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Let's Talk About Fantasy heartbreaks and other FRPGs

I love this so much.

In my head I always imagined him as the Wesley Willis of RPGs ( in only a good way).

Please know that this made my year.

If I could I would gift you all the Moonstone Bazooka Cannons.
Nice. :) Now that I remember it, the author portrait photo from the 2nd edition rulebook is pretty much him exactly as I remember him, though I can't remember seeing him wearing armor.

Actually... that just jogged a memory. He was friends with a couple of comic book artists- specifically Mike Grell (of Green Arrow fame) and Dameon Willich, and got them both to do a little bit of art for Synnibarr, as I recall. He ALSO served as an artist's model at least once or twice. In fact, that armor and sword were the ones used for the cover modeling for issue 1 of the Avatar/Time of Troubles three issue comic book limited series from DC! I believe that piece was by Willich.

Raven author.PNG
Raven as Kelemvor.jpg


 
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Lord Shark

Explorer
My first non-D&D fantasy RPG? Probably RuneQuest (the 2E boxed set).

These days, if I wanted to run fantasy, I'd probably reach for 13th Age, Beyond the Wall, TOR, or Fellowship. Maybe PF2E, although I'd need more experience with it to be certain.
 

eyeheartawk

Works 60% of the time, every time
Nice. :) Now that I remember it, the author portrait photo from the 3rd edition rulebook is pretty much him exactly as I remember him, though I can't remember seeing him wearing armor.

Actually... that just jogged a memory. He was friends with a couple of comic book artists- specifically Mike Grell (of Green Arrow fame) and Dameon Willich, and got them both to do a little bit of art for Synnibarr, as I recall. He ALSO served as an artist's model at least once or twice. In fact, that armor and sword were the ones used for the cover modeling for issue 1 of the Avatar/Time of Troubles three issue comic book limited series from DC! I believe that piece was by Willich.

View attachment 149906View attachment 149907

You know, I'm pretty convinced that his life is just one long dedicated piece of performance art. It's really that amazing.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
What was your first non-D&D fantasy RPG? What is your favorite? If it is a different answer, what is your favorite "fantasy heartbreaker" (usually defined as a game designed specifically to be a better game than D&D and usually failing)? Are you able to run that favorite game, or do you end up going back to D&D to get players (or whatever other reason)?
My first non-D&D RPG of any kind was Traveller. Shortly thereafter, the same guy introduced me to The Fantasy Trip/In The Labyrinth.

My favorite? Fantasy HERO.

Don’t know if I can point at a favorite “heartbreaker”, though. While I’ve played several RPGs mentioned here as being one, I don’t know if I consider any of them “failures”. Of the ones others posted above, I’d pick PF1 as closest to that definition. (Not because it “failed”, but because I like it the most.)
 

Mezuka

Adventurer
The only real hearthbreaker rpg I play is my own homebrew d20 roll over fantasy game I've been developping for the last 3 years. It's getting better. Reading many different game systems was certainly a great help. I've used it only for solitary play sessions so far. Should do a 1 player 1 GM session this winter.
 

Retreater

Legend
My first non-D&D fantasy RPG I actually played was Pathfinder 1e. There were plenty of non-fantasy RPGs before that (Call of Cthulhu, Marvel Superheroes, TMNT, GURPS, Star Wars WEG), and we only looked at the WFRP 1e book, but never got around to playing it back in the day.
Since that time, the non-D&D fantasy I've tried now include Forbidden Lands, Numenera, WFRP 3e, WFRP 4e, numerous OSR retroclones, Dungeon World, 13th Age, Savage Worlds Fantasy, and Pathfinder 2e.
 

Crusadius

Explorer
Palladium Fantasy. Great setting, mediocre rules.
I thought when compared to AD&D 2nd Edition (which I was playing at the time) they were perhaps better rules. They addressed some issues I had with with multi/dual classing, had a skills system, and had very evocative classes. Unfortunately the system was never updated.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
What was your first non-D&D fantasy RPG? What is your favorite? If it is a different answer, what is your favorite "fantasy heartbreaker" (usually defined as a game designed specifically to be a better game than D&D and usually failing)? Are you able to run that favorite game, or do you end up going back to D&D to get players (or whatever other reason)?
Oh gosh, I think my first non-D&D fantasy game was Pendragon, way back in the 80s. (Though my first non-D&D was Champions, the version with all of the softcovers before the version with the Big Blue Book.) But we didn't get much beyond character creation. I think the D&D really dominated my fantasy RPGs until college, when I played a good amount of Warhammer Fantasy. I still remember my giantslayer dwarf, the whole party beat up and wanting to rest, while with 1 wound left he picked up and continued down the caves because "we're not done yet" and there was redemption to be had, or die trying.

My favorite "fantasy heartbreak" is 13th Age. It's a d20 that came out before 5e, though they share a lot of sensibilities and steamlining. It was made by Rob Heinsoo, the lead designer of D&D 4e, and Jonathan Tweet, one of the lead designers of D&D 3.0. They describe it as "a love letter to D&D", and wrote the game that they wanted to play in their weekly game.

I ran a four and a half year campaign of it. One issue is that 5e is close enough to it mechanically to get things mixed up, so that running and playing both simultaniously is hard. Also considering that one of my groups is hardcore 5e, I doubt I'd get them to go for another game system that is that close - I'd have more luck with a different genre for them.

RPGs are social games, and the majority of people I play with head to 5e for high fantasy type games, so I don't get much chance to play other systems in that genre.
 
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Palladium (1e at least) had Physical Endurance stat (constitution) as bonus hp (so much less one shots at low level), a parry and dodge mechanic (fights take a little longer to resolve), and percentile skills. Otherwise a lot like old D&D with some different classes, races, and magic systems.
Palladium has a much higher hit rate than D&D, as well, so the parries and dodges return it to roughly comparable damage rates.

Also, if you like Palladium's ruleset but not SDC armor, I'd advise a look at Arcanum. Same concepts, better implementation, except armor is non-ablative damage reduction, and there's no bypass.
 

Voadam

Legend
Palladium has a much higher hit rate than D&D, as well, so the parries and dodges return it to roughly comparable damage rates.
But with an extra opposed roll from the target so it takes longer to resolve each attack than D&D's generally one roll and done for whether an attack hits.
Also, if you like Palladium's ruleset but not SDC armor, I'd advise a look at Arcanum. Same concepts, better implementation, except armor is non-ablative damage reduction, and there's no bypass.
I had the statless World Atlas which was fantastic for a fantasy mythic earth counterpart setting.

The class books looked awesome but I never got my hands on them at the time.
 

Jack Daniel

OD&D Referee
@Reynard : Ooh, I just remembered another game that I haven't played yet, but which has always intrigued me: Dungeonslayers. It seems to aim for a vibe somewhere between "old-school" and "dungeon-punk," and the mechanics look fairly traditional, but (despite the fact that single d20 rolls are involved) they appear to be totally unrelated to any edition of D&D mechanics. Maybe worth a look!
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Since were also talking about interesting fantasy RPGs that we never got a chance, the concept of the X-Crawl RPG, which was basically Reality TV Death-sport dungeon crawling, seemed like it would be fun for a more light-hearted limited campaign.
 

Reynard

Legend
Since were also talking about interesting fantasy RPGs that we never got a chance, the concept of the X-Crawl RPG, which was basically Reality TV Death-sport dungeon crawling, seemed like it would be fun for a more light-hearted limited campaign.
If I recall that was more of a campaign settings for 3.x rather than a distinct game. It's a fun idea inspired by The Running Man style sci fi. I played in a Starfineer campaign that felt like a more modern version of this, where we were "influencers" streaming our adventures with rivals doing to same in a war for followers.
 

I am running a Shadow of the Demon Lord campaign that I anticipate will last through the end of this year. Probably 50 sessions. We just finished our 10th session yesterday. The campaign has unexpectedly been roleplaying heavy because the players are afraid their characters will die if they engage in combat. So I don't have a strong opinion yet on the system.

Next year I'm planning to run a 13th Age version of Red Hand of Doom.

Together, this gives me a nice sample of the fantasy heartbreakers that I'm interested in. I'm lucky that my players are willing to follow me through different systems.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I am running a Shadow of the Demon Lord campaign that I anticipate will last through the end of this year. Probably 50 sessions. We just finished our 10th session yesterday. The campaign has unexpectedly been roleplaying heavy because the players are afraid their characters will die if they engage in combat. So I don't have a strong opinion yet on the system.
I would potentially run a one-shot that throws their characters into the meat grinder, either using the pre-existing characters or making new ones. Show them what intense combat and death looks like in the game. Then go back to the original campaign.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Warhammer Fantasy in '88...(can't remember the exact date, but end of the 80s. Fell in love with it and it replaced D&D for Fantasy RPG for the next couple years until I stopped playing TTRPGs for a long time.

Now, I only run 5e for Fantasy. The only other system I see myself running for Fantasy is the DCC Lankhmar campaign. But, for the most part, non-D&D stuff I buy are for completely different types of systems and tropes.
 

I would potentially run a one-shot that throws their characters into the meat grinder, either using the pre-existing characters or making new ones. Show them what intense combat and death looks like in the game. Then go back to the original campaign.
Interesting idea.

Thing is, I have no idea what intense combat looks like in the game! I don't really understand the monster math, which character levels are interesting and capable, etc.

It took me a full 1-20 level campaign to truly understand the above about 5E, and I suspect it's going to take a full campaign for me to get SotDL.

Good news is that there's an unavoidable big brawl coming in 1 or 2 sessions that marks the climax of Act I in the campaign. Should be a good time.
 

GreyLord

Legend
I think my first fantasy RPG outside of D&D was Runequest. It was a LONG time ago, so not positive, but I think that's what it was (looked up covers on Google and such and I think the cover that we played the game of looked like the early Runequest cover).

Edit: I didn't play it all that heavily, it was just the first one. I didn't play other RPGs outside of D&D for a while after I started.

Not Fantasy, but one of the first RPGs I got heavily into was Star Frontiers and later I dabbled a little in Gamma World.
The First Fantasy RPG that I actually got really heavy into so much that I played it as the main RPG was MERPS/Rolemaster.
Sometime later it was Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and Cyberpunk.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I think my first fantasy RPG outside of D&D was Runequest. It was a LONG time ago, so not positive, but I think that's what it was (looked up covers on Google and such and I think the cover that we played the game of looked like the early Runequest cover).

Edit: I didn't play it all that heavily, it was just the first one. I didn't play other RPGs outside of D&D for a while after I started.

Not Fantasy, but one of the first RPGs I got heavily into was Star Frontiers and later I dabbled a little in Gamma World.
The First Fantasy RPG that I actually got really heavy into so much that I played it as the main RPG was MERPS/Rolemaster.
Sometime later it was Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and Cyberpunk.
I think Runequest was the first actual "heartbreaker," starting life as OD&D houserules.
 

But with an extra opposed roll from the target so it takes longer to resolve each attack than D&D's generally one roll and done for whether an attack hits.
two rolls isn't that big a deal, and parries in Palladium run out.
I had the statless World Atlas which was fantastic for a fantasy mythic earth counterpart setting.

The class books looked awesome but I never got my hands on them at the time.
There are three in the original.
The Arcanum is the rules. there are two editions, essentially 1E and 1.1
The Lexicon is the second, and is the setting book. The edition I have isn't statless, but doesn't have many - Price lists, all.
The Bestiary is the monster book. Art's good, not great, but evocative.

Only the Arcanum is available on Drive Thru... and only in a new edition. (Due to a creator's rights issue, the Druas are removed.) It's essentially 1.2...
 
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