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View Full Version : Any games based around the monsters/folklore of the Middle Ages?



TripleD
2016-09-10, 08:46 PM
The stereotypical fantasy rpg is one set in a pseudo-medieval setting. Yet for all it's window dressing, most of the monsters and races are drawn from a mix of Tolkien (who was more into Anglo-Saxons than the Middle Ages), Norse, and Greek Mythology.

Does anyone know if there has ever been a fantasy RPG, or even a module for an existing RPG, based around the bizarre worldview expressed in medieval bestiaries and world chronicles*? One where things like Blemmeyes (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headless_men), Sciapods (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopod_(creature)), and Panottis (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panotti) are playable races? Where you disposition is based on four humours, and a giant ring of fire separates two halves of the world?

*I realize saying "beliefs in the Middle Ages" is a bit nebulous. After all we are talking about wildly different countries over hundreds of years. Not to mention Christianization didn't make old stories disappear; trolls, elves, and fairies continued to be used in folk tales. I guess what I'm saying is the Latin-based scholarly worldview, as opposed to a more vernacular one.

RazorChain
2016-09-10, 09:16 PM
You have Ars Magica which is based on the notion of Mythic Europe in the middle ages. A place fraught with mythical beasts, faeries, witches and demons that try to corrupt peoples souls. The idea is that the myths are real. King Arthur, Roland, Grendel and Beowulf, Sigurd and Fáfnir all existed and you can pick and choose what myths are real. Finding Caliburn or Ascalon is to defeat a dragon that is terrorizing the country side is much more fun than finding that +3 sword of dragonslaying.

It is often easy for players to immerse themselves in setting they know, I don't have to explain where Italy is or how it looks like, the culture or how the people look like. It is real easy to research how places look like, find pictures or find some interesting local legends or tidbits of history. I wish I had all this information accessible when I was running my Ars Magica game pre wikipedia in 1998

You have the four realms of power: the divine, the infernal, the fae and magic and characters can draw upon those powers. You can only play humans but you might be faerie blooded or giant blooded...and in my game the Pc's are currently dragging around a cambion npc. Cambion is the french word for kinda half demon where a succubus aquires sperm from having sex and passes it on to a human female as an incubus. Lot of the creatures found in DnD are often caricatures based upon real myths with loot tables added.

I am currently running a campaign based on Ars Magica's Mythic Europe setting and it's a lot of fun.

Khedrac
2016-09-11, 02:25 AM
Another game that might have some of what you are looking for is Pendragon, which was strictly Arthurian. How much an Arthurian game will be middle ages-based really depends on the DM, but it should be in the ballpark.

RazorChain
2016-09-11, 02:35 AM
Then there is Yggdrasill, based on viking mythology


http://cubicle7.co.uk/yggdrasill-the-roleplaying-game-of-norse-adventures/

TripleD
2016-09-13, 10:29 AM
You have Ars Magica which is based on the notion of Mythic Europe in the middle ages. A place fraught with mythical beasts, faeries, witches and demons that try to corrupt peoples souls. The idea is that the myths are real. King Arthur, Roland, Grendel and Beowulf, Sigurd and Fáfnir all existed and you can pick and choose what myths are real.


Neat! I'd heard of Ars Magica before, but I must admit I had no idea how it actually played. With a bit of home brewing this could be what I'm looking for. Thanks for taking the time to write all that up.


Another game that might have some of what you are looking for is Pendragon, which was strictly Arthurian. How much an Arthurian game will be middle ages-based really depends on the DM, but it should be in the ballpark.

Definitely in the ballpark, or at least one part of the whole.


Then there is Yggdrasill, based on viking mythology


http://cubicle7.co.uk/yggdrasill-the-roleplaying-game-of-norse-adventures/

Looks interesting, but a bit earlier than the time period I'm aiming for.

Mark Hall
2016-09-13, 01:26 PM
Neat! I'd heard of Ars Magica before, but I must admit I had no idea how it actually played. With a bit of home brewing this could be what I'm looking for. Thanks for taking the time to write all that up.

Came in to mention Ars Magica, and will add that the 4th edition is a free PDF from the publisher. (http://www.atlas-games.com/arm4/)

RazorChain
2016-09-13, 02:58 PM
Neat! I'd heard of Ars Magica before, but I must admit I had no idea how it actually played. With a bit of home brewing this could be what I'm looking for. Thanks for taking the time to write all that up.


You can just use the setting with whatever system you like. I'm currently using a setting inspired by Ars Magica but using the Gurps rules.

Knaight
2016-09-13, 05:06 PM
Deyrini Realms is a full game on the Fudge engine that is based on a set of fantasy novels. Said fantasy novels are not in any way D&D based, and tie much closer to history and historical legends of the middle ages than most.

BWR
2016-09-13, 05:24 PM
Came in to mention Ars Magica, and will add that the 4th edition is a free PDF from the publisher. (http://www.atlas-games.com/arm4/)

4e, where wearing armor will kill you faster than running around naked in combat.

TripleD
2016-09-13, 10:21 PM
4e, where wearing armor will kill you faster than running around naked in combat.

This I gotta hear. How does it do that?

Martin Greywolf
2016-09-14, 01:51 AM
The quick and dirty way is to take whatever system you like and run it in Witcher universe - Sapkowski is a decent scholar of medieval Europe, and wrote several essays on the topic, including an entire book about Arthurian legends. Speaking of Sapkowski, if you have access to his Narrenturm trilogy, you may as well use that, it's possible THE best introduction to real middle ages, focusing on Hussite wars.

That aside, do keep in mind that those bestiaries weren't necessary how scholars back then thought world worked for real. Yes, humourism was an accepted theory, but it was decent at explaining the world around them - bestiaries not so much. They were a bit like modern-day sci fi literature (far from perfect analogy), and you can find plenty of scepticism towards whether things in them are real or not.

One of the more interesting symptoms of this was a medieval essay on if the dog people have souls and how they fit into the Bible. Reading it felt similar to modern debates on aliens and if they will or will not have consciousness in the way we understand it.

TripleD
2016-09-14, 08:19 AM
One of the more interesting symptoms of this was a medieval essay on if the dog people have souls and how they fit into the Bible. Reading it felt similar to modern debates on aliens and if they will or will not have consciousness in the way we understand it.

I like the one about whether Antipodians were real since, if Adam was created on one side of the great ring of fire at the equator, how could his descendents have reached the other side? Or that debate, first shown to me in "Baudolino", about whether vacuums could actually exist?

I realize that the Middle Ages was, if anything, even more contentious for models of the universe than our own. But what I'm going for isn't really a model of the Middle Ages as they actually were, or what people actually believed. More of a "what if these ideas were real" kind of world. A game system that draws on those beliefs rather than the more Tolkien vein of fantasy.