Friday, April 13, 2012

Contemplating the Relative Merits and Quirks of Various Fantasy Games That Are Mostly Related

...this being a navel-gazing blog post with a very tortured tile.
This is mostly thinking out loud, so feel free to skip it.

Right, so...

1. B/X D&D.
-It's damn simple.
-It is easily house-ruled, and in fact it begs to be tinkered with.
-Lack of mechanical options might frustrate or bore players
-Lack of mechanical options makes "fluff" more important
-Easy to come up with neat little things to distinguish characters
-I will be tempted to dick around with the rules, classes, etc.

2. AD&D 1st edition
-Crunchier than B/X, which is both good and bad.
-Still easy enough to tamper with
-Will probably use the OSRIC book in lieu of the actual AD&D rulebooks.

3. Pathfinder
-I feel like I have to study for this game
-Seems very popular right now
-Characters are very customizable and players may enjoy that
-Rule book could stop a bullet
-Not comfortable house-ruling a game with this many interlocking rules.

4. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
-Fun system
-Inexplicably fun character creation
-Mechanics are smoother in the 2nd edition, magic is neater in the first edition.
-Probably run 1st edition, unless I can convert the 1st edition magic to 2nd edition mechanics.
-I feel obligated to run the game in the Warhammer world, though I realize this isn't absolutely necessary.
-Players may be turned off by random starting professions...then again, the last group I ran Warhammer for kind of liked that.

5. OpenQuest
-Customizable characters
-Would have to study the rules
-Setting almost demands high-magic, since anyone can use it, and I'm not sure if I'm feeling a high magic campaign.
-Would be something I've never run before, and thus new and refreshing
-Pretty sure none of my players are familiar with this one, which might be a barrier to entry and might be a turnoff.
-Compatible with Call of Cthulhu should I take leave of my senses.

Games that I have stricken from the short list:
*Savage Worlds Fantasy (I'm already playing in Deadlands...though I don't get to run this one much...maybe I'll reconsider)
*Palladium Fantasy, because it is a hot mess. I'd consider running the 1st edition someday, though...but not today.
*The Riddle of Steel, because every time I try to learn it my brain turns off.
* Earthdawn, because I'm feeling like a more traditional/classic fantasy experience, and Earthdawn is just too damn weird for that. :)

...okay, so I guess it's not a short list yet, is it?

Let the navel gazing continue.

Feel free to chime in.


  1. I have found that going with the spawn of the SRD is the best path these days. You can go as heavy or as lite as you like. More people are familiar with the basic concepts in SRD gaming than any other system. I'm using the SRD as shorthand for 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder/Microlite,etc. And it is the entire foundation of the OSR which has created a new interest in old school gaming.

    And so many have shown just how modular the mass of information can be. From the single page of the original Microlite rules to the everything under the sun approach of Pathfinder and everything in between.(Now, with the Beginners Box, you can have a lighter version of PF and learn the secret of house-ruling it at the same time-their forums are very supportive of the new folk in this aspect)

    And don't forget all the OGC material that has been produced. Yes, there was a lot of crap released, but there is so much of it that there are hundreds of supplements that have something useful. Many sites are compiling the OGC so you don't even have to track down the originals.

    AD&D 1e has always been my game, but after seeing how simple yet flexible the SRD can be I was hooked.

    (and I forgot about OpenD6 which was released under the OGL if you want to pull from the old WEG system and supplements-best part is RPGnow has the bundle for free)


  2. Interesting you should think that about EarthDawn, as whenever I read through it, or watch other gamers playing it, my reaction is "generic D&D with the serial numbers filed off and a new paint job" ;)

    Personally, I'd go BX D&D as a starting point, and see what evolves during play... on the basis that one of my classic D&D campaign worlds got house-ruled to the point where if I was to revive it now I'd have to write a whole new game, using the SRD/OGL as a base, to stay true to the spirit of play.

    Another point in favour of BX D&D, at least for my situation: far fewer rulebooks to carry from home to gaming club an hour's travel away, leaving more space in the bag for campaign files, in the knowledge that a fair proportion of gaming club members have been at least exposed to classic editions (some of the club founders started on Holmes Basic or OD&D), and the knowledge that newer members can be suckered in with "you can buy this dirt cheap on EBay, or even freely download clones like Swords & Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord"

  3. If the potential for houseruling is a plus, the OpenQuest is a good bet. Not only does the fact that pretty much everything in the game works the same way, a roll of percentile dice, mean that you can design new subsystems with ease, but the existence of other BRP games means that whatever you want to incorporate has probably already been done. Twice.

    As we build up to our next campaign, we've switched from a plan of running WFRP1e in a world of (slightly) high adventure to using Mongoose RuneQuest II/Legend - the crunchy big brother of OpenQuest. It's a shame to lose the colour and the cool career system of WFRP1e, but the unified percentile system means that you can run fast paced games with little reference to the rulebook (well, you can for OpenQuest anyway - getting used to Legend's combat system takes a little time [but is rewarding]) - and a percentile system seems to me to be the most intuitive for players to grasp.

    I don't think you need to run high magic games either - you can strip out the common/battle magic skill, or restrict the spell list so that common magic is less powerful - a bunch of folk charms, minor invocations, prayers, and hedge magic.

  4. Oh, and the reason that we decided not to use classic D&D/Labyrinth Lord is advancement - not only because, 'by the book', the advancement system demands that PCs all have one overriding motivation - collecting valuable loot, but because it is harder to incorporate new characters into experienced parties, while the skill-based BRP system and the deadly combat system means that an extra sword (or, more likely, spear) is always handy.

  5. I forgot Dark Dungeons ( )...basically the Rules Cyclopedia, all in one and available as free pdf (in multiple printing formats to cut down on self printing costs), softcover ( and hardcover (

    There's a million ways to's a great time to be a gamer :)