Low Fantasy - Best Systems?

3catcircus

Adventurer
Rolemaster is close to the best for this feel I've run/played, but I've not gotten past minicampaigns and 4th level.

The old MERP is a streamlined version of Rolemaster - lousy for Tolkien, but great for that pervasive yet low powered magic and larger than life zero-to-hero. Plus, MERP can use the wider RM monsters, as it's pretty compatible. MERP also much reduces the table load: weapons tables are 2 pages (vs over 20+ for RM), crits another 4 pages (vs about 15 in RM), and attack spells another page (vs 15+ for RM). Moving maneuver and static maneuver tables 1 page each (same as RM). Still, second best.

In this regard, HARP might be a better choice than MERP. Since the magic system in HARP is spells are learned skills, the GM can limit it as he sees fit, but it supposedly streamlines the Rolemaster rules even more and takes some design cues from d20 so it may be easier to grok.
 

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Bilharzia

Fish Priest
Mythras and Mythic Britain does this. You get a Bernard Cornwell-style depiction of Arthurian Britain, much closer to historical reality than you see in Excalibur for instance, but the spirits of Annwn Britain and the Saxon supernatural world are real, as well as a look-in from the early Christian church. The campaign supplement includes an adventure series that takes players across Britain searching for some of the treasures of Britain for Merlin, amongst other things and involves the PCs in larger scale battles against the Saxon invaders, using mass battle rules for the engagements.

For a smaller scale experience, the adventure and possible mini-campaign "Waterlands", uses the same Mythic Britain setting, to deliver a perfectly executed dark-age mystery-thriller, set in the fenlands of Lincolshire & Yorkshire and featuring a bit more of a 'local' Celtic supernatural experience.
 

pemerton

Legend
I also like the idea of castle sieges and ship-to-ship battles at sea feeling like fights and challenges rather than the PCs essentially being supers in comparison to the world around them.

I like the general vibe of some classic sword & sandal movies (Ben-Hur, Venus Meets the Son of Hercules, etc), but would like to add in more fantasy. I support (and enjoy) cinematic action and heroics, but I don't like how D&D and PF so quickly render certain challenges trivial; I believe something like a battle should be serious -regardless of level.

<snip>

and the army is able to participate in an encounter in a meaningful way.
Burning Wheel is good for what you're looking for, and no crunchier than GURPS. I would recommend it over Rolemaster, which (in my pretty extensive experience) pushes fairly strongly towards more widespread D&D-ish magic. HARP might be better in this respect, though without healing magic I suspect it might be pretty heavy going.

A system no one has mentioned yet is Prince Valiant. We've been playing that a lot lately - here's a link to an actual play report of our most recent session, which figured some skirmish-level resolution. (Two of the PCs lead a holy military order. And their participates in skirmish-type encounters in a meaningful way.)
 

BrokenTwin

Biological Disaster
If you want something similar to D&D5e but lower on the player power scale, I'll second the suggestion for Shadow of the Demon Lord.

It has more of a horror fantasy vibe, rather than D&D's epic fantasy heroes feel. Easy to tweak to taste though.
 

Razjah

Explorer
A few people have mentioned some of the ones I would recommend:
Burning Wheel
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Forbidden Lands
Savage Worlds
E6 Style D&D/PF

Romance of the Perilous Land is very Authurian but would probably do what you are looking for as well.
 


aramis erak

Legend
In this regard, HARP might be a better choice than MERP. Since the magic system in HARP is spells are learned skills, the GM can limit it as he sees fit, but it supposedly streamlines the Rolemaster rules even more and takes some design cues from d20 so it may be easier to grok.
It's not as well written, tho'. I've tried several times to read HARP, and found it just not up to the older quality.
 

Argyle King

Legend
I had considered trying Genesys (the system which Edge of The Empire is based upon,) but I have not heard much about it.

Despite being constructed in a very different way than GURPS, I enjoy the Star Wars games. (In fact, I've actually borrowed a few mechanics from it that I've incorporated into GURPS when I GM.)

Now, with recent FFG woes, I'm on the fence about buying one of the books.
 

Argyle King

Legend
Burning Wheel is good for what you're looking for, and no crunchier than GURPS. I would recommend it over Rolemaster, which (in my pretty extensive experience) pushes fairly strongly towards more widespread D&D-ish magic. HARP might be better in this respect, though without healing magic I suspect it might be pretty heavy going.

A system no one has mentioned yet is Prince Valiant. We've been playing that a lot lately - here's a link to an actual play report of our most recent session, which figured some skirmish-level resolution. (Two of the PCs lead a holy military order. And their participates in skirmish-type encounters in a meaningful way.)


I'll look into that. I'm reading some of your play report.


The stuff below isn't necessarily @ you. I just thought of it while reading.

Side note: I don't necessarily want to focus on mass combat, but that crops in a lot of my comments because it's a place where D&D tends to break down pretty badly for me. In my mind, I have a lot of cool things I imagine concerning a siege scene or two ships of the line blasting each other in a naval fight. However, those pieces of imagination (in the past) have played out at the d20 table as something along the lines of "I cast X, their whole ship dies." Which isn't necessarily bad in a vacuum, but -when it becomes the norm- I find that it is a little bit of an imagination buzzkill.

It's not limited to magic either; just being a knight on horseback becomes a lot less cool when you realize that the whole character concept is based around a creature which is woefully unprepared to survive things which are generally trivial encounters.

As a poster upthread said, yes, Conan does include crazy gonzo magic, necromancers, and etc, but I find that it's still presented in a way which ties into the world rather than being in a power bubble floating above the world. The powerful sorcerer still has concerns about being stabbed in the face and dying (as opposed to shrugging it off as "oh well, I lost a few HP, but I'm good." Additionally, that translates into the heroes being similarly tied to the world because they're not required to be involved in an arms race of vertical math or magic item Christmas trees.

I don't want to get stuck on a tangeant, but a lot of this captures previous conversations in which I have expressed having a love/hate relationship with D&D 4E. I actually really liked a lot of the game's concepts, but how those concepts were implemented went in a drastically different direction than my tastes.
 

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