Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Your Sorcerous Ways

Although I haven't mentioned it in quite a while, my homebrew fantasy setting, the Freed Lands, still percolates away in the back of my mind. I sometimes hesitate to post about it, since I get the impression it's largely of interest to myself alone, but this blog is too long neglected, so let me raise for discussion an idea that I hope will generate some commentary:

Fantasy without spells.

That's right - I'm coming to the conclusion that I'd be happier if my setting didn't have magic, or at least didn't have what RPGs generally describe as "spellcasting". The more I think about what turns me off about D&D-style western fantasy - a magic sword for every warrior, wizards chucking lightning bolts at their foes with impunity, priests healing the injured several times a day - I just don't like the idea of mere mortals having that kind of power, least of all on a reliable, predictable basis. I want magic to be scary and incomprehensible. I still want monsters, though.

In a lot of ways, the feel I want is what's depicted in the ultra-violent manga series Berserk, around the time of "The Golden Age" story arc. (The series ramps up the D&Disms shortly afterwards, with the main character befriending an elf and a wizard, among other things.) But early on, the world of Berserk is much like Europe during the 13th century or so, with mercenary bands doing the business of war and terrorizing the populace when work is slow. Whenever anything supernatural occurs, it's monstrously demonic in nature, and met by most of the protagonists with disbelief, confusion, and abject terror. That's more or less what I'm going for.

So, for the moment, I'm thinking of a human-dominated world, where magic is a fantasy, but horrific monsters lurk at the edges. There's still room for a sorcerer or two in this world, I suppose, but they'd be more monster than man.

You know, this concept has a lot in common with the so-called Cthulhu Mythos. I could say that's because BRP's currently the system I'm planning on using for the setting, but I think it's really just the influence of the aforementioned Berserk along with Princess Mononoke and similar films.


  1. The Cthulhu Mythos in game terms has generally come with a fear / insanity system. So maybe something along those lines needs to be integrated into your concept. I don't recall if that exists in BRP.

  2. Call of Cthulhu, which was the original game with a Sanity statistic, uses the BRP system, along with pretty much everything else Chaosium published. (Pendragon and Prince Valiant are exceptions.)

    I don't know if I'm going to go with full-blown SAN loss in the Call of Cthulhu style, but there's probably going to be something like Palladium's Horror Factor concept, at least (though hopefully better executed). Something to model the wave of fear when first facing down something unnatural. Call it a "Holy Shit Factor".

  3. There's a lot to recommend this approach and I look forward to seeing what you do with it!

    Something to model the wave of fear when first facing down something unnatural. Call it a "Holy Shit Factor".

    You could probably go for a POW roll to avoid losing a round to being too stunned to act. Different monsters would have different modifiers, with "normal" beasties having a x5 and the really heinous stuff being a mere x1.

    Or maybe match monster POW versus PC POW on the resistance table...?

  4. Having the "fear factor" based around POW is a very good idea. Thanks.

  5. I would suggest taking a look at BloodQuest (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=24054&it=1&filters=0_2141_0_0_0) and also Taint and Sanity - RuneQuest Edition (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=24509&it=1). They both offer rules and suggestions for handling horror and sanity. Both products were designed for RuneQuest (MRQ), which means they are highly compatable with all the D100 games (BRP, Call of Cthulhu, Stormbringer, etc.).

    The ideas you have for your game is pretty much what my blog is dedicated to. Once you get the game running I would like to read more about it. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thanks for the suggestions, P.S. I will take a look at them (and your blog).


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