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Skip Navigation LinksHigh Fantasy HERO>Content>Campaign Guidelines>Campaign Paradigms>Low Fantasy
Low Fantasy
This paradigm represents a generic Low Fantasy implementation, a form of Fantasy that is mostly realistic and has very little in the way of fantastical or supernatural elements (sometimes none at all). In general this means that characters are less capable than in "higher" forms of the genre, mortality is higher, and play tends to be "grittier".
Some Fantasy literature falls into this category, but it is less common than other subgenres. For many the more fantastical elements that are lacking from Low Fantasy are essential to the genre. Nevertheless some examples include some of Dave Duncan's work like the Reluctant Swordsman, the Deverry series by Katherine Kerr, the Sun Wolf books of Barbara Hambly, and some of David Gemmell's books fall into this category, among others. Examples in movies are few between, but the 13th Warrior works as a Low Fantasy, and Hollywood "historical" epics like Troy and Gladiator have aspects of Low Fantasy as well.
This subgenre is usually brutally dangerous, with the most strict damage options available to the game in effect and Magical healing usually nonexistent. Characters are much more likely to die in this subgenre, so a GM should be prepared for it. It is recommended that each player have at least one "back up" character with a full background and write up available at all times just in case their character dies in the middle of a session; this enables the GM to get the player back into the game at the earliest opportunity.
Due to the extreme lethality of this subgenre, there is a constant risk of a Total Party Kill (TPK). GM's should be very careful to balance encounters and err on the side of caution. It's important to remember that the GM can always escalate a threat if necessary, but it is difficult to defuse a situation that is getting out of hand without employing an obvious Deus Ex Machina, which is particularly harmful to this genre. It's expected that some characters will die semi regularly, but unless the GM wants to end the game abruptly killing off a majority of the group all at once is rarely a good idea.
As a side effect of combat being extremely risky, players often show a greater willingness to pursue other means of overcoming opposition than simply whacking it until it dies or goes away. GM's should consider this when they make opposition for their games and consider multiple solution paths for encounters allowing players the option of pursuing other means of resolution aside from direct violence.
Mood and feel are very important in Low Fantasy, so a GM should be careful to maintain the "fourth wall" and to be internally consistent. The catch-all "well, its MAGIC, that's why it works" excuse is not available to fall back on so things need to be thought out or justified in internally consistent ways.
A generally good rule to observe in all cases, it is especially important that a GM be careful to hold the opposition to the same general limitations on power level that the heroes labor under, or else this subgenre can become really frustrating really fast.
The following options are assumed to be in effect for this paradigm.
Option Selected Option
No Formal Race Package or NCM   X Formal Race Package with NCM
END Cost = Active Points / 10   X END Cost = Active Points / 5
Knockback   X Knockdown
Generalized Damage   X Hit Location Damage
No Long Term Damage   X Injury & Impairment Damage
Literacy Standard   X Literacy Not Standard
Super Skills Available   X No Super Skills Available
Combat Luck Allowed   X No Combat Luck Allowed
No Deadly Blow Allowed   X Deadly Blow Allowed
No Armor Proficiency   X Armor Proficiency
No Skill Maxima   X Skill Maxima
No STR Minima   X STR Minima
Equipment Costs Points   X Equipment Doesn't Cost Points
Bases & Vehicles Cost Points   X Bases & Vehicles Don't Cost Points
Followers Cost Points   X Follower Don't Cost Points
Superheroic CSL Conversion   X Heroic CSL Conversion
No Encumbrance   X Encumbrance
No Long Term Endurance   X Long Term Endurance
Normal Damage Default   X Killing Damage Default
Low Fantasy characters get hurt often and will frequently have some residual damage from previous encounters. Magical Healing is extremely rare to outright nonexistent in most forms of Low Fantasy. Further, it is not common for characters to have either a lot of BODY or the Rapid Healing Talent. Some might, but they should be remarkable for it if they do. 
It is assumed that new characters in this paradigm start with 25 Base Points and up to 50 points from Disadvantages. This value can be altered by the GM at will.
This paradigm is expected to be low powered and to stay low to mid power level. A GM can easily kick start the campaign to a higher level of play by granting Experience to characters to represent their status as veteran adventurers when the campaign starts, but this is not as common in this paradigm. Similarly the GM could downscale the characters to represent that they are somewhat green when the campaign starts
The following chart vaguely indicates relative status levels by adjusted character points. The status titles are not intended to have any literal meaning; they are just intended to give an idea of the status of a character with that many character points.
Relative Status Base Max Disadvantage Points Starting Experience Max Starting Total Points
Sheltered Neophyte 0 25 0 25
Neophyte 25 25 0 50
*Youngblood 25 50 0 75
Seasoned Youngblood 25 50 25 100
Veteran 25 50 50 125
Seasoned Veteran 25 50 75 150
Hero 25 50 100 175
Champion 25 50 125 200
Famous 25 50 150 225
Legend 25 50 175 250+
* Assumed Default
This paradigm tends to be more Human centric. This isn't to say that there aren't more fantastic Race in existence; but if they do exist they tend to be more rare than in higher echelons of Fantasy. Even when more exotic Races do exist, their special abilities (if any) are modest. They might have some minor advantages, but they are as low powered as everyone else.
Default Assumptions
Human Human (Physical)  
Common Options
Elf Elven Blooded Dwarf
Half Elf Halfling  
There are few Magic Systems appropriate to this paradigm; most are too powerful and care must be taken when introducing a Magic System.
By default it is assumed that there is no Magic System in effect for a Low Fantasy campaign. However, it is expected that most GM's will add one or more.
Several Magic Systems presented on this site work well for Low Fantasy. The Aeldenari, Totemic Shaman, and Piedregamasi Magic Systems all scale well for this paradigm, and Runeforging can also work well since the lower points available to characters acts as an effective check on the creation of Permanent Magic Items. Spellweaving can also be a good fit for Low Magic for similar reasons; with more Character Points it escalates into a more powerful system but the cost of ownership and internal restrictions allows it to scale down to the paradigm.
Default Assumptions
Common Options
Totemic Shaman Piedragemasi Runecrafting
Aldenari Spellweaving  
The concept of Profession is usually not very marked in this paradigm, largely because character's don't have enough Character Points to be very specialized.
Generally character's in this paradigm will tend to use the various Extension Packages, which are topically oriented, and the Base Packages which are more generic, rather than the Composite Packages presented on this site.
As a by product of the low Character Point levels, it doesn't take much for a character to distinguish themselves from others; often a single skill level or familiarity is sufficient to give a character an edge.
Default Assumptions
Light Foot Rapscallion Savant Larcenist
Medium Foot Mounted Fighting Skills Forest Fighting Skills Mountain Fighting Skills
Street Finances Skill Command Skills High Seas Skills Guildmember
Common Options
Totemic Shaman Piedragemasi Spellweavers Runecrafters