Low Fantasy - Best Systems?

Argyle King

Legend
edit: This meandered all over the place. I'm not sure if the end result was something which contains a coherent idea.

If this helps any, part of my "problem" with trying to do this style with D&D/d20 often boils down to how (for a lack of better words) the "world math" of the games work.

I'm pefectly fine with PCs being above and beyond average folk. They're heroes, so they should be. (Likewise, "named" villains should be above the common orc rabble.)

At the same time, it's a bit anticlimactic when scenes such as castle sieges or ship battles are regularly so easily short-circuited by readily available resources and built-in assumptions of how the game is designed. The key word there is "regularly." If the players come up with a cool way to solve a challenge or use a strategy that the GM hadn't considered, that's something I see as good; the fact that the players are that engaged to put that much thought into it should be applauded. However, when it becomes a problem is when the players are so above and beyond the world around them that it doesn't even make sense to buy into the scene from an in-game perspective. The type of narrative I would like to tell is still possible, but it suffers (likely in a similar way that trying to tell a 4-color Supers story is professed to not work for some people in GURPS; the game can do it, but the mechanical strengths of the game likely lend it to something else more readily).

I often compare my rpg tastes to professional wrestling (because I believe it's a good analogy). A pro-wrestling match contains a ton of things which likely would not work in an actual fight. (However, to be fair, some things certainly would.) That being said, when it's done well, I still have an ability to suspend my disbelief and enjoy it. The small details are often more important than the big details.

The idea that the Undertaker is some sort of undead mortician who can call lightning from the sky does not jar me out of enjoying the show. I can even buy that Hulk Hogan is essentially a paladin (or maybe barbarian) who can tap into the power of the fans to "hulk up" and recover from massive damage to come back and win. On the other hand, when someone does something like no-sells (shows no ill effects) from being kicked in testicles, it can be a bit tough to buy into it. If on the next show, if the ante is upped by no-selling a hit in the testicles with a flaming barbed-wire covered baseball bat, something about that isn't going to compute in my brain.

Maybe if it were a one-time thing and explained storywise as a burst of adrenaline or something... yeah, okay, maybe. But if it's happening every encounter? At that point, something isn't making sense... or, you run into the Superman problem: once everybody is at a power level to shrug stuff like that off, the only way to advance the story is by continuing to stack more and more ridiculousness and power onto the situation. That might be fun the first few times, but -for me- it starts to have diminishing returns.
 

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Crusadius

Adventurer
Not really. It has powerful casters, and lots of overt magic.

For starting characters WFRP is low fantasy. I played 1E for two years and only got to a 2nd career, and still no magic items, the wizard's apprentice fearful of casting spells and no healing. Our characters were at risk of random goblin with dagger getting a lucky blow in and ending our lives. 4E does make this less likely but the dearth of magic items and healing is still there.

Warhammer Fantasy Battles does, unfortunately, give people the impression that WFRP has characters involved in big magical battles every day since they're both using the same setting.
 

aramis erak

Legend
For starting characters WFRP is low fantasy. I played 1E for two years and only got to a 2nd career, and still no magic items, the wizard's apprentice fearful of casting spells and no healing. Our characters were at risk of random goblin with dagger getting a lucky blow in and ending our lives. 4E does make this less likely but the dearth of magic items and healing is still there.

Warhammer Fantasy Battles does, unfortunately, give people the impression that WFRP has characters involved in big magical battles every day since they're both using the same setting.
So does TEW, and running TEW, I've never failed to have 2nd rank casters (3rd or 4th career characters) by the end of DotR. The suggested XP levels are plenty good for pushing up the levels. And not a one of those was over 1 year of weekly sessions.

It's only low fantasy if the GM isn't using the setting as written, and is stingy with XP.
 

Crusadius

Adventurer
It's only low fantasy if the GM isn't using the setting as written, and is stingy with XP.

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.
 

aramis erak

Legend
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.
If you have a wizard per city who can take out an entire company of troops with one spell, it's NOT low-fantasy.
If you have threats that require that power level to solve, again, not Low Fantasy.
If you have the ability to generate PC's with that power level, again, not Low Fantasy.
If a wizard can cast a spell in under a minute, not low fantasy.

WFRP is neither high fantasy, nor low, but in between. Or more accurately, it falls in a different subgenre... Dark Fantasy.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
edit: This meandered all over the place. I'm not sure if the end result was something which contains a coherent idea. . .

Maybe if it were a one-time thing and explained storywise as a burst of adrenaline or something... yeah, okay, maybe. But if it's happening every encounter? At that point, something isn't making sense... or, you run into the Superman problem: once everybody is at a power level to shrug stuff like that off, the only way to advance the story is by continuing to stack more and more ridiculousness and power onto the situation. That might be fun the first few times, but -for me- it starts to have diminishing returns.
I think you made it to "coherent" at the end here. Congrats!

So what you're saying is that you'd like to run a professional wrestling RPG in a medieval-low-fantasy setting? :geek:

Since you mentioned D&D again, out here on page 4 after so many other games have been proffered, I'd say you have a slight addiction. I recommend hiding the books, watching five back-to-back episodes of the Dark Crystal (AoR) on Netflix, and then decide what you want more: to watch the remaining five episodes, or open your D&D books again. If you choose Dark Crystal, there is hope for you!
 

Aldarc

Legend
Reading through some of the discussion of the thread, I get the feeling that people are talking past each other regarding the meaning of terms. It seems that are multiple gradients of a setting that are getting conflated: low/high fantasy with low/high magic. I don't necessarily think that these things are necessarily synonymous.
 

Argyle King

Legend
I think you made it to "coherent" at the end here. Congrats!

So what you're saying is that you'd like to run a professional wrestling RPG in a medieval-low-fantasy setting? :geek:

Since you mentioned D&D again, out here on page 4 after so many other games have been proffered, I'd say you have a slight addiction. I recommend hiding the books, watching five back-to-back episodes of the Dark Crystal (AoR) on Netflix, and then decide what you want more: to watch the remaining five episodes, or open your D&D books again. If you choose Dark Crystal, there is hope for you!


I only mentioned it to address more-recent comments which had mentioned it.

I would likely not pick Dark Crystal, but that's because I've already watched all of the available episodes. I might fire up a new game of Mount & Blade though; I'm anxiously awaiting the newer game.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I would likely not pick Dark Crystal, but that's because I've already watched all of the available episodes. I might fire up a new game of Mount & Blade though; I'm anxiously awaiting the newer game.
Me too, but I need to watch them again!

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.

Mount & Blade looks like a good choice as well!
 

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