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Referee is always capitalized in our texts, because the role is special. A good Ref creates all the difference between enjoyment and boredom.

Everyone is a good Ref with these rules, with time even gifted. A good Referee knows which rules apply or has a game that guides the application; a gifted Referee knows why rules apply. A
good Referee is orderly and prepared or has a game that simplifies his preparations; a gifted Referee is also spontaneous and adaptive. Realize that too much structure is inflexible and dulls play.

Many role-play gamers learn to Referee from watching others. This can be fine
depending upon the teacher. Unfortunately, a number of good Referees exist, but few
are gifted. Let me reveal a secret – the best start on becoming a gifted Referee is
through solitaire play.

Barony
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 the lands.

Three Core Rulebooks

Conrad's Fantasy
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. Heuristic Underworld Generation Output sounds right. The code would draft and print unique underworlds and load them with monsters, prizes, traps and quests. 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. The product was discontinues and only one example survives as an artifact on DriveThru RPG.

HUGO was obviously useful to players who were playing your other favorite role-play game. (Wink, wink.) Created 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. Seems odd now that we ever had to worry about that.

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 fantasy title.

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.

Chronicles of the Outlands is free-style role-play, but with Event driven Combat not skill based play of select your character's action and narrate the result.

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