Welcome! Hail and well met! Welcome to Realms of Myth and fantasy roleplaying!
For those who don’t know what that means, this book is actually the rulebook for a game. What kind of game could have such an imposing collection of rules? 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.
The veterans of the hobby can easily skim over the Introduction, as it contains information valuable primarily to new-comers to the hobby, to make the game more accessible.
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 understand the action he is executing.
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 sometimes do, is NOT roleplay but role ASSUMPTION. 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 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. Roleplaying appeals to our sense of wonder, our desire to experience ‘what if …’. It lightens the spirit and unburdens the heart, even 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. Over time, the player gets the satisfaction of steering through the troubles of the game world to grow and prosper, gaining, skill, power, and prestige until he is the stuff of legends himself in the game world. The common-folk may sing songs of his adventures and tell his tales round the fire-pit, and children dream that they grow up to be like him one day.
All this and more!
High epic fantasy best describes any good medieval roleplaying game, and that is what Realms of Myth (RoM) is all about!
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 most wondrous the period has to offer, with all the grit of the down-trodden masses, to be sure, but without a lot 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 game world is essentially English in origin. 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, so examples of the Continental system is used at various times throughout the text to provide contrast.
But all of this is just 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, which finally put on paper the legacy of tales handed down one generation after another from earlier eras. This practice becomes particularly 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 for whom they were written in the first place, anyway.
Furthermore, 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 showing itself to be the great equalizer between the social classes on the field of battle, and already on its way to 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 from which it sprang.
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 also definitely helps.
To put the group one step closer to diving into play, a set of pre-generated characters and an adventure tailor-made for them have been included in these pages. It is recommended that the pre-generated characters provided be used until everyone has a good feel for the game system, a better understanding of the importance of the various aspects of the characters before creating your own character. This ensures that the players are better able to create characters tailored to their own desires and tastes when it comes time to get into the Character Generation process.
Before the game can even begin to be set up, a good amount of planning and preparation must be done. First, the players must get together to choose the one to be the moderator or referee – 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 “game world” through and against which the rest of the player’s characters live, move, and experience their adventures.
It is to YOU, the GM, that the rest of the text of the GHB’s is addressed.
You are 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, you are not actively involved or continuously concerned with the actions or persona of any one single character. It is your 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 you write, for their enjoyment.
As GM, you must remain fair and even-handed in the eyes of the other players, and trusted to remain that way. You should have an easy-going nature, or be able to adopt one, or other attribute(s) indicative of patience, to be sure not to jump all over the players for making “mistakes” during play. You should have a sharp wit, an agile mind, able to think well on your feet, maybe even already have a talent for telling amusing anecdotes or jokes, but you should show some attribute(s) to indicate you have an engaging personality. It is needed. You 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 having any sort of creative talent often make very good GM’s. Because of the actual work required in preparing and running the game, you need to be able to deal with a certain amount of detail work, and have the time available for the development and bookkeeping the position requires.
That last point is extremely important.
It is important when you are gathering players for your game that you bring together those you share some common ground with, who are suited to your style of play, and with a similar attitude to the game and level of maturity as your own. Of course, players newly met may take some time simply to acclimate to one another.
Before the game can begin, however, a fair amount of planning must be done.
Your 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 your own NPC’s and the whole fantasy world. As the GM, you are a playwright setting the stage, a builder of fantasy sets for the PC party, the creator of nations and events. You must make judgement calls between the PC’s, and interpret the rules when needed. You need to provide good logical motivation for the characters to involve themselves in the plots you write, to gather the characters together and weave an atmosphere around them in which camaraderie and team spirit can grow between players and characters alike.
You 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, you should keep in mind that only a fairly small cast of your NPC’s is directly involved with the PC’s at any given time, mostly concerned with the storyline you created or the PCs’ daily domestic arrangements. The balance of NPC’s are minor characters, bit players or walk-ons, stepping into and out of the PCs’ daily lives, their 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 or to break up an otherwise uneventful travelogue. BUT, plan as you may to the contrary, the PC’s are the lead characters, the stars that shape the stories you want to tell, as they develop during play. You may write the original plots and stories, but the PC’s are the ones who determine how they unfold and are resolved, by their actions, for better or worse. The PC’s are no mere puppets dangling by strings from your hands. Each player decides his own character’s actions with complete freedom like any person in the Real World. The players are likely to resolve your plots only approximately the way you intended, and then not even that all that often unless you really know your players very well. While you push certain buttons in the PCs’ 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.
Make no mistake before making the commitment; GMing can be an ambitious and time-consuming undertaking. 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.
To set you up for success, RoM is divided into volumes supporting your endeavor. The Game Master’s Handbook I (GHB I) you are holding now was written specifically to meet your needs as GM. It contains the heart of the game system, as well as providing all the basics to help you to pull your game world together and weave your PC’s into it. It’s designed to take most of the guess-work out of setting up and running a medieval fantasy roleplaying game and help you coordinate the massive amount and variety of information needed in the course of play.
The GHB Appendices, Part 1. assembles the race descriptions, both Trade Skill and Life Skill descriptions, and character equipment, weapons, and armor and their attendant notes for easy reference during play.
The GHB Appendices, Part 2. contains all the Trade descriptions.
As its name implies, the GHB II. The Grimoire contains all the rules governing the use of magick in the game along with a compendium of the hundreds of charms that may eventually be discovered and perhaps mastered by the PC’s.
As its name implies once again, the GHB III. The Bestiary presents a collection of beasties great and small, mundane and mythological, that are available for your use as GM in entertaining the PC’s and populating your game world.
Your GHB contains all the information the players are equipped with in their Players’ Guides plus any commentary needed to put it in perspective and address your needs as GM.
For their use, your players have their Players’ Guide I (PG I), PG Appendices, Part 1. and Part 2., and PG II. The Grimoire. These are abbreviated for the purposes and use of the players, for they have no need to see “behind the curtain”, so to speak, no business perusing the tools and advice provided for the GM. It spoils the illusion.
These books contain a wealth of information that you won’t need immediately, but for which over the course of time you may find many uses as your game unfolds. Every effort has been made within these pages to explain all of the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s, how’s, and why’s of the game system and your responsibilities.