Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Presenting "Hero Kids" RPG for Kids

I've been pretty quiet about RPG stuff lately because I've been beavering away on my next project.   Regular readers know that a while ago I made up some simple RPG rules to play with Violet and since I finished the first version of Heroes Against Darkness I've been working on turning those simple rules into a real game.

This project now has a name: Hero Kids

Hero Kids is a fantasy RPG for kids aged 4-10. It uses a combination of cool hero artwork, fast play and simple opposed combat mechanics to introduce kids to RPGs.

I'm looking for volunteers who want to alpha test the rules on their own kids ahead of the game's release on DriveThruRPG later this year.

This is your last chance to hit me up here, on G+ or on my gmail if you want an invite the playtest the game!

In the mean-time, here's a real-life RPG for grown-ups:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Advice for Publishing Your Own RPG

There's a thread over on RPG.net where a designer asks what to do now that he's finished his RPG.   That's all pretty standard stuff, but one of the responses was so good I'm going to re-post it here.

This is the response by Kevin Crawford, who's the designer of Stars Without Number and Other Dust.

Here's the rough formula I used; it may not be the best formula, but it worked for me.

1)   Write a game.   Lay it out in a simple, clean two-column format with some apposite stock art acquired from DTRPG. Use InDesign if you have an educator's discount or a willingness to splurge for the best, and use Scribus if you want a free but less friendly alternative.   Plan for POD from the start.   It's simple to turn a PDF into a book if you've planned the layout from the start.   OneBookshelf's print submission guidelines will tell you what you need to do.
2)   Write a supplement or adventure for that game.   You're going to charge for this, because OBS is a business, and they need to make some profit off of at least oen product if they're going to be serving up your free game on their website.
3)   Get a publisher account set up with OneBookshelf.   This takes about 24 hours and is free.
4)   Load the game and supplement both as PDFs and as print files. Get the print proofs sent to you and have someone else look for problems too.
5)   Put the game up for free and the supplement up for a modest price.   Price the game POD at at least $25 and the supplement at at least $10 for anything more than 32 pages, and $15-$19 for larger supplements.   Price the supplement PDF at half the print cost, and bundle a free PDF with the POD.   Stay away from penny-ante PDF pricing; people who see $0.99 stuff tend to assume it's shovelware, rightly or not.
6)   Start selling.
7)   Customers who download your free products end up added to your OBS mailing list if they choose to accept emails.   This is why, after two years, there are about 6,500 people who'll take my emails.   These people are going to be your market, so treat them gently.   One email per month, tops, and make sure you've got something meaningful to tell them when you do.   Spamming customers is a guaranteed way to build hate.
8)   Continue supporting your game with freebie products to keep people interested while you work on paying materials.
9)   Abandon all life outside of your work.

There.   A simple nine-step plan to earning slightly less per hour than you'd make at Burger King, except without as much social status.

I think that Heroes Against Darkness needs a print version, don't you?
Heroes Against Darkness - Game Rules.

Friday, 17 August 2012

What to Steal From D&D Next!

Now that I've had time to think about some of the things that those crafty designers are WOTC are doing for D&D Next, I think that a few of their changes to that game are worth pursuing for future versions of Heroes Against Darkness.

Things to steal from D&D Next:
•   Slower scaling progression
•   Resistance reduces damage by half
•   Vulnerability takes critical damage
•   +1 to a starting ability score for class

Scaling Progression

While Heroes Against Darkness follows D&D's +1 per level progression, D&D Next casts this aside and goes for a completely flat ability score progression and relies on HP increases to simulate the relative power of high and low level combatants.

While I don't think that totally flat progression is desirable (because it reduces the players' ability to feel that their characters are developing in a meaningful way), I do start to worry when characters start to reach +10 (or more) once they're at Level 6.   To test out this feeling, I posted a poll on RPG.net, which asked the respondents how fast they thought their character's main ability score bonus should progress.

Here are the results:

+1 per level by tables (e.g. D&D 1-3rd Eds): 10.45%
+1 per level by mechanics (e.g. D&D 4th Ed): 16.42%
+1 per 2 levels (e.g. +1 to primary ability every level): 10.45%
+1 per 4 levels (e.g. +1 to primary ability every second level): 22.39%
+1 per 8 levels (e.g. +1 to primary ability every fourth level): 11.94%
No progression ever: 28.36%

The results here show that about 27% of respondents want some form of +1 per level, and another 28% want no progression ever.   Obviously these two groups cannot be reconciled.   Based on this statistically insignificant sample, I reckon that the sweet spot is probably somewhere around +1 every third level.   This gives players some progression and control over their characters, but it also keeps the escalation of the bonuses (and the scores themselves) under control.


My previous plan for resistances in Heroes Against Darkness was to reduce the damage by an amount that is derived from the monster's ½ Level bonus.   D&D Next makes resistance a simple half damage.   While the half damage from D&D Next doesn't reflect the power of the monster (a powerful monster can completely negate the damage in Heroes Against Darkness), the simplicity of the maths makes it easier to run.


As with the resistances, vulnerabilities in Heroes Against Darkness are currently calculated from the monster's ½ Level bonus, like this:

"Vulnerable Cold: +5 damage per ½ Level of the attacker from cold sources."

This could be simplified by switching to critical damage for vulnerability:

"Vulnerable Cold: Attacks from cold sources deal critical damage."

Ability Score Bonus for Class

The final immediately worthwhile design element from D&D Next is the association of a character creation ability score bonus with the class, separate from the traditional bonus that is derived from the character's race.   This change gives players greater freedom to mix and match classes and races (rather than having to choose the most optimal combination).

Check out the game that the D&D designers should be stealing from:
Heroes Against Darkness - Game Rules.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Heroes Against Darkness v1.02

I've updated all of the Heroes Against Darkness PDFs to v1.02.

This is another minor update that addresses one of the issues which has come up in the EN World review (and possibly elsewhere); namely that the class powers are separate from the class descriptions.   To address this I've added an extra line at the bottom of the Example Combat and Spell Powers section of each class that tells the reader which page that class's powers are on.

Let me know if any of you have any other feedback for this version of Heroes Against Darkness.

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

Monday, 13 August 2012

EN World Review of Heroes Against Darkness!

My new best friend Mike from Neuroglyph Games has posted a lengthy official review of Heroes Against Darkness over on EN World:

DnD Review of Heroes Against Darkness by Justin Halliday

This is another great review of Heroes Against Darkness, and the $0 price tag really appeals. Mike also picks up on a few of the common elements in Heroes Against Darkness and D&D Next (developed in parallel, I might add), as well as the extensive GM support that's offered in the game.   Finally, although Mike pegs Heroes Against Darkness as a retro-clone and OGL game, it is not released under the OGL and it is a totally original work (aside from the fundamental D&D mechanics):

"Justin Halliday's own take on the evolution of the fantasy role-playing games.    He set himself the task of designing a game system which could appeal to a wide range of D&D gamers, regardless of which edition they favored, and has released the rules free for the download!"

"While the author does not consider his work a retro-clone, because it draws on all editions including the current 4E, it does seem to draw most heavily from OGL, with some of the simpler features of AD&D and 2nd Edition to keep information needed to play a character down to a two page character sheet."

"The production quality of
Heroes Against Darkness is overall good, but with aspects which are very good..."

"The artwork in
Heroes Against Darkness is quite good, and most of it is simple line art or concept-art style charcoal sketches, which again give that old school feel to the rule book."

"Heroes Against Darkness turns out to be a pretty cool retro-clone, which manages to bring together facets of all four editions of D&D..."

"And given how much content is packed into this game system, it should really be priced in the ten to fifteen dollar range – but it’s actually FREE – and you can’t beat a price like that!"

"Overall Score : 4.1 out of 5."

You can't beat free, can you?:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.