The Legions Have Left You
The Emperors Forgotten You
The Barbarians Surrounded You

Can You Keep Civilization Alive?

Absque Roma (without Rome) is a new role-playing game about values, goals and survival. It is about forging a new society, and holding on to the civilized way of life. The game features a unique set of rules that emphasize flexibility, player control, and the pursuit of character goals. AR is currently in open playtest, and a basic copy of the rules is freely available—the current version is 2.e. You can read more about the game below.

Rules in PDF ~ Rules in HTML

Character Record (PDF)

Absque Roma was created by Jasper L. McChesney and is a production of Primeval Press.

Some Supplemental materials are also available. If you and your play group are interested in playtesting AR, please . Also feel free to send me any other feedback you might have about the game.

What Makes AR Special?

Sample Character


Dexion is a retired Legionary who served in Africa as a foot-soldier but has now returned to his birth place of Britain. Growing up, he had worked on his father's farm before it was destroyed by raiders. Now he plans to start a farm of his own, perhaps in an area with several other ex-Legionaries, including his good friend Ovinus, who he owes his life to. His uncle, who he had thought dead, has also just contacted him, and asked for Dexion's help with his foundering trade business.


Agriculture: 2
Combat: 5
Negotiation: 2
Husbandry: 2
Command: 3
Survival: 4
Riding: 1
Sailing: 3
Tactics: 4

Roman Values
Industria (industry): 2
Prudentia (prudence): 1

Personal Values
Duty to Ovinus: 3
Loyalty to family: 1

Build a successful farm: 12

Wealth: 3 - Well rewarded by his commanding officer.

Animus (spirit): 3
Romanitas (Romanness): 5

Personality Traits
Dislikes obsequiousness
Likes simple Roman people
Always asks people about their family
Uncomfortable around women

The rules in Absque Roma were developed solely for it, rather than being generic or "universal," and thus deal specifically with the things that characters and players will be doing in AR.

Player Power

The power between players in AR is not concentrated in just one person, but is spread out between all the players. While the GM focuses gameplay and does many traditional jobs, he also does much less than normal. Players are responsible for organizing task resolution, narrating the outcomes of actions, and much more. These responsibilities accompany red and blue stone that are passed around regularly, and which can be controlled with Vis, a resource that players use with no relation to their own characters.

Like in the games Ars Magica and Orkworld, players do not control just one character, and are not just wanderers in search of adventure. AR uses so-called troupe style play, where each player has a main character, but also a host of minor characters that he controls. Additionally, players can take on the roles of outsiders and villains during the course of a session.

Play is focused around the Civitas, the community that the main characters are building. The Civitas has attributes just like a character that describe its members, its residents, and its place in the world. Among them are it's Virtues, that describe the values of the society within it. Characters must help uphold these virtues, and promote them, or watch their civilization unravel.


The rules of Absque Roma were designed for flexibility and simplicity -- though this makes them very powerful. The mechanics are based around effects, not specific situations, eliminating the need for numerous sub-rules to address every kind of event. Each instance of task resolution can be tailored to the circumstances by adjusting things like Scale, the Stakes, and the Safety & Danger Rating, among other things. A task can cover anything from a single action like a punch to the face, to three months of negotiations, traveling across the continent, or anything in between. It all depends on what you want to focus on in your game.

Gameplay Driven by Character Motivations

While characters in AR are indeed defined by what they're good at through their abilities, far more important is what drives them. Every character has a set of values that describe his strongest motivations: his morals, ideals, passions, or sense of destiny. Common values are the recognized Roman Virtues, like clementia, or mercy, but anything that compels a character to action can be a Value. Whenever a character supports his Values by working toward them, he feels impassioned and this leads to a bonus in task resolution. Since the effects of Values are cumulative, a character who goes after what he believes in can truly be a force to be reckoned with.

Additionally, every character's greater aims in life are described through Goals. Goals are projects that a character is strongly committed to. Whenever a goal is achieved, the character's sense of self is boosted, and accordingly his Animus or Romanitas increases.

Animus & Romanitas

Animus (roughly Spirit) and Romanitas (Romanness) are the unifying currency for characters in Absque Roma. Both describe a character's drive, his will, his senses of purpose and self-worth. But while Romanitas focuses on the character's sense of being civilized, Animus appeals instead to his basic human nature. People with Animus and Romanitas do great things in life, rising to high positions, and affecting the world around them. Characters gain A/R by accomplishing their goals (through investments) and making important decisions in support of their values. A/R can then be used to improve a character with new abilities, placed in an investment to generate more Animus, or directly in conflict resolution to gain extra dice. They are also the only way to ward of fatal wounds. Thus, only characters with a strong sense of self, who pursues his goals, will grow or ever come to accomplish much.

Additional Play Materials

Adjustment Knobs - Advice on how to tweak AR to your own needs.

Eample of Scale - How to use the different scales in AR.


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All Content Copyright Jasper L. McChesney 2004