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!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

En Garde!

Thanks to those of you who voted, there will be a Swashbuckler focused section in Cauldron #1.

In addition, while writing up bits on spell books and cartomancy, it made more sense to include them in Cauldron #1 than the Magi Carta. Why? Because I think their inclusion makes for a unique magic asset that would play out nicely in a swashbuckling campaign.  Well they go together in my mind at least so boom, into the Cauldron they go!

If you wanted to contribute to Cauldron #1, there is still time-just let me know!

Back to scribing the Magi Carta!


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

All these spells

All of the spells going into the Magi Carta are being adapted from OGL sources.  There are a number of reasons why and I thought I'd share them with you here:

1) Gives HOW players an arsenal of spells to work with like never before
2) Spells are established, tested and are expected spells in fantasy gaming
3) Allows OGL system players/GM to transition to HOW more easily
4) Readily available and useable under OGL terms

In addition to spell lists, I'll provide the "subclass spell lists" should you be converting to, or decide to use subclasses in your HOW game. In addition I have a article on Spell books going in and a new magic type Cartomancy to add in as well. So far I have about 35 hours into the project and another 45 or so left.

Original spells will continue to be found in the pages of the Cauldron as well as In the Blades & Black Magic book so have no fear on that count!


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Magus Carta, strike that, Magi Carta

The Magus Carta Magi Carta will be the title for the new spell and magic book for Heroes & Other Worlds.  My wife is at work on a new cover and I am happy to say the spreadsheet of spells is also complete.  Yes indeed IQ8 through IQ18, all are complete.

Now its a matter of working it into a word document, fleshing out the spell descriptions and adding the other nifty bits.  This is one mountain climb finished. Although the view is nice, I still see a few more peaks ahead yet to climb.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Magical Progress

A quick update on the magic book.  I am working from a spreadsheet first to categorize spells by IQ, Type, cost, range and brief description. Once that is complete I will transfer it to a word doc and flesh out descriptions and do layout.

The Spreadsheet will eventually be used as an alphabetical "quick reference" in the back of the book  while the word doc will be presented by IQ# in the core section of the book.

Also this book will provided optional new ways of casting spells as well as some possible spell lists for types of casters (Elf, Dwarf, Necromancer, etc.)

Completed Spells
IQ8, IQ9, IQ10

Still to do IQ 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 & 18

Sunday, January 27, 2013

OSR 2.0

And so here is post 100 on this blog.  While I intend this blog to focus on Heroes & Other Worlds gaming, I thought I would break out of that pattern for this 100th post.  Why? Well there is a buzzing in my head that will not quiet.  It started a bit ago with the notion of an Old School Renaissance 2.0 beginning as suggested on the excelent Mesmerized by Sirens blog.  Second was a post today on the also excellent Alexandrian blog regarding a prediction for an uptick in RPG gaming. Does one then portend the other? No, I can't say for sure there is a direct correlation yet, but perhaps a connection at some point may be established. Before we talk about a second life, let's talk about death.

Currently in U.S. retail we are seeing major book chains collapsing and disappearing. Recently Borders was burried, but before that Waldenbooks and B.Dalton. In the next few years Barnes & Noble too will fall.  Why? Much has to do with the rise digital reading devices combined with increase selection/lower pricing via online retail.  Independent bookstores and used bookstores will continue to survive if not thrive when no longer overshadowed by the retail giants.

This is nothing new as recently a combination of on demand video, and Netflix has killed Blockbuster, Suncoast Motion Picture retail & Hollywood video.  Before them, MP3's, iTunes and iPods killed Musciland, Camelot Music, Tower, The Warehouse music and untold other music retailers. While the major retailers have folded, the strongest independent music shops have survived and even thrived.

On the horizon, the ability to download games will be as central to new games on home console machines as it already is for computers, tablets and phones.  This change will kill the Gamestop retail chain. They survive based on the product margins from buying used games and systems, not on the sale of new products. When games are digital downloads that can no longer be traded in for $5 and resold for $25, their retail life is over.  You can get hardware or controllers online or at TRU, Target or Walmart so there is no need to go to a specialist shop...ever again.

Currently the (board) gaming world is seeing a renaissance of its own.  When you can find exclusive Star Trek themed Settlers of Catan at Target, you know you have made it big. The reasons for growth is three pronged in my mind: First, boardgames provide more value than video games by being endlessly re-playable.  Second, they are a face to face group dynamic experience, something novel in the online age. Last, the mechanics are interesting and quick to learn, combined with IP's that spur/drive interest.

A huge volume of board and card games are being produced currently and fill the shelves of independent retailers as well as mass market retail shelves. Part of this is a discovery by Americans of games with mechanics beyond Risk and Monopoly combined with strong IP's (Game of Thrones, Star Trek, Walking Dead, Halo) that appeal to a mass market audience.  A game about being a goat farmer in 1630 won't play in L.A.  Shotgunning zombie hordes while hot wiring a Pinto? That's gold Jerry! The effect of this Boardgame Renaissance though will be the same as any fad: bad products rush in to capitalize on a hot market, channel glut of too many games chasing too few dollars, retailer discounting to get rid of overstock, and decline of interest having been burned by sub-par products leads to a crash. 

Currently video game purchases are down 20% or more from last year, and 2011 sales were down from 2010.  This is because a lack of new console systems released combined with rise of portable phone/ipad gaming. New Machines in 2013 and possibly 2014 will see a renewed surge in video game sales and no doubt as tablet prices decrease, and there usage proliferates they too will feed a surge of digital gaming.  In my estimation, this will trigger a massive decline in the board gaming market in 2014.

Okay smart guy, so what the heck does ANY of that have to do adventure gaming (RPG's)? Glad you stuck around to ask.  You see the board gaming experience (face to face, interactive, social gaming) will be something people will want to continue even after board games go out of vogue or maybe shift to more of a digital experience.  Combine that with adventuring gaming providing a non-competitive (cooperative) gaming experience that usually appeals to women as much as it does to men and you have the potential for new gamers.  In other words, I think the market conditions are being created by the board game boom to facilitate the potential for an adventure gaming resurgence.  But just because the opportunity knocks, does not mean anyone will answer the door.

You see I think the vast majority of gaming books published are too complicated and far too big. It is rare the person who will pick up a college sized text book and think, man this looks like fun $40 let's have a go!  The physical presentation of the game will need to change to fit modern, non-gamer sensibilities.  Whether it is boxed like a board game, published in slim volumes like books, or made as a series of inexpensive downloadable ebooks, the age of door stopping tomes must come to an end if the games are to attract a broader audience again.

Second, and I've no wish to offend when I say this, but our representatives will have to be more mainstream in terms of social acceptability.  Mention role playing to a non-gamer and you get the instant assumption the players will be unkempt, unclean, mother's basement dwelling, and socially awkward at best, or socially backward at worst.  While clearly untrue in the mass, it is surprising how ingrained this characterization may be. Considering how mainstream comics, board gaming and video gaming have become, its a bit surprising that role playing is still considered the uncle in the attic when it comes to social acceptance.  That stigma is a part of the reason why I refer to Heroes & Other Worlds as an Adventure Game, not as a role playing game.

Third, the games need to focus on players having adventures, not on players trying to "be" Redneck Gandalf.  One can play that way if they like, or grow into playing a role, but labeling these games "Role Playing" infers one MUST do this to play it, and that is a chain linked fence topped with razor wire to the vast majority people who are also potential new players.

The OSR has created a tremendous underground of new games, designers, and material which further seed the hobby.  Clearly this underground force caused waves in mainstream gaming companies and continues to drive new growth in different arenas outside of traditional retail.  I think a OSR 2.0 is rising, and out of this second wave, we may see a combination of market interest/need combined with "new player" friendly design that may catch fire.  There are no guarantees and I am not suggesting it will be 1979-1984 all over again.  What I do think is there are possibilities and potential on the horizon. Where that leads and what will we see? Well my friend that will be an adventure.

Side note, regarding kickstarters:  For the sweet love of everything holy, STOP funding these unless they have a previous track record of delivering or are done by an established company.

If you choose to fund one anyway, please remember these facts:
1) FEW will hit delivery dates given, your RPG based one WILL NOT, so don't get froggy about it.
2) Some will take your money and run, that's life in the big city.
3) Don't whine if you choose to fund one anyway knowing 1 & 2 in advance, you have been warned!

My own stuff is done on my own dime, no kickstarter, ever. If you purchase, you get what you bought as soon as you can download it or when the post delivers it from lulu. Your purchases fund further work and new products for Heroes & Other Worlds. I am an old school capitalist, so if you have gaming money to spend, and want a new game? Feel free (or not) to throw it my way and get a new game.  To those who already have, you have my thanks very much for your support! I look forward to making even more good stuff for Heroes & Other Worlds. Hooray capitalism!

Now back to making Heroes & Other Worlds posts and gaming stuff, this century mark post is at an end, and a new one begins.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Thus far voting seems heavily tilted towards Swashbucklers in Cauldron #1.  I have started gathering my notes and such to make it happen.

Now I need to be clear on what this will, and will not be.  It will not be a historical or even semi-historical based campaign nor setting.  No England, no France, and no Caribbean based buccaneers.

Instead I want to use the historical facts to create a "toy box" for you to use and be inspired to create your own thing. So weapons, backgrounds, ideas, suggestions and feel? Yes sir in spades.  I am even looking at doing a simple sandbox setting as part of it to show you how a fantasy swashbuckler setting could work in HOW.

I think history, movies and novels provides all sorts of great historical based background already so I am using it as a springboard, not a frame.

Everything I write or create for HOW, is what I would want to personally read and/or use. That may or may not equal success let alone likability, but it will in the end be work I will enjoy and hope will be fun for you.

Image Source

Full Page Character Sheet

I had a full page character sheet requested and that mission is now complete! I found the border in an old game store print ad, cleared out their wordy bits and added in my own.  I love this because it is totally a blend of OSR and early 80's UK/US gaming goodness.  Now I need to listen to Piece of Mind and roll some dice for awhile. Rock on true believers!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: Cauldron #0

One of my go to sites for maps is AJ Stone's STONEWERKS blog.  Between him and Dyson Logos there is a treasure trove of mapping goodness to use in creating your own adventures. He is living proof that the OSR creativity blows away the days of yore.

AJ has just posted the first review of Cauldron #0 issue.  THis is available as either an artless, free download or as a print version.  AJ reviews the print version and has some good things to say.

If you were on the fence about getting it or just interested in general, head on over to AJ's site and read the review now.  More importantly, take a look at the incredible mapping goodness he has created.  I am looking forward to working with AJ in the future on some unique HOW materials.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Marching on...

As you may or may not know, I have taken a hiatus from writing my Sword & Shield blog.  I had originally considered just deleting it, but life is long and while I am devoid of inspiration for S&S currently, who knows what tomorrow may hold?

I say this because I want you to know this has NO effect on Heroes & Other Worlds except to show my focus.  I have 3 games floating out there now (HOW, Rogue Space, Far Trek) and a fourth Eighty-Eight, in draft form.

HOW remains my #1 priority and muse. I will continue to be developing new stuff for HOW while also doing bits for the other games. Next for HOW is the big spell book and the #1 issue of The Cauldron!

I look forward to an exciting 2013 for Heroes & Other Worlds. Thanks very much for your support and I look forward to seeing where the game goes!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Creature Feature: Gillman

 Gillman (Territorial)
DX:9/12 swimming
MV3/9 swim
DM 1d6+1 claw
TR: Pouch or Lair

The Gillmen are an ancient aquatic race of humanoid standing between 5 and 6 feet tall.  Primarily found in tropical coastal or deep river, jungle environments. No one has seen a female Gillmen and there is speculation there may not be any as the Gillmen are know to raid human settlements and steal females.  Gillmen are extremely protective of their territory and are known to fixate on a female until they are killed or the female is taken out of their territory. The gillmen prefer to lure pursuers back into the water where they are more agile and apt to have a superior advantage to humans. 

Adventure hook: The characters are asked to help in the strange disappearance of women harvesting muscles near the old sea caves.  Their baskets are found left behind with scattered shells and strange large wet foot prints.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Samurai vs. Swashbuckler

One of the features in the first (and future) issues of Cauldron is a section (tentatively entitled Arms of the Ancients) where I will add in some equipment, maybe rules, background and adventure ideas centered around a  historical era.  So for the first issue, its your call Samurai or Swashbuckler? Voting happens until 1/31/13.

Next project (besides Cauldron #1) is the spell book. Also if you'd like to contribute to the Cauldron, drop me line, paint me a picture, or post me something to publish. Email me at fenway5@frontier.com.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Become a Hero, Blackmarsh awaits!

Robert S. Conley's Blackmarsh setting is a perfect introduction to sandbox game play. I am a big fan of it, and fortunately he okayed a new version for my own TFT inspired game Heroes & Other Worlds.

I adapted Robert's work to work with my game and included two mini adventures as well as some handy charts and additional information for hexcrawling in the Blackmarsh environment.

You can get an art free PDF or an "artified" digest sized paperback from lulu.com.

Just click on the Heroes & Other Worlds image to your right to go get it now. Haven't bought Heroes & Other Worlds yet?  Well now is a great time! You get 20% off your purchase on lulu.com using the code JANBOOKS13.

Special thanks to Robert S. Conley for his creativity and kindness, thanks to E.P. Donahue for his illustrative creativity, thanks to A.J. Stone for his cartographic wizardry, thanks to my wife for her patience, creativity and love, and thanks to God for making it all possible. 

For my next monkey trick, I am going to go for broke with a massive tome of magic spells for Heroes & Other Worlds.  It should be over 500 spells when it is done, then there will be additional magic types and some "magic schools" in there as well as options.  Just like in the HOW rules book, the spells will be workman like in description, presentation and tone.  I think clarity and brevity trump arts and flowers in rules.  Blame my style for a liking of Hemingway and Steinbeck more than Tolstoy or Hugo.

The next published item from me will be Cauldron #1 in March.  If you want to contribute something to Cauldron #1 please email it to me at fenway5@frontier.com. 
E.P. Donahue already has, so why haven't you?!

Don't forget, if you are looking for a new adventure please check out Dark City Games programmed adventures, they are fantastic and you could easily slot them into your new Blackmarsh campaign!

Blackmarsh bound

Here is the finished Blackmarsh; Heroes & Other Worlds edition cover.  It is in editing now and then the artless PDF will be ready.  I will add in art bits for the printed booklet edition (cover above courtesy of my lovely wife) and then both will be made for sale.  I expect these to be available sometime later tonight.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Blackmarsh Additions

While the majority of additions I include in Blackmarsh are small, there are two which I think will aide the referee in starting Blackmarsh as their own campaign setting.  First, I have decided to include the Wickerman adventure from Cauldron #0. It will be a location in the Heroes & Other Worlds version of Robert Conley's Blackmarsh and the text of the adventure from Cauldron #0 will be reprinted in this supplement.

Second. I am going to include a new village, Bruen, which is a good starting point for adventuring in Blackmarsh.  It is a small village, but big things often have small beginnings! I use it in my own sandbox setting, Caswyn, when play testing HOW and I think it and the starting adventure (The Witch of Bruen) will be good assets to start your adventures in Blackmarsh!

I wrestled with including either adventure, let alone both, in Blackmarsh.  Yet when I put myself in the shoes of someone new to gaming, just getting back into it, or just trying to launch a campaign in Blackmarsh setting, it seemed like having a bit of extra information and a starting adventure or two fleshed out would be a good base one could build from.

I hate giving myself the extra work, but I'd hate more not doing my best to give you something  worth your money.  It's a blessing to have such a phenomenal canvas to work from with Robert Conley's Blackmarsh setting and it would be crime to do less than my best in adapting the Heroes & Other Worlds version of it. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blackmarsh update

My wife is almost done with the cover for the HOW version of Robert S. Conley's Blackmarsh!  QUick correction, I also have THREE unique illustrations from E.P. Donahue (wrong attribution previously) as well as more good stuff going in. 

I need to give my wife time to get the cover done so I am hopeful it will be done on Sunday.  I will put the PDF up for sure this weekend, but it will be with no art to make it cheaper for those who want a PDF. The print version will have art for those old school cats like myself who prefer the old school goodness of a physical game book. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

TFT the evolution

Robert Saint John has created a unique and not to be missed document comparing the Fantasy Trip system in all its various incarnations. In a strictly comparative manner you are able to one stop shop and review the differences and iterations of games from Melee through to Heroes & Other Worlds comparing the various systems and their contents! 

Light on color, high on content this is a brilliant piece of work and should not be missed! 
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Blackmarsh blossoms

Things are coming along nicely in converting Robert S. Conley's Blackmarsh setting to Heroes & Other Worlds. Robert's original work is very inspiring and my own changes and additions are minor so I should have the conversion complete by next weekend.  My lovely wife is creating a new cover for it so I am hopeful (but not promising) to have it completed by next weekend. 

UPDATE: Blackmarsh conversion is 95% done. I need to edit my additions and flesh out a section but its pretty much done. Blackmarsh will add 15 new terrors to the Heroes & Other Worlds system!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Reward, not roadkill

One of the (to my knowledge at least) very unique things about the way I run games is the creatures are worth more than an XP gain.  If you have read the Wickerman adventure (in the #0 issue of the Cauldron) you get a hint of what I do via the Grave Moth description. The wings of the Grave Moths can be used to create a sleeping powder!

I try to do this with lots of creatures in my games and the HOW rules book hints at that as well with some creatures found within.  I take this from both a study of cultures historically and from my own experience hunting. Every part of a creature is used if at all possible, and it struck me as odd from an early age that creatures killed in adventure game combat were just left strewn about the dungeon or battlefield.

Sure there could be "dragon armor" in some games but that was usually it. What about a manticore's tail turned into a mace with shooting spikes? Green slime grenades (green slime in glass vials)? Giant snake fangs turned into daggers with a poison delivering center! It's amazing, once you begin planting the seeds of the vanquished being more refuse, how creative your players will become in thinking of ways to use or try to use the remnants of the defeated foes.

In general I use a (mental) calculator kind of like the old ECON 101 supply v demand graph.  In my case its Rarity (supply) v Danger (demand). 

Most campaign have lots of humanoids (elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins, etc.) so their value is nil really with this idea.  It's the fantasy beasts or giant sized critters that serve as potential treasures to be exploited.  Perhaps the spine of undead skeletons can be fused together into a living rope or bridge? The wings of giant bats could become a parachute or glider of sorts.  The potential new kind of sensible "magical" wealth this creates for Players and the secondary market it creates in your game is extremely creative and fun for both Referee and Players.

So how to introduce it? Have the enemies your Player's face begin using harvested weapons and equipment.  Kobolds with slime grenades, goblins with venom tooth daggers or dropping from trees with bat wing gliders, neanderthals raising and using fire beetles for their sacs as incendiary grenades. 

Alternatively, have an alchemist or wizard hire the Players to harvest certain parts or bits from creatures.  I prefer the shock of combat to the fetch and carry method because "seeing" it in action will leave a much greater impression than dropping off the lava toad eyes (which could become small lanterns), for a bag of coins.

The critters you throw up against your Players are an incredible untapped resource for expanding your adventures and game play! Get to it!

Back from the dead

...and sorry for the brief interruption.  The product is back up for sale and you can get 20% off in January using the promo code


That code works on ebook or hard copy!

Thanks for your patience, now back to adventure time!

Next on my list is to get the Blackmarsh conversion done and out!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


For some reason Lulu has sent me the following message regrading print copies of Heroes & Other Worlds:

It has come to our attention there has been a problem fulfilling an order. Please be patient while we investigate the issue. We will contact you within 2 to 3 business days with the next steps. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and would like to assure you that the issue will be handled as quickly as possible with the utmost care.

No idea what the issue is or may be.  For the time being I am taking down the purchasing until the issue is resolved...or at least until I get some idea of what's going on.