Friday, October 23, 2009

Perchance To Dream

I am beginning to think that I want to run a fantasy campaign for which no game system exists, which is simultaneously frustrating (because it means that I can't just pick up a book off the shelf and run it) and liberating (because it means I can quit looking for something already in print and figure out how to put it together myself).

I want it to have the following:

  • Subtle magic (i.e. no fireballs or bags of magic swords)
  • Detailed and deadly combat that is fast-paced, with use of minis as an option
  • Systems for conquering and managing lands
  • Hirelings/followers as an integral part of the game
  • Support for large-ish battles (involving about 20 to a side)
  • Ways to mechanically differentiate one "warrior" character from another
  • Non-dicepool
  • Characters that can fit on an index card

Does such a game exist? I think not, but I'd love to be proven wrong. I have been thinking of cobbling it together from bits of BRP, which is a close but not exact fit. I am open to suggestions.


  1. Pendragon fits every one of those criteria (although fitting a character on an index card might be a little tough, I have a form that fits character stats into a third of a page). You'd have to go back to 4th edition for the magic system.

    Otherwise, yeah, some monkeying about with BRP would probably get you there (what else is Pendragon but heavily-modded BRP anyway?).

  2. Yeah, Pendragon is a great game, but kind of falls down in the "detailed combat" area if I remember right. It's also heavily tied to a particular setting and would require at least as much tweaking as vanilla BRP.

    I forgot to mention that dungeons and monsters are a part (but not the sum total) of my ideal game, and Pendragon's pretty light on that as well. I have been meaning to grab the 4th edition book for a while, though. (I only have the 5th edition and the GPC.)

  3. On a related note, Greg Stafford recently lamented (on that none of the publishers he's been involved with have been interested in publishing his dream "generic" version of the Pendragon system, expanded to other genres and styles.


  4. Well, particularly in light of wanting dugneony-moster goodness, it sounds like Pendragon isn't the magic bullet either. Nevertheless, to address your points:

    I guess it depends on what you mean by "detailed combat"--if you're looking for something like GURPS with all the switches flipped, then yeah, Pendragon's positively rules lite.

    From my perspective, Pendragon combat is slightly more detailed than, say, classic D&D combat. Which is not super detailed by any means. But I don't think it would be terribly upsetting to port in some of the combat rules from BRP (strike ranks and such)--but then you're getting into tweaking a system, rather than it being perfect out of the box, as you said you're looking for.

    At any rate, definitely check out 4th edition and its supplements, as the design agenda at the time was all about expanding character options.

    And as for the "generic" Pendragon system: I hadn't heard about that. I'll try not to dwell on it too much for fear of bursting a vein in frustration. (Sounds like it's time for a letter-writing campaign!)

  5. Another vote for BRP. The current edition has everything you might need and a nice toolbox attitude.

  6. You might give the old Fantasy Trip rules a look. They're basically a simplified (and superior IMO)version of what eventually became GURPS. There's a game based on the Fantasy Trip called Legends of the Ancient World which is pretty nifty. Its published by Dark City Games and is available as a free download on their site. The rules are very tweakable and only a few pages long.

    The larger campaign aspects might be missing but the Fantasy trip definitely has you covered on minis,tactics, and fitting your guy on an index card.

    You might also want to check out this guys site:


  7. I have some familiarity with TFT - I briefly owned it about 5 years ago. I sort of liked it, as I recall. I should probably give it another look. Thanks for the recommendation.

  8. Do you worry that "Detailed and deadly combat that is fast-paced, with use of minis as an option" might be contradictory?

  9. I do. Minis are the least important part, but I'm aware that detail and speed don't often go hand-in-hand.

  10. I think you just defined "fantasy heartbreaker" there Bliz'.

    To echo Sirlarkins above, you might want to see if you can find the Norse/Germanic sourcebook for Pendragon (Land of Giants IIRC).

  11. Yup, Land of Giants for sure. To that I'd add Beyond the Wall for its shamanic/heathen magic system.

  12. If by "fantasy heartbreaker" you mean it's heartbreaking that such a system is probably impossible, yeah. I tend to think of heartbreakers as games that are clearly "D&D, but better!" What I'm proposing is probably more like a Stormbringer/Pendragon mashup.

  13. It's not imposible, but it seems nobody making fantasy games will realy dare to do anything too different from what we've seen before and what sells.

  14. Hm, interesting. Good read!!!

    My core group had been feverishly working on a new system & mechanics for about the last two years. The mechanics are almost exactly what your looking for, fast, fluid, and you can add as much detail as you want. We filed for a patent about 8 months ago and are still waiting. If your interested in checking it out let me know...

  15. You know, I never have tried Unisystem. I should give it a look one of these days.

    And yeah, I'm always interested in new stuff.

  16. I feel your pain!

    I have been after a system to build my dream of a "Paleo Fantasy" setting around for ages. I need a less undefined magic system to reflect the unformed magic of the world as well as rules for shamanism and "primitive" religion and rights.

    Pendragon would fit most of your criteria. Monster-making wouldn't be that hard for Pendragon as there are enough monsters in it to give you some basics.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.