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View Full Version : Good system for a musketeers/Zorro/pulp/swashbuckling/Indiana Hood kinda game?



Lvl 2 Expert
2017-04-25, 04:31 AM
We have a ton of these threads, but screw it, I'm opening my own.

I'm looking for tips on where to look for a good system for not too serious games set roughly between 1550 and 1850, the age of muskets and rapiers. I'll write out my wishlist in bullet points:

o I'm interested in running, jumping, sneaking, fencing, intriguing and all that other stuff the characters in the title do. It would be nice to be able to build a tense scene out of finding your way past the guards, climbing onto the balcony, silently opening the door, listening in on a conversation and running back to your horse really fast when you get caught. It's even better if your undercover buddy inside can then have a good discussion convincing a majority of land owners present that they need to hire him and his crew to tackle the recent rise in suspicious activities.

o I'm not really looking for a pirate system heavily centered around ships. A ship would be a cool setting for parts of a game, but it's not an automatic extension of every well made character. Think house, not horse.

o While I enjoy historical details, mechanics wise I'd prefer a system that can be easily adapted for use with a slight range of settings. Thinking of roughly this period it would be nice if I could explore an early frontier town with the same ease as an important port city of the Ottoman empire or a European trade post in southern China. Even if I have to homebrew some stuff, the chase scene rules should not be breaking down because camels happen to be slower than horses. And the unarmed details of the combat system should for instance not be too specialized for portraying either a bar brawler or a far east martial artist. As long as it's refluffable I don't mind using general mechanics for the both of them.

o I don't really have a preference for mechanical complexity, but I do like mechanics that support character complexity. I'd like the system to encourage things like making a pistol whipping farmhand specialized in cows who was fired, moved to the city and started whatever they called free running back in that time with a local group of mostly reformed thieves now working as couriers by day and off the books couriers at night for a slightly corrupt governor. I don't mind role playing parts of the story without mechanical justification, but there should be at least some ways to make every character shine. Whether the game uses three or ten base stats, or drops them completely in favor of some sort of base skills (like say Athletics (including acrobatics and tumbling and such) , Outdoor (tracking, finding water, paddling a raft), Fighting (including unarmed), Shooting (including bows), Social, Sneaky, Animals (including riding), Tools (the common man's skill) and Brains) with a loose specialization system on top of it doesn't really matter. In fact, I really like GURPS' approach of just letting people put skill points in complete skill sets like "mountaineer", "musketeer" or "thief". Because in real life people are no rope experts because they practiced their rope skill, it's because they're sailors with some experience in climbing and pioneering. But that specific system as is is a tad on the crude side maybe.

o I also like mechanics that support quick play. I don't mind the rules being complicated, but I do mind having to add up 6 new different numbers every time I try to punch something. But something like an attack of opportunity system that let's you use next turns (offhand) attack early to block, parry or return an enemy's strike, yeah, I'd be down for that. As long as I can do it quickly.

o The setting is no or very low magic. It would be kind of cool to have the occasional shaman capable of calming down animals to an almost supernatural degree, and I'm not even opposed to occasionally useful tricks like making a rope stand up on its own, but fireballs are straight out, and effects that absolutely outclasses any mundane options even more. Healing should not rely in magic or simply not be necessary (maybe a system with a direct connection between attacks and effects like getting pinned or wounded rather than a damage counter?), in combat healing is preferably not or barely a thing.

o It would be nice if being a murder hobo is not the default way of playing the game. Disarming, chasing off or capturing enemies should be as easy, fun and diverse as taking them down lethally, if not more so.

o I'd prefer having no real solid classes. There's no reason why the pikeman can't be the one mingling in high society for a change, or why the king's guard can't employ a man who likes to track and hunt animals on his free days.



Yes, that's a long list, and I gladly accept answers based on reading to the point where you got bored and/or thought of something. I don't have a group ready for this, it's more something I've been thinking about in general.

hifidelity2
2017-04-25, 06:28 AM
GURPS

There is the swashbuckler source books and you can add cinematic play that lets you do Errol Flynn type manoeuvres

Martin Greywolf
2017-04-25, 06:54 AM
FATE Core

Unlike GURPS, you don't have spreadsheets of tables, and it works very well for the rapid-fire swashbuckle stuff. Even out of the box, you can make it as complex or as simple as you want it to be. Best thing? Ships are just another NPC stat block in it, as I have learned to appreciate a lot since I started to DM a One Piece game in it.

Tense non-combat stuff is handled either by contests, or, if you want to put more of a spotlight on it, use the same mechanics combat has, but roll Stealth and Notice instead of Fight and Athletics.

JustIgnoreMe
2017-04-25, 07:16 AM
7th Sea. Either edition, I suppose: I own both but haven't played the new one.

Now before you say "But it's all pirates!": no, it isn't. That's like saying Vampire the Masquerade is all about being a Nosferatu and hiding in sewers with rats. The system supports pirates, and ships, but when I ran a game it was set in the Germany analogue (and I stole the first adventure from a Warhammer Fantasy scenario in an old White Dwarf). You could have a campaign where the players never even see a ship.

1) Running, sneaking and jumping: yep, covers all that.
2) Not pirates: not unless you want it to be.
3) 1st Ed covers fantasy Europe/Russia and some tropical islands, 2nd Ed plans to also cover the New World and plenty of other places. It's even (roughly) the same base system as L5R, so you know it can handle different regions and cultures without breaking down.
4) Character complexity: you don't so much buy skills as you buy training-keywords that give you access to skills. These include things like "Professor" and "Published Academic" (I briefly played a not!-Spanish Indiana Jones).
5) Mechanics that support quick play: once you get used to the roll-and-keep system it's pretty quick. And there are dice-apps if you need them.
6) No or low magic: it's not a fireball-type system. You may want to restrict or ban certain types of magic from players if you want more of the low-magic feel.
7) Murderhobo-ism is not the default playstyle, and is probably counter-productive (you don't get many invites to masked balls when you're a murderhobo).
8) No solid classes: pretty much as 3), you pick keywords to describe parts of the life you've undergone (Ship Captain, Soldier, Footpad, Gambler). While being a master swordsman or a magic-user requires a heavier investment of points to the extent that it's pretty much all you can be good at, an aristocratic pikeman and a king's guard hunter are both entirely possible.

2D8HP
2017-04-25, 07:47 AM
Besides GURPS Swashbucklers, and 7th Sea, which were already mentioned, there's

Flashing Blades (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flashing_Blades),

and Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying (http://www.chaosium.com/basic-roleplaying/),

which is my favorite "generic" RPG.

Eisenheim
2017-04-25, 07:54 AM
I'm another vote for fate. 7th sea if you want a little more mechanical complexity.

Beleriphon
2017-04-25, 12:29 PM
Depends on what you're looking for, especially from a game stand point. FATE Core is pretty mechanical in so far as how you do things with the dice, but tends to operate on fiction logic (the game supports the things books and movies do because it emulates those rather specifically), rather than cause-effect to produce fiction like say D&D does.

As mentioned 7th Sea is basically designed for exactly thing kind of game, but you might not like the actual game. GURPS is another good choice, again depending on how heavy you like games it might not qualify, but the game can model just about anything you so choose but it doesn't necessarily do Errol Flynn adventures.

Mark Hall
2017-04-25, 12:41 PM
To me, you are almost exactly describing Savage Worlds.

Medium mechanical complexity, with no classes, but character differentiation through choice of attributes, skills, and Edges. Works fine with no magic, but has a magic system built in. Designed to include a wide variety of styles of play, and can cover most of them with just the Deluxe Explorers edition... using just that book, I've written quick-and-dirty conversions for Dragonlance, Mass Effect, and Elder Scrolls, with a lot of the concepts getting sketched out in minutes and being "good enough". Want your swordsman's witty repartee to have a place in combat? There are actually two skills for doing just that, depending on whether you want to be intimidating or taunting.

Sit down with a piece of paper, a pencil, and a set of dice, and we can probably have you playing Don Diego de la Vega in about 30 minutes. From the basic book.

2D8HP
2017-04-25, 01:59 PM
7th Sea



FATE Core



Savage Worlds


It's funny but the type of game the O.P. described appeals to me, and I actually own 7th Sea (second edition), the FATE corebook, and the Savage World's rulebooks, and I've enjoyed reading the "fluff" (setting information), especially from 7th Sea, but I really haven't studied the "crunch" (mechanics), because I know of no one else that I can play those games with (I've only been able to find opportunities to play Pathfinder, 5e D&D, and rarely B/X D&D this decade).

Are there any good reasons to study rules for games one is unlikely to ever get to play?

Mark Hall
2017-04-25, 03:37 PM
It's funny but the type of game the O.P. described appeals to me, and I actually own 7th Sea (second edition), the FATE corebook, and the Savage World's rulebooks, and I've enjoyed reading the "fluff" (setting information), especially from 7th Sea, but I really haven't studied the "crunch" (mechanics), because I know of no one else that I can play those games with (I've only been able to find opportunities to play Pathfinder, 5e D&D, and rarely B/X D&D this decade).

Are there any good reasons to study rules for games one is unlikely to ever get to play?

Enjoyment of systems? :smallsmile:

Seriously, I like good game systems. I don't get to play as much anymore, so I like to look at the game systems and make them work.

Airk
2017-04-25, 03:49 PM
There's also PDQ Sharp (http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/58424/PDQ-Sharp) which is a bit closer to Fate than it is to 7th Sea.

Anonymouswizard
2017-04-25, 04:30 PM
To me, you are almost exactly describing Savage Worlds.

Medium mechanical complexity, with no classes, but character differentiation through choice of attributes, skills, and Edges. Works fine with no magic, but has a magic system built in. Designed to include a wide variety of styles of play, and can cover most of them with just the Deluxe Explorers edition... using just that book, I've written quick-and-dirty conversions for Dragonlance, Mass Effect, and Elder Scrolls, with a lot of the concepts getting sketched out in minutes and being "good enough". Want your swordsman's witty repartee to have a place in combat? There are actually two skills for doing just that, depending on whether you want to be intimidating or taunting.

Sit down with a piece of paper, a pencil, and a set of dice, and we can probably have you playing Don Diego de la Vega in about 30 minutes. From the basic book.

I was thinking Savage Worlds as well, potentially with the Skill Specialisations setting rule (for those who don't know, in standard Savage Worlds the skills are generic, your as good with shooting with any gun, but the specialisation rules allow you to pick out skills and say 'right, you get one specialisation (say pistols) for free, you can buy additional ones for a skill point each, if you don't have the specialisation take a -2'). I personally have the Deluxe Explorers Edition (which was less than 10), and have found that I'm able to run everything except science fiction without any homebrew (and then the problem with science fiction is essentially that it only has a handful of weapons compared to other genres, and science fiction tech will always be lacking without it's own book, which is solved with the Science Fiction Companion).

The vehicle rules are awesome for when the OP wants a boat, and it works on the idea that less bookkeeping leads to a faster game (for example: if you're not a 'Wild Card' you're either normal, Shaken, or out of the fight). There's also the fact that initiative in combat or a chase is determined by drawing cards, which is not fun.

(also, while faster participants have the advantage in chases by being able to draw more cards, there's nothing stopping someone on a camel from drawing a King or Joker and getting the drop on the horse rider if they roll well enough)

So, OP, I recommend checking out Savage Worlds, it sounds like what you want.

EDIT:

There's also PDQ Sharp (http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/58424/PDQ-Sharp) which is a bit closer to Fate than it is to 7th Sea.

Free stuff? Yoink.

RazorChain
2017-04-25, 09:57 PM
It's funny but the type of game the O.P. described appeals to me, and I actually own 7th Sea (second edition), the FATE corebook, and the Savage World's rulebooks, and I've enjoyed reading the "fluff" (setting information), especially from 7th Sea, but I really haven't studied the "crunch" (mechanics), because I know of no one else that I can play those games with (I've only been able to find opportunities to play Pathfinder, 5e D&D, and rarely B/X D&D this decade).

Are there any good reasons to study rules for games one is unlikely to ever get to play?


I mostly read fluff these days unless I'm going to run the system...I might skim the rules. Sometimes I rob systems of features to use with other systems. I don't shop around for systems as much as I did in my youth, but then I had a lot more time to play and experiment. Now I'm happy when I get my 5-6 hour sessions together biweekly.

Mr Beer
2017-04-25, 10:27 PM
GURPS is definitely a good candidate from the wish list.

Lvl 2 Expert
2017-04-26, 03:04 AM
Thank you all very much for the replies. I'm reading up on all the suggested systems and studying all the freely downloadable parts, and I will be doing so for all the posts after this one. I just don't have a lot to add to the discussion. :smallwink: