Highly enjoyed every part of this book. Reading the blurb at the end, I greatly appreciate your honesty in why you've created FMC. This is possibly my favorite OD&D clone, like you said it's like a mirror that gives you what you put in.
Fantastic Medieval Campaigns
A downloadable manual
FANTASTIC MEDIEVAL CAMPAIGNS is a new version of the original 1974 ruleset for fantasy wargaming campaigns, in four chapters and two appendices:
- Chapter I, Mortals & Magic: Explains how to generate fantastic characters, fight terrible monsters, and cast magical spells.
- Chapter II, Monsters & Treasures: Lists different kinds of monsters and the treasures they guard from characters that encounter them.
- Chapter III, Fantasy Adventures: Procedures for a vast campaign that will see adventurers delve into the Underworld and conquer the Wilderness.
- Appendix A, Chain of Command: The default wargaming system for medieval battles on a mass or individual scale.
- Appendix B, Optional Rules: A hodgepodge sourced from official supplements, modern house rules, and my own experiments.
This campaign manual is freely available as a PDF, and is available at-cost on Lulu:
A character record template and some reference sheets are also available to download.
What is FMC?
The first role-playing game manual is a work whose implications have been drowned out by history. It is vague and often unhelpful, offering not a system but a collection of loose guidelines and ideas which contributed to the proliferation of numerous (and also conflicting or mutually exclusive) play styles and cultures.
The character arcs are unlike any which have followed, even unlike its successors, and they lucidly foreground the game's fantasy as players lead their characters from looting the underworld below to conquering the wilderness above. Fighters become lords, mages become industrial wizards, and clerics become patriarchs of their church. The organizing principle is not historical accuracy or genre emulation, but the wildest desires of some two typical men from the American Midwest, communicated through a mishmash of wild west power fantasy and pseudo-medieval aesthetic.
The rules themselves have many obscure qualities which resist being understood in light of later texts, or do not align with cleanly with what we expect from "classic", "traditional", or even "old-school" play. Certainly it is a manual for a war game, but of a war game that shifts its own goal posts, and whose subjects are not masses of nameless troops but named personas who inhabit a simulated world of the table's making. We take this idea for granted now, but it is unlike anything that came before it just as well as it is unlike what came after it.
The goal of FMC, rather than to offer a new take on the original role-playing game, is to refresh our memories and problematize our preconceptions of a text (or even of a whole genre) that we have taken for granted. The rules are one-to-one with the original, even where there is confusion or falsehood. There is no benefit of a standard vocabulary. There is no one way of doing anything. There is only unadulterated fantasy.
And a clean, modern layout that’s easier to navigate!
Version & Licensing
The current version is Gamma (2023-10-09); considering it done!
The publication is released under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0, and many of the images are released under CC BY 4.0.
In lieu of paying for this free digital book, please support the artists who graciously contributed to this project:
Please also consider donating to one or more of the causes below, researching causes in your own area, or helping a random person you see online. Rulebooks often cost $5 to $40 depending on their length and medium. Why not put it somewhere else?
Thank you all! Please leave a review or a comment!
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Received my copy from Lulu today. It's wonderful and fills a heretofore unaddressed niche in the OD&D OSR scene: re-presenting the original 1974 rules while retaining all of the ambiguities that really force you to think, craft, and make the game your own for your table.
Delving Deeper serves a similar purpose, but does away with as many ambiguities as it can in the name of making the game more immediately playable. That's the other retroclone I wholeheartedly recommend anyone interested in OD&D in this day and age check out.
This is an incredible resource. Thanks for all the work.
I'll be ordering a Lulu copy next time I have a basket of stuff to keep shipping costs down.
This is a most excellent resource, and also a reminder of the beginnings of the hobby. Also thanks especially for both your postface and your invitation of critique at the end.
Do you plan on adding more to the appendix in the future, or optional rules as its called there?
I received my printed copy the other week and its been as wonderful as I expected it to be. Been excitedly following this project's progress for a while. Also, I appreciate that this retroclone has a specific "raison d'etre" that goes beyond just republishing rules for use, but as a critique of a foundational game to TTRPGs, both from a perspective of rules as they foster gameplay as well as how they foster an ideology. Excellent work!
One has to be either home-schooled by orcs or a hypocrite to call Gygax & Arneson fascist, all the while copying their work, and making money off of it.
Omega based book. Loved everything about it, and to think this is free! Marcia, you did an AMAZING job, I appreciate it a lot. As long as you keep creating TTRPG stuff, I'll be closely watching and supporting. The OSR is for everyone
Got my Lulu copy today and it's ah-mazing. Absolutely worth the wait (but don't do that to us again, mkay? ;p)
Thanks so much, once again, to you and the rest of the team for a valuable resource for both silly gaming and the research thereof.
While I'm here, I've caught an erroneous page ref. (And let me know if you'd rather have these, should I spot more, sent somewhere else or not at all.)
p270, last paragraph: the 20-sided tables are on pp. 246-249 (and not 240-243).
hi eric, thank you so much! so glad you liked it :)
also thank you for catching that! will make a correction and publish in a week, in case others catch any mistakes
Love this work! On the Simple Skirmish system in Appendix B, would you allow a player character or high HD character to make multiple attacks by dividing their HD i.e a A level 4 Fighter makes 2 attacks as a level 2 Fighter?
Alternatively, given a high HD creature such as a Giant would normally have multiple attacks against a low level party of PCs (if not higher level), can they roll to hit multiple PCs? If so, have you ruled / would you rule to "divide" the damage roll amongst PCs that have been hit?
I'm sure much of this is purposefully left to the Referee, but I'm interested in your opinions if you have any!
thank you so much! yes, i’ve allowed players to split or combine attacks as they wish—the default in the LBBs is that characters have 1 attack per hit die (against regular figures), so the idea is just that you can choose to combine them instead though you are not forced to.
i probably would not allow monsters who already have multiple attacks or damage dice to keep them; instead, i would consider that to be encapsulated/replaced by the simple skirmish system which just looks at their hit dice.
It owns that you did this, thank you
Reading it is a fascinating experience, and also the art is wonderful
Is all that Mars stuff really in the original work? Feels very Ultima II, which I guess is appropriate
thank you so much! :) and while i rewrote the dungeon to be more like interesting (lol), the LBBs are full of references to mars and especially the john carter canon! what comes to mind in particular are the desert encounters being split between regular and martian ones.
How about you completely remove the "intentionally left blank" pages and I might consider this.
oh no, surely i need to appease this random person!
"Free" or "at-cost." Take it or leave it lol!
A nice book overall that i think is a bit sullied by that "intentionally left blank" part at the end. I like the little playing with format ALA house of leaves but i cannot disagree with the message more. I even agree with the message after that and in this very page, but to call the likes of Gygax and Arnessen racists and fascists is preposterous, insulting and frankly misguided.
hi there! i don’t think it’s possible to read the text critically, as a product of its cultural context, and not arrive at the conclusion that the authors were influenced by a socially ingrained prejudice against indigenous people (especially considering the western genre’s influence on sword-and-sorcery pulp literature). luckily for us, gygax explains this himself in a forum post from 2005, comparing the position of lawful-good characters who are obliged to slay evil characters (where evil, above all else, is a racial categorization) to the position of american soldiers killing not only native american warriors but women and children (“nits make lice”). again, i think all this is quite clear from the text itself, but this interpretation agrees entirely with gygax’s own. take it up with him!
Gygax was definitely a racist and a generally terrible person. In addition to the post already linked, he also said some absolutely terrible stuff about women. Arneson is much less clear to me as he didn't seem to engage as much online back while he was still alive, but given the crowd he kept and where he was I wouldn't be surprised.
'Definitely' and 'terrible person'. I'm sure this person knows this from experience and knew Gygax. They couldn't possibly be basing this on their own priors, confirmation bias, or limited data from like-minded folks.
Gygax's own words, viewed in a convenient way can be shown to mean many things. People pick the exact same (essentially) few lines to nail him on stuff. He certainly was a believer in good and evil. Heck, he was a Jehovah's Witness. He had essentialist ideas. Sometimes monsters are just that ... the zombie isn't nice, the orc is part monster ... whatever... I am opposed to essentialism but am adult enough to recognize this is not just a basic fantasy trope, but a basic (flawed) human impulse throughout all of human history and is still alive in (most?) many areas of the world today. Is it nice? Of course not. It's often used in attacks from both sides of a debate. Lumping together people of color when convenient or beneficial, and calling it racist when not. The primary thing done by posting about it is to explain who you are likely to vote for in an election what organizations you probably sympathize with or rail against, what charities you probably donate to, or what audiences you don't want to deny yourself the money of (obv. not in this case as this is a free product).
Was he gross towards women? Again, I'm sure a random internet person knows based on personal time spent with him not just hearsay. Maybe he was, heck he probably was based upon current mores and perhaps those of the time. If so - it's irrelevant to pretty much anything. When the radio station plays Thriller - it doesn't make them complicit in child sexual abuse to not mention that Jackson was a likely abuser. I don't expect all albums, art, books, products, and films by anyone to begin including muck-raking about how the person had unseemly feelings, thoughts, or actions (even if unfalsifiable). Owning a Ford doesn't imply I support anti-semitism. Seriously, microscopically few people care about these modern comments on the lives/works of dead people.
Ridiculously long story short, who cares what random people say? It's a them 'problem'. Cut the offending pages out of the book if you don't like them and then ritualistically burn them while listening to Beat It sitting in your Ford motorcar and enjoying culturally appropriated food.
Random person out
Congratulations on completing FMC. As I stated before I believe this work will endure for many years to come as it fills a niche no other previous work as quite mastered. It is a faithful reproduction of the original rules presented as simply as possible in a modern concise style.
I love it.
Very interested in this set of rules. I've just discovered them and must commend you on some terrific work. The only comment I have at this time is about the digital character record sheet created by Milton (@QuietMastermind). It might be me, but it seems this sheet is locked and I am unable to use the sheet.
Thank you!! And it turns out that was my mistake, had a slightly incorrect URL that forces you to view the spreadsheet as an HTML table. :) Fixed now!
this is unbelievably cool
I don't know how to leave a review, but you've done an excellent job clarifying the rules of the original 1974 game. This is an amazing standalone game and an essential companion to the1974 rules.
This looks great.
though i have to say i have no idea what the combat tables on page 25 mean at all. they could probably do with some clarifications
thank you! and is there a specific question about the combat tables i can answer for you? they’re a matrix of d20 target numbers based on the attacker’s type/level and the defender’s armor class.
Great work, Marcia! What's the current status/ETA on a full release + POD?
When looking at your version of the Man-to-Man table from Chainmail, why did you not decide to keep armor class consistent with either the descending or ascending system? Chainmail itself doesn't give them another armor system, so this decision seems to further complicate matters where it doesn't need to be?
Love the work you're doing though!
thank you! and chainmail lists armor classes from 1 to 8 rather than from 9 to 2 (or from 10 to 17, which is extremely modern). descending armor class as it appears in D&D is a post-chainmail modification by gygax, seemingly because a system similar to target-20 may have been used in the game at some time prior to publication.
i thought it’d be more interesting to have the original values to encourage people to look at it as a distinct set of rules.
What are the fonts used in the reference sheets? It would be great if I could make make some edits based on my house rules, without losing the nice look and reverting to Arial or some other generic font.
hi there! i use bookmania throughout FMC, just using different weights :)
Is it possible the pdf could be bookmarked at some point?
Love this though, might get the print version when it comes out
Hi there! Is the PDF not bookmarked for you? They are showing for me on SumatraPDF and Firefox.
Excited for the physical copy! Having fun pouring through it and can't wait to run it.
I love your work so far. This could end up being the definitive first role-playing game edition for many years to come thanks to the clear and simple presentation. And in that light I have a selfish request to make for those of us across the pond. Would you entertain the notion of making a version with SI units (metric system)?
Thank you so much for your kind words :) and I love that you asked! The thing about the ruleset is that it is meant to be used on a table with twelve-inch rulers, which is why characters’ speeds tend to be from 12” to 3” with four degrees total.
The issue is that metric rulers go up to 15 cm, which is not divisible into four degrees of speed. However, at the same time, I think it is extremely difficult if not impossible to get to a speed of 3”. The only way I can see someone exceeding 1,500 coins of weight is by wearing plate armor and a backpack, wielding a two-handed sword, and carrying a large sack – which is pretty silly. If only speeds 12”/9”/6” are realistic, then we have a basis for saying metric speeds might be 15/10/05 cm. (Though still, these are not proportional to each other, since 6” is half of 12” but 5 cm is 1/3 of 15 cm.)
Overall, the goal of FMC is to be an accurate representation rather than a reformulation. I would really like to make it more accessible to people who use SI units, but base-12 math is just not friendly with base-10 math. At the same time, if you wanted to use SI units, it shouldn’t be difficult along the lines of above! It just would not be the “same”.
I think you are overthinking it maybe. First in these parts (Europe) and I would presume in every metric system country there are two main rule lengths, namely 15cm and 30cm. 12'' is almost 30cm so the speed/distance equivalent in SI units could easily be 30cm/22.5cm/15cm/7.5cm. Multiplying those by 0.4 (or dividing by 2.5) you get the dungeon movement distances in meters, namely 12m/9m/6m/3m, and multiplying those by 3 (or by 1.2 if using the former tabletop cm metric) you get the wilderness (or non dungeon) movement distances in meters, namely 36m/27m/18m/9m.
For completeness at least in the distance department hexcrawling is a simple conversion from 5 miles hexes to 8 kilometers hexes.
As you rightly say the conversion to me (and probably to most metric system players) comes quite easily as we have been doing conversions such the above (or similar) when playing, so in the end it is not a big problem.
I doubt many metric system players play the game in imperial units as they are not very intuitive but I may be wrong in this point.
Hey, I ended up thinking about it some more and then wrote a blog post! This is what I came up with, and a screenshot below of the conversion table: https://traversefantasy.blogspot.com/2023/02/od-metric-conversion.html
Please let me know what you think! :)
excited for the hardcover. Can never have too many iteration of the game of games.
Congrats on the amazing work, we have a big retro-gaming community here in Brazil which is really interested in OD&D and Chainmail. Would it be ok to translate your text to portuguese? Non commercial use, of course.
hello, thank you so much for your kind words and offer! that would be wonderful and you are absolutely free to do that :) though i regret not having the text available in an easier format to work with. after the beta version, i will probably work on creating an html/epub version of the manuscript. would you like me to let you know when either version is available, if it would make translation easier?
i’d also be happy to lay out the portuguese text in pdf form! :D
In the versioning and licensing section it says
it finds precedents in projects like Greyhawk’s Single Volume Edition.
but you probably meant Greyharp instead of Greyhawk, unless there is another single volume edition I am unaware of named that.
Hey, if you want more art for this, I’m happy to contribute.
thank you so much! :) you are welcome to contribute any pieces you like! please email me at email@example.com, along with how you’d like to be credited and how you’d like your art to be licensed!
Love your work on rehashing Gygaxian style! Very few OD&D retroclones treat game as wargame campaign ruleset, and none that I know include Chainmail rules. It's my retroclone of choice from now on :)
Though, I have an issue with updated missile fire table (p 176).
Original table uses terms `Unarmored`, `1/2 Armor or Shield`, `Fully Armored`. These terms do not correlate with armor types. Instead, they represent amount of armor worn. Thus, unit wearing leather armor, helmet and shield might be considered to be fully armored, but unit wearing plate mail without a helmet is only half armored.
This is one of many rules open for interpretation. It might be important to leave the interpretation of this one at the reader's discretion.
Also, a few rules are missing from appendix A, specifically: formation changes, fatigue, cover from missile fire. (tho nobody will miss fatigue)
thank you so much for your kind words and feedback!
i have no clue where i got unarmored/leather/chain/plate from in the missile fire table–where does chain in particular come from?! will fix in the next version XD i agree that the original scheme is much more interesting and flexible!
there are indeed many things missing from appendix A, since it was conceived of as an abridgement rather than a straight clone. formations in particular i removed from the ruleset since, functionally, i thought they were better abstracted by having however many figures in an (implicit) 3” diameter area. still, i’d be happy to add those rules to be a more faithful representation of the original!
due to popular demand (!), will be incorporating those missing rules! :D
Just wanted to say that this is fantastically layed out, and I love the color coding of the diffrent booklets
This seems very neat, but anybody actually played this instead of just reading it?
Also reading through this now, and please take the effort to add bookmarks for referencing a pdf are a godsend,
will be adding pdfs when i get a new computer! i have only been able to make small changes in a single day since my current one is broken.
my own interest in the original text is more literary than for play, but it’s a ruleset that has existed for almost 50 years and is famously confusing and vague! this one is at least better organized ;)
I've been playing several games with the original booklets in the last 2 years, I find it really amusing and creative gameplay. Now I'll certainly play more with this version.
Question to readers/players: In OD&D, I'd never noticed the prime requisite use of other abilities than each class's main one (p10 of FMC). And I can't make heads nor tails of it.
Could anyone give me an example?
hi eric! that rule would transform into the point reallocation rule in the different versions of basic d&d, but in the original ruleset it is implied that there is no actual reallocation :)
for example, suppose that a fighter has 12 strength, 11 intelligence, and 12 wisdom. they have 11 - 9 = 2 points of intelligence which can count as 1 point of strength, and 12 - 9 = 3 points of wisdom which can also count as 1 point of strength. therefore their overall total “strength” for the purposes of XP is 12 + 1 + 1 = 14!
another example is that if your character has 10 strength, 15 intelligence, and 15 wisdom, the math works out so that they can also be a fighter with a virtual PR score of 10 + 3 + 2 = 15!
meanwhile, all the scores themselves seem to stay the same.
This version of this P.R. rule jumped out at me, too. And what you layed out is where I also wound up with it. The why of xp bonuses and, especially, penalties is something I don’t get.
I think the bonuses for prime requisites are there to encourage you to play an archetype based on your ability scores e.g I'm strong so I'll be a fighter. The 'virtual' reallocation from other stats gives you a bit of differentiation and reward for having another above average ability - the fighter's strong but also smart so advances faster.
I was browsing through FMC today and ran into that creatively explained rule again and was like "I'm sure I've asked about this somewhere, but why is it still unclear now?"
Because I'd forgotten about asking and never saw Marcia's answer, is why!
So please accept my apologies for my short attention span as well as my thanks for explaining, Marcia. And again, thanks for gifting us FMC. OD&D is a fascinating artefact and you've been doing great work to help us make use of it.
Thank you for this! Fun to read, well done.
Is the general understanding that if one's CON is super low, there's no percentage chance for survival? Or does one adopt the values as above (6 would be 30%, 5 would be 20%, etc) and also have the hit point penalty?
hi, thank you so much! :) it is up to your interpretation, but it seems to me like below-average CON characters have a 0% chance of “survival” while above-average CON characters have a 100% chance! i like yours better though, haha.
"Four to FIFTY players"
Oh, gods, please take care of that poor referee's soul!
(Literally laughing out loud.)
One thing to consider is that number doesn't indicate the precise number of players at the table at any one time. It just means that number of players participate in the campaign. For example, when I ran a West Marches game years ago we had 25 players at any one point participating, but usually only 6-7 showed up for an actual game session. Then, the next game had 6-7 players too, but it might be a few different players swapped out or something.
There were multiple parties with small numbers of players, but they all played in the same 'game world'. A GM didn't run all 50 at once, but, more or less, serially in smaller 'combat units' (parties).
I'm glad to see that robots and androids are still "self-explanatory" in a way lol. Is the hiding Balor stat block intentional? I was pleasantly surprised to see them on some of the tables!
YAYYY i’m so glad that bit isn’t going unnoticed! also now that you bring it up, maybe it would be nice to have stats for the “balor”/balrog (which i just found, woo!)–but it’s also kinda funny to have them in the encounter tables but not actually described. will have to think about it! maybe i can write a description but cross it out to be silly.
So excited to read through this over the weekend
Gosh I am SO STOKED this has dropped. I’ve been excited for this for SUCH A LONG TIME omg
This is super cool - am I right that this is probably one of the most faithful 74 + miniatures rules retroclones out there?
Love love love the art - perfectly hits that 74 style.
Also, why CC rather than OGL?
thank you, on all accounts! :) CC is just a more open license than OGL, especially since my intent is to treat this as a text rather than as a brand of role-playing games (which OGL is written to handle, specifically)
This is phenomenal! Description of robots, golems, and androids is particularly appreciated.