Welcome! Hail and well met! Welcome to the worlds of Realms of Myth (RoM) and fantasy roleplaying!
For those who don’t know what that means, this book is actually a type of rulebook for a game. What kind of game could have such an imposing collection of rules that they fill up an entire book? Well, not every page is filled with rules, but it is a roleplaying game!
“Yeah, sure …” you say? Well, then … for those who have never had any previous exposure to roleplaying games, the idea behind them is really quite simple. Roleplaying games are ‘story-telling’ games that rely on the cooperation and imaginations of all the players involved for their success. Each player creates a character or persona, his own personal hero, for the purposes of the game, like a character in a Swords & Sorcery genre novel, a play or a movie. Each player’s character is really a play-acting role temporarily assumed during each game session, however the character actions are not physically acted out. The stage and setting are located entirely in the players’ minds, a product of the group’s collective imagination and the descriptions they are given concerning the setting. Each player merely speaks for his character and describes the character’s actions so that the moderator and other players will understand what he is doing.
The character roles are all played impromptu – each player speaking up for his character, “writing” (improvising) his own script as he goes along, even influencing the manner in which the plot of the story enacted unfolds.
These characters created by the players are collectively known as Player Characters (PC’s – not to be confused with personal computers!). This title separates them from the host of characters that the moderator leaps in and out of to portray for the players’ benefit during each game, known as Non-Player Characters (NPC’s). The group of PC’s the players portray in the fantasy world of the game is commonly referred to as a “party”.
Role-playing games in general stem from the flights of fancy we have all shared at one time or another, especially as children. We all enjoy a little escapism now and then in our desire to experience romanticized ages of the past and/or a ways of life different from our own. Anyone who has played ‘Cowboys and Indians,’ ‘Cops and Robbers,’ ‘Army,’ or ‘Spacemen,’ or any of the various other games children make up about their favorite television shows or based on the adults they see around them, even a simple game of ‘House,’ has done some roleplaying.
It is second nature for children! In truth, dressing up in costumes and using the swords, guns and/or other props to physically act out a character’s actions, as children will sometimes do, is NOT roleplay – it is role ASSUMPTION or re-enactment. When weapons or violent actions of any sort are involved, it is potentially dangerous – mock weapons or no. This blurs the line between player and character and is best left to real actors and their stunt men. This sort of activity muddies the waters and confuses the meaning of fantasy roleplay, especially for those who are new to it. While some roleplayers dress in a costume emulating the character’s favored medieval style, this is NOT required for successful roleplay. Some people simply enjoy wearing a costume as a means of putting themselves in the mood for playing the game, part of their greater enjoyment of the gaming session.
Roleplaying appeals to our sense of wonder, our desire to experience ‘what if …’. It can lighten the spirit and help unburden a heart, even if just for a little while.
Roleplaying games can be played with a depth and enjoyment that no other type of game can match, even without the window-dressing of costumes or props. With his native abilities, skills, and equipment, the character sets out to face the unknown and find fortune, find love, win riches, defend his family and his honor, unravel dark mysteries, and reveal hidden secrets. Much of the fascination that lies in roleplaying games lies in the anticipation, suspense, and surprise involved in exploring the unknown. The player’s mind becomes deeply engaged, playing his character as he goes through his imaginary life of heroics and feats of derring-do so fascinating it captures his fantasies. Nor is the age of appeal limited – there is fascination in fantasy for those from 10 to 100 years young. Over time the player gets the satisfaction of steering through the troubles of the gameworld to grow and prosper, gaining, skill, power, and prestige until he is the stuff of legends himself in the gameworld. The common-folk will sing songs of his adventures and tell his tales round the fire-pit, and children will dream that they will be like him one day.
All this and more!
High epic fantasy best describes any good medieval roleplaying game, and that is what RoM is all about! Roleplaying is fun, easy, and can help imaginations grow. It encourages communication and problem-solving skills and stresses the need for cooperation and presence of mind.
Among roleplaying games, there are many different types and brands, just as in the market for any other product. These all have different sets of rules to keep things fair, and are designed with the intention of emulating conditions in one of many popular historical or fictional settings, call milieus (“MILL-yoos”). These are commonly divided into groups by type, called genres (“JHON-rehs”), ranging from historical fantasy (improved or highly authentic uses of historic periods from the Bronze Age to the Renaissance or even the Industrial Revolution or Modern Day, in any number of cultures, usually including some form of magick), or high fantasy (from improved or mixed eras to completely fictional renderings of generally medieval-ish or earlier or later cultures, also including some form of magick) to science fiction (projected into the future by varying degrees or so far that the technology fulfills the same function as magick in the other genres) or science fantasy (a blend of the two, proposing a far-flung future where science and magick coexist and where the line between them often becomes blurred).
RoM is a historic fantasy roleplaying game set in the High Middle Ages in an analog of western Europe, most specifically like England. This embodies and perpetuates an environment that encompasses the era of the flourishing of trade and the great merchant faires of the 1270’s and includes elements that occurred as late as the advent of the Plague in 1348, a period of almost 100 years that includes most of the best facets and aspects of medieval life and history with which players in general are probably going to be most familiar. This provides all of the best and most wonderful the period has to offer, without alot of the horrific and depressing aspects that arose after the Black Plague.
For the benefit of an english-speaking majority here in the US, the background drawn on to help create and define the gameworld is primarily English in origins. There were a number of differences between the social practices and social structure of the people of England and those found on the Continent in the period of the game, mostly having to do with upwards mobility and greater flexibility of social strata, and on occasion in the text the Continental system is used to provide contrast.
But all of this is basically history – where is the fantasy in this fantasy roleplaying game? Part of it is in the way the historic information has been used. For example, the flowery and genteel ideal of Chivalry and nobility that have been emphasized throughout the text which most people associate with the medieval era has been embellished a bit and romanticized simply as part of the fun and fantasy of the game. The Chivalric ideals and practices most people take to be the original article from the 13th and 14th centuries were actually strongest in the 11th century when it first appeared. By the 12th century it had already begun to fade. The resurgence of the Chivalric tradition that didn’t occur until the Tudor era and the Renaissance has been imported and combined with the earlier spirit to enhance the atmosphere of the game for roleplay. In the Renaissance, Chivalry enjoyed a rebirth and was further refined for the diversion of a somewhat disillusioned noble class that had begun to lose its sense of purpose. While Chivalry did exist historically in the period focused on in RoM, it was out of vogue and largely ignored. To enrich the fantasy for the purposes of the game, it is stipulated that Chivalry never went out of fashion; indeed, it is stronger than ever.
That is only one facet of the fantasy, though. A living, breathing society and a long tradition of working magick is another larger part of the fantasy. This puts the “Sorcery” (among other types of magick) in the “Swords & Sorcery” name for the genre. Many of the fantastical aspects of the game were inspired by the myths and legends of the ancient and medieval world, the charming folklore of Olde Europe, and fueled by the familiar fairytales of such noted people as the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson, the folktales of Britain and continental Europe. This becomes especially evident when reading through the magicks. Those tales make excellent inspirational reading for roleplaying. Yes, even for adults, or perhaps especially for adults! That is whom they were written for in the first place, anyway.
All mention of firearms and cannon have been completely left out of the game. While many elements of society, culture, and technology from the late 1300’s and into the 1400’s may be highly attractive for a medieval roleplaying environment that is essentially perpetual, the introduction of black powder and cannons as siege weapons into western European warfare during that century was already making castles and similar fortifications charmingly useless. In the same vein, in the 1400’s and later, matchlock and flintlock firearms were becoming the great equalizers in the arena of armed combat, turning the ideals of Chivalry and victory by dint of skill and strength of arm into a quaint but passé notion, Like the crossbow, they allowed one to kill a foe regardless of his social class or station without meeting him face to face for a contest of skill, challenging the feudal and signeurial status quo and highlighting the need for the old chivalric ideals.
In RoM are combined all the most attractive and desirable elements of the historic period that is the basis for the game – preserving the spirit of Chivalry and the charm and richness of medieval society and culture in which it grew up.
Although practically any number may play, RoM is truly best suited for 4 to 6 players of ages 10 and up. Roleplaying games take a bit of preparation to play, and a certain level of familiarity with the game system definitely helps. To put the group one step closer to being ready to play soonest, a set of pre-generated characters and an adventure tailor-made for them have all been included in these pages. It is recommended that the pre-generated characters be used until the players all have a good feel for the game system so they have a better understanding of the importance of the various aspects of the characters so they are better able to create characters tailored to their own desires and tastes using the Character Creation process provided.
Before they can even begin to set up to play a game, a good amount of planning and preparation must be done. First, the players must choose the one to be the moderator or referee – we call him the Game Master, or GM. It is the GM’s responsibility to create the background or environment in which the game takes place, planning the details that define the fictional “gameworld” through and against which the rest of the player’s characters live, move, and experience their adventures.
The GM is the referee, mediating between the other players, acting as a judge of sorts, interpreting the rules as they apply during the game. Unlike the rest of the players in the game, the GM is not actively involved or continuously concerned with the actions or persona of any one single character. It is his job, rather, to orchestrate everything and everyone NOT represented by an individual player, in creating and mediating the story-like situations and environment for the other players’ characters, helping them wend their way through the adventures he has written for their enjoyment.
The GM is a playwright setting the stage, a builder of fantasy sets for the PC party, the creator of nations and events. His job is to run the show, keeping events organized and the action moving along, as well as to referee between the players and mediate between the PC’s and his own NPC’s and the whole fantasy world. The GM makes judgement calls between them, and interprets the rules when needed. He provides good logical motivation for the characters to involve themselves in the plots he writes, to gather the characters together and weave an atmosphere around them in which camaraderie and team spirit can grow between players and characters alike.
The GM must be prepared to meet the demands of the player’s voracious imaginations, to roleplay the parts of any and all NPC creatures or peoples encountered by the PC’s, to extend his plots to deal with the unpredictable natures of the players constantly seeking to plumb and test the depths of his imagination and the integrity of his fantasy world in their quests for thrills and adventure.
While it may seem that the GM controls the greater part of the game, the GM should keep in mind that only a fairly small cast of NPC’s is directly involved with the PC’s at any given time, mostly involved in the storyline that the GM has created. The balance of NPC’s are minor characters, bit players or walk-ons, consisting of those involved in the characters’ daily lives, domestics and friends, or those the PC’s have actively sought out for whatever purpose, also the chance encounters used to give the characters some temporary relief from the adventure at hand. But plan as the GM may to the contrary, the PC’s are the lead characters, the stars that shape the game as it develops during play. The GM may write the original plots and stories, but the PC’s are the ones who by their actions determine how they unfold and are resolved, for better or worse. The PC’s are no mere puppets dangling at the ends of strings from the GM’s hands. Each player decides his own character’s actions with complete freedom like any person in the Real World. The players resolve the GM’s plots in the manner initially intended only generally, and then not all that often unless the GM knows his players very well. While the GM pushes certain buttons in the characters’ psyches by the use of certain plot elements, the PC’s may perceive the situation from another point of view entirely and react in a manner completely unforeseen.
The players should make no mistake; GMing can be a rather ambitious, time-consuming hobby. Running a game requires time and a good deal of energy and imagination. It is certainly no task to be undertaken on a whim or the spur of the moment. The rewards, on the other hand, are well worth it.
In choosing a GM, it usually works out that the one who owns the books takes first crack at GMing, but that doesn’t always necessarily have to be so. In settling on a GM, the players can afford to be a little choosy. It is only in the whole group’s best interest. The better the GM, the better the game for everyone.
This means the players should choose the one among them with the most fertile imagination or at least a talent for creative adaptation and greatest degree of creativity, A GM must be seen as very fair and even-handed in the eyes of the other players, and trusted to remain that way. He must have an easy-going nature, or other attribute(s) indicative of patience, to ensure he doesn’t jump all over the players for minor transgressions or rule infractions during play. The prospective GM should have a sharp wit, an agile mind, thinking well on his feet, maybe even already have a talent for telling amusing anecdotes or jokes, but he should show some attribute(s) to indicate that he has an engaging personality. He needs it. He should have a strong will and sense of presence to be able to keep the players on track and keep the game flowing smoothly. People of any sort of creative talent often make very good GM’s. Because of the actual work required in preparing and running the game, the GM must be able to deal with detail work, and have the time available for developing stories, NPC’s and their statistics to drive them in play and bookkeeping the position requires.
The previous point is of extreme importance.
It is the GM’s responsibility as the referee in charge of the game and how it goes to get to know the rules at least as well if not better than the other players. It can only improve the GM’s game. While every effort has been made to make this game as complete as could be, to make it homogenous, logical, and believable, no one is perfect and no doubt there is something here or there that may have been missed, or there may be a basic assumption or two with which the GM may not agree as he reads. It is the GM’s world, to do with as he pleases. The rules are but a framework that can be retooled to better serve the GM’s imagination when needed. The GM must always keep in mind the balance of the system if he does so, however, so all phases of play continue to work together smoothly.
The GM should be aware that some rules have been purposefully left more general so he can define them further himself, for the rules to be compatible with the widest possible spectrum of GM’s and their worlds. Some are presented in a historical mold and may or may not stand as written, especially things like calendars (which affect birthdays and starsigns), in turn affecting the arts of those who practice all the different forms of magick. Some aspects such as character race, trade or skills available may be restricted by the GM to suit the basic premise, the goal, or the geographic location of the adventure or campaign in the gameworld that the GM’s intends to run.
If the GM makes any changes that affect the process of creating a character, he must always notify the players before they create their characters for his game. Not having such information available to the players at that time or sooner just isn’t fair to them.
If any of the players has ever been a GM for another game before they may be preferable to the inexperienced. This way the GM is at least be familiar with the demands of the position. Like being a waiter, only the menu changes from restaurant to restaurant, the basics of the job stay the same. But may is the operative word here.
The players should get a take on the prospective GM’s point of view on magick and battle. Does he favor one over the other? How important are politics and social settings as opposed to the old-fashioned dungeon-bash? The players need to make sure his ideas are compatible with the kind of play they would prefer. What about character mortality – what percentage of the characters does he expect to die in the course of an adventure or campaign? Expecting any characters to die should send up a warning flare or two.
The players should be wary of making snap judgments, though. Anyone who wants to try should have an opportunity to GM at least once. If they are allowed to run only a single adventure, they are spared the work required to put together a whole campaign if the players decide to ask him to step aside and allow another to try. No doubt one among the group has the flair for GMing, or the makings of that flair.
Meanwhile, the rest of the players get to experience a deep involvement in their individual characters and the thrills and fun and sense of accomplishment for which roleplaying games are known. It is the player’s task to create his very own hero – the hero inside always imagined. Once the hero, or character, is created, hour after hour can be spent playing through his many adventures, plotting the ways in which his career and skills are to progress, a role tailor-made for the player’s own enjoyment!
All of the information presented here for the players is repeated with the additional information needed by the GM in the three books provided for his use. The PG has been put together to help the player, especially the novice, to eliminate as many questions as possible. Once the character is completed, there is the discussion of roleplaying in the medieval RoM environment, the do’s and don’ts and proper procedure for playing, advice and background to acquaint the player with the facts of the medieval world and help out with characterization. The actual rules defining what the characters can and can’t do in the context of the game follow, including the passages on combat, and ending with information and advice on getting the most out of the character skills and abilities.
It is highly recommended that all players read through this book thoroughly and get familiar with all parts of the game before actually generating a character and diving into play, regardless of previous role-playing experience. The appendices in the back half of the book have been set up to concentrate the bulk of the information the players need to refer to most for their characters during play primarily because it is assumed the players are going to spend far more time actually playing the game than generating new characters. RoM characters are designed to be fairly durable as long as the players don’t get careless or foolhardy.
While playing the game, the player may find it helpful to keep scrap paper, pad of paper, or notebook at hand for taking notes of points of interest or importance during play – names, places, dates, events, background information, history, etc.
Aside from pencils/pens, completed character record sheets, paper, notes, calendar, timeline, maps and the like for the adventure at hand, and the game book, all the players and GM needs to participate in a gaming sessions of RoM is a small set of polyhedral dice: a set of percentile dice, consisting of either one 10-sided and one 20-sided die, or two 20-sided dice, available in most hobby/game stores.