Friday, 30 March 2012

Alpha Rules Updated to v0.244

I've updated the downloadable Heroes Against Darkness Alpha rules to v0.244.

This is a huge revision of the rules, and incorporates many of the significant changes I've been discussing here on the blog and over on the Game Design & Development forums at

Healing, Anima and Resting

The biggest single change to the game system has been a full overhaul of the Healing Powers and resting in the game.

First, the old Healing Powers (Rally, Recuperate, Rejuvenate, Regenerate) have been removed and replaced with a single Rallypower that is available to all classes at Level 1.

Previously, the Healing Powers healed fixed amounts of Health Points, didn't regain any Anima Points. They also had some fairly fiddly rules for when they could be used. The new Rally power rolls up the regeneration of Health Points and Anima Points during encounters and in short rests into one single power.

Instead of healing fixed amounts of HP, Rally now allows the character to regain half of the amount that their Health Points and Anima Points are depleted.

This change also meant that I made a slight (but significant) change to the formula for Anima Points:

• Anima Points: 5 + Magic Bonus

The final part of this package of changes was to allow the Rally power to be used at short rests, and to allow multiple short rests to be taken between encounters (but each with a longer duration than the last, starting at 15 minutes, then 1 hour, then 4 hours).

Action Time Full action
Power Effect Character regains ½ of the amount by which their Health and Anima Points are depleted.
+4 to all Defenses until end of character‟s next turn.
Special This power can only be used once per encounter

With this change, I've also changed to rules for Resting:

Rule: Characters can take short rests after encounters.
Rule: At a short rest, characters can use their Rally power to recover Health Points and Anima Points.
Rule: At a long rest, characters recover all of their Health Points and Anima Points.

And I've updated the examples of resting:

Rothgar the berserker, Brythil the warrior, Charlange the warlock and have just fought and defeated a vengeful spirit, leaving Rothgar with just 9 HP (out of 31) and Brythil with 16 HP (out of 28). Charlange has emerged unscathed, but his remaining AP is just 3 (out of 10).
When they all used their Rally power at a short rest, Rothgar regains 11 HP, taking him up to 20 HP. Brythil regains 6 HP, so he goes to 22 HP. Charlange regains 3 Anima, taking him to 6 AP.

Other Major Changes

Here are the other big changes:
• Changed some fonts! :-)
• Split example character sheet section into two pages for clarity
• Major edit pass over the whole book.
• Added a 7th Role-Playing Tip to the Role-Playing Encounters section.
• Updated the Combat Encounters section with more examples of powers.
• Conditions section revised, including sections on how to remove ongoing, enforced and area conditions and effects.
• Clarified the healing rules for dying or stabilized characters (returns them to 1 HP, but dazed until the end of their next turn).
• Changed magic Armor enhancements (e.g. +1) to apply to all Defenses, not just AD.
• Updated Powers: Attacks & Spells section with more examples of each of the components of powers.
• Major revision of all class powers.
• Recuperate, Rejuvenate and Regenerate have been removed and replaced with three all-new attack powers for all of the martial classes.
• Unified all ability test powers to use the same difficulty (15 + level of caster or creature that applied the spell effect or condition).
• All martial classes now have five Level 1 powers, two powers each level between Level 2 and Level 5, and one power each subsequent level up to Level 10.
• Improved the presentation of Attack and Spell powers to reduce the amount of wasted space and split lines.
• Reworked many spell powers to scale with X Anima.
• Expanded and differentiated spell lists for all magi classes.
• Added huge section for GMs on Ability Tests and difficulties for lots of tests (Perception, Break Doors, Lifting, Diplomacy, Lock Picking, Climbing, Tracking, Swimming).
• Added section on Magic Weapons & Armor with level breakdowns for appropriate pieces.
• Added section on Magic Items with level breakdowns for appropriate stuff.
• Expanded the On Magic section with lots more detail on the Anima cost of specific spell components.
• Updated the appendix tables and stuff at the back for printing for a GM screen.

Beta Soon?

With all of these changes, there are only a few things to clean up before we're Beta!

Head over to the game rules download page to grab yourself a copy of this bad-boy: Heroes Against Darkness - Game Rules.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Heroes Against Darkness: Session Report

Some readers might be wondering how Heroes Against Darkness works in play, rather than on paper. So here's a quick recap of our Monday night session.

In the lead up to the session, the six adventurers had been captured by goblins while traveling through an ancient dwarven tunnel that linked a series of beacon towers along a range of mountains. We pick up the story with the adventurers in cells in the goblin's tower, and negotiating with the goblin shaman to rescue the goblin chief who had been captured by human bandits based out of the next beacon tower to the south.

The goblin shaman returned to the cell-block with an ultimatum: Help the goblins or else. Luckily, the various members of the party had come to their senses, and negotiated the release of four of the party to rescue the goblin chief from the bandits who were holed up in the next beacon tower some 12 miles to the south. After some discussion, they decided that it was best to leave behind Gorlock the barbarian and Wraistlin the warlock, and to take the Boags the warrior, Stark the hospiter, Sting the hunter and Maza the warlock.

Their decision made, the shaman knocked out the four heroes, who woke up on the mountain pathway that led away from the goblin's tower down to the foot of the mountains. At this point the path widened somewhat, but through the middle of this wide section ran a deep crevasse. The goblin shaman and his minions stood on the other side of the crevasse, waiting for their captives to wake.

Once they were awake, the goblins threw the characters' equipment across to them and pointed the way to the bandit's tower, which was visible some distance to the south. The goblin shaman also threw across a small pouch of healing potions to aid the characters in their quest to rescue his chief.

The smaller party struck out down the path, then followed it into the woods at the foot of the mountain range. During their journey south, the group discussed their plan and decided to try to enlist the help of the bandits in a counter-attack against the goblins.

Some three miles from the bandit's tower, the group came upon a human lookout asleep at his post up in a tree. The party woke him and demanded that he take them to the tower. The lookout claimed that the tower was haunted (been there himself) and warned the party away. The party members insisted and ended up scaring the lookout, who fled into the forest, pursued by the hunter. The fellow proved evasive and lost the hunter to make good his escape.

Resuming their journey, the party came across another person on the side of the road, just a mile or so short of the tower. Again the second lookout warned them away from the tower, but the party convinced him that they had come from the goblin's tower and were here to see his leader. The lookout fetched the bandit leader, Jenton.

Jenton, the bandit leader, came to meet the party, with the first lookout in tow (and looking slightly worse for wear). Jenton told the party that the lookout had claimed that the party tried to kill him. The party convinced the bandit leader that the lookout was lying, and they had not attacked him. Furious, the bandit leader killed the hopeless lookout, and warned the heroes not to lie to him.

Sting the hunter immediately lied to him about what they wanted from him, prompting a final warning from the bandit leader.

Chastised, the warrior told the bandit leader of their captured allies who were held in the goblin's tower, and how they had severely weakened the goblin forces. Eventually, the bandit leader was convinced, and the party reached an agreement with him to assault the goblin's tower to wipe out the goblins and to rescue their captives.

After some discussion, together they came up with a plan for a three-pronged attack, with the bandits assaulting the tower from the northern and southern dwarven tunnels, while the remaining party members would take the goblin chief back for delivery to the goblin shaman. Ahead of the meeting time (sundown the next day), the party drugged the goblin chief to keep him out of the fight, and Enshrouded the hunter (extending the duration of the spell as well) so that he could take up a strategic position in the rocks above the rift-breached mountain pathway.

At the appointed time, the party arrived for the handover. When the goblin shaman arrived, along with two strong guards, two archers, and two weaker guards.

The party attacked. The goblin shaman acted first and knocked out the hospiter with a Restrain spell, but not before the hospiter immediately used an interrupt spell - Seize Initiative - which increased the initiative of all of the party members. Maza followed up with Wall of Ice, which he used to fashion a bridge across the rift. Boags the warrior grabbed the downed hospiter and dragged him across the ice bridge as he charged at the shaman and his guards. Up in the rocks, the hunter had been sighting the shaman using his Steady power and was ready to fire, a shot which struck the goblin a terrible hit.

The battle then began in earnest, with the goblin shaman Bane-ing the heroes to reduce their attack rolls and also calling forth a Mystic Warrior, whose attacks distracted the warrior by forcing him to attack the apparition. The Restrained hospiter managed to use his Shake It Off power to end the effects of the shaman's spell, and re-entered the fight as well as offering some limited healing to the other party members.

Maza the warlock used as much of his Anima as he could on several Chain Lightning spells, which coursed through the battlefield and electrocuted the shaman's cohorts. As the battle raged, the shaman and his archers managed to knock the hospiter unconscious with a few good arrow hits. With the hospiter down and their healing potions all gone, the party members were out of healing (having forgotten about the own Rally powers). Just as Boags himself was knocked out, Maza used the last of his blood Anima to cast another Chain Lightning which killed another two of the goblins, leaving just the shaman and three of his guards (one of the tough ones and the two archers).

Up above, the hunter sighted carefully and loosed an arrow which struck and killed the goblin shaman. With the shaman dead, the remaining guard fled towards the ice bridge (created by the Wall of Ice spell), just as the spell expired, and promptly plunged into the crevasse as the ice gave way beneath him. The two archers fled back towards the tower, but then came screaming back, pursued and quickly cut down by human bandits who'd made their way from the dwarven tunnels and had successfully overwhelmed the remaining goblins inside the tower.

As the smoke cleared, two of the adventurers lay dying on the ground (Stark the hospiter and Boags the warrior), Maza the warlock was on 4 HP (having spent a great deal of blood Anima through the course of the fight) and the hunter was unhurt!

Total combatants:
- Stark the hospiter (Level 5)
- Boags the warrior (Level 5)
- Sting the hunter (Level 5)
- Maza the warlock (Level 5)

- Goblin Shaman (Level 7)
- 2x Goblin Guards (Level 3 each)
- 2x Goblin Minions (Level 3 each)
- 2x Goblin Archers (Level 3 each)

Total Party Level: 20
Total Enemy Level: 22

Combat Rounds: About 8?
Combat Duration: 60 minutes (this was probably a bit slow because one of the players was controlling two characters he wasn't familiar with; the hospiter and the warlock)

Monday, 26 March 2012

Rethinking Healing at Short Rests

I've recently come to the conclusion that the current rules for healing during short rests are not achieving their goals. The goals of the healing and associated gameplay are:
• Allow characters to heal some damage during the course of an adventure day, and all damage overnight
• Gradually deplete the characters' Health Points and Anima over the course of multiple encounters.
• Encourage players to engage in multiple combat encounters each adventure day by offering additional XP (double) for each encounter after the first.

To support these goals, the healing rules are:

Rule: Characters increase their current Health and Anima by half of their maximum at a Short Rest.
Rule: Characters can use Healing Powers during a Short Rest.
Rule: Characters recover all of their Health and Anima at a Long Rest.

As the rules are currently written, the characters recover half of their Health Points and Anima during a short (1 hour) rest between encounters. This means that unless the characters are reduced to below half of their totals for HP or Anima, they will recover all the way to full during these rests.

In order to achieve the goal of a gradual depletion of their health and to stop characters from recovering to full health points during a short rest, I am going to change the wording (but not the intent) of the short rest healing, thus:

Rule: Characters increase their current Health and Anima by half of their maximum at a Short Rest.


Rule: At a short rest, characters increase their current Health and Anima by half the amount that they are depleted.

With this change, the characters' Health Points and Anima will never return to full once depleted.

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

Friday, 23 March 2012

Heroes Against Darkness: Beta Update

Almost two months ago I posted about what I was working on for Beta:

• More monsters from the extended list on page 35 of Beasts and Bastards
• Further development of the On Magic section on page 18 of the Game Master's Guide to determine the Anima cost of each component of a spell
• Refinement of the magi class spell lists, including Anima costs and scaling costs of multiple target and longer duration spells
• Additional combat powers for martial and specialist classes
• Update to combat rules to clarify allowable movement directions
• More market costs for scrolls, potions and wands
• More magic artifacts

So here's an update on what I've achieved (so far):


So far I haven't done much on the monsters, other than add in some Dragons as boss monsters. Boss monsters are designed to appear on their own and to challenge an entire party. So they have two initiatives each round, and lots of abilities to really mush the player's characters!

On Magic

The On Magic section has had an overhaul, with a lot of work to really establish what the factors are that contribute to the Anima costs of each spell. Of course, this has meant that I've had to go back and actually review all of the spells in light of their component costs, which has been a long process.

Magi Spell Lists

Following on from the review of the On Magic section, I've reviewed all of the spells of all Magi classes to re-cost them based on their components (range, damage, targets, duration, etc) and also make more of the spells use scaling Anima costs. Furthermore, I've also reworked the durations and ranges to be based scaling factors (1 round + 1 round per caster level for durations and 10' + 10' per caster level for ranges).

So where the old version of a spell looked like this:

Bane (1 Anima)
Spell Effect Decreases target's attacks by -2
Target Single target
Attack d20 + Magic Bonus
Against Magic Defense
Duration Magic Bonus rounds
Range 10'+10' per caster level

The new version looks like this:

Bane (X Anima)
Cost 1 Anima for each –1
Spell Effect Decreases target's attacks
Target Single target
Attack d20 + Magic Bonus
Against Magic Defense
Duration 1 round + 1 round per level
Range 10'+10' per caster level

The goal of this sort of change to all of the spells is the ensure that the spells never become irrelevant, and put the power of the spell back into the players' hands.

Martial Combat Powers

All of the martial classes have had their power lists expanded up to Level 10. I've also added the Reflex Strike attacks that operate a bit like Attacks of Opportunity, by these are different for each class and they leave the character Hampered on their next turn (so they only have a Major Action and a Minor Action).

Combat Rules Updates

I've added a diagram to the combat rules that clarifies the valid movement directions, and also added guidelines for allowing creatures to 'push past' others as an opposed Ability Test.

Market Costs for Scolls, Potions, Wands

I haven't really expanded the list of market costs for the scrolls, potions and wands, and I'm not sure that I will end up doing this for Beta.

Magical Weapons, Armor and Items

I've added a bunch of level-appropriate weapons, armor, and items that you should be able to drop straight into your games.

Beta Rules release

I hope to have the Beta rules out before the end of the month, with a version 1.0 of the system available towards the end for April so that they qualify for entry into the ENnie awards.

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

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Inconsistent Mechanics: D&D 4th Edition Recharge Mechanic

I posted earlier about the inconsistency of the 4th Edition Magic Missile, so here's another one for you.

If the system is called the d20 System, then why is the monster power recharge mechanic in 4th Edition D&D based on a d6?

I can see no reason for them not to just have the recharge on a d20, other than they didn't have enough glyphs left in their font... :-|

Friday, 16 March 2012

20 Quick Questions for Heroes Against Darkness

20 Questions about my Heroes Against Darkness campaign from Brandon at Untimately:

1. Ability scores generation method?
The system supports 3d6, 4d6 drop lowest, point array and point buy:

Method 1: Normal Player Characters
Roll 3d6 six times, then choose which ability to assign each score.
This method gives an unadjusted cumulative total of 64.

Method 2: Epic Player Characters
Roll 4d6 (drop the lowest dice) six times, and then choose which ability to assign each score.
This method gives an unadjusted cumulative total of 73.

Method 3: Point Array
Assign the following scores to one each of the Ability Scores: 16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10.
This method gives an unadjusted cumulative total of 76.

Method 4: Point Spread
Spread a total of 75 points (or another agreed amount) amongst the six abilities.
No ability score can be less than 8 and no score can be more than twice as high as the lowest.

In our current campaign, the players used the 4d6 method. This led to some disparity, with both of the Warlocks having cumulative ability score totals of over 80 points.

2. How are death and dying handled?
Heroes Against Darkness has these pretty straightforward death and dying rules:
• Unconscious at 0 HP
• Dying from -1 HP
• No single attack can take a character to less than -5 HP
• Dying character loses 1 HP/round
• Stabilize a dying character with an ability test
• Death occurs immediately at -10 HP

The -5 HP clamp for a single attack is because character and enemy damage in Heroes Against Darkness scales at higher levels, so characters can end up taking enough damage to take them from quite alive to dead-dead without this rule.

3. What about raising the dead?
All of the magi classes have a spell variant that allows them to raise the dead:

• Warlock: L10 Reincarnate (Transfers character's soul into new body)
• Healer/Hospiter: L8 Restore Life (Returns dead character to 1 HP)
• Canonate: L9 Resurrect (Returns dead character to 1 HP, but with Ability Scores temporarily lowered)
• Necromancer: L10 Reanimate (Returns dead character to 1 HP, but with Ability Scores permanently reduced by 1)
• Mystic: L10 Recall Soul (Returns dead character to 1 HP, Wisdom permanently reduced by 2)

These powerful spell powers also temporarily reduce the caster's Wisdom score by the level of the spells target. The caster's wisdom score then improves by 1 for each full rest.

In my campaign, characters who have died have been dead-dead. The other characters haven't had access to the resurrection spells, so we've used character deaths (which occured in an almost TPK) to introduce new characters.

4. How are replacement PCs handled?
The recent character deaths wiped out most of the party, so we used that opportunity to introduce a whole new adventuring party that picked up close to where the old characters died and then went on to rescue the only survivor of the previous party from a band of orc raiders that he'd been sold to.

5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
Individual initiative for all characters and for groups of monsters.

6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
Critical hits are worth maximum damage, critical fumbles aren't in the game system (but the GM is always welcome to house-rule it).

7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
Nope, helmets are an integral part of any set of armor. If you're specifically not wearing a helmet I imagine your armor defense would be lower.

This is slightly reminiscent of 'called shots', where characters gain bonuses from trying to hit specific locations on an enemy's body. I like to think that the character is always trying to damage the enemy as much as possible, so there's no point to introducing specific 'called shot' mechanic (unless they're trying to achieve something specific, like disrupting a bowman's shot or something).

Having said that, Heroes Against Darkness has a few melee powers that replicate some of the mechanical effects of called shot. These powers are Careful Strike and Powerful Blow:

Careful Strike (Level 1)
Condition Target in melee range
Attack d20 + Melee Bonus +2
Against Armor Defense

Level 4:

Level 8:

Level 12:
Weapon Damage + Melee Bonus – 2
2d Weapon Damage + Melee Bonus – 4
3d Weapon Damage + Melee Bonus – 6
4d Weapon Damage + Melee Bonus – 8

Powerful Strike (Level 2)
Condition Target in melee range
Attack d20 + Melee Bonus -2
Against Armor Defense

Level 5:

Level 9:

Level 13:
Weapon Damage + Melee Bonus + 2
2d Weapon Damage + Melee Bonus + 4
3d Weapon Damage + Melee Bonus + 6
4d Weapon Damage + Melee Bonus + 8

Mechanically, these offer the sort of trade-offs of a called shot (extra damage for reduced hit chance or less damage for increased hit chance), but without the rigmarole of hitting a particular part of an opponent.

8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
Nope, not in the rules. But as ever, GM discretion applies.

9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
Depends on the encounter and the state of the player's characters. Last night they ran away from a couple of spear-fang spiders when they were exploring an ancient beacon tower, having just survived a large fight with the spider queen and her minions.

10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
Nope, but temporary ability draining could be interesting.

11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
Nope, there's no Save-Or-Die. Death is only through loss of HP, not through absolute binary spell powers.

12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?

13. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?
Well, the system offers the GM the discretion to require training or any other requirement before the characters gain levels. New spells and martial powers are automatically gained.

I personally allow the characters to gain levels at a short rest.

14. What do I get experience for?
Experience is gained for overcoming challenges, which might include:
• Beating or otherwise overcoming monsters
• Solving puzzles
• Disarming or avoiding traps
• Overcoming adversarial NPCs
• Completing quests

15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
This is up to the GM. Ability tests for the character's perception are the usual way that I run these, which involves a d20 dice roll plus their intelligence bonus (intelligence modifier + ½ level bonus).

16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
Not encouraged or discouraged, daily costs are listed for various hire rates. Morale is at the GM's discretion.

17. How do I identify magic items?
Using the Identify Magic spell:

Identify Magic (2 Anima) (Level 2)
Spell Effect Discern magical enchantments of an object or area.
1 enchantment per caster level (lowest level enchantment first).
Casting Time 10 minutes
Range 1 object or area

18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
Yes, but in my campaign they're rare. Potions can be bought, if you can find someone to sell them to you.

19. Can I create magic items? When and how?
Scrolls, Potions, and Wands can be created from spells. The spell powers for creating these are introduced at levels 3, 7, and 7, respectively. As with the resurrection spells, creating these sorts of magic items actually temporarily reduce the caster's wisdom score.

20. What about splitting the party?
Up to the players. They've done a little bit when some players have been missing for a week, but generally they're well-drilled to keep the party together.

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

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

RPG Monster Art Kickstarter Drive Almost Done!

The monster art Kickstarter that I've pledged to has only a few hours to go, and it's almost reached its fourth stretch goal.

So if you're interested in contributing to the drive so that you can get artwork for your own RPG system or just want to get some sets of the stand-up minis for your games, then jump over there and kick in a bit to put the drive over its next stretch goal:

Monster Stock Art Kickstarter Drive

I'm still not affiliated with the drive, but I have pledged to it.

Monday, 12 March 2012

To Haste or Not to Haste?

I've been working on the spell lists of the Healer class (these are the guys who specialize in physiological magic, that which affects a target's physical body), and this has prompted me to ponder the inclusion of a Haste spell. Haste is a spell that has a long and storied history in D&D, and in some editions it's been one of the game's most broken spells.

Delta's D&D Hotspot: Spells Through the Ages -- Haste

The D&D 3rd edition version of haste has the following description:

"The transmuted creature moves and acts more quickly than normal. This extra speed has several effects. On its turn, the subject may take an extra partial action, either before or after its regular action. The subject gains a +4 haste bonus to AC. The subject loses this bonus whenever it would lose a dodge bonus. The subject can jump one and a half times as far as normal. This increase counts as an enhancement bonus. Haste dispels and counters slow."

In addition to the extra partial action (attack, move or spell) and AC bonus, the spell has a casting range (25 feet + 5' per 2 levels) and duration (1 round/level).

Here's some commentary from the awesome TV Tropes:

"Another Tabletop Games example: The haste spell in Dungeons And Dragons version 3.0. Originally redesigned the way it was to "show off" the new action rules, designers learned the hard way that there was such a thing as an action "economy" in their resulting game... and whoops, they broke it. Nerfing this spell was arguably one of the primary reasons for the creation of 3.5.

To make this one step worse, the "speed" armor enchantment permanently duplicated the haste spell and was cheap which wouldn't have been so bad except then the Arms and Equipment Guide established that armor enchantments could be added to bracers of armor which could be worn by characters who don't normally get to wear armor. Every mage in his right mind bought a pair as soon as he could afford them, as an item that grants +1 armor bonus, +4 dodge bonus, AND lets you cast twice as many spells per round without having to ever take the action to cast Haste is a steal at 16,000 gp."

This broken version of the spell was nerfed in D&D version 3.5:

"Haste: The transmuted creatures move and act more quickly than normal. This extra speed has several effects. When making a full attack action, a hasted creature may make one extra attack with any weapon he is holding. The attack is made using the creature’s full base attack bonus, plus any modifiers appropriate to the situation. (This effect is not cumulative with similar effects, such as that provided by a weapon of speed, nor does it actually grant an extra action, so you can’t use it to cast a second spell or otherwise take an extra action in the round.) A hasted creature gains a +1 bonus on attack rolls and a +1 dodge bonus to AC and Reflex saves. Any condition that makes you lose your Dexterity bonus to Armor Class (if any) also makes you lose dodge bonuses. All of the hasted creature’s modes of movement (including land movement, burrow, climb, fly, and swim) increase by 30 feet, to a maximum of twice the subject’s normal speed using that form of movement. This increase counts as an enhancement bonus, and it affects the creature’s jumping distance as normal for increased speed. Multiple haste effects don’t stack. Haste dispels and counters slow. Material Component: A shaving of licorice root."

Here the possibility of casting extra spells and the AC bonus are adjusted, offering just an extra attack to fighters (no extra spells) and the AC bonuses are reduced to +1.

Now, Heroes Against Darkness has a more codified action economy than any of the pre-4th D&D editions. But as Haste changes that action economy, I have to be careful of the unintended consequences of these sorts of powerful effects.

Hasten (2 Anima)
Spell Effect Target can use one move action as a major action each round
Target Single target
Duration End of target's next turn
Range Touch or self

While each of the components of a spell (range, duration, effect, targets, damage, healing, miss effects, effect area, etc) have costs, the entire 2 Anima cost of this spell is entirely due to the spell effect that allows the caster to use a move action as a major action.

As the spell stands, it offers the target one extra major action, which is either a melee attack or a spell. The trade-off here is that the additional major action replaces the character's move action, so it's not all apples. Versions of the Haste spell in various D&D issues have given the target(s) additional attacks

I'm wary of increasing spellcaster power too drastically with this spell, so I've adjusted another rule, from this:

Rule: Magi cannot spend more than Level + 1 Anima on a single spell.

To this:

Rule: Magi cannot spend more than Level + 1 Anima in a single round.

I'm also thinking about the impact of a Haste-style spell of longer duration:

Impel (? Anima)
Spell Effect Target can use one move action as a major action each round
Target Single target
Duration 1 round + 1 round per caster level
Range Touch or self

This scaling variant of the spell gives the target (possibly) another major action every round for multiple rounds. The value of this extra action to the character and the appropriate anima cost are up for consideration and debate.

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

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Sixteen Steps to Being a Good Player

Once you've mastered the seven steps to becoming a good role-player, you also need to master the steps to becoming a good player. Here are a few ideas from my GM experiences (in no particular order):
1. Keep your character sheet up to date.
2. Don't argue, nitpick or pixelbitch with the GM.
3. Don't play like it's a solo adventure, let everyone else have their turn.
4. Pay attention.
5. Put away your f-ing phone.
6. Don't hog the attention.
7. Know and use your character's abilities/powers/spells/skills.
8. Be creative and describe what you're doing.
9. Don't be afraid to try something that isn't written on your character sheet.
10. Know the rules.
11. Try to bring your character to life.
12. Don't meta-game.
13. In combat, take your turns quickly.
14. Don't confuse player knowledge with character knowledge.
15. Try to make a character that's compatible with the other party members.
16. Try to build on what the GM and the other characters are doing, rather than undermine.

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

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Seven Steps to Good Role-Playing

By definition, role-playing is when players take on and direct the actions of their character or alter-ego in a game. Role-playing comes to the fore in Heroes Against Darkness when the players’ characters have role-playing encounters, which run the full gamut from the mundane to potentially deadly:
• Negotiate a price with a shopkeeper
• Gain information from a known criminal associate
• Befriend an influential game character
• Fast-talk out of (or in to) trouble
• Win a duel of wits in a high society setting
• Pretend to be someone of higher or lower status
• Find out the lore of a region, sect or family
• Gain admittance into a powerful guild
• Mount a defense against false criminal charges
• Bribe a low or high official
• Talk your way out of the lair of an ornery dragon
• Negotiate the return of a ransomed individual
• Seduce a busty wench or handsome rake
• Infiltrate a criminal organization

Role-Playing 101

Role-playing isn’t like combat, where player ability scores and powers are combined with dice rolls to determine the outcome. To role-play, the player’s task is to bring their character to life. Here are a few ideas to get started role-playing.

Tip 1: Role-Play Traits

The character creation steps in the full rules of Heroes Against Darkness include a list of character traits that can be applied to all characters. When in a role-playing encounter, try thinking about how a character with that trait would behave. Is the character:
• Boisterous in a serious situation?
• Devout amongst heathens?
• Profligate when celebrating?
• Foolhardy in the face of danger?
• Exaggerator when making promises?

Tip 2: Role-Play Vices and Virtues

In addition to Traits, a character’s Vices and Virtues offer a window into their behavior. For example, is the character:
• Proud or humble?
• Envious or kind?
• Lazy or diligent?
• Greedy or charitable?
• Gluttonous or temperate?
• Lustful or chaste?
• Wrathful or forgiving?

Tip 3: Role-Play Rights and Wrongs

Another aspect of a character is their rights and wrongs. These represent the character’s moral compass, how they would behave in the face of difficult situations.
Would the character:
• Take a job that endangers innocents?
• Distrust an authority figure?
• Seek revenge for a previous wrong?
• Ignore the plight of someone in distress?
• Steal from a rich merchant or a pauper?
• Kill someone of their own race?
• Go against the interests of their family or clan?
• Cheat at a game of chance?

Tip 4: Role-Play Background

The final element of the character details that the player can use to aid in role-playing is their background. All characters are born and raised differently, so each character’s background will give them a unique frame of reference in any situation. Does the character’s background make them:
• Distrustful of all authority?
• Unable to function properly in social situations?
• Scorned by people of higher caste?
• Fearful of magi?
• Avoid attention from officers of the law?

Tip 5: Role-Play Ability Scores

After mining the character’s background, morals and personality, the next aspect for role-playing is the character’s physical and mental capabilities. Is the character:
• Physically strong and imposing? (Strength)
• Dexterous and swift? (Dexterity)
• Fit, athletic and vigorous? (Constitution)
• Spiritual, centered and calming? (Wisdom)
• Intelligent, convincing and insightful? (Intelligence)

Tip 6: Role-Play Class

Along with the character’s ability scores, their class also offers strong role-playing opportunities:
• Noble and honorable (Warriors, Hunters, Hospiters)
• Fiery and temperamental (Berserkers and Warlocks)
• Sneaky and subtle (Rogues and Necromancers)
• Insightful and manipulative (Mystics)
• Pious and respectful (Canonates and Healers)
• Blunt and straightforward (Barbarians)

Tip 7: Role-Play Charisma

If all else fails, the character’s charisma ability score is a good indication of whether they perform well in role-playing situations or whether they’re more likely to alienate and infuriate others.

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

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Inconsistent Mechanics: D&D Essentials Magic Missile

If 4th Edition D&D went to all of the trouble of replacing saving throws with defenses on a consistent basis, then why the hell did they undermine this good work by making the Essentials Magic Missile auto-hit?

Furthermore, this is a double-bad move, because it totally undermines the point of minions. Minions only have 1 HP because there's a chance that they'll be missed (about) half of the time. When you introduce a power that hits all the time, then you break the underlying assumptions on which minions are built, and you break your own rules.

If I ever break my own rules, please let me know.