Low Fantasy - Best Systems?


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Argyle King

Legend
If the goal is to have a play experience that feels something like REH Conan, or perhaps Arthurian legend, then it's not just about converting D&D modules (with their dungeons, treasure, etc) to a system with grittier combat.


There's truth to that.

Combat is part of it, but how the other "pillars" are handled is part of it also.
 

aramis erak

Legend
If the goal is to have a play experience that feels something like REH Conan, or perhaps Arthurian legend, then it's not just about converting D&D modules (with their dungeons, treasure, etc) to a system with grittier combat.
On the other hand, the dungeon concept is very strong in Conan novels... and movies...

But they're not all underground. Some are - the movies have several nifty "dungeons" in the D&D sense... but not the historical one... Castles on hills, cathedrals underground, mazes in the mountains... Conan's dungeons are mostly functional places, not simple prisons or monster-hovels.

And the novels have even better cave and fortress complexes. Not a one of which is good against Conan and a friend or two...

D&D can work quite well for such a setting - AD&D did it just fine in the CB series modules. But those were carefully worded.

And avoided most of D&D's kitchen sink.
 

pemerton

Legend
On the other hand, the dungeon concept is very strong in Conan novels... and movies...
My knowledge of the Conan movies is weak. I know the REH stories fairly well. Dungeons in the D&D sense aren't a big part of them. For instance, the action in The Tower of the Elephant is, in D&D terms, confined to a few rooms. In The Scarlet Citadel there is the giant snake, the hell plant and the encounter with the wizard who's name I temporarily forget, the pit with the ghost/spirit/floating thing, and the gibbering mouther.

Exploration is not really a focus - even less so than in JRRT's account of Moria, I would say - and he is not looting them for treasure: even though The Tower of the Elephant starts this way, it doesn't end this way; and in the one about the Jewels of Gwahlur the jewels end up being sacrificed to save Conan's companion.

Off the top of my head I can't think of any D&D dungeon that would be a good REH Conan vehicle. Maybe if some of Gygax's weird shrines (like in KotB) are excised from their bigger locations and made into their own things, that might have the right feel.
 

Puggins

Explorer
My knowledge of the Conan movies is weak. I know the REH stories fairly well. Dungeons in the D&D sense aren't a big part of them. For instance, the action in The Tower of the Elephant is, in D&D terms, confined to a few rooms. In The Scarlet Citadel there is the giant snake, the hell plant and the encounter with the wizard who's name I temporarily forget, the pit with the ghost/spirit/floating thing, and the gibbering mouther.

That’s more a question of story scope than anything else, really. Conan stories would usually fit into a single session of an rpg campaign. Even though some games are designed specifically for that style of play (SotDL, for example, which I am also a really big fan of), you can easily pull this off with 5e.

As for specific recommendations, I definitely don’t see eye to eye with the OP’s characterization of Conan as low fantasy, but I’d echo a few recommendations.

* Using 5e but limiting character choices to fighter, ranger and rogue and us8ng alternate rewards (ala 4e dark sun/13a glorantha) is probably the best way to go, frankly, if you want to echo the Conan stories. Sprinkle in high level mystical threats with not-so-showy powers and you have an almost perfect engine for the short stories.

* SotDL is an excellent option, but it’s deadly. I’m not sure the Conan stories would be an awesome fit, but this games would work really well for magic-rare games- just dial back the “Demon Lord is on the doorstep of reality” conceit and you’re there.
 

pemerton

Legend
That’s more a question of story scope than anything else, really. Conan stories would usually fit into a single session of an rpg campaign.
I'm not 100% sure what you mean by "scope", but I would say this is about the focus and theme of the fiction. There is not a great focus on exploration in the stories I mentioned. To emulate them in a RPG, I'd be resolving an Escape or Search-type check and on a success or failure framing the appropriate situation in the dungeon. And also looking for some sort of buff when heroic/valorous action is undertaken (like rescuing Pelias the wizard).
 

It is a love letter to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, which is mentioned up thread. IMO it would take some heavy rules modifications to fit the OP's stated goals.
Ahh... okay. Thank you for the clarification. Maybe it was the art work, but it just looked (at a glance) as if it was low fantasy. Thanks again.
 




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