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Author Topic: Please critique my historical medieval RPG!  (Read 9254 times)
Sir Privy Toastrack
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Posts: 35


« on: August 04, 2004, 08:09:36 AM »

I would really appreciate any intelligent feedback for my still uncompleted RPG set in 1141 England (it's called "Land Without a King"). The game is only 29 pages long right now and most sections are still incomplete (combat & healing, for example). But the game is finished enough so that it can be test played, reviewed, etc. A few notes on it before you go to the link:
 
- this game is historically based. No magic or monsters. It is set during the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda. The focus is on normal people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. The mechanics are based around a d20 resolution (but it is not OGL/D20 in any way...no levels, etc). The detail level is similar to HarnMaster.

- it is not "rules lite". So if you love HeroQuest but hate HarnMaster, you probably won't like this.

- Besides feedback on the rules themselves, if you notice any historical inaccuracies, please let me know.

- any suggestions you have are appreciated.

Here is the link: http://www.excaliburvideoproductions.com/RPGdownlaods.html

Please leave feedback on this site (you can also email me)! Thanks!
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Simon W
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Posts: 191


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« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2004, 08:24:27 AM »

From the look of it, it has resemblances to Harn, so in that at least, you succeeded.

It is neatly presented, maybe having the look of a historical textbook. Perhaps this is the feel you wanted to accomplish.

I am a fan of Ellis Peters Brother Cadfael novels, and your time period meshes well with those books.

I'm not a fan however, of lots of attributes and 8 seems too many. However, some people may like that, it's just not for me. The system seems ok at first glance, and would easily convert to d20 if anyone had a mind.

I'm not getting a sense of what players will do in this game. I know there is a civil war going on - so presumably spying missions, the occassional skirmish and maybe a bit of political stuff - will there be rules for this type of thing?

(Personally, I often wondered about doing a Cadfael-style game, with one player being a Cadfael-type detective-monk, and the others being his friends, like Hugh Berringer in the town of Shrewsbury. So I am intrigued by your game and look forward to seeing more).

Simon W
http://www.geocities.com/lashingsofgingerbeer2004/
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Sir Privy Toastrack
Member

Posts: 35


« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2004, 08:33:13 AM »

Quote from: Simon W
I'm not a fan however, of lots of attributes and 8 seems too many. However, some people may like that, it's just not for me. The system seems ok at first glance, and would easily convert to d20 if anyone had a mind.

This has been a common complaint.  I am going to change it to have an optional 6 attribute system.

Quote from: Simon W
I'm not getting a sense of what players will do in this game. I know there is a civil war going on - so presumably spying missions, the occassional skirmish and maybe a bit of political stuff - will there be rules for this type of thing?

I haven't detailed that yet, but it's going to be a big part of the rulebook.  The main inspirations were Cadfael, Name of the Rose and Ivanhoe.  The characters will be "normal" people who find themselves in extraordinary scenarios.  A peasant finds a dead man on his doorstep clutching a golden crown... pigs are found slaughtered in a pond for no reason... the PC's manor is sold to an unknown baron with suspicious ties to Matilda...a physician is going around administering poisons to his unknowing patients, etc.  One thing I will include is the idea of manor generation.  That is, the PCs and GM sit down and design a manor or village and populate it with various personalities.  Then the GM makes up a series of strange occurences .  The players decide which characters would be most likely to act on such things and go from there.  Thus, characters will have believable motivation for their actions and responses.

Quote from: Simon W
(Personally, I often wondered about doing a Cadfael-style game, with one player being a Cadfael-type detective-monk, and the others being his friends, like Hugh Berringer in the town of Shrewsbury. So I am intrigued by your game and look forward to seeing more).

You have basically hit the nail on the head of what I want this to be like.
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Simon W
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Posts: 191


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« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2004, 08:54:50 AM »

Quote
One thing I will include is the idea of manor generation.  That is, the PCs and GM sit down and design a manor or village and populate it with various personalities.  Then the GM makes up a series of strange occurences .  The players decide which characters would be most likely to act on such things and go from there.  Thus, characters will have believable motivation for their actions and responses.


I like this in particular and will definately look out for your game, when you have done more of this stuff.

Simon W
http://www.geocities.com/lashingsofgingerbeer2004/
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Sir Privy Toastrack
Member

Posts: 35


« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2004, 05:18:39 AM »

I'm guessing the lack of response comes from disinterest in the setting?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2004, 07:10:39 AM »

Hiya,

Patience, patience! A lot of people are checking out your game, but the Forge is glacially slow compared to most internet sites. For my part, I'd rather take a week and a half to look over the game before even thinking of posting about it.

Enjoy the feedback when it comes - snap-judgments aren't going to help, will they?

Best,
Ron
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Sir Privy Toastrack
Member

Posts: 35


« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2004, 07:25:40 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hiya,

Patience, patience! A lot of people are checking out your game, but the Forge is glacially slow compared to most internet sites. For my part, I'd rather take a week and a half to look over the game before even thinking of posting about it.

Enjoy the feedback when it comes - snap-judgments aren't going to help, will they?

Best,
Ron

Good point!  Thanks for the response.
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Jack Aidley
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Posts: 488


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« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2004, 03:36:34 AM »

I have a strong, and growing, preference for lighter rules so take my comments with a suitable pinch.

First impression - nicely laid, illustrated and written.

I'd like to see a chunk with more discussion of life in the land. You cover the high level stuff but what was it like to be a villein or monk in 12th century Britain?

The personality mechanics seem strangely half-hearted. Ever implement them properly and tie them to the game mechanics in a meaningful way or drop them altogether.

That is a VAST number of statistics you've got there, with a rather unclear division between what is a skill, and what is a stat - for example climbing is a stat but swimming is a skill, why?

Why are stats only relevant every other stat point? Why not simply buy the +/- value of the stat?

Your skill system seems overly complicated to me, with far too much variation between the skils and too many tables.

I like the ideas behind the kind of game you say you want to create, but the rules themselves do not seem to have been written to reflect your intention - something like a third of the rules cover combat which seems utterly excessive in a game that does not proport to being about combat.

You're equipment lists don't have price on them - this is a good thing. A fixed price list would be deeply anachronistic.
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Sir Privy Toastrack
Member

Posts: 35


« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2004, 04:24:37 AM »

Quote from: Jack Aidley

I'd like to see a chunk with more discussion of life in the land. You cover the high level stuff but what was it like to be a villein or monk in 12th century Britain?


That is forthcoming.  The game itself is maybe only 30% complete at this point.  I'm estimating that half of the book will be historical/social background and info.

Quote from: Jack Aidley
The personality mechanics seem strangely half-hearted. Ever implement them properly and tie them to the game mechanics in a meaningful way or drop them altogether.


Agreed.  There will be more detail about this and how they affect reputation, etc.

Quote from: Jack Aidley
That is a VAST number of statistics you've got there, with a rather unclear division between what is a skill, and what is a stat - for example climbing is a stat but swimming is a skill, why?


There are a ton of stats, but keep in mind that you only need to make note of 6-8 of them.  There is also an option to reduce the number of stats to 8 (and I just revised this to 6 but haven't uploaded it yet). As for climbing and swimming...anyone can climb, but swimming is something that has to be learned.  I never liked climbing as a skill in medieval RPGs as I know of no evidence to suggest that anyone 'practiced' climbing.

Quote from: Jack Aidley
Why are stats only relevant every other stat point? Why not simply buy the +/- value of the stat?

This is something I'm wrestling with.  It might change.  But remember that the full stat values affect secondary attributes (for instance, Melee equals (H/E + STR + REF)/3...however I could just change this to equal one stat's modifier or something).

Quote from: Jack Aidley
Your skill system seems overly complicated to me, with far too much variation between the skils and too many tables.


Again, this may change.  I wanted to reflect actual skills of the era.

Quote from: Jack Aidley
I like the ideas behind the kind of game you say you want to create, but the rules themselves do not seem to have been written to reflect your intention - something like a third of the rules cover combat which seems utterly excessive in a game that does not proport to being about combat.


This may sound counter-intuitive, but I believe that games with minimal combat SHOULD have a lot of detail because you can afford to have highly detailed fights.  A game with lots of combat should have a system that is quick and easy (Mordheim) because you don't want to get bogged down with little details that could slow tings down.  With a 'realistic' game like I'm trying to create, a very detailed system adds to realism and (hopefully) strategy.  It makes combat that much more deadly and earnest.  It's 'realistic' combat (HarnMaster, for example) as opposed to 'heroic' combat ('Pendragon'), which tends to have more simple mechanics.

However, there will be an entirely optional combat system included that will give a very simplified type of combat for those who prefer that type of thing.  Basically, you will have a hit point total that represents how much damage you can take before you start suffering penalties to your actions.  A guy with 11 HP can suffer 11 points of damage before he suffers penalties.  -5 HP means he would suffer a penalty of -5 to his actions, etc.  You would die at -20 HP.  Things like the bleeding rules, stun damage, etc would all be gone in place of a much quicker system.  I prefer systems that offer many different options and styles of play, and that's what I'm trying to do here.

Keep in mind that nothing in this game as it currently exists is finished.  The skill system, healing, and most importantly the background info are very incomplete right now. They will all be as long -- or longer -- than the combat section.

Quote from: Jack Aidley
You're equipment lists don't have price on them - this is a good thing. A fixed price list would be deeply anachronistic.

Yeah, that's true.  I'm going to offer a price guidleines list with strong emphasis on the difference between costs in a town, city, village, etc.  A price list would really be for comparison purposes (how much more valuable is that shovel than a chicken?) rather than for actual prices.  Most people dealt with buying & selling by trading goods and services anyway.

Thanks a TON for your feedback!  I value every opinion and will take yours into account when making changes and additions.  It's interesting to note that every response so far (on 4 different boards) has been either 'I love the game detail" or "it's too detailed".  Not sure what to make of that!
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Simon W
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« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2004, 07:33:59 AM »

Quote from: Sir Privy Toastrack

Thanks a TON for your feedback!  I value every opinion and will take yours into account when making changes and additions.  It's interesting to note that every response so far (on 4 different boards) has been either 'I love the game detail" or "it's too detailed".  Not sure what to make of that!


This is the problem you get when you put your game 'out there' and you can't please everybody. However, you need to note which bits of detail people loved and which bits they didn't love - you may find they are actually saying the same thing!

EG I love the detail about everyday life and stuff like that, but like Jack Aidley the stats/skills/combat seems too complicated. However, your answer on the combat is fair enough, especially if you plan to do a simple combat version too.

However, part of game design is to go with what you believe and how you see your game. There are bound to be others with the same view and if by making a few changes you can rope in a few more, all the better.

I like what I've seen so far - very crisp layout/design and as I said before, I am a fan of Cadfael/Name of the Rose anyway. There doesn't seem to be too much to dislike if you are a fan of this sort of thing.

Apart from the lack of psychic powers, it looks like it could be translated to a Deryni-like (Katherine Kurtz) setting too, although I may be mis-remembering these as a I only read one or two books and that was a long time ago.

Simon W
http://www.geocities.com/lashingsofgingerbeer2004/
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Sir Privy Toastrack
Member

Posts: 35


« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2004, 04:04:57 AM »

I've made some big changes to the game, with a new 'rules-lite' version that emphasizes the medieval over game mechanics.  Please check it out and tell me what you think:
http://www.excaliburvideoproductions.com/RPGdownlaods.html
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Andrew Martin
Member

Posts: 785


« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2004, 11:30:35 PM »

Quote from: Sir Privy Toastrack
I've made some big changes to the game, with a new 'rules-lite' version that emphasizes the medieval over game mechanics.  Please check it out and tell me what you think:
http://www.excaliburvideoproductions.com/RPGdownlaods.html


I noticed some spelling and other errors:
Wrong Right
downlaods downloads
war wrap - Page 25, right column, "Example" paragraph.
(double dash) (em-dash) - Page 20, right column, "Feint" paragraph.

I suggest using left justification instead of full justification to make the text easier to read, and avoid the "rivers" of white space. Full justification is usually used only in newspapers, so as to better make use of available space, which is an important issue in newspaper publishing.

There's also need for single quote marks around quotes that are formatted as quotes. Page 11, left column, sidebar.

Page 25, Humoral Theory.
The system penalises humoral theory, yet the text encourages players and GMs roleplay. Why not design the system so that PCs will go to doctors using humoral theory, rather that doing the modern day, realistic and rational behaviour of avoiding medieval doctors?

Page 22, most of the missile weapons table seems to be missing?

The system seems to be mostly about medieval skirmish battles. Why is this system better than a Medieval skirmish wargame, like this one: http://www.freewargamesrules.co.uk/Rules/Medieval/badend.htm ? Or like the many free medieval rules on this page: http://www.freewargamesrules.co.uk/Rules/Medieval/medieval.htm ?

I like the medieval temperaments, virtues and sins. These are what I feel the game system should be about, along with the clash between Feudalism and the emerging middle classes in towns; Norman, Saxon and Cymric culture; pagan versus christian; Maud versus Stephen. Something like the following:

Quote from: Land Without a King
'...none the less those men were guilty of the greatest possible crime; they had broken their faith, spurned their oath, thought nothing of the homage they had done him, and had rebelled most wickedly and abominably against him, - him whom they had taken of their own free will as king and lord’.– King Stephen, after his captureEngland, 1141 AD. King Stephen has been imprisoned
by Matilda, daughter of the late King Henry I. Matilda, or Maud, considers herself the rightful ruler of England and has waged a Civil War against Stephen to claim the throne. Greedy barons, already tramping over the country under Stephen’s weak rulership, have escalated their corruption and pillaging to rampant new levels. They have built castles without leave, murdered peasants in cold blood, and ignored edicts by religious leaders.It is in this time of political and social turmoil that the world of Land Without a King takes shape.

:)
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Andrew Martin
Sir Privy Toastrack
Member

Posts: 35


« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2004, 05:55:49 AM »

Quote from: Andrew Martin

Page 25, Humoral Theory.
The system penalises humoral theory, yet the text encourages players and GMs roleplay. Why not design the system so that PCs will go to doctors using humoral theory, rather that doing the modern day, realistic and rational behaviour of avoiding medieval doctors?

I'm not quite sure what you mean... do you mean that, in the game,  there is no reason for PCs to go to doctors who use humoral theory?

Quote from: Andrew Martin
Page 22, most of the missile weapons table seems to be missing?

The game is far from complete, including this aspect.  I will fill these tables in soon.

Quote from: Andrew Martin
The system seems to be mostly about medieval skirmish battles.

It may seem that way because the combat section is essentially finished, while everything else is only half complete.

Quote from: Andrew Martin
I like the medieval temperaments, virtues and sins. These are what I feel the game system should be about, along with the clash between Feudalism and the emerging middle classes in towns; Norman, Saxon and Cymric culture; pagan versus christian; Maud versus Stephen. Something like the following:

Quote from: Land Without a King
'...none the less those men were guilty of the greatest possible crime; they had broken their faith, spurned their oath, thought nothing of the homage they had done him, and had rebelled most wickedly and abominably against him, - him whom they had taken of their own free will as king and lord’.– King Stephen, after his captureEngland, 1141 AD. King Stephen has been imprisoned
by Matilda, daughter of the late King Henry I. Matilda, or Maud, considers herself the rightful ruler of England and has waged a Civil War against Stephen to claim the throne. Greedy barons, already tramping over the country under Stephen’s weak rulership, have escalated their corruption and pillaging to rampant new levels. They have built castles without leave, murdered peasants in cold blood, and ignored edicts by religious leaders.It is in this time of political and social turmoil that the world of Land Without a King takes shape.

:)

I agree.  The game will be about these things as soon as I detail them.  Thanks for your feedback and suggestions!
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statisticaltomfoolery
Member

Posts: 37


« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2004, 02:34:03 PM »

In case you haven't read this, http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/9/

Please, first,  it doesn't really matter whether your game fits in this or not: I link the article for the ideas it offers, not to classify.

But there are similarities: your game at a surface glance strongly resembles d20 in mechanics: you've got your ability scores (determined in all the standard d&d ways), skills, classes, oodles of combat modifiers and tables and rules, lists of lots of weapons differentiated in a very d20 fashion (baseline weapons with similar weapons differentiated by small mechanic boosts), you've got your combat manuevers, your 5' squares, and so on. I think it wouldn't be too tricky to just rework the entire game as is as a  d20 game with bunches of house rules (not to say I recommend that, there are of course plenty of tradeoffs and benefits that aren't worth getting into here).

Most importantly, underlying it all, you've got neat setting which isn't reinforced by the system at all: your temperaments and virtues and sins do nothing in the game. There's no reinforcement that the players should have goals, or desires, and that the game should be about those. For me, the box on the char sheet which says history & reputation is more interesting than figuring out exactly how my sword fighter will hit a mace fighter: how does reputation spread in the Middle Ages? What kind of reputations are made? Who controls those reputations? What's common culture?

The answers to those, and a system which reinforces those might be a whole lot more interesting to myself. Trimming down combat to something which is quick, extraordinarily rules-lite, brutal, and deadly, along with some general notes on how combat worked might be much more effective, and taking that space and making rules which encourage players to have manors, use the spoils from those to increase their reputation and influence with people, and drive plot in ways the players and gm find enjoyable. That and the at-a-glance interesting and detailed setting is where I'd put the work. Your system right now emphasizes things that your setting tries to downplay, while the setting tries to get you interested in things which your system fails to care about at all.

I think another problem with the tactical wargame combat model with medium to high rules complexity is that it encourages this very contemplative, very "well, if I move two steps, perform this move, followed by this move, I gain +.4 expected damage per turn", which seems about as far away from the feel of the period you're trying to recreate as possible. That chaotic feel seems to be easy to create in two ways: making the combat more vague, such that careful risk/reward analysis is not encouraged, and by introducing chaos via rule mechanics. There are threads on the Forge and RPG's (the book to read is Burning Wheel), which talk about the latter.

Okay, back to work.
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statisticaltomfoolery
Member

Posts: 37


« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2004, 02:45:34 PM »

I guess there is a separate issue here as well: do you think that when a player character is disarmed from the lance, and picks up a mace that they're not familiar with, that the right thing to do is to go to one chart, figure out what class of weapon the new weapon is,, then go to another chart, look up that number versus every type of weapon they're proficient in, and then take the lowest result and apply that to the roll?

I think for any rule, whether in the heaviest ruleset, or lightest ruleset, the approach should be: "What does this add to the game? Do I better fulfill the premise and goals of my games by having this?"

--

EDIT: By the way, this isn't just me trying to get you to make your game rules-light: it's more that an interesting system coming out of this is likely to have very little to do with spending time writing a d20-style wargame.
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