Niche within a Niche: 1800s Role-playing


Start with an RPG geek, who is already by definition existing within a certain subculture outside the mainstream. Dungeons & Dragons is still “for nerds,” though more and more of us are embracing the pejorative these days. Next, make her a storyteller over a powergamer, and cut her off from more than half of her would-be gaming group. Even worse, make her into Indie RPG’s, such that her FLGS will never carry the games she likes in-stock and she’s better off ordering direct from the author. Finally, make her a dark fantasy fan who adores such books as Kushiel’s Dart, such artists as Nightwish, and such animes as Le Chevalier D’Eon. Her dream game is so specific that she can’t even think of one person who legitimately enjoys the melodrama and intrigue of Houses of the Blooded in addition to the aesthetics of the “long” eighteenth century (1688-1815), with a goodly dose of mythology for good measure.

Fuck y'all bitches, I want guns with my fantasy.

Give me guns with gods. Frederick the Great plus magic. The Court of Louis XIV and of Catherine the Great. Nobilis meets noblesse oblige. Dice is optional, but preferred.

I cannot think of a suitable system, much less the people to play in it. Are my tastes really just too obscure for the typical medieval/low-high fantasy gamer? Help me out here and I’ll love you.

After exercising a little bit of Google-fu, I did find Duty & Honor and Beat to Quarter, but I need rules for Court and Magic as well. Faith & Fortune looks promising, if unpolished, and All for One: Regime Diabolique may need to be fast forwarded a hundred years or so. And not everyone would wanna be a musketeer. Realm Antique is a possible contender, but the review hasn’t sold me terribly.

Renaissance Deluxe and its spawn, Clockwork & Chivalry, look the most promising (there’s even an SRD by which to make your own settings), but the rules-lite GM in me recoils at the addition of the Characteristic Size to the usual 6 (“This is an indication of your character’s mass and, like Strength and Constitution, can affect the amount of damage a character can deal and how well he can absorb damage”), since it feels duplicitous when you take Str and Con into account and I can’t see how size is so core a concept to “the age of sail and piracy; of black powder weaponry and religious wars; of discovery, colonisation, and the rise of merchant capitalism.” The way skills are calculated also seems rather on the complex side (e.g. Athletics: DEX+STR, Close Combat: INT+STR, Culture: [Own] INT x2, Dance: DEX+CHA). Otherwise, I do like how economic class as well as professions adds to skills, and the random table for developing character connections is useful (though I prefer my method of knitting the table together). I guess I’ll have to just try it and see; at least they do have chapters on Alchemy, Witchcraft, Sanity, and tips for running games in the Napoleonic Era…

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have to do my own version of the Renaissance rules for my homebrew world and be done it. Or acquire massive amounts of money and buy the rights to acquire Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel IP.

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