JRPG Basic

Not too long ago, prompted by Huge Ruined Scott’s musings about creating a starter dungeon for Moldvay Basic, I started thinking about what a “basic” style tabletop fantasy RPG would be like if it were a complete game mechanically, rather than just an introduction to a more complicated set of rules. A sort of E3 (level advancement would stop at 3). As it developed, the basic concept remained, but it came to incorporate many elements inspired by early Japanese console RPGs, especially those from the 16 bit era. I have to say, the freedom to ignore cultural and genre consistency (following the syncretic style of Japanese RPGs), is quite liberating. Many of the less central Moldvay classes (dwarf, halfling) were quickly replaced with alternatives like wushis (martial artists).

I’m still looking for a title, though Reynaldo M.’s suggestion of “Sword Saga” is my current, tentative favorite. Maybe I should just call it AFP (“Another Fucking Project”). With this in the works, I have three (maybe four, if the Pahvelorn rules modifications and interpretations count) rule sets under development. In some ways, however, they are all different aspects of the same thing, and all share many of my favorite house rules. They all, for example, use essentially the same encumbrance system. It feels a bit like slowly revealing a single statue by chipping away at different areas of a stone.

Originally, I was thinking about doing this as a Swords & Wizardry variant, but looking at the material I have so far, I don’t think I actually need to use the OGL. On the other hand, I still may, to emphasize the compatibility with other neo and retro clones (though working under the aegis of S&W requires dual armor classing everything, which is kind of a drag). Much of the streamlining that I have done is also somewhat reminiscent of a simplified and level-limited LotFP. Anyways, here’s a bit of preliminary material.

System Highlights

  • Max level is 3.
  • No weapon restrictions; damage is limited by class hit die.
  • AC is by class, so armor doesn’t matter.
  • Spell casting system uses mana.
  • Spells divided into black and white magic.
  • One extra “feature” at 1st level supports simple multi-classing.
  • Skills use a simple d6 system.
  • Town inventory system to drive equipment upgrades.
  • Upgrade classes to gain specialist powers after third level.


In the recent past, the world was struck by a great storm of meteors. This threw the settled lands into turmoil, toppling kingdoms, remaking geography, and transforming what was once a peripheral, frontier region into what remains of civilization. This event has come to be known as the Meteorfall. Further, the physical devastation was not even the greatest danger posed by the meteors, which were in some cases eggs (or vessels?) from which emerged monstrosities.

Further, while there have always been monsters, the meteors themselves seem to have strange magical properties that warp natural life around them, creating strange and terrifying creatures. Many of the meteors are also good sources of mana crystals, which are extremely precious to mages, as mana is required to power spells.


  • Final Fantasy (especially I, IV, and VI)
  • Dragon Warrior and Dragon Quest
  • Shining Force
  • Moldvay Basic


The six classes that I’m focusing on to begin with are black mage, white mage, red mage, warrior, thief, and wushi. I’ll post more about them tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “JRPG Basic

  1. Gus L

    NIce – for some reason it makes me think of the game Bastion – or at least that’s how I see the world. Fragmented into regions with crater pocked wastes between them. Also you’re gonna need more kinds of slime than Moldvay offers to give it a proper JRPG feel.


Leave a Reply