I want to run a campaign in a fantasy-setting. I want there to be a primary focus on travel, adventure, swordplay and sorcery, with the option of pursuing more diplomatic solutions to problems. I want to have knights and wizards, maybe an elf or two or some other exotic creatures, and I want to have warring kingdoms with the peace of the land hanging in the balance.
In short, I want to be running a D&D campaign – but –
I hate bookkeeping. I hate keeping track of long elaborate sheets of character statistics. I hate looking through pages and pages of feats to find the exact one necessary to create the most powerful class possible. I hate obscure prestige class builds and having to throw together monsters for a fight because none of the pre-generated NPCs meet my desired setup. But most of all, I just can’t be bothered to keep track of all the nuances and rules that are inherent in a game like that. Especially when it comes to making sure my players aren’t overpowered compared to one another.
I have played many wonderful games that are light on rules, but few of them have had a medieval fantasy setting like Pathfinder or D&D. While both of these are popular, in my experience such games have been bogged down by excessive rule-checking, number-crunching, and a general focus on the mechanics of the game over the role-playing scenarios within it.
[Thanks to Bradd Szonye and Brian Ballsun-Stanton for their work on the following explanation.]
I’m looking for an RPG with a fantasy medieval setting that is extremely simple, has a unified conflict resolution mechanic (diplomacy is only fighting by another name), doesn’t really worry about bookkeeping and number-crunching, and has most of the thematic trappings of D&D’s high fantasy settings.
Flexible, narrative-friendly rules: I want rules that help me resolve conflicts, but can be ignored and let the group tell the story they want. I want all conflicts to use the same resolution mechanism which can scale by the conflict’s importance, regardless of whether it’s for combat, diplomacy, exploration, crafting, or whatever. I would like to resolve simple, unimportant conflicts with one die roll and move on, but have the option of more complex resolution for important conflicts and competitions between players.
Minimal bookkeeping and number-crunching: I’d like it if the players and GM could jump into play quickly, with minimal prep-work and fuss over characters. I would like the option of different races, backgrounds, and skill sets, but character generation should be simple and streamlined, especially for the GM. Quick, randomized character generation should be possible. Even the most complex character sheets should easily fit on a single sheet of paper, and reference tables should be kept to a minimum too – it’s not the end of the world if we miss a modifier or two. Encounter design should be simple and make fighting or diplomacy equally viable.
Medieval fantasy elements: The game should include a medieval European fantasy setting. I’m specifically interested in playable races such as elves and dwarves, and bird people (tengu in D&D) if not playable then as NPCs. Minimal prep-work is important here – I don’t want to invest a lot in adapting the RPG to fantasy or converting D&D material to the other game. Otherwise, I’d just adapt a game that I already like (e.g., Maid RPG) that satisfies the other requirements.
Regarding the setting support, ideally I would like an RPG with a D&D-like fantasy setting built-in, but would be content with an RPG that makes it really easy to import the setting, and would rather avoid RPGs that require significant conversion or toolkitting to get up to speed.