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Bronze Age Fantasy

Aldarc

Legend
This is a spin-off thread meant to continue the discussion precipitated from this remark:
Even more controversially, I think Runequest somewhat ticks the first box, in that its actual mechanics, while elegant and simple, can struggle to deliver a game of bronze-age fantasy adventure.
And my follow-up question:
In your opinion, what sort of system would be more conducive for "[delivering] a game of bronze-age fantasy"?

What systems and games exist for Bronze Age Fantasy and what systems would be suitable for delivering a Bronze Age Fantasy game? Or for that matter, what constitutes a Bronze Age fantasy adventuring experience?
 

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JeffB

Legend
Have not played it, but there is this...

Blood & Bronze


I think at one point they had a freebie preview- I can't seem to locate my copy though (different computer). I believe it is D6 dice pool based.

I think that with some tinkering to make it more heroic- Various versions of RQ work well-especially Openquest-which diverges a bit from the deadlier combat system of RQ by ignoring the Hit locations (and thus lots of lopped off limbs, etc). MRQII as well.

Exemplars and Eidolons Drive Thru Link is a OSR retro style game that is worth checking out. You are very much a Demi-God type character ala many Bronze Age mythological heroes (it's free, and I've had a blast running it- def worth checking out). TSR D&D compatible. Your PC's do HIT DICE of damage, instead of Hit Points in combat :D

Arrows of Indra is a game I believe that is set in a Fantasy/Mythological version of India

That said-

For me Bronze age is more about the Setting, and not necc the rules. Empire of the Petal Throne gives me the Bronze Age vibe, yet it's ultimately Science Fantasy with underground dungeons (tunnels for ancient train systems) and "eyes" (ancient advanced tech). But the cultures are very Bronze Age in feel at this point in their evolution. There's plenty of versions of the game out there-I believe The Tekumel Hack is free.

There are elements of Exalted (1st Edition) that also give me that vibe. Though clearly it went full on Anime/Wuxia in a short period of time after introduction.

Bronze Age would probably need to be re-worked to make it "sanitary" for the modern RPG market. Things that are very common during this time- Sacrifice, Slavery, etc would be a problem for some.

Some things that are absolutely necessary, IMO-

1) Mythology is "real"- Magic and the Gods do not have to be as prevalent as Glorantha, but the Mythology is real, and the heroes can interact with the gods in some manner.

2)There is no pseudo science Magic Guilds or such, but spirit magic. divine magic. perhaps, elemental magic. Magic items would be cultural artifacts made by the Gods- The Golden Fleece, Perseus' Shield, etc. Most magic is probably seen as evil/demonic.

3) It should go without saying, but the technology level should be appropriate. Anything more advanced (or even things just rare to the vast majority) would be "the work of the gods" or "demons", etc,

4) Humano-centric- this is just personal pref. As amazingly crafted as both worlds are, I don't really care for the alien races of Tekumel, or Elves/Dwarves/Ducks/DragonNewts etc in Glorantha either- despite being a long-time fan. These are elements that always break immersion for me and put me into "High Fantasy" state of mind.

IDK, just my initial thoughts.
 
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atanakar

Hero
If you want well researched Bronze Age rpg setting, you should watch for the Mythic Babylon that will come out for Mythras by Design Mechanism. They used to publish the lastest edition of Runequest but lost the license. Mythras is basically the same system without Glorantha.

Author Paul Mitchner : «It's set c.1800BC, early in Hammurabi's reign. More specifically, the time of the rise of Babylon when it's contending with other kingdoms and warlords, the chief of which are Mari and Elam. And there's already thousands of years of history in the lands of Sumer and Akkad, including other great kingdoms ruling over the region, such as Akkad and Uruk, going back to the mythical flood.»

Mythic Babylon:
 

I believe that @pemerton mentioned it in the other thread, but there is Agon by John Harper. There is an older edition, but it's recently been kickstarted for a new one that should be out in the May/June timeframe. I haven't actually played the new version yet, but I have looked at the pre-release version that they share with backers, and it looks pretty interesting.

The game is very Odyssey like in that you play heroes on a journey home, and you keep coming across islands that are dealing with some form of strife. The players work together, but also compete for glory. It seems like an interesting dynamic. I'm looking forward to playing it after the official book is out.
 


Aldarc

Legend
For me Bronze age is more about the Setting, and not necc the rules. Empire of the Petal Throne gives me the Bronze Age vibe, yet it's ultimately Science Fantasy with underground dungeons (tunnels for ancient train systems) and "eyes" (ancient advanced tech). But the cultures are very Bronze Age in feel at this point in their evolution. There's plenty of versions of the game out there-I believe The Tekumel Hack is free.
Sure, but the rules of Empire of the Petal Throne lean into the "Bronze Age vibe," with its focus on class and honor.

Bronze Age would probably need to be re-worked to make it "sanitary" for the modern RPG market. Things that are very common during this time- Sacrifice, Slavery, etc would be a problem for some.
Other settings, such as Primeval Thule or Dark Sun, manage well enough with these motifs. It may be an issue of tack, such as notions of slave races.

4) Humano-centric- this is just personal pref. As amazingly crafted as both worlds are, I don't really care for the alien races of Tekumel, or Elves/Dwarves/Ducks/DragonNewts etc in Glorantha either- despite being a long-time fan. These are elements that always break immersion for me and put me into "High Fantasy" state of mind.
Glorantha and Tekumel still seem anthrocentric in their orientation. Dwarves, elves, and newts are quite alien to the humans of the world. Same with most of the alien races of Tekumel.

RuneQuest? The first bronze age rpg as we know rpgs.
Sure, that much is obvious, though Pemerton spurred the discussion by saying that he did not find RuneQuest fully suitable for its own Bronze Age fantasy, and I get where he is coming from.
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I believe that @pemerton mentioned it in the other thread, but there is Agon by John Harper. There is an older edition, but it's recently been kickstarted for a new one that should be out in the May/June timeframe. I haven't actually played the new version yet, but I have looked at the pre-release version that they share with backers, and it looks pretty interesting.

The game is very Odyssey like in that you play heroes on a journey home, and you keep coming across islands that are dealing with some form of strife. The players work together, but also compete for glory. It seems like an interesting dynamic. I'm looking forward to playing it after the official book is out.
I will admit that one of my biggest turn-offs with Agon - as I have looked into it - is the central idea of players competing with other players for glory.
 
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Bilharzia

Fish Priest
There's a lot of detail about Mythic Babylon, discussed by the authors here: (begins 4 minutes in)
One of the things they have done is write new magic systems appropriate for the setting which aren't the same as the core rules, revolving around the Babylonian concept of 'personal purity'.

I think @pemerton and others are a bit out of date when it comes to RuneQuest. RQ6 came out in 2012 (now renamed to "Mythras") and resolved the "it's too dangerous" complaint with Luck Points which do change the relationship between PCs and NPCs, so it's possible to have more 'heroic' PCs who take more risks. RQ2&3 and now RQG do the same thing with magic (even battle magic can re-attach limbs) which is ok if you want a high magic game. RQ6/Mythras you can run a low magic or no magic game without breaking the system or making players miserable.

The complaint that RQ doesn't work for the Bronze Age because it doesn't promote heroic behaviour, seems a little odd, there are many things that you would need for the setting before you get to that, a big one I would say is going to depend on the PCs relationship with the beliefs and cultural mores of the time (see above). The idea that D&D4e is an ideal system to represent this does not seem credible.

Mythic Britain (and Mythic Logres) did a great job at evoking an Iron Age 'Dark-Ages' Britain, using a Bernard Cornwell - like premise while amping up the spiritworld of Annwn. I'm looking forward to Mythic Babylon but Lyonesse is due for publication first which is looking pretty spectacular itself.
 
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pemerton

Legend
I think @pemerton and others are a bit out of date when it comes to RuneQuest.
I hope I've been clear that I'm talking about RQ in its classic formulation - austere "purist-for-system" mechanics with almost no scope for player intervention into the process based on "metagame" concerns.

I have no familiarity with modern incarnations but would not be at all surprised if they drift away from that original design ethos at least as much as (say) HARP does from Rolemaster (eg HARP has "fate points").
 

Bilharzia

Fish Priest
I hope I've been clear that I'm talking about RQ in its classic formulation - austere "purist-for-system" mechanics with almost no scope for player intervention into the process based on "metagame" concerns.

I have no familiarity with modern incarnations but would not be at all surprised if they drift away from that original design ethos at least as much as (say) HARP does from Rolemaster (eg HARP has "fate points").

You have been clear, but it might be worth checking something a bit more up to date, after all, you are comparing D&D4E (2008?) with editions of RuneQuest that came out over 25 years before that. RQ6 and now Mythras dates from 2012.
 

What systems and games exist for Bronze Age Fantasy and what systems would be suitable for delivering a Bronze Age Fantasy game? Or for that matter, what constitutes a Bronze Age fantasy adventuring experience?
The one I'm best aware of is RuneQuest.
Hero Wars is same setting, different era, but also Bronze Age.

Given that BRP starts as RQ, BRP quite obviously can do so as well.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I will also say that I'm not particularly interested in fantasy bronze age settings that directly plop fantasy into the real world, such as in Britain, Greece, or Babylon. This is why settings such as Glorantha or Tekumel hold greater appeal. However, while Glorantha and Tekumel are both absolutely beautiful worlds, I find that the scope of the lore and detail to be a little too heavy for my tastes, much in the same vein as to why I would never consider running a game in Forgotten Realms, Star Wars Universe, or Middle Earth.
 


Aldarc

Legend
Anything? You don't like entirely fictional bronze age settings, and you don't like mythological historically-based bronze age settings. Okay.
Wow. That sort of false dilemma seems like an extreme conclusion based on what I said.

I said that I don't necessarily want a Bronze Age Fantasy setting - or any fantasy campaign for that matter - that takes place in our world (but with magic). I don't like my knowledge of real world history (or how history is presented in such settings) getting in the way of my fantasy. I also said that I don't typically like running settings that are overflowing with lore, such as Glorantha, Tekumel, or Forgotten Realms. So it is simply false to say that I "don't like entirely fictional bronze age settings" on that basis. How can you not see that there is a lot of settings that could exist between these two positions, which are also not diametrically opposed either?
 


I will admit that one of my biggest turn-offs with Agon - as I have looked into it - is the central idea of players competing with other players for glory.

I get that. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it myself, or how it will play out once we actually play. But, I do feel that it’s thematically appropriate given the importance placed on personal glory among the Greek heroes. Even when they were working together, they were still competing.

As long as the cooperation element isn’t totally overshadowed by the competitive, then I think I’ll be okay. In the online play that I’ve seen, it seems to work, so I’m hopeful.
 

Anything? You don't like entirely fictional bronze age settings, and you don't like mythological historically-based bronze age settings. Okay.
They're implying that the two big ones are almost as bad as real world with fantasy added, due to too large a corpus.

And for that, well, the successful ones always get there.

I still say RQ is the way to go - just don't use Glorantha, but a map of your own design.

Orkworld is also technically Bronze Age - I can't recommend the mechanics, but the setting? awesome fantasy world, but you may need to tone down both elves and dwarves to use it...
 
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Bilharzia

Fish Priest
They're implying that the two big ones are almost as bad as real world with fantasy added, due to too large a corpus.

er, yeah, I understood what was written. Personally I find it difficult to separate the historical Bronze Age I'm mostly familiar with (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Near East) from the idea of a Bronze Age setting independent of the specific historical context, with the exception of Glorantha, and that doesn't quite fit.

Any system and/or setting for a Bronze Age game would have to represent the social structures and beliefs as much as anything else.
 

er, yeah, I understood what was written. Personally I find it difficult to separate the historical Bronze Age I'm mostly familiar with (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Near East) from the idea of a Bronze Age setting independent of the specific historical context, with the exception of Glorantha, and that doesn't quite fit.

Any system and/or setting for a Bronze Age game would have to represent the social structures and beliefs as much as anything else.

The problem is deeper than that — for some.

There are multiple elements
  1. the technology - the rules should represent the tech base and its flaws. Truth be told, this is going to be the hard part for a designer
  2. The environment -
    1. people forget that the climate in the bronze age was slightly different slightly warmer.
    2. the land was much more wild.
  3. The governments
    1. Smaller scale - often city states.
    2. more authoritarian
    3. Usually integrated with state religions
  4. The religions
    1. usually polytheistic
    2. usually strongly tied to government (even when not the government itself)
    3. often using idols
    4. frequently using animal sacrifice. Occasionally, human sacrifice.
    5. Believed to be capable of magic by the faithful
Good luck getting all the players on with all 4 elements.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
er, yeah, I understood what was written. Personally I find it difficult to separate the historical Bronze Age I'm mostly familiar with (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Near East) from the idea of a Bronze Age setting independent of the specific historical context, with the exception of Glorantha, and that doesn't quite fit.
Personally, I don't find it as to difficult to separate the historical Bronze Age I'm mostly familiar with as part of my professional studies (the Levant, Mesopotamia, Egypt) from the idea of a Bronze Age setting independent of our specific historical context as you would seemingly imagine. Otherwise genre adaptations of human history would be impossible, and yet such settings exist aplenty. The trick is understanding what sort of societal organization was present (e.g., city-states, class-based society, interlocked international trade, palace economies, the cults, etc.), the worldviews, etc. and whatever key features that the Setting Creator would emphasize as part of the setting.

Any system and/or setting for a Bronze Age game would have to represent the social structures and beliefs as much as anything else.
Sure, but it is hardly as if it is "Real World Bronze Age with Magic or Bust" here or, for that matter, "BRP or Bust" either. I personally find this mindset so weird. It's about like insisting that D&D is the ONLY way to play medieval European fantasy.
 

Sepulchrave II

Adventurer
The problem is deeper than that — for some.

There are multiple elements
  1. the technology - the rules should represent the tech base and its flaws. Truth be told, this is going to be the hard part for a designer
  2. The environment -
    1. people forget that the climate in the bronze age was slightly different slightly warmer.
    2. the land was much more wild.
  3. The governments
    1. Smaller scale - often city states.
    2. more authoritarian
    3. Usually integrated with state religions
  4. The religions
    1. usually polytheistic
    2. usually strongly tied to government (even when not the government itself)
    3. often using idols
    4. frequently using animal sacrifice. Occasionally, human sacrifice.
    5. Believed to be capable of magic by the faithful
Good luck getting all the players on with all 4 elements.

All of this.

I would add that cities tended to be cultic centers devoted to a particular patron deity, rulers were usually cruel and arbitrary, and having laws was a novelty. There was lots of nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralism, and group identities formed around itinerant crafts. Literacy was confined to temple and palace functionaries (who were usually the same people), or absent entirely.

But I imagine what most people envisage when they mean "Bronze Age" is the idealized, retrojected "Heroic Age" of Homeric and Biblical literature; in the same way that when people imagine "Arthurian" they are thinking of medieval romances, not the realities of 5th-Century sub-Roman Britain.
 

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