Encounters in the City

Life in a city of some size is never dull. The poor huddle for warmth behind the churches and mansions of the upper crust, thieves and smugglers dodge the king’s guards, merchants hunt for the perfect bargain, and most people simply try to survive.

This table is designed for a European inspired fantasy set in a technological and cultural age equivalent to the Middle Ages up to the Early Modern Period (ca. 1100-1750 AD.).

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The characters are approached by a handful of drunk young folks wanting them to settle a bet—the sillier the better.
A ship’s just come in, whether from the sea or on the river, carrying rare goods that have been long missing in the city. Sailors spend their hard earned coin, and merchants haggle and attempt to outbid each other while their hired men glower. Everything may commence peacefully or it may turn into a regular street brawl. Either way, the captain selling the rare goods is going to have a field day.
A long-awaited ship or caravan finally comes in! The city is alive with merchants and traders all trying to get their share of the profits and make the best bargains, while the citizens elbow each other like Black Friday shoppers to get to the best bits. Whatever that ship or caravan was transporting, it’s something sought after and awaited with gleeful anticipation!
The heroes are approached by a family member or business relation of a missing woman of some financial means. Turns out she’s not missing at all: In an unusual take on the classic vampire and victim setup, the woman is holding a vampire lord captive, and feeding him her blood. She wants to be turned into a vampire herself in order to escape an abusive husband, a bad marriage, a crippling debt, or something else, preferring to plan for an eternity as one of the damned instead. The vampire lord realizes that if he gives in, she’ll have made arrangements for his destruction in order to avoid becoming his undead minion, and thus has no desire to cooperate.
Magical mishaps happen to non-player characters too. A random person in town has purchased a potion off a neighbourhood alchemist, but is not aware that the potion comes with a random spell fumble when consumed. Bonus points if the potion doesn’t even do what it says on the label – this is how you get lycanthropes running wild in the street, pursued by flocks of ravens or lute players in colourful costumes.

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What’s this?

It was the Bronze Age … or at least it was in 1990. I ran a weekly game group, and I kept bumping into the same problem of plausability that our game system of choice failed to address; why did player and non-player characters not seem to play by the same rules? Too many things were handwaved or ignored, and left me in a tight spot whenever players asked, ‘Can our characters learn to do that too?’. It got even worse with novelizations of published game modules where named characters would be caught doing things that the rule system never even addressed in the first place.

It annoyed me. So I decided to change it. And I did, working on my own game system for thirty years ahead.

A universe, whether for games or for novels, should have internal logic and consistency. It should have its own rules that in turn applies to everything within. If a player can point at any non-player character and say, ‘I want to be able to get that power too, how do I go about it?’ the game master should not have to struggle to find a plausible sounding answer (and definitely not have to say, ‘you can’t, you’re a PC’).

This was the platform that Imagines was built on. Same rules for everybody. Nothing that you can’t do – you just need the game master to set down how it’s done.

The game system was not revolutionary at the time of its first test print in the early 90s (it sold a whopping 47 copies!). It’s not revolutionary now. It offers a platform upon which any story can be told (though the game master may be looking at substantial homework for some tales!). Nothing is off limits unless the game master says it is. Nothing is tied in with a movie or book franchise, or even a specific campaign setting or game world. It’s all yours to take away and make stuff happen.

The system performs best with historic and fantasy game settings. It was originally written to be used with any setting but since then we decided to focus on fantasy and magical realism where it performs best. Designing skills and spells for a contemporary urban fantasy or even a science fiction game would not be hard, however – the biggest issue with sci-fi is making choices between all the subsettings. Do you want to do postapocalyptic, Star Trek style, or space marines fighting bugs on grimdark asteroids?

Imagines shines with games set in a historic or fantasy setting, before technology steals the spotlight. Magic s dramatic and omnipresent but often subtle. Whether you want your Tolkienesque low magic high epic fantasy, or your early steampunk historical campaign with elements of the Lovecraftian, we can do it.

Imagines is not targeted at a specific game style. Players who desire immense detail in their combat simulation want a game system that goes into deeper detail. Extremist narrators will probably feel we go into too much detail as is. The system was stress tested at numerous game conventions in its initial design phase: The goal was to make it friendly to players who had never heard of it before, putting the bulk of preparation and decision making on the game master.

I trust y’all will be patient while the website gets up and running.

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