Monday, February 7, 2011

Another Campaign/Game Idea


This post is inspired by my discovery of the British old school rpg Heroes.  Heroes, for those who don't know, is a more or less historical game set in the "Dark Ages."  The game gives its specific start date as 950.  From what I understand, characters come into a city in the Eastern Mediterranean as mercenaries and ride to riches or ruin, wenching and whoring along the way.  It sort of sounds like Warhammer before Warhammer, and that's alright by me.

I'll never see a copy of the thing.  It was printed by a hobbyist in England in 1979 and it's about as rare states' side  as you might expect given that background.  To paraphrase gamer par exellence Jeff Rients, since I can't find the post to quote it: if you want an rpg product, make a list of the reasons why and then make something that does those same things yourself.

I like grit and grime as much as anybody, and the idea of playing rogues and skullduggers in the Middle Ages isn't just right up my alley, it is my alley.  So heres more or less the premise: you're a party of scumbags, looters, and preachers who wind up in the declining Byzantine outpost of Zenopolis.  Zenopolis lies on an island somewhere in the Mediterranean that is being fought over by numerous factions both real and fictional.  Your goal is to more or less play them for what they're worth in an attempt to pay for your rock n' roll lifestyle.

To start with I'd use the S&W White Box, but I'd hopefully add so much to it that it eventually turns into its own game.  That seems to be the way most early rpgs were developed and my fevered imagination has romanticized the process enough that I want to try it.

The most immediate hurtle I see is character types.  I'm not entirely sure that magic would exist in this setting (since it's a fictional island in a real sea), so I'm unlikely to allow Magic-Users and Clerics as starting characters.  I'd still need a way to differentiate unwashed ne're-do-wells from one another.  While I'm usually of the opinion that D&D has enough character differentiation, it definitely doesn't if you remove two of the three classes.  I may implement a RC style general skills system, or come up with something new altogether.  Who knows?

The working title is Once Upon a Time in the Mediterranean, though that may change with the wind.  I'll post any updates on the project here.

16 comments:

  1. Hm, "fought over by numerous factions both real and fictional. Your goal is to more or less play them for what they're worth," huh?
    http://vbsowmya.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/mifune.jpg
    Somehow I can get behind that.

    As far as the initial character options, I've always been of the opinion that if you're going OD&D, the RAW are guidelines at best. What you're given is so very rudimentary that there's absolutely no reason to treat it as limitation. Your player describes wanting to play character type X, you figure out how to mechanically represent that on the spot. Decide what he gets at Lv1 immediately, providing only enough to differentiate him as a unique character, and work out the details before the next session. The core classes are essentially there to set the bar for experimentation.

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  2. Fighters, Thieves and Sailors might all fit in.

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  3. Fantastic idea for a game. I'm immediately reminded of Chabon's "Gentlemen of the Road" (roughly the correct time frame and only a little further northeast).

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  4. Heroes is much more akin to En Garde than Warhammer. Very chart heavy (there are subsystems for nearly all activity) it could almost be run without a GM.

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  5. @ ckutalik

    I'm not familiar with En Garde, but I'm not really that familiar with Heroes either. I'm more interested in it as the impetus for this idea.

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  6. It's not just mechanically very similar to EG, but more relevantly to your post, thematically very similar. The central motor is the idea that social advancement is the most important goal.

    Your PC starts as a relative nobody finagling your way into lower posts in the hierarchy; then using any means necessary to move yourself up.

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  7. Looks like I have something else to track down for inspiration.

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  8. Great idea! I wonder if some of Rob Conley's subclasses for S&W found in The Majestic Wilderlands would be of use to you? His "rogue" variants -- burglar, thug, mountebank, and merchant adventurer -- might be particularly applicable.

    Best of luck!

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  9. Yes, great idea

    How about rolling to find the character's background - barbarian, street urchin, merchant's son etc - followed by a reason for being in Zenopolis - exile, fugitive, spy, treasure seeker, pilgrim, washed ashore etc ?

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  10. With Geordie having posted a pic of the contents page here:

    http://odd74.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=nontsr&action=display&thread=3913&page=1

    ...there's plenty of inspiration as to what types of tables to develop.

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  11. @Evan - there's a company still selling the En Garde! game: http://www.engarde.co.uk/

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  12. I forgot to mention above that the engarde.com.uk site has a couple of downloads - a character sheet and a 4-page pdf of tables - which are worth a look at for inspiration.

    Oh and one more - here's a site that has a couple of En Garde! house ruled pdf's, one of 50 pages, one of 62, which may be useful to mine for ideas:

    http://www.sholing.force9.co.uk/engarde.htm

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  13. Great links Dave !

    If anyone does want to pursue a D&D with a social mechanic I suggest reading JD Jarvis' superb posts on reputation, trade and duelling as a start:

    http://aeonsnaugauries.blogspot.com/2010/08/reputation-and-grace.html

    http://aeonsnaugauries.blogspot.com/2010/08/reputation-and-trading.html

    http://aeonsnaugauries.blogspot.com/2010/09/dueling-reputation.html

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  14. Thanks for the links everybody.

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  15. @geordie racer - Sean, you might be able to answer this question, how similar are the two house-ruled En Garde! documents to Heroes? Reading through them they sound very much like your description of Millward's game (although obviously set in a later era).

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  16. Very similar, except Heroes has a Berserker Factor stat that influences the desire for female companionship and being found to be annoying byb other patrons of the bawdyhouse. But yes - the carousing/influence/fem.comp./ undoubtedly influenced Heroes. Maybe this is why its never been reprinted.

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