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!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Retrospective: Thieves Guild and GameLords Ltd.

Thieves Guild manual cover
In coming up with bits for Cauldron #2, I am putting together some stuff focused on thieves and banditry.  So this had me reaching back into my game vaults to dig up my Thieves Guild RPG stuff from GameLords Ltd.  This got me thinking about GameLords and thought it might be an interesting subject for a little post.

In a nutshell, Thieves Guild was a D&D-esque system/setting focused on, well, thieves and running adventures around being the bad guy.  Fun things like tomb robbing, hostage taking, banditry, burglary, etc.  The tagline for Thieves Guild was "Sometimes it's more fun to play the bad guys." At times they are right.  We enjoyed playing Thieves Guild and used the GameLords City of Haven setting as a back drop for many adventures. In fact Brian Isikoff has used Haven with Heroes & Other Worlds as well.

The Free City of Haven was a boxed set that had lots of detail and an interesting construction. It seems to be an early Renaissance setting/time period as a backdrop. Within the box came a number of saddle stitched booklets each represented a different borough within Haven.  This is pretty cool as you need only have the little booklet for the borough you are in rather than a massive tome to flip through to find what you are looking for.  I can see where losing a booklet would mean trouble, but I managed to hang onto all of them through the years.

Intrigue on the North Bank Cover, never published
The Free City of Haven was to be detailed in three different products. The boxed set was the core product.  Next was a booklet detailing the "darker" portion of Haven in Secrets of the Labyrinth.  This booklet introduced more of the color and spirit of The Free City including The Black Hand, the Thieves Guild and numerous other potential plot lines.   The third and final book covering Haven was never released, Intrigue on the North Bank. This booklet was to finish tying together the various plot threads from the other Haven products as well as adding in more new NPC's adventures and finish the Borough maps and descriptions of Haven.  The box set provides a map of the whole city and the central boroughs maps/descriptions. The Secrets of the Labyrinth details out the southern boroughs/areas of Haven and includes the borough maps put right into the book.  These have to be removed from the book, but they are on thick card stock.  The never published Intrigue on the North Bank would have finished the Free City and provided the maps/ borough descriptions for that area. Sadly this was never published although the cover for this and Naked Sword by Hannah M.G. Shapero were completed.

Naked Sword cover, never published
GameLords and their "Fantasy System" were to provide the engine for three total games, Thieves Guild, Naked Sword a game about/for fighter type characters, and Paths of Sorcery a game about/for Wizard type characters.  The three together would have provided a complete game, but only Thieves Guild was ever released. This is a shame for while the "Fantasy System" was just sort of a tweaked D&D engine, the little bits of detail and added scope presented in Thieves Guild to thief type character would have been interesting to see applied to fighters and wizards.  The Fantasy system core book was 32 pages and covered all you needed to make a character for the Fantasy System.

The Thieves Guild specific rules booklet  was 40 pages and covered all the rules of play (like combat) and detailed the specific Thief abilities, scenarios, and game play additions for thieves. This was a slim but well put together assortment of details that are great for the perspective Referee and players interested in this kind of game.  Both the Thieves Guild book and the Fantasy System core book look as if they were printed to be sold individually.  I never saw them sold as such at retail, but certainly the product design supported it. The 2nd Edition boxed game (which this rambling missive focuses on) had an MSRP of $15 and besides the two core books included a character sheet and a 32 page saddle stitched bonus pamphlet (suspiciously containing chapters 6,7,8) with some interesting adventures.

Overall The Fantasy System had the usual interesting spins on the grand old game including adding/renaming attributes (Talent, Magnetism, Appearance) adding more playable races (Centaurs, Pxies and Kindoreans oh my!)
It's fine as a "D&D with a difference" engine, but I would not say the added attributes, races and changing of combat mechanics were earth shaking.  Uniquely the weapons each have a THAC0 rating. So combat is adding the weapon THAC0 (and any attribute mods) to the defenders Effective Armor Class (EAC+any mods).  That total number must be rolled equal to or higher on a d20 to hit. For example a dwarf with a short sword THAC0 9 attacks a guy in Chainmail (EAC5) and carrying a shield (EAC1). So 9+5+1=15 which mean the dwarf must roll 15+ on a d20 to hit.

GameLords were working with MetaGaming to provide a number of supplements. They apparently had big plans but only two were published before Metagaming went belly up. Warrior Lords of Darok and the Forest Lords of Dihad were the only 2 products published for Metagming.  A number of other supplements were done, but had to be reworked to fit the Haven setting rather than Metagaming's works. This included the supplements Within the Tyrant's Demense and City of the Sacred Flame.

There were quite a number of releases for GameLords in the time frame from of 83-84 and lot of plans as well, but when Metagaming folded in '83 it killed a revenue generating stream and sales of the GameLords products never reach a critical mass to support further production. The assets and company were sold to Chaosium (Tadashi Ehara) in 1986.  Mr. Ehara still offers some of GameLords products for sale including The Free City of Haven boxed set and the Secrets of the Labyrinth Haven addition (both highly recommended), the TFT supplement Forest Lords of Dihad, a number of Thieves Guild Magazines and even their fine Traveller supplements.  All are quite inexpensive and can be considered "new stock."

If you'd like more info on Thieves Guild, here are some interesting links:

Making a Thieves Guild Character
Another look at Thieves Guild
Rob Conley's look at Thieves Guild

I hope you enjoyed this little vignette and I should have the Heroes & Other Worlds version of JD Neal's "The Chaotic Caves" availble later this week. 


  1. I have always been coveting Naked sword and Paths of sorcery...

    1. I really would have liked to see their take on the other core classes as well. Oh what might have been...

  2. This is one of the things I want to change with a time machine, as well as a TFT 2nd edition.

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