View Full Version : Looking for a system to fit an unusal mix...

2012-04-10, 09:46 PM
Ok, first some background:
I can't really call myself a 'Roleplayer', because I haven't any real experience; I'm much more of a Wargamer. Paradoxically though, I'm most interested in the storytelling aspect of RPGs. After some false starts as a player, and for several other reasons, I think I'd prefer to be a GM.

Now, I had an idea for a Low Fantasy setting/campaign style. To sum things up, the events in-game would happen in a 'lost world' of sorts. The 'outside world' is an alternate history, initially Medieval England one generation after the death of King Arthur. However, the vast majority of all games will take place 'inside'.

I'm trying to find a system that fits well the style of play I want with this world.

First Unusual Requirement:
I plan to run most games with but one player. In part because I hope it'll encourage initiative, in part because I fear few will be interested in this, but mostly because I'm drawing most my inspiration from the kind of story which usually follows one and only one character throughout. But the system has to be able to handle more than one person (incl. NPCs).

Second Unusual Requirement:
Simply put, in this setting magic exists only as plot device. (Although there'll still be semi-magical healing, in so far as much that even the most seriously wounded man will be bedridden for no more than a week or two!)
So a system that inherently doesn't have battle wizards would be nice.

Third Unusual Requirement:
I'm not sure how to put what I'm looking for in the combat system... Frankly, I'm doubtful that it can be had at all. I'd like something more 'realistic', in that a single sword thrust can kill you. But at the same time a pair-off between master duelists or armor-plated knights becomes a battle of endurance, until one side gains an advantage. I know hit points nominally represent this, but I'd like something where it's more obvious that taking a wound of any significance means you've already lost. I expect most 'real' fights to be mono-a-mono melee duels, but at the same time have proper (eg, exponential) scaling for numerical advantage (so a half-dozen mooks is a real threat). Oh, and all the proper advantages for horses. And maybe even room for pistols, if I ever advance that far (hey, it's possible).
In the likelihood that such a system does not exist, a streamlined one would probably work better anyways.


Fourth Unusual Requirement.
The setting's all but human-only; the PCs will all be at least. The non-human races are a bit... complex. For the most part they're based off Tolkien, but including works of his other than LotR; and they're still a far cry from modern interpretations.

(Spoiler'd because it's kinda off-tangent.)

"High Elves" and Mechanical Gnomes are OUT. Instead, both are taken from Tolkien -but not in way's you'd expect. Gnomes are based off the Dr˙edain, and the Elves are Tolkein's "Dark Elves", (nothing in common with modern Drow) which get barely a mention in the Silmarillion, but are implied to be equivilent to his Elves in his other works (e.g., sylvan elves).
It's sad, but Halflings have just been 'cooled' to death. The whole concept -that they were not the kind for adventuring- has just completely been obliterated.
Dwarves are in, but are definately not steampunk. Beards are little more than fashion, oaths are no more important than they are for everyone else in this setting, and they're just as at home above ground as under it. Essentially short humans with some culture differences.
Monsters are really monsterous, and individual. Don't ask anyone but a Wizard (eg, a Wise Man) to know a proper name for each.
The word "Race" in this setting really means "race" and not "species". The divisions between species is really quite arbitrary IRL anyways.


In case anyone's interested about the world itself, I'd be happy to have someone to work with cooperatively (otherwise this'll just stew around in my head for another year or two).

2012-04-10, 10:42 PM
Pendragon could work for one player (but it's more fun with more), it has low magic by default and its combat can absolutely murder characters who approach it untrained and unarmored, but fights between trained and armored knights go on for a while with them hacking at each other, scrabbling to block with shields, beating each other to the ground, etc.

2012-04-10, 10:57 PM
Burning Wheel might fit what you have in mind; magic is not manditory by default, and having one character would make tailoring challanges that much more appropriate. I'm not sure how lethal the combat system is, though, and note that throwing in a magical character into an otherwise non-magical group can greatly unbalance things; magic can end up considerably more powerful than mundane abilities.

2012-04-11, 02:18 AM
Try using Mutants and Masterminds on a low power level. Most of the abilities are generic, so there's nothing really necessary and the game is built to replicate comic book adventures, which means solo as well as team. All you've got to do is tell your player what kinds of abilities are off limits and you'll be set.

2012-04-11, 07:39 AM
Pendragon looks really good, I might have to adjust some things for a slightly higher fantasy though.

Burning Wheel probably won't fit, as from what I understand race plays a major role in character build and I forgot to add "human-only" to the list of unusual requirements.

I don't have enough time to look at Monsters and Masterminds before class.

The Cat Goddess
2012-04-11, 01:04 PM
Honestly, I would use GURPS.

I am not overly familiar with GURPS 4e... my group still uses the 3e rules, mostly because more than half the group loves min-maxing.

How GURPS fits with your requirements:

1st: by not being "level based" or "class based", characters & NPCs can be as focused or generally competent as you want. The system rewards specialization while encouraging well-rounded characters. Enemies can be tweaked to be a challenge to an individual or a group.

2nd: I don't know the 4e Magic rules, but to get what you're looking for in 3e, you would simply say "no Magery for PCs". Spells could still be available, but, without Magery, they wouldn't qualify for the higher power spells. If you include Alchemy (especially if you decide that Alchemy is common and all prices are 1/5 what is listed in the books), then "magical" healing (and all kinds of other single-shot "buffs") become available.

3rd: Combat in GURPS can be very deadly and wearing even a small amount of armor can make a huge difference. On the other hand, a tough barbarian in thick furs and hides can practically ignore volleys of arrows (not counting "lucky shots") while hacking through even the heaviest of armor. Meanwhile, a pair of duelists can exchange parries and ripostes for minutes at a time. Two average soldiers (1d6+2 sword damage, DR:4 Chainmail, 12 Health) can exchange five or six blows easily before one scores that "lucky hit" that does enough damage to disable the other.

The rules are designed so that you can have as much or as little detail in character creation and combat as you want.

2012-04-11, 01:41 PM
Yeah, this pretty much has GURPS written all over it. Basically from the sound of it, GURPS with minimal options used would cover all bases that I can find here and it sounds like a very standard use of GURPS at that. Really apart from only having one player, which isn't that unusual, these are quite common things to do. In any case, hope this works out for you.

2012-04-11, 08:01 PM
Actually, the more I think of it, the more Pendragon seems perfect for what I have in mind. Especially given that Exalibur was what brought this idea back to the forefront of my mind...