Roleplaying in the world of The Elder Scrolls series

Recently I have started playing “The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim” again. The fifth game in the Elder Scrolls series is one of my favorite computer games and even though some people call it “dumbed down”, I still love it a lot. What I like the most about the game (aside from the open gameplay and the excellent soundtrack) is it’s lore. The Elder Scrolls universe can easily compete with famous D&D worlds like the Forgotten Realms. There’s a history stretching back thousands of years, there are nine playable races with different cultures, there are memorable characters and a vast world to explore. What makes The Elder Scrolls interesting is that while it shares a lot of tropes with “regular” fantasy worlds, most of them come with a “twist”.

As a long-time fan of the series I often mused about running a TES-inspired roleplaying campaign. Of course a project like this can be pretty daunting, but my recent success with my Fallout conversion to Fudge, made me consider working on a TES pen & paper game again. Writing a conversion to Fudge would probably work, but I also see a lot of similarities between the system used in the Elder Scrolls computer games and Runequest. Both are basically skill-based and use percentile values. In both RQ and the TES games you improve your skills by using them. Both magic systems are based on some kind of spell points. Writing a TES conversion for Runequest shouldn’t be particularly hard.

The big question is how closely I want the rules to resemble the source material. If the focus is on converting the setting (and not the rules), you can basically use Savage Worlds, Fate Core, etc. without much hassle. But for some reason I feel that the mechanics used in the TES series are part of its charm. At the moment I am looking into various RQ variants and other systems to find mechanics that closely fit my vision of a TES pen & paper game, so that the work to write a conversion is minimized.

Alas using computer roleplaying games as a basis for pen & paper campaigns also has its share of problems. If your players are avid fans of the series you can’t just recycle quests and stories from the computer games, and they may actually know the lands of Tamriel better than the GM. Especially the latter may cause long discussions with your players. Another common issue is that computer game worlds are often extremely small. I still cringe when I think about Ultima IX’s Britannia. The capital of a whole continent was reduced to a handful of houses. Ouch. In such cases the immersion goes right out of the window! Luckily the world of Tamriel feels almost big enough to not have this particular problem.

At the moment I’m in a very early planning phase because I am still busy running Fallout Fudged! and my other group has expressed interest in Shadowrun. But as I wrote in an earlier post, I’ve decided to start planning earlier. What are your thoughts on this project? What system would you use? Do you think Fudge might work or do I need something a little bit more crunchy? What about Runequest? Please share your thoughts below!