Help me pick a system for my upcoming medieval campaign

farwyl

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Hey there good folk of the Pub!

After my current campaigns are finished, I'm planning to run a medieval campaign, set either in Bohemia around the execution of Jan Hus (1415), or in Occitania around the beginning of the Albigensian Crusade (around 1209). I can't wrap my head around choosing a system for these settings. On one hand, there are too many candidates, on the other, none of them seems a perfect fit for me.

I'd like to place common folk in the focus (like WFRP), implement some low-fantasy magicks, like witchcraft, herbal magic potions, blessed or magic swords and religious miracles. I'd also like combat to be detailed and deadly and quite wargame-y, positioning and environment playing a heavy role in the outcome. I'd like traveling to be perilous, and I'd like to place a minor emphasis on crafting and fief management as well. I'd like the system to be clean and as error-free as possible. (It's quite a lot to ask for I know.)

The options I currently thought of:
WFRP 4e: It's my favourite RPG system, it's exactly the kind of complexity I'm looking for. However, I'd have a lot of work to do filing down careers, the magic system, collecting setting material and making the shield rules more detailed and meaningful, and making the combat deadlier overall. Traveling would need to be overhauled as well.

Mythras: One of the most obvious choices. Combat's great, there's less work to do on the magic system. Traveling and estate management are still something I'd need to steal from somewhere else. :grin: Also, setting-specific rules and expansions that I'm aware of seem to focus on Antiquity and Early Medieval ages.

Aquelarre: Another BRP game. Fitting time period, but the supernatural is based on the folklore of the peoples of the Iberian peninsula.

Chivalry & Sorcery 5e: The other obvious choice. I haven't read through it however, as I only have the pdf, and it's quite painful to read due to the drastically different terminology. The core mechanic seems cool, but I'm worried that the specific rules are too heavy to be used in actual play and I have no idea at all how robust is the system. All in all, seems too rules-heavy for me.

Zweihänder: I'm not the biggest fan of the system and the writing, the decoupling of characteristics and their bonuses is a thing from my worst nightmares, but all in all, the system seems to work.

Are there any other systems that'd be a better fit, than any of these? I'd be grateful for your opinions.
 

TristramEvans

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Mythras is probably my first recommendation, but as far as others that come to mind not on your list, potentially, there's Blade of the Iron Thrown (aka The Riddle of Steel), Harnmaster, and the recent Cogent Role-play, co-designed by Youtube medieval historian and weaponry enthusiast Shadiversity.
 

Trippy

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I’d probably say that the easiest adaptation would probably be Mythras.

I would note that Aquelarre’s magic system is based on Alchemy, primarily, and a lot of its background is more solidly based on Catholicism (angels and demons). I mean, there is plenty of Iberian folklore in it, but it can be adapted.

Vampire: The Dark Ages has its fans, and may have some material on the Bohemian area.

And we should never forget Ars Magica, which actually does have tribunal sourcebooks about those regions - the sourcebook you want is Faith & Flame: the Provençal Tribunal set specifically about 1209 in fact - and you won’t find many games that has better research on medieval settings as Ars Magica.
 
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Warthur

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If you end up going with the Occitanian setting then that's neighbouring the areas dealt with in Aquelarre, so it might not hit on exactly the folklore and culture you want to emphasise but it might be a bit closer to it than something based more on the medieval societies of Britain and Northern France, which at a first glance seems to be what C&S better serves.

Something in the BRP ecosystem could make it easier to work in material from Cthulhu Dark Ages, Mythic Iceland, RuneQuest 3rd Edition's Mythic Earth stuff, Mythras, Aquelarre, etc.; that said, of that family I think if you want crunchy, deadly, potentially wargame-y combat then Mythras or RQ3 are your front runners.

I have run Ars Magica in the Occitan in about that historical period and it works fairly well - but that was standard Ars Magica with PC mages. I think it's viable to play a no-mages Ars Magica campaign, but I am not sure the system necessarily provides the sort of combat you say you are after.
 

TristramEvans

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Vampire: The Dark Ages has its fans, and may have some material on the Bohemian area.

While the system itself I doubt would be to your liking, I want to second this nomination as some of the sourcebooks in the line were exceptional - Three Pillars (covering the three branches of medieval society and how they interact), Jerusalem by Night, and Bitter Crusade all come to mind, each with tons of historical info easy to extricate from the Vampire stuff.
 

Trippy

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I have run Ars Magica in the Occitan in about that historical period and it works fairly well - but that was standard Ars Magica with PC mages. I think it's viable to play a no-mages Ars Magica campaign, but I am not sure the system necessarily provides the sort of combat you say you are after.
You can indeed play Ars Magica at the Companion tier, without playing Wizards. In fact, you can get a supplement to base play on knights - Lords of Men - which has some optional rules for spicing up combat. I don’t actually think Ars Magica combat is that bad or controversial really. It still has a Initiative-Attack-Damage structure found in other games, with Attack and Damage being opposed rolls against Defense and Soak respectively. It can be quite detailed and strategic.
 

farwyl

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Thank you all for your detailed and thorough replies, you guys are golden!
I'm almost totally sure now that I'll go with Mythras as the system. And thank you very much for the Faith & Flame: the Provençal Tribunal sourcebook recommendation, I've never touched anything Ars Magica before as I kind of dismissed the system with a shrug, because of its mage focus, but that book seems like pure gold for what I'm aiming for.
 

arjunstc

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If traveling is going to be emphasised, and time around the campfire a part of the play, then The Hero's Journey may be a fit. The combat options are not many, but there are class features that allow your character to give a boost to a party member.

There are rules for fief management in The Hero's Companion too, although they are rather simple.

(what happened to my spelling? :crossed: )
 
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robertsconley

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or in Occitania around the beginning of the Albigensian Crusade (around 1209). I can't wrap my head around choosing a system for these settings. On one hand, there are too many candidates, on the other, none of them seems a perfect fit for me.
If you pick this go with Harnmaster Since it is a historical campaign you don't need the other parts except perhaps a few of the mundane bestiary articles but the core rules has the basic stats. You may want to get Harnmanor and possibly Lionheart but that is 12th century England.

This blog post describes a Harnmaster adventure I ran in detail.

It adventure is that it has less overhead than the other system you mentioned.

There is a fan made Gunmaster supplement that may be useful for the other time period you want to run. Look at the section on Black Powder weapons.
 

Sir Pom-Pom

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I think the new adventure for Monster Island, A Bird in the Hand, will include rules for traveling and hexcrawling.

I don't know if they 'll become official Mythras rules, but I would welcome some optional mechanics about these topics and others related (like what we can find in The One Ring or Forbidden Lands). If Lawrence is reading, I believe they would be a nice and attractive addition to the Mythras Companion.

I would note that Aquelarre’s magic system is based on Alchemy, primarily, and a lot of its background is more solidly based on Catholicism (angels and demons).
I agree. It's hard to find an antagonist more terrifying than the Devil himself. Besides, Aquelarre has an important historical base that can help you, even if you don't end up using the setting.
 
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Mankcam

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If you already have the source material, then I would just go with one of the BRP systems for this - BGB, Magic World, or Mythras.
I haven't seen Aquelarre yet, but from what I know of things, it actually may be the better one to adapt, given the material.

If you have Call of Cthulhu 7E, then the new version of Dark Ages Cthulhu may be a good investment, heaps of things that can be ported here.
Also if you have the BRP BGB, then the Mythic Iceland supplement is good, as well as the Alephetar books (Stupor Mundi, Crusaders of the Amber Coast, and Merrie England) are all great for content.

But when when in doubt, just use direct source material and adapt Mythras :grin:

:thumbsup:
 
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Moonglum

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I've run campaigns in quasi-historical settings like this using GURPS or, for a lighter touch and arguably at least as much fun, The Fantasy Trip. Ars Magica with a conscious effort to side-line the magicians is another good approach if you want your game book to also contain elements of the setting materials. I have a lot of affection for Chivalry and Sorcery and would prefer it (especially an early edition) with the right group, partly for nostalgic reasons, but it really is a big ask for players who aren't already invested in it. Probably your best choice is any well designed fantasy game with gritty combat that your group likes, where you take responsibility for making sure that the character archetypes, foes, magic, etc. in the campaign are setting-appropriate. Even OSR style D+D (played at low level) could be good, provided you don't have beholders zipping about and characters actually have social roles beyond 'traveling murderer'
 

Lofgeornost

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Mythras: One of the most obvious choices. Combat's great, there's less work to do on the magic system. Traveling and estate management are still something I'd need to steal from somewhere else. :grin: Also, setting-specific rules and expansions that I'm aware of seem to focus on Antiquity and Early Medieval ages.
Actually, Mythic Constantinople has a 1400s setting, so it is close to one of the eras you were considering. Its focus on Byzantium may make it less useful for your purposes, though.

There are some other BRP/Mythras/D100 supplements dealing with the Medieval period that haven't been mentioned yet, I think. There is a BRP monograph, Val-du-loup, set in France (maybe c. 1200?) and Mongoose Runequest had a Stupor Mundi supplement focused on the world of Emperor Frederick II.

While the system itself I doubt would be to your liking, I want to second this nomination as some of the sourcebooks in the line were exceptional - Three Pillars (covering the three branches of medieval society and how they interact), Jerusalem by Night, and Bitter Crusade all come to mind, each with tons of historical info easy to extricate from the Vampire stuff.
A bonus would be that you the core rules for the Dark Ages line is available for free download at Drivethru: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/89815/Dark-Ages-Basic-Rules

I've heard good things about the Time of Legends: Joan of Arc RPG by Black Books, but I've never seen a copy--it seems to be vanishingly rare and unavailable except in printed form. It's also based on D&D 5e, so it may not be what you're looking for.
 

The Butcher

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Hey there good folk of the Pub!

After my current campaigns are finished, I'm planning to run a medieval campaign, set either in Bohemia around the execution of Jan Hus (1415), or in Occitania around the beginning of the Albigensian Crusade (around 1209). I can't wrap my head around choosing a system for these settings. On one hand, there are too many candidates, on the other, none of them seems a perfect fit for me.

I'd like to place common folk in the focus (like WFRP), implement some low-fantasy magicks, like witchcraft, herbal magic potions, blessed or magic swords and religious miracles. I'd also like combat to be detailed and deadly and quite wargame-y, positioning and environment playing a heavy role in the outcome. I'd like traveling to be perilous, and I'd like to place a minor emphasis on crafting and fief management as well. I'd like the system to be clean and as error-free as possible. (It's quite a lot to ask for I know.)

The options I currently thought of:
WFRP 4e: It's my favourite RPG system, it's exactly the kind of complexity I'm looking for. However, I'd have a lot of work to do filing down careers, the magic system, collecting setting material and making the shield rules more detailed and meaningful, and making the combat deadlier overall. Traveling would need to be overhauled as well.

Mythras: One of the most obvious choices. Combat's great, there's less work to do on the magic system. Traveling and estate management are still something I'd need to steal from somewhere else. :grin: Also, setting-specific rules and expansions that I'm aware of seem to focus on Antiquity and Early Medieval ages.

Aquelarre: Another BRP game. Fitting time period, but the supernatural is based on the folklore of the peoples of the Iberian peninsula.

Chivalry & Sorcery 5e: The other obvious choice. I haven't read through it however, as I only have the pdf, and it's quite painful to read due to the drastically different terminology. The core mechanic seems cool, but I'm worried that the specific rules are too heavy to be used in actual play and I have no idea at all how robust is the system. All in all, seems too rules-heavy for me.

Zweihänder: I'm not the biggest fan of the system and the writing, the decoupling of characteristics and their bonuses is a thing from my worst nightmares, but all in all, the system seems to work.

Are there any other systems that'd be a better fit, than any of these? I'd be grateful for your opinions.
Sidestepping the specifics for a moment — you have a pretty good diagnostic laid down here. It really is a matter of choosing which will bother you less in prep.

Back to specifics, forMythras, MRQ2 Empires had a domain management system that might help you. And traveling rules are around the corner, as other posters noted.

And if you don’t mind plugging in stuff from other systems, the OSR offers a wealth of subsystems to crib from and adapt.
 

zanshin

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I endorse Mythras as your choice, for what that's worth :smile:

I want to recommend some historical fiction to get you in the zone - Christian Camerons Chivalry series that starts with 'The Ill Made Knight'

Very readable, lots of incidental details that set the scene and the medieval mindset, and follows a knight who ventures all over Europe at the time of the 100 years war.

Good luck with your campaign.
 

farwyl

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Uh, so many great resources, my wishlist is getting crammed! Perceforest looks really interesting, I'll wait for some reviews, but if it adds some sweet management rules to Mythras, I might just snag it. Also Val-du-Loup, I've totally forgotten about that one. What a great setting that is.

And I'd like to second the request that traveling-hexcrawling rules would be ace in Mythras Companion. If Loz ever sees this thread somehow, I'd love a Mythic France a lot.
 

Lofgeornost

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And I'd like to second the request that traveling-hexcrawling rules would be ace in Mythras Companion. If Loz ever sees this thread somehow, I'd love a Mythic France a lot.
One of my dreams is a line for Mythras that keeps roughly to the Late Antique/Early Medieval period of Mythic Britain (say a few decades around 500), so that you could move from Mythic Merovingian Francia to Ostrogothic Italy, Vandal Africa, and even Justinian's Byzantine empire--though Mythic Constantinople may have made that last unreachable.
 

AsenRG

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Hey there good folk of the Pub!

After my current campaigns are finished, I'm planning to run a medieval campaign, set either in Bohemia around the execution of Jan Hus (1415), or in Occitania around the beginning of the Albigensian Crusade (around 1209). I can't wrap my head around choosing a system for these settings. On one hand, there are too many candidates, on the other, none of them seems a perfect fit for me.

I'd like to place common folk in the focus (like WFRP), implement some low-fantasy magicks, like witchcraft, herbal magic potions, blessed or magic swords and religious miracles. I'd also like combat to be detailed and deadly and quite wargame-y, positioning and environment playing a heavy role in the outcome. I'd like traveling to be perilous, and I'd like to place a minor emphasis on crafting and fief management as well. I'd like the system to be clean and as error-free as possible. (It's quite a lot to ask for I know.)

The options I currently thought of:
WFRP 4e: It's my favourite RPG system, it's exactly the kind of complexity I'm looking for. However, I'd have a lot of work to do filing down careers, the magic system, collecting setting material and making the shield rules more detailed and meaningful, and making the combat deadlier overall. Traveling would need to be overhauled as well.

Mythras: One of the most obvious choices. Combat's great, there's less work to do on the magic system. Traveling and estate management are still something I'd need to steal from somewhere else. :grin: Also, setting-specific rules and expansions that I'm aware of seem to focus on Antiquity and Early Medieval ages.

Aquelarre: Another BRP game. Fitting time period, but the supernatural is based on the folklore of the peoples of the Iberian peninsula.

Chivalry & Sorcery 5e: The other obvious choice. I haven't read through it however, as I only have the pdf, and it's quite painful to read due to the drastically different terminology. The core mechanic seems cool, but I'm worried that the specific rules are too heavy to be used in actual play and I have no idea at all how robust is the system. All in all, seems too rules-heavy for me.

Zweihänder: I'm not the biggest fan of the system and the writing, the decoupling of characteristics and their bonuses is a thing from my worst nightmares, but all in all, the system seems to work.

Are there any other systems that'd be a better fit, than any of these? I'd be grateful for your opinions.
Mythras would be my first recommendation as well, to nobody's surprise.
But you'd do well to consider the Maelstrom line as well. They're quite close in time (1086 Britain especially), and it's low magic with heavy focus on herbalism.
And there's some nice rules for travel in an Age of Shadow supplement, which should be compatible with both my suggestions, given that it's another d100 system.
 

Lord Dynel

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If you pick this go with Harnmaster Since it is a historical campaign you don't need the other parts except perhaps a few of the mundane bestiary articles but the core rules has the basic stats. You may want to get Harnmanor and possibly Lionheart but that is 12th century England.

This blog post describes a Harnmaster adventure I ran in detail.

It adventure is that it has less overhead than the other system you mentioned.

There is a fan made Gunmaster supplement that may be useful for the other time period you want to run. Look at the section on Black Powder weapons.
I came here to recommend HârnMaster, though Robert (rightfully) beat me to it. I'd consider it for any medieval game I'd run. It's one of those games (much like, in my opinion, GURPS or Rolemaster) that's kind of front-loaded on crunch/work but once you get to playing it's pretty simple to run. Especially if you're considering normal/common folks. The magic system is on the low-powered side of the fence (though it can be quite powerful), there is a supplement for herbalism and potions, rules for treasure (more valuable but mundane items) and artifacts (read: magic items, in the traditional rpg sense). Combat is detailed and deadly. It's not impossible to lose limbs, bleed to death, or have injuries get infected. Wounds are tracked separately, and heal separately (or get worse if things take a negative turn). I like it because there's more to it than the "I'm perfectly fine until I'm down to 1 hit point" syndrome many systems suffer from. There's a lot more than I've listed that makes HârnMaster a really good option medieval/Middle Ages play, and i think it's worth consideration, even though it's not on your short list.
 
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