Low Fantasy - Best Systems?

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I'd like to give an honorable mention to my game, Modos RPG, for the following reasons (while the search for Best continues). . .

. . .the following list would be among the circles involved: R. Howard's Conan; 80s movies such as Beastmaster, Dragonslayer, Legend, and Conan; early seasons of Game of Thrones; PC game Mount & Blade; the book version of confrontations with Smaug in The Hobbit; Arthurian fantasy and the knight on horseback trope; and heroic tier D&D.

. . .I'd prefer a magic sword to be cool because it has some manner of cool special feature rather than simply being a progression from +1 to +2.

From a game standpoint, I'm more interested in high level heroes leading armies rather than fighting them. . .

I do believe PCs should be people who are far above the average common folk of the world in some way, but not so far above that a player could rampage through a village with impunity. I enjoy many of the tropes from tabletop fantasy games, but not the way in which they are mechanically presented and the style of narrative that tends to lean toward.
First, the magic rules are in a module. Pull out the module and the remainder is, basically by default, low-fantasy.

Magic swords don't get damage or attack bonuses. Actually, they don't exist in the book, except for the suggestion that a sword with increased damage has that feature by virtue of being on fire.

There aren't mass combat rules, but you can use the Engage skill to captivate your troops, Persuade to make them risk their lives, and Detect to decide how combat-ready they are. The extended conflict rules support mass combat in the abstract.

Rampaging through a village is a bad idea; unopposed attacks (pitchforks) deal a minimum of one point of damage. A tenth-level rampager, for example, with about 22 physical health, would come very close to a draw in a fight against six villagers in three rounds of combat. Provided the villagers don't have much respect for their own lives :devilish:
 

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Nebulous

Legend
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.

I thought about running Shadow of the Demon Lord and overlay it with some classic 1e adventures. How would that work? Low to mid level, not high level.
 

Crusadius

Adventurer
WFRP 1E can do this easily... just don't allow magic users careers, and don't use the demons in the bestiary. 2E is a bit less suited to it, but still quite reasonable.

Even with magic user careers, I would consider WFRP 1E (or any edition) low fantasy (in comparison to D&D). I remember looking at the 1E wizard careers and the spell casting rules and thinking how hard it is to be a spell caster and as a consequence my first WFRP character was a Dwarf Pit Fighter-turned Troll Slayer (despite my favored choice of character type usually is magic user).
 

pemerton

Legend
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."
The closest I've ever felt to REH Conan in play is Burning Wheel - here's an actual play report.
 


Anoth

Adventurer
It’s simple to make d&d more medieval. Most wizards are evil. Most kingdoms are evil. Evil doesn’t have to be snidely whiplash for kingdoms, it can be nobles more worried about their own positions and titles. Good wizards would not neccessarily be offering their services

don’t have court magicians. That is a big one. Or if you do have sorcerer Kings. Wizards don’t like to serve Kings they would much rather be the king. And with their power they could do it at high levels. Have wizards a little fearful of being known because sorcerer Kings or any king may want them killed for casting magic. Go back to only allowing good clerics or spellcasters to heal.

the Big one is superstition. Have the general populace fearful of spellcasters. Even a 20th level wizards can be destroyed in a mob of peasants fighting one that is in league with Lucifer.

make your clerics more like real world clerics. Limit their spells more like in early editions with less offensive magic. That may be more difficult in 5E.

That’s just a few and expect the last one that is kinda optional it really doesn’t affect mechanics.

another one would be to actually research the history of how people lived in that era. The mechanics are not what is making d&d anti-medieval.
 

pemerton

Legend
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.

<snip>

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." ically different direction than my tastes.
It’s simple to make d&d more medieval. Most wizards are evil. Most kingdoms are evil.

<snip>

Have the general populace fearful of spellcasters. Even a 20th level wizards can be destroyed in a mob of peasants fighting one that is in league with Lucifer.

make your clerics more like real world clerics. Limit their spells more like in early editions with less offensive magic. That may be more difficult in 5E.

<snip>

The mechanics are not what is making d&d anti-medieval.
I think that the things I've quoted are @Johnny3D3D's main concerns about D&D. And they are mechanical issues. Changing cleric spell lists (itself a mechanical change) won't deal with them.

I think heroic tier 4e can deal with some of them but Johnny3D3D isn't looking to go down that pathway. But many of the various non-D&D systems mentioned in this thread can provide the sort of experience that is being looked for.
 

S'mon

Legend
I'm using Mini Six RPG (free pdf at Mini Six: Bare Bones Edition - AntiPaladin Games | DriveThruRPG.com ) for a cinematic low fantasy swords & sorcery campaign. Not Game of Thrones gritty, but Conan/Kull/Beastmaster sort of level. Mini Six derives from the d6 System used for stuff like 1987's d6 Star Wars from West End Games, and does Hollywood style action very well.

My campaign page, including some rules extracts Primeval Thule
 


aramis erak

Legend
I guess because the protagonist doesn't use magic, only NPCs - just like LoTR with Gandalf the DMPC or Bad Guys. TO me that is a big part of Low Fantasy, what magic is available to the protagonist/player - if there is magic about they don't get much of it!
Actually, from certain points of view, LoTR is inundated with magics everywhere. Just most of them minor.

Such as Aragorn packing Frodo's wound with Athelas...
Elven Cloaks - rare, but not artifact level rare.
Sting.
Mithril mail.

None of them are surprised that Sting is magical; Bilbo seems surprised they let him keep it. If magic were rare, the greed of the dwarves would have rendered it an object of great desire.
 

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