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52

How about an Aboleth? These aberrations are distinctly inhuman (to the point that they can be terrible to behold for the unprepared), vastly powerful - both physically and mystically; and they are aquatic, usually residing in deep oceans - which allows you to introduce either a single creature or a whole city of these horrors into your campaign without too ...


47

There are a number of fascinating assumptions on sovereignty and justice in this question. A sovereign entity is one who, in the normal course of events, holds or can enforce a monopoly on force. Justice has always been pragmatized to respect sovereignty. This answer is written from a historical/realistic perspective. Consider the institutions of high and ...


41

Behold the Beholder Classic fantasy based, preferably Western culture originating. The Beholder is a staple of Western fantasy gaming, one of the few creatures Wizards of the Coast and its predecessors have almost always considered to be Product Identity. They can't be a standard biped race, humans and elves are so last millennium. Oh, the beholder is ...


38

Ars Magica Ars Magica may not have everything you asked for, but it has bookkeeping requirements for areas you probably never imagined. It doesn't go into the inventory-control detail of Torchbearer, but the nature of the game adds bookkeeping on: your age your history of anti-aging potion use your inventory not just of spell components, but of raw ...


37

Supernatural poker face The first option seems to be: give immunities to important liars. But there are two problems on it: a) Being immune to Detect Lies makes you automatically suspect of being a liar, just as someone with his face covered seems to be a criminal. b) As more and more of your NPCs have that immunity, it won't be credible, especially if it ...


37

Sphinxes. You've got an imposing physical form combined with a mind suited to riddles and stratagems. Everyone knows that if you can't outsmart a sphinx, you're as good as meat. They are prone to discussion and monologue, so they can be negotiated with. They're even good spellcasters, some of them. Originates in Western culture, and though they may have ...


33

An interesting villain has: Motivations for doing what he does. There's this cliche, "nobody thinks of themselves as evil." That's not true for all settings, but I think it is fair to say that very few villains are just evil for the sake of cackling. So you should figure out what's driving your bad guys. Shades of grey. The degree depends, again, on the ...


33

There are a few games with reasonable economics: Runequest (2nd or 3rd ed, not the Mongoose versions) and Pendragon (all editions). Fantasy Wargaming, for all its derision as a game, has decent econ research. Later versions of Chivlary & Sorcery also do reasonably well at it. Several supplements for Hero System also have decent price lists. There are ...


30

This depends a great deal on the setting. Many settings include mundane means for neutralizing magic. In this case, you can pretty much assume that every town has access to some means of imprisoning casters, assuming they have enough knowledge to make it work. In D&D (as of at least 3rd edition) spell casters needed the ability to speak and move ...


30

Mounts have several advantages and several disadvantages, especially for adventurers. Here's one Texan's perspective on going horsed vs not. Advantages Ability to carry a lot more grub/gear/loot than you can yourself Keeps you from getting tuckered out from long marches (the horses may get fatigued, but you're still semi-fresh for a fight) Faster ...


29

Your situation sounds perfect for Dungeon World Dungeon World is a world of fantastic adventure. A world of magic, gods and demons, of good and evil, law and chaos. Brave heroes venture into the most dangerous corners of the land in search of gold and glory. - Dungeon World p. 7. Dungeon World relies primarily on d6s You need a handful of dice other ...


28

I think a good question should be "why are they going off-map?". You're running a sandbox campaign, so you're generally waiting for the characters' own motivations to lead to the next adventure. These motivations can be one of several things: they can be hunger for adventure, gold or power - in which, case, you're in control, since you determine where these ...


26

This falls under the principle of include three clues for everything. It also is well suited to the approach of using environment-based storytelling. Use Environment-Based Storytelling Introduce the puzzle setting first and let the players be confused over the weird specificity. I like the petrified inhabitants part; maybe have the husband-farmer and ...


24

In real history, almost no land except impassible mountains and deep desert wasn't settled, and there are exceptions even then. The population of the world during the European medieval age was much lower than today, but widely spread out in all the known habitable regions of Earth. Take that, and now add powerful, inimical monsters to the wilderness. ...


24

The system that comes into mind for me when reading your criteria is GURPS. One of the good things about GURPS is that it's exactly as complicated as you want it to be. Any bit of bookkeeping that you would want to do is likely supported in some book somewhere. For your specific criteria: A developed magic system There are multiple books fleshing out ...


23

Looking at the cleric as a bundle of resources for a moment: Both wells and clerics generate water. A well accesses underground aquifers* and can generate larger and smaller volumes of water depending on local circumstances. Furthermore, most liquid intended for human consumption is vaguely alcoholic as a purifying measure. A human will consume 3-4 liters ...


21

Most everybody else is focusing on the cleric creating water; I'll focus on the military tactics then. Especially since I played not too long ago in a 3.5 campaign that heavily used -- in my opinion -- rather clever and realistic tactics that made use of spell casters. Basically, it all boils down to one simple principle: Think of offensive mages as siege ...


21

Dungeon World is an award-winning modern RPG with an old-school feel. Yes on adventuring for fun, profit, and personal goals. Yes on class-based system. There are eight classes, with the barbarian forthcoming. Not rules heavy. You can make new rules, but, in general, fudging rules is not necessary. There are distinct spells, but they're also open to ...


21

Back in the day, evidence was not as important as now. A lot of law was based on the person with the higher title being more honourable, so a landowner would win his case against a serf, for instance. Maybe your characters could try to get the support of a higher-ranking person if they want to convict, say, a knight? Consider the amount of corruption in the ...


20

Would adventurers arise if treasure was about... To your first question, yes. Though it is more about "dungeons filled with treasure" then necessarily the magic or the monsters. People tend to seek ways to make profits, especially if those can be made quickly. People are willing to take on risky endeavors to do so. Today, in the "First World", we tend ...


20

Try Dungeon World. It's an adaptation of the Apocalypse World system, and is simple and rules-light. You can create characters quickly by checking off a few boxes. Dungeon World really provides the setting & narrative essence of classic fantasy adventure gaming, without all of the complex rules systems. I've played it multiple times by sitting down ...


19

Three basic techniques come to mind: keep a "Big Enough" map keep the edges really unpleasant keep the central areas really interesting A couple more are more "corny" but can work... a literal barrier at the edges Wrath of the Gods at the edges End of the world at the edges Have your players agree not to go off the map Some expansion on these ...


19

Phoenix Though considered primarily in modern context as large birds of prey and not denoted to a particular level of intelligence, in ancient societies they were a symbol of prosperity and good rule, only appearing for good and virtuous leaders. Its immortality makes it a special point, as reasoning may be the only way to deal with it. In the Eastern ...


17

I make my own: this is a lot easier than it sounds -- be advised that I'm a bit of a craft-klutz, and one of the reasons I don't collect minis is I have no confidence at all that I could really paint them well enough for my taste. So, actually, I don't make minis, but I make counters. First, I buy a batch of appropriately sized, good quality mini bases (I ...


17

Medieval peasants and most tribal cultures... Typically, children under age 1 were nursed by mothers who nursed them frequently whilst doing other work. Children aged 1-2 might still be nursing, or might already be transitioned to the next group... Ages 2-4 were supervised by aunts and grandparents, and had as much play as they would ever see; the basic ...


17

I’ve successfully used Fate Accelerated Edition in a similar situation. My game group had been on hiatus for a while, I wanted to put together a session with very little time to prepare or teach a new RPG, and my players wanted to use the Shadowrun setting (which is similar in depth and complexity to D&D). Mechanics: All actions in Fate determine ...


16

It's quite possible to buy miniatures for much less than $1 apiece. I wrote an article on this topic for Kobold Quarterly, which I'll summarize. Caesar Miniatures produces cheap fantasy and historical miniatures for $11.99 per 35 or so, or around 35 cents apiece. These cover the basics: dwarves, elves, humans, orcs, goblins, skeletons, mediaeval infantry, ...


16

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #325, "Unusual Customs and Festivals" is full of things that could easily be turned into skill challenges. Why have yet another footrace or archery contest when you can have a rousing Cheese Rolling contest, a longboat-pulling contest, or an all-village game of Bottle Kicking from here to the next village after the ceremonial ...


16

Things I would emphasize in an Iron Age setting: Lack of information. In medieval settings, while peasants might know rather little of anything beyond the next town over, scholars at least have a pretty good idea of "the big picture". Just one example: Maps of the continent you're on exist, and while usually being pretty bad as far as scale is concerned, ...


16

I'm the PR flack for 13th Age, and although the game won't be right for everyone, I hope you have a chance to try it and see if it meets your needs. We're looking at running more games at cons and local shops. Here's how 13th Age stacks up against your requirements, in my opinion. YMMV. Fantasy Knights and Sorcerers take on Dragons for fun, profit or ...



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