Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Nexus Edition

It's no secret that Heroes Against Darkness is firmly rooted in the traditions and mechanics of all editions of D&D. When describing the game, I specifically refer to it as a 'd20' system because most of the mechanics in the game (attacks and ability tests) are much the same as those that were codified in D&D 3rd Edition.

But, I have a problem. And that problem is how to define how Heroes Against Darkness relates to D&D and how to describe the game. You see, Heroes Against Darkness has similarities with each of the different editions of D&D, but it also has differences with each edition (some fundamental), and it also extends outside of the traditional D&D feature-set.

Basic D&D

As a whole, Heroes Against Darkness is probably closest to Basic D&D. However, even though the game has the same simplicity of presentation as Basic, it really doesn't share much in the way of mechanics, with just a few common elements:
• Simple character creation (no customizable feats or proficiencies).

Advanced D&D

The biggest similarity between Heroes Against Darkness and AD&D is:
• Separation of class and race.

D&D 3rd Edition

The 3rd edition of D&D was the first to unify the mechanics of the system so that the d20 was used for attacks and ability tests:
• Unified d20 mechanics for all sub-systems (combat, ability tests).
• Ascending Armor Class.
• Unified Experience Point progression for all classes.

D&D 4th Edition

D&D 4th Edition introduced a number of innovations that I also employ in Heroes Against Darkness:
• +1 per level progression of attacks is based on inherent underlying mechanics, rather than arbitrary tables.
• Defenses instead of saving throws.
• Codification of attack powers (instead of disparate feats and class features).


As you can see, Heroes Against Darkness borrows from both old and new editions of D&D. And alongside all of this commonality with D&D, the game's entire magic system is more closely related to Magic: The Gathering, rather than D&D!

When I talk about the game, I am tempted to categorize the game as a retro-clone, because of its similarity to various earlier versions of D&D. But retro-clones are more closely based on the corresponding edition that they're cloned from, and Heroes Against Darkness (happily) cannot point to a single earlier edition that it clones.

I also find it tempting to describe the game as rules-lite, because it does have comparatively few rules for such a fully-featured system. But rules-lite games, such as Dungeon World Hack, are often more abstract and have rulesets that fit in pamphlets, not in tomes.

Personally, I consider Heroes Against Darkness almost as a 'reference' system, much like Google make Nexus phones to display their OS in its purest form. Heroes Against Darkness is a nexus edition that takes elements from all of the other editions (and elsewhere) and combines these into one unified game system.

Check out Heroes Against Darkness over at the downloads page: Heroes Against Darkness - Game Rules.


  1. This is an excellent guide. I wish that all fantasy games that are inspired from D&D performed the same analysis.

    I'd put a link to this post in the right hand menu called "I play D&D, how is HAD similar?"

  2. Agree with mwschmeer : it's a neo-clone (as DCCRPG)

  3. Certainly sounds interesting!