This work represents a labor of love spread out over the course of more than 20 years. It represents and celebrates my fascination with the medieval period, not only for its grandeur and pageantry but the study in contrasts between the great and the common that it also provides, and the fact that the seeds were planted in this era from which grew so very much of what we now know as modern society and social practice. Everywhere one looks, the fruit of what was sewn a thousand years ago can still be seen, if one but knows where to look.
My approach to writing this game was an open one from the start. Before I ever set pen to paper to write, I set out to learn. I wanted a medieval fantasy game that would celebrate all that was wonderful in the period of the game, while adding in the fantasy –– and actual folklore –– that I find so vital to making it fun and also essential to providing a solid basis in the reality lived by the people of the time. Somehow there is a need deep in my psyche for my entertainment to make sense, to be believable, or at least not too onerous to suspend my disbelief for. How better than to start with historic reality and synthesize it with the folklore and fairytales, then speculate where THAT must necessarily lead. The historic record is so very rich a mine for coming up with the sorts of game world details all of us running games might not otherwise have time to create on our own. BUT, bits and pieces of history can so easily be cobbled together to provide texture and depth for a very rich fantasy world.
Realms of Myth provides a baseline of rich detail that can be shared by all GM’s in creating their medieval fantasy game worlds – certainly the sort of leg-up I could have used to start creating my game world from back in 1980.
It is important that you keep an open mind to the myriad details presented in these pages for they can enrich the gaming experience greatly. One thing that many players seem to get stuck on is the idea that details must mean complicated rules. However, most of the details in RoM are provided solely to enhance roleplaying. History was used to guide and inform the design, but NOT to make the rules complicated. The systems on which the game is based are simple and rather easily adapted.
The humble folk comprised the overwhelming majority of the population in the period of the game, but they were much healthier and better off than the usual poor, dirty, and ignorant stereotype passed down from the 1800’s when the historians looked down their noses at the people of the time, as many do still today. But, you could do worse than make your players aware of the place of the commoners who support the shining pageantry of the nobility and the heroes who absorb most modern readers’ attentions. The great majority of characters are most likely to come from common origins or lower. Looking wistfully up at the shining heights the great and powerful occupied is how most of the characters likely grew up.
As a game, Realms of Myth emphasizes the characters’ gradual growth, in large part a “rags to riches” theme, and perhaps even … eventually … fairytale endings. In this way, it is also something of an homage to the “old school” RPG’s of the 70’s and early 80’s, most notably in the players’ approach to the characters themselves.
The characters in more modern RPG’s tend to be amped-up dynamos with portfolios of astounding and dangerous powers and abilities from the get-go, obviously heroes in their own right, head and shoulders above the commoners around them. The characters in more modern games actually start play in a state noticeably above the common people around them. In some cases they are practically godlings by comparison, capable of awesome things. They never walked in fear into ruin, cave or dungeon dank knowing they might never come out alive.
They are just so much more powerful right out of the box than the mainstay of foes in the old games, the kobolds, goblins, orcs and other stock fantasy races of foes, and especially such common-but-deadly (in real life) Real World beasts as lions, tigers and bears (oh, my!!). Those “mundane” beasts are just too weak for many characters in more modern FRPG’s to even bother with. By their reputations alone, such PC’s attract henchmen to deal with those sorts of “trivial” annoyances.
This stands in stark contrast to the characters of the older generation of games played by those of us who grew up with the hobby when it was new. Back then, our characters always started out as little more (very little) than average folk with nothing more than a simple desire to make something of themselves, to eventually leave some sort of mark on the world, for better or worse. We all merely aspired to being heroes, and many of us died along the way, in the attempt, and without the means for obtaining a Ressurection.
Knowing we were starting at the bottom of the heap made our experiences more vivid. Our characters were US, the underdogs, the most popular kind of heroes after we finally succeeded, because we came from the same place as everyone else in the game world around us. Perhaps we gave them hope to carry on.
We recognized that the world was a wide and dangerous place we had to explore and get to know. There is a lot of buzz around the concept of balancing the challenges the PC’s face so they always get a “fair shake” these days. Back then, however, there were often foes far greater than our characters, ones we had to walk carefully around, biding our time until we had earned the skill and power necessary to face them. A touch of humility and a certain measure respect for the challenges and dangers that make up the game world were a basic requirement. We had to stick to the principles learned in the Real World –– life isn’t supposed to be fair, so pay attention and pick your battles!
Our characters had a healthy respect for death and a sense of their own mortality that more recent generation characters (generally) just don’t get – or just barely, in any event. Such things are “inconvenient” or “not fun”. Their characters never came from the ranks of the common folk as we did. They were never just “regular folks”. I believe there was something intrinsically more “human” about the characters in old-school games because of this.
I have striven to preserve that old-school spirit in large part in writing this game. Other than this, the game mechanics are unified and streamlined in a number of ways and in a fashion similar to more modern tabletop RPG’s –– although it is by NO means a “Rules Lite” type of game.
It is my fond hope that none of the text comes across as overly complicated, nor too simplistic either. I sought a happy medium to suit the widest audience. Practices and procedures have been explained at length and, just to be sure, examples provided as well. It is also my wish that you enjoy the work as much as I enjoyed writing it, that you find much of it new, yet familiar enough in content to be comfortable