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.


  1. i agree with your sentiments and reasons in everything above. EN is a fantastic invention in many contexts. i think it does the heavy lifting of preventing a Conan the Wizard, which along with attribute dumping is very bad.

    i was still leaning toward a house rule of 100 XP times the next attribute level to raise an attribute. that's very expensive and makes it foolhardy to scrimp XP for that purpose when your attribute is already 10 or better and you can get immediate, cheaper gains through skills/spells. however, your thoughts on players having to rely on each other and hirelings is a very good point. i think that converted me.

    1. Thanks Adam for your feedback and for taking time to consider my alternative thoughts. The good news is, even if you find you do not like it the way its written, you have an alternative ready! Enjoy the game!

    2. for refereed adventures, alternative unnecessary. the HOW way is best. the gm always has the ability to put something in the adventure like a potion of permanent assist or something. it's a one-off deal and players shouldn't feel entitled to it.

      i'm still scratching my head a little for programmed adventures though. if they are already written and do not specify an option for hirelings, i guess my house rule will be that they are always available (implicitly). the referee section of HOW does a great job of defining types and costs of hirelings as well as how to determine their attributes, etc.

    3. Adam, most adventures (programmed or otherwise) don't always specify hirelings, and a Referee is always free to change as they like. Also note, the EN attribute does make HOW heroes hardier (42pt) so the should be good to go in most adventures.

  2. Did you or your wife do that Conan the Librarian illo? Because that's genius.

    Thanks so much for going into further detail on this. I absolutely agree that TFT broke down when stats got too high, forcing us to start "levelling up" the campaign itself. You hit the nail on the head when you identify one of the big differences between D&D and TFT when they reach epic levels, and I think the balance you provide between EN and static Stats is a really elegant solution.

    Started playing DCG's "Shadows in the Dark" tonight... so far, so great!

    1. The art was a t-shirt design on think geek awhile ago I think.

      Well I know it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I appreciate people giving it a look and a try to see if it doesn't work. I knew this would be an issue for traditionalists, if they don't like it, they can always change it. No harm, no foul!

      Looking forward to hearing how your play of Shadows turn out RSJ!!

  3. Q: would the Athletics or Acrobatics skills be applicable to a Dodge test in the same manner that the Shield skill applies to a Block test? i know there are no game police and i could do that if i wanted but i was wondering if you intended that use of those skills. thanks in advance for your reply.

  4. A: Yes Athletics or Acrobatics could be used as a bonus to Dodge. I would not let a Player stack them together in a dodge attempt...unless that player can describe how and why this particular dodge can leverage both skills into a 5 second Gymkata super stunt. :)

    Thanks for the question!