Monday, 25 February 2013

"Fantasy Europe" - Non-heroic OSR part 1

An update was made to this post on 2/26

A particular area of interest for me has been "Fantasy Europe". Basically Europe around the Viking era or early crusades, but with a fantasy flavour. There's elves in the woods, a true holy man can call up miracles and there might be a troll under the bridge.

The entire thing will be more based around human struggles, though there'll be plentiful encounters with the magical and supernatural. In part, it's a "lower power" type of setting, with more of a human focus. In a way, it's an attempt to capture some of the feel of games like Runequest, but with familiar OSR mechanics.

As a kick-off article, we're going to talk about scaling OSR down to earth, and disprove the idea that an OSR game cannot feel "realistic", whatever that means nowadays.

The first place to look is hit points. One of the first and simplest places to make the game feel more "gritty" and make the monsters scarier is to reduce the amount of hit points. Nothing needs to be changed at level 1 of course, but characters only receive 2 additional hit points per level of experience. I'd start everyone at max hit points for level 1 in return.

As has been suggested, if you use normal character classes, rather than +2 per level, use the "Above name level" hit point gain for the character class instead.

This means that even as other capabilities increase (and they'd increase somewhat faster than in a normal OSR game), survival skill becomes more a question of putting yourself in an optimal situation.

As the game will revolve more around human conflicts, the lack of hit point inflation is less an issue as well. When a true monster like a troll or demon is encountered, things just got real, and the players should be scared.

Due to the low hit point totals, I'd use D6 weapon damage, and use a critical hit system that is less severe or revolving around no extra HP damage, such as the "narrative critical hits" presented on the blog earlier.

There'll be some fairly radically different ideas on how to handle other aspects of character advancement (including OSR with no classes), but we'll cover those in an upcoming blog post.
Or if nobody thinks it's cool, we won't cover it at all! Comments welcome