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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Help me find a system

    I have pretty much played D&D (in all of its forms) thoughout my life, and after nearly 15 years or so, I'm starting to grow tired of some of the mechanics and expectations it presents.

    As such, I've been looking for a new system, but I have no idea of where to start. Some things I wanted:

    - Not low magic: D&D is pretty high magic, with spellcasters being nearly gods in every edition of the game. However, I don't want to play in a game nearly devoid of magic.

    - Few, tough fights: Fighting mooks in D&D is boring. Every fight is a stomp, and it just serves to waste precious real life gaming time. Every fight should matter. The fights my current group and I still talk about even years after they happened were the ones that were fought tooth and nail, and victory was barely achieved. As a consequence, this likely means a system not super focused on combat like D&D.

    - No unlosable fights: Similar to last point, I want a system where a bar brawl of the party versus 4 commoners can be somewhat of a threat at every level. I don't mean that the party should be incompetent, just that something like a lucky blow can still take a character out, so fighting should be a last resort, rather than the first option. AC and HP scaling in D&D mean that after certain point, the fight is practically unlosable unless everyone in the party is rolling 1s and the DM is only rolling 20s.

    That's it. I don't think my requirements are super difficult to match, but like I said, I have no clue of where to look. Thanks!

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    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    Quote Originally Posted by heavyfuel View Post
    I have pretty much played D&D (in all of its forms) thoughout my life, and after nearly 15 years or so, I'm starting to grow tired of some of the mechanics and expectations it presents.

    As such, I've been looking for a new system, but I have no idea of where to start. Some things I wanted:

    - Not low magic: D&D is pretty high magic, with spellcasters being nearly gods in every edition of the game. However, I don't want to play in a game nearly devoid of magic.

    - Few, tough fights: Fighting mooks in D&D is boring. Every fight is a stomp, and it just serves to waste precious real life gaming time. Every fight should matter. The fights my current group and I still talk about even years after they happened were the ones that were fought tooth and nail, and victory was barely achieved. As a consequence, this likely means a system not super focused on combat like D&D.

    - No unlosable fights: Similar to last point, I want a system where a bar brawl of the party versus 4 commoners can be somewhat of a threat at every level. I don't mean that the party should be incompetent, just that something like a lucky blow can still take a character out, so fighting should be a last resort, rather than the first option. AC and HP scaling in D&D mean that after certain point, the fight is practically unlosable unless everyone in the party is rolling 1s and the DM is only rolling 20s.

    That's it. I don't think my requirements are super difficult to match, but like I said, I have no clue of where to look. Thanks!
    I've played Shadow of the Demon Lord, which might be what you're looking for. But be warned, it leans more heavily into horror elements and ideas. Most of the monsters are of the gruesome sort, and a majority of the races of traditional fantasy are twisted to fit into a more dark fantasy. Elves are removed from the playable race roster and replaced with changelings, goblins, and clockworks. Humans, orcs and dwarves are still playable though, so not everything is too different.
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    SolithKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    To confirm - you want to stick with the general fantasy vibe you're used to?

    No trying out sci-fi, cyberpunk, noir, superhero, or some other TTRPG genre?

    Sometimes going to an entirely different vibe of game can actually be easier, as in a fantasy game subconsciously you'll always be trying to play the new system the way that D&D plays, while there are many systems who don't work well that way. Playing a different genre can make that transition easier.
    Last edited by CharonsHelper; 2019-11-25 at 11:57 PM.

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    iTreeby's Avatar

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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    Have you played Blades in the Dark? Is very easy to get into and putting your characters through the ringer is half the fun! Magic can be very powerful but tends to be situational in that custom rituals can be made but you have to make them as a part of character advancement. Could be a good change of pace.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    Burning Wheel. Magic is very powerful, but very dangerous.

    "Unimportant" fights you just resolve with a single roll, important fights are extremely tense and you can basically lose/die to a single attack at any time if you get sloppy/unlucky.

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    DeTess's Avatar

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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    Shadowrun has a decent amount of magic in the setting, lethal fights and, because of that, every fight matters. It's a fantasy cyberpunk setting, which is a rather unique combination in ttrpg land. there's a couple of editions out there, but as long as you don't pick the most recent (6th) you should be fine.
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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    Warhammer Fantasy RPG and its WH40K counterpart, Dark Heresy, might offer what you're after. There's magic (or psychic powers) but it's not as ubiquitous and powerful as in D&D. Combat is dangerous and being overconfident will get you killed. The mechanics are... old-school and really clunky but serviceable, certainly no worse than D&D. They're traditional systems so transitioning from D&D won't be hard.

    WFRP had a fourth edition released last year but I've heard conflicting opinions about it. Wrath & Glory is a WH40K RPG likewise released last year that can include DH-style play and more but is substantially different mechanically.

    Hunter: the Vigil is something in a different genre, a game where you play mortals trying to take on supernatural beings and creatures. Which is as desperate and dangerous as it sounds. It's part of the Chronicles of Darkness line, but the other games in it don't really fit your criteria.
    Last edited by Morty; 2019-11-26 at 07:56 AM.
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    gkathellar's Avatar

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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    Quote Originally Posted by iTreeby View Post
    Have you played Blades in the Dark? Is very easy to get into and putting your characters through the ringer is half the fun! Magic can be very powerful but tends to be situational in that custom rituals can be made but you have to make them as a part of character advancement. Could be a good change of pace.
    Seconded - BitD isn't standard fantasy, but if its aesthetic works for you and you feel up to its improvisation-heavy style of gameplay, give it a shot. It can definitely meet all of the prerequisites given above.
    Quote Originally Posted by KKL
    D&D is its own momentum and does its own fantasy. It emulates itself in an incestuous mess.

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    Grod_The_Giant's Avatar

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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    To be honest, those categories... don't really do much to narrow it down. Most games that aren't D&D (or close derivatives) have much less focus on attrition and much shallower power curves. What other stuff are you looking for? I'm thinking more like...
    • Genre: Fantasy adventure like D&D? Sci-fi? Horror? Urban fantasy? Superhero? Spy thriller? Grimdark? Lighthearted? Noir?
    • Power level: High power? Low power? Zero-to-hero?
    • Complexity: Something really quick to pick up and play? Simple gameplay, complex character creation? Complex gameplay, simple character creation?
    • Obscurity: Something else pretty well known, like Shadowrun or Fate? Some incredibly niche indie stuff no-one's ever heart of?
    • Similarity: Something that feels pretty similar to D&D in structure (classes and level, combat-oriented rules, etc), or something wildly different? Rules driven by in-universe logic, or by story logic?

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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    BitD would work.

    Fate would work, with appropriate magic system. (Aspect-Based Narration would handle it nicely, and is what I use when going for that style).

    GURPS could work.

    I suspect Savage Worlds would work.

    All games would have the potential for "unlosable" fights. I mean, if you're a party of super tough badasses fighting a couple of peasants, losing should be reallllly surprising. The difference is that in D&D, due to the scaling on level, it quickly gets to the point where even scary monsters are trivial fights. This is not the case in most other systems, and really isn't the case in any of hte ones listed.
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    Psikerlord's Avatar

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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    If you want commoners with swords as a viable threat across many levels I think you want a very flat power advancement game, maybe something like 2e shadowrun with low money for limited cyber or other limits on available armour. Anything with high levels of hp is out of the question.
    Last edited by Psikerlord; 2019-11-26 at 08:22 PM.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    Lots of games with skill based advancement (rather than level based) should satisfy the requirements. Oddly enough, many older games do this.

    GURPS: has been mentioned. Hit points don't change much as you improve, and it's possible to be killed by a few strong blows (or less). Magic exists, and can be used to achieve pretty impressive feats, but requires advancement to pull off.

    BRP (Runequest, early Call of Ctulhu, Elric...): hit points are based off your starting attributes. Your attributes basically don't change, or if they can grow the extent is limited, so combat remains dangerous. Magic can do a lot of things (depending on the system), but magic points are a limited resource unless you have special tricks (like cults, say).

    Exalted / World of Darkness. Play as a mortal. Die fairly quickly if you get in a fight where you don't have all the advantages (especially in Exalted). Or get a Raksha to help you survive, of course (in Exalted).

    On to the more esoteric games...

    Reve: the Dream Ouroboros. The world (and you) are being dreamed by dragons. Pro: if you get killed, you'll probably wake up with your death being a nightmare instead. Con: you're an adventurer type, so you're going to end up in weird situations. Magic works by directly poking at the dragon's dreams, which can be fairly potent if used cleverly, and can backfire in unpredictable ways - especially if you use the magic of awakening, which is Death. Combat mechanics are similar but different to BRP, so combat is dangerous until / unless you're Very Good, and you can always run into a bigger dream than you are - meaning fighting won't solve everything.

    Bloodlust: you're a sentient magic weapon. Indestructible, granting your wielder awesome (random) powers, and thirsty to experience everything your wielder does. If they die, no problem, you'll just take over whoever picks you up next. Unfortunately, you cannot move on your own, so being tossed into a well essentially translated to perpetual solitary imprisonment. Do NOT lose (or die) when facing off against other weapon wielders if they hate you... Magic is somewhat limited, low tier weapon wielders are better than normal opponents but can be killed (and sometimes you want to swap wielders anyway), powerful weapon wielders are dangerous. Might only exist in French.

    Rolemaster: maybe? The Lores of magic can do fairly awesome things at high levels, if you get the right ones. At low levels you're fairly fragile, and the Critical Tables are a constant threat no matter how good you are. Also probably requires a spreadsheet to figure out advancement.

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    GreataxeFighterGuy

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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    Seconding Shadowrun. The magic system is potent and oriented around risk/reward, and due to how injury is tracked a "multiple encounter day" is next to impossible with challenging enough scenarios.

    You could also give Barbarians of Lemuria a look. More rudimentary, perhaps, but lightweight and meant to evoke pulpy grit (so although it's kind of meant to not be taxing, you can crank up the difficulty with ease). Its "sorcery" system is unbelievably powerful, but its users pay high prices for their spell use and aren't guaranteed to succeed.
    Last edited by Zakhara; 2019-11-27 at 02:14 PM.

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    BardGuy

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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    Ars Magica 4th ed is free to download, 5th ed is simpler and has some more interesting progression options.
    +s - Mages are gods (kinda, with practice and time...), works best in long campaign style (you talk about the high power level of D&D, so I'm assuming long campaigns is part of it). Your powerful mage is still squishy unless they have their protections up
    -s Mages are hugely more powerful than others. If you have players who don't want to play mages and aren't happy about unbalanced parties, move along, this game is not for you
    I love playing in a party with a couple of power-gamers, it frees me up to be Elan!


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    HalflingRogueGirl

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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    The Strange might make for a good fit, but it can take some work to GM well.
    All advice given with the caveat that you know your group better than I do. If that wasn't true, you'd be getting advice face-to-face. So I generalize.

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    MindFlayer

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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    Quote Originally Posted by Koo Rehtorb View Post
    Burning Wheel. Magic is very powerful, but very dangerous.

    "Unimportant" fights you just resolve with a single roll, important fights are extremely tense and you can basically lose/die to a single attack at any time if you get sloppy/unlucky.
    I'll second burning wheel. It ticks every box. Even if you don't like the default magic system, there are others in the codex (the only sourcebook).
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    Petrocorus's Avatar

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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    I third ShadowRun for non-medieval setting. I love the system.

    Legend of the 5 Rings comes also to mind. Depending on the edition and the era you play, it can do a lot of things.

    RuneQuest can work too. Simple system, wide but not really high magic.

    I don't know if there is an english edition of the Mournblade RPG, it's in the Elric universe.
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  18. - Top - End - #18
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    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    Like I often do, I'd like to recommend The Dark Eye (Das Schwarze Auge)
    It started out like something of a german NOT-D&D and grew into its own thing.
    Very dense setting and crunchy rules.
    But surprisingly versatile

    It has a flat power curve and magic is powerful (although it can be used much less often)

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    GrayDeath's Avatar

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    Default Re: Help me find a system

    Quote Originally Posted by Kapow View Post
    Like I often do, I'd like to recommend The Dark Eye (Das Schwarze Auge)
    It started out like something of a german NOT-D&D and grew into its own thing.
    Very dense setting and crunchy rules.
    But surprisingly versatile

    It has a flat power curve and magic is powerful (although it can be used much less often)
    Following your description, I second 5th Edition The Dark Eye.

    Or 3rd.

    You do however want to avoid 4th and 4.1 edition. it has all the complexity of Gurps, with nearly none of the logic or elegance (and you NEED 5+ Books to build a nonstandard Wizard, and unlike with Bookdiving in 3.5 not only for a feat or somesuch).

    Also, Savage Worlds is my standard recommendation if people want more "down to earth" Gameplay. If you keep the Benny`s in relatively short supply however you need tob e really careful, or it will be more deadly than youd like.

    Shadowrun....might work, but its a big system. For easiest start Id recommend 5th edition.

    Or you could try one of the Iterations of my Homebrew System (which grew out of almost the exact same requirements, with added "interesting fights" and somewhat better versimilitude and consistency than usual§" ^^
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