Thursday 16 April 2015

Help Wanted: RPG Settings that Would Make Awesome Wargames

I'm not a huge RPGer.  Whilst I dabble in them on PC my interest in pen-and-paper RPGs is almost non existent.  However they do attract very imaginative world builders who create amazing settings.

I'm vaguely aware over the last decade there's been a bit of an explosion of smaller, indie RPGs with interesting mechanics and settings.  But I've never bothered to go down the rabbit hole, and sift through the terribly written fanfics (aka fluff) and sometimes-inspired-but-often-awful rules to look for the gems.

I'm looking for readers to help me out.  I'm looking for RPG settings that are interesting, and preferably original/a fresh take on a genre.  Specifically, settings that would adapt well to a wargame.

Can you provide the title, a link, a description of what it is, and if you know of any rules/minis that would fit the setting.

Here's an example of a helpful comment:

The Savage World of Solomon Kane

It's based on the Howard books about a puritan witch hunter who fights pirates, witchdoctors, lost tribes, undead, monsters and basically any other occult/cool stuff in about the 18th century. 

You could simply use the Savage Worlds rules as they play pretty fast.  LOTR could be modded.  Song of Blades and Heroes or the Four Colour rules would probably work well. You can use pretty much any historical models like those from Blue Moon in 15mm or Old Glory 28mm, and simply modify a Warhammer witch-hunter for the main hero. Would be a fun campaign game.  May suit the 2HW narrative style rules. 

You don't have to be as detailed as this, but you get the idea.

You can pick any genre or era - it's unrestricted.  However there MUST be miniatures to play it.  You favourite RPG with octopus-armed cat cyborgs is useless, unless octopus-armed cat cyborg miniatures are available.

Our communal hunt for free rules was pretty successful and I'm confident we'll unearth some good stuff. Come out, closet RPG nerds - now is your hour!


  1. Funny you should mention this - I have quite a collection of RPG materials but don't play RPGs in general. I do, however, love good setting to game in. In fact, I can't really get into a game if it doesn't have a good setting and feel for me.

    Blue Planet RPG - Mankind has built his first colony on the world of Poseidon, a water world with only small, archipelagic land masses. But the world cut been cut off from Earth for a little while. With the lack of supplies, the core cities have survived well but outlying areas have regressed. Lots of options for rules here depending on where you want to take it.

    2300AD - Hard Science in the relatively new future. Humanity has colonised the near stars, but taken his balkanised politics with him. Perfect to use with any SF figs that fit the futuristic and realistic style. Perfect for TW, Gruntz or similar.

    Space 1889. Grab your Martini Henri rifle - its time to give Johnny Martian and those upstart Prussians a good thrashing on the Red planet! 'Nuff said about this classic VSF setting

    1. Blue Planet. I'm thinking only along the lines of underwater fighters (gotta find a use for those Em4 minis) but what about ground combat? What tech etc?

      And the Traveller reference comes in 3...2...1 *Bingo!* (I admit I saw this one coming). Haven't had much to do with Traveller RPG (space game only) but I'm presuming generic TW style setting...

      What minis are available for 1889, do you know? Besides the RAFM stuff? I recall a kickstarter but I haven't seen minis kicking about. I've seen the Savage Worlds rulebook but bit offput by the $50 price tag.

    2. Travel 2300AD is a lot more near future than standard Traveller, and yes its a gimme but it had to be said! I made up some 6mm forces from the 2300Ad background a few decades ago, and used Dirtside II as rules.

      Blue Planet - also broadly near future. Think Avatar style tech that the Miners had, with lots more water craft. The restricted amount of land means that ground combat is more skirmish level with some light vehicles, and mostly around corporate security/hitmen/renegades. Now that I think about it, Infinity would work nicely for that.

      1889 - any Colonial/VSF figs would work and there are literally dozens of companies that do them

    3. It's not the colonial/VSF figs I'm concerned about - it's the Martians.

      I think Black Hat did them in 15mm? (but they look a bit dodgy) and Bronze Age did some beautiful ones in 28mm (but very $$$ and only a few sculpts). But that's all I know of - I thought there would be newer model lines after the Kickstarter...

    4. The Black Hat figures aren't too bad - I've even been able to mix in some FIW Iroquois to round out numbers as the Martians are similar in style to the RAFM 25mm. The Green Martians are larger than the Peter Pig ones, and superior sculpts. Black Hat also has a number of Martian riding beast.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. Rebel Minis has a small range of 15mm pulp & steampunk minis that would work well for 1889. I own a handful of them I use for steampunk settings (both RPG & skirmish gaming) and they're pretty decent sculpts.

  2. Sadly there is no official Link I know of but the old "Known World" setting form basic D&D(late 80s and 90s) has always been a favorite of mine. Most of it is out of print but you had a wealth of interesting cultures to consider. Nations include: Thyatian Empire (Byzantine), the Grand Duchy of Karameikos(Central/eastern Europe) , the Principalities of Glantri(Wizard city states) , the merchant-run Republic of Darokin (sort of Renissiance Italian/German), the Emirates of Ylaruam(Arabian nights), the Dwarven nation of Rockhome, the Elven Kingdom of Alfheim, Halfling lands of the Five Shires... There was also a Horse Tribe culture. The Griping Beast Saga lines would probably work for many. you could use GW Warhammer figures for Darokin, Dwarves and Glantri. Lord of the Rings would work for elves and halflings. Not my best suggestion but maybe it will help. The had a modal called Red Arrow Back shield that detailed a massive continent spanning war as a back ground to your RPG adventure that is worth checking out, if you can find it.

    1. The winner is - Adam! (For actually mentioning figures that could be used to game it)

      So the "Known World" is the D&D from before "Forgotten Realms" which I have heard of?

    2. Yes it was latter renamed Mystara there were a series of Gazetteers that started coming out in 1987 GAZ1 was the Grand Duchy of Karameikos (latter Kingdom) I believe the Forgotton relmns may predated it but it was for D&D basic not AD&D They ran parallel for a long time but never had the novels. It was a great setting some times things didn't make sense Mongols living next to Vikings but no Chinese but each country had a set of leaders, cities, some details on the army etc. Lots of good adventure hooks. One reason I liked it better than Forgotten Realms was you didn't have any expectation that supper powered NPC like Drizzit or Elminster would show up. Also they had great hex maps perfect for running a campaign.

  3. Firestorm: Mercs And Planes is a modification on Airwar C21 that makes it cool to play a master with a few players and can be still played like a wargame, just with fluff, some rpg elements to grow the character and a rpg campaing made by the master.

    Heres the forum though you cant see much if you're not registered:

    1. AirWar C21. Now that's an interesting ruleset - an actually an aerial ruleset that has coherent rules (*cough BtH cough) and no stupid written orders (*cough CY6 cough*)... ....but it chooses to abstract altitude... know, the chief defining attribute of air combat. :-/

  4. I'd recommend Equinox from Vagrant Workshop...

    I was one of the writers on this project so I'm not exactly impartial.

    1. In that case you might know:
      *what sets Equinox apart from the usual generic space fantasy?
      *any miniature lines that would fit?

    2. Equinox is a science fantasy... but not with the traditional fantasy races. It is a setting where science and magic are almost inseparable and all PCs have access to some magical powers, some are actually 'spell-slingers' others have magically enhanced abilities.

      The great enemy is the Protectorate, the forces of law and order. PCs are Vagrants, Resistance Fighters and Pirates. There are also things in the darkness.

      The Earth has been reduced to a massive asteroid belt, most of the action takes place in the Sol system, but there are other worlds out there.

      Would make a good setting for a space ship game, as it would add an extra level to such games... real and astral space, and the strange things that live there.

  5. You may think Im crazy, but the 1st Edition of Warhammer roleplay and the corresponding novels, which Sometimes can be bought for 1 ct at Amazon, offer some great ideas. I wonder why no one ever has made a wargame out of these...oh wait.

    What set the old world apart from what GW sells now? A late medieval/renaissance europe with a dark twist. Chaos was working much like the old ones in Call of Thulhu. It was secret cults of normal men which brought the downfall of cities. The forests roamed by beastmen. You know, the evil things in Brothers Grimms fairy tales were true!
    Then there was the steampunk twist with Leonardo's machinery, and a twisted humour which is still great. A wizard defending a village by raising the dead! These are the good guys, remember.

    You have slave traders, half-orcs hiding in human cities, hobgoblin mongols, river traders. Marco Polo discovering Cathay! And the best things Fimirs, demonic cyclopic lizards hiding in the marshes of the old world, and the slann, demon aztec frogs from out of space which had built a civilisation in america.

    How can you make a better tabletop by going backwards in WH history? Tone done the magickal elements, kill off all thats unfitting, like the high medieval brettonian knights, and make it basically the renaissance with a bit of magic and call of cthulhu. And now add the leonardo steampunk and you get some great ideas for wargaming.

    Conquistadors on a flying ship? Discovering 16/17th ct. japan? Maybe even the Moon. Just forget about all that was written after the golden age of white dwarf and the warhammer ruleset.

    Models. Well the old Citadel range works but is horribly expensive on ebay. Thank goodness a lot of manufacturers have good historicals in 15mm and 28mm (ral partha, foundry, or my faves Mirliton and the polish guys behind By Fire and Sword).
    Fantasy elements would have to be carefully introduced. Please no hordes of demons and comic orcs running around for obviously no other reason than to destroy stuff.
    Orcs would be driven into a raiding lifestyle by technologically superior humans, but not necessarily evil.
    Maybe even the Turks would be a greater open enemy than some fantasy creatures.

    I see a lot of potential here, especially if the scifi elements given by the slann and Leonardo's machines are take for good use. Flying ships battling it out in the sky. Maybe some Conquistadors would even reach the Moon?

    I hope, you get my ideas. Was a bit chaotic, but had to be said:)

    1. Actually I didn't get into Warhammer itself (I hate the painting involved in a mass battle game = i.e. spending hours on glorified hitmarkers) but I always enjoyed Mordhiem more than Judge Dredd-knockoff Necromunda.

      As GW has "canonized" everything, it has shrunk its world. I've noticed it in 40K. Once there was a huge universe, of which orcs, Eldar, the Imperium etc were only a part. Your imagination was free to roam.

      Now we have only official factions (the rest are written out) who are locked into endlessly fight each other. No alien races exist. There is nothing new to be discovered. The factions may divided into sub factions and examined in detail, but the scope is getting SMALLER. There is only one period in time (OK, two with Horus Heresey which has only 2 main factions), and the action is concentrated around one system.

      It seems Warhammer has done something similar.... What's Cathay?

    2. Yep, indeed it did. In the "good old days", the empire was merely one of several human kingdoms, a fantastic Renaissance Germany, then you had not those stupid high medieval bretonnians, which are using severl hundred Year old technology, RIGHT next to another human kingdom nowadays, ugh! Makes me angry. Bretonnians as they are described in the old rulebook are much more to absolutist France of the 17th ct, and thus roughly comparable with the Empire.

      In the far east you had Cathay (China), Nippon and India. So great adventuring possibilites. Imagine, Marco Polo or the series Shogun and you get my idea.

    3. I always come up with thoughts after I push the publish button.
      The Solomon Kane ruleset would work perfectly for this, i bought it after reading the review here and its very good indeed. Needs only to be fleshed with typical warhammer monsters and voila!

      Another great source of inspiration are Howards other stories from the Renaissance about the Red Sonja and Black Agnes. Red Sonja was actually imagined by him to be something like a female Landsknecht and would make a great companion for Solomon. I bought the stories for my kindle in a collection which was very cheap at Amazon.

  6. And something else. I also am a big fan of Space 1889, and for cheap 15mm models, there are several good sources:
    Khurasan has a Pulp/WWI/Dino-series.
    Rebel Miniatures has some excellent steampunk/VSF models
    Highlander Miniatures has a few good packs
    Ral Partha Europe has 18mm Steampunk British

    For Martians I also highly recommend painting any kind of Fantasy Barbarians and Elves with different skin tones (blue/red work great) and if possible add a gun here and there. works great!

    What I dont know at all is where to get flying ships that look Victorian. HAs anyone a good idea? I was thinking of Star Wars toys (Jabba the hut has some skiffs) and GW's Dark Eldar. Both are however on the very pricy side of the hobby.

    1. Star Wars stuff is often in the throwout bin. I picked up some AT-ST quad walkers and some hovertanks for $4 each - they're 1:144 I think so work OKish for 15mm. Also those crappy kids toys with springloaded guns and stuff often work well - I am considering stripping down a $10 Batcopter to turn it into a dropship for 15mm.

      I'd love to do a Khurasan order but their postage is $30 (ouch!) wheras Rebel is only $6....

    2. ...but back to your question, I grabbed some Dark Eldar raider barges on ebay for about $15 each a few years back, and they would be my "skyships" I think. They're currently being used for my 15mm Dark Eldar i got from

      Again rambling a little, I see you can do LOTR with Khurasan now - wish I knew that before I embarked on my mammoth 28mm collection....

    3. Oh dear. The same happened to me. And then i also bought 10mm lotr.

      And to hurt our feelings even more, apart from khurasan, there are allso the old 15mm grenadier models sold by mirliton and a manufacturer in the uk, whom i cannot recall right now. They make EXCELLENT tolkienesque Elves and Orcs.

    4. Okay, i have to look at ebay, but where I live, star wars stuff often goes for very high prices.

      Khurasan might be expensive, and often you have to pay cutoms in addition to it, but his scifi stuff is well worth this. I can only recommend the models very very highly!

      They made me play rogue trader again, with a devious genestealer cult!

    5. Yeah, I have probably 6 or 7 Khurasan sci fi armies. But there was a massive price hike in postage from ~$15 to $30. That's a big deal, unless your buying $200 worth of minis (which I cannot afford to do). As opposed to Rebel whose minis I generally like less, but manage to post for $6....

    6. I haven't had fantasy 15mm, but I remember demonworld had good ones ages back - they were ahead of their time, back when 15mm hadn't had its renaissance.

      Corvus Belli had great 15mms, but have discontinued them I think? Focussing on Infinity must be much more profitable...

  7. Agreed. And the models are still top notch and have the big advantage of having several complete armies to choose from.

    A local shop here still had some Corvus Belli the last time I checked. These are definitely very good.

    Quite on the big and comicky (speak modern GWish) side are Magister Militum. Their Orcs are nevertheless very good as well as many of the monsters.
    Splintered Lights in my opinion have excellent Orcs, which might also serve as Uruks for 15mm LotR, as well as the best 15mm Ratmen I have ever seen, and some nice yet small Drow.

    P&P is often scaring me, too. Thank goodness Khurasans postage to Germany is still reasonable. For SciFi in general and also for VSF/Steampunk I found that many of the models sold for the bigger scales actually look better when placed next to 15mm. I have some great clockwork automatons from the old Deadlands the great railwar minis, for instance.