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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Best system for "fantastical stuff leaking into real world"-style campaign?

    Suppose you were thinking about running a campaign set in actual Earth history, starting anywhere between the late 1700s and the late 1900s, where the gist of the story is that the PCs begin as mundane, historically plausible persons who, in about the first session, begin to become entangled with some sort of leakage/incursion into the world as they know it by a paranormal/fantastical/supernatural force or forces.

    (One example: Napoleon's real reason for going to Egypt was to abscond with ancient magical something-or-other that he thinks will help him win his wars, but things don't quite go as planned. Another: It's the 1960s and it turns out that Betty and Barney Hill really were abducted by aliens from Zeta Reticuli. That sort of thing.)

    Suppose further that all of your likely players are most familiar with D&D 3.5, and passingly familiar with one or two other systems.

    What do you think would be the ideal system for such a campaign?

    Further parameters:
    - On the scale of "gritty realism VS. cinematic heroics," it'd likely be much closer to the gritty realism end. The players are the sort who get attached to their characters, plan things carefully, and tend not to take dopey risks just to be funny.
    - On the scale of "crunchy, math-heavy system VS. purely narrative system," well, somewhere near the middle, I guess? Like, it'd be fine if it was somewhat less crunchy than 3.5 but it probably shouldn't be substantially more crunchy than 3.5.
    - As the DM, I would want the system to have good support in terms of fantastical creatures/opponents, ideally a mix of the standard sort (ya know, zombies, werewolves, incorporeal entities) and the bizarre and unpredictable.
    - I'm not averse to having to do SOME homebrew patching (or research of the homebrewed patches of others).
    "This civilization has not yet fully recovered from the shock of its birth the transition from the tribal or 'enclosed society,' with its submission to magical forces, to the 'open society' which sets free the critical powers of man." - Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, 1945

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    Titan in the Playground
     
    Knaight's Avatar

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    Default Re: Best system for "fantastical stuff leaking into real world"-style campaign?

    I have two suggestions, depending on what you prioritize.
    Hollow Earth Expedition: Character are by default larger than life, but they're still on the fragile end. On top of it it's explicitly a historical setting which has pulp weirdness added to it, and it fits the vast majority of the historical setting, though it starts losing support once you approach the modern day (there's nothing on computer technology, for instance). Still up until the 1960's you're golden. Minor tweaks can bring the characters down to being more life like too. It certainly does gritty realism better than D&D 3.5 does. The list of enemies isn't necessarily the most standard, but it does have a definite fantastical lean. On top of that the underlying Ubiquity system means you can bring in other games, such as All for One (Ubiquity version, not Savage Worlds) which does have werewolves and vampires and such. If you need velociraptors, robot sentries, and golems though HEX has you covered. HEX is commercial, as are the other systems, but there's free stuff available for all of them. If you end up liking the core mechanics I can point you towards various werewolves and vampires and what not.

    Nemesis: Nemesis is a better fit for a more modern game, but can extend backwards easily enough. It also hits the gritty realism end somewhat better, as it's made as an action horror game. The list of foes tends towards lovecraft monsters and humans, and while it's a short document (60 pages) it's also a dense one and ends up a fairly rules heavy RPG. Not 3.5 heavy, but heavy. On top of that it's available as a free PDF, released by the author.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

    I'm not joking one bit. I would buy the hell out of that.
    -- ChubbyRain

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: Best system for "fantastical stuff leaking into real world"-style campaign?

    I've used Gurps on several occasions when I've run paranormal campaigns. My group had a long running black ops campaign where we had to uncover the truth and kill it or contain it to keep the general population none the wiser.

    Also we had a "league of extraordinairy gentlemen" campaign or just monster hunters in the victorian era.

    Then I've also run Gurps mythic Europe campaign. A historical campaign where the folktales are true.
    Optimizing vs Roleplay
    If the worlds greatest optimizer makes a character and hands it to the worlds greatest roleplayer who roleplays the character. What will happen? Will the Universe implode?

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: Best system for "fantastical stuff leaking into real world"-style campaign?

    Pulp/Call of Chtulhu?

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Best system for "fantastical stuff leaking into real world"-style campaign?

    Second shout or for Call of Cthulhu.
    The characters stay relatively human throughout so fits your slightly more grounded requirement.
    Doesn't really have rules for fantasy races or playing non-humans though if they're thing s you see popping up later on.

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    Troll in the Playground
     
    Beleriphon's Avatar

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    Default Re: Best system for "fantastical stuff leaking into real world"-style campaign?

    You can do Fate in this way. The newish nWoD/Chronicles of Darkness core book assume normies that are exposed to the supernatural.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Beholder

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    Default Re: Best system for "fantastical stuff leaking into real world"-style campaign?

    Quote Originally Posted by OttoVonBigby View Post
    Further parameters:
    - On the scale of "gritty realism VS. cinematic heroics," it'd likely be much closer to the gritty realism end. The players are the sort who get attached to their characters, plan things carefully, and tend not to take dopey risks just to be funny.
    - On the scale of "crunchy, math-heavy system VS. purely narrative system," well, somewhere near the middle, I guess? Like, it'd be fine if it was somewhat less crunchy than 3.5 but it probably shouldn't be substantially more crunchy than 3.5.
    - As the DM, I would want the system to have good support in terms of fantastical creatures/opponents, ideally a mix of the standard sort (ya know, zombies, werewolves, incorporeal entities) and the bizarre and unpredictable.
    - I'm not averse to having to do SOME homebrew patching (or research of the homebrewed patches of others).
    Savage Worlds.
    -Anything can kill you, even without some of the grittier setting rules turned on, a smart PC is careful
    -It's a midcrunch system
    -The horror companion has a good selection of more monsters, but the current $10 core book has a fair selections of critters
    -Patching isn't really needed

    Savage Worlds being generic has rules to handle the interaction of modern technology (or even sci-fi) with fantasy or horror elements. It's a mid crunch system that our group plays traditionally just like any version of D&D but with some big differences: No HP, No Classes, d20 is not the core mechanic.
    The game has been described to me as being both simpler and deeper than D&D5e. I can personally endorse that system is crunch dense, as in they get a lot done with less crunch and I feel like I tend to have a rule for anything that comes up.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: Best system for "fantastical stuff leaking into real world"-style campaign?

    What about d20 Modern? It's pretty close to the 3.5 your players are familiar with, is deadlier than default 3.5, and does have magic rules. (Plus you can swipe anything you like from 3.X)

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Best system for "fantastical stuff leaking into real world"-style campaign?

    GURPS is indeed a strong candidate, in no small part because I have a lot of GURPS books. But our previous experiences with it have been mixed in terms of its usability.

    I'll definitely give serious thought to Cthulhu too, though I suppose we'd have to decide how bleak we want this universe to be :) and whether a Sanity mechanic is necessary or preferred.

    Savage Worlds. [...] It's a midcrunch system
    The "Test Drive" free lite-rules PDF makes its skill system seem awfully simplistic--like, moreso than Pathfinder's. Is that an accurate perception, or are there modules/settings where the skills are a little more granular? (I'm not necessarily hoping for AS big a skill list as, say, GURPS's.)

    What about d20 Modern? It's pretty close to the 3.5 your players are familiar with, is deadlier than default 3.5, and does have magic rules. (Plus you can swipe anything you like from 3.X)
    That was my first thought, but this forum has given me the impression over the years that d20 Modern is sort of broken--like, non-functional. I also worry about d20's capability for gritty realism. Has anybody reading this used it successfully for roughly this sort of thing?
    "This civilization has not yet fully recovered from the shock of its birth the transition from the tribal or 'enclosed society,' with its submission to magical forces, to the 'open society' which sets free the critical powers of man." - Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, 1945

  10. - Top - End - #10
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Beholder

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    Default Re: Best system for "fantastical stuff leaking into real world"-style campaign?

    Quote Originally Posted by OttoVonBigby View Post
    The "Test Drive" free lite-rules PDF makes its skill system seem awfully simplistic--like, moreso than Pathfinder's. Is that an accurate perception, or are there modules/settings where the skills are a little more granular? (I'm not necessarily hoping for AS big a skill list as, say, GURPS's.)
    No that's accurate. The skill system is cinematic not granular. I recommend trying it out though. I know the actual core book has more detail for things like Stealth, Climb, and Tracking (listed modifiers), but still no where near the fine detail of Pathfinder.

    If you are familiar with GURPS, Savage Worlds skills are basically Wild Card skills in GURPS. So Fighting in Savage Worlds in equivalent to Fighting! (all melee weapons) in GURPS 4e. I roughly remember that a +-5 is GURPS or PF is roughly equivalent to +-2 in Savage Worlds.

    Our groups cut our teeth on 3.5 and PF, and we are happy with Savage Worlds. I have a problem with the 5e skill system and I am happy with Savage Worlds' skill system.

    As far as optional increased complexity goes? Not much, the degree to what knowledge skills cover and how many there is, is up to the GM. I tell people what knowledges are important to a campaign and then they say what knowledges they want to have and I tell them if the idea is broad/narrow enough for the campaign. For example Knowledge(monsters) may be too broad in a D&D style campaign but fine for something like Game of Thrones.
    Last edited by Rhedyn; 2018-11-01 at 12:26 PM.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Best system for "fantastical stuff leaking into real world"-style campaign?

    The Chronicles of Darkness (New World of Darkness), is pretty much made exactly for this sort of thing. I think it's a great system.

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    Titan in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Default Re: Best system for "fantastical stuff leaking into real world"-style campaign?

    Quote Originally Posted by OttoVonBigby View Post
    mundane, historically plausible persons who, in about the first session, begin to become entangled with some sort of leakage/incursion into the world as they know it by a paranormal/fantastical/supernatural force or forces.
    The subgenre of fantasy you describe is referred to as "intrusion fantasy". There's been a good bit of writing on it, so that might help you out.
    Last edited by Slipperychicken; 2018-11-03 at 10:05 AM.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PirateWench

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    Default Re: Best system for "fantastical stuff leaking into real world"-style campaign?

    TORG is a game system (and game world) designed around the "modern" world of the 1980s being invaded by several other universes, each of which brings their own rules of reality with them. These worlds include (but are not limited to): a generic fantasy world invading England, a dinosaur world invading the USA, a "pulp heroes" world invading Egypt, a religious world (which transforms into religious cyberpunk) invading France, and a horror world invading Indonesia.

    In this game, player characters might have been changed by the various invading realities. They might learn to be wizards from the fantasy world or might learn other abilities from other places. Or they might be natives of those other worlds.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: Best system for "fantastical stuff leaking into real world"-style campaign?

    Quote Originally Posted by OttoVonBigby View Post
    GURPS is indeed a strong candidate, in no small part because I have a lot of GURPS books. But our previous experiences with it have been mixed in terms of its usability.

    I'll definitely give serious thought to Cthulhu too, though I suppose we'd have to decide how bleak we want this universe to be :) and whether a Sanity mechanic is necessary or preferred.

    My old group has run a lot of things and powered it by Gurps with great success but then again we have 20+ years of experience with the system and know all it's nuances.

    The drawback is that Gurps is so modular that a good grasp of the system is really needed.

    The other thing is how detailed and crunchy you want the system and how gritty realism you want?
    Optimizing vs Roleplay
    If the worlds greatest optimizer makes a character and hands it to the worlds greatest roleplayer who roleplays the character. What will happen? Will the Universe implode?

    Roleplaying vs Fun
    If roleplaying is no fun then stop doing it. Unless of course you are roleplaying at gunpoint then you should roleplay like your life depended on it.

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