PbtA for a trad fantasy game?

Hi Gauntlet Community…

I’m hoping for a recommendation or two (or tell me it’s folly), but there was a French RPG translated to English back in the 90s called “Agone”. No, not “Agon”, the greek odyssey RPG but Agone. It was a setting evolved from a series of novels called the Chronicles of the Twilight Realms by Mathieu Gaborit, and the author was involved in fleshing out the universe.

It’s very “trad” in that there’s a lot of depth and detail to the setting, but I like the idea of taking these kinds of trad settings and using them as a backdrop for a PbtA game. The setting itself doesn’t have to be rigid and just like in any other PbtA game, what we the players create can still collaboratively create and change the world, but it’s like a stepping stone to start with.

Presuming anyone reading this thinks something like that could work (or perhaps if you’ve tried it before), what would PbtA game might work for a game set in a dramatic fantasy one shot or campaign? I’m thinking Stonetop, because the default setting of Agone is based on a specific Domain, where the players play middle-aged beings that hold specific Office with responsibilities in said domain. But the game might also involve some exploration.

I hope it’s not absolute madness, but open to ideas if anyone has any…?


I can’t think of an existing game that would be a good fit (maybe others can). But PbtA is easily hackable. My favorite thing about PbtA is how it uses its mechanics to emulate genres. So you might want to think about the stats that would reflect the most important attributes of the heroes in Agone, and start building from there. Sounds like a fun project!

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I know nothing about it but seems interesting enough to reply :slight_smile:

I used PbtA for trad settings with success. My question is: Do you want to create a tailor-made game around the setting? Or you just need some vague, generic moves?

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Thank you! After I posted this, I remembered that Legacy also deals with macro scale management of a community.

Yeah, it is eminently hackable, isn’t it? I tried building playbooks for Agone specifically at one point, but kind of got lost in the haze of possibility and how to divvy things up (the original game has races/places in addition to the aforementioned Offices). I had trouble distilling things down. But it helps to think of the stats first (I presume that’s what you @HecticElectron mean by attributes…).

As for @Deodatus’ question… I think I would be happy with some vague, generic moves. A tailor-made game could come later perhaps. But I suspect that apart from the world map of the Twilight Realms, things might move pretty quickly away from the default setting when they start creating their characters and worldbuilding.

You say “dramatic fantasy based on a series of novels” and I think Fantasy World (and sorry for the self-promotion :sweat_smile:).

If you want to mechanically manage a community, then no. You would need to hack stuff into FW.
But if you want PLAY to focus on a community/territory with the PCs as important movers and shakers, then FW will work well.

Also, it works best for campaigns. One-shots make a good chunk of the core mechanics less than relevant :grimacing:

I would be happy with some vague, generic moves.

You can easily use the “Kin” mechanic to bring your “domains” into play.
Use the “Fellowship” mechanic to root play around a community.
And the “Issue+Doubt” mechanics will take care of making the game dramatic.

Other than that, I guess we need more info about this setting to know which game had mechanics that attract fit it’s fictional systems.
Like, how does magic work there?
How do religions and gods factor into the narrative?

FW will be officially published (if no other delays occur) by the end of the year :crossed_fingers:
In the meantime you can check your the complete and final text in gDoc format, here:

(There is a free wiki version but at the moment it’s heavily outdated and will only be brought up to speed after the commercial pdf gets released)


Thank you, Alessandro! Self promotion isn’t fazing me at the moment, so thank you for suggesting your game.

But if you want PLAY to focus on a community/territory with the PCs as important movers and shakers, then FW will work well.

In actual fact, yes, this IS what I want to do. I’m not bothered about the mechanics of a community, it’s more of a set of dramatic points for the characters to pivot around. So with your suggestions (they sound like Moves— I’m keen to check them out, thanks so much for linking to the text so I can peruse), yes, it sounds like your game is a great fit!

Like, how does magic work there?

Well, without delving too much into things, it involves a relationship with a magical creature called a Dancer and the type of mage and their spells largely depends which of the three types of relationships (symbiotic, bargaining, or adversarial). But the actual spells across the lists are fairly typical for a Fantasy setting, healing and life magic, illusory, harming and destructive, etc.

There is another type of magic (that only players can do) that doesn’t involve Dancers and it’s basically magical Artwork (subdivided into singing/music, sculpture, painting, poetry), but the original text has a similar but different spell list, as far as I recall. Improvised spells are also possible in both strains of magic.

How do religions and gods factor into the narrative?

There’s a pretty fascinating backstory, IMO and world creation myth, which is one of the things I love about the setting. There’s not a lot of overt Religion in the game (though one nation/faction called the Liturgical Province is overbearingly devout), but it’s not like Faerun or Warhammer where there are big pantheons of gods and demi-gods, etc. Their analogues may exist (one of the supplements involves a being known as the King of Spring), but strangely in the few materials that were translated into English, they barely get a mention. There’s something about how most average folks practice some form of ancestor worship, but that’s all that’s really said about it. Oh, but there are demons and summoners, though.

Anyway, sorry for the long-winded answers— thank you so much for the suggestion, though, and fingers crossed for your full release, I’ll definitely be looking out for it!!

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Meh, I’m a long winded poster too. Don’t worry :rofl:

That sounds about right in regards of what FW provides :wink:
What I mentioned earlier are not moves, but narrative and mechanical structures that will allow you to define a lot of things from the setting in a game-relevant way but without the need to “design new rules”.
You’ll see :slightly_smiling_face:

About magic, FW provides a few classic options through its classes (the Troubadour might be a very close match to the magical artists you mentioned, the Occultist can be “coloured” to fit the Dancers idea… while the Wildcaller literally works like that already, but has access to less standard spells than ye olde magic missile :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:).
These can easily be fiction-skinned to look more like whatever you have in your setting.
But in the end, FW’s goal is not to perfectly mimic any possible feature of a certain setting, but rather to provide and leverage narrative structures and mechanics that will make play behave and feel like the reference novels by helping bringing to the
r table, and then explore, the themes you want.

So the vanilla mechanics have strong opinions on how magic works, but you can easily adapt it’s look and feel to resemble (if not match 100%) your reference material.

Another place where FW system is strongly opinionated is magical healing, that basically does not exist, unless you kind of implement it through narrative.
Violence is meaningful and has consequences the game does not allow you to take lightly, unless you go under the hood and change it for your table.

Same goes for religion.
In FW religions can and do exist, and there is a whole class (the Priest) to explore that.
But mechanically “gods are silent”.
They don’t provide powers, don’t communicate with chosen ones, don’t make in mortal affairs… they don’t exist mechanically, and even dictionary their presence is quite limited.
It’s a strong choice that breaks many classic fantasy GAME clichés, but fits most fantasy NARRATIVES.
Anyway, looks like your setting of reference already did something similar, so no problem :wink::+1:

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FW sounds like just what I’m looking for! Thanks for taking the time to explain things, I really appreciate it.

FWIW, I’m not really that bothered about replicating the entire setting with total and complete accuracy, but rather taking the broad strokes (the world map, some of the nations, some of the great creative ideas that were already present like the function of art, the deep “sense” of history, the races inspired by greek myths, etc.). It really is about exploring the themes, especially in broad strokes, so that the players can also be free to collaboratively add to the world if they want. I’m still curious to know whether or not this will be a sticking point, presuming I’m playing with a group that is used to narrative, fiction-first, improvisational games where the players have as much if not more authorial freedom as the GM.

So I’m excited to give it a go and see how well it works in the context of evoking the feel and some of the themes of the original game, without getting in the way of things.

My next question is I wonder how it might fit into replicating a similar experience for my other other favourite “trad” setting… the “science fantasy” milieu of Skyrealms of Jorune… I imagine it would be very similar to evoking Agone… but things don’t so much as need to be re-skinned, in this case, as renamed. Because the setting is still very much Fantasy, but with a few “Expedition to the Barrier Peaks” bits of magical science “artefacts” thrown in for good measure.

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Perfect :slight_smile:

Yeah that depends a lot from the group’s attitude.
It might be helpful that FW removes (as much as possible) grey areas, murky patches and open negotiation… whenever possible it is clear when the Player is asket to describe something, or the World (the GM) is asked to describe something… and then how.
This can often help make the game feel less “anyone can say whatever” and more structured.
And while Players are given a lot of latitude in contributing to the game narrative, this is usually strictly tied to their specific PC and their perspective and immediate relevant elements.
And like in most PbtA games, the World can easily tune up or down how much they lean on the Players for OOC info.

You should be fine :wink:

But yeah, some players complain that the “skill progression” is tied to inner personal growth… they will still have friction with the idea that, after getting over your Problem with your brother, you get a new “power” :stuck_out_tongue:
But that’s a superficial reaction to something they perceive as different… it can easily be explained away just like Hit Points in D&D and any other abstract mechanic in any rpg.

Just talk to them first, help them set the right expectations. As usual. The rules help you a bit in this too :slight_smile:

I see no problems there :slight_smile:
I once played a space-fantasy campaign we named Ulysses-31 (if anyone remembers that ancient cartoon :sweat_smile: ).
Ancient greek kind of culture, but that can sail ships through space, which is a breathable emptyness connecting planets. And planets are flat disks.
We have energy and high-tech but in the guise of ancient greek stuff.
We have only “humans” but with different skin and hair colors… all linked to some metal: bronze, silver, gold, etc.

One of the official quicksettings published in the Kosmohedron supplement is an Escaflowne-inspired one… so a classic fantasy with frikking mecha suits and kaiju-sized monsters :rofl:
(by Grant Howitt)

So I don’t think that Skyrealms will be a problem either :sunglasses:

Let me know if you have any doubts or problems with the FW text :slight_smile:

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I once played a space-fantasy campaign we named Ulysses-31 (if anyone remembers that ancient cartoon :sweat_smile: ).
Ancient greek kind of culture, but that can sail ships through space, which is a breathable emptyness connecting planets. And planets are flat disks.
We have energy and high-tech but in the guise of ancient greek stuff.

What is this amazingness of which you speak?? I hadn’t heard of Ulysses-31 before, but it definitely sounds like something I need to know more about!!

Ah, Grant Howitt, I once knew the badger! Yes, definitely if FW fits for both these, I’m more than certain it will fit the bill for Agone and Jorune. Hooray! I’ve tentatively got Agone via FW on the docket for this November, so hoping to find out first hand soon! :smile: Definitely, if it helps, I’d be happy to feed back any typos or things like that if you haven’t already quashed them all.

Ulysse 31 (french version) : https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x18zx8y

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