Where’s the beef? Right here Wendy’s. As of now you and I have beef. And now I’m ready to throw it on my table and toss dice at it.
I don’t hide the fact I love Wendy’s. I actually owned the most popular(at its time) Wendy’s fanblog on Tumblr. This is one of the first things I tell new friends. I honestly and earnestly love Wendy’s, only second to tabletops. If they sponsored me to do any amount of content I would probably sell out in a heartbeat.
But this, Wendy’s? What the heck are you doing?
Very recently Wendy’s released their tabletop, Feast of Legends, to be played and run by members of Critical Role. In the spectrum of corporate memes like the fake Wendy’s / Taco Bell fight or the recent KFC meme visual novel, this is on the latter side of that scale. This tabletop isn’t some low-quality meme. It has legitimate, high-quality art reminiscent of D&D 3.5. There are mechanics and abilities. The website even has a dice roller. “Hey, guys! I know yall roll dice but can I use the Wendy’s dice roller,” is a perfectly legitimate, completely plausibly-serious question in this timeline now.
Is this legit? Is this just a meme? In the words of a scholar of this age, “Is this real life?”
Wendy’s could have stayed in their corner of the internet, intermittently tweeting memes and fake fights. I would’ve lived my life happily enjoying and consuming them with a ‘haha I do that’ once in a while. But this? Fine. You want to throw down on the table, marching into my domain and trying to get up in my corner of the internet?
Fine, Wendy’s. Let’s throw down.
Structure & Presentation
From a quick breakdown of the PDF, it has a staggering 97 pages including the front and back cover. The back cover, of which by the by, has a completely fictitious ISBN. If you’re going to go this far you could’ve at least gone all in, cowards.
It’s separated into three main parts:
- Part 1: PHB, 30ish pages
- Part 2: Rise From the Deep Freeze Campaign, 50ish pages
- Part 3: Magic Items and Monsters, 10ish pages
The first thing to address is that the art is honestly gorgeous. Alex Lopez’s depictions of the Frysta and the Ice Jester, the lovely maps, the high-quality Queen Wendy, the various character vignettes in the Order’s guide, all of it screams nothing but top quality and I wouldn’t be surprised if he actually did work with Wizards of the Coast or Paizo. I plan to yoink quite a few of these resources for my own games at home.
While the formatting is lovely and something I’d expect to see in any adventure module, I have a great issue with the PDF bookmarks. Despite the otherwise high quality in the content, the bookmarks(labeled _GoBack, Part 2, _Goback) link to pages 50, 51, and 62 seemingly randomly. I’d also potentially like to see the area maps of Freshtovia, The French Fry Forest, and the Ice Jester’s Playhouse to have a slightly darker coloration to it all? Just a personal preference.
My biggest problem with the book as a whole is the rampant number of memes and references scattered throughout the book. Rather than take a Xanathar’s Guide style with flavor written in the margins, Wendy’s takes to writing the flavor into the content. It turns what should be simple and straightforward descriptions into a second glance, having to read it over again just to get the point.
It’s funny haha for the first bit, but leaves the reader with a constant sense of “What did I just read?”
Classes– I mean Orders
- Order of the Chicken(OtChicken): Rogues/Bards
- Order of the Beef(OtBeef): Warriors
- Order of the Sides(OtSides): Mages/Bards/Whatever else they could fit in there?
Simple. It’s not clear off the bat, and the ‘Art of the ___’ sections at the beginning of the descriptions help. You can clearly see the OtBeef’s identity as warriors fairly clear, but I feel the OtChicken’s and OtSide’s descriptions to be fairly vague and lacking.
“There are still many side paths in the world for those who see things differently than the rest of the realm. Their ways are unique and often needed in a world of sameness. Those who study the Art of the Sides are the perfect complement to an epic combo.” – Pg 21
Like honestly, what does this even mean? I feel in the pursuit of a bad joke at the end, it loses out on clarity of the Orders outside of the specific archetypes under them. However, when it does comes to the specific Orders like the Order of the Spicy Chicken Sandwich(OtSCS), there’s a lot of flavor and identity with each and every one. As an OtSCS you burn your enemies, create smokescreens, create heat auras and even have a rad ability called “True Fire.”
How did Wendy’s come up with something this freaking cool?
Another interesting element with the Orders is that they have inherent Base Defenses, HP, Stat Bonuses, Skills, and Limitations. In a way, Wendy’s was able to combine standard Race + Class choices in an incredibly clean manner. I almost want to call this innovative?
Each Order is also only limited to 5 levels, with each level only granting additional HP and new abilities. Almost immediately I get similar progression vibes from Dungeon World. While more veteran players would complain at the lack of progression in other facets, the abilities each Order gains are honestly really fun and cool.
I’m honestly stumped to imagine who exactly designed this all. Considering that Wendy’s credits the artists, yet completely fails to credit any designers on this product, I have to imagine that there might more behind this story than we see on the surface.
The gameplay is clean and simple. Roll your dice, add your modifiers, and have a list of abilities you can do. I don’t exactly know what constitutes D&D 5e’s Essentials, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was tossed in there and someone told me that those were the rules.
My biggest complaint about the gameplay is concerning the food-based Buffs and Debuffs. Essentially when you eat Wendy’s based food you gain stacking +1 bonuses. When you eat non-Wendy’s food you take a staggering -2 penalty that can seriously wreck your character. Tip for playing this at home? Homebrew out these Buffs/Debuffs.
I understand Wendy’s is a burger joint and all, but vegetarians that want to play this are pigeonholed into only getting +1 Defense when they eat salads(which are way pricier than burgers or fries!). Talk about a lack of accessibility and balance. Yeah, I get that this is a burger ad but at least find some way to make it just a bit more player-friendly. What if they got a +1 Defense bonus with baked potatoes, but a +2 attack on salads?
On the flipside, however, one thing that does bewilder me is the incredibly interesting Feast Mode critical hit.
For every crit, you do maximum damage, and attack again at an advantage? It’s an epic interpretation of crits that I hadn’t heard before now. Almost immediately I get the sense of Warhammer 40k’s Righteous Fury. While my peers have told me others are currently practicing with these sorts of crits, to me it’s something I only learned about exclusively due to Wendy’s.
And I’ll never be allowed to forget that.
As much as I’d like to go into depth about the story, the progression, and the content, I honestly don’t think the remaining brain cells are able to comprehend the sheer number of memes and references in it. All I can truly say is that the maps were well thought out and the sections were well separated into arcs. Honestly, this is not an adventure you can do in a single session. I honestly think it might take anywhere from 5-7, maybe up to 10-12 sessions depending on how slow or fast the party goes.
Can I also bring up that any individual character at max level could have anywhere from 29-68 HP? The Ice Jester alone has 121 HP, which you only get to after dealing with a Freezagorgon and an Evolved Frysta.
I can’t believe these are real words now.
That said, the boss fight alone where the Ice Jester can do three actions/skills per turn almost screams like TPK bait to me. Admittedly I have little(see: none) experience with the system so it could be fair but I’m skeptical.
Throughout this article, I’ve been flip-flopping quite a bit; for every complaint, I have something to praise about it. This confusion, this rapid oscillation of shock, awe, and confusion completely reflect my turbulent emotions going through the PDF over and over. It’s not entirely bad, but it’s not entirely good either. For all my complaints there’s one major takeaway: it’s… it’s really high quality. The Orders are interesting and combine Races + Classes well, the adventure is interesting, and the monsters are memorable and epic. I can sense the inspiration from D&D 3.5 and 5e, from Dungeon World, and even from Warhammer 40k.
This is not some low-quality meme any half-baked corporation would generate in a week tops. This took time, effort, and plenty of deliberation. They brought in industry names that have likely worked on other, top quality products. For all its flaws, there are legitimate traces of solid game design smattered throughout the meme. Chicken nuggets made of solid gold that had to have come from a creative mind.
That said, I completely reject it on its premise. The very idea of Wendy’s joining the tabletop world with this system, a system that acts mostly like an extended burger advertisement using 5e-like mechanics, is… dishonest and disturbing.
I don’t think they needed to drive the Wendy’s element as hard as they did. If Wendy’s honestly and earnestly made a solid tabletop RPG and marketed that, wouldn’t that somehow be more amazing? That alone would have made headlines even without the blatant pandering.
“Oh, Crimson Halberd? That game made by Wendy’s? Yeah, I heard it’s really really good.”
Wendy’s apparently has the manpower, the connections, the drive, and the incentive to make tabletops. Why don’t they? Why don’t they use their massive amounts of money and power to create a powerhouse dream team and shake up the tabletop world with not only memes but legit quality?
I ultimately reject this game because Wendy’s can do better. They’re, in a manner, trying too hard yet not trying hard enough. This has the makings of a legitimately solid 5e-like system, but their ‘hip, millennial ad-meme lingo’ is holding them back and, despite directly trying to market to a certain demographic, I feel my revulsion overtake my interest. I feel like someone threw a bunch of memes and bad Wendy’s references at the wall and tried to stitch it together onto potentially great and innovative content, only for it to come out looking like some odd franken-millennial horror. They could have done so much better if they actually took their content seriously–if they took their audience seriously.
So until that day comes?
Wendy’s and I got beef.
~Di, signing out