Taking the points made in Generic: Government Types what might a fantasy version of the Traveller system look like?

In a fantasy version you’d roll per region rather than per world so say population = 2D6 divided by 2 and rounded down giving a range of 1 to 6

(which in Traveller is the number of 0s in the total populations so population level 1 = 10s of people, level 2 = 100s of people, level 3 = 1000s of people etc.

with DMs of say

  • coastal fertile river valley DM+3
  • interior fertile river valley DM+1
  • temperate hills, woods DM-1
  • plains, steppe, forests, swamps, desert DM-3
  • mountains DM-4

then the government table might be 2D6-6 plus population level

  • 0 none
  • 1 clans or corporations (forestry, mining)
  • 2 small tribes (mixed monarchy)
  • 3 large tribes (mixed monarchy)
  • 4 feudal – monarchy/conquered tribe
  • 5 nation / city state – monarchy
  • 6 nation / city state – corrupted monarchy
  • 7 nation / city state – oligarchy
  • 8 nation / city state – corrupted oligarchy – aristocratic or mercantile or religious
  • 9 nation / city state – democracy
  • 10 nation / city states – corrupted democracy
  • 11 nation / city states – dictator/usurper
  • 12 nation / city states – bureaucracy

corrupted systems will contain elements of civil war / repression.

Thinking about D&D recently due to blogs and youtubers and wondering what kind of lite version would suit me.


Main Mechanic

standard tasks:8+ on 2D6 to succeed at a task

hard tasks: 12+ on 2D6 to succeed


I like class as a variation on occupation and a shorthand mechanic, the classes should

  • be evocative and derive from the world
  • give DM+2 on all tasks related to the class

For example instead of “Fighter” as a class it might be “caravan guard” or “bandit” or “Knight” – all still acting as fighters but also assumed to know different stuff like the Knight could be assumed to know about etiquette and get a DM+2 on tasks related to that while the caravan guard might get DM+2 on a task related to desert oases.

The “Priest” class of each god should differ but the gods should also all have their own version of “Paladin” which suits the god. “Hunter” might be a standard class and “Ranger” the Paladin class of a particular god.

Paladin classes would get special bonuses from their god in exchange for half their loot.


Characters have a level and areas within the world have a level as a quick way to resolve tasks. A 3rd level character in a 1st level dungeon gets a DM+2 to detect traps. A 2nd level character in a 4th level forest has a DM-2 to detect an ambush. A 4th level character fighting a 2nd level monster gets DM+2 to their combat rolls.


Some skills will rely on years of background and be class only – like casting spells for example.

Some skills will be standard for a class but hard for others – like tracking

Some skills anyone can try but certain classes get DM+2 – like stealth.

For example thief skills

  • stealth, hide, detect and avoid traps anyone can attempt but thiefly characters get DM+2
  • pick locks and pickpocket are standard for thieves but hard for others


Similar to class but representing life up to c. 14-15 years old before class training. Has similar effects to class in that a character with an “urchin” background would be assumed to know different things to a character with “squire” background. Some classes would have specified backgrounds e.g. Knight and Squire.

Background – Location

Specified location effects class and background knowledge and abilities for example

  • a caravan guard between towns A and B with a road connection might know about town A and B and horses and wagons whereas a caravan guard between towns B and C with a river connection might know about town B and C and boats.
  • a farmer from a valley region might know plowing while one from a hill region might know sheep
  • an urchin thief from town A might get DM+4 on streetwise in town A but only DM+3 elsewhere


No stats – Traits instead, character picks say 3 at start plus 2 per level, traits all have in game effect generally DM+2, can be made up on the fly.


strong: combat with heavy weapons, bashing doors etc

quick: combat with light weapons

hawkeye: spot ambushes/traps outside, archery

agile: dodge, climbing etc

nimble: pick locks, pick pockets, sleight of hand

tough: physical saving rolls

grim: mental saving throws

attractive: social

charming: social

perceptive: social

genial: social

scary: intimidate

fierce: charge

intelligent: spells, languages

concentration: spell fumbles

weapon specialist: particular weapon


music specialization: singing or instrument


  • ranger: hawkeye, agile, tough
  • fighter: strong, tough, polearms
  • wizard: intelligent,
  • thief: quick, agile, nimble

Further to the idea mentioned below that orcs are so Tolkein they exert a kind of gravitational pull on fantasy settings thinking about alternative array of humanoids.

  1. Merge Dark Elves and Vampires: Dark Elves abandoned their god for some reason so lost immortality, one branch developed vampirism as alternative, voluntary not forced, bitten don’t turn into vampires but mind controlled instead, prefer humans, own realm, fighter-sorcerors. Branch left behind became mortal, worship Lady Twilight, morally ambiguous, rogue-wizards, own city.
  2. Merge goblins, Norse dark elves, pixies, leprechauns etc into Goblin nature spirits, each unique, wild and strange magic, represents the terrain so some shy and mischievous, some malicious. Mischievous will do minor harm unless pay a minor toll, boon for major toll, malicious more major harm
  3. Some alternative to orcs as staple monsters, terrain related maybe: mountains/hills ogres/giants, swamp/marsh ?, forest ?


Rogue-ish mortal Elves: Silver Elves, grey-blue, silver hair, Lady Twilight

Vampire elves: Black Elves, albino, black hair (Elric theme), evil god or gods

Goblin Sprites: Hobs, small, excellent at hiding, magical, unique, random

Orc alternatives: make regional

  • forest region: satyrs
  • plains region: centaurs
  • hill/mountain region: giants/ogres

A series of blog posts about Fiend Folio monsters from here


got me thinking so thoughts I’d collect my responses for future reference


A Monsters

Ankheg: Ankheg are good terrain monsters for lowbie players imo as they’re big and tough but dumb so  terrain can be used against them like fields with drainage ditches they can’t get their mandibles in and dilapidated barns with ladders and lots of doors

C Monsters

Centaurs: agree they don’t really fit but if you have a giant plain / steppe off the edge of your map somewhere then Centaurs can be like a natural disaster i.e. occasionally they come out of the steppe on raids sometimes thousands of them – so more of a background event than an encounter.

D Monsters

Dryads: make more sense if they only come out of trees to mate so encounters revolve around high CHA males, fertility etc

E Monsters

Elementals: elementals suck outside their element imo but excel within it so earth elementals in the ground under the players feet, water elementals when players are in water, air elementals when players are crossing wobbly bridges over chasms, rock elementals in the walls in dungeons

G Monsters

Ghouls: Lovecraft version, punishment / reward for cannibalism, ever hungry tunnel dwelling undeat, more often encounter ghoul than ghouls e.g. apprentice mage studying necromancy takes a short cut to lichdom not knowing the consequences and gradually turns into a ghoul before finally succumbing and digging a tunnel down to join his new kin

Ghast: Lovecraft again, mentioned as being used as mounts by the men of Kn’yan(sp) so maybe big ghouls e.g. giants (see below) bred to be mounts through enforced cannibalism

Ghosts = plot not monster = ye

Hill Giants: there were giants for real once (see Acromegaly) stone age human-ish, bigger, stronger, probably dumber so 7-8′ guys big and dumb – so a lot of myths have that same root imo: Hill Giants, Troglodytes, Yetis, Trolls, Ogres etc So maybe use them as terrain versions of the same thing – trolls/swamp, ogres/rocky mountains, yetis/snowy mountains etc and make them aggressive but negotiable so more of an RP diplomacy encounter than a combat encounter

Fire, Storm, Lightning Giants: belong in their own realm /region, there to enhance the theme of a region / terrain type

Griffon: eagle and lion imply royalty so maybe some kind of excalibur connection rather than a natural creature – for example if the true king of gryffendor is on the throne then griffons will nest on the castle roof

Githyanki : Jorune has some cool creatures (google Jorune creatures) one of which was the Ramian Gire who I think sum up Githyanki (alien space pirates and slavers) best

(also Scarmis)

Goblin/gnoll: I like orcs but then i like Tolkein but maybe orcs are too Tolkein and drag the games too much in that direction?

In which case if no orcs (and by extension no goblins as mini orcs) then you probably need another pack humanoid enemy and hyena men are ideal – the name sucks though “Gnoll” doesn’t have the same ring as “Orc” so might change the name – maybe Hyena.

If goblins aren’t mini orcs then what? malicious sprite goblins like trad. norse dark elves? This highlights the point that dark elves and vampires basically share the same spot so maybe merge them?

Grell: a lot of monsters are sill as general random encounters and ought to have a region built around them so  a “Grell Swamp” somewhere with lots of Grell and none elsewhere.

S Monsters

Shadows: restrict them to actual shadows.

W Monsters

Wights: skeletons are from lvl 0 people, Wights are from heros and veterans, variable level, fear attack not drain.

Sparked by this youtube vid



Using DnD as example howabout a player has a pre-determined Fate in the form of their own mini saga and a player “levels” by achieving their Fate

For example the first two lines of one player character’s saga might be:

“Snurri Halfspear / slayer of Lackscale”

and another’s

“Kyra the Waterkin / born of the one-eyed man into the darkness”


(In a dark age setting i like to use the fact that sea levels rose dramatically after the ice age and so around the coasts there are many sunken towns and temples – also a bit of Cthulhu in everything just cos


Then in the game world there is a big rock facing out to sea on a cliff with a much weathered idol of Odin (the one-eyed man) carved into it. There’s a hole between the statue’s legs that drops into a water pool of an underground stream heading down (born into darkness).

At the bottom of this shallow pool there is a broken spear, magical, say +1/+3 vs reptilians or aquatic creatures or something like that, glows pale blue when critters like that are near, broken at the shaft and can’t be fixed non-magically so spear acts as a short sword.

Beyond the pool there is a long airless tunnel which they can’t get past without water breathing.

In the course of trying to find out how Kyra can learn to breath underwater they learn of deep one attacks led by a too strong large blue scaled deep one with a lot of the scales on his left shoulder and neck removed somehow by a wound. Kyra learns how to water breathe (Waterkin) and they go back to the tunnel where they discover it is a back entrance to the deep one leader’s lair giving them the advantage of surprise (slayer of Lackscale).


So the players can do what they like but only level when they achieve their fate.

Players can write their fate or at least agree to it – especially nickname.

One to four lines at a time?

GMs can add specific solutions into the game that fit the player’s fate and/or the player’s may figure a plausible alternative that fits.


Once the players have achieved their first set then add some more.

If I want an RPG fight to feel like a movie fight that begs the question which movie? The **feel** of the combat style in a particular game would need to emulate the **feel** of the combat style in the particular movie genre it seeks to emulate. This leads to the idea that the combat mechanic should be tailored to the combat style of the genre of the setting. So what distinct styles are there?

Knightly (Robin & Marian) (slow, heavy and grinding with fatigue as a resource)

Sword & Sorcery (Conan) (fast and furious, agile, bodies dropping like flies)

Dark Ages (13th Warrior) (mix of first two)

Swashbuckling (Three Musketeers) (style and panache as a mechanic)

Balletic (Seven Samurai) (almost rock, paper, scissors. winner lives)

Fantasy Balletic (Crouching Tiger) (same as balletic with added flying)

Spellsword (Jedi) (same as fantasy balletic with added spells)


Looking at the list you realize it’s basically a list of **armor** fighting styles. If you’re wearing plate then you fight a particular way. If you’re wearing mail then you fight like this etc. So although one option is to write genre-specific combat rules another option *might* be to have armor specific combat styles. These would automatically map onto the genres simply through the armor they wear.


I watch youtube game videos for ideas and sometimes make comments but as the point of getting the ideas is to jot them down for future reference it makes sense to put it here as well so here’s another sparked by:

I think a useful first step with fantasy races is why?

The why could be evolution if the races were all on isolated continents for a long time and / or their evolution artificially manipulated through magical forces but in a fantasy setting I prefer races to be the expression of particular gods / magical forces.


For example say the creation myth of your fantasy setting is that when the world was first created it was so full of magic races spawned out of principles and elements e.g.

– Dwarfs spawned out of the mountains

– Wood Elves from light woodland

– Satyrs and Dryads from darker woods

– High Elves from sea cliffs and tall peaks in rolling plains

– Orcs from shadows and darkness

– creatures/races could be spawned from any principle/element you could think of: greed, lust, love, hate, fear, kindness etc

basically animism made flesh.


The traits of the race could then follow their spawning e.g. High Elves, tall and far-seeing, not just in terms of physical distance but seeing into the future, perception of what lies inside a person etc. Dwarfs would be solid, unbending, obstinate, majestic.

And a race might change accordingly

– Wood Elves pushed deeper into a forest away from the light might get wilder the deeper they go

-Dwarfs looking for gold who dig too deep into the dark places under the mountains might become as shadowed as the creatures that dwell there

Animism made flesh.