Fluxborn - Adventure in a world of dreams: A Brief Review.

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: ,

As previously mentioned in my last post on Fluxborn I was hoping to look at this system in a little more detail and have a brief playtest of it to get a proper feel for the game, well with many thanks to my housemates I've had a chance to get to grips with Fluxborn and I must admit I have mixed feeling on the system which I'll share below.


The setting for Fluxborn is both its greatest strength and weakness (somewhat suitably considering its focus on due natures), to further explain this I am going to break it down a little more into explanations about the Fluxborn concepts, the balance of Wild and Logic and the Everthere the core setting of Fluxborn.

To begin the main occupants of the dreamworld other than the invading nightmare creatures and the strange animals that inhabit the world are the dreamers and the fluxborn, both the dreamers and fluxborn are born in dreamworld when we (as in real life occupants) sleep living out their entire lives while we dream. The difference between a fluxborn and a regular dreamer begins at birth and to directly quote the text:

A special being of dreams that is somehow more in tune with the flow of the two energies. Their very bodies are warped by the world itself into something else, something that can harness the powers of Wild and Logic. 

All dreamers are humans though the fluxborn are born or change into one of the following:
  • Boogeymen representing fear, anxiety and alienation and are twisted into monstrous looking tall humanoids that are feared and shunned. 
  • Hare: Close to the Wild they represent excitement, curiosity and imagination and are childlike with large rabbit ears.
  • Heroic: Embodying wish fulfilment and power fantasies embodied; the Heroic are often tall, beautiful and strong, with glowing silver or gold eyes and a aura of physical power.
  • Frogkin: Creatures of ingenuity and charisma these tiny beings start off as human slowly changing into frogs.
  • Sic: Naturally logical the Sic are identified by their lack of expression, missing eyebrows and blue circuit board pattern that covers their bodies starting at their fingers.
In addition to their different attribute bonus each type of fluxborn can choose one of three traits for their kind ranging from the Bopgeyman's ability to melt and scar anything he touches to the Sic ability to reroll any roll once per day.

While I do like the description of each race within the system at a deeper glance it doesn't hold up as particularly unique as each race seems to fulfil traditional racial niches I.E: The Boogeymen socially fills the role of a half orc or Tiefling in Dungeons and Dragons, the Hare is basically a hobbit/halfling in a rabbit onesie (though admittedly more adventurous), the Heroic fulfils a fighter or barbarian role and given the world setting will often be a Viking, Greek warrior or knight.

The only ones that give me pause are the Frogkin and Sic, though the Frogkin was aptly described as playing a Greymatter from Ben10 (not in a negative way either) and the Sic sounds disturbingly like someone suffering from Asperger Syndrome  and as someone who is friends with several people who have the condition it personally made me rather uncomfortable (though I imagine many players will treat and play them as aloof elves.)

However to the fair in any roleplay game it is extremely hard to break away from any given trope and traditional stereotypes so I have to credit for attempting to. 

Next is the heavily emphasized features of Wild and Logic, these energies in balance are what make the dreamworld and keep it whole, too much Wild in a location and rivers start running backwards, trees sprout eyes and people drown in air as the rules of existence unravel, great amounts of Logic are no better as the land becomes a featureless, colourless, symmetrical wasteland.  In places where the two come into contact Leylines which only fluxborn can see spring forth and become wellsprings of power for the fluxborn.

Players also have to balance Wild and Logic within themselves (or choose a direction to head in) as various energy filled stunts changes the characters affinity towards one direction or the other with the player been permanently unable to access their opposite element if they focus in one. To briefly touch on mechanics here I find that it is very basic and somewhat unfair as a character can rather easily cut themself off from Logic or Wild if they are forced to use a skill repeatedly in an area.

For example I have chosen the level 1 Logic stunt Erase Tracks (a handy if rarely used power) and 2 Wild stunts that focus on combat such as Blastwave (level 1) and Crystal Caltrops (level 1). For the first couple of sessions our fledgling DM been new to the system makes his first adventure very combat intensive and I am forced to rely upon powers repeatedly, as I near 15 Wild  affinity I must make a choice of either no longer using my Wild powers or using them to survive and once reaching 15 affinity be unable to use my Logic power and consider it a wasted power.

Reading through the rules there is no way to change affinity other than using the Stunts which led to my players using spells just to balance out the arbitrary number rather for any game or story benefit, simply by adding a rule that a characters affinity moves slowly back towards equilibria over a period of time would fix this but it seems this was an oversight.   

In spite of their name Wild and Logic are just renamed Chaos and Order and while too much of either gives plothooks for the players to get involved to solve a problem, there is never really any description on how a person can influence these energies unlike settings like Arcanum which has a similar concept with science and magic, where the influence those living there have over it is shown clearly.

Likewise with the third property/location Nightmare there seems to be a lack of detail on how an incursion is dealt with. Nightmare is a realm in the depths of the earth and sea where there is no leylines of Wild and Logic and dreamers entering never return, sometime creatures and the realm itself spill out over the surface and these are supposedly dealt with by the armies of the setting.
I can understand how the creature are dealt with that simple enough but when the land itself is tainted there is no detail at all, even though the setting describes this as having happened several times, on the world map there is no example or indication of these locations.

My own initial expected impressions of Everthere the core setting of Fluxborn was a cross between Neil Gaiman's Sandman Series (Amazon Link) and The Dreamstone (Amazon Link).

 The Dreamstone intro for you younger readers

I was hoping from the description of the setting that the land would be a changing place of shifting plains and some permanent towns, in actuality what the setting is a mishmash of rather sadly generic ideas with a few gems mixed in.

Large version available here

Just to break it down:


Situated on the western coast and stretching all the way to the center of the greater continent, Albion is a land of many islands, rolling hills, lush forests and rainy days. Th e coastal area, largely bordered by the Bulwark mountains, is sparsely vegetated and home to small fishing villages and quaint water mills, with countless rivers owing across the plains, some of them wide enough to separate the area into different islands. Most of the mainland, however is located in a massive valley, filled with misty swamps, faerytale woods and mirrored lakes. Th ere are a few large towns within Albion, but all pale in comparison to Eden, the capital city of the continent of Everthere itself.

Albion is very much the generic medieval Europe fantasy land though its capital city Eden seems to be Venice mixed with a Monty Python joke. Eden is a city of towering spires and canals forever slowly sinking into the swamp that joins the four rivers of its land as it is constantly rebuilt upon the ruins of its earlier buildings.

The Bulwark mountains and the High sea are brilliant creations, Stowton-By-The-Downward is given a reasonable description, The Bay of Mists is home to upside down cloud sailing undead pirates, The Lost Woods is Mirkwood from Lord of the Rings with its seemingly evil aura and shifting paths and Tortuga is Tortuga in a giant fossilised turtle shell.

Southport and the Obsidian Castle look important don't they? Well they don't get a word written about them.


The northern area of Everthere is called Olympia. Home to lonely mountain peaks, forests of impossibly high pines and leagues of inhospitable tundra, it is a harsh place to live. Nonetheless, dreamers have conquered this unforgiving land and made it their own, building great cities of wood to ward off the cold. Th e Olympians are masterful carpenters, some of these cities resembling a single, elaborately carved giant house. The weather is unpredictable, the sunrises random. Sometimes nights seem to go on forever, the dance of the aurora borealis providing the only light in the dark.

Only two entries for this entire region the first is the Great House which is one of the giant house cities (a concept which I really like) and is given a reasonable amount of detail and the second is Skyberg a mountain that appears randomly in the clouds and from which ogres and other "strange creatures" (yep thats all the description you get) come from to raid.

Welcome to Vikingland.


Elysium, a temperate region of legendary harvest seasons and
walled city-states, is considered a land of higher learning and advancement of
the sciences, famous for its philosophers and inventors. The most famous of
these city-states are Argus, the city of trade, situated at the border of Elysium
and Albion, and Heraclia, home to the College of Warfare.
The Elysian region is flat and fertile, consisting mostly of golden plains. In
rural areas, forests of cypress trees spread across the land, and majestic rock
formations, resembling the faces of dreamers, decorate the sides of mountains.

Okay I've been writing this review for 4 hours now and I admit I'm getting a little snarky but this paragraph is all you get for the region (which is just a fantasy ancient Greece with no imagination) which irritated me especially after generic Vikingland of Olympia. Another point that bugged me is why isn't this the capital of Everthere?

Its a land of knowledge and science with beautiful fertile land, granted its a series of city states and at war with the Jade Isles but why would anyone move from here to Albion which is mostly swamp and fae woodland.

Jade Isles :

Th e craggy archipelago that extends across the Sea of Sapphires, to the south is collectively referred to as the Jade Isles, a place of colourful jungles and wind-blasted islands of jade-green, symmetrical rock. Making these isles their home is a collection of tribal societies, united under the leadership of the Jade Queen, a fearsome warlord. Th ese tribes are fiercely independent, and represent a constant threat to the dreamers of Elysium, who would fancy themselves as too civilised a people to take the so-called barbarian threat too seriously.

Again single paragraph describing the area and I was somewhat disappointed when I first read the pdf that the Jade Isles wasn't a japanese culture (even if it was generic I was curious how they would approach Japanese folklore).

The Jade Isles do get further depth with the description of The Ruins of Yomi which describes the Jade Isles as a single island that was the culture centre of the world until something explode forth splintering the island and destroying the temple. The temple ruins go far below the waters surface and have occasional pockets of air and magical stone statues that guard the place, while I did like the description I don't think I'd ever want to explore it and most of my group would be wary too. (Everyone hates water temples.)

Old Irkalla:

Much of the eastern portion of Everthere is covered in desert. The sand in this wasteland, called Old Irkalla, is of a strange lilac colour, and most of the vegetation consists of large cacti, oft en shaped like dreamers. It is said that a dreamer who gets lost in the desert and dies of thirst is reborn as a cactus in the place where they fell.
Old Irkalla was once the seat of power in Everthere, but now, only ruins remain. Remnants of vast cities of stone litter the landscape, reduced to undignified rubble. Statues of ancient kings and queens stand in forlorn plazas, their noble features swept away by the unrelenting sands. Mythical oases that change their location on a whim are the only means of survival for an ill-prepared traveller, though even the best maps available cannot reliably predict their locations. Th e Wild reigns in these lands.

Boring generic desert fantasy setting though the cacti legend was considered a nice touch and flavourful but the rest of the description I could copy paste into 5 different desert settings and it wouldn't go amiss.
Completely ignoring the capital city of Shara the region the only description given is for Winding Stairs and it is an amazing gem of an idea. I wish I could put the whole thing up here for people to read but I think that might be going too far with copyright liberties and I don't trust my own words to do it justice.

Cycpops! wanted to give us a land of dreams but their examples are mostly bland and gives the impression that during the play test they only fleshed out Albion and then ran out of ideas, I don't feel like they really used the setting to its full potential and that makes me honestly rather sad and frustrated at the same time. 
If your reading this I hope you can at least see why I make the criticisms I do, as a Dungeon Master myself I know the difficulty to accept any negativity towards a setting that you make yourself and that instinctive urge to defend it.
With all this said the developers did state that they wanted to keep details simple so players could make the world their own, I can agree with this sentiment but to quote a pair of my players if they are going to make a location on a map at least make a footnote especially if it looks interesting. 


Cycpops has made a relatively simple if effective D6 system, with most roles boiling down to the simple mechanic of: 
Difficultly of Challenge Score (4-16) Vs Player Attribute (0-4) + Dice roll (1d6 or 2d6 if skill is trained) + bonus granted by Stunts or by level of training.

A one or a snake eyes on a roll is a instant failure and forces a roll upon a drama dice (another D6) if this is another 1 then the result is a critical fail.
Rolling a 6 on a single dice roll give you an additional dice to roll and add to the total  and a double 6 is a critical success.

Its really that simple and it plays fast and well with the minimal amount of required dice however the flipside of this is in order to keep the number low and for there to be a challenge for the party the experience gain is designed to be slow and frustrate the style of player who enjoys gaining powers quickly.

Character creation is painless apart from feels like it forces your character to specialise in an area due to the shortage of points but as there is no recommended party size limit for the game this can make a rather larger still have areas where character skills don't overlap. 
Example Breakdown:
9 points to spread amongst the main attributes of a character (Finesse, Intelligence, Strength, Willpower, Charisma and Trickery).
10 points to place in the list of 20 skills (aim, athletics etc) after 5 skills are Trained costs double to make a skill Trained.
4 points to place into 12 boons (which really need more options) which are minor bonus traits.
Then choose three level 1 Stunts or a single Level 1 Stunt and a level 2 Stunt.

The stunts themselves are again simple to use and usually equally useful inside and outside of combat though I still have issues with the affinity rules.

The monetary system works like wealth in World of Darkness where rather than individual cost been determined for everything a player must just meet the coin value of an item though lots of purchases may cause the rating to fall, the items themselves are just as simple with little variation with a rough description and various levels of cost and damage bonus Damage Coins for example:

Knives, Hatchets, Sta ffs, Clubs, Short bows, Brass knuckles, Sickles, Whips,  all cost 1 coin and do a single damage bonus while Swords, Spears, Longbows, Axes, Picks, Flails, Morningstars, etc cost 2 coins and do 2 bonus damage.
The craft system is pretty much the same and really doesn't have much depth mechanically but is at least easy with different properties having a coin cost to apply.

So Summing up:

If Cycpops! was a mainstream company that had released this with the aim to raise money I would advise to wait till a sale and pick it up then but that wasn't their goal. They are 4 people who made a setting and a game and thought it might be good enough to put out there for people to play and as much as I've raged and picked it apart with my typical British cynicism I hand it to them for trying.

Fluxborn is a great concept with a simple solid D6 System that suffers from lack of detail and genericness in its setting and a failure to really run with the concept. However it is worth a read and perhaps a donation of a Dollar/Pound or Three if not the full $5 recommended price.

Still interested then here is a link to the drivethrurpg.com page here. 


  1. M Laine Says:

    As the author and artist of Fluxborn, I must thank you deeply for this review!

    It is painful to read a critical review like this (after all, you hit home with a lot of good points). I must confess I was the one holding our lore-writer back when he wanted to write more and more about the world. I wanted the book to be light, inspiring and so vague it would only spark ideas to those planning to run Fluxborn.
    On hindsight it was not a good idea.

    We have started to plan for the first supplement of the book, focusing on the duality of Wild and Logic and deepening the lore behind the Nightmare as well. It is far too important part of the setting to be left as vague as it is now, but I felt it deserved its own book. There were just too many ideas to include.
    The lack of detail in the main rulebook was meant to leave room for imagination, but a few more examples wouldn't have hurt, I see.

    I do want to thank you again for the review and wish you enjoyed the session of Fluxborn! Don't be afraid to contact me or Cycpops! if you have anything to ask!

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