JP On Gaming

Friday, August 21, 2009

Game system for this historical thing

Before I go into any more details about this topic, you have to know that any game system can support any adventure or campaign you can imagine. The caveat is that you need to know the strengths and weaknesses of the game system, and usually try to stick closer to the original goal of the rule set.

In this article, I’ll go over the three options I mentioned previously (insert Link). This post is not a critique of the game systems involved, but it might include partial rants...

Since the game is set in the medieval world, I will narrow my thinking to a number of game systems that use medieval fantasy as their base (no Star Wars or Robotech). I also want the game to be somewhat realistic (no D&D 4e). As an added constraint, I will narrow my thought to systems I enjoy.

I came up with the following game systems: Ars Magica, Basic RPG (which includes Call of Cthulhu Dark Ages), Gurps, D&D 3.5, Wizards and Warlocks, and the World of Darkness.

Ars Magica

The game everyone heard about but never played for any period of time... While AM is set in or around the right time period.
Pros The Grog system allows for a true troupe-style of playing where the PCs could play a large group of pilgrims and their leaders (the Companions).
Cons Ars Magica is an obscure game... Known to all, but REALLY known to few. Removing magic, takes away a lot from the game. The downside is that Companions must shift as focus which might be difficult in the middle of the action.

Basic RPG

I won’t hide that Basic (or BRP) is my system of choice for most home-grown ideas. It is rules-light and very fast-paced. With its emphasis on realistic combat, BRP is a ready-made for this type of thing. For a less gritty campaign, certain special rules must be put in place.
Pros fast-paced, simple rule set focused on what you try to do. It does have rules for allegiance and virtues (from Pendragon). Cons oddly enough, many people associate Basic = Call of Cthulhu and shy away from this great product. Also, the game can be very deadly.


Now I’m not the biggest fan of the Gurps system. In fact... I don't like it. I feel it is outdated and overly heavy for my own tastes. Still, Gurps has provided a LOT of quality
Pros There are supplements for it! Okay. Not for the Crusades themselves, but you can use Arabian Nights, Middle Ages, Russia, Viking and even Fantasy (which is set around the time of the Crusades). So you have plenty of sourcebooks to allow your PCs to travel around. Cons I personally do not like the Gurps system. I find it cumbersome. However others could have different views about it.

D&D 3.5

3.5 could be used, but a severe limiting of classes has to be done: fighters, rogues, barbarians are all immediately at home here, but
Pros The combat system is detailed and covers a lot of options for the PCs. One of D&D’s best selling points is its notoriety. Every roleplayer knows about D&D. Cons The game is really balanced to have magic woven into the system. Removing magic does take away a lot of the fun of the game

Wizards and Warlocks

I’ll admit I never played this one, but I have played a few games of Mutants & Mastermind and found the game very fun and fast paced.
Pros Very much like D&D, but faster-paced Cons W&W is designed for Conan-style, fantasy super-hero games.

World of Darkness

Strip away all the vampires, the mages and the werewolves and you are left with a quality game system whose main strength is that it manages to offer quantify elements most other RPGs leave as intangible through the Background. The Dark Ages line has a number of ready-made
Pros The social system is well-detailed and easy to resolve. The Backgrounds allow the PCs to "know" if they are rich, noble or have friends at the start of the adventure. Cons Some elements of combat are clunky when not dealing with supernaturals.


Any of the systems above could work and support the campaign with some minor changes or house rules but my intent was to keep the rules as close to standard as possible.

A historical campaign is not the elusive Holy Grail or the horrible class book horror many think about when they hear or think "history".

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