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I've been searching all over RPG sites for this kind of setting, but I didn't find anything similar until now. Well:

  • High Fantasy: I mean something not from this dimension, out of ordinary, but not grim or brutal. I want something more elvish, wonderful and bright, not excessively fantastical (don't want overpowered mages and larger-than-life creatures).
  • Evocative: Evocative has a lot of meanings, but what I am trying to conjure is a poetic setting, with a sense of wonder and beauty, spirituality and smoothness. A place where the magic runs subtly on the universe (like a Tolkien setting) and where valour, honour and compassion (or other positive aspects) are important parts of the character creation (I want to build really good-aligned characters).

These were the RPG that I found closer to what I initially thought:

  • CODA LOTR: I really appreciate all the Tolkien's Legendarium, so of course I appreciate the setting. I liked the system, specially the order division (simple and objective, but you still can make your character unique) and the magic stuff (very similar to the original works). I really like the Tolkien elves, I like their ethereality, their simplicty and their subtle mysticism. Said that, I'm searching for a RPG with that Lothlorien-esque feel.
  • Tribe 8: I like all the shamanistic stuff in the game, but it's 90% post-apocalyptical horror, and I don't like horror-themed games.
  • How We Came To Live Here: An indie RPG about native americans. I lke the simplicity of the game and the poetry of the setting, but, as I said, I'm looking for something more fantastical.

With a classic good versus evil duality, and still a good bit of combat. Somewhat like Blue Rose but more mysterious and divine.

Maybe I'm being a little too specific, but I really hope that you can give me some good advice and recommend me similar games. Thanks in advance!

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I don't get what you don't like about CODA LOTR. If you tell us what made you discard it, we'd have a better idea of what you are looking for. –  Flamma Apr 23 '13 at 21:11
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4 Answers 4

I'd highly recommend Shaintar, a Savage Worlds setting.

There's a deep in-game history that you don't have to know to enjoy the setting, but it means that there are lots of evocative current-day details that, when you dig into them more it becomes more fascinating.

The world is the metaphysical battleground of various god-like forces, mostly those on the side of Creation against one "entity" that yearns for a return to perfection in nothingness, and the few gods that this antagonist force has convinced to join its cause. The bad side is very bad – it's going for the utter destruction of all reality, after all – but it's also driven by a nuanced cosmology and motives that date back to the beginning of creation that you can almost sympathise with.

The metaphysical backdrop manifests in the local, personal lives of people because of the inherent tension between those who believe in this background war for Creation and those who don't, and then between those that side with the "good" gods and those who have thrown in with the "corrupted" ones for the promise of power. In the normal course of a campaign, the players are very likely to become champions of the light powers in epic ways, but the politics on the ground are never going to be black and white even if the powers in the background are pretty much black and white, preventing it from being just "kill all the [insert evil race here]" type of game.

Even apart from the backdrop celestial war, there is quite a lot of flavour in each of the societies. There are the honour-bound but racially-complicated goblin/orc/ogre tribes, who are generally aligned with the light in the south and the dark powers in the north, but have kinship ties with each other. There are the evil elves in their dark empire to the north-east, who harbour vampires and werewolves and keep humans as a feeding stock, but not necessarily brutally so. There is the tense alliance of southern nations led by humans and allied with the sylvan elves in their hidden cities. There is a powerful human empire in the far north that is expansionistic and brutal, but held off by the southern alliance and the stalwart dwarves in the mountains between. The dwarves themselves have a long history, and secrets buried far underground that their allies would raise an eyebrow to. There are pirate isles far to the south, ignorant or uncaring about the war-come-to-ground on the continent. There are the dispossessed half-elves who have finally found their island home, and the weird mental disciplines that they practice despite the misgivings of their light-side allies. Then there are the lizard people, with their own deep culture, and the homeland-less cat-demon people who are mistrusted by all but mostly tolerated since they turned on their dark-side masters.

The problem with Shaintar is that it's so broad that I want to set a hundred different campaigns in it. Fortunately it hands you a default campaign concept with a group of southern-nation peacekeeper types, and then provides a possible plotline that embroils them in an epic war as a demon-goddess returns out of old legends. The one campaign I set there didn't last long enough to get to that conflict, but it was a memorable game that make me want to play more, rather than being a disappointing memory like most failed campaigns. Shaintar makes me salivate at the chance to explore it by setting stories there. If that sounds like a good afternoon read to get a better, first-hand feel for it, maybe download the free Player's Guide or check out the promotional setting materials and decide for yourself.

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The best fits for this that come to mind are The One Ring and Pendragon 4th Edition. A not quite as good fit would be one of the systems using Glorantha.

The One Ring

Tolkien's world, done quite well by Cubical 7. Set between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, it's intended to be a slowly darkening setting, but it needn't be run as slowly darkening.

  • Fantastical: Check - lots of Tolkien's monsters, and some of his characters, figure prominently.
  • Evocative: Check - the rules trigger a tolkienian style of play, even in those who have not read tolkien. (Like my 12yo daughter...)
  • Honor & Valor: key parts of the setting and mechanics.
  • No overpowered mages: check - magic is very limited in power, but quite present.

Pendragon 4th Edition

Arthurian England... using a 1d20 variation from the core Chaosium engine. What you do results in potential raises in the skills used. Annual training allows raising things that weren't used in play.

Based firmly in a hybrid of TH White's One And Future King, Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte d'Artur, and the Welsh Mabinogion,

  • Fantastical: Check - Dragons, Unicorns, evil fairies, but not massive amounts of them.
  • Evocative: Check - the rules reinforce the setting elements through in play rewards, and occasional limited overrides of the player's free choice.
  • Honor & Valor: key parts of the setting, and mechanically enforced.
  • No overpowered mages: check - magic is very high in potential power, but it's hard to wield at peak levels, and can take its wielders out of play for long periods of time.

Why 4th ed? Because only 4th ed has the Magic System and magician creation.

Glorantha

Glorantha, by Greg Stafford, is a setting used in several games. This is why it's a lesser fit... one's tastes will determine more if they are a good fit.

Glorantha is more magical than is Pendragon or The One Ring; there are magical races, several kinds of magic use. Magic is omnipresent - almost all characters will have some - but even powerful sorcerers are not immune to the sword, nor are they able to wipe out armies.

I've run three different Gloranthan RPG's, and read 4 of them...

Runquest 3rd: Chaosium's BRP engine, released by Avalon Hill and Games Workshop. Long out of print. Play's very traditionally, but note that it's quite deadly due to high damage and low hit points.

Runequest 2nd ed: Mechanically almost identical to 3rd. I've not run it, but the differences are insufficient to change the feel much.

Mongoose Runequest: Functionally very similar to RQ 3rd edition. The mechanics are a rewrite from first principals, but since the races and monsters are the same, the skills and attributes scale similarly, and character growth works the same, the feel is very much the same as with RQ3.

Hero Wars, aka Hero Quest: much more narrativist, this is Robin Laws' presentation of rules for Gloranthan Roleplaying. (The latest edition "de-glorantha's" the core.) The system is much more suited to everyone being legendary heroes, and the game can and will support it.

None of these games have mechanical tie-ins to Honor or Valor, but the setting does have extensive ties to honor and valor as concepts of many of the cultures.

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You might want to try an all-Elf game of Burning Wheel. Elves are very Tolkien-esque with a rich lifepath system for character creation and a variety of skill and spell songs (their flavor of magic). Elves also have a Grief emotional attribute that reflects their long-lived existances—when it reaches its limit, characters leave play by either going to the West or dying from their Grief.

There are several different combat systems, but you should definitely ease into using them (if desired) rather than starting off doing full scripted Fight or Range and Cover.

An all-Dwarf game would give you a different sort of Tolkien-esque game as well. There's also The Blossoms are Falling, a Heian-era Japan supplement that is not high fantasy but is quite evocative.

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Speaking from what experience I have, I've found that what you're describing depends more on the person in charge of the game, and the people taking part, then the game itself.

My suggestion would be D&D 3.5, or Pathfinder. Personal preference, really, but I can assure you from personal experience that everything you're asking for can be found in either of those games. You could also completely fail to find it, as well.

If you get into a group that puts the emphasis on the RP aspect, and find a GM who's really good at describing the world, and how your character fits into it, then Pathfinder would be a good way to go. It's fantasy based, and I've had fun with it, plus the more elaborate rules actually give you many more options for customizing your character than simpler games.

All that said, pretty much any group like the one I've described, so long as the game was fantasy-based, would be able to give you what you're looking for. The actual Game would be less important, as no game has 'being good at role-playing and storytelling' as a requirement, or rules that make either more likely to occur.

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Agreed, "evocative" depends more on the GM than on the actual game. –  Cristol.GdM Nov 19 '12 at 4:32
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Yeaaah, I cannot agree in the slightest. "don't want overpowered mages" to me reads as a thinly veiled "don't want D&D 3.x." D&D in general is fairly high-magic, and 3.x in particular is extremely high-magic. The mundanes in those systems have extremely limited ability to keep up. –  KRyan Apr 24 '13 at 0:17
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