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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 29 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Have the setting, need a system  (Read 1293 times)
FrozenViking
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Posts: 4


« on: July 20, 2011, 06:38:33 PM »

Greetings from the cold North,

I need some advice and hoped someone here could share their wisdom. I've not been RPGing for a few years and have lost track of what's new and potentially awesome. I'm looking to start a campaign using the Al-Qadim setting (1001 nights), but with a darker feel. It will definitely be a high fantasy game with a focus on characters and story development, where I want some realism, without getting bogged down in too many tables and charts. Since it will be a high fantasy campaign, the magic system needs to be solid and easy to grasp, so that we don't get too bogged down in details (I'm posting here, because a friend of mine suggested Sorcerer). At the same time, I want normal combat to have a real feel, so that players don't feel invulnerable, but again, it should be a quick system, so that a simple fight doesn't take all evening. It also wouldn't hurt if the system had good rules for mass combat.

Am I asking for too much?

The question is, which system to use?
I don't care if the systems recommended are old or new, as long as they would fit the bill.

Thanks for your help!

- The Frozen Viking
Currently enjoying a thaw, before winter sets in again
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ADGBoss
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« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2011, 07:04:55 AM »

Quote
where I want some realism, without getting bogged down in too many tables and charts

Just when I plan on recommending Rolemaster, someone always complains about too many charts...

Sorcerer is a great system and there is a supplement, Sorcerer & Sword that helps with fantasy settings too.

Part of the problem is realism, its one of those words that is so hard to pin down. Realistic combat is something you have to experience. Trust me when I say you cannot simulate someone trying to kill you and everything that goes with it. Realism is also a matter of perspective. A friend of mine and I used to argue all the time (we still would but we agree to disagree on this subject) about which was more realistic: Anime style animation or Disney style animation. Many people used to think that denying dex bonuses in plate armor... until many of us saw a man in plate armor doing cartwheels.

So if you could define what you mean by Realism. How do YOU define Realism and then that would make it easier to recommend something.
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FrozenViking
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« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2011, 11:37:40 AM »

Just when I plan on recommending Rolemaster, someone always complains about too many charts...
I've looked at Rolemaster once and concluded that it was not for me ;-)

Realistic combat is something you have to experience. Trust me when I say you cannot simulate someone trying to kill you and everything that goes with it. Realism is also a matter of perspective [...] Many people used to think that denying dex bonuses in plate armor... until many of us saw a man in plate armor doing cartwheels.
I hear you and agree ... and for the record: I was not one of the GM's denying dex bonuses!

So if you could define what you mean by Realism. How do YOU define Realism and then that would make it easier to recommend something.
How do I define realism? ...  I'm not a fan of the typical D&D hit point system, where as your character gets more XP, he gets more hit points. After a few levels, when a character has a ton of hp's a guy wielding a dagger is simply no threat. I do see the link between experience and knowing how to avoid getting hit, which could justify the HP system, but I don't like it ... I want the players to know that combat can have serious consequences if they're not reflected upon what they're doing. I don't necessarily put an equal sign between realistic and deadly, because while it might be true in real life, I want to start a high fantasy campaign and I don't want the characters to drop like flies. I don't want the PC's to have to shun combat, because their scared to death of loosing their characters, but I want them to have a healthy respect for it. The Riddle of Steel had a high level of realism, but combat got bogged down, because the level of detail was too high (for me at least).

Right now I have Sorcerer and Burning Wheel short listed as favorites, but I'm still undecided.
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ADGBoss
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« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2011, 01:19:31 PM »

Normally my knee-jerk reaction to more realistic combat for fantasy is Basic Role Playing from Chaosium. BRP is/was the basis for a lot of games of theirs including the original (3?) versions of Runequest. BRP gives you hit locations and fatigue and you can now customize it. Its old school, not exactly "Indie" but its good and IMHO has always been a bit underrated as a system.

Runequest Slayers, which is now Runeslayers... I know Ron was high on it years ago... but I do not know if it has much of a magic system.

But I think your two choices, Sorcerer (and I def recommend Sorcerer & Sword too) and Burning Wheel are good ones.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2011, 03:44:36 PM »

Quote
I want the players to know that combat can have serious consequences if they're not reflected upon what they're doing. I don't necessarily put an equal sign between realistic and deadly, because while it might be true in real life, I want to start a high fantasy campaign and I don't want the characters to drop like flies. I don't want the PC's to have to shun combat, because their scared to death of loosing their characters, but I want them to have a healthy respect for it.

I don't think this is possible, really.

Either, statistically, you can't die in the combat (and it's a matter of how many resources you lose in order to win), or you can actually die.

I think weve had decades of TV, books and movies showing heroes going through 'life threatening danger' over and over and they have taught us some bullshit thinking. Because if you even have a one in a thousand chance of dying in a fight, once you've done about a thousand fights, you will die. And you know, one in a thousand isn't as risky as they portray it in movies, books and shows. Human brains just aren't very good at statistics - we see what looks like a 20% chance of dying in a book or movie - then that happens again five more times - then five more. And each time maybe we rationalise it as his skills were that good - but if they were, then it turns out it wasn't a 20% chance of dying then, it was less (or zero) due to high skills.

Personally I've switched my design method to no risk of life, but having a big risk of a high resource loss as the scary thing to look out for in combat. Or your risking innocent NPC lives instead of your own.

Other methods might be that the GM (as directed by some rules) secretly grants the PC's extra HP, writing down the amounts, before any battle. This way when the PC hits zero HP, actually he's still up by the GM's call. But the player never knows if he has extra HP or not. This lends some fear of the unknown, as they don't know if they have built up their secret HP supply yet (or whatever health method you use if not HP).
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stefoid
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« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2011, 04:28:11 PM »

In most fiction the tension of conflict comes from "will the character achieve what their fighting for", not will they survive the fight.  Will they defuse the bomb in time, will they save the princess? etc...

Thats why fiction doesnt have 'random encounters', or at least not more than one to establish that the protagonists are in a dangerous setting.  Fighting for nothing more than survival is inherently boring - there has to be something more at stake in a fight, even for survival fiction.

My view is to set up combat so that it is about something important other than pure survival and then be ruthless about whether the characters can achieve that - if they are defeated in combat they dont die, they just dont achieve the important thing.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2011, 07:04:43 PM »

Quote
In most fiction the tension of conflict comes from "will the character achieve what their fighting for", not will they survive the fight.
In that case, when the bad guys are holding the hero at gun point, it would be a calm, quiet scene. Because what they are fighting for isn't under immediate threat. And nor is the hero, since he wont die.

Yet they always try and act like these moments are tension filled. And it keeps leaving the impression you can have both life risking encounters and multiple instances of life risking encounters with continued survival.

Quote
Fighting for nothing more than survival is inherently boring
If you can't die, I agree.

Or if your thoroughly equipped to survive (which is basically the same thing as "you can't die") yet play continues instead of hitting a 'You won!' end result, I agree.

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stefoid
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« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2011, 07:30:55 PM »

Quote
In most fiction the tension of conflict comes from "will the character achieve what their fighting for", not will they survive the fight.
In that case, when the bad guys are holding the hero at gun point, it would be a calm, quiet scene. Because what they are fighting for isn't under immediate threat. And nor is the hero, since he wont die.

Yet they always try and act like these moments are tension filled. And it keeps leaving the impression you can have both life risking encounters and multiple instances of life risking encounters with continued survival.

Holding a gun on someone is a pretty good way of trying to stop someone from achieving their aim I would have thought. 
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Callan S.
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« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2011, 11:43:31 PM »

Well the badguy isn't doing anything to achieve his own aims while he's holding the gun either. Just how it seems to come up time and again on TV, movies and in books.
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stefoid
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« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2011, 05:33:56 AM »

Another way to look at that kind of situation is that a conflict has already been fought and lost by the protagonist ,hence his current crappy situation.  Obviously the bad guy cant just kill him.  Protagonists continually get knocked out, captured, temporarily incapacitated by wounds which seem to heal remarkably quickly, saved by a 3rd party as the bad guy is about to deliver the coup de grace, etc...   Thats not important, whats important is they failed.
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ADGBoss
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« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2011, 07:49:30 AM »

Quote
I don't want the PC's to have to shun combat, because their scared to death of loosing their characters, but I want them to have a healthy respect for it.

You know I have been through that thought process myself and I considered, and rejected, it this morning as I was re-reading the thread. You cannot dictate how they are going to feel.

Players Run From Puppies & Charge Dragons*

It does not matter how realistic or lethal a game system is (and by game system I will include GM Fiat and its affects on the rules) player reaction will be dictated by their approach to their characters. So I would suggest that you choose a level of realism that is along the lines of what you want to run as a GM and feel comfortable with. Then let them react to it however they will react.

I think Callan has a point in his concept of resources being lost. While I think hit points and spells used are still resources, whether the end result is lethal or not, players are generally more afraid of losing their precious +2 sword than living or dying, mainly because health is often the easiest resource to replenish.

*There is an old Mac game from the late 1980s that was graphical. It was an adventure game and one of the creatures was a Cute Puppy. The Cute Puppy had one power: It soiled your armor.  I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the game though.



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contracycle
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« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2011, 08:30:40 AM »

In most fiction the tension of conflict comes from "will the character achieve what their fighting for", not will they survive the fight... Fighting for nothing more than survival is inherently boring - there has to be something more at stake in a fight, even for survival fiction.

Couldn't disagree more, in both respects.  Saw Steven Segal vehicle Under Siege the other day; this is clearly full of fight scenes that have no greater purpose than survival.  I'm sure there are many, many others.  There may be some greater purtpose overall, but it is often not the case, IME, that the fighting is merely an obstacle in another goal.  Or you could look at the famous matrix bullet-time scene, shot in loving slow-mo and lingering on every detail, even though the audience had no reason to think the characters were in any real danger.  The whole final act of Predator is one long fight with no goal beyond survival.

So in most media, it seems to me, fighting is fun in and of itself, and is not merely an obstacle to a greater end. 
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
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Callan S.
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« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2011, 04:48:14 PM »

Quote
players are generally more afraid of losing their precious +2 sword than living or dying, mainly because health is often the easiest resource to replenish.
Totally agree!

Generally it's the resources the player themselves had to put in, at the very least, time and patience, that become the most precious. Hit point! Pah, you get them for free for just making a character. But +2 swords! You can't just get one of them! Scarcity = value.

However, design wise I've never been able to really figure out how to handle the first game where the players, from having just started, obviously wont have any hard won resources. Everything they have will be a freebie.

Then again, sometimes I think this is why character creation takes so damn long in alot of traditional games - it's actually putting the player through the rigours of making a character that is the initial stake of play. You can even hear that said pretty much explicitly on the rifts forums where people say they don't want the character they just spent two hours making, to die.
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FrozenViking
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Posts: 4


« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2011, 08:15:13 PM »

An interesting point is raised: Death isn't necessarily the "worst" that can happen to the characters. I remember years ago when we had the powerful characters in an AD&D game, the worst thing the GM did to us, was to overwhelm us and take our gear away. The rings, wands, +2 swords, armors, etc. all went away and we were devastated. It felt like we were starting all over again, even if we hadn't lost our characters.

What's crystallized now is that the deadliness of combat or the "realistic feel" isn't as important as to have the characters feel like they stand to lose something from not succeeding. Whether it be an objective, object, person, etc. As such I still think the system you use is still important, because if the system we use makes the characters invulnerable or the opposite (where any hit can kill them), then it also impedes proper roleplaying.

Of course as a GM I'm just as guilty as the next GM for fudging the dice if I desire a different outcome, if I think it will add drama or an interesting twist to the story. I pretty much let the story unfold with as little dice rolling as possible, but ask the players to roll, when something important is happening, where failure could have serious consequences. They can script what they would like to happen and then I play along if I like it, and add and subtract where I think it fits.

I am however a fan of preparing properly for each session, so that I have a rough outline of what could happen, so that I can improvise around that and respond to the characters actions.

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stefoid
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« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2011, 08:32:16 PM »

In most fiction the tension of conflict comes from "will the character achieve what their fighting for", not will they survive the fight... Fighting for nothing more than survival is inherently boring - there has to be something more at stake in a fight, even for survival fiction.

Couldn't disagree more, in both respects.  Saw Steven Segal vehicle Under Siege the other day; this is clearly full of fight scenes that have no greater purpose than survival.  I'm sure there are many, many others.  There may be some greater purtpose overall, but it is often not the case, IME, that the fighting is merely an obstacle in another goal.  Or you could look at the famous matrix bullet-time scene, shot in loving slow-mo and lingering on every detail, even though the audience had no reason to think the characters were in any real danger.  The whole final act of Predator is one long fight with no goal beyond survival.

So in most media, it seems to me, fighting is fun in and of itself, and is not merely an obstacle to a greater end. 

I said most fiction.  Obviously that doesn't include crappy martial arts movies that are basically the equivalent of D&D - we're here to fight and the fiction is optional.  Even in survival fiction, the character will have a plan, and for the protagonist, when that character is in conflict we know they wont die.  But will they execute each part of the plan successfully, or have to go to plan B?  Thats what is effectively at stake.  NPCs are a different matter, they can be killed off in droves.

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