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I have a setting I'd like to play, but I need a system that supports the type of gameplay it needs. Any suggestions would be a huge help!

Setting:

The setting is medieval fantasy with a focus on exploration.

I pulled inspiration from the diversity of Champions in League of Legends. I wanted to make a game with a large, diverse, and powerful world, but don't personally like running high fantasy.

So I comprimised and wrote up a setting that used to be high fantasy before a world war left everything in tatters, with ancient relics, practices, and sorceries hidden across the world. Now the characters must explore the wastes for food, water, shelter, and treasure.

Some of it will be more of a dungeon crawl, other parts more based on discovering pieces of the ancient world, but exploration will always be at the center stage.

I'm looking for something with:

  • A classless, skill based system (broad archetypes with inner customization would be fine)

  • A list of powers for characters to have (it'd be really cool if these have broad uses with room for creative interpretation)

  • A narrative based combat system that keeps things moving fast

  • Simple rules for new players to be introduced to

  • Not too simple so my more veteran players can be rewarded for smart playing

Why:

  • The characters are normal people. Some of them may have experience with combat, crime, or magic, but they wouldn't be "Fighters", "Rogues", or "Wizards"

  • The characters are explorers who have found and will find relics, practices, or spells with broad, interesting abilities

  • My group doesn't like turns and other things that slow down the thrill of beating up bad guys

  • Two of my players are going to be new, and one of them is reluctant to play, so the last thing I need is to have them turn up their nose at rules that take more than five or so minutes to explain

  • The other four (possibly five) players have played with me for four years, now, and they like being clever with the rules I give them, and surprising me with possibilities I never even thought of

Games I've considered:

  • GURPS: It is very reminiscent of 3.5, which did not work well with my group

  • Savage Worlds: I don't know what it is, but I know what my players like (not the new ones, of course), and I have a strong feeling that Savage Worlds just isn't it

  • Homebrews: Most homebrews, especially mine, tend to be rather unbalanced, and don't carry that professional feel that can really encourage my group to buckle down for an interesting and fun session

  • Others: Other games like Pathfinder, Next, Dungeon World, MicroLite, et cetera don't follow the type of campaign I'm trying to run, or the specifications I've set out

Thanks in advance!

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closed as off-topic by Tritium21, user17995, Oblivious Sage, nitsua60, Purple Monkey Apr 11 '16 at 0:30

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The related systems are useless to you, but the Eberron setting material might be worth looking into just for story ideas, particularly Secrets of Xen’drik. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 1 '15 at 23:15
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Numenera

Your world and requirements sound like a good fit for Numenera, a game by Monte Cook. The setting for Numenera is Earth a billion years in the future - a world built on the ruins of eight previous worlds. This meshes nicely with your setting:

...a setting that used to be high fantasy before a world war left everything in tatters, with ancient relics, practices, and sorceries hidden across the world

Numenera is about exploration and discovery. The system rewards discoveries and embodies finding and trying strange things in the very bones of the system. This should fit your game perfectly:

...focus on exploration...Some of it will be more of a dungeon crawl, other parts more based on discovering pieces of the ancient world, but exploration will always be at the center stage...The characters are explorers who have found and will find relics, practices, or spells with broad, interesting abilities

Yours is medieval, Numenera is weird science fiction. But there are plenty of people in the world of Numenera that view all the strange science around them as magic. After all, if the societies that ruled the Earth were great enough engineers to keep the sun from expanding and burning the planet to a cinder, they were obviously sufficiently advanced.

Numenera hits most of your systemic targets:

A classless, skill based system (broad archetypes with inner customization would be fine)

Numenera has three character types - fighty Glaives, techno-magical Nanos, and everything-else-including-both-of-the-others Jacks. Within those three types there are huge swaths of customization available.

A list of powers for characters to have (it'd be really cool if these have broad uses with room for creative interpretation)

Exactly what you have requested is what there is. For example, Nanos can start with an ability called Onslaught. Whether this is a physical or mental attack, how it manifests in the world, and everything except its basic stats are up to interpretation.

A narrative based combat system that keeps things moving fast

Numenera combat is very simple, especially compared to some of the systems you rejected. It isn't quite the free-flowing narrative-driven combat of Dungeon World, but it's very open. No grids, no strict ranges, static damage, players make all the rolls.

Simple rules for new players to be introduced to

Numenera uses only a couple of different types of rolls - no dice pools, no counting successes, no complex permutations of bonuses and penalties. Players make all the rolls. The rules regarding rolls and target numbers are very simple and transparent.

Not too simple so my more veteran players can be rewarded for smart playing

Even with the simple rules and simple rolls, there are interesting decisions to make all the time. Do I expend effort on this roll or save it for later? Do I use my powerful, one-time item now?

What doesn't work?

You may find some friction between the 3 character types and your statement:

The characters are normal people. Some of them may have experience with combat, crime, or magic, but they wouldn't be "Fighters", "Rogues", or "Wizards"

Numenera characters are extraordinary. Step one in creating a character is filling in the template:

I am an <adjective> <noun> who <verb>

Adjective is a word from a list that includes such variety as Charming and Doomed.

Noun is one of Glaive, Jack, or Nano.

And verb is one from a list of phrases like Wears a Sheen of Ice or Rages.

Together, they give you a starting point for a character that's interesting and unique (at least within the group). But a Doomed Glaive who Wears a Sheen of Ice is not an ordinary person, not even a billion years from now.

What might help

There is a setting-agnostic version of the system (called the Cypher System) which powers both Numenera and The Strange coming out soon. You can see the free preview already. The rulebook won't be released until August (presumably at GenCon), but if you pre-order, you can get yours in mid-July. It is supposed to have advice for adapting the system to several genres, including fantasy.

My experience

I'm running a Numenera game right now and have found it fast, fun, flexible, and basically working as advertised.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While I'll probably have to homebrew the verb phrases ("wears a sheen of ice", etc) and the cyphers into the more broad items, practices, and spells I was looking for, I have to say this is a good system! Thanks @gomad! \$\endgroup\$ – Story Enthusiast Jul 1 '15 at 21:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ If anyone else still wants to suggest something, feel free. \$\endgroup\$ – Story Enthusiast Jul 1 '15 at 21:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StoryEnthusiast The verbs ("foci" in Numenera parlance) each represent a series of related abilities that become available as a character advances. So an adjective noun who "utilises magnetism" will start out with the ability to move metallic objects around, but will later develop the ability to deflect metallic weapons, and eventually to affect things that aren't metallic. Think of it as a character's unique skill tree. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jul 2 '15 at 0:08
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Earthdawn

Earthdawn is a game that is now in its 4th edition (coming soon from FASA!); you can usually find older versions at Half Price Books stores around here at least.

It is set in a fantasy medieval magical world where there's been a vast Armageddon and humans etc. are just starting to explore and reclaim the world. A region called Barsaive (in what will become the Ukraine/Poland area - Earthdawn is set in the past of the cyberpunk game Shadowrun, which is set on more-or-less Earth) is the well described starting point. From there it's focused on exploration and survival.

It has a crunchy rules system but one very different from d20/D&D. Probably GURPS level of complexity. There are Disciplines, which are kinda like classes but are optional (they are mainly for using various magical powers), and a rich Skills and Talents system. There's familiar races (Elf, Dwarf) and weird unique ones (Tskrang, Windling). There's a primer available that discusses most of the parts of the system here.

Tech level is generally medieval (no sci-fi) but they do have airships.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ 4th ed. made Disciplines optional?! Wow. Well, perhaps note that if they pick up older Earthdawn books on sale, that's very much not the case. Did they also make Adepts no longer distinctly different from the "normals", or make Adept-ness not the starting default? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 1 '15 at 23:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't know about default (it's not out yet) but they say you can not pick one and go nuts on skills and wild-casting... \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 1 '15 at 23:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, it is out. Not sure if it's for sale on the site, but backers have both hard and digital copies. And disciplines are definitely not optional. From ED4 p.58 - "The first step in creating an Earthdawn character is to choose that character’s Discipline. This is the most important decision you will make about your character, for a Discipline is much more than a character’s profession; it is a way of life." \$\endgroup\$ – Chuck Dee Jul 2 '15 at 0:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie - PCs are adepts still- that is the default for the setting. And in order to be an adept, as I stated in the comment above, you choose a discipline. \$\endgroup\$ – Chuck Dee Jul 2 '15 at 0:12

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