Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 64: How to Choose a System- Fantasy

Main Topic

Say “RPG” and most people first go to Fantasy as the setting. The first major RPG was Dungeons & Dragons, and it’s descendants continue to this day drawing inspiration directly from and often in contrast to the D & D Ethos that started this hobby’s rise to prominence.


Consideration the First – Setting! Do you want to play a game or run a campaign in an established Fantasy setting? First and foremost, look to see whether there is a game that is already published in that setting.  It could, as we discuss further, be uniquely suited for its purpose. If you want to play in Middle Earth, do you use Middle Earth Role Playing System, or MERPS? The Forgotten Realms are the flagship setting for Dungeons & Dragons for the last 30 years while Golarion is Pathfinder’s home.  Want to visit Westeros? There is an ASOIAF Roleplaying game out there.


Consideration the Second – Campaign Flavor! We’ve talked about this in other contacts before, but are you looking for high fantasy? Gritty and ‘realistic’ adventures? Is this swashbuckling piracy or tactical wargames?  Each of these choices helps make your next set of decisions about choosing a game well suited to the campaign you want to run or your players want to play. Pathfinder and Fantasy HERO are games where the crunch takes the forefront and the precisely defined abilities of each character are fit into the world. In contrast, Dungeons & Dragons 5e is much more narrative in its design creating more fluidity or play in the joints to allow more swashbuckling style adventures.  


Consideration the Third – Player Familiarity! How much of your group knows this campaign setting or the system you are looking at?  Way back in Episode 38, we talked about how to introduce players to new games and it seems like a good time to revisit! It’s the old chestnut of communication – do your players want to play in a game set in a particular world? You may have a great idea and drive to run a campaign in Mythic Egypt where the players would be the catspaws [ha!] of Bast in her campaign against Apep, but if the players want to sail the ocean blue it could be a hard sell.


Consideration the Fourth – GM Familiarity! Do you know this game? This world? Does the system and setting appeal to you?  If you are not jazzed about it, your game will suffer and your players interest flag.


None of these present obstacles that cannot be overcome, but all should be considered.  When we did the 1 Archer, 3 Ways Card Catalog series, you could see how each system would diverge.  


Stat Blocks

Zendead-  Book of Pale Light

The tapestry begins to unfold and waver in the wind. It is a thin sheet of vellum long and wide. This is just the cover to the true evil within. What could be so evil? Catching a glimpse of the cover underneath the outer cover white like the fresh fallen snow. Once you catch the glimpse of the cover the runes and sigils of containment shimmer into being, just in the range of colors you are able to see.  

The book is nothing if not simple and elegant, at least until you crack the cover open. But the scrawling text and images cover every inch of the work. The more you read the harder it gets to stop. As you read more the words spark new ideas in your mind, but where to put these thoughts oh there is a small spot open in the margin. You start to fill it and the ideas grow and blossom like a cancer in your mind and need to get put down. Here in this spot, and this spot. The Ideas won’t stop coming. The open area on your arm could hold that idea and this diagram. Here let’s put this in the book.

The book slips closed as the last of the flesh goes in. Nothing maring its wonderfully clean cover. The dried husk with its hand twitching as the owner of the book slips in to retrieve it and take it back to the lost and dangerous book collection. Till once again it finds a new helper to add to the Book of Endless Flesh or the Book of Pale Light as it is called by those uninitiated.


nulloperations – The Wheel of Chance
It’s divided into eight sections, each one a separate but vibrant color. In the middle of each section is a circle the width of the segment. Regardless of distance from the wheel, the face of the closest eight humanoids will appear in these circles. The expression on these faces vary from wildly happy to suspicious, to fearful and enraged.
When in the presence of the wheel, humanoids will find a compulsion to spin the wheel. If multiple people are in the room, this compulsion seems to take a turn, one by one until each person has spun the wheel at least once. Alone, the spinning wheel does nothing beyond evoking this compulsion to spin it again and again in turns. Whoever’s turn it will not want to leave the room, and often the last person must be dragged out as they claw at every surface until they spin the wheel once more.
But if a token is added to the wheel, a sigil or marker to indicate a section for the wheel to land on, the wheel becomes active. Anyone who has spun and whose presence is still on the wheel will immediately seek out the face the sigil points toward and drag that person back, so they may spin. If they land on another’s face, then the cycle continues. A new player must spin. Again, and again, until someone lands on their own face. At that point, they’ve won, and the real game can begin.


Guard-a-Manger – Undreaming Sigil

Memories hold fast to the form they have fixed.  Every day, every place, every one sees something that is a fixed point of emotions and weight left in this world.  Every one of you passes by something that holds the power of hearts, the powers of dreams, and terror of fear every day.  

It was supposed to hold back the darkness.  The sigil and the shield was meant to keep us all safe.  Nobody could say just how … only that it was all we had left.  Nobody could say just what it was … only that is was what was left.  A time before, but one that we didn’t know. A time before that wasn’t recorded.  Why did we think that this would work?

Because the memories held fast in the glyph.  The memories were the way. It wasn’t until the very end, when the walls fell and the planet was lost, that the truth was apparent – we had to send out memories, hopes, and fears into the sigil’s pattern.  We had to hide from the world for thousands of years.

Now, we feel it.  The sigil is reformed in these buildings and these plants.  The glyph is being brought back … to free us? Or for you to join us in our repose?


Verdigris  noun ver·​di·​gris | \ˈvər-də-ˌgrēs, -ˌgris, -grəs also -ˌgrē


Definition of verdigris (Entry 1 of 2)
1a : a green or greenish-blue poisonous pigment resulting from the action of acetic acid on   copper and consisting of one or more basic copper acetates
  b : normal copper acetate Cu(C2H3O2)2·H2O
2 : a green or bluish deposit especially of copper carbonates formed on copper, brass, or bronze surfaces


History and Etymology for verdigris

Middle English vertegrese, borrowed from Anglo-French verdegrece, vert de Grece, literally, “green of Greece”

NOTE: The current form reflects French vert-de-gris, with the final syllable assimilated to gris “gray.”


First Known Use of verdigris

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a



Bottom 30% of words


Closing remarks

Zendead- Starfinder Corebook

Looking like a fun Sci-Fantasy interpretation of the Pathfinder ruleset. Check out Guard-a-manger’s look at this in the Card Catalog.


nulloperations – The Dragon Prince

Created by some of the main writers of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Fun, a little weird animation, and everyone is Sokka.


Remark 2: Get Your Flu Shot…


Guard-a-Manger- Magic Kingdom for Sale – SOLD

Terry Brooks novel starting the magic kingdom of Landover series and an excellent example of fantasy world building.  Bunion & Parsnip in particular.


Music is courtesy of The Enigma TNG you can find his music on YouTube or on Bandcamp


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And Thanks to Merriam-Webster for our Lexicon segment

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3 comments on “Episode 64: How to Choose a System- Fantasy

  1. Carlton Davis Nov 17, 2018

    It was great to hear some descriptions of various game systems and what sort of play styles they work with. Do you have a resource for discovering new systems organized this way?

    • Guard-a-manger Nov 26, 2018

      We have not made a resource or flowchart for making that decision yet, but it is a fantastic goal and project we are hoping to add to the to-do list!

    • Zendead Nov 28, 2018

      Yes The whole projects idea is killing us. So many we want to do but not enough time to get to it.