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|Publication date||1979 (1st edition)
1995 (6th edition)
Ysgarth is a fantasy role-playing game written by Dave Nalle with contributions from other authors. It was originally released in 1979 by Ragnarok Games. The company also published subsequent editions of the game throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but no new edition has seen print since the 6th edition in 1995, although various revisions and addenda are available on the internet, including partial versions of an unpublished 7th edition of the game. Ragnarok Games also published a number of other board and roleplaying games during the period when Ysgarth was in print, as well as a roleplaying magazine called Abyss Quarterly. Many of those involved in the development of Ysgarth were also subsequently involved in the development of the Quest for the Grail Arthurian CCG published by Stone Ring Games.
The Ysgarth Rule System is a fantasy system, complex and detailed. In the first edition, Book 1, "The Fantasy Character," described character races (humans, elves, dwarves, insect-types, and reptilians), numerous characteristics, classes (fighters, mages, and hold men, and subclasses), skills, and character improvement. Book 2, "Battlecraft," describes the combat system; Book 3, "The Arcane Arts," covers the 15 schools of magic; Book 4, "Holy Orders," covers holy men, six religious orders, priestly magic, and 155 gods; Book 5, "The Fantasy World," covers world and campaign creation. "The Last Song of Hergest" is an introductory scenario.
Ysgarth is generally noted, both positively and negatively for the extreme detail of its game mechanics. It was one of the first roleplaying systems to rely heavily on skills and discard the idea of character classes and also one of the first games to rely solely on the use of 10 sided dice for percentile rolls in resolving actions. Ysgarth also emphasizes realistic combat resolvable in minute detail. Some have praised the mechanics as innovative and others have damned them as cumbersome. This issue of excessive mechanics is made more complex by the fact that each edition of Ysgarth featured fairly radical changes in the implementation of the basic rule concepts varying in their level of complexity. The 5th edition actually included three completely different versions of the mechanics in a single rulebook.
The game background is derived from Indo-European mythology overlaid on a unique cosmology involving an inter-planar diaspora and catastrophic warfare as the backdrop for the development of the world's current societies. The background material included in the 3rd and 4th editions of the rules is quite extensive and detailed as are materials included in some of the secondary worldbooks and adventure scenarios. The setting is highly magical with powerful deities and lesser supernatural beings playing significant roles in the development of the world and the lives of characters within it.
Ysgarth was designed by David F. Nalle and published by Ragnarok Enterprises in 1979 as three digest-sized books (56 pages total). The second edition was published in 1980 as a 100-page digest-sized book. The third edition was published in 1982 as a digest-sized box with a red cover, including six books (120-pages total). The fourth edition (1982) was published in the same format as the third edition, but with a blue cover. The fifth edition was published in 1985 as a digest-sized box, including three books: "RoleCraft" (36 pages), "SpellCraft" (24 pages), and "WorldCraft" (24 pages).
A great many supplements and adventure modules were published over the course of about a dozen years when the game was particularly active, as well as games in other genres using mechanics derived from Ysgarth.
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