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I've been bingeing a lot of Swords and Sorcery recently, and keep running into a lot of other worldy/dream/weird sequences. Even Conan isn't immune (see The Frost Giant's Daughter, The Vale of Lost Women, and others I can't be bothered thinking of).


The obvious question is: how would you run this in a game?


It's quite a different tone from more "realistic" situations, yet it is so commonly present that it begs to be included. I can see a lot of players and GMs not wanting to do it, but for those who do: how would you handle it?

Edited by assault
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The way I would handle it would be to treat a dream as a different dimension.   This allows the GM to change the rules for the session without making changes to the actual game.   I could see a dream using more of the Champions rules instead of the more lethal Fantasy Hero rules.  If the normal campaign uses critical hits and hit location switching to a d3 Stun Multiple and no critical hits would make it less dangerous.   On the other hand, if you are going for the nightmare type dream using more lethal rules than normal works too.


Basically, it can give the players a break from the normal game and allow them to try something different.  

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You could consider switching over to having EGO function as BODY for this sequence. OMCV and DMCV could replace OCV and DCV or alternately replace PD and ED for basic defense since it is all in the mind. It also gives a boost to these characteristics which are often under utilized in many campaigns. Just off the top of my head, but I am going to ponder it further.

Edited by Khymeria
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It's worth reading Catherine Lucille Moore's Jirel of Joiry stories.

Contemporary with Howard, Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, (as in, the same issues of Weird Tales), the Jirel stories were mostly about her dealing with supernatural threats. Her actual butt kicking scenes were minimal, or happened before the proper stories began.

So to build her, you would include lots of Ego, OMCV, DMCV and so on. And, yes, she can ride at the head of her soldiers cutting her way through mooks in a perfectly Conan-ish manner.

Despite Margaret Brundage's covers, she wore perfectly functional armour too.

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For something like Frost Giant's Daughter I don't think I'd change anything mechanically, just spin the narrative description for a more dreamlike hallucinatory feel and make the aftermath leave the players wondering just how real it all was.  Maybe injuries vanish at the end of things, but some element from the dream has come back with them to reality.


Similar for emulating the feel of the Moore stories, or some of Smith's eerier work.  Jirel tended to encounter strange environments that could have mechanical effects but much of it could be purely narrative descriptions in game - and perhaps some weird maps.  There's a fair number of puzzler situations (roughly equivalent to traps with inobvious ways to get around them) and deceptive villains (often with conflicting motivations and trying to recruit aid against one another) but those are part and parcel of many fantasy settings.  Think getting the feel right is largely a matter of presentation, not unique mechanics.


If you really wanted to emphasize the "this ain't Kansas" aspect of otherworldly adventures, run the mundane stuff with FH as usual, and then when they're in a dreamland/otherworld/pocket dimension inside a sleeping wizard's mind/etc. switch to a different system altogether.  There's tons of low-crunch light RPGs out there that feel less "real" than a simulationist high-crunch engine like Hero, and they'll feel "off" when you switch between the two such extremes - and because they're so low-crunch, the effort required to port your PCs to them and teach the "dream" rules (some of which fit on a single page for the really light ones) is minimal.  Troika's a decent option, as is Into the Odd (both of which are seriously surreal to begin with), and the Powered By the Apocalypse engine has a lot of options to choose from.  When the players get back to "reality" they go back to Hero, of course.  The whole point would be to make the gameplay between real and otherworld feel different.

Edited by Rich McGee
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Switching to a different system is going to be a lot of work and may annoy a lot of people.   A lot of those low crunch systems are despised by people who play Hero System.   If I show up for a Fantasy Hero game and end up running 5th Edition D&D I am not going to be happy.   I would rather not game at all then play that system.   


Even if you find a system everyone likes trying to convert a character from Hero System is going to be a lot of work.   Look at all the problems people have when trying to convert a character to Hero System.  Either the players or the GM is going to have to convert the characters.   Having the GM convert characters will often end poorly because the GM may not fully understand the concept the player is using.  Even if the GM does understand the concept a lot of people would rather write up their character themselves. If the players are writing up the character, they may not fully understand the system.  They may also not have access to all the rules and resources they need.  It is also likely to take a decent chunk of time to not only write up the character but learn all the rules of the game that apply to character.    


Hero System has a lot of optional rules and can simulate anything from a G rated cartoon to a gritty lethal fantasy movie.  By changing some of the rules you can create a completely different game without making a single change to the character.   It also cuts down on the learning curve of the players.  Explaining that instead of using hit locations we are using a d3 for the stun multiple takes about a minute or so to explain.  Compare that to explaining something like the combat maneuvers of Pathfinder to the martial artist of the group.  


I can use the flexibility of the Hero System to make the adventure seem totally different with having to spend huge amounts of time and energy it would require to use a different system.  

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