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Author Topic: Book/RPG - Fantasy Wargaming  (Read 1788 times)
Zak Arntson

Posts: 839

« on: April 08, 2002, 07:45:16 AM »

I just grabbed this from a used bookstore, and it's pretty interesting. I'm posting this in the Indie Design forum, because it'd make a good reference for how to (and how not to) design a game. I'm also curious about whether the author retained ownership of the game itself, or the publisher.

The book's called Fantasy Wargaming, the Highest Level of All, compiled and edited by Bruce Galloway. It's medieval fantasy Sim gaming at its unbelievablest. Quick synopsis: The book is half historical treatise on medieval life & real world inspirations for magic & religion, half very lengthy rules detailing all aspects of gaming.

Lessons to be learned:

This game is obviously inspired by D&D. The authors were sick of the Gamist bent of D&D and sought to make a world as similar to medieval Europe (with notes on High Middle Ages, Dark Ages, etc). If you're going to go wholeheartedly Sim, you could do worse than long essays on medieval economics and culture.

When presenting your rules (and this could be cross-posted in Publishing), don't do it in a novel format, with no clearcut separation between sections.

Has anyone else found this gem of bizarre roleplaying history?


Posts: 5574

« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2002, 08:16:38 AM »

Gem is a perfect term for it.  That book was perhaps the first highly influential source of alternatives to D&D I encountered.  I bought it brand new and it is now falling apart and smudged from the frequency to which I referred to it.  

The magic design rules remain the highest example of build your own magic effects within a set of established parameters I've ever seen.  They are as versatile as Ars Magica, useable on the fly unlike more involved magic building, and more structured and translatable to game terms than the very open system of Duel.  They are the foundation of every home brew magic system I've ever developed.

It was my first exposure to summoning demons for purposes of using them to cast magic.  To this day I remember the anecdote about "be careful what you ask for.  I once asked my demon to create light and he exploded a 30' diameter fireball in a 10' room".

The mass combat system actually works exceedingly well, requires only index cards representing the shape of massed troop formations, and yields far more realistic results of not equating fighting until ineffective with fighting until dead.

The religious system was brilliance in itself and is based on medieval Catholocism.  Characters accumulate piety points to achieve progressivly more holy piety bands.  There are a list of sins rated by severity and committing them results in the loss of piety (how much depending on what band you're in, on the theory that God expects more from the holy than he does from the sinners).  Miracles involve asking the higher powers for a desired effect.  However, in true Church fashion, one doesn't pray directly to God.  One first prays to Saints and Mary to ask them to intercede on their behalf.  If the Saint responds favorably and its a minor request within his sphere, a miracle occurs...if he responds favorably but its not in his sphere, it gets "referred up the chain".  Any player with a suitable degree of holyness can request a miracle and stands the best chance of getting it by going through the proper channels of patron saints.

That said the game is not without flaws.  There is nothing at all innovative in the mechanics, and it is not very enjoyable to actually play because it is very much lists of modifiers and roll on a table oriented.  The lists however, are relatively short (just organized in paragraph form rather than actual lists) and the tables are actually generally pretty clever.

I basically ripped the system apart and rewrote it into something less cumbersome and we played it extensively after that for a series of very historical feeling fantasy adventures.  

In fact, in one of my favorite campaigns of all time, I combined Saberhagen's book of the Swords with European history, and parts of L. Sprague de Camp's Complete Enchanter series; referring to the swords as Swords of the Apostles (as there are 12).  The setting was the time of Richard the Lionhearted, and the player's first mission was to journey to the court of a muslem caliph in Spain and recover "Sight Blinder", which was later used to infiltrate a Sidhe Barrow to recover "Stone Cutter", which was then used to assist Richard in taking Jerusalem by invisibly carving a breach in the walls.

An exceptional treasure of a book IMO.

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