How to make a Low-fantasy setting?

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I recently "interviewed" my players and most of them showed an inclination towards a low-fantasy setting, which is awesome because I like low fantasy too! Now I know that D&D (all editions) cater more towards high fantasy and Im taking out magic that is against the tone of the setting. Spells like revive, wish or anything that could warp dimensions or collapse stars are removed or only available to extremely rare and powerful beings. Magic weapons will cap out a +1 bonus to attack and damage, but have other effects it can do. Most monsters on the MM will retweaked to be more dangerous. Non-magic healing and consumables are alot more effective but won't overshadow actual magic. I also let my players choose any race for its numeric benefits, but fluff-wise they would be the standard fantasy races albiet with some unique abilities.

 

Is there anything else that I should add/remove?

Well, it really depends on what kind of "low fantasy" you're looking for. Are you going for something more realistic? Or something more like the Conan setting where magic is rare, complicated, but extremely powerful?

 

Some more details on the type of setting you're trying to create would help.

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There is a world just around the corner of your mind, where reality is an intruder and dreams come true.

You may escape into it at will. You need no secret password, no magic wand or Aladdin's lamp;

only your own imagination and curiosity about things that never were.

Well the setting itself is not unlike the one depicted in The Witcher novels and games. Human dominance, general subjugation of non-human races. Magic exists and is still a powerful force, but is dangerous to the user. I'm trying to make my players depend less on saving obscene amounts of gold to buy a magic item, so consumables are important to have (For example, there is a solution called Quick-Silver, which gives you the Silvered Quality for a day without the drawbacks of using an actual silver weapon). Alot of the monsters would be difficult to fight if the players were unprepared.  

 

The setting takes place in the Empire of Amerys, a prominant expansionist nation within the Midland Territories. A recent failed campaign against the Elven-led country of Mielhiem has left the King dead and he has no obvious heirs. The aristocracy is in shambles, with faction after faction proposing their own as the new de-facto rulers and civil war is coming. The destabilization of the country has made it a popular haven for cults, political radicals and other unsavory groups. The surrounding nations eye the situation eagerly like vultures, waiting for a chance to take back their territories and make the people of Amerys pay for every atrocity committed against their peoples. Currently the players are rag-tag mercenaries, veterans of the Mielhiem conflict, but recently became adventurers in hopes of turning a profit. 

Do you intend to let the players take levels in magic-using classes? If you do, how would you implement them? Is magic a "lost art" that they would need to go out of their way to learn from one of the handful of groups that still practices, or is it similar to sorceror magic where they're "born with it" and have to learn to control their newfound power?

 

Also, if you're intending for most/all of their "magic" abilities to come from consumables, it may be a good idea to make some of them stronger, like giving healing potions (at least ones that mimic higher-level healing) a higher number/type of dice or having them heal a set amount of HP. 

Diachronos wrote:

Do you intend to let the players take levels in magic-using classes? If you do, how would you implement them? Is magic a "lost art" that they would need to go out of their way to learn from one of the handful of groups that still practices, or is it similar to sorceror magic where they're "born with it" and have to learn to control their newfound power?

 

Also, if you're intending for most/all of their "magic" abilities to come from consumables, it may be a good idea to make some of them stronger, like giving healing potions (at least ones that mimic higher-level healing) a higher number/type of dice or having them heal a set amount of HP. 

 

My players can take levels in caster classes, but only multiclass and in only every other level. They may also take caster classes that are like a mixture of a non-caster and a caster class(ex Spellthief). Yeah, I'm totally going to make the effects of items stronger and harder to avoid. I got this idea of healing surges from when I DMed 4e(same group) a while ago, so players have the number of healing surges equal to average of their highest Hit Die plus their con mod (so a fighter with 16 con has 5+3=8 healing surges). Potions heals equal to the  their con score times the level of the item (Potions beyond level 1 are going to be really rare) plus the surge value. 

I've done something similar - I've created a world where magic exists, but it's dangerous due to the demonic attention (Conanesque) it brings and I don't give the adventureres access to magic at all to begin with, and the only encounters they have are with dark magic, or at least hostile magic (possession, magical mazes etc). Additionally, I've had an Atlantis-style land collapse due to magic and another collapse due to a necromancer, so mages are also persecuted by humans, specifically the Arcani of the Dracaeni Empire in my game. I'm using a WoD system for combat and spells, but rewrite and balance any spells the players want. The D&D system isn't well suited for low magic campaigns imho. 

 

How do you plan to handle the ever increase bonused (attck and defense mainly) associated with 4e?  If you want to go low-fantasy gritty feel here is my suggest.

 

1) Use inherit bonuses from the DMG 2

 

2) Cap your advanement to lvl 10 (just like 13th age).    Stretch out the XP requirements for each level as needed to extend the time needed to level up.  This will eliminate at lot of the over the top powers to would break your low-fantasy feel.

 

3) Revise all monster levels down by 1/3 (30th lvl red dragon becomes 20th lvl etc.).  Adjust monster HP and attack/defense bonuses as appropriate for the level change, but leave damage the same.  This squeezes all the monsters down into your playing range and makes them more deadly.  It sounds hard, but it is not that difficult and it is really simple if you have the monster builderworked.  It worked for me:  I had a party of 6 at lvl 10 take out a lvl 18 balor converted down like this.  Though I am caping my group at level 20.

 

I think those simple changes will get you the feel your looking for.  I hope that helps.

Low fantasy? - 

 

 - The protagonists are from the real world

- The action is set in the real world with only limited magical happenings

- The fantasy world is like the real world and it only has limited magical happenings, too.

 

Is this what you mean?

 

I always thought it used to mean: the fate of the world doesn't hang in the balance depending on the protagonists' actions. Thus, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were classic low fantasy to me, even though they might be classified as high fantasy acccording to the above definitions.

 

"Currently the players are rag-tag mercenaries..."

 

OK that sounds like the Low Fantasy I get.

 

To me Low Fantasy goes like this:

 

- Lots of really detailed descriptions of treasure (use actual images of real gems if need be).

- Nemesis who try to steal said treasure

- Gambling dens and PCs with low impulse control

 - If the PCs ever try to go to a 'library' or do 'research', make sure the bulding burns down or collapses.

- Most relevant information comes from the mouths of NPCs (especially while they are dying). Or, from anonymous letters.

- Most monsters do not have any names. They are just "that thing that attacked us back there."

- All adventures start in media res. If the PCs are going to the jungle, they're in the jungle. No travel and no second guessing. 

- NPCs get killed often, and gratuitously. Being friends with the PCs is dangerous.

 

etc.

 

Have fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of my games are low-fantasy; high-fantasy makes the game kind of bland and mundane;  if you're killing dragons left and right, where's the awe?


I don't really run to many games for the d20;  magic sometimes is something you are born with or it's something like religious-faith, depending.

 

I like the low-magic world presented in Game of Thrones an A Song of Ice and Fire books; yes, there are wizards, dragons and giants, but the world isn't populated with them like in a D&D game.

 

Low-fantasy worlds tend to be more political / human dealings than fantasy (fighting monsters, clearing dungeons etc.).  Now, you're dealing with people, trade, wars etc.  Different and sometimes boring for those used to dungeon-crawling.

 

You don't need to make new rules to limit magic, you just don't use monsters, magic-items and wizards as much.  Perhaps the town knows that there is a druid in the woods, or maybe there's a cleric in a temple in a major city that knows real magic.

Also, low-magic makes magical-items invaluable. You'd never sell your magic-sword if you've been gaming for 12 levels and that's the first magical item you have found.

 

 

 

Famous Athasian last words: "Hey, you're wrong. I know elves, I've played AD&D for eight years. They're noble, sylvan creatures who will honor their word." In the desert, everything's further than it looks.

http://www.sasquatchgamestudio.com/primeval-thule-sword-and-sorcery-or-dd/

 

Check out the upcoming PRIMEVAL THULE.

 

I love low fantasy and will be getting this as soon as it releases.

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." Albert Einstein

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