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, July 16, 2016

Inquiry into gaming #1

Intermittently I'd like to discuss in a larger sense gaming--and it may be rambling. Why do we enjoy gaming?  What is it about adventure games or roleplaying games in particular? While roleplaying game online are on consoles are huge businesses raking up hundreds of millions globally--the dowdy old pen and paper based tabletop games are still far more satisfying and interesting to me. Why?

I have spent time trying to come up with reasons why--and though I am sure my thoughts and reasons may not be the same as your own--I'd like to share mine and hope you will share yours as well. I don't think there is a "one answer to rule them all" goal here, rather perhaps by sharing our own insights we can better understand-why we play, what about them brings so much enjoyment, why are they still relevant in our own lives--and why do so few other people have much interest in the table based games.

As I have been recovering I hooked up my old Nintendo and in a fit of nostalgia began to explore Hyrule once more in The Legend of Zelda. Having not played it since 1987 I had no specific memory of getting through the game and its dungeons but it all slowly came back upon re-entering Hyrule.

It hit me during play, and I do no claim this to be an original thought by any means, that The Legend of Zelda is just a wonderful hexcrawl.  You go across the terrain, you randomly encounter foes, you find some dungeons to uncover unique and powerful artifacts--and eventually amass power and experience to defeat the big baddie. Yet before Zelda, the Ultima's, Wizardry and Bard's tales games certainly had various dungeons and overland "hexploration" as well.  Yet the previous games were both more regimented/turn based and the platform/ systems they appeared on where less accessible (PC more adult/expensive) then the NES (cheaper/hooked up to a TV in the family room.) I think because of this delivery difference, most people would be easily able to have heard of Zelda, while Ultima, Wizardy, and Bard's Tale would be far less familiar--if at all.

 I tested my own lovely wife and she KNEW Zelda having played it herself as a young girl--but the other 3? I got that look when you ask about trying to find some obscure RPG book you left of reading downstairs, that she kindly put away somewhere but has no idea which specific book with a dragon or sword wielding savage I could possibly be tasking her to remember was shevled.

Second, Zelda has you controlling just one character--Link--the others had you controlling a party of 4 or more differing characters, generating names, all of their stats, picking classes and equipment.  With the Legend of Zelda--there is just Link. You start with 3 life and  the adventure begins. In fact speaking of equipment below is the TOTAL list of 26 equipment items in the Legend of Zelda:

Blue Ring
Red Ring
Wooden Sword
White Sword
Magical Sword
Small Shield
Magical Shield
Magical Boomerang
Book of Magic
Magical Rod
Silver Arrow
Heart Container
Blue Candle
Red Candle
Power Bracelet
Magical Key
Life Potion
2nd Potion

By comparison, just the arms & Armor list of 1985's Ultima 4 is 22 items on its own.

Yes the style of game is different, the level of detail is different and we can get into further discussions about verisimilitude differences in the games influencing the overall design....but that isn't really my goal or point.

I guess what I am driving at is the Legend of Zelda manages to deliver an extremely memorable and brilliant RPG experience--simply.  Zelda is extremely easy to pick up and play as well as one inviting you to get right into exploring and discovering.  Not that the Ultima's and wizardry are any less good--just that their design is more "detailed/hard core" and that complication making them appealing to a more narrow/specialized taste.

I am not inferring a "mass market" game is a better game by any means, only that removing barriers to entry can(potentially) increase the number of people both playing and overall enjoying this style of gaming (adventure/rpg). 

In the immediate gratification/ on demand App age,  is the pen & paper game simply an interesting artifact? Is it the effort to explore/create simpler designs a futile endeavor?  If not what are the basic elements necessary to impart a fun experience without over burdening players? 

This is where I leave off for now.


  1. Sometimes . . . simplicity is just . . . satisfying.

  2. I think that's one of the reasons why we prefer things like TFT and HoW -- entry time cost is about five to 15 minutes for an experienced player to teach a completely new player. the fundamentals are so...well... "fundamental," that you can walk someone who's never played a FRPG or wargame before in their lives through it in less than a quarter of an hour and get them up and running for at least an arena battle in a few seconds more. Then you can throw them into something like "The Orcs of the High Mountains" or "Death Test" to begin to give them a feel for more of the details, and you're off and running. In no time at all they are making intelligent tactical decisions and beginning to get a grasp of the basics; from there role-playing is MUCH easier since they've already internalized the basics of the system by PLAYING -- just like a computer game only with actual personal interaction and not scripts!

    Too many of the other desktop RPGs out there require hours of character creation, and more hours explaining what all of that does and means before they players can so much as walk out the tavern door. Then, if they die right away, they've "wasted" that hours-long time investment; something that simply isn't an issue with things like TFT or HoW where you can whack together another character in a minute or two.

    That initial time investment problem DOES create a barrier -- especially for people used to the relative painlessness of computer gaming.

    1. With other system there's the inevitable confusion that comes from the new guy sitting at the table with the "rules lawyer." Sheesh.

      Yeah, the new guy gets "lost in space" relatively quick, which only equates with his/her being turned off about the hobby itself

    2. Thanks both for the feedback. I am tinkering with a non-heroes system that is even more easy entry in terms of mechanics and play. Having run it a few times players initially were a bit "underwhelmed" in terms of character build--wait, that's it? But in terms of game play, it was much more fluid and creative, especially for me as the referee. Ended up with TPK each time, but as a "one shot" sort of evening of fun-it worked quite well.

      More to come...

  3. Really? So am I. The OneDice system seems like it might be really good for presenting a minimum barrier to entry. I really think the biggest barrier to entry is the variable quality of GMing. I'm trying to figure out a way to present GMing in a way so that it's got the lowest barrier to entry while having the highest quality it can. Still gathering data...

    1. OneDice system, you say? interesting. i've been tinkering with something similar for some time now. i have much more notes than i've posted on my crappy blog but i remain wishy-washy on some things.


      basically, TFT-light played with 1d6.

  4. interesting discussion. simplicity of mechanics and initial character build/options are paramount in my opinion. the most successful plans of mice, men, and the universe start simple and evolve with progress. it is the simple and sturdy structure that stands the test of time. these things are evident in both manned and unmanned nature. complicated structures collapse under their own weight as they grow larger and more complicated. if they were built upon a sturdy, simple design, that structure remains when the complicated, superfluous bits fall away.

    even a "pen-and-paper" rpg system with simple mechanics and initial character build is complicated by the complicated nature of our modern lives. there must be a Ref and at least one player. these people must be able to find time in their busy, hectic lives to get their game on. this is why the structure of DCG's "programmed" adventures is like some sort of holy grail for me. you can run them solo or with a Ref. however, i think the structure of the "modules" could be improved a bit for a Ref-run game.

    as some others have eluded, i believe the biggest hindrance to pen and paper rpgs has been and always will be the inexperienced or incompetent Ref. again, the "programmed" adventure is a holy grail of sorts to remedy that situation. you might call them training wheels for new refs.

    a ref needs to be humble but unafraid to exercise his power. in the beginning the manifestations of his powers will naturally be a bit ham-fisted. with experience, he learns to exert his power in more subtle ways. at the same time, a ref must be willing to loosen his grip on the story. let the players guide the story when they are up to it but let the story guide the players when they seem lost.

    no one loves an iron-fist "dick-tater" but the lackeys he favors. on the other hand, no one follows a "speck-tater" that doesn't lead.

  5. "Is it the effort to explore/create simpler designs a futile endeavor? If not what are the basic elements necessary to impart a fun experience without over burdening players? "

    I look at the way Pathfinder does it and I wish I'd had that kind of organization when I was a kid. You can buy an adventure, then all the miniatures for the adventure - either in cardboard or pre-painted. You can buy cards that have most of the rules on them, cards with pictures of every NPC for the SAME adventure and for every piece of treasure IN that adventure. That's how you do it right except for one thing - the system is gawdawful complicated.

    So it's not just enough to come up with a simple RPG, you got to come up with a simple way of GMing it was well.

    The "Death Test" type modules in TFT did a great job of doing this. You could play the minute you counted your change at the cash register.