I love history, and especially the Roman period. As a kid I loved visiting ruined Roman forts, which is why I’m really excited to see a Roman-themed roleplay created on OngoingWorlds. This article was written by Edward Willems, the GM of Roma.
The idea for Roma came gradually, mainly through watching far too many films about ancient Rome and Greece – Come on, what GM hasn’t had a game at least partly derived from a favourite book or film? Anyway, the idea basically solidified when watching the film Troy. The thinking was effectively: “Brilliant, great film, historically accurate, good battle scenes, where are all the gods and monsters I wanted to see?” In the actual myth gods and magic frequently pop in and out, and the story’s pretty flat without them.
It occurred to me that this is true of roleplaying games too – Historical ones are great fun because it’s basically a fantasy setting that’s more believable and comes with its own inbuilt backstory. But the same problem applies: stringently detailed historical accuracy and ruthless realism take the bounce out of any game. When you have to spend more time looking up facts than writing, it’s not a game but a history lesson. This is why I added the “Patron god” and “Magical Abilities” fields to the characters, so that they have a little bit of that world built in from the word ‘go’. This is also why Roma is listed not as a historical game, but as a fantasy one. Ancient Rome had, if the myths are to be believed, more in the way of magic and monsters than most fantasy worlds. This makes it the original fantasy setting, if you will. All of the classic fantasy series take many of their cues from it too; Conan functioned in a very similar world, and The Lord of the Rings is rife with references (the men of Gondor are Greeks, the Rohirrim are Celts etc.). And all this talk of the fantastical doesn’t even touch on the plotting and intrigue that were very real in the politics of ancient Rome. It was effectively a political minefield, a time bomb waiting for the ego and dissatisfaction of various senators to precipitate a war (as it did in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’). Assassination and double crossing was rife, and with the atmosphere in the high council of the greatest superpower in the world so highly charged, there was a lot of tension all over. All in all then, the setting has a lot going for it.
The Roma on OW now is actually Roma’s second incarnation. The first fell apart due to lack of interest and, I admit, my own short attention span. However, the game was saved by that most fortunate of recent developments, the Chatbox. Before that there was no way to ask around the site to assess possible interest in a new game, but now that is at last possible. The resurrected game is virtually the same, even down to the description of the Roman Empire (although the only bit I could remember for sure was the bit about “Tendrils all over the world…”).
The story so far has consisted of three characters – a slave a politician and a gladiator – who are, at the moment, on their way to the home of Ryker (the politician), with Magnus (the gladiator) in tow as a bodyguard. They are just in the process of freeing the slave (Gaius), and saving him from execution for a murder which he might not have committed, although we really don’t know. What with Ryker’s powerful position, having the ear of Caesar effectively to himself, the story has the potential for an adventure of a grander scale, and there will doubtless be one cropping up before too long.
With this in mind, now would be an excellent time for new players to join, because right now anyone can make the wider story arc swing any which way. Ideally any new characters would possess magical abilities of some sort, just to keep the game steering in that direction. Alternative species are also allowed, and we have already had Minotaurs mentioned a few times. However, more commonly used fantasy races like elves and dwarves are not off the menu by any means; ancient Rome can cater for almost anything in terms of mythical creatures and races.
A confrontational character might be a nice idea too – no-one said that everyone has to be a good guy, and every ancient myth has an antagonist. A treacherous character would also make for a thrilling twist, although as far as characters are concerned, as I’ve said, pretty much anything goes. Aside from the obvious “no killing other people’s characters” and etiquette like that, there are basically no strict rules, other than my favourite; You can swear all you want, but it has to be in Latin.
Roma right now is probably at the best stage to receive new players, and anyone interested would be more than welcome.