Best system for historical roleplaying?

Doug McCrae

Real world historical with the addition of some supernatural elements. Particularly medieval or early modern Europe. Is this something Zweihander can do?

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GURPS for the extreme simulationism, but there's too much work involved to make it happen. I would suggest GURPS 3rd instead of 4th because the core book feels more historical than generalized powers/scifi mix.
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Basic D&D can do this, in fact we did it a long time ago. I also have done it with Mythras more recently. A lot depends on how one wants to run it, and the depth of the setting material.

RuneQuest and GURPS are solid choices, RQ is the lighter option, BRP lighter still if you want to use your own take on whatever supernatural stuff is out there, GURPS the more detailed. Both are fairly decent at realism for the periods in question - ironically, you'd be using GURPS "high tech" rules. ;) (Well, I thought it was ironic, back in the 80s, anyway, IDK, if they still have separate high-tech and ultratech supplements...)


A suffusion of yellow
I played GURPS prior to 3e and it does real world well and its historic sourcebooks are awesome.
I dont like Harn, but medieval with supernatural bits pretty much defines most fantasy games


I also vote GURPS or Mythras but a call out to Ars Magica as well.

Also look at Renaissance from Cakebread and Walton and/or Maelstrom from Arion Games.


Real world historical with the addition of some supernatural elements. Particularly medieval or early modern Europe. Is this something Zweihander can do?
i've already been ninja'ed on RQ. The Riddle of Steel is another well-regarded game that can do this.

Less well-known but (in my view) equally viable, depending on exactly what sort of RPGing experience you want (in terms of system/"feel" - these all do the genre you've mentioned) are Prince Valiant and Burning Wheel (just ignore the elves, dwarves and orcs). The former is fairly light and a work of Greg Stafford genius; the latter is Luke Crane's magnum opus and demanding both in system and emotional respects.

Others have mentioned GURPS as a generic system. There are also somewhat "generic" narrative systems like HeroQuest revised or Maelstrom Storytelling/Story Bones that could do your genre pretty straightforwardly..

Rolemaster or HARP offer very crunchy options (again, just ignore the spell-casting classes if you need to) but if you use them for combat and don't have healing magic expect a lot of downtime for healing. (BW also can lead to this, but it has a lot of systems designed to make downtime and being injured part of the play experience, whereas in RM/HARP it's just the same sort of suckitude that it was back in AD&D.)

aramis erak

My top recommend would be Pendragon or Paladin (Tied for 1st), followed closely by RuneQuest.

Hârnmaster is playable, but not for those averse to details. Which is why I put it fourth.

Chivalry and Sorcery (3rd or later) is pretty good, too, but like Hârnmaster, can bury one in details.

GURPS, CORPS 2E, Savage Worlds, or Hero can do it well enough each, with just the core, if the GM knows how to say "No" to anachronisms, and trims availability sufficiently...

Likewise, for many story types, using Fate Core; others can be done better with Fate Accelerated.


I'd prefer the original Warhammer to be honest, or even 2e.

However, for brutal, absolute massive damage, and short life spans, nothing beats the Rolemaster system.

One fight and you could be missing an eye, an arm, and half your leg...if you even lived!!!

Of course, that's more the Braveheart exaggerated combat type thing, but it could be very brutal.

Rolemaster is a little complex though and can be difficult to run at times.

Other systems others suggested above are easier and run faster most likely.

aramis erak

Rolemaster is less intimidating when one realizes that about 1/2 of ChL/CaL is options, AL/ClL is only 10 pages of rules, and SpL is aroud 15 pp. of rules...

Also, modern spreadsheets really help.


The d100-based games are probably your best bet. Besides Pendragon/Paladin, there are specific rules systems/sourcebooks for the Middle Ages: Mythic Iceland, Mythic Britain, Merrie England, Mythic Constantinople, Crusaders of the Amber Coast, and Stupor Mundi come to mind.

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