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#1 RJMooreII

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 10:23 PM

I am planning on running a homebrew Dark Fantasy/Sword & Sorcery game, and I need a system that is very flexible. My few and stern demands are for a system that allows some tactical and situational realism in combat as well as be accommodating to a very wide variety of magic use. Much of my material is essentially Hyboreanized Tolkiem Elric, Glorantha, etc. I am not deliberately pastiching anyone nor am I doing a kitchen sink, but I am constructing my own very particular cosmos out of my favorite myths and pulps.

Which systems do you guys favor for allowing for flexible character creation in a pseudo-historical gritty environment?
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#2 Lunatic

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 11:26 PM

I think that would be a very interesting game. Sword and Sorcery the rpg.

#3 RJMooreII

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 01:02 AM

I hope so, though I am still wary of 'Tolkiem', I really like his elves but I can not stand his other gods. I have to try to cleave them without pulling a Moorcock.
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#4 Boot

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 04:37 AM

Mongoose's Conan RPG is a pretty gritty version of the d20 system. 20 points of damage from a single blow is considered Massive Damage and sees the target making a save or dying from that single strike. Armor absorbs damage--it doesn't make you harder to hit. You can Parry or Dodge blows, each with pros and cons. You can attempt to avoid armor and strike at the unprotected parts of your enemy with a Finesse attack, or you can just attack normally and try to bash through your target's defenses. Weapons can take damage (as well as armor), and when they do, they're less effective or even broken during the melee.

You can grapple, trip, disarm, do a shield bash, knee or elbow your enemy with an unarmed strike follow up to your swing.

It's viable to play a character wearing only a loincloth--this character would be heavy on the Dodge. Armor isn't unrealistic and ridiculous. You don't see men wearing complete plate mail running around dungeons. What you see is leather jerkins, chain shirts, brigadine, and sometimes breatplates. You can combine some armor types, too, making for more effective armor, as with a breastplate and chain. A supplemental book brings in piece meal armor, so you can just wear a helmet, bracers, and and shinguards--and still get some armor benefit, if you want to.

Weapons are rated with a penetration value. For example, a cutlass does good damage, but it has low penetration. A war hammer's damage is lower, but it's penetration is quite high. That's why you see pirates using cutlasses--because they usually go against non-armored foes, while the war hammer is home on the large battlefield where it is used to punch through heavily armored enemies.

Your STR effects the type of weapon and the combat style you will use. If you're average STR but high DEX, you're a good candidate for bows, dual light weapon use, and weapons that are best suited for the finesse combat style. If youv'e got a high STR, then you may want to use two handed weapons with high penetration to burst through enemy armor.

The Conan RPG is also the best class-based system I've ever seen from a d20 based game. The classes are more a type of culture rather than a type of job. If you want to be a thief, then steal things. You don't need to actually have the Thief class. A pirate that lands on an island and charms the natives can be a High Priest just as easily as the scholar that's learned in the ways of a particular god or a high CHR warrior who has fanatical followers.

Multiclassing is easy and allows you to create any type of character. For example, a scout may be a Soldier/Barbarian or a Barbarian/Borderer. A pirate captain may be a Noble/Pirate. A bounty hunter might be a Borderer/Thief. Skills and ability are more important in this game than your character's class. And there is no Priest or Cleric or Mage or Sorcerer class. If you want to be a mage, then learn sorcerery. Scholars are best suited to this, but by no means is that the only way to be considered a sorcerer.

In fact, the Priest of Mitra that knows several spells may know more about Sorcerery than the thief dabbler that only knows one spell but got caught and has been run out of town for his diabolical ways.

It's a fantastic game. The designers did a fantastic job of creating Howard's Hyborian Age using it.





If you just can't stand the d20 system, in spite of the modded Conan version I tout above, then follow this link. That will take you to a page on the Mongoose site where I've listed several alternatives to the d20 Conan RPG. Some are free! Some are home grown d20 modded versions. And some use other game systems for Hyborian Age play. I recommend looking at Zeb Cook's ZeFRS system. It's the original Conan system developed by Zeb when he worked for TSR as they published their version of the Conan game. It's complete and entirely free.

You also may want to look at the lite rule system called Barbarians of Lemuria. It's on that link page, too. There's a free download, and if you like it, you can purchase a pdf of the full game. It's designed for quick-n-easy Sword & Sorcery play.

I've never played it, or even read it, but I understand that Riddle of Steel, a now out of print RPG, is extremely gritty, melee combat based, and perfect for a Swords & Sorcery play as well.

#5 RJMooreII

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:13 AM

Thanks for the information, Boot.

I have browsed the the Conan D20, both the official and some homebrews. While I thought the systems were cool, there is a bit too much numerology involved in the D20 system (too many stats, too much stat inflation) for me to want to build a game around it.

I think I will probably end up running Barbarians of Lemuria, since the price is right and it seems to offer all the options I want. When I get enough worked out to be worth looking at I'll make a blog for it. The fact that its default setting is very sketchily defined works for me, as I will be using my own mix of stuff, such as a transplanted Ophthalamia from a black metal band I like.

Edited by RJMooreII, 16 April 2012 - 11:15 AM.

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#6 Boot

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 03:34 PM

I have browsed the the Conan D20, both the official and some homebrews. While I thought the systems were cool, there is a bit too much numerology involved in the D20 system (too many stats, too much stat inflation) for me to want to build a game around it.


No doubt it is a complicated system. I've been playing with it for a year now, and I'm still learning it.



I think I will probably end up running Barbarians of Lemuria, since the price is right and it seems to offer all the options I want.


I'd like to hear how it goes.

Did you look at ZeFRS? The entire system is free, and it's not a scaled back edition like the free version of Barbarians of Lemuria. It's the whole enchilda.

#7 RJMooreII

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 05:05 AM

Did you look at ZeFRS? The entire system is free, and it's not a scaled back edition like the free version of Barbarians of Lemuria. It's the whole enchilda.

I downloaded it. It looks like some of the resources might be worthwhile, but I think the BoL system is closer to something my players are familiar with.
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#8 Boot

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 02:41 PM

Yeah, if you like a quick-n-easy, rules-lite system, with a strong GM, that's definitely the way to go. I like that kind of game, too. I cut my teeth on Classic Traveller back in day where, if you needed a rule, the GM made it up on the spot.

And, yes, it's about as far away from the rules-for-everything d20 system as you can get.

I'd like to hear how it goes!

#9 Lunatic

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 12:20 AM

I havent played for 20 years, but I thought Warhammer RPG was fast and simple at least.

#10 RJMooreII

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 02:20 PM

Yeah, if you like a quick-n-easy, rules-lite system, with a strong GM, that's definitely the way to go. I like that kind of game, too. I cut my teeth on Classic Traveller back in day where, if you needed a rule, the GM made it up on the spot.

I started with AD&D 1E and we basically used the rules we understood and tried to make up something easy or consistent if we needed a special roll. D&D is probably still the game I've played the most; but I've played Risus, GURPs, various D20 games and a few rules-lite or free games. If I am playing a game with a sort of modern or hard science fiction feel I would go with GURPS every time; but I feel I am a decent enough judge of basic physics and logical outcomes to make sense of a more rules-lite system in something like S&S or a superhero game. I find I still enjoy old D&D, but D&D3E just seems like modifiers upon modifiers with no logical structure to any of it. GURPS is/can be very crunchy, but the resolution method and much of the calculations are similar to each other; there is something like a mass/HP ratio, for example.


I'd like to hear how it goes!

I probably wont be playing until I've moved into my new place, but I'm working on setting material and adventures until then.

Edited by RJMooreII, 08 May 2012 - 02:21 PM.

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#11 Kane

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 12:45 AM

If your planning on running a "Conanisque" style rpg I would recommend picking up Mongoose's The Road of Kings. Ignore the state blocks and just read it for the info on the various kingdoms and locations. It will give you a good overview of the Hyborian setting and you can cut out anything you don't like.

Barbarians of Lemuria has already been mentioned and I have to second it as a rules system for sword and sorcery. The creator has stated several times that he wrote it as a system for playing dark and gritty style S&S without the rules getting in the way of the fun.
Another good system is The Savage Sword of Solomon Kane. Yes it is a game for Howard's other character. But if you remove the rules for blackpowder weapons and the backgrounf therer is an excellent sword and sorcery system buried in there. As the game was designed to capture the feel of Howard's writing, everything is geared for fast and exciting play.
A new addition to the sword and sorcery field is Crypts and Things. This is a retroclone of early Dungeons and Dragons rewritten to play sword and sorcery. Rules lite it does push the edges of S&S. Some of the creatures listed are more at home at in a DnD game, but it does do a good job of being fast and bloody. You might not like it because it is a human only player characters game. But I can see working in some of the classic demi-humans.
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#12 RJMooreII

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 07:01 AM

If your planning on running a "Conanisque" style rpg I would recommend picking up Mongoose's The Road of Kings. Ignore the state blocks and just read it for the info on the various kingdoms and locations. It will give you a good overview of the Hyborian setting and you can cut out anything you don't like.

It's a pastiche S&S world. I'm taking things directly out of the Conan, Elric, Barsoom, Flash Gordon, Dying Earth and other RPGs and books. The Road of Kings is one of the resources I am using, I agree that it's cool. However, none of this takes place in 'Hyborian' Earth but on a homebrew world.

My world has some non-human or alter-humans, but only the close-to-human ones are player races. The must inhuman race I have are based on the Irda from Dragonlance, and they're basically the option for the player who feels the need to play something not a human. All of the other backgrounds are minor variations on humans, though.

I'll take a look at Savage Sword of Solomon Kane and Crypts and Things.

Edited by RJMooreII, 09 May 2012 - 07:02 AM.

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#13 Kane

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 05:38 PM

Another game that will soon be on the market is, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. The creator has said that this is his attempt at creating a game that mixes sword and sorcery with weird fiction.
currwently it is still in the layout stages and the first copies will be going to those who helped with the Kickstarter.
Details of the setting and various rules can be found HERE
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#14 MilkManX

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 08:43 PM

An easy one that is free on .PDF and adaptable to about anything is Swords and Wizardry.

http://www.swordsandwizardry.com/
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#15 RJMooreII

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 01:49 AM

I think Barbarians of Lemuria will work nicely for me, because it allows me to take content from pretty much any S&S or Fantasy game I like and drop the modules and stuff right into it. I'm mostly going for a Hyborian/Dark Fantasy feel, but with some modifications and replacement a lot of old D&D and Rolemaster content will adapt nicely (basically, remove the elves and whatnot, shift monster appearances around so they're more an event and change the feel of the magic/priestcraft). It seems pretty easy.

I will be starting my first (home-brewed) adventure probably next month, and I plan on integrating the X4: Master of the Desert Nomads and X5: Temple of the Desert Master, among others, into the game. Once I start playing I will make another thread and tell you guys how it's turning out.

I actually own a hard copy of Swords and Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord; I'm not shy about stealing (with modification) stuff from Gygax's D&D, he wasn't exactly writing S&S but he has a much grittier feel than Middle Earth RPG or the later, more generic D&D editions.
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#16 Kane

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 06:06 PM

If your going with Barbarians of Lemuria as your base system, I would recommend Legends of Steel: Barbarians of Lemuria Edition as a companion peice. It expands on the boons and flaws presented in BoL and adds some additional weapons and creatures. In addition it has an expanded section that makes it much easier, imo, to create your own monsters and animals.
The setting section also contains some good material for nations and background that can be lifted into your own setting.
It can also be purchased as a download from DrveThruRPG.

Edited by Kane, 23 May 2012 - 06:09 PM.

"I vanquished Law once, I'll conquer yet again--
And force upon Mankind the Freedom he fears--
And dead gods I will again defy?"

#17 Boot

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Posted 28 May 2012 - 03:30 AM

It's a pastiche S&S world. I'm taking things directly out of the Conan, Elric, Barsoom, Flash Gordon, Dying Earth and other RPGs and books.


With Barsoom and Flash Gordon and Dying Earth in there, I think I have the game made for that exact type of universe. Have you haver taken a look at Grim Tales? Follow that link to Amazon. You can find it as low as $22.00, including shipping. Review 1. Review 2. Video Review.

Do some Google-fu to find out more about this game.

Sounds like a nail hit on the head.

#18 RJMooreII

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Posted 29 May 2012 - 02:49 AM

If your going with Barbarians of Lemuria as your base system, I would recommend Legends of Steel: Barbarians of Lemuria Edition as a companion peice. It expands on the boons and flaws presented in BoL and adds some additional weapons and creatures. In addition it has an expanded section that makes it much easier, imo, to create your own monsters and animals.
The setting section also contains some good material for nations and background that can be lifted into your own setting.
It can also be purchased as a download from DrveThruRPG.

Thanks, I'll check it out.
I've got most of my Origins set out, but I welcome the monster/animal stuff, as I have a lot of weird giant beetles I need to make (there are no serpents in my world, but beetles are the top non-sentient carnivore on land and sea).
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#19 Kane

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Posted 12 June 2012 - 04:36 PM

Just learned of a new Sword and sorcery style rpg. "On Mighty Thews" seems to be a more co-operative style game. One where the players have an input into the style and setting of the game.
The write up on it can be found HERE
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And dead gods I will again defy?"

#20 RJMooreII

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Posted 23 June 2012 - 01:31 PM

Just learned of a new Sword and sorcery style rpg. "On Mighty Thews" seems to be a more co-operative style game. One where the players have an input into the style and setting of the game.
The write up on it can be found HERE

I have the ON MIGHTY THEWS pulp primer.

Quick question: Does anyone know of a good (free) Barbarians of Lemuria Mass Combat ruleset? Quick and dirty is preferred, but two of my characters have crews of 20-100 persons and one of them is explicitly set on imperial conquest, so I'd best have an answer for how his Desirite warriors fare without being arbitrary.
"Never trust a wizard - even in death." - Grognak the Barbarian