27 August 2012

Spells and Steel - My Goals

About a year ago, I got back into playing RPG's. Around the same time, I started studying medieval martial arts. Learning about what it's like to actually swing a sword, parry a thrust, throw a blow, and - more than anything - watching men in plate armour fighting with poleaxes, spears, and longswords opened my eyes to how little Gygax and Arneson knew about the nuts and bolts of fighting in the 14th century.

What I want is a system that reflects the gritty realities of low-magic medieval life and warfare, and I don't feel like D&D is quite doing it for me any more.

My plan for this blog is to lay out my design process. I'm going to start by stating my goals (which will be updated and broken down as I go), showing how the existing systems are flawed, and working on new systems that meet my goals.


Goals of the Combat System:
  • Simple and Fast
  • Verisimilitude:
    • Weapon Functions
    • Realities of Combat and Damage
  • Stats and Attributes with Clear Meanings
  • Battlemat Optional
  • Bonus: Easy to Drop Into B/X D&D as a Replacement System
Goals of the Leveling System:
  • Balanced Feats
  • Meaningful Choices
  • Customizable Characters
  • Minimize Min-Maxing, Maximize Flavour
  • Believable Power Curve
Goals of the Magic system:
  • Simple or Non-existant Resource Management (no memorization, no mana)
  • Make it Weird (no fireball or magic missile - more illusions, compulsions, trickery)
  • Balanced with Combat-focused Characters
  • Bonus: Easy to Drop Into B/X D&D as a Replacement System
Goals Overall:
  • Believability / Verisimilitude
  • Harsh, Gritty Flavour
  • Easy to Learn and Play
  • Fun!
  • Able to Take Players from Adventurers to Lords
  • Historically Reasonable Pricing and Economy


  1. Have you heard of Maelstrom? It used Tudor England as a setting with rules for magic, but ur uaed magic in a way that it had little effect on the world (players stated what they wanted to do and difficulty was based on how likely it was to happen in real life. In that system, a ray of frost is almost impossible to cast). There has recently been a release of a medieval version called Maelstrom Domesday.