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!

Friday, November 30, 2012

More Q+A: XP+EN

Okay no complaints anyone when this shows up in The Cauldron!

The question was raised as to why HOW (unlike TFT) does not have rules for raising Attributes with XP.  Instead XP can only be used to purchase higher levels of skills/spells.

Here is the official, and well known,  historical primary rule for games of this type:

If you do not like a rule, feel free to change it! 

I sincerely mean that! There are no game police so tweak rules to fit the way you want to play!

Now that being said, here is why I do not, and will not, create an official option in HOW to increase Attributes through XP: It breaks the spirit of the game and IMHO ruins it.  Those familiar with the Melee/Wizard/TFT system will also be familiar with Conan the Librarian wizard.  Attributes could be raised to 20+ and as ST powered Wizards spell casting, they would have a high IQ and a Conan like ST in order to cast spells.  It broke the game for me mechanically and conceptually. I was determined not to repeat what I saw as a design mistake. I think as conceived originally, Melee/Wizard was a terrific pair of fantasy boardgames. It was their conversion from boardgame to RPG (with TFT) that the game system (IMHO) broke down.

Remedy part 1: Adding the EN Attribute, this effectively got rid of the Conan the Librarian Wizard while adding a heroic sense of taking damage and being able to bounce back the next day.

Remedy part 2: Allow Players to increase their skills/spells but not their attributes.  This avoids the I am good at everything DX/IQ munchkin gaming that I saw(and hated) abused in games of TFT.  Instead Players now focus on the character and how to grow their abilities (skills/spells) with XP.  Just Attribute dumping/increasing does not focus a Player on developing their Hero into being a better blademaster, a master of void elemental summoning, or becoming the greatest archer EVAR.  

You see in using the the HOW method (XP increases skill/spell levels only), Players are developing a class for their character! By electing to hone known skills/spells and choosing specific new skills/spells, each Hero is become a specialized class or individualized Hero of the Player's design.

Sure you could say, "well Attribute XP increasing and just buying a skill here or there its all the same thing in the end anyway."  Sorry but I don't believe that is strictly true.  This method oversimplifies the character conception and building process over long term play, thus robbing Players of the unique building aspect of creating their own Hero.

Second, not allowing Attribute increases requires Players to rely on each other, and/or retainers! If I cannot be good at everything I do DX related, then it requires different specialists to come together to make it through an adventure.  This again mimics the philosophy of class based game experience without the artificial barrier of your class can/cannot do task X.  Instead the Players get to decide through their own Hero's skill/spell focus what they can or cannot do.

You may disagree, and you may have alternative options, and that's cool. I am all for you house ruling whatever you like to make the game fun for you! I'd only suggest trying it as written for awhile.  You can always go back to a more TFT'd version, but you might also be pleasantly surprised!  In the end, do what makes the game fun for you!

 I am at work on the Faults & Favors rules for Blades & Black Magic. In essence taking a fault gives you a Hero point, and you could use that to buy a Favor (special ability) or add a point to an Attribute.  Currently a 3 Fault max is my play test.  In design I always default to Heroic, not Super Heroic, characters and game playing.

As to Heroes being underpowered vs. average humans.  Starting Heroes have 42 pts of Attributes and have a bonus 4th attribute.  Average folks have 24 points, no EN, and that roughly makes Heroes worth 2 average folks. That's heroic, but not super heroic, and still keeps a group of bandits challenging and not simply a speed bump on the road to Bel Turhain Moor.

I liked the Melee/ Wizard system specifically because characters did not become what they ended up being in D&D: god challenging, dragon riding, magically encrusted fops.  There wasn't a point in Melee/Wizard/TFT gaming when dragons became boring, or Kobolds became like milkweeds to be easily blown out of the way. Enemies of any kind were something to be respected because your character could quickly die.  EN (in HOW) is a way to make Heroes (and special villains) more hardy while still making them subject to the ever present mortal coil.

I called characters Heroes for a reason: they are built to be heroic and to do/dare more than the average NPC in the game. I did not want them to become Super Heroic because the game breaks down, becomes boring as nothing is challenging enough, and IMHO it ceases to be any fun.  In the end I made the game I always wanted to play and it reflects the kind of Heroic stories/gaming (not super-heroic) that I really love! I can only hope it may be something you'll like too.

Thanks again for your interest and for giving HOW a try.  I really am grateful for your support, questions, comments, and appreciate the differing opinions.

First Review

 Robert Saint John has taken time to give his thoughts after a few reads of HOW. I appreciate greatly his time and efforts in writing this, and look forward to the the actual play-test report in Pt 2.  Thanks RSJ! 
Mini-review for Heroes & Other Worlds - Pt 1

I don't have a general gaming blog, but I wanted to share my initial thoughts about Christopher Brandon's new game Heroes & Other Worlds. This is only based on two read-throughs, one quick and one leisurely, and I'll follow up with a lengthier review (probably on RPGGeek and RPGnet) after I get some play time in on it this weekend.

Short version: a worthy successor to The Fantasy Trip, but introduces some smart and unique twists that make it much more than a clone. Much more fleshed out than Legends of the Ancient World and Dragons of Underearth, and somehow captures the spirit of the Moldvay Basic Set. At 120 digest-sized pages, a surprisingly complete game that is well-organized, slickly presented and will appeal to fantasy gamers old and new.

Details: Although I referred to it in yesterday's post as a retro-clone of my personal favorite FRPG, Metagaming's The Fantasy Trip (1980), Heroes & Other Worlds (HOW) is more like the "missing link" between TFT and GURPS that never existed. It's completely compatible with TFT and its weird offspring Dragons of Underearth, and Dark City Games' more recent Legends of the Ancient World (and, as a result, compatible with all those programmed modules from both Metagaming and DCG). Heroes are either Adventurers or Wizards (with a flexible blurry line between them), and character generation is a breeze with a point-buy system to build the attributes of Strength, Dexterity and IQ. Based off the attributes, players choose spells and skills. XP is gained during adventuring to be spent later. Combat and task resolution is basically 3D6, roll-under attribute.

Where HOW diverges from its predecessors is the introduction of a fourth attribute representing health/fatigue, Endurance. Similar approaches have been adopted by TFT players over the years as a house rule (for various reasons), and Steve Jackson did something similar with Health for GURPS. Only Heroes have Endurance, monsters and NPCs do not. Endurance basically stacks on top of Strength and is depleted through damage or spell-casting. When Endurance is gone, damage starts hitting Strength, but Endurance points are recovered much more quickly than Strength.

Another notable divergence in HOW is that Heroes do not improve attributes over time. XP is applied to improving Skills and Spells, much like in Traveller. Choose those initial attributes wisely! And realize that as the adventures and monsters become more challenging, NPC hirelings (well-detailed in HOW) are going to be essential.

Combat, weapons and armor are much like they were in the other games, but not necessarily so dependent on the use of counters/miniatures and a map.

That's the first half of the book, basically a Players Guide, including 3 pages of Skills, 15 pages of Spells (IQ8-IQ18), and plenty of examples throughout. The rest of the book is Referee Resources, with 20 pages of Terrors (monsters), Treasures and Magic items, a solitaire adventure (Dark City's "Orcs of the High Mountains"), guidelines for building and stocking dungeons (with optional random tables), a 7 page sample refereed dungeon, tables of weapons and equipment, and very compact character sheets (like TFT, a 3x5 index card will do just fine). The entire book (POD from Lulu) is digest-sized, very nicely laid out, and illustrated profusely with art that ranges from very good to excellent. Fans of the original TFT are in for quite a treat when they see some of these illustrations, and I'll leave it at that.

Verdict: $15 PDF, $20 paperback. Pricier but comparable in almost every way to the Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox Rules. A great introduction to adventure gaming, but especially appealing to players like me who thought TFT was a more "logical" approach to fantasy gaming than OD&D, and never quite got over the fact that TFT met a premature demise.

More info: 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thank you Q+A

First and most importantly I would like to continue to express my thanks for your support and interest in Heroes & Other Worlds. Thank you also for understanding and deciding to purchase an ebook version even if you bought the paper one too.  I am glad you asked and understood my answer, I look forward to producing more content worth not only your gaming time, but worth your hard earned money. I know how tough it is to find stray dollars to fund a hobby, and I appreciate your support greatly.

I am also glad to see lots of questions, thanks RSJ! I will have a Designers Notes article in the #0 issue of The Cauldron. At the same time I don't want you to think I am just going to leave you hanging and waiting.  As long as your happy to re-read parts of this in The Cauldron, I am happy to do a bit of elaboration now.

Endurance is what sets the Heroes (and arch enemies) apart from the normal terrors or opponents. Its their ability to absorb (or through spell casting cause) extra damage without resorting to a Hit Points stat or other odd calculations. Fatigue in some systems mirrors this for Wizards, but if you are going to go that route, why not just make it an attribute that any Hero can benefit from!

Remember unlike d20 games, there are no levels and no increases in HP (or attributes as in TFT) you build it...and that's it for the life of your Hero. Yet as EN recharges quickly it aids Heroes in giving them additional spell casting power as well as letting the Heroes continue to adventure after a set back in battle.

Now how to equate (or balance) Heroes and Terrors in battle if the Terrors have no EN? Well if you are shooting to balance encounters,  just compare ST value total of Heroes vs. the ST value total of the Terrors. The total for the terrors should be equal to or higher than the Heroes. I usually add 1 or two extra terrors. Now that's just a rule of thumb and it allows the Heroes to cut through larger numbers of enemies across a longer adventure.
And some news...

Issue #0 of The Cauldron will come out in December, I am hoping to include some unique spells from a contributor, a refereed adventure, and a sample solo programmed adventure playable with an included NPC. It will give the curious a taste for the system if you want to try it before you buy. Second it will be provide a good taste for what's to come overall as future issues will be for sale.

A dialog has started about a potential well known setting made for HOW.  Hopefully the stars will align and some good news can be shared soon.

Lastly, if you are looking to kick off an adventure, I highly recommend checking out the adventures at Dark City Games.  Each include battle map, counters, and is programmed so you can play it solo or in a group!

Looking forward to seeing a review!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ebook now available!

For those interested the Ebook version of Heroes & Other Worlds is now available on Lulu.com!


Monday, November 26, 2012

More Magic?

HOW has a solid group of spells included in the basic rules book.

As HOW spell casting is based on IQ not Levels, there are spells for every IQ level included from IQ8 to IQ18.

Yet as every Referee and Player knows, more spells are always wanted!  To that end I am compiling a rather extensive new, and separate, spell book.

Two questions for you:

1) Should it's creation supersede a #0 issue of Cauldron?

2) Should it include all the spells from the HOW rules book as well as all the new spells?

Let me know, and I hope you get your printed copies of the rules soon, I know I am anxious to get mine!

Image from John Howe portfolio

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Two classes? FTW?

...and the question I was awaiting has finally arisen.  Let's discuss the notion of classes and HOW.  As Heroes are constructed by players the way they like, every possible traditional class: Bard, Assassin, Thief, Barbarian, etc. is possible, but you can make it the way you want it!  Want a barbarian spell caster? cool.  Sword wielding wizard? Make it happen! No wonky multi-classing restrictions, nor strange obtuse XP chart rules.  Just simple, sensible, gaming.

Let's define Heroes. Every character is classified broadly as a Hero. The next subclass is to divide Hero into two broad specializations Spells (Wizards)  vs Skills (Adventurers). What type of Wizard or Adventurer you choose to be is up to you to create! Any Hero can use skills or cast spells. Wizards learn spells more easily than skills, and Adventurers learn skills easier than spells. That's really the prime difference.

Some Referees like to have lots of classes in the party and a flexible ( broadly defined 2 class) system like this may cause some concern. What I have found is players still gravitate towards and create characters reflective of traditional classes so every role is filled.  Even better, they have more flexibility to make it a thief or fighter they personally like rather than being pigeon holed or boxed in by class restrictions.

I had thought that adding in "sample classes" might be good, but decided to leave that sort of guideline for inclusion in either an issue of The Cauldron or Blades & Black Magic rules book.

What about feats and other specializations like that? Faults & Favors will provide a system for character advantages and disadvantages.  They will be included in Blades & Black Magic.

This in no way suggests HOW is somehow incomplete.  Instead, much like any good basic rules book, all the tools you need are there already!  Everything else is going to be neat additions/options to expand game play or options.

One project I have not mentioned before, but may get bumped up, is a book of spells with specialized sample wizards like healer, necromancer, elementalist etc. and attendant suggested spell lists.

Thanks very much again for your support and for giving HOW a try.  It's the game I always wished I had found and I am hoping you will like it as much as I do. Last chance to get it at a discount on Lulu.com.

Promo code DELIRITAS gets you 30% off!  NOVBOOKS12 gets you 20% off once the 30% off promo code ends!

Image by Andrew Chen, from his site.

Friday, November 23, 2012

I see

Use code DELIRITAS at Lulu this weekend to get 30% of HOW this weekeend!

While I am still officially on holiday taking a rest from the game and the regular 7 to 5 grind for Thanksgiving, I see some copies of the rules have begun to be delivered!
I Can't wait to get mine too!

The next task for me will be the zero issue of The Cauldron magazine. This will be a free PDF download and will contain 2 adventures, a few other miscellaneous articles as well as a call for you to submit adventures or articles for the official issue #1.

I hope as you get your copy you enjoy it and please check out some links to get programmed adventures from Dark City Games, or check out the TFT converted Tekumel articles and ideas over at Eye of Joyful Sitting Amongst friends.  You can easily use this phenomenal reworking of an original D&D setting into your new HOW game!

Thanks again for your support and if you have thoughts, comments, a review, or creations let me know! If you plan on producing homebrew stuff to support HOW let me know and I'd love to add your blog link to the Other Worlds link portal!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Quest complete!

It is done, commence quaffing of beer to toast the release of Heroes & Other Worlds.

 Thanks very much to those who have supported this effort over the year with their feedback, enthusiasm, and comments.  I am especially indebted to my lovely wife, to Mr. Beau Chambers for his eagle eyed editing and efforts to make the game great.  (Beau don't order one because I have a very unique thank you kit I am putting together for you!)

I'd also very much like to thank the fine folks at Dark City Games. They allowed one of their programmed adventures to be used in HOW and as the games are compatible, I hope you check out an adventure or two from them!  They are great!

If you are interested in purchasing your own copy of Heroes & Other Worlds, follow the link below to purchase:


You can use the coupon code NOVBOOKS12 to get a 20% discount through the end of the month! 

Heroes & Other Worlds is inspired by Melee/Wizard/ TFT system as well as by the Moldvay edition D&D Basic Rules book. So what does that mean exactly in terms of the game?

1) Only d6 are used
2) There are two broad scope character classes: Adventurers & Wizards
3) Each Hero has 4 attributes and tests are made by rolling 3d6 versus your attribute. Roll equal to or lower and you succeed, roll over and you fail. No AC or charts.
4) You build your character, both attributes and selection of skills/spells.
5) Combat can be played tactically using a map (squares or hexes), but it is not necessary.
6) Armor hinders the Dexterity of the wearer and subtracts from damage done to the wearer.
7) The basic tropes of dungeon creation, exploration, creature catalog, magic spells and treasure tables are all included.
8) TWO adventures are included, a programmed adventure courtesy of Dark City Games and a simple starter Refereed adventure.

If I had to compare it to something, I would not say TFT. Instead an idealized Dragons of Underearth by way of Moldvay D&D.

What HOW endeavors to be is a sensible and simple game system.  Where TFT and later GURPS took a detailed/simulation system path, HOW seeks to retain the original simple resolution but adding a Moldvian sense to game play.

So the HOW Rules book comes out and then what?

Well first, I am happy to say HOW has the support of Dark City Games. The systems are compatible and they are allowing inclusion of one of their short programmed adventure in the rules book.  More importantly for the HOW player, this also means a tremendous amount of programmed adventures are immediately available to support playing the game at launch.

This will act as a sort of  Expert Rules book for HOW. It will include a few additional character options such as faults and favors.  It will include more spells, more treasures, more creatures and wilderness/ hexplore rules and charts. A simple sample Hexplore will also be included.

This will be a (ideally) quarterly 'zine to support HOW.  I will take player submissions as well as creating original content.  Dark City Games has already discussed including additional sample programmed adventures, and any optional rules for HOW going forward will be done via The Cauldron.

This will be a programmed adventure I write inspired by Death Test adventures.

If you purchase the game and take time to review it just let me know!  I very much hope you will enjoy the game and I look forward to seeing where and how far this little journey takes us.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Up All Night

Okay my final edit is DONE...but the love of my life will double check my bleary eyed edits with yet another pass through.

I know keep saying ALMOST THERE...but I truly mean it every time I say it, I am almost done.

To celebrate (besides going to bed finally) the little skull logo is one you can use on your blog if you so choose to show your support/playing of this little game .  I am also going to have a couple t-shirts made up with the logo! If someone else besides me & my wife want to one, let me know and I can put them up on zazzle or something for purchase.

Now to print a copy for my wife to edit/review with her coffee.

Driver 8 taking a break!

UPDATE: Wife has gone through it again...which means I get to start fixing again after dinner.  Goal is still releasing it into the wild on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


After a 15 hour day I come home to find a special delivery! Super excited? HELL YES!! Still some dumb screw ups to fix? crap, yes.  

Worse? There are some minor bits I want to add.  Nope, nothing to derail it from release in the next week, but I can't leave something half done.  In essence there are some "special bits" I added to a few creatures and I think there are some additional creatures who could use the same extra line or two.  Again nothing major, but its the kind of thing that I think adds just a little something.

Everything else is good to go, @ 124 pgs its quite a bit larger than I had planned but I think its a solid  digest sized core rules book.  Some additional tweaks/edits and its ready to venture forth.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hard Charging

I got word that the print test is due to me by Thursday evening this week.

That means a day or two for a final edit...then up for sale it goes!

I will offer the Heroes & Other Worlds rules book @ $20 through the end of 2012 as an introductory price.  I will post any valid Lulu coupons as well to help make purchasing as easy as possbile.

In 2013 it goes up to $25, so there is every reason and opportunity to be a trail blazer! I appreciate the the people willing to take a chance and make a purchase without having the book in hand, so I want to do what I can to make early adoption a possibility.

I will offer an Ebook version as well, but there will be no PDF version. Looking forward to making this available soon.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


editing complete
print test books are on order

Monday, November 5, 2012

Not quite ready to sail

My wife is really going through the final edit with a sharp eye...ugh.  Most issues are extra spaces here and there and a need for some punctuation fixes.  I refuse to start editing until she is done, and she's been through it 2x and is doing a 3rd pass before handing it back.  So Tuesday evening I will start re-editing again before a print test.  Most likely that means the weekend before I get a print test ordered  and reviewing the print test for one last edit before putting it up for sale means...most likely around the end of November.  I'll know more in the coming days but that's the latest.

 I am also putting up a a poll.  Does there really need to be a player's book separate from the full rules? I have no problem making it, (it's just the player portion of the rules taken out of the core rules book) just not sure anyone would want or need it?  So here is a chance to practice your voting skills, let me know!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fresh Eyes

Layout is complete for Heroes & Other Worlds, and I printed a hard copy for my wife to do a find edit.  Her Red Pen is more active than I would have hoped, but that's why its good to have a set of fresh on it.

HOW has turned into a 120 page digest sized game book. MUCH larger than I anticipated, but it is not filled with the wordy prose of a wanna be fantasy author. After my wife finishes her edit, I dive back in to make corrections and then the print test.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Stay on Target...

Thanks to Pastor Beau polishing up the rules through editing, my goal is to finish the final pass of editing and then lay out for HOW this weekend.

Assuming that gets done, I'd order a print test booklet by Tuesday (11/4) and do a final review before putting it up for sale on Lulu, Most likely that would be sometime the week of 11/12.

There will be 2 options: Full Rules (Player & Referee sections) and just the Player's portion.  I decided most Referees will want both in one book anyway so there is no reason to split the referee portion out separately. If I am wrong, let me know.

I have also considered putting the Players rules or maybe the whole game, into a Pocket book format (standard shelf Paper book ) but it would end up begin just as expensive as the digest so I am not sure that really needs to happen.

Holy crap, I can't believe this is almost done!