"Dragon Fist" is a Role Play Game freely available on the Net (URL : http://www.wizards.com/dnd/DF_Downloads.asp). The Setting is a fictional Country named Tianguo, based on Ancient China, complete with Evil Eunuchs (and an corrupt Emperor, also), invading barbarians, Kung-Fu sects ...
The game uses a variant of (A)D&D rules (with 6 Characteristics, 4 Character Classes with 9 'Kits', 9 Alignments, evolution by levels…), with some important differences :
Your Character rolls Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma as usual but instead of having those characteristics giving you fixed bonuses (to damage, rolls to hit, hit points ...), you have, for each Characteristic above 10 a "Stunt Bonus". The Name of the Stunt Bonus depends on the characteristic : Might for Strength, Acrobatics for Dexterity, Fortitude for Constitution, Savvy for Intelligence, Insight for Wisdom, Charm for Charisma. The Characteristics can't evolve with the Character (like in AD&D), but you choose to increase one Stunt Bonus when you climb up one experience level (for example 1d4 to 1d6), which is something new for AD&D.
At the beginning of any round, you choose ONE stunt bonus, throw the adequate die : the result is a bonus you are given during that round to corresponding scores. For example, let's say Fong Sai Yuk choose an Acrobatics (Dexterity) Stunt Bonus this round : he throws his Acrobatics die (let's say it's a d8), obtains 6, so he's got +6 to his Armour Class and to hit with range weapons this round. But he won't get any bonus to hit with a sword, nor Damage bonus, even if his Strength is 18 (a stunt bonus of 1d6). For that, he needed to chose a Might (Strength) Stunt this round.
There is a kind of "Universal Resolution System" (really new for AD&D !!). For any feat the system is the same : roll 1d20, add the stunt bonus (see above) if applicable ; the result is compared to a difficulty (set by the Game Master between 5 and 25, when you oppose a NPC, it's generally the appropriate characteristic + the level of the NPC). For combat, the difficulty is the Armour Class (the higher, the better, as in D&D3, as opposed to old AD&D …), generally computed from 10 + Acrobatics Stunt Bonus (no hero wears armour in Wuxia - Chinese "sword and fantasy" - films). You rarely get bonuses besides your Stunt, the exceptions being bonuses from your character class or your chosen kit (example : a Fighter has +2 to hit, +3 with his speciality weapon), martial art manoeuvres …
Besides spells (which work just like in AD&D) there are "Martial Art manoeuvres " that everyone gets (even wizards). They are classified by ranks (just like spell levels) and give you bonuses to combat actions or new possibilities (fight prone without penalty, crash through a wall without damage, jump 20 feet …). Really funny and easy to use : it's one of the strong points of the game.
Even with those novelties, there are still some (silly, I think) rules from old AD&D : the Thief Skills (who need them, in a genre where almost every one can jump more than 20 feet ?), the saving throws (that is the difficulties to resist magic, poison …) still require a table cross-referencing Character Class and Level (they managed to throw away the THAC0 – rolls to hit – tables, why not this one ?) … Also, I think they should have changed the rules for initiative. There is a new system taking into account the speed of the weapon, the speed of the spell and Stunt Bonus (from Wisdom !!), but you still have a number of actions per round fixed by your level and kind of weapon : I think this is maybe too rigid (even if some martial art manoeuvres like "Whirling Strike" let you hit multiple opponents).
The presentation is perfect, with beautiful artwork, a good map… The writing style is good and the author gives many useful ideas to run adventures "the Chinese way". "Dragon Fist" is a strong Challenger to other "Chinese Fighting Fantasy" RPG, such as "Swords of the Middle Kingdom". As it's free and produced by such a big company, the competition is already won, but if you download "Dragon Fist" and love it, don't forget to have a look at other game systems, such as "SMK" or other freely available systems such as the excellent "Outlaws of the Water Margin".
This game is a very good variant of (A)D&D, a kind of D&D3 preview in some ways. There are some really new ideas (such as the "Stunt Bonuses" which lets you choose what you focus upon during a combat round) and some rules which might annoy some people who dislike D&D (such as Thief Skills). But download this complete game, it's really worth a look and certainly worth a try if you like Martial Arts action and Chinese Fantasy.
Style: 5 (Excellent!)