Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Search for a current fantasy main system Part 2: First look at downloaded samples

Prior posts in the series
Search for a current fantasy main system Part 1: suggested games and evaluating their samples
Search for a current fantasy main system Part 2: First look at downloaded samples
Search for a current fantasy main system Part 3: Organizing "Battles"
Search for a current fantasy main system Part 4: Organizing Losers Battles
Search for a current fantasy main system Part 4: Evaluating the game systems

In part one, I organized the games into a list with a preliminary assigned grade based on the available official sample material.

Next, I began with the A graded sample material, and worked my way down, spending 1 to 3 days reading through - mostly skimming - the provided material. I created lists of features that stand out and initial thoughts for each game.

It took me from May 16 to June 5th to go through these games other than RMU, posting these notes separately. I've combined them into this one blog post.

Sometimes I just list features. This is more to help provide a summary so that I can refer to it as needed to help me remember game features. I knew that I would be looking at a long list of games and information might be mixed up.

I normally noted possible initial investment as well.

Here is my initial thoughts and observations in order.

First here is my RMU evaluation summary which I did mid to late last year over a three month period and had included test play.

Rolemaster Unified -

In Review of all four books So in review: A&CL I liked most of it - the new abstract time AP system, the new exp system, and the reduced skill system.

I am missing the personality connection to connect the characters to the players. I feel that the game is missing out on that connection depth. Which was primarily patched by the background and useless character personality systems in past RM products

If changes in the combat become too Companion rules oriented or overly complicated, I will not like it.

Spell Law (SL)
Introduction Complete spells 1 to 20! Great. I must admit that one disappointment after I bought the old RM2 box set after playing MERP a year was the old SL spell gaps. If I recall MERP correctly, it didn't have any gaps. Distinction of Magic I remember being critical of the three realms of Magic's base stats, when I reached that portion in the character creation process. I do appreciate differentiation and distinction, despite my disagreement of the essence and empathy connection. I do also state that the presence v Mentalism makes sense to me, as well as the Intuition v Channeling. In my own game, after the playtest, Realm Essence > Reasoning, despite being defined as external forces that the power wielder connect with - it would sync more with my desired skill influenced and personality concept based on stats. This was my personal preference. I understand all that balancing stuff and just make systems playable and fun. Not knowing or remembering the different spell systems of the past, I will have to research though the magic system of the past, based on paragraph 2, to see what changes have been made. Spells that supplement v replace skills Very nice there. Why buy skills if a spell list will replace it for less and give other options for less or equal cost. Fewer Options Fewer options is great. Save options for Spell Law Companions. I can actually do without Magic Rituals entirely. However, maybe someone might use it.

2.1 4rth Realm Teaser- This is interesting. I always wondered if their is a 4rth realm - hopefully separate and unique to the others, with it's own source of power. Hopefully it is something not seen yet. Looking at base stats for such realm, another unused magic based stat would probably be helpful. If your keeping Reasoning and Memory common to all, Self Discipline is the closest mental related stat. Either that or break convention and try a physical stat - a realm of strength, quickness, agility, or constitution based spells would be strange - born from physical actions or physical tests. Another Evil realm set would also be helpful for generating NPC opponents. Hybrid fun then can expand as another realm comes into play. As long as it isn't psionics - overdone and boring on every level. I know Arcane is of course already in the works.

I don't think I will use the research time system. Or if I do, I will convert it into hours rather than days. I want my players to be out adventuring, not having their characters sit behind a desk all day.

SL I was impressed with the increase in spell content,

Creature Law (CL)
I look forward to whatever form the information - book or books - it finally results in.

I love the scaling range of monsters and the near universal treatment of creatures vs characters. 800+ monsters is impressive. It's my favorite book out of the four. CrL I was really impressed and found the most improved,

Treasure Law (TL), as is I would most likely pass on and not buy. A great chunk of it is Alchemy, something that none of my past players or friends have found interest. The only interests lies in the sample magical weapons, expanded equipment lists, and the herbalism, poison lists. That only makes up about 60 pages of the volume. That being said, I have recently purchased a Treasure Companion to analyze the treasure charts primarily. I don't see anything that tells me I need to buy RMU's Treasure Law containing anything lacking in that older book, or newly improved. In other posts I have mentioned possibilities such as traps and raw material wood & metal frequency charts. So as is, this is a 'no buy' for me.  

Summary of entire RMU
I enjoy this RMU version of RM more than my old RM2 in almost all facets, which couldn't replace my MERP rules for fun and excitement. It was worth the three months I spent giving the game a second chance - reading and commenting on each aspect of the game.

Investment would be Arms and Character Law, Spell Law, and Creature Law

13th Age -

After three days of studying it, here's my initial thoughts.

Obviously this game focuses on icons, backgrounds, magical items, classes, feats, powers, and talents. It's unashamed at minimizing regular non-magic gear, races, combat rules, range, experience system, two-weapon, conditions, and skills. I think it sort of has that Spirit of the Century (SotC) feel. As written it seems more 'theater of the mind' than 'grid' ready. Flexible and non-flexible attack is interesting - rolling first and deciding which flexible attack afterwards, if it hits. Damage and hitpoints seem to progress exponentially, as well as healing recovery.

Monster creation seems very easy. The hardest material to create seems to be the classes, due to all the individual feats, powers, and talents.

Very interesting. My first glance reading through sections of the rules was very positive. This is definitely one game system to consider.

Investment looks like it would initially include the Core book, Beastiary, and True Ways. Also the treasure book might spice things up.

OpenQuest -

I've spent two days looking at OpenQuest. A percentile based game. Any character can learn anything. I think it comes from a RQ system if I am not mistaken, which seems to mean a percentile skill-based and not a class-based leveling game. So it is a polar opposite of 13th Age, which minimized skills, and emphasizes skills more like RMU - though without the professions. It seems to have standard basic weapons, armor, and equipment/supplies. Initiative based on Dex or Int is interesting (since I don't see a roll). Hero points to get out of sticky situations. Improvement points to increase skills and characteristics. There are situation modifiers such as cover, lighting, positioning, wind, movement, and stability. There is a little combat crunch for prone, grappling, mount, aiming, reloading, allowing one reaction - dodge/parry, and critical on under 10% skill roll. Some crunch to travelling, food/water management, fatigue, healing, falling, suffocation, breathing, poison, disease, and object strength. For magic there is Battle Magic in the basic set, and I see there is divine, shamans, and sorcery in the SRD. Interesting is the assumption of successful casting except for under duress. Powers are magic point based and can increase in magnitude. For monsters/creatures I see many standard monsters and creatures in the basic set. In the SRD, they seem to add demons and spirits that I notice. There seems to be interesting mechanics for multiple attacks in a turn - which is something I am looking at in all of the games.

For Investment, it looks like just the OpenQuest Deluxe would be sufficient. There is also a scifi and a modern rules version of the system.


I'm liking it a bit, but I don't think it's what I need at the moment. For some reason it reminds me of that old D&D Immortals Rules set in the silver or grey box. Everyone mentions Exalted, but I don't know what that is. Even the rules tell me that this game can sit on top of another system, and is more of an endgame type system. I'm not really looking at the setting/gamemastery section which is about 120 pages of the now 189 page pdf. This game is made to sit on an OSR system and can easily sit on almost any d20 system it seems. I read the posts and try to ignore the 'cult of personality' comments about the writer. Buying this game just for the writer doesn't help inform me about the game much. The entire OSR based rules is extremely light. The game mentions that you can port in rules from whatever system. I counted about 7 pages of character creation and 10 pages of rules - very rules light RAW. Most of the rest of the 60 or so pages in the character section (about 40) is the magic, Word/Gifts, and Theurgic Invocations. Nice game, but would serve better attaching on to another core system that I purchase first. I'll save this game for a possible future purchase, after I get a main core gaming system.


this game is very intriguing despite the D&D & PF sources. The combat including a prime attribute bonus (based on one's class), the equal level-based vitality and racial wound hitpoint system that is pretty much set for the entire gaming series, the DR damage absorption of armor, resistance as defense, and skills based on attributes + abilities holds my attention. I would probably want to tweak the turn based system into something else. The themes, deities, cultures, and factions I would consider more optional in my game. The ability system seems different than the traditional magic systems. Equipment is steampunk: melee, guns, and automation machines. Symbiotics seem cool if used sparingly, sort of like cybernetics. The game only has one encounter in the PHB, and creatures are in the GMG. I see that the author is still making material, which is a big plus. This game is definitely going to be a strong consideration for a main core gaming system.

Initial investment would be a Players Handbook book edition and a Game Masters Guide

I've seen mention of using pygmy as a pejorative term. The author claims it is based on mythology. In day to day life, when speaking of the tribes that that term has been used, I would rather use their own terms like Aka, Baka, Mbuti, Twa, Bajaka, Bambenga, Batak, Aeta, Semang, and Tgapukau - tribal and local names - instead of the European term.

Hackmaster -

has interesting combat and magic mechanisms. In theory, I like the time-based count up mechanism. I like that speed of attack is influenced by several factors. I'm even okay with using casting times versus the turned based instant cast of other games. The spell point is casting system is nice, even when limiting the spells to primarily memorized spells. The d100 role under skill system is even alright. I'd probably simplify the amount of skills - because there are a lot. I do wish the two different dice systems for combat/magic and skills were just one, either a d20 or d100 - and not both. If this becomes my game, I would convert everything to d100 or d20, just by multiplying or dividing by five. A little more time would help me understand the details. I plan on spending at least one more day browsing the free basic game.

Runequest (Essential)

It's a d100 system. Reading the other RQ based game helped me read through this version. I do notice differences. Character creation is either dice or point based. The essentials have Cultures and careers for character development, mentioning that the core has social classes, families, and passions. I do like that Dex and Int can increase the number of actions per round, unlike most other game systems that I have looked at that were round based. Combat special effects are cool as well. Hit location is nice, reminiscent of RMU, without being overly complicated. Two of the five magical systems are shown in the essentials: Folk and Theism. I also compared it to the RQ6 core srd, noticing that skills are now based on two stats, not mostly one like back then.

Initial investment: looks like just the core book

Fantasy Age

I will pass. It's much like D&D from what I see in the Dragon Age quickstart.

Dungeon World

keywords: conversation & fiction. for the most part the game limits a player to 3 to 6 choices - I say choices because the wording says "choose one from". For character creation, lists of options are given. 11 classes, races seem like accessories (some give benefits to classes), looks are chosen from 3 possibilities each (eyes, hair, clothing, and body type. I'm not sure if their functional. Stats are not rolled - there is a list of predetermined values which players assign. The stats begin already heroic. So if I want to play a game showing struggling and learning of being a common person, I would need to alter and lower those numbers. HP is class based + con bonus. Moves are the bread and butter of this system with basic, special, and class moves available. They seem more like scripts that need to be activated by the players fictional explanation. Players can pick a few options for some moves. Gear comes with three choices. Weapons have a type, range, enhancement, and look. Most of the benefit from the weapons come from the enchancement. For magic, only clerics and wizards have spells in the core. Casting prepared ahead of time wit lvl+1 # spells. During long periods of rest one can pick different spells. They can either succeed and be cast again, succeed with a problem, or be determined by the GM for failing. Bonds with other characters have a roll + # of bonds with that character sometimes. Levels are current lvl+7exp. Exp points are given up to 3 questions + 1 bond. Adventures are called fronts, with 2-3 dangers & impending doom, 1-5 grim portents, and 1-3 stakes.

It seems like Dungeon World would play much like a mousetrap or series of triggered events. Where the players conversation triggers different effects within their character, in the adventure, and around the world.

Initial investment is just the core


it has a weird irregular dice incremental system - the step action dice table - which looks like you need nearby to figure out the dice to roll. It works by using step numbers. The difficulty chart has 2 dimension: the difficulty (2 to 20) and the qualitative result: pathetic, poor, average, good, excellent, extraordinary. Dice explode. Init based on dex. Armor decreases damage. Death rating is life. Wound threshold. Knockdown. Interesting is social defense rating - protecting one's name. Movement is in hexes. Karma points. Talents, skills, spells, and racial abilities. Weapon, add damage rating to str. Spells, add to willpower.

Initial investment looks like players guide and gamemaster guide,

Ars Magica

Kind of like an adult version of Harry Potter. Very magic based, hence the name. Magi, companions, grogs. Create spells with techniques & forms. Stories and sagas. Houses are sort of like a culture which give starting abilities. Covenants in mythic Europe. Spell level & magnitude. Side effect mark on spells wizard's sigil. Fatigue, body levels, soak (decrease damage). Botch on 10. Ease Factor. Hermetic virtues, companion & grog virtues, general virtues, general flaws. Talent, skills, knowledge. hermetic magic, laboratory, magic enchantments, familiars. Very nice spell lists. Combat = roll + dex or per + skill + enc. Dam = str + size + weap dam. It seems like RM phase combat, except magic is at the end. 6 ranges for missile. Experience based on magnitude + RP. Learning and studying is important ingame. Covenant creation. 4 Magic Realms. A few magical creatures.

Ars Magica may not be for me.

Initial investment is as mentioned by many. Mainly the core.


a d6 system, mostly 3d6 roll under, 3 4 (5 6) crit success, 18 crit failure. Points average, heroic, superhuman. 1 to 18+ attributes. Appearance score seems strange and old fashion. Social standine, friendships, & wealth for points. Advantages cost points, disadvantages give points. Quirks. 4 difficulties of skills. PD & DR for armor. Str modifies melee dam. 1-3 bonus points each session. cost to improve is 2x point. Turn based on move score. Effective skill = basic skill +/- modifiers. Defense = PD + active defense. Damage > damage resist = damage. Fatique = str. Spells seem to be ready to play. Tech levels for equipment & vehicles.

GURPS is interesting. I am willing to give it a 2nd look.

Initial investment - certainly the core + Fantasy and maybe Magic, Martial Arts, Low-Tech, Powers, Mass Combat, and a few Dungeon Fantasy.


At first glance, I thought it would be overly complex. After reading, I see that it is filled with tons of examples. A bulk of the book is examples. Dice of 4d6 - where rolling a 6 = 0. So results are 0 to 20. It's a roll-under system as well. It uses 2 types of points: character points (training) and archetype points (unusual abilities). Interesting is the two levels of stats, the more expensive primary that sets the base rate and the secondary that is based on the primary, which three of them can vary from the base rate (up or down). Modifier traits explain the variations. Costs of skills depend on the type of skill. Included in the core are martial arts, street, science, military, knowledge, occupation, social, and general skills. Combat initially looked overly complex. I realized that the 20 page example prior to the combat section broke things down to the point where someone who has never played a RPG may learn. They do have their own jargon, which takes learning as well.

I like how a character can attack more than once per turn, depending on one's pool of REA which is sort of like action point pool. Combat actions are very specific. Several type of HTH attacks exist, not just fist and kick. Armor absorbs damage. Defensive moves are available if one has any REA. There are two types of damage: penetrating and impact. There are four ranges of long range weapon attacks (guns & bows - thrown has their own weapon range. Many types of move actions are available. Wounds are recorded as damage points and conditions.

The Archetype books has the archetype powers that AP can purchase. They are divided into generic traits, innate powers, cybernetics, fast company (action hero), psionics, domain control (elements & forces), and has a section on how to modify archetype abilities.

Although not in book form, there is a fantasy book which has items, races & class info (JAGS doesn't use races and classes but there is some info in the fantasy book for fantasy races and archetypes). A monster book also exists which has many fantasy creatures. The spell book has 18 colleges of magic.

This is an extremely interesting alternative to the other capital letter games, and it may be able to use some of their material with a little conversion.

Initial investment is the core book and the archetype book.

Unchained Heroes

is a roll-over d20 system with 30 levels. Attribute scores range from -5 to 10. It’s skills uses a roll + modifier over a difficulty factor of 10 to 50. Skills come in battle and character skills. Battle skills are attack, defense, power, and willpower. Besides combat, this game only has 10 character skills: arcanology, athletics, crafting, education, engineering, influence, medicine, natural lore, perception, and subterfuge.

Combat uses a dice pool mechanic based on weapon and ability. Combat differs from other games in that it uses action time and time intervals on a combat timeline. It’s based on the time it takes to do something, not turns. Initiative is lvl+agi+modifier. The game uses energy, tactical points, health, and trauma as resource pools. Energy is 100 + 10*primary attribute - the source of physical actions. Health is 100 + 10*primary attribute + role bonus - the source of life. Power is 100 + 10*primary attribute - the source of magic. Tactical points accumulate during combat up to 10 - the source of tactical advantages. Characters spend character points on skills. Each class gets a power modifier added to 5 skills. Your class gives you starting talents and techniques. Species add to attributes and give special advantages. Damage threshold absorbs damage.

Level ups are awarded by a GM every 5 encounters, after adventures, after milestones, or logical points. At level ups a character may rebuild.

Magic items, runes, and talismans are differentiated and important in this game.

Initial investment is the core book which a players, gm, and bestiary all-in-one.

What's O.L.D. is N.E.W. - 

WOIN can be divided into O.L.D., N.E.W., and N.O.W. . A massive grammatical period explosions. I'll focus on O.L.D. which is more my fantasy. This game uses xd6 dice pools which are limited by one's grade and are made up of attribute + skill + equipment. It is a life path system where a race is picked, along with an origin career, which leads to different careers that add attributes, skills, and exploits. Health is end + wil + Luc. speed is str + agi. initiative is int. There are 15 tech levels covering 3 genre's. I don't see a supers implicit in the structure, rather more realism at first glance - though it may fall under modern mythic I guess. There are 16 races including android, elves, dwarves, smallfolk, and something called spartans. Races add or take away xd6, gives size, gives skills, and lists exploits. Exploits seem to be feature or abilities. careers have up to 6 grades. There are probably 120 careers listed. I see like 30 archaic careers which include cleric, druid, knight, assassin, mage, minstrel, and ranger. Also there are 16 martial arts careers including boxing, ninjutsu, aikido, and kung fu. Descriptors include an primary attribute trait and a player made hook. Also listed are 20 categories of skills, each having 5 to 10 examples - though some aren't for fantasy settings.

Combat is sort of boring, what one expects from a turn based system - the most exciting element being the status track. Three defense help protect the character: melee, ranged, and mental. For attacks str, agi, and int help. Turns have normally 2 actions. Damage has a status track, that lists 19 types of conditions such as bleeding, fire, and pain. That tracks 15 types of criticals such as piercing, slashing, blunt, and fire. Many standard archaic weapons, armor, and shields are listed.

For magic, it uses a flexible verb + noun system. 15 verbs (skills are listed) such as heal, inflict, and summon. Examples for 39 nouns (secrets) are listed such as self, object, fire, death, beast, spirit, and evil. Magic points for casting depend on duration, range, target area, and casting time.

For martial arts there is a chi system that grants martial techniques.

For experience tracking 10 encounters = one grade.

Bestiary lists 50 to 100 non-human mostly standard encounters from goblins to dragons.

For initial investment the fantasy core rules, fantasy equipment, and fantasy careers books would be needed which are available in book form at low cost.

Next post in the series

In Part 3, I will show how I set these initial observations up into a competitive battle round series, aimed at decreasing the number of similar games and overall selection down to a manageable number to actually test out. Reading can only go so far.

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