Low Fantasy - Best Systems?

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
I think my opinion on what constitutes low fantasy is different to yours. I see D&D as high fantasy because you are expected to collect magic items as you advance levels, and you need magical healing and easily get it with a cleric.

Whereas WFRP doesn't give out magical weapons like candy (if at all) and magical healing is rare.

Disease in D&D is no threat with the aforementioned cleric whereas WFRP lists gruesome diseases that threaten the health of characters.

So to me WFRP is low fantasy despite having wizards who can blast the heavens. But as you say, it can also come down to the GM running it.
With the understanding that these terms aren't defined in any way other than soft conventions of use, I'd probably say that equating high-fantasy with "scientific fantasy", for lack of a better term (magic is used to power devices and help improve the human condition) aren't the same, although they are commonly correlated.

Depending on how magic is structured, you could easily have a low-magic but high convenience setting, where the only magic is potions and tinctures to cure disease and trauma, and small devices to help with daily chores (an enchanted cookpot that can warm itself, a magic icebox). It sort of reminds me of the items powered by sygaldry in the Kingkiller Chronicles.

Likewise, you could have a high-magic but low-convenience setting, where wizards can raise undead armies and blast apart cities, but no one has magic that can mend a sword blow. Like a setting where the only types of magic are pyromancy and necromancy.
 

John R Davis

Explorer
Romance of the Perilous Lands is great. D20 inspired with interesting take on DND style magic in a near Britain land set just post dark ages.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
Since you mentioned it, why not GURPS Fantasy? Maybe crossed with High Tech?

RuneQuest always struck me as fairly 'low fantasy' in the sense you're using, too - but, though it doesn't have levels, per se, I only ever played at the equivalent of low level. At 'Rune' levels it might be more high-fantasy.
Sounds like you only played the Mongoose version and later...
Earlier, many, if not most, characters wound up with a couple spells.
runequest can get way complicated if you let it. And the spells and armor rules real get clunky any interesting. Much prefer playing COC. But i still steal ideas from runequest and it’s relatives.
At least in RQ3 (Chaosium/AH/GW), the armor rules are dead simple... armor on a location reduces damage from a hit to that location.
The magic rules, yeah, they can be a bit cumbersome... but they're more consistent than, say, D&D's...
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
Dark Crystal's a good palette cleanser from D&D because it's low magic (the Skeksis, who look like lizard-illithid, use iron weapons instead of spells for Pete's sake) and you can't find any of the given races in a Monster Manual.

Game of Thrones might be a better choice, since someone designed a game for it, and it's thoroughly low-fantasy. Until the horde of undead show up.
Luke Crane designed a TDC RPG, based upon Mouse Guard... Archaia Studio Press paid him for it, but for whatever reasons, have not released it. Luke noted he was done writing it in 2013. I suspect Archaia had license issues.

I've been waiting for release of it for 8 years now...
 
Sounds like you only played the Mongoose version and later...
Earlier, many, if not most, characters wound up with a couple spells.
Nope, RQII (c1980). Though, IIRC, the latest versions call back to it, rather than to RQ3 (which had sorcery and so forth, and was closer to what the OP was considering high fantasy, though still not to the extent D&D rapidly gets into).

At least in RQ3 (Chaosium/AH/GW), the armor rules are dead simple... armor on a location reduces damage from a hit to that location.
The magic rules, yeah, they can be a bit cumbersome... but they're more consistent than, say, D&D's...
The magic in RQII was battle magic and rune magic. The former most any character could learn, but it wasn't the kind of overt/spectacular magic the OP seemed to want to avoid, really, a lot of battlemagic you could have written off as superstition. Rune Magic had more going on, but I didn't ever get a character to the point they could more than dabble in temporary Rune Magic, so can't speak to the feel of it, so much.

Where RQ might not be such a great fit to the OP's 'low fantasy' is some of the monsters got a little whackier than your usual elves & dragons and so forth.

Where RQ (BRP) is a good fit is that it's a fairly wargaming-style 'realistic' take. The guys that came up with it were SCAers and applied personal experience with modeled sword & board combat. The skill system, likewise, captures some 'realistic' (moreso than D&D with it's meteoric zero-to-hero advancement) development, in that you advance, incrementally, in the skills you actually use & train in.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
Where RQ might not be such a great fit to the OP's 'low fantasy' is some of the monsters got a little whackier than your usual elves & dragons and so forth.

Where RQ (BRP) is a good fit is that it's a fairly wargaming-style 'realistic' take. The guys that came up with it were SCAers and applied personal experience with modeled sword & board combat. The skill system, likewise, captures some 'realistic' (moreso than D&D with it's meteoric zero-to-hero advancement) development, in that you advance, incrementally, in the skills you actually use & train in.
I agree on its realism, to a point. To be more specific:

The combat mechanics are excessive on the fumbles (both frequency and severity). In part, I suspect, to the mid-70's lack of research and experience of SCA Armored Combat at that time. Even given the 12 second combat rounds... too many fumbles.

A typical flurry in SCA rapier is about 4-5 seconds, but includes 2-5 attacks and 2-5 parries. I've seen few disarms not caused by hits to hand or arm; intentional disarms are bloody hard to do. The combat round has too little action. Heavy can do about the same... Tattershall and FKA fighters also do similar speeds, But I also know that such flurries are often several seconds apart... I've often stood there waiting for a motion of import for up to a dozen seconds... so the number of attacks is low - a typical fight is under 30 seconds.

If one is coming from 2E (which I have a copy of but have not run) I can see it being interpreted as much lower magic than the supplements and later games in the setting of Glorantha,,, 2e as a low-rate of using magic seems plausible but misinterpreted. Especially given that about 1/5 of the sheet is spell listing space. Especially given the wording on page 31 of 2E:
The listed battle magic spells can be learned from almost any Rune cult. There is nothing secret about them and they are commonly available to any character with the money to pay for them. These spells are the common property of all the magical orders.​

If one treats the cult credit as part of CGen, it's very useful to have credit for a combat guild and a rune cult, both of which will also drive adventures for the character in paying them off.
 

Bilharzia

Villager
RuneQuest 6 uses 5-second rounds during which most human characters can make 3 actions. The addition of Special Effects have dramatically improved the verisimilitude and interest of RQ combat, although they add complexity, combats now don't end when opponents have been chopped to bits, but usually when they have been disabled and/or surrendered. The new combat mechanics were developed and tested by people with both SCA and HEMA experience. It doesn't pretend to be a perfect simulation but instead to have the feel of realistic combat while keeping reasonably playable, for more realism, see GURPS if that's what you're after.

Low Magic / High Magic? - this depends on the campaign. There are 5 magic systems in the core rules. A campaign setting like Mythic Britain only uses Celtic Druidic Animism which can call on the spirits of Annwn, and the early Christian church (Theism) but christian miracles are extremely rare, and called on through devotion to saints. Most players will have no access to magic, unless they play a druid who will have some ability to negotiate with spirits but will have no ability to cast magic directly themselves.

Other campaign settings such as Monster Island include sorcery (used by corrupt Serpent folk), animism (used by tribal peoples) and theism (used by colonial settlers. Each is in-keeping with a sword & sorcery setting inspired by Clark Ashton Smith, and as a result can be risky and unpredictable to use.

RuneQuest 6 came out in 2012, and was renamed to Mythras in 2016, when Chaosium took the licence back in-house. RuneQuest in Glorantha published now by Chaosium goes back to RQ2.

Mythras continues the RuneQuest 6 under the new name. It has a fair few supplements out:

Free stuff -
http://thedesignmechanism.com/downloads
Mythras Imperative - a 40 page version of the core system, includes chargen, combat, Folk Magic & Superpowers.
Games Master's Pack - charts, tables & two adventures
Firearms - covers from black powder to SF
Sariniya's Curse - intro adventure with pregen characters
Thennla - intro to the Thennla setting
Caravan - excerpted from "Book of Quests"
Caves of the Circind - excerpted from "Mythic Britain"

Rules additions -
Mythras Companion - tactical combat, social conflict, sanity & corruption, vehicles, chases, chargen alternatives.
Ships & Shieldwalls - rules for ships, and rules for mass combat

Mythic Britain -
Mythic Britain + "Waterlands" adventure
Mythic Logres
Mythic Rome
Mythic Constantinople + "Life's Long Consequences" adventure

Thennla -
Shores of Korantia
The Taskan Empire
Sorandib - city location, adventures and new rules for Alchemy & Artificing
The Arkuline Tribute (adventure)
Khakun Shrugs (adventure)

Classic Fantasy -
Classic Fantasy Rules - a translation of the d&d tropes to Mythras
Classic Fantasy Expert Set
7 adventure modules

Other Settings -
Luther Arkwright - Steampunk Superpowers + "Parallel Lines" adventure
Worlds United - Planetary Romance supplement
After the Vampire Wars - Urban fantasy

Combat Modules - these are encounters designed to showcase the combat rules
Breaking the Habit - close order melee
Take Cover! - ranged combat

Adventures & Supplements -
Monster Island - a landmark supplement, a weird fiction sword & sorcery campaign book
Book of Quests - a campaign series of adventures in "The Realm"
Hessaret's Treasure
Xamoxis' Cleansing
A Gift from Shamash - a SF/Horror adventure
Madness & Other Colours - bonkers adventure on a sorcerer's base
White Death - contemporary (1980s) espionage adventure on an arctic floe
Agony & Ecstacy - a superhero adventure with pregen supers & brief superpower rules
Mythras Combat Cards - Player game aid detailing special effects
Coddefut's Stipule - an adventure for the forthcoming Lyonesse

Mediterráneo Mítico - a Spanish campaign setting "Mythic Mediterranean" and series of adventures "The Fate of Atlantis". Not available in English.

Frostbyte Books (Third party publisher) -
M-Space - Toolkit SF RPG, similar feel to Traveller
Odd Soot - SF Mystery 1920 alternate Earth

Old Bones Publishing (Third party publisher) -
Savage Swords Against the Necromancer - Sword & sorcery adventure
Secrets of Blood Rock - Fantasy/horror adventure
Broch Groddath - 'Haunted house' adventure
+ a number of free game aids

Mythras en Francais
DriveThruRPG.com - d100.fr - The Largest RPG Download Store!

Mythras Deutsche
Home

Mythras en Español
https://www.77mundos.com/

Mythas in Brazil
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Media -
Mythras Matters
- a monthly podcast dedicated to Mythras produced by Inwils - Mythras Matters
Mythras Rules - a video guide to Mythras produced by Inwils - Mythras Rules YouTube playlist
Official Discussion Forum - Design Mechanism
The Design Mechanism - The Design Mechanism
Discord - Join the Mythras Discord Server!
Subreddit - r/Mythras
Fenix - Swedish RPG magazine features a regular column in English written by Pete Nash (English compilations and articles available from Driverthrurpg - https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/8767/Askfageln/subcategory/31736/Fenix-in-English)
Runeblog - not exclusively Mythras but arguably the most active website featuring Mythras, in Spanish and English - https://elruneblog.blogspot.com/
Mythras Encounter Generator - Skollz's site is one of the wonders of Mythras, an encounter generator for Mythras - http://skoll.xyz/mythras_eg/ - to really appreciate and understand how it works requires a visit to 'Notes from Pavis' ...
Notes from Pavis - despite the title, this is not exclusively Gloranthan it is the home of Hannu Kokko's reference sheets and work with the Mythras Encounter Generator - https://notesfrompavis.blog/
Roll20 - Mythras has a dedicated, comprehensive sheet written by Matt Carpenter. It can be slow to use at the moment but a new version of the sheet is in development which should resolve the performance issues dramatically, until then Firefox goes a long way towards a speedier experience. It works fine with a free Roll20 account.


Due for release in 2020 -
Lyonesse - a self contained RPG based on the Jack Vance novels.
Mythic Babylon - the latest in the Mythic Earth series.

In the works -
Mythic Greece - probably 2021
"Destined" - a superheroes supplement
Fioracitta - Italian city state supplement
Mythic Polynesia - being worked out but in early development

Lyonesse (and others) preview from here - https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/designmechanism/yuletide-previews-lyonesse-fioracitta-take-cover-c-t3278.html
 

FaerieGodfather

Born in the Soul of Misery
Five pages deep and I can't believe I have the privilege of being the first to mention Barbarians of Lemuria which is available in both free and premium versions-- and The BoL Hack, by the author himself, for people who want a little more of that D&D flavor in their BoL.

It is a dead simple 2d6 + X + Y affair with combat and skill systems designed to model competent action-adventure heroes.
 

reelo

Explorer
Five pages deep and I can't believe I have the privilege of being the first to mention Barbarians of Lemuria which is available in both free and premium versions-- and The BoL Hack, by the author himself, for people who want a little more of that D&D flavor in their BoL.

It is a dead simple 2d6 + X + Y affair with combat and skill systems designed to model competent action-adventure heroes.
Ah yes, forgot about BoL. Great system...
 

Aldarc

Hero
Thinking about this thread the last few days. Have you looked into Index Card RPG? It is fundamentally a D&D hack stripped down for fast play. Player HP remains relatively small: with each player starting with one heart, equal to 10 HP. There are no levels. In the default, spells are handed out as items that players can carry, which means that you can impose a limit. In the expanded magic supplement, I believe that HP are used to power spells. It may or not be to your liking but it’s worth a look.
 

pming

Adventurer
Hiya!

HarnMaster
WHFRP1
Rolemaster
(just disallow non-Full spellcasters the ability to start with spells and make ALL interested find someone to teach it to them in-game).
Fantasy HERO (HERO system; just put restrictions/cost-increase on 'magic stuff').
Masterbook RPG
Silohuette RPG
Dominion Rules RPG
(free, btw; www.dominionrules.org).
Powers & Perils (old Avalon Hill RPG; now free and community updated...or at least we try: www.powersandperils.org ) <-- have to do some 'no casters unless...' stuff, or other tweaks, but the system models 'classical fantasy' very VERY well! :)

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

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