I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Minimalist sword & sorcery I - The concept

I've been thinking about this idea for a while. I started writing a minimalist D&D but I got stuck, maybe my hearth is not in elves and orcs anymore. 

But what about a minimalist sword and sorcery game? That sounds cool. There are a few good ones out there (I really like LFG for example, but it is a bit crunchy for my tastes), but maybe I can add something of my own.

Here is how I would (will?) do it:

S&S Tropes

- Tough protagonists - Starting at level 3 is recommended, everyone has many talents: a fighter can climb and hide, a sorcerer can use swords and some armor, etc.
- Dark, Dangerous Sorcery - Must recreate the entire spell system.
- Perilous world - well, we already expect that from D&D. But add easy rules for starvation, dehydration, etc.
- Decadent civilization - even resting in town is a challenge.
- Some dark fantasy tropes apply here: nonhumans are mysterious, alignment is complex, etc.

The system

- The basis: BFRPG because it is an awesome game with CC license.
- Convert everything to a Target20-like system.
- Take some hints from AD&D.

Player Characters

- Ability scores: 3d6 in order or maybe something a bit stronger.
- Classes: Fighter, Sorcerer, Expert. Optional feats and skills to differentiate them.
- Races: none, but you can add some cultures or backgrounds (barbarian, civilized, decadent, etc.).

Adventure and combat

- As usual, with my own tweaks, including cleave and other power-ups for the fighters.
- Most challenges are simply Target20 or similar.
- Lots of optional rules for weapons and armor because I like them.


- I have to rewrite it completely to make it more dark and dangerous.
- Sorcery probably requires bounding spirits to your will, but also includes some alchemy, mesmerism and summoning.
- Add some rituals, corruption and blood magic from Alternate Magic.
- Magic items are not as common and not as useful.


- Probably just curate the list a bit, giving more emphasis to S&S foes.
- Also emphasize unique monsters and monster variations (using Teratogenicon as inspiration).


- Must be significantly reduced (see this post).


- Single save, single XP table, single mechanic for skills, etc.
- Lots of optional rules left to appendices.

Sounds interesting?


  1. Sounds very interesting indeed. I've been thinking about pretty much this kind of game recently and I don't have any rules that would leave me satisfied.

    Rules for engaging alchemy, summoning, binding and warding would be wonderful.

    1. Nice, thanks for the comment! Yeah, the magic system is probably the most challenging part!

  2. Speaking of minamilist D&D / sword & sorcery, I just updated Advanced Crimson Dragon Slayer for the year (I'm going for planned annual revisions).

  3. I'm interested to see what you do with this.

  4. If you are going the summoner/binder route, I wonder if that can make spellcasting work as a 'bargain' route where you can do a thing (ex. Fire spells) related to the the skill of your bargain (increasing spell DC based on spell rank/number of spells previously cast?). It becomes like spell point flexibility but still has that preparation idea. The danger can be backlash from failing the spellcasting DC. What comes to mind is the loss of control over a summoned elemental.

    Alchemy can just be part of a general 'crafting' role that can probably do 'lesser' effects without bargaining (but requires other resources to do the same thing)

    1. Yes, I'm thinking of something along these lines; maybe weak spirits you can "bind" with a roll and strong spirits that you can actually bargain with.

    2. Alternatively, 'Bind' and 'Bargain' (vs. 'Free/Wild') could be different states based on a check.

      Adds a level of fear when the enemy sorcerer has bound a big scary thing compared to a Bargain.

      Two tangents:

      1) breaking a contract/binding can be done for 1 big favor (maximize spellcasting effect?) after which the spirit is free/unbound

      2) Morale check system could also be used to impact checks. Think loyal spirit that may do well by the one they are bound to even if the binding is broken vs. freeing an angry spirit that goes after the one who imprisoned them.

      Just a general system that may let non-spellcasters 'interact' with that aspect of the system.