Free-Style Fantasy Role-Play
An empire, as grand as the Roman's, has been fractured by its own internal corruption, a failure to
establish an order of succession, the incursions of barbarians, the rise of a monotheistic as well
as xenophobic religion, and of course the dark coercive forces of magic. Creatures of lore, denizens
newly awaken, prowl below, while barons quarrel and conspire to unify the lands above under the one
true king. Alas, who this champion might be has been confused by endless debate and shrouded by
petty intrigue. Here is a time for adventurers, both gallant and base, to upset the realms of the
powerful leaders on the surface, while dreaming of both the riches and relics which lay in the
underworlds below. Underworlds truly world in scale. Rise from obscurity to lead armies and unify
Three Core Rulebooks
Designing Fantasy Scenarios
Designing Fantasy Encounters
Conrad's Fantasy, The Big Bang of Free-Style Role-Play
Surprisingly, one of our first products as Better Games was HUGO, which as an acronym I can't exactly
recall. Huge Underworld Generated Output maybe. But what it did was draft and print unique underworlds and
load them with monsters, prizes, traps and quests. As I said, each was a thing of beauty, no two
alike. That way a busy referee could buy a stack of these two dollar map-layouts with explanations,
and know the players hadn't already read or played the module at the local gameshop. How to get the
referee a HUGO, when he needed one, limited the market. Anyway...
HUGO was obviously useful to players who were playing "their other favorite role-play game" (wink,
wink). But to ensure we didn't have any trouble from a similar dungeon rule producer, like say
Tactical Study Rules, Conrad wrote a four page set of instructions that described his system of
combat and magic. If we ever got sued, we could honestly claim that each HUGO was written for those
mechanics and was being adapted to the, say it with me, "referee's other favorite role-play rules."
Conrad's small set of rules were epic, the basis for free-style role-play. I think he said he wrote
them in a couple hours.
The mechanics expanded with the addition of an advancement system and more defined skills, but the
basic play has not changed. HUGO's toss-away mechanics became Conrad's Fantasy. That system was
actually marketed first as a two-dollar pamphlet and then as a five-dollar typeset game with card
stock cover line art. Conrad's Fantasy made the transition into Barony, becoming the core player
rules. The Scenario Generation book and Encounter Generation book could be used with Conrad's
Fantasy or guess what? That's right -- "your other favorite role-play game."
By the time of our publication of Space Gamer, the rules had only changed slightly. They were more
polished, but were still Conrad's Fantasy. But the marketing guys and player feedback revealed that
we needed a name other then Conrad's Fantasy. Hence, Rogue Swords of the Empire became the new
Like all our game series, Barony represents a catch-all title of our fantasy games, but perhaps it
too was a bit restrictive in title. The Barony campaign expanded into the near east with the addition
of Arabian Sea Tales, first published in Space Gamer #8. But the campaign also had plans to go even
further both above and below the ground. Many titles were developed, test marketed, yet never produced.
At least not yet; see the Design Notes.
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