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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 11:08 am 
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simon burling wrote:
On Higgins idea of having only 1 social status available, i slightly disagree, I would define the middle ground and allow some limited variance from it.
Afterall would the Master Merchant, wealthy as sin, really be Landed Nobility?
Absolutely. I didn't mean one single social class per se. What I meant was that it's tough to run a high politics game when one of the characters happens to be a vagrant highwayman with zero connections. Not that it couldn't be done, but it would need a lot of shoehorning.

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 4:21 pm 
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higgins wrote:
simon burling wrote:
On Higgins idea of having only 1 social status available, i slightly disagree, I would define the middle ground and allow some limited variance from it.
Afterall would the Master Merchant, wealthy as sin, really be Landed Nobility?
Absolutely. I didn't mean one single social class per se. What I meant was that it's tough to run a high politics game when one of the characters happens to be a vagrant highwayman with zero connections. Not that it couldn't be done, but it would need a lot of shoehorning.


I've actually had decent success making just that scenario work in the past. Its incredibly difficult in more or less any game but TRoS.. fortunately, here, I have the advantage of knowing what my characters (and thus my players) are interested in and can use that to my advantage.

The last time my characters got involved in politics said highwayman had worked his way into making some spare coin - which lead to his gambling, which lead to his debt, which lead to his having to deal with some very nefarious underworldy types, which actually lead to his making decent contacts and working for said underworld types (after his debts were paid, of course)..

When the high-politics kicked in, his contacts were in danger (which was only important because:), his assets were in danger, and he had contacts in circles that the other characters did not. This muddied the ethics in the political waters considerably. It was a blast watching formerly honorable knights debate whether assassination would be worth the risk and such. The roguish player had a blast and once secretly told me he loved the corruption he seems to be spreading.

Another successful scenario from further back involved the political enemy they had made taking First Rights with the rogue (a different one)'s sister on the night of their wedding, the husband beaten for trying to stop it. I then had said sister portrayed entirely differently after the episode - it having deeply affected her. The rogue was suddenly very interested in the outcome of things and once more had a skill set the others did not.

Tying them in is always entertaining.. You just always have to let them decide what to do with the information.

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 5:37 pm 
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higgins wrote:
What I meant was that it's tough to run a high politics game when one of the characters happens to be a vagrant highwayman with zero connections. Not that it couldn't be done, but it would need a lot of shoehorning.
KazianG wrote:
I've actually had decent success making just that scenario work in the past. Its incredibly difficult in more or less any game but TRoS.. fortunately, here, I have the advantage of knowing what my characters (and thus my players) are interested in and can use that to my advantage.

And it is even less difficult should you really decide to go with some Dark Age-y background. Like I said, social differences were at that time neiter carved in stone nor all that big – provided we are talking freemen and not thralls.

There is an interesting episode from early 10th-century Germany, where an Archbishop decided to humiliate two brothers, both Dukes, whom he was hosting. When a forester in his service entered his hall, he introduced him as a freeman – and the Dukes rose from their seats to greet the forester, as courtesy required this. Now the forester was actually a bondsman of the Archbishop’s, as was later revealed to the ducal brothers, who felt thereby greatly humiliated by having risen for a mere thrall.

Now such an event is hardly conceivable in the “classical” middle ages – imagine a high and mighty duke feeling obliged to rise from his seat just because a lowly forester has entered the room! But at the example shows this was still expected and even socially required of him in the early 10th century. And as the early middle ages have seen a rather constant development of class differences becoming ever more pronounced, the 8th century was even more egalitarian than that. I remember the account of an incident in around 700 AD where a simple Frankish freeman-farmer felt justified to raise his hatchet against a Merovingian prince (!) breaking into his homestead and actually killing him – and was by the court declared to actually have been justified in his actions!
(Of course, he was later slain by the prince’s relatives, but that was an unlawful act).

So, before a Dark Age Germanic background, social classes should be able to interact relatively freely, provided those concerned are all freemen. Mutual respect and courtesy (in a rough form) ruled the day, and noblemen could in no way ride roughshod over (free) commoners. In both game and real life terms the main benefits of high social class were greater affluence, better chances to rise into positions of importance, and an increased (but not overwhelming) natural authority.

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Fri Oct 29, 2010 9:28 pm 
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I haven't been able to do a lot of research just yet.. I've been mulling over concepts while taking care of ever-pressing real-life issues. Alas.

Something I've been considering though - Those of you who write scenarios or referee.. how do you typically handle the distribution of information? I suppose this isn't a very applicable question to people who play in established settings frequently (World of Darkness, Forgotten Realms, etc etc) as there's plenty of material written already and chances are decent that your players already know a good bit about it. It's probably also inapplicable to people who do "group setting creation." In which the players have already helped work it out to begin with.

But as a for instance - If I wrote a fictional setting based on a dark-age Germany, flavored by the above recommended law books and, how would you suggest communicating the flavor and background to the players? I cant imagine writing all the applicable legal codes out, but at the same time, their character should know these things. Similarly, one has to establish the background, the places, and so forth.

Likewise, if I set it in a historical dark age Germany, how would one suggest presenting that information to the players in a digestible fashion?

I've done campaigns before wherein I've done long chapter-length documents detailing every little thing... and others where I've just given broad strokes of geographic region and sprinkled plot hooks. Neither is particularly satisfying in terms of communicating mood and feel, and both have me balancing detail vs. word-count (which I suppose is inevitable to a degree.)

Any suggestions? How do you guys do it?

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sat Oct 30, 2010 7:09 am 
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KazianG wrote:
Those of you who write scenarios or referee.. how do you typically handle the distribution of information?

Generally speaking, I suggest an “outsider-approach”. By that I mean that all the characters are required not to be exactly native to the area of the campaign, so that the players learn the specifics as the characters do. In a Dark Age Germanic setting that is to play out on the wild and especially uncivilized fringes of the Germanic realm, this is very appropriate – the frontier is the very place where an enterprising man to make a name for himself and initially coming from the more civilized heartlands of the realm would likely go to.

For your specific case, I wouldn’t bother with loading your players down with too much initial detail. Communicate the society to them in broad strokes – ask them to imagine something halfway between the tribal society of the migrating Germans and the highly structured feudal society. Tell them to think a bit about the clichés about Viking society. Tell them that there is not yet a clear-cut knightly class, but that every free man has the right to bear arms, that almost every free man has some degree of weapon training and that it is not yet rare for a brave and crafty free man of even even humble origin to enter the service of some great lord and rise to a position of wealth and influence comparable to a feudal count or even more. Tell them that every free man may hunt freely in the forests, and that much land, at least in the less densely settled areas, is still unclaimed and can be freely staked out by everybody wishing to set up his homestead there. And tell them the examples about the two dukes and the Merovingian prince I have related above.

Also, draw up a Social Pick Table and show it to them. Maybe like that:

F – Thrall (=slave) or Outlaw (upon recognition [which is almost guaranteed in the face-to-face community of the time] either driven off or much rather killed, as these men can only survive by preying upon others)
E – Bondsman (roughly the equivalent of a serf, but with somewhat increased personal freedom and still a minority compared to the freemen)
D – Poor Freeman
C – Affluent Freeman (this would be the level where a man can kit himself decently for war, though of course still not own metal armour or a sword; also, the village priest)
B – Rich Freeman (owning a thrall or three to help tilling his fields and either a sword or chainmail and maybe renting out land to a family or two of bondsmen; also, resident priest of an imporant church)
A – “Nobleman” (owning fine war equipment and a warhorse, owning half a dozen of thralls, renting out land to several families of bondsmen, keeping a retinue of two or three warriors and holding a position of local authority; also, a bishop or abbot)

Tell them that the land along the frontier is very thinly settled, that it is full of vast and largely untouched jungle-like forests incredibly hard to traverse because of the dense undergrowth and teeming with packs of viscious wolves, brown bears wolves, half-bestial outlawed men eking out a few short year’s meagre existence before succumbing to the hostile nature, and worse things. Tell them that there are literally no towns, that typical villages are but hamlets of usually clearly less than 100 inhabitants, and that even the most important settlements ducking into the protection of earth-and-timber fortresses number less than 1000 inhabitants. Tell them that buildings are wattle-and-daub or wood in the case of more prosperous people, and that stone is practically unheard-of as building material. Tell them a typical dwelling consists but of a single, long-stretched hall warmed by an open hearth on the packed-earth floor, and that livestock shares the room with the family, seperated by just a wicker screen – only a really prosperous man’s house will be subdivided into two or three rooms and have outhouses for the livestock. Tell them that silver coins exist, but that many common men spend their lives without ever owning one – trade is mostly done as barter, and most goods are either self-produced or manufactured in the immediate vicinity; actual merchants are as of yet exceedingly rare. Tell them that lack and hunger are the names of the day – Harris lines in bones of people of the age show that about every third year was a hunger year even for people who were not actually poor.

Tell them that a strong minority of people are as of yet not Christianized, and that most who are still pray or even sacrifice to pagan gods and spirits as well – even some priests do! Tell them that only a small minority of priests is able to read or write, that literacy is practically non-existent outside of monasteries. Tell them that total faith in magic, charms, amulets and potions is almost universal.

Tell them that armies are small – even the grand hosts commanded by Charlemagne himself numbered probably around just 5000 warriors. Tell them that the majority of warriors are not well equipped – a round shield and a spear, helmets or leather jerkin or hatchet only if they are lucky, a sword and chainmail (universally sleeveless or short-sleeved and no longer than to the mid-thigh) only if they are really wealthy; each of the latter items represents the worth of one or more entire farms with livestock and all. Tell them that the couched lance is as of yet unknown, that horsemen (having adopted the stirrup only very recently) use spears to stab and javelins to throw. There is no barding, and crossbows are as unknown as are longbows and composite bows (except for the Avars – but they surely use dark magic to manufacture them).

That should get you going. If I’ve got time, I’ll translate and post a few of the more interesting laws of the Edictum Rotharis.

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sat Oct 30, 2010 7:56 am 
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If you're doing the exploration thing, I suggest handing out information in three categories:

a) information about setting in general (basically what Michael laid out)
b) information about power groups and influential families in the main gaming area (common knowledge/rumours a'la lord Melkior is a widowed warlord and populace whispers he is an evil tyrant who sacrifices virgins)
c) individual information derived from the character's background and acquaintances (more specific knowledge/rumours a'la as Melkior's younger brother, you know his decadence was brought upon by her wife's death and you've never understood why he takes advice from that mysterious priest who gives you the creeps)

Basically everybody gets two common files/handouts (might as well be shared) and an individual one. I've tried both verbal and written information dispensing, but while written ones are tougher to compose, they will reward in the long term, as written word provides the consistency the spoken word doesn't.

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sat Oct 30, 2010 8:06 am 
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KazianG wrote:
Likewise, if I set it in a historical dark age Germany, how would one suggest presenting that information to the players in a digestible fashion?

I've done campaigns before wherein I've done long chapter-length documents detailing every little thing... and others where I've just given broad strokes of geographic region and sprinkled plot hooks. Neither is particularly satisfying in terms of communicating mood and feel, and both have me balancing detail vs. word-count (which I suppose is inevitable to a degree.)


This is a curly one...

Player: "OK so I'll push the lad out of the way and say..."

Referee: Wait a minute. That's Sir Gerald's son. Your character would never do that!

Player: Why?

Referee: You've got to think about... (and the scene pacing dies a horrible death as the referee waxes lyrical about the complex social order of his hand-crafted world for the next fifteen minutes).

Looking at things from a traditional "campaign = sum of several scenarios" point of view I make sure that the first scenario is actually a primer for the new campaign environment. In other words, the scenario material itself is designed to introduce the players to the campaign environment as much as it is about the characters accomplishing something. So in that first scenario the PCs interact with a number of locals in scenes that show off the "look and feel" of the campaign environment.

So, as an example, rather than having the players stumble their way through the legal niceties of the environment I have them peripherally involved -- they are witnesses to something, and through that learn how the legal system works in this area. In a later scenario they may well be embroiled in a legal dispute of some kind -- but when that happens they know something about the system, who to talk to, what rights they have. This equally applies to any "technical" part of the gaming environment -- be it the way worship works, the way taxes work, the way the militia works, the way the law works, the way fealty works, whatever. Get them peripherally involved to start with, then centrally involved.

In my experience, once a text on the gaming environment gets beyond a page the players won't read it completely and/or they won't remember as much detail as you hope when the scenario unfolds.

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sat Oct 30, 2010 8:32 am 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
In my experience, once a text on the gaming environment gets beyond a page the players won't read it completely and/or they won't remember as much detail as you hope when the scenario unfolds.
That's a good point I failed to mention myself :) Don't make the handouts longer than two pages.

On the Dark Ages however, I have a question about the transformation of values and the shift of mentality in the terms of property. I happened to listen a TTC lecture (granted, about Spain) but the lecturer explained there that before 12th century, the mentality of the ownership was about jurisdiction and right, as opposed to something spacial and measurable. People started to set border stones, etc. Maybe it's in my modern mindset, but it didn't sound feasible that the boundaries evolved this late. How were things in the Roman times? Or was the fall from the Empire that great?

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- Lord Petyr Baelish, A Game of Thrones


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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sat Oct 30, 2010 9:53 am 
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higgins wrote:
b) information about power groups and influential families in the main gaming area (common knowledge/rumours a'la lord Melkior is a widowed warlord and populace whispers he is an evil tyrant who sacrifices virgins)

And if you want to stint on initial work here, you can go with the "outsider"-approach I've mentioned above and give out only the barest bones even a relatively recent arrival would know. :mrgreen:

higgins wrote:
I happened to listen a TTC lecture (granted, about Spain) but the lecturer explained there that before 12th century, the mentality of the ownership was about jurisdiction and right, as opposed to something spacial and measurable. People started to set border stones, etc. Maybe it's in my modern mindset, but it didn't sound feasible that the boundaries evolved this late.

I don’t quite get what you mean with that. Are you saying that border stones are supposed to have only been re-introduced in the 12th century? If so, allow me to quote the Edictum Rotharis from 643 AD, article 236:

If somebody shifts a border stone and his guilt is proven, he shall pay 80 coins, half to the king, half to the owner of the plot.

Also, a friend of mine who is medievologist sprecialising on the 9th and 10th centuries is right now working on a lengthy project retracing the history of ground ownership in a certain very limited locale of what is now the northern fringe of Italy, using what little surviving records he can scrape together - but he could hardly even have begun to do so if there was no such things as ownership of land in the first place. So I'm rather baffled by the lecture's claims... :?

EDIT: OK, so I've translated a few of the more interesting laws of the Edictum Rotharis:

7: If, during battle with an enemy, a man deserts his comrade and doesn’t fight by his side, he shall be punished by death.

27: If somebody bars a freeman’s way in a devious manner he shall pay 20 coins.

30: If somebody, in whatever way, has thrown a free man from his horse with the intention of hurting him, he shall pay 80 coins.

34: If somebody has with agitated soul shot a javelin or an arrow into another man’s homestead and has thereby hurt somebody he shall pay 20 coins in addition to whatever fine he has to pay for causing the wound.

My home is my castle.

41: If somebody has ambushed a freeman and attacked him from surprise while he was standing or walking unprepared and either hit or restrained him with brutal force, he shall pay the man half the amount due in case of slaying him, as he has not only hurt him, but also exposed him to ridicule.

44: If somebody has struck another with the fist, he shall pay him 3 coins, if with the flat hand, 6 coins.

The derision expressed by striking with the flat hand is punished more severely than striking with the fist.

51: If somebody has struck out one of the teeth visible when laughing, he shall pay him 16 coins for every tooth.

52: If somebody has deprived another man of one or more of his molars, he shall pay him 8 coins for each tooth.

103: If somebody has wounded a thrall in the head in such a way that the skin is broken, he shall pay 1 coin over to the thrall, in addition to the cost for the physician.

109: If somebody has deprived another man’s thrall of one or more of the teeth visible when laughing, he shall pay 2 coins per tooth over to the thrall.

110: If somebody has pierced another man’s thrall’s arm or leg with javelin or arrow, he shall pay two coins over to the thrall.

146: If somebody has of his own free will and with malicious intent laid fire to another man’s house he shall pay three times the house’s worth and replace everything destroyed by the fire.

180: If it turns out that a girl promised as a wife suffers from leprosy or is possessed by the Devil or blind in both eyes, the fiance shall be allowed to take back the bridal price and must not be forced to marry the girl, and he must not be punished for this, as he does not desert the girl out of levity, but because of the girl’s obvious sins, for which she has been punished with affliction.

Note how affliction is seen as divine punishment and proof for obvious sinfulness.

212: If somebody catches his wife committing adultery with a freeman, bondsman or thrall he shall be allowed to slay both on the spot without being punishable for it.

277: If somebody, driven by anger, forces entry into another man’s homestead he shall pay a fine of 20 coins to the homestead’s owner.

Again, a man’s home is his castle.

303: If a man or animal collides with a fence constructed from angled and pointed poles and is thereby either killed or hurt, the man who has built the fence and has angled the pointed poles outward shall be held accountable for the death or the wounds.
Note that this implies that palisade-like fences protecting private homesteads were very common.

323: If a man is for his sins afflicted with rabies or possession and harms men or animals, no compensation is to demanded from him or his heirs. By the same token his heirs shall not be entitled to compensation if the man is killed.
Note that this makes madmen unaccountable for their deeds but does also sanction the killing of them.

338: If somebody cuts off all of or part of another man’s horse’s tail, he shall pay a fine of 6 coins.

368: No warrior marshalling for a duel with another man shall dare to carry any magical herbs or talismans in addition to the agreed-upon weapons. At the least suspicion that he does carry charms he shall beindicated to the judge and thoroughly searched; everything found is to be thrown away. Then the man shall hold the hand of a relative and swear before the judge that he does not carry any more charms – only then is he allowed to fight the duel.

382: If somebody shoves a freeman in such a way that he falls to the ground but is not hurt, he shall pay 6 coins compensation.

383: If somebody grabs a freeman by the hair or the beard and threatens him with a cugel, he shall pay 6 coins compensation.

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sat Oct 30, 2010 1:53 pm 
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Grettir wrote:
I don’t quite get what you mean with that. Are you saying that border stones are supposed to have only been re-introduced in the 12th century? If so, [...] I'm rather baffled by the lecture's claims... :?
As was I.

These laws are very interesting. :) I understand I can't ask you to translate the whole thing, but what about the punishments for less obscure crimes such as theft, killing or murder? And the difference severities whether the victim is a freeman, bondsman or a thrall? I spotted the word "compensation" here. Does this imply monetary compensation? And a coin is a silver coin?

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- Lord Petyr Baelish, A Game of Thrones


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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sat Oct 30, 2010 8:01 pm 
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higgins wrote:
I understand I can't ask you to translate the whole thing, but what about the punishments for less obscure crimes such as theft, killing or murder? And the difference severities whether the victim is a freeman, bondsman or a thrall? I spotted the word "compensation" here. Does this imply monetary compensation? And a coin is a silver coin?

Here at home I only have access to an excerpt of the Edictum, of which I have again quoted only a few of the more outlandish laws. I don’t want to go (and can’t right now, without doing some reading) into too much detail, as this might well be beyond the use of KazianG and thus this thread, but:

Compensation was to be paid to the damaged party or his heirs, but in more cases than named explicitly in the text the compensation seems to have been split, with the crown receiving half of it. If it cold not be paid, the perpetrator became an outlaw.

Freemen seem to have been valued at twice the worth of bondsmen and eight times the worth of thralls. Compensation for hurts done to thralls was to be paid to the thrall, unless it inflicted lasting damage upon him that diminished his labour force, in which case it was to be paid to the owner. Killing a thrall entailed a compensation of 25 coins to be paid to the owner, killing a bondsmen 100 coins to the heirs and killing a freeman about 200 coins to the heir, though the exact amount depended upon the extent of land owned by the killed man.

The laws protected possessions, bodily integrity and the honour (not a thrall’s, though), but the latter only from deeds diminishing a man’s perceived prowess as a warrior, as in striking him with the open hand – mere verbal insults went totally unpunished. Striking out an eye cost 100 coins, severing a finger about 10 coins, severing a toe about 5 coins (all prices for freemen). Theft seems to have been punishable with a restitution of three times the stolen item’s value. Apart from treason, trying to kill the king (or knowing and keeping silent about such a plan), counterfeiting coins and cowardice on the field of battle (all punishable by death), the worst crime was rape – it called for a compensation of 900 coins.

This "coin" is the solidus, of an alloy containing 4.5 g gold per coin, an equivalent of (in the 7th century) roughly 45 g silver. A cow would be worth about 2 solidi, a plain riding horse about 3 solidi, a sword about 6 solidi, a war horse about 12 solidi. This shows that the compensations to be paid were hefty (a herd of about 100 cows for killing a freeman, or three cows just for shoving him to the ground) and would with the more severe transgressions often have resulted in the perpetrator becoming outlawed – at that time a rather certain death sentence.

Under circumstances I don't quite understand from the material I have at my disposal right now, a party found guilty could call for a judicial duel to prove their innocence. This seems not to have been possible for crimes threatened with capital punishment and also if the evidence was somehow overwhelming - not entirely sure here, though.

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Sun Oct 31, 2010 7:53 am 
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This is very cool stuff! Thanks!

But indeed, rape was one of the most serious crimes in the old days. If I recall correctly, a norse (I think) law stated that the house the rape was committed in should be burned to the ground in addition to all other punishments.

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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Mon Nov 15, 2010 11:07 am 
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Hello,
New to TROS, and this thread was interesting, but a lot to take in.
I am looking for a setting to run the system in, and was wondering if anybody has looked at Harn or Conan?
I don't know if this is discussed elsewhere.
But real life means I have to pick a setting with enough detail.

Allan


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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Mon Nov 15, 2010 12:17 pm 
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Hi Allan, and welcome to the boards!

I don't quite know about magic in Harn, but TROS works great for Conan. Brutal and realistic close combat, powerful sorcery, etc. Heck, even the TROS's name comes from Conan the Barbarian movie. :)

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- Lord Petyr Baelish, A Game of Thrones


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 Post subject: Re: A new campaign
PostPosted: Mon Nov 15, 2010 12:25 pm 
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Thanks for the welcome.
I was leaning towards Conan, as I have done Harn to death. Although some of the new material on the main land looks interesting.
So no one has come up with a conversion from the d20 Conan to TROS?

Allan


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