Sword and Magic: Adventures on Fomalhaut. Fantasy Roleplaying Game
by Gabor Lux
This 24 page document represents the distilled core rules of Kard és Mágia, my homebrew old school OGL variant. Published in 2008, the game has surprisingly attracted some attention outside Hungary, and some of my friends on international message boards have asked me if I could translate it some day. That was not possible: the original consists of altogether 190 pages of dense 9-point text, a tremendous task to recreate in English. I have also felt some of it would not be interesting for the English-speaking audience, since the game was written not just to present a way of playing games in the classical style while also retaining the elegance of the basic d20 rules framework, but also as an introduction to the concept of old school gaming (a style virtually unknown in Hungary) and, to an extent, a polemic against the state of the Hungarian gaming scene, where imagination, adventure and the primal strangeness of original fantasy have largely been suppressed by an inflexible and dogmatic preference for mundane detail.
Contrary to the thoughts I held a few years ago, the idea of a light d20 game didn’t prove to be an obvious opportunity for small OGL publishers: even Castles&Crusades (from whose development process the first form of Sword and Magic also emerged) chose to stay close to emulating a previously existing ruleset, while others, such as True20 and Microlite74, departed significantly from the game many of us cherish. As nobody I know of is trying to fill this specific niche (except perhaps the forthcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, although even that seems to strive for greater differentiation), here is Sword and Magic for the people who would enjoy its specific kind of compromise, or those who would be inspired by someone’s collection of house rules, or even those who just like reading about others’ campaigns.
The document offered here does not strive for completeness. There is no “What is a role-playing game?” section (although the complete version has a pretty nifty one), readers are assumed to know what a class or a race is for, and spells are only listed in an ultra-brief format; for monsters and treasure, you will also have to rely on other publications. On the other hand, all the information required to create a character and run games is right here, along with a page of design notes outlining the implications of the rule changes, and another that serves as a primer for my vision of old school gaming.
For an opportunity to try out the rules (which otherwise accommodate modules from classical systems and OGL-based systems alike), three brief example scenarios are compiled in the companion publication, Towards Fomalhaut:
The Isle of Barzon is an island where the inhabitants toil under the reign of a repressive dictatorship, who in turn obey the Flying Gods, mysterious beings who hunt and kill according to their purpose. The scenario, suitable for any level, pits the characters against the island’s mystery whether they are castaways, thieves or prospective conquerors.
The Tower of Birds is a small dungeon set in an arid environment. Dangerous traps, implacable foes and the challenges of navigating the tower’s interior and exterior await those who would seek water or solace from the powers of the wasteland. Levels 3-5.
Pentastadion is a briefly outlined example city-state ruled by an oligarchy of the rich and devious, and populated by the best sailors of Fomalhaut. Here, adventure awaits in teeming ports, elegant villas and squalid slums; opportunities are open for swordplay, thuggery, but also in the hallways of power and the tangled web of intrigue.