Planning Ahead

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I’m beginning to toss around thoughts on my next game after my current one (D&D 4e converted to 13th Age) wraps. I’m pretty firmly settled on some kind of historical fiction. I’ve never really done that before but I work better either in a licensed setting or when stealing someone else’s intellectual property.  I’m a better synthesizer than I am a wholesale creator; I know this about myself and it’s where I have more fun. And history gives me that.

Setting-wise I’m presently grooving on the 13th century in Europe and central Asia, but Rome is always flirting with me from across the dance floor.  So who knows.

The problem though is that my current love, 13th Age, doesn’t handle historical fiction well, at least not unless I really abuse the “historical” part. I’m not looking for elves and dwarves and fireball-throwing wizards and holy healing clerics. I’ll probably want magic to be a thing, but very very rare and forbidden and difficult and dangerous. Elaborate rituals where you risk your immortal soul or worse.  I want people to be courtiers and mercenaries and spies and scholars and whatnot but not the standard fantasy race/class spread. Something more like Abercrombie or Lynch or KJ Parker’s work than Tolkein.

So I find myself wondering what system could really work for this. I looked over my shelf and remembered that I picked up Burning Wheel Gold edition. From what I remembered of that it seemed like it could work well. I listened to a handful of episodes of an actual play podcast that unfortunately convinced me it’s not the game for me. There’s a heck of a lot of crunch going on there, and the scripted combat thing rubs me the wrong way (although interestingly, I read back to my Blogging Wheel posts and I was much more positive about it. Am I judging too harshly?). I really love the lifepath character generation and the Duel of Wits for this kind of game.  Are there pieces here I can strip away and crash together with 13th Age’s freeform OtE-style Backgrounds and simpler combat system? How much homebrew heartache am I in for if I try? Can you even graft a lifepath system (preferably one with a randomized element like the old FASA Trek system, where your performance rating in one assignment affected whether you got a more or less desirable posting for your next cruise) even work well with a freeform skill system rather than a fixed skill list?

Or are there other games out there that can deliver what I’m looking for out of the box? As I’m typing this post I’m wondering what the two Game of Thones rpgs that were made are like.

The good news is that this next game is probably a good 6 months away. I have about 6-8 sessions left in my current game, and my work situation means launching anything else before next summer would be a bad idea. Maybe  can at least throw together a Burning Wheel oneshot or something before then.

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