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Author Topic: Lex Arcana: how to sandbox an investigative Monster-of-the-week game?  (Read 135 times)

Murphy78

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Lex Arcana is maybe the most famous Italian Rpg...well, I understand that doesn't mean a lot, but I remember fondly playing it in early '90. The rpg scene was very thin in Italy then, just Becmi, Cthulhu and few more.
The swines were still to come, Magic had not stolen breath to the hobby yet.

Described unofficially as "X-files in the Roman Empire", Lex Arcana is set in an alternate 476 AD where the Roman Empire is unscathed thanks to the mastery of magic (mainly divination). The characters are agents of a special unit of the Pretorian Guard, the Cohors Auxiliaria Arcana, that investigates unknown/enemy forms of magic.

Here comes the problem...while the characters are given some investigative autonomy, they`re in a military structure and the games expect them to be just that...good agents of the Empire. The game risks to transform in a "monster-of-the-week" show that the PC have to defeat.

And what is left of sandbox and of the player freedom cherished by Old School?





 

TheSHEEEP

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Re: Lex Arcana: how to sandbox an investigative Monster-of-the-week game?
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2020, 08:59:32 am »
The characters are agents of a special unit of the Pretorian Guard, the Cohors Auxiliaria Arcana, that investigates unknown/enemy forms of magic.
Before you went on to say the same yourself, I immediately thought: "Well, that could be interesting, but there must be other options, right?"

The premise of the world sounds pretty amazing, but you can bet your buttocks that I'd rather play anyone else in that world and not Mulder & Scully every single time.

Sounds a bit like playing a Star Trek themed game, with all the vastness of the world, but you can only be in Star Fleet.

Murphy78

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Re: Lex Arcana: how to sandbox an investigative Monster-of-the-week game?
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2020, 07:05:21 am »

Sounds a bit like playing a Star Trek themed game, with all the vastness of the world, but you can only be in Star Fleet.

You pretty much nailed it. Also, this Star Trek comparison is better than X-files as the characters can be posted pretty much everywhere in the empire and also abroad. The author explained this as a way to give a reason for the characters to be together, avoiding the you-met-in-a-tavern clichè. Also, the mood is quite different from X-files, Call of Cthulhu or WFRP, as the PCs are expected to see themselves as the heroes that will save the empire.

There actually are five D&D-ish classes  (called cursus - career paths inside the Cohors Auxiliaria Arcana): fighter, explorer, diplomat, scholar (doctor/scientist) and augur ("wizard" doing divination/clairvoyance). Every class is under the protection of a Patron Roman God, for example Mars for fighters.
 I figured out the classes are cleverly reskinned D&D ones, with the explorer being a ranger/thief type, the diplomat taking the role of the bard and the scholar that of the cleric (as he can heal wounds through medicine/surgery).

The system is skill-based and there`s no reserved class special power, so for example the fighter can try to do divination if the augur is not available. You throw an exploding dice equal to your skill/attribute value against a difficulty set by the master or against a contrasting roll of the monster/NPC (like in combat). If the PC get the maximum (like 6 on a d6), he reroll and add the result. That's explained in game as the Fate Roll, as the PCs, being members of the Cohors Arcana, are assisted by the Roman Gods themselves.
More or less the rules of Savage World, but a lot simpler.

Furthermore, once per adventure, a PC can ask his patron god to help him, this time only in his expertise field (ie the fighter ask Mars to help him in combat). So the player can reroll the dice and add the result. If a PC displease the gods, the Fate Rolls disappear and he cannot invoke his patron god.

Both the setting and the system are beautiful for one-shots and mini-campaigns, but for a longer campaign...

« Last Edit: November 19, 2020, 07:12:18 am by Murphy78 »

Murphy78

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Re: Lex Arcana: how to sandbox an investigative Monster-of-the-week game?
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2020, 08:49:03 am »
I guess I put the topic in the wrong section. Lex Arcana might not be perfect, but it's surely an rpg not a storygame.

TheSHEEEP

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Re: Lex Arcana: how to sandbox an investigative Monster-of-the-week game?
« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2020, 01:36:03 am »
I guess I put the topic in the wrong section. Lex Arcana might not be perfect, but it's surely an rpg not a storygame.

Most importantly, it's actually a PnP RPG and not a video game (or board game) one, which this section is mostly for ;)