What is Heroes & Other Worlds?

Heroes & Other Worlds is a game of adventure inspired by Metagaming's classic Melee/Wizard/TFT system combined with inspiration from the Moldvay edited basic game. The rules are easy to learn and use standard six sided dice. The system is simple, sensible and flexible in the spirit of classic role playing games from the early 80's. Become a Hero, Other Worlds await!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Adventure Seeds

image by: lingy-0
As I have continued writing and editing I have crunched out some adventure seeds. I think they thematically give you a sense of gaming using Blades & Black Magic. I am thinking, maybe incorrectly, that a few combat scenarios plus about a dozen adventure seeds (like the one below)  may be enough to round out the Blades book. Your opinion is always appreciated.

Whispers of Chaos
The characters enter a village the day before it is holding a witch trial. The party is approached by three factions within the village for aid: The husband of the accused, the local priest who brought the woman up on charges, the local warband guard who work for the mayor who runs the town. The witch is accused of evil manipulation and of controlling of the mayor and corrupting others with demonic pacts.
  • The priest wants help to save the townspeople from darkness and purge the village of evil.
  • The Warband wants help to oust the mayor so their leader Sven can take over.
  • The husband claims his wife is innocent, he wants help to free his wife so they can escape.
Reality is, yes the woman is a witch, her “husband” is her imp in disguise and they are corrupting the town to turn it into a foothold for the Coven of the Blood Circle.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

BLADES progress update

Max Dunbar
So here is where  we I am at with Blades:

1) The rules are done including character creation, skills, combat, adventuring and equipment.

2) Need to add basic combat scenarios--or would an adventure be better to include?

3) Need to add common creature/ animal foe list.

4) Need to do art layout

Decision is made that setting specific, more detailed character creation (background, starting kit by homeland) will be reserved for the Zemya setting book.

After Blades comes out (End of January seems likely) then Cauldron 2 would be the next release followed by the Black Magic book and then the Zemya setting book.  It is an ambitious plan to get all 4 out this year--but I have it on good authority a man's reach should exceed his grasp.

Friday, December 29, 2017

BLADES re-org?

Max Dunbar

I had my wife read through the current draft of BLADES and she pointed out that many of the setting options (like culture) are a bit confusing in terms of their placement in the rules. If it is an alternate way of creating/playing/using the rules--should it be better put in an appendix or she suggested culled from BLADES entirely and put into a separate overall setting/ gazetteer book. I am mulling it over as it important to listen to someone separated from the work. It is true, sometimes you cannot see the forest for the trees.

In your opinion are the core combat rules and adventuring guide good as a book? Is a separate gazetteer with setting character creation a good thing?

Let me know your thoughts and opinions, they are valued.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

BLADES update

Max Dunbar
A quick update on the progress of BLADES the first part of Blades & Black Magic.

First, I would say I am about 80% done with the writing. As this is a bit different from-- and learns from-- HOW there are tweaks and edits and additions. Some of those additions include adding in some additional and deeper character creation option (cultures) and spelling out tactical combat means more writing. I also want to add some brief mercenary and skullduggery missions. Rescue a hostage, kidnap a merchant, protect a delivery, fight in a pit, steal a wand, etc. Just small mission/adventure kick starts for a few silver more. 

Sure I could certainly take the easy way out and just zip out core rules with no setting/cultures content, but in play testing folks actually enjoy the use of culture as a character creation hook. Don't worry, it is not mandatory to use cultures, just added chrome/depth/ options--and double don't worry you will not get the frustrated fantasy writer text overkill.

One email I got asked why not include magic and combat all in one book? Good question and 2 reasons:

1) It will take longer to wait to get it all done, and I think you and I have both waited a long time already.

2) I think there is an opportunity for a no/low magic game to be played.

Those who have and play HOW will be able to add magic in easily to BLADES if you like immediately before the Black Magic book comes out--and with the Magi Carta, there are a lot of spell options already available.

So how does BLADES vary from HOW specifically?
1) No EN stat. HOW plays more heroic fantasy and B&BM is meant to be more gritty/ S&S. No EN stat changes the feel appropriately for a low magic setting.
2) Revised weapon table
3) Only Humans as characters
4) Clarified tactical combat/facings
5) Light setting of Zemya
6) Cultures as character creation detail opportunity
7) Skills have a simplified 3 tier rank system: Inexperienced (I) Trained (T) Expert (E)

BLADES will have a quick conversion page for HOW skills/spell casting, etc. so one does not supplant the other and they are compatible with little issue.

The work continues...

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

After many years

Steve Jackson recently announced he had the rights back to the Metagaming fantasy game that has inspired so many of us: "I have regained the eight TFT releases that I wrote myself: Melee, Wizard, Death Test, Death Test 2, Advanced Melee, Advanced Wizard, In the Labyrinth, and Tollenkar's Lair."

In essence, after 35 years, the copyright was up from Metagaming and the original author could apply to get the rights to his works back--Mr. Jackson did and here we are with this great news!

 What are Mr. Jackson's plans?

• Can you give us details on the TFT release schedule or the format of the new releases? No, because I don't know myself. We’ll probably do at least one Kickstarter – for Melee – in 2018. With miniatures! Lots of miniatures!

• What changes will you make in the new TFT releases? I want a fully modern presentation, but most of the rules are pretty good as they are. I might revisit the cost of spells, and I might make some changes in the character advancement rules. But I might just leave things alone.

• How did you get these rights back? Great patience . . . 17 US Code 203 requires a long wait.

• What does this mean for GURPS? Probably nothing; I have no intention of combining the systems. TFT is a much simpler system than GURPS, optimized for single sessions and dungeon crawls. They can co-exist on the store shelves and in your own collection.

What about the TFT releases that you didn’t write? What about other Metagaming releases? I did not get any of those rights, or any other Metagaming rights, and I can’t tell you anything about their status.

 In a nutshell it would seem like the classic games will be back and that is terrific news! Who knows what may come--but as SJG does a terrific job with PDF materials, and has kicked off unique offerings like the OGREZINE--it would seem like a series of PDF additions possibly collected into POD offerings may grow in support.

Perhaps the boxed edition of In the Labyrinth that Mr. Jackson wanted all those many years ago could be a reality in the future? Maybe boxed edition adventures (with minis!) for the Death Test adventures? OR possibly a true 2nd edition--AGANTYR has a great blog post on that possibility. 

As I write I have at my desk 100% mint, boxed, complete and never played versions of Melee, Wizard, Death Test, Death Test 2 and Grail Quest and I have to smile. I never thought these would be coming back, but am damn happy to see Mr. Jackson's patience pay-off for him. Second I am very happy to know that so many will now get a chance to play the originals as--if OGRE is any guide--Mr. Jackson may release both a deluxe boxed set of Melee--as well as a classic bagged edition as he did with OGRE.

So the nickle question, what does this mean for HOW? I am not sure. I am still working on multiple projects like Blades & Black Magic, the HOW career compendium and another issue of The Cauldron. I do not know where the path leads, but I am still rambling on. Thanks for traveling with me.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Marching on

nathan hale illustration
Hello fellow adventurers, its been a long time...

Thanks very much for keeping in touch through the tumult of the last few years.  I am at a spot now where I am starting to get some time to focus again on writing. So what am I writing? Blades & Black Magic.  Where I am at  bit of a loss though is publishing it.

I am considering 3 books:
1) Book of Blades (Warrior character creation, skills, combat, equipment)
2) Book of Black Magic (Wizard character creation, spells, combat, equipment)
3) Blades & Black Magic: combine both books+short gazetteer of regions. creatures and random charts.

The first two books would be small pocket book sized and the 3rd book would be HOW sized (6x9).

The thought behind this is smaller books are easy to pass around and digest especially for reference by a player.  If I am a warrior type that little book has all the details I need, same thing for a wizard type-one little book with all the relevant details.  For the referee, the third combined book of all rules as a reference plus some creative world stuff to spur adventure/ campaign ideas.

Not sure this is where I land, but it is my current thought and it is possible the Blades book could be done before the end of the year with the magic book done shortly after if all goes to plan.

On the HOW front, I have 2 projects in work as well: Hexplorers Handbook and a Career Compendium.  For the Hexplorer book its basically a sandbox stocking/ creation book. For the Career Compendium it is a booklet with various archetypes (Abbot, Tax Collector, Bandit, etc.) stated out with equipment, a few concept ideas and a brief overview of the character type. This could be used as NPC fodder for the Ref or as a ready made character concept for a player.

Sorry its been a long time coming. As a one knucklehead operation with a life that--like yours--fills up with the unexpected twists, sometimes my plans are not the ones that I get to execute when I want to. Appreciate your patience and thanks very much for the support.

I hope the wait will be worth it!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

And the rains came

Hello friends.  Sorry for my lengthy absence...in short this has been my most challenging and difficult year on the planet thus far.

I want to make it clear from the start of this, I am not seeking sympathy and I know as surely as the sun rises today--my troubles and struggles this year may look like a walk in the park compared to your own struggles and issues.   I am not trying to compare or give a woe is me accounting--its simply been extremely challenging year at every level personally and professionally, and is the reason why I have not been active in publishing.

In my real job, the company is having an incredible year, and my average week is 50+ hours when I am in town--not adding the 2 hr commute daily. Also our success has meant an extreme amount of travel so not much free time/ free mind to game, create or write.

July my emergency surgery took me out of action for a bit--but I was still on the phone and email while recovering becuase the work never stops. Being screamed at on the phone by the VP of another company the day after surgery was a special kind of experience. The phrase 'I know you are in the hospital, but I need right now..." still lingers in my mind.

We purchased a new car for my wife in June replacing her 15 year old vehicle. 2 months later in August, she was then hit by another driver. Praise God she is recovering nicely--but it totaled the vehicle so I spent seven weeks working through insurances and rental cars and trying to find an exact duplicate replacement vehicle for my wife in my "spare time" etc.  (PS--I did do it, and it was much harder to do than you would think!)

Then additional difficult and serious medical new befell other family members in the last 2 months...and to cap off the year my wife an I are moving in November--but my travel and work schedule remain elevated until December.

And then the Presidential election? Good Lord this is the best American offer?...I want my pain meds back so I can sleep until 2020...ugh

So that is a small summary of 2016 and why  I've had little time to devote to writing and publishing. For those experiencing similar difficulties I can only say--FIGHT ON!!  You are only beat when you quit or give up--and Lord knows that sometimes looks appealing--but trust me on this, FIGHT ON!

In the end I've been provided with a unique opportunity to determine how much can I do, how much can I handle and can I be a better man despite all the setbacks.  I'm a Christian and I do believe God has reasons for what He does even if I am not wise enough to figure it out--and in the end maybe it really isn't about "me " at all except in how I can better help others.

There is most assuredly more HOW stuff coming (and Blades--and a deep secret project I've never talked about publicly yet)--I just need the time and uninterrupted ability to clearly write, gather it together and make it worth putting out.

As always I am thankful for your patience and support.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Of clerics & crosses

Lots of discussion about religion based classes and abilities ala D&D clerics and paladins. I have been asked about creating special rules or spell lists to facilitate religious based classes so I thought I would comment briefly.

The original TFT system and all of the off shoots like GURPS or HOW, do not follow the D&D class system nor specifically the "cleric/paladin" class conceptions. These types of conceptions are left to the referee/players to work out and use if they wish. 

The system is set up so that there are only two broad character concept generalizations: warriors and wizards. What type of warrior or wizard you make (barbarian, archer, ranger, druid, illusionist, necromancer, cleric) is left to you the player to conceive and develop. YOU have the FREEDOM to conceive of a spell casting barbarian, wizard duelist, or paladin as you wish

Religion or gods specifically are not a determining factor/limitation to any character skills/spells--unless you the referee/player want them to be. 

A referee could say "these spells are only available to to players who are followers of this god" in their setting...or could say a "warrior who serves this god gets access to these spells at a cost of 1 instead of 2 pts. at creation"   One could even go so far as to take specific spells and make them "blessings" for followers--an inborn or gifted ability such as "followers of this god can cure light wounds like the spell, no casting needed-just pay EN cost"

Creating a "religious class" is possible within the current rules. Turn the undead with a religious relic/holy symbol? --anyone can unless you as a referee decide to limit who can and who cannot.  "Followers of the light bringer can turn undead with a blessed torch --but to all others it is a ordinary torch."  

The spells typical of a cleric class are there for blessing, protecting, etc. but in HOW they are available (potentially) to anyone. You can decide to make them only available to followers of certain religions--if you choose to make it that way.

Unlike a more stringent class based system HOW is a wide open tool box. You get to decide for your game world if you want to create a special religious sect or cult with access to certain spells as you desire.

Want to turn the Bless spell into a native ability for all followers of a specific god?  Want to make the Curse spell an "evil eye" for followers of a certain god? In HOW you have the FREEDOM to do so!

Don't be afraid of your freedom and in all cases do what is right for you, your players and your game to make it fun! 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Inquiry into Gaming #2: Exploration

illustration by Noobaka
Thank you for your great comments and thoughts on Inquiry #1. I hesitated to jump in as I did not want to influence comments--but I sure did love seeing so many great thoughts. Now on to random inquiry #2

At the core of what makes playing an RPG different from other games are 4 central concepts
1) the lack of pre-defined endgame
2) the lack of singular victor
3) the shared success or failure of an adventure by the group as a while
4) One person creates and referees the game

Do these unique game concepts create an insurmountable barrier for potential players?

If I were to explain monopoly or poker to someone--the basics are the person with he most $ wins.  If you have no money you lose. The dice rolls or cards dealt will influence your choices-but it is you against everyone else--the person with the most stuff wins.

The all or nothing mechanic is also true of a game like Risk--you lose your countries, you are out of the game, the person with the most countries (all of them) wins.

Pretty basic stuff, and overly simplified, but pretty clear to on what my goal is as a player. We all start on equal footing and then based on my skill--and the luck of the draw or roll I work to beat all of my opponents.  We are in competition against each other--and only one of us can and will win.

This is a more difficult thing to try to do for an RPG:.  
-We are not in competition against each other (usually)
-We each have varying abilities/skills/spells/powers
-There is no victory condition, beyond completing the adventure--but the game never truly ends
-If your character is killed.   You can make a new one and get back into the game.
-One person creates the adventures, manages the game experience and acts as the antagonists and narrator describing the scenes--and a bad one can ruin the game completely.
You can't explain it as the person with the most: gold (?)  Hit Points (?) Magic Items (?) wins--because success isn't just about individual achievement. It's about survival--both personal and group as well as completing the mission/adventure. A player may have an individual goal but achieving it at the loss of companions,  and instead to finishing the mission, can destroy the game experience and swiftly end your session-as well as your place at the table for good.

Okay so what's my point?
I am not sure--except to say as RPG's are so unlike the usual gaming experience--it is unreasonable to expect a mass market player base.

It takes unique individuals who want to experience a theater of the mind game/story game in which there are no easy/clear answers.  They are thrust into strange and difficult situations in which their own wits, some dice rolls and some scribbled stats/skills/spells on a piece of paper represent their arsenal against the unknown.

Further, It takes a unique individual to dream worlds and create them not only for their own enjoyment, but to inspire and to befuddle a group of potential interlopers ready to break stuff and set about exploring this unknown land. Worse than just spending time creating? You then have to bring it to life--verbally--and you have to referee not only the game in process but act as referee between players if they come into conflict.  All the while being impartial and allowing the players to have the flexibility to explore that strange hole in the wall, sound in the well, or misty mountain in the distance that you had no intention of them exploring.  Flexible, impartial, creative and colorful is a tall order and a rare skill set.

But key to all of that? For me in RPG's it is all about exploration: There are strange caves in the Borderlands, and old underground temple in the jungles of Parwu, a lost dwarf mine in the Hills of Greth, the rat cult growing in the sewers beneath Dolon, the lonely abandoned tower of the Elf Lord on the frontier, the crypt of the necrogazer, exploring the ruins of Dothar Keep or setting sail to the Dread Islands.

It's a unique type of game that posits exploration of the unknown as a key and central game concept. The reasons for exploring may be different: ship wrecked, recover an artifact, find loot, rescue a person, defend a city, destroy evil--but the central concept is that the player will have to go into an area/location that is totally unknown to them, risking life and limb with boon companions to achieve a mission/adventure goal.

Now to me? THAT is exactly my jam--sign me up every weekend I am good to go!

To many though, I am not sure it holds much interest.  It takes time, it takes working together, it takes suspension of disbelief, it takes active participation and it takes some mental creativity on the part of all involved to make the dream real.

If I take someone and describe "a group of five man sized, yellow-eyed, slavering, brown tusk toothed creatures holding stone axes and spears, making menacing gestures and noises approaches--what do you do?"  Not many will want to stick around or even enjoy that sort of thing.  But like the explorers of old--we few, we happy few--find those encounters and explorations to be best gaming experience money and time can buy.