess — at least they were a hell of a lot funnier than Byron Hall. At least until he read their review and decided to respond (see below).

As you can see for yourself, the review is highly quotable, witty, long-winded and snarky as all hell. In the end, it can be encapsulated in the single, brilliant quote “So, basically, saying that this game should be burned is an insult to fire.”

Well, the review stayed up only a couple of days (though it has since been archived in several locations and is available to anyone who wants to read it). Byron Hall’s game proved so toxic that even posting a bad review of it was offensive. However, this was not good enough for Byron Hall himself. He wasn’t about to see his most important contribution to the advancement of the roleplaying hobby trashed in this fashion… No! He would respond to MacLennan and Sartin’s attack with his own savage editorial riposte, cutting their childish arguments to ribbons, and proving himself their superior in every regard — intellectually, logically and, of course, sexually.

The war had begun. And only one combatant would emerge.

Where is Dating Included?

Yes, this illustration is from the PC races section. You too can play a cannibalistic child-killing monster.

Yes, this illustration is from the PC races section. You too can play a cannibalistic child-killing monster.

The only creatures that I would consider more sad and pitiable than Byron Hall himself were his fans. To them, he was an idol, a paragon, a role model. He was the man who would take on the gaming establishment and show them, whether they wanted to or not, what good gaming was all about (perhaps he would accomplish this by making a successful Rape roll). One copy of Byron’s rebuttal to the MacLennan/Sartin review is drawn from a fan’s web page (which fan I’m not sure — my guess is that it was the still-mysterious “Burnout” who also participated actively in Byron’s defense), and is prefaced with the following paragraph:

Below is a true gem.  It is a review by two idiots, and the author of F.A.T.A.L., Byron Hall, replied to it.  He’s the coolest… If Fatal Games wants me to take it down, I will, but as long as they don’t mind, I want to show this to the world so that all can see the stupidity of conservatives.  Ok, here’s the review and counter-review all rolled into one.

Just the notion that anyone would call Byron Hall “The Coolest” kind of beggars comprehension. And that he’s calling the reviewers “conservatives” is even stranger. But that’s as may be — Byron’s response was posted to his now-defunct website, and the rest was history.

The mere title Childish Review and Author’s Defense of F.A.T.A.L. speaks volumes. Surely, Byron thought, those blackguards who attacked his game were nothing but childish scribblers, and his calm, mature response to their blather would send them scurrying, terrified of the vast intellect that they had dared to disturb. The mere suggestion that FATAL, with its rules for anal circumference, its obsession with rape, racism, misogyny and scatology, was anything but a fine and welcome addition to the world of roleplaying was sheer madness. Byron Hall would swat those insignificant gnats with calm, logical argumentation and sheer, icy resolution. Watch out, Darren and Jason! Retribution is at hand.

Byron begins his defense with yet another piece of self-delusion, claiming that the rpg.net review was “Perhaps the most negative review ever written.”

Although it is technically not a review, but mostly an attack against me, Byron Hall, he continues, blissfully unaware of his own douchebaggery, I will demonstrate the fallacies of the authors, Darren MacLennan and Jason Sartin. Obviously, they hate F.A.T.A.L. and anyone involved with the game. Their hatred can be only the result of fear. They are fearful because they know it will be published. They are fearful because the material in the game is supported, and is dissimilar to anything that attracts them. People fear what is different to them, mostly out of cognitive laziness; it takes effort to explore what is different. Nonetheless, I appreciate the attention to the game, and inefficient effort.

This reminds me a little bit of George W. Bush’s assertions that the terrorists hate us “for our freedom,” as if Osama bin Laden got up every morning saying, “Oooooooh, ah just HATES them AMURICANS and their DANGED FREEDOM!” Byron is puffing himself up into a far more significant individual than he is by claiming that the reviewers “hate” him and are “fearful” because “the material in the game is supported…” and because it’s different.

Contempt and hatred are two very different things, Byron. No, we don’t hate you. We despise you, and feel contempt for you, but hatred would take way more energy than you’re worth. Yeah, I definitely hate your game, but not because it’s different or because it’s going to be published (because it’s not), but because it’s a vile, offensive piece of shit.

As a preface, I understand that their fear caused them to react emotionally. Their attempted review is only an emotional outburst and lacks substance.  I do not need to rely on emotional appeals (no matter how funny and persuasive they can be), and will show the stupidity of their arguments, point by point, with reason. Although rhetoric is effective, it is the lowest form of debate. 

And so it is that Byron Hall, the guy who suggested that spells can be powered by “a tooth kicked out from the last bitch that refused to fuck you” and based his entire social system and historical overview on a single book about medieval prostitution, attempts to portray himself as the calm, mature, logical one, who doesn’t need to appeal to emotions like those sloppy-thinking reviewers at rpg.net.

Byron’s main man, Burnout (whose name is apparently John, though he lacked the cojones to actually tell us his surname) jumps in here to tell us that he’s going to be participating in the rebuttal, and helping his favorite game designer defend himself against the Neanderthals. Go get ‘em, Burnout! Your name will live alongside that of your idol, Byron Hall, in the minds of gamers forever.

Byron’s attitude for the entire rebuttal can best be described as “smug.” He comes across as a smarmy, disdainful pseudo-intellectual, tossing off what he thinks to be witty quips while sipping tea, pinky carefully extended. The contrast with the shit-obsessed author of FATAL couldn’t be more pronounced.

For example, in response to Sartin’s statement that “We’re hardly four words into the review, and already the game has dragged me down to its level,” Byron disdainfully replies:

Another one of Byron Hall's worst nightmares... A woman with a sword and the willingness to use it on him.

Another one of Byron Hall’s worst nightmares… A woman with a sword and the willingness to use it on him.

Any child can rant.  What matters is the quality of the argument.  Jason is not being dragged anywhere, but responds like this because it is who he is, and would do better to own up to it.  I intend to show that the substance of my argument is superior, and that Jason should be dragged up to it.

Take that, stupid reviewer! Byron Hall is in the house, and now logic and rational argument will prevail. In response to the suggestion that Hall and his buddies started a flamewar on rpg.net (which I have looked for but been unable to find, which is probably a good thing), he replies:

Give credit where credit is due. I did introduce my game, but I always posted professionally and addressed actual points.   All flames were by RPGnetters, except for when two players in my group posted aggressively in my defense.

So in other words, all the flames were from members of rpg.net, except those that weren’t, and they were from my friends. Burnout now picks up the torch:

As RPGnetters know, I am one of those two. I reacted emotionally in that flamewar, which is very unusual for me. I found it funny how during the days in question only one legitimate argument came up…the question of why there wasn’t [sic] any homosexuals in the game. Due to some good points brought up by one person (I can’t remember the name) this has since been changed.

My guess is that significantly more than one argument was advanced against FATAL, but I wasn’t there, so what do I know?

Now Byron starts to respond to one of those non-legitimate arguments — what the fuck is it with the fucking rape rules, asshole?

…I don’t consider women, homosexuals, and blacks to be worthless, nor deserving of rape and murder.  If you’re suggesting that because rape is covered in the game (on 2 pages out of 900), that I support it (it’s only detailed under Overbearing in Wrestling, and Sociality…where a footnote supports the historical accuracy), then anyone who plays nearly any role-playing game supports murder (or killing, which may be a better definition), because murder (killing) is usually the focus of nearly all games. I guarantee that a comparison of the percentage of a work devoted to murder or killing is higher in other RPG’s than rape is in FATAL.

In fact, I’ve included numerous things with which I diagree [sic] in FATAL, such as gods, an ethical-moral system, etc. Jason probably knows that his conclusions are faulty, but is apparently willing to be at fault. I am not.

For a guy who champions logical argument, Byron sure engages in a lot of logical fallacies. While actual rules for rape do indeed occupy only two pages (which I think is two pages too many), the term and descriptions of rape are sprinkled throughout the entire vile thing from beginning to end, especially in the Adult Lechery version. He scaled it back a little in Another Land, but it was still there, just as nauseating and disturbing as ever.

And of course, there’s the argument (which he expanded upon in his rewritten introduction to FATAL 2.0) that since other rpgs have killing, it’s perfectly reasonable for FATAL to include rape. False comparison, oh master of rhetoric and logic…

Burnout then grabs his shovel and starts digging:

I personally think that rape and murder come up, whether behind closed doors or out in the open, in at least 90% of gaming groups. FATAL just makes it so you see exactly how bad it actually is by trying not to hide it or pretend it didn’t happen. Instead on those pages you’ll find information supported by references on how often it happened and what happened to the criminal. Now does this mean anybody who plays FATAL supports it? No, it simply shows that most people try to sweep it under the rug. We know it is, unfortunately, a day-to-day occurence [sic].

Clearly, if something is a day-to-day “occurence” then it obligates us to include it in our roleplaying game, if for no other reason than accuracy and faithfulness to history. I mean, people play roleplaying games to face and participate in the horrors of real-life crime and violence, don’t they? After all, in Burnout’s snug little fantasy world, murder and rape “come up” in 90% of gaming groups.

Byron then refuses to take blame for the whole mess:

Several pages will credit a multitude of people for everything from design to play-testing. All ideas were submitted to me, and written or re-written by me. The credits section of FATAL will not only list people, but describe who is responsible for what. Many have asked in e-mails why it is not part of the free version. This, I refuse to answer until after it is printed.

And, as FATAL will never be printed (except maybe on someone’s home printer as some kind of sick, sick joke), we will never know for certain who came up with the Rape rules or the guidelines for anal circumference. However, I am looking at you, Byron Hall.

Byron admits to a few mistakes while at the same time insulting his betters:

This game is for adults only, and involves lechery. Likewise, it is possible to have a game for adults only, and that has no sexual content at all. Just the same, I was never comfortable with the title, and see it as the opposite of G.U.R.P.S. in one respect. I consider what GURPS stands for to be well-conceived: Generic Universal Role-Playing System. Unfortunately, the title itself (GURPS) is unattractive, nonsensical when alone, and a failure in marketing and branding. Conversely, FATAL seems an excellent name for the game for many reasons. Compared to other RPG’s, the game system is definitely more fatal for a character. The beginning of the other part of the name, Fantasy Adventure, is perfect as far as I’m concerned. I dislike ‘To Adult Lechery’, mainly because it places a disproportionate degree of attention on sex. However, this is one element that separates it from other games, so I guess it’s not so horrible. Still, a better name could be spun. I just wanted to point out that Jason was wrong, ‘Adult Lechery’ is not redundant.

And, presto, we have From Another Time, Another Land, the same game with a different title, with Rape rules still included…

Another feature of Byron’s rebuttal is that he argues with each and every point that the original authors make. When they suggest trying to simulate the Labors of Hercules using the FATAL system, he says that “FATAL does not specialize in ancient Greek mythology… Faulty criticism is worthless when exposed, and discreidts [sic] only the critic thereafter, not FATAL or myself.”  When the company motto “Where the Dice Never Lie” is criticized, he replies, “The subtitle… does not necessarily imply that dice from other companies lie.” When Sartin says (not seriously) “This game still proves once and for all that Darwin was an ass-grabbing fool,” Byron retorts “Darwin was a great man” and so on and so on.

The original reviewers listed more of those vile random magical effects than I did, and were pretty horrified. Byron and Burnout, however had no problem with them. Burnout also does us the favor of claiming credit so now we know who to blame.

Byron: We generated this list by passing it to many people for input, and as you can see, the ideas were downright humorous.

Byron Hall actually hired a professional editor to work on FATAL. After redlining only a single page the editor was found wandering near the waterfront, a broken shell of a man. He only recovered after six months of intensive therapy, and still has flashbacks.

Byron Hall actually hired a professional editor to work on FATAL. After redlining only a single page the editor was found wandering near the waterfront, a broken shell of a man. He eventually recovered after six months of intensive therapy, and still has flashbacks.

Burnout: Again I was laughing way too hard to respond up until now. (Wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes.) But I can only say almost all of the 2000 were meant to be funny. Until the point we got tired of being funny and just handed it over to Byron to fill in the rest. And as he stated, he set it online for people. By the way, the dickhole/cuntpipe fruit was my idea. YOU’RE WELCOME.

I’m not surprised that Byron and company found the random effects table to be “downright humorous.” Not surprised in the slightest.

Byron and Burnout continue to dig themselves deeper as their spirited defense goes on. In response to the assertion in the review that “you can hardly turn one page without seeing something that’s desperately stupid or sucking or screaming ‘Look how COOL and HISTORICALLY ACCURATE and HUGE DICKED I am, because I’m terrified you won’t notice!’”, Byron hastens to remind us that “I never once mentioned the size of my personal manhood, regardless of how proud of it I am,” thus proving that he completely missed the point of the original statement and secretly wants to tell us how big his penis is.

Byron hits bottom very early and never manages to climb out. Less than a quarter of the way into the rebuttal, he quotes MacLennan as saying “So, basically, FATAL is the date rape RPG.” I include Byron’s response in its entirety:

Another faulty conclusion drawn by Darren. Where is dating included? More to the point, multiple ways of role-playing are mentioned, ranging from ‘good’ to ‘evil’ (though in real life I hesitate to use those terms). Why he focuses on rape is for him to answer. As mentioned elsewhere, FATAL is intended to be comprehensive, and if examined, the reader will find balance between ‘good’ and ‘evil’.

Sigh. Game, set and match, and the contest has only just begun. Everything else that spews out of Byron and Burnout’s filthy pie-holes is just crap icing on a crap sundae. Oh well, there’s more, but I won’t quote it all. You can see the entire messy thing for yourself here.

Byron goes on to swim in a sea of his own sticky smarm for a seemingly endless period, attempting to tear down MacLennan and Sartin’s review with cold, calculating logic and rock-solid maturity, but in the process only shows what a stupid, self-involved, immature git he really is. And Burnout — whoever he may be — fares even worse, coming off as a sad little fanboy riding on the coat-tails of a would-be designer destined only for obscurity and infamy.

Byron tells us how proud he is of his “manhood.” He tells us that his wife used to be a model and is both brilliant and beautiful. He tells us that his “historical accuracy” basis for the rules on “retard strength” was the experience of “some females” he knew in college who were “stunned by the surprising strength of retards.” “I have,” he continues, “neither searched nor found any material supporting Retard Strength.”

Oh, how does the bullshit flow… It’s quite amazing and well beyond my capacity to document fully. Everything that the reviewers say is wrong, misguided, illogical or childish. The only real adult in the room is Byron Hall and maybe Burnout.

Proposed cover for the never-released third edition of FATAL.

Proposed cover for the never-released third edition of FATAL.

Misogynistic? Byron says that there’s just as much Misanthropy in his game. Condoning rape? Hell, no! Byron replies — I just did it because it’s realistic. Calling women bitches, whores, cunts and sluts? Creating magical items that turn people on to black, Asian, Latino and Jewish stereotypes? Magical effects that make characters defecate uncontrollably or go out raping pre-teens? Why that’s just for humor! Suggest that FATAL is tasteless and juvenile? Why, just the act of calling me tasteless and juvenile is itself tasteless and juvenile!

Byron concludes his defense with one last load of smarm:

Let it be known that I do not hate Darren and Jason for their emotional approach and poor reasoning.  Instead, I feel sorry for them. Just the same, I am grateful for the 8 mistakes they identified, even if it did take them 24,993 words (according to MS Word), and hundreds to thousands of mistakes. To recap, their valid points were: Aging Effects should be percentages, anakim traits should include Bod. Att. modifiers, Hymen Resistance should be affected by Manhood, Bandaging Wounds in combat on the table, 1m = 3.28′ for Falling Damage, the extraction of Christianity and foreign influence should be explained more clearly, brassiere (not brazier), and to avoid the potential of racism.

I am fair. Since Darren and Jason did affect the game’s development by pointing out 8 mistakes, they can be listed in the credits, if desired.

FATAL is the best role-playing game that there could be!

And with that, Byron Hall firmly believed, FATAL’s place in gaming history was permanently sealed. His critics were shamed, his fans encouraged, and his game’s future assured.

Yeah, it was.

Despite his ferocious defense and his apparent refusal to change anything besides the mere eight mistakes that he claims MacLennan and Sartin found, FATAL underwent a bit of a transformation over the next couple of years, eventually emerging as From Another Time, Another Land. I’ve already discussed the changes, so I won’t go into them again, but miraculously many of them appeared to be items that the original review had criticized. The critical (excuse me… “crucial”) damage rules were amended and though still stupid were a little less nonsensical. Many (but nowhere near all) of the offensive magical effects and spell materials were removed. The Armor of Nigrous Nincompoopery was nowhere to be found, and neither were the other racist magical items. It seems that Byron took the rpg.net review a little more seriously than he let on.

Byron had also spent real money to hire real artists, some of whose work I’ve displayed here. While it improved the overall look of the product (and got rid of those stupid photoshopped pictures of Burnout and Byron having sex), the game was still Byron Hall’s FATAL, and doom was drawing near.

The game was never published. It was never sold. It was never in stores. The illustrations were never completed, the supplements remained available as unfinished pdfs. A couple of other programs were produced, but no free CD ever appeared. Updates grew fewer and fewer. Soon the website was sitting forlornly, untouched and unloved. Eventually it was sold to a flash game company.

What happened to Byron Hall? No one seems to know. An intense search for any sign of him on-line has come up empty. According to a now-removed Wikipedia article, Byron stopped responding to emails to his website in February of 2006, soon after one of his “editors” criticized the formatting of the game’s skills system and referred to FATAL as Byron’s “midlife crisis.”

From this day onward, this shall be my motto... Unless I meet Byron Hall in which case all bets are off.

From this day onward, this shall be my motto… Unless I meet Byron Hall in which case all bets are off.

After claiming to have worked on FATAL for over 20 years, Byron Hall vanished as thoroughly and completely as Jimmy Hoffa. While it is unlikely he was murdered for his crimes against gaming, it’s more than likely that he remains in hiding, forever afraid to show his face and admit to his connection to the worst roleplaying game ever conceived. For more insight into Byron Hall’s thought processes, go here.

But, for better or worse, FATAL lives on. People still talk about it on forums. PDFs are still available everywhere. The FATAL theme song exists in mp3 format. Gamers discuss FATAL in hushed tones, and when a system truly, truly sucks, a common response is, “Well, at least it’s not FATAL.”

And so it goes. A mighty epic of arrogance, sadness and failure has been written, and while we will probably have to put up with the existence of FATAL for the foreseeable future, we can at least say goodbye to Byron Hall — a horrid little man who designed a horrid little game for horrid little people, and paid the price for his hubris.

Good night, and God bless.

12 thoughts on “The Hall of RPG Oddities — Where is Dating Included? Part the Last (very, very NSFW)

  1. Sildani

    Ok. Feel better? You’ve gotten this off your mind?

    Good. Now burn your keyboard and bury the ashes.

    Your next task shall be to write something… else. Whether it be how FASA died, or how Shadowrun was supposed to end up, or a Wulf story, or another Pit of Swords ‘n’ Sorcery review, or SOMETHING. ‘Cause I gotta tell you, I didn’t need to know any of the previous. I mean, my Ghu, someone on His green Earth actually thought of all this crap AND WROTE IT DOWN.

    Hubris? Too kind a word. Sociopathy to the extent he could not foresee the backlash? Perhaps.

    And he kept stating his problems with using “moral” terms and placing things in a context of “good” and “evil”. Glad I was never alone in a room with this fuckwit.

    Know my problem with it? Deep down, there might have been potential. The idea of an exhaustively researched RPG appeals, you know? A pity the idea landed in the head of a fuckwit. What’s so good about rape, anyway? It’s much more fun when the other participants are willing.

    Anyway. The good part about all this – aside from the fact you never have to write about it ever again – is I saw that dark elf orgy pic. Hot, that. I could just imagine Wulf landing in the middle of all that when the beam he was sneaking along gave way. He’d probably have the nerve to bitch about it too.

    So. Burn keyboard. Write something good. Eat beer. Drink food.
    But I digest.

  2. Anthony Pryor Post author

    Yeah, there will be dark elf orgies in the future, at least when I finally finish the current madness of my attempts at “real” fiction :)

    The energy that these guys spent on producing this idiotic mass of crap is mind-boggling, and had it been directed at something positive, you are correct — it might actually have produced something worthwhile. But all this thing did was irritate people and (I suspect) ruin the life of the guy who designed it.

    As you may have observed, by the end of this massive three-parter I feel kind of dirty myself, in a way that even a dozen hot showers can’t erase. And yes, I’ll be doing happier and less grim reviews in future (Book of Erotic Fantasy leaps to mind… just because it’s an oddity doesn’t mean it’s bad… Or possibly an overview of several supplements that try to add sex to your campaign). And yes, my keyboard is really starting to act up. I may need to burn it now…

  3. Barry

    I actually think the final installment makes up for the two previous; wading through them was horrible, but the final catharsis was well worth reading.
    I think it helps that the story ends with Mssr. Hall being marginalized as it is the one thing that an obvious sociopath with narcissistic personality disorder cannot handle.
    I can see him in a trailer stuffed with hard-copy rape porn and an alter built to his creations, eating cake frosting and trolling the internet, forever unwilling to admit his true presence; searching his name three times or more a day to ensure that he is still relevant, yet forever terrified that he cannot defend his heinous crimes against RPGs since he integrated the “Burnout” personality back into his psyche.
    A sad shell of a man wasting away in a Lay-Z-Boy in the manner of Théoden, replete with an imaginary Gríma Wormtongue named “Burnout” whispering poison into his ear until he finally becoes the Gollum of the RPG world….
    Heck, he could be added as an NPC to H.O.L.

  4. Anthony Pryor Post author

    Had this game actually seen print I don’t know whether I’d have had the heart to actually write this damned entry. The notion that he and Burnout are the same person hadn’t occurred to me, and the image of Byron wasting away in obscurity gives me comfort.

    (And HOL would make a great addition to this column, wouldn’t it? It was disturbing in a far more wholesome, entertaining and competent fashion…)

  5. Axehurdle

    Excellent show. I was really excited to see you were FATAL and would be talking about Byron’s rebuttal. I find the whole thing rather fascinating. Like some kind of psychology case study.

    Good job though, I tried reading FATAL and I got bored in about 20 minutes.

  6. Jason J. Patterson

    Hi there, this was a great newer treatment on FATAL. Very enjoyable, and I certainly empathize with you (and all readers) for the time spent poring over especially the first edition of FATAL, and glimpsing the final combined Lovecraftian product that is FATAL.

    I did a 14 part video “review” of FATAL but also have uploaded the first part of a nearly four hour interview with a one-time friend of Byron Hall and the primary contributor to the FATAL RPG. Just sharing here if anyone is interested.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JTsWbdG8lY

    PS The audio is crappy though I don’t know if you could call it “the worst part” of the interview…

  7. Anthony Pryor Post author

    This is marvelous! I’m only just getting into it, but by god you managed to track down some of the actual perpetrators! I can hardly wait to hear what they have to say. You, sir, win the Internet for today :)

  8. Anthony Pryor Post author

    Excellent job so far, sir! It’s interesting to hear a discussion of FATAL and its design as if it was just another of those “Hey, gang — let’s design an RPG!” games. Of course, I don’t think that either edition of FATAL — no matter what the letters stand for — or their authors have earned the right to be treated just like any other game, but then again my opinion and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee. I look forward to future installments.

  9. Anthony Pryor Post author

    Axehurdle: As I’m sure you’re aware, I only barely scratched the surface. I stopped at the “where is dating included?” comment because that so perfectly encapsulates the insanity of the situation. You could base an entire abnormal psychology study on Byron’s rebuttal alone. Combine the rebuttal with the 900+ pages of pathology that constitute FATAL and you’ve got an entire life’s work for an ambitious researcher.

  10. Anthony Pryor Post author

    Yeah, I noticed I hadn’t posted in a long while… I think FATAL almost broke me :) In reality I’m working on reviews of both the Conan movies, but I got bogged down doing some personal stuff (see the upcoming entry for more details). With sufficient encouragement I have every intention of getting back on the horse, however…

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