I’ve been talking to @Fafhrd about other systems in Avalon, especially in light of the most recent episode of the podcast, and I wanted to share some of the thoughts I’ve had. I would love to hear other people chime in with their thoughts, and as a caveat, this is looking at systems I’m comfortable analyzing in this light.
Cypher System is a pretty easy system to use. Avalon needs to be able to handle things like investigation and heat, and to model noble, outlander, commoners, and bargefolk. There are SO MANY descriptors in the game that its pretty easy to find something that fits the mold.
Another thing that Cypher System does is that with the character types, if you have an Adept, all Adepts work the same way, which reinforces the “truth” behind clerics in the setting. You can still take the “Channels the Divine” or “Works Miracles” focus, but the underlying mechanics between wizards and clerics would be the same.
There are some optional rules for spending XP to get clues, and expanding the “threat range” of GM Intrusions from 1 to a wider range for horror, which also works for heat. There are several books that have example “fantasy” settings.
The main thing I would caution about Cypher is just to keep an eye on foci or descriptors that are either too overtly supernatural, or that are too overtly technological, but again, the various rulebooks often have examples of what foci fit a given setting.
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Shadow of the Demon Lord is viceral, but other than the gritty fantasy/horror elements, it’s not too hard to deviate from the default world. It has built in rules for firearms, and there are a ton of paths at the different levels that can customize characters.
Looking at the alternate rules in The Demon Lord’s Companion, there is a combined “Adept” class that amalgamated the wizard and priest spellcasting under a single type of spellcaster. The Fortune Point optional rules can be used to facilitate things like investigation.
The biggest downside is that commoners, nobles, and outlanders are all best models with just . . . humans, although there is a halfling ancestry for bargefolk. A lot of the ancestries introduce elements that push beyond Avalon’s assumptions.
Green Ronin’s Fantasy Age products are a great fit for Avalon. The core classes are skill based, combat based, or spell-caster, with not core difference between a divine or an arcane caster. In addition, the ancestry rules allow for flavoring nobles with some elf traits and outlanders with some orc traits very easily by using the rules already in the system.
There are already rules for black powder weapons in the game, so that isn’t a problem either. For full effect, I would recommend the Fantasy AGE Companion, which has rules for more specializations like bards and gunslingers, as well as fighter mage types. There is also a divine stunt table that allows for divine casters to flavor their spells slightly differently than regular casters, without making them a separate class.
The only real downside is the same downside that I would add to any D&D implementation, i.e. that going too far past, say, 10th level, starts to lose a lot of the grittiness of the setting.
Genesys (the narrative dice system at the heart of FFG’s Star Wars game) has it’s own Core Rulebook and Expanded Player’s Guide. Between the example rules for fantasy settings and horror settings, as well as the expanded magic system in the Expanded Player’s Guide, it would be fairly easy to build a toolkit for Streets of Avalon, although there are still some considerations.
Genesys has archetypes for games that don’t have different ancestries, and those include aristocrat, average people, and laborers that could be used to good effect for different backgrounds. The Expanded Player’s Guide also includes some archetypes like Trickster or Loremaster, which are focused on background more than broader culture.
Magic in Genesys involves picking up a talent, but there are different talents for arcane, primal, or divine magic. While these restrict the types of spells you can pick up later, this may invoke too much of an actual cosmological difference in magic for you, so your milage may vary.
While Genesys currently has a dedicated fantasy setting with Realms of Terrinoth, the setting is very epic fantasy and high magic, with very idiosyncratic magic, so it may not be worth as much effort as the two “general” Genesys books for an Avalon game.
Zweihander is a gritty game with built in black powder weapons, so it feels like a good fit. My main misgivings are that a lot of the careers and magic heavily favor presenting an “almost, but not actually The Old World” from Warhammer Fantasy feel. Chaos is the unifying “evil” of the setting, and all of the demons and supernatural being are heavily flavored this way, as are the potential perils of spellcasting.
It’s Brett’s game, so I don’t want to presume too much, but Zwihander feels a little more harsh on spellcasting than even the gritty feel of Avalon might be aiming for (which is why I like the fact that you can get this feel from taking Forbidden Traditions in Shadow of the Demon Lord, or you can take “safer” spellcasting paths).
That said, there are a lot of careers that lend themselves towards Avalon. The while there are halflings present in the rules to model bargefolk, I think the other backgrounds for Avalon are probably best modeled with humans and choosing the most appropriate starting career in the game.
The other tricky bit is that Zweihander has a lot of randomness in it’s character creation process, so it may be trickier to bring together characters with widely different backgrounds (but that’s true of core Zweihander as well).
Spire: The City Must Fall
I’m not really recommending this one, because conversion would take a lot of work, but I wanted to say that the core way that Spire handles many things, like having tracks for debt and consequences that trigger based on different tracks like reputation and health, would be great for a Streets of Avalon game. If Grant Howett ever releases the core system as a stand-alone toolkit, I really want to look in to adapting it.
The core rules have guns and contacts and all kinds of good things for running a gritty street level fantasy game, but the character types are all very flavored for the setting, which is all about dark elf terrorists rising up against their high elf oppressors. You should check it out if this sound interesting, but I’m waiting for a more “toolkit” version of the core system.
Dungeons and Dragons 5e
What’s that you say? There is already a wonderful book that details how to use D&D 5e with the setting? Yes, there is, but there are also a lot of great creators that have added bits to the 5e toolbox that I think are a great fit for Avalon.
Ancestries and Cultures, and Custom Ancestries and Culture, are a great resource for just about any D&D game looking to get out of the loop of D&D’s confining race constructions, but additionally, there are rules for mixing and matching that let you have humans that are “fey touched,” which I kind of like better for nobles, as well as a ton of other D&D-ish things that are split between ancestry and culture, rather than all lumped together.
Additionally, @Warden 's World’s Greatest RPG Zine has rules for adding in points to skill to hybridize 5e’s skill system with Gumshoes investigative skills, which I really like and which feel like a good fit for a Streets of Avalon game.
I still need to read through it, but I have a feeling that the Gumshoe based Swords of the Serpentine RPG is going to have a lot to use with a Streets of Avalon game, although some of the magic system feels very stylized to the core system. I’ll check back when I get the chance to read it more.
DCC Lankmar has only three core classes, Fighters, Thieves, and Wizards, which work well with the Streets of Avalon ascetic, and I think it’s pretty obvious that Fafhrd and Mouser style games would work in Streets of Avalon, but the origins for the characters would have to be reexamed to shift it from locations in Nehwon to the ancestries found in Streets of Avalon.
There is also a set of Lankmar books for Savage Worlds that might be useful for running a Streets of Avalon, although I haven’t spent much time with them since picking them up.
I think the structures inherit to Blades in the Dark would work well for a Streets of Avalon game, but I think the specific group templates and the playbooks would need to be custom built for Avalon to work well for the feeling of the setting.
That’s what I’ve got for now. Let me know where you think I’m off the rails, what makes sense, and other game systems that you think would work with Streets of Avalon, and why they would. Thanks!