The Most Successful Italian RPG Launches on Kickstarter
  • The Most Successful Italian RPG Launches on Kickstarter


    Have you ever wondered what might have happened if the Roman Empire had not fallen? Have you ever imagined living in the Roman world, working for the Empire as an agent in distant lands? Well Lex Arcana, the most successful Italian role-playing game, has allowed players to do that for over two decades. With the announcement that there will be a Kickstarter for a second edition to Lex Arcana, EN World reached out to the folks at Quality Games to talk about this amazing game. Francesco Nepitello, one of the original designers of Lex Arcana, was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us. Here is the link to the Kickstarter.


    Sean Hillman (SH): Francesco, can you tell folks about yourself and your own relationship with Lex Arcana?
    Francesco Nepitello (FN): I am a game designer based in Venice, Italy, working on card, board and roleplaying games since more than twenty years. I am known especially for games based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, in particular for the War of the Ring strategy game, and The One Ring, the roleplaying game based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. As far as Lex Arcana is concerned, I am one of the four designers that created the game in the early nineties. It was my first published game, and it was the debut of my collaboration with long-time fellow designer Marco Maggi.

    SH: What was the original inspiration for Lex Arcana?
    FN: Our design goal was to create a roleplaying world that could offer a fresh take on fantasy gaming. Most rpgs of the time offered one twist or another on the usual Nordic/Tolkienian fantasy world. But classical, Greek myths were not thought to be as ‘cool’ as the Scandinavian ones at the time – so we started thinking about the Roman Empire, and we fell in love.

    SH: Why the Roman Empire? What was it about Rome that intrigued the team?
    FN: Well, what’s cooler than a group of Roman soldiers fighting mummies in Egypt, or a gigantic boar-monster in Britannia? Jokes aside, I think that what makes the setting of Lex Arcana intriguing is the mix of real history and fantasy. Playing in the Roman Empire lets you imagine diplomatic missions to the Persians in the East, occult investigations in the catacombs of Rome, and military expeditions among the mists of Germania. And since the world of Lex Arcana is a uchronia, an alternate version of history, you don’t have to worry about historical accuracy: just use history as your starting point.

    SH: Were there other games that were large influences on the original? How about books or films that may have inspired the design in some way?
    FN: I have always been a huge fan of the games that Chaosium was producing at the time, so I was personally influenced primarily by Call of Cthulhu (for the mood) and King Arthur Pendragon (elegance in the system, focus). A book we had in mind at the time of the original design was Harry Turtledove’s The Misplaced Legion.

    SH: How did the original design team come together and how important was it to bring them back together?
    FN: At the time (early nineties) me and Marco had recently joined Studiogiochi, one of the only design studios in Italy focusing on game design (from boardgames to crosswords, you name it). We brought our experience as long-time wargamers and especially roleplayers. It took a year or so for Dario De Toffoli, owner of the studio, to come to us and propose a team-up with boardgame designer Leo Colovini expressly to create ‘the best roleplaying game designed in Italy’. Getting back together was really easy. We are all based in Venice and always remained in touch throughout the years (the gaming world isn’t that big after all). Leo and Dario, Marco and I were very enthusiastic about getting back together on Lex Arcana, as the game always occupied a special place in our hearts. We have treaded different paths in gaming in the last 25 years, and I think that this diversity creates a great synergy, something that is very fruitful in game design.

    SH: Are any of the original artists coming back as well or is it an all new art team?
    FN: This is a question for the producers, but we remained in contact with Sergio D’Innocenzo, the artist that created all the internal artwork for the original game. So I guess he might be involved in some measure.

    SH: Were there any roadblocks or issues with getting a Second Edition together? How long has the idea been seriously considered?
    FN: We received several proposals throughout the years, and we also considered producing a new edition ourselves, but we were not fully convinced, until Quality Games approached us. Theirs was the most professional proposal we received. The presence of our good friend Andrea Angiolino as their creative director was also definitely a plus.

    SH: What is the basic premise of Lex Arcana?
    FN: Lex Arcana is a fantasy historical roleplaying games, set in a Roman Empire that never fell, thanks to the Romans’ knowledge of Magic. The players are custodes, members of the Praetorian Guard, sent to the four corners of the world to investigate supernatural occurrences that might threaten the stability of the Empire. A quick way to describe the game is to compare it to the “X-Files in Roman times”.

    SH: How does actual play differ than in some other games?
    FN: In a way, Lex Arcana is a fantasy roleplaying game whose gameplay is closer to that of Call of Cthulhu than that of Dungeons & Dragons. Adventures are often investigative in tone, and confronting supernatural creatures is generally dangerous. The use of Magic itself leads the gameplay in that direction, as Divinatory Magic is more about uncovering information than it is to directly harm the enemies of the Custodes.

    SH: Are there games players may be familiar with that are similar in their mechanics to Lex Arcana?
    FN: As far as the bare game mechanics are concerned, the main rule governing the use of dice in Lex Arcana (‘Dice Points’) bear some similarity to the rules for Savage Worlds. Both games use different die types to express the different levels of proficiency of a character, but in Lex Arcana players enjoy a wider freedom of choice about the dice they want to use.

    SH: What response have you gotten from the community at large and the Lex Arcana community in particular about the Second Edition?
    FN: The announcement about the return of Lex Arcana has been received with excitement in Italy. We discovered that a great number of groups have kept playing the game throughout these years! They can’t wait for the new edition, and their enthusiasm will be a valuable asset for the early success of the project. As far as the international audience is concerned, we got a taste of that when we played Lex Arcana at Gencon. All the players who tried it were enthusiastic about both the game mechanics and the setting. This bades well for the Kickstarter!

    SH: Are there iconic adventures for Lex Arcana that players may want to get hold of? Will they also be seeing updates to the Second Edition? Is the original material still compatible and relevant for the newer edition?
    FN: The original Lex Arcana had a number of supplements, and very good support from gaming magazines. So, there are a lot of adventures and gaming materials that we are evaluating for publication under the new edition.

    SH: For those who might be interested, is there one supplement in particular?
    FN: Lex Arcana had three sourcebooks, containing additional background material, new rules and adventures. The first was Germania, introducing the lands inhabited by some of the most ruthless enemies of the Empire, rules on Germanic magic, and a long adventure set in the Black Forest. The second supplement was Carthago, detailing the provinces of Numidia and Mauretania, the great city of Carthago, the rituals of Baal-Moloch and two adventures. The third supplement was Italia, an extensive sourcebook on the peninsula, Etruscan magic and two long adventures. All supplements contained also stats for several new fantastical creatures.

    SH: Many games have fan contributors who essentially become part of the family. Again, Chaosium comes to mind with the many fans who have eventually come to work there. Are there or were there any Lex Arcana fans who rose to that level?
    FN: It didn’t happen in the past with the first edition of the game, but it is certainly happening now! A number of fans who wrote fan material for Lex Arcana decades ago have been contacted by Quality Games, and several options for publication are being considered.

    SH: How excited are you for this Second Edition?
    FN: Bringing back a game from a hiatus that lasted twenty years is a unique experience for a designer, and working with a team of very talented individuals is very exciting. I can’t wait to see the final product, as Quality Games has already done an excellent job with the graphic presentation of the quickstarter rules.

    SH: The title of “Most successful” Italian RPG is a lot to live up to. Are you more excited or nervous when it comes to the Second Edition?
    FN: Well, the mix of stress and excitement comes with every new creative project. But again, Lex Arcana holds a very special place in our heart, so we’re doing all we can to ensure it’s going to be presented in the best way possible.

    EN World would like to thank Francesco for his time and patience in answering our questions! Stay tuned for more coverage of Lex Arcana! This article was contributed by Sean Hillman (SMHWorlds) as part of ENWorld's User-Generated Content (UGC) program. We are always on the lookout for freelance columnists! If you have a pitch, please contact us!
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. Apostol Apostolov's Avatar
      Apostol Apostolov -
      This sounds as one of the more interesting alternate history settings I've seen lately, so I would definitely look for it on Kickstarter. Not big fan on narrative dice pool systems though, but maybe it works for this setting and atmosphere.
    1. henry marin's Avatar
      henry marin -
      Why is it that enworld articles always seem to forget to include a link? Here you go,
      https://www.kickstarter.com/projects...m=lex%20arcana
    1. DMMike's Avatar
      DMMike -
      Tell me that the religious context is that Christianity was secretly the means of the demon world to infiltrate Roman society...and that some of the worst monsters are towering, crimson-clad cardinals, and I'll join the legion! (Century?)
    1. SMHWorlds's Avatar
      SMHWorlds -
      Quote Originally Posted by henry marin View Post
      Why is it that enworld articles always seem to forget to include a link? Here you go,
      https://www.kickstarter.com/projects...m=lex%20arcana
      Thanks I was just about to jump in and do that.
    1. Nikosandros's Avatar
      Nikosandros -
      Quote Originally Posted by Apostol Apostolov View Post
      Not big fan on narrative dice pool systems though, but maybe it works for this setting and atmosphere.
      In Lex Arcana there aren't dice pools per se. You can choose how many dice to roll, as long as the maximum roll doesn't exceed your stat.So, for example, if you have 12 on "De Bello" (skill with weapons) you could roll a d12, or 2d6 or 3d4.
    1. TerraDave's Avatar
      TerraDave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nikosandros View Post
      In Lex Arcana there aren't dice pools per se. You can choose how many dice to roll, as long as the maximum roll doesn't exceed your stat.So, for example, if you have 12 on "De Bello" (skill with weapons) you could roll a d12, or 2d6 or 3d4.
      Interesting. So you could roll 3d4 for more consistency, or a d12 to try to get a higher result.
    1. Derren's Avatar
      Derren -
      People always forget that "Rome" didn't fall till the 15th century...
    1. Jhaelen -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nikosandros View Post
      In Lex Arcana there aren't dice pools per se. You can choose how many dice to roll, as long as the maximum roll doesn't exceed your stat.So, for example, if you have 12 on "De Bello" (skill with weapons) you could roll a d12, or 2d6 or 3d4.
      That's pretty cool. I don't think I've seen that kind of mechanic anywhere.
    1. Kobold Boots -
      This game is an amazing concept and it looks to have good mechanics as well. I'm stunned I've never heard of it.
    1. Elfcrusher's Avatar
      Elfcrusher -
      Backed. Francesco is a god.
    1. pemerton's Avatar
      pemerton -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jhaelen View Post
      That's pretty cool. I don't think I've seen that kind of mechanic anywhere.
      In Marvel Heroic RP/Cortex+ Heroic, there are various abilities which can be rolled as either d8 or 2d6; or d10 or 2d8 or 3d6; etc; but this is in a context where you are keeping the best two dice in a pool, rather than adding them all up (so the choice requires balacing having more dice in the pool - for more chances to roll high - vs having at least some big dice in the pool - which provides other mechanical benefits but also raises the ceiling for high rolls).
    1. Thomas Bowman's Avatar
      Thomas Bowman -
      Does the Emperor of Rome usually get along with the Gods of Rome, particularly Jupiter? Are there gods of Rome, and do they have much to say? How is this handled if we are assuming a fantasy setting?
    1. Derren's Avatar
      Derren -
      What I wonder is why the game is set in an alternate history 5th century when the portrayal of Romans and their society is more fitting for something several centuries before that?

      For example in the quickstart guide the people still worship the greco-roman gods, yet by the 5th century that worship had been long since been outlawed and the Romans were all Christians.
      Also the characters use outdated equipment. The scutum, the classic square shield, has been phased out in the 3rd century and the classical gladius wasn't used anymore either.
      Heck by that time the capital of the Roman Empire wasn't even Rome anymore but Konstantinople.

      Sure you can always use "alternate history" as explanation, but why go through the trouble of transferring the "popular image" of Romans to the 5th century instead using the Augustus or Trajan era for the setting in the first place?
    1. Thomas Bowman's Avatar
      Thomas Bowman -
      Because you can be original and make up your own stuff without some historian saying this is wrong. Also the Roman gods weren't real, the Emperor could declare himself a god without inciting Jupiter's wrath, but what happens if we change this assumption? Maybe an Emperor declaring himself a god would make the real gods angry, what do you think? If we are going to add magic to the Roman Empire, are the gods included in this package, and does this force the Emperor to conduct himself differently?
    1. Derren's Avatar
      Derren -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Bowman View Post
      Because you can be original and make up your own stuff without some historian saying this is wrong. Also the Roman gods weren't real, the Emperor could declare himself a god without inciting Jupiter's wrath, but what happens if we change this assumption? Maybe an Emperor declaring himself a god would make the real gods angry, what do you think? If we are going to add magic to the Roman Empire, are the gods included in this package, and does this force the Emperor to conduct himself differently?
      Thats no real benefit as even when transplanted into the 5th century there is still history to consider. For example is Attila still a threat? What about the Sassanians?
      If you do not want historic trappings in your game you have to make a complete fantasy game instead of basing it on history.
      Those who don't know about history of that era gain nothing by advancing the timeline and those that do get irritated and the setting turns into pure fantasy for them.
    1. Thomas Bowman's Avatar
      Thomas Bowman -
      It is pure fantasy because of the magic in the setting, that alone would throw history off. The Romans didn't really have magic, they had beliefs and superstition instead. The Emperor could make himself out to be a god with impunity, and no one dared challenge him in this because of his position and power! However if the Roman Gods did actually exists, then there would be someone more powerful than the Emperor, someone the Emperor had to answer to. If Jupiter could actually strike him down for his insolence, I don't think the Emperor in this situation would actually pretend to be a god and expect to get away with it!
    1. Yaztromo's Avatar
      Yaztromo -
      Looks like the Kickstarter campaign is progressing incredibly well!
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