Friday, 28 December 2012

Review: Heroes Against Darkness Gets 4E Right (Allegedly)

Looks like the release of the print version of Heroes Against Darkness has shaken out some new fans.

+John Bell - The Retired Adventurer - has posted a review of Heroes Against Darkness on his blog:

Heroes Against Darkness Gets 4e Right

"I mention all of this because Heroes Against Darkness is a 4e heartbreaker, and a really good one." 

"There are lots of little tweaks like this that I really like. The GM advice chapter is also pretty meaty, and I'd feel fairly comfortable giving Heroes Against Darkness to a new roleplayer as their first adventure game."

"Heroes Against Darkness in general has the feel of 4e done right. I don't say that as someone who hated 4e and wanted it to be fundamentally different, but as someone who played it and felt that the game didn't live up to its own promise. If that sounds like the kind of thing you'd be interested in, go check it out."

It's not all flowers and holding hands though, 'cos John has a couple of criticisms:

"The not particularly serious one is that there's some extraneous swearing in a couple of chapters. I'm not a prude, but it kind of comes out of nowhere and doesn't serve much purpose."

Now I'm a fairly conversational writer, so sometimes more colorful turns of phrase slip into my works.   As far as I can tell, in reading Heroes Against Darkness you'll get one 'shit' and one 'crap'. You've been warned!

The second criticism is more serious:

"The more serious one is the underdeveloped skill system. Skills are mentioned in a couple of places: Each class has some suggested skills they should have, and there's a big list of possible skills, but the actual rules for skills are totally missing, from how many skills characters should have, to how and when they select those skills, to what skills do or how one uses them, to how one gets more. As a quick set of house rules, I'd imitate 4e somewhat: Having a skill would grant a +5 on any checks related to that skill. Character would select say, four at the start and could add another every other level."

I deliberately left the skill system out of Heroes Against Darkness, but its absence has been noted.   But all is not lost, and we've had a few discussions about it over at RPGnet:

RPGnet thread: [Heroes Against Darkness] This is my kind of D&D clone

Thanks for John for taking the time to review Heroes Against Darkness.

Head over to DriveThruRPG to pick up a print edition of Heroes Against Darkness:
DriveThruRPG - Heroes Against Darkness

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Heroes Against Darkness in Print Now!

After what seemed like an eternity (considering the speed of the POD process for Hero Kids), I finally took delivery of the proofs of Heroes Against Darkness hardcover and softcover books today from DriveThruRPG!

I won't bore you with any more of the trials and tribulations of the process, suffice to say that right now you can buy the hardcover and softcover books of Heroes Against Darkness from DriveThruRPG:

Hero Forge Games Products at DriveThruRPG

Everyone loves pictures, so here are a bunch of shots of the proof copies that arrived today.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

POD Update

So I got in touch with Scott over at DriveThruRPG to find out whether I'd messed up the files for the hardcover of Heroes Against Darkness, and I got this quick response:

"No, that isn't normal at all. It should take about a week at the outside.  I'll send along an inquiry to our client rep over at LSI and see if she can track this down for you."

And like magic, today the print files are approved!   I've ordered proofs of the softcover and hardcovers, which I hope will arrive before Christmas.   Once I've checked them out I'll make them available on DriveThruRPG.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

POD Progress - Not So Much...

So I'd love to have good news, but DriveThruRPG are going super-slow on processing the files for the hardcover POD edition of Heroes Against Darkness.

If I'd known it was going to be this long, I'd have ordered proofs of the softcovers, which have been approved for over a week now...

Anyway, I'm waiting for both to get approved, then I'll get the proofs.   At this stage it's clear the books won't be ready before Christmas.   :-(

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Heroes Against Darkness POD Progress

In other news, I just uploaded the PDF assets for the softcover and hardcover print verions of Heroes Against Darkness to DriveThruRPG. :-)

Now for some waiting...

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Heroes Against Darkness Print Version

Dear loyal reader(s),

I've been neglecting Heroes Against Darkness lately, but now that Hero Kids is out (go buy it) it's time for work to continue on HAD.   Today we're looking at the immediate future of Heroes Against Darkness, and the next post will be about plans for the future.

Heroes Against Darkness Print Version

First, I've had multiple requests (and not just from my mum) for a print version of Heroes Against Darkness.   I actually did a bunch of work on preparing a print version before I started work on Hero Kids, using Amazon's CreateSpace service.   The advantage of CreateSpace is that it can do interior color printing from my source (MS Word), while with OneBookShelf (DriveThruRPG) I can only get black and white interior without the background parchment texture (because they can't do full bleed with B&W).

I also got held up because I don't have a horizontal version of the logo for the spine or appropriate artwork for a wrap-around cover, like this:

However, the advantage of OneBookShelf is that it's way more discoverable than Amazon, and having the print version there will help my customers and I stay connected.   By the way, having customers is weird...

So screw those lame excuses.   I'll do a B&W interior version (without parchment), sort out the cover, and massage the logo into a more horizontal arrangement.

Anyway, it's coming next.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

International Library Games Day Tomorrow

Looks like I'm running 8 hours of D&D at the State Library of Victoria for the International Game Day tomorrow (Saturday the 3rd of November).

Option B for the younger kids is some Hero Kids adventuring.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Hero Kids Out Now!

Hero Kids, three normal adventures and one premium adventure are out NOW at DriveThruRPG!

Click to get it:

A New Home for Hero Kids!

There comes a time in a young game's life when they have to leave their home and strike out into a blog of their own. For Hero Kids, that day is today.

Hero Kids RPG Blog

This blog remains the home for the development and game design discussions for all of my games, but the Hero Kids blog will focus on that game and its supplements, including adventures and expansions.

So if Hero Kids is your bag, please please please head over there and click the Follow button so that you can stay informed about all the cool new stuff I release for Hero Kids.

As a super-special bonus, here's the cover for Hero Kids, once again by my buddy Eric Quigley:

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Review of Heroes Against Darkness at Earth Alpha

Here's another review of Heroes Against Darkness, this one from Andrew Collas on his Earth Alpha blog.   I've cribbed quotes from Andrew's review here, but check Andrew's blog:

Review of Heroes Against Darkness - Earth Alpha

"...this game MADE me want to play D&D again... well this version of it anyways."

"Heroes Against Darkness... that takes the wide breadth of D&D and pieces together one hell of a fun system!"

"Justin Halliday wrote this as a labour of love, to be sure, and it shows on every page.   The writing is tight and focused, the art is evocative and exciting and the layout is excellent."

"The thing that I liked most of all was the incorporation of a pseudo-4e Power mechanic for each class as well as a hybridized almost Magic The Gathering style for spellcasters.   Together this really hits the spot for me, though it does make house creating character classes a bit of work as you need to balance out their new powers."

"Another nice thing is that while mapping isn't necessary, it is really a lot of fun with the way the rules work.   So much so that my group played out a map combat, and we are NOT mappers by any stretch, and LOVED it!"

"Best of all though is the price... FREE!   That's right, you get a FULL game that is fast and a load of fun to play with out paying 1 single penny."

"So in summation, this is worth the price of admission and even gives you more value than some games that you pay $20+ for.   Check it out, give it a read and maybe even take it out for a spin or two.   Trust me, if you like fast paced, less complicated stuff, this game does not disappoint!"

Thanks Andrew!

Heroes Against Darkness won't disappoint, unlike its author:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

New Hero Kids Logos

You may already have noticed the new Hero Kids logo in my previous Jennisodes post, but if you didn't then prepare to be amazed by the majesty that is the new Hero Kids logo:

And here's the black and white version too:

As you can see, Eric Quigley has transformed my original into a real piece of art!

Monday, 22 October 2012

HAD and Hero Kids on Jennisodes!

Jennifer Steen was kind enough to have me on Jennisodes to talk about Heroes Against Darkness and Hero Kids.

Check out the episode here:

Jennisodes Episode 127: Heroes Against Darkness

Why listen to me talking about Heroes Against Darkness when you can play it for free:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Presenting the HERO KIDS!

From left to right, they are; knight, rogue, brute, warlock (male), hunter (female), hunter (male), warlock (female), healer, warrior (female), and warrior (male).

Click to enbiggen:

The previous warlocks that I used were in poses much more like the healer and they weren't popular with the playtesters, so hopefully these kick-ass versions get the attention they deserve!

Kids would never fight monsters in Heroes Against Darkness, or would they?:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

What Lurks in the Mines of Martek?

What foul beast has taken residence in the Mines of Martek?

I reckon that whatever lives here can be found in the Heroes Against Darkness Bestiary:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Hero Kids Setting: The Brecken Vale

Last year my art buddy Josh Sacco and I spent some time developing a Photoshop map template that people like me (semi-artists) can use to put together decent maps without having to spend years and years actually learning how to art...

I've finally gotten around to using this beautiful piece of PSD action to put together this map of the setting for Hero Kids: The Brecken Vale, which is described thusly:

You live in a small village, Rivenshore, which is nestled in a tight valley beneath a range of towering mountains.
Rivenshore would be a beautiful place to live, if it weren’t beset by an endless series of calamities.
The village is on the eastern shore of the Camarva River. The river runs fast and crooked from the mountains, down through the valley, The Brecken Vale, and out into a small bay. To the east of the village are the dark and wild Darkenwold Woods, which have claimed many foolish travelers.
The Brecken Vale is bounded by the Druinhowe Mountains, their snow-covered peaks cloaked in cloud.
The vale should be a haven for its civilized inhabitants, but instead it keeps them in close proximity to no end of threats that offer boundless opportunities for adventure.

And here's the end result, which should give the GM and kids something to get their imagination going:

Probably the most difficult part of this map was the research for the etymology of the place names:

Brecken Vale: Valley of the crooked river
Druinhowe Mountains: Ridged mountains
Darkenwold Woods: Holy woodland
Rivenshore: River-shore, but without any great etymological basis!

Considering I do most of my research late at night, don't sue me if my derivations are erroneous (or crazy).

People keep telling me that Heroes Against Darkness needs a setting, so this is a start:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Maze of the Minotaur Adventure Playtest

Playtester 0 (Violet, aged 4) and I spent an hour last night playing through the Hero Kids premium adventure Maze of the Minotaur.

I've mentioned Maze of the Minotaur briefly before, but this adventure deserves some attention because it's quite different from the game's normal adventures.   Maze of the Minotaur is different because it features a randomly generated maze and randomly generated encounters in the maze.

The maze is generated from a set of over 30 random cavern tiles, so each time the heroes move off the edge of a tile, the GM takes the top tile from the pile and (if it fits) puts it down to extend the maze.   If it doesn't fit, the GM puts it on the bottom of the tile and takes another (rinse, repeat).   The tiles include straight tunnels, t-intersections, crossroads, and corner pieces so there's a huge amount of variety on offer for junior adventurers.

The GM also rolls 3d6 to generate a random encounter for each new tile that the heroes enter.   For example, a roll of 3 (three 1s) gives a rock-fall trap, 11 is an encounter with giant rats, 12 is an encounter the titular minotaur, and any total of 15+ means the heroes discover the minotaur's lair, which is the actual goal of the adventure.

But enough this talk, here are some photos from the session.   Enjoy.

A maze with a minotaur, that's almost as original as Heroes Against Darkness:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Hero Kids Adventure Maps

While I'm waiting for some of the artwork to get done for Hero Kids I've been spending my time working on adventures for the game.   So far, I've made two 'normal' adventures (one of which will be included with the game), one premium adventure (which will be a stand-alone product), and I'm currently working on some more standard adventures to create a number of separate adventure packs.

One of the things I've had to do with the adventure maps is make myself a library of bits for caverns, caves, and mines.   The caverns and caves are used in the free adventure that comes with the game (Basement O Rats), and in the premium adventure (Maze of the Minotaur), but I also want to do an adventure in a mine so I spent tonight working on modular rail sections for the mine maps.

Here are a few example maps that I've thrown together from all the bits to make sure they fit together properly:

Anyway, back to the coal face (literally)!

A maze with a minotaur, that's almost as original as Heroes Against Darkness:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Hero Kids alpha playtest complete

After several weeks of thorough testing, the alpha playtest of Hero Kids is now complete.   I've gotten back a whole bunch of useful feedback from the various testers and their tiny helpers.   Thanks guys and girls!

I'm currently working to implement the changes and suggestions that have come up in the testing, I'm designing more adventures for our pint-sized heroes (including an randomly generated minotaur's maze), and finally I'm working with Eric Quigley to complete all of the artwork for the monsters and the heroes so that we can get Hero Kids finished early in October (what a perfect holiday activity it will be!).

Here's a quick look at some of nasty humanoid monsters in the game:

Eric Quigley Art

Lookin' good boys!

The monsters in Heroes Against Darkness are much less cute:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

D&D Encounters at Games Laboratory

Tonight I GMed my first ever session of D&D Encounters at Games Laboratory here in Melbourne, Australia.

We had four players, two who hadn't played 4th Edition at all, but they picked it up pretty easily.   I managed to KO two of the characters and had them on the ropes, but some judicious use of healing checks got them through the fight.   We also had two spectators, one of who has promised to come back next week and play.   The only downside was trying to pronounce all of the damned Drow names!

Next time I need to remember to take some minis and maybe even the my Pathfinder stand-ups, because the generic tokens are a bit mundane.   Oh, I should also remember to take my DICE, although the d20 I used did roll pretty well!

It's definitely a great program to allow new players to try to D&D (in any flavor) so if you're in the area and want to play some casual D&D feel free to join us on Wednesday nights:

Games Laboratory Role-Playing Games Facebook Group

Alternatively, check out this game:
Heroes Against Darkness - Game Rules.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Review of Heroes Against Darkness on RPGnet

Antonios S has done a long and comprehensive review of Heroes Against Darkness over on RPGnet:

Review of Heroes Against Darkness - RPGnet

Antonios' review looks at the game in depth, and picks up on the way the game's rules are presented to ensure they are easy to find and also to make sure that no 'little rules' are buried (or hidden) in the text!

"This is a full game that costs nothing. This can't be stressed enough. It is not a demo, not an introductory adventure, not an abridged version designed to lure you into buying other, more complex products. It's a full system, free for us to check and use according to our needs. The system is contained in one single product. It isn't impossible to play because some rules might be included in future products. It's all there, ready for the taking."

"The mechanics of the game are solid, simple and unobtrusive. Being a light game it obviously won't cover all situations and the GM will have to adjudicate or outright wing it at times. That is, however, one of HAD's very strong points. It can easily give the feel of fantasy gaming with classes while remaining super simple at the same time."

"The writing is concise and to the point. I am trying to imagine what Justin Halliday's background is, since the presentation of the rules is by far the cleanest I have seen in RPGs. Effectively each rule is inside a square preceded by the world 'rule'... It adds however greatly to the concept of the game's minimalism and lightness, since it's quite obvious at any given point where the rules are in any given chapter. I am not sure whether this type of presentation has been used in the past, but even if it has, kudos to Justin."

Note: I haven't seen this presentation of rules elsewhere, and I used it to force myself not to add little rules, elaborations, and exceptions to the game. Any rule I wanted to employ had to be worthy of inclusion in that boxed area, otherwise I left it out of the game!

"Most importantly, it appears that all of his choices are based on a particular principle or idea that he had concerning game mechanics. He doesn't necessarily strive for realism, mind you, but he appears very knowledgeable of game mechanics and how systems and sub-systems interact with each other, how rules mesh and stack up and what tools one should use depending on the goal to achieve."

"Heroes Against Darkness deserves to be in your library and merits to at least be tried a few times. Its mechanics are intuitive, solid and easy-going and the game has an air of friendliness to newcomers."

"HAD is now by far my game of choice for the one-off demos to the uninitiated on what our hobby is about. Something tells me I will not be disappointed."

Antonios S, I salute you!

Heroes Against Darkness is intuitive, solid and easy-going, just like its author:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Sneak peek at a Hero Kids character

So while all of the helpful playtesters are putting Hero Kids through it's paces, I reckon it's a good time to show everyone else what a 'Hero Card' looks like for one of the heroes that's included in the game.  From the card you might be able to work out the basics of the system itself.

First, each of the heroes has four main attributes:
•   Melee (dice pool for melee attacks)
•   Ranged (dice pool for ranged attacks)
•  Magic (dice pool for magic attacks)
•  Armor (dice pool for defending against enemy attacks)

Plus a number of attacks and actions:
•   Normal Attack (melee, ranged, or magic)
•   Special Action (usually a special attack or other action)
•   Special Ability (a passive ability based on the hero's specialty)

Finally, heroes can also have these items and skills:
•   Healing Potions (these are used in combat to heal the hero)
•   Inventory Items (these can be used in adventuring)
•   Skills (these can be used in adventuring or role-playing)

Hero Kids works as a simple skirmish game or as a full RPG, and the characters themselves have layers of complexity so that they are usable by kids from 4 to 10.  Younger kids just have to use their dice pools and their Normal Attack, while older kids can use tactics and their heroes' Special Actions and Abilities to tackle hard combats and other adventuring and role-playing obstacles.

If I've designed the Hero Cards it right, this example card should pretty much tell you about the underlying mechanics of the game and the possible and probable variations in the heroes that come with the game.

Looking for something more complicated, look no further:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Hero Kids alpha playtest begins

Okay, the playtest docs for Hero Kids are out to testers.

If I somehow missed you in sending out the docs, drop me an email at justinhalliday(@)gmail(dot)com.

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

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 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, 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.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

More Niceness About Heroes Against Darkness

The Boulder himself over at the Impossible Boulder blog took a look at Heroes Against Darkness for his series of posts about beginner-friendly free RPGs:

Heroes Against Darkness: Beginner Friendly?

Once again I shall take quotes out of context to increase the appeal of the game (J/K):

"Heroes Against Darkness is a free fantasy role playing game wrapped up in an attractive package and stuffed with style."

"The choice to strip feats and skills from d20 is really the first place that the game starts to move into more old school territory."

"The real beginner-friendly jewel of Heroes isn't found in the rulebook at all. The Sundered Tower is a solo adventure done in a choose-your-path style that teaches the basics of the system."

"Heroes Against Darkness is one the of the slickest free RPGs I have seen yet. Don't let the $0 price tag fool you, this is the full package."

"This is a game that feels like 0e/1e D&D with a more robust tactical framework and a unified system. I get a feeling that Heroes Against Darkness will appeal to fans of the E6, Fourthcore and people that subscribe to the OSR ethos, but not necessarily the games."

You heard the man, don't let the price tag fool you, feel the quality:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

D&D RPG For Kids: Coming Soon...

I still get tons of interest in an old blog post of mine where I played a super-simple D&D-style RPG with my daughter Violet:

D&D For Kids (Rules Included)!

Since the release of Heroes Against Darkness, Violet and I have been working on expanding the basic premise of those rules into a real proper game for real proper kids.   It's too early to tell you too much, but what I'd like to do is to get you guys to contact me if you're interested in playtesting the rules when they're ready.

If you are interested, drop me an email at justinhalliday(a)gmail(dot)com, hit me up on Google+, or just follow this blog and i'll put you on the mailing list for the game's playtest.

Kudos to Eric Quigley for the pic.

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

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

D&D Next: Sacred Spells

So I just got the new survey from the D&D Next team about the playtest, and I'm frustrated with this one.

It asks which spells must be in the game for it to be D&D and then it lists all Wizard and Cleric spells, and you can choose which ones must be in the game.

I selected 'NONE OF THE ABOVE' for all of them and left this reason:
"No spell has to be in the game to make it D&D."

For the final comment I left this note:
"The idea that some spell or other 'has' to be in the game for it to be D&D is a ridiculous proposition that panders to players who favor nostalgia instead of design refinement."

I hate the idea that a particular spell has to be in D&D, otherwise it's not D&D anymore   This is the kind of thinking that panders to old-school players but kills progress and refinement.

Heroes Against Darkness is guaranteed not to contain any spells that must be in D&D:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

D&D Next: Deeper Thoughts

For the last five weeks (or so) we've been playing the D&D Next playtest (as have much of the rest of the D&D fraternity).   I've already posted my early thoughts on what they're doing with the system, but these weeks as a player have given me plenty of thinking time.

My thinking has been prompted by D&D Next, and has focused on a few of the key areas of that game and whether there are any lessons here for Heroes Against Darkness:

•   Bounded accuracy vs. +1 per level
•   HP escalation
•   Monster XP values
•   Defenses vs. saving throws

Bounded Accuracy

One of my first posts here on the Heroes Against Darkness blog tracked the entrenchment of and changes to the +1 per level progression through each of the editions of D&D.   As that post examines, +1 per level has been a key feature of D&D for about 30 years.   Over time the mechanics of the progression have changed; starting with Character To Hit and THAC0 tables, then becoming Base Attack Bonus (BAB) progression, and finally its most elegant and internally consistent design: 4th Edition's combination of ability score increases, magic weapons, and the 1/2 level bonus.   Notwithstanding the fact that 4th Edition's actual implementation of +1 per level was slightly flawed (because it got out of whack at higher levels), I used a simplified version of this for the +1 per level progression in Heroes Against Darkness.

My mistake was that I assumed +1 per level was forever.

I was wrong...

The recent playtest for D&D Next covers 1st to 3rd levels, and during that progression the pre-generated characters see no increase in their attack bonuses or the underlying ability scores.   The D&D Next design team call this 'Bounded Accuracy', and it basically zeroes out all of the increasing progression (for attacks, saves/defenses) and replaces it with only one moving part, hit points.   So in the old days, your 8th level fighter was better than a 1st level fighter because he has (generally) +7 extra to his attacks, +7 to his AC, and 7 extra levels worth of hit points.   In D&D Next (as it stands) the +1 per level progression is gone and the only advantage that the 8th level fighter has over the 1st level counterpart is the additional hit points.

If you're in the mood for killing your babies, I think that the zeroing out of redundant moving parts is a fantastic idea.

+1 per level is mostly redundant because it increases for both the attacks and Defenses (at least in 4th Edition), so when you're fighting monsters of your equivalent level then it is effectively static (because your attack bonus will be cancelled out by the monster's increased defenses/saving throws).   I say it's mostly redundant, because when you're fighting monsters of higher or lower levels, the disparity between your attack bonus and the monster's higher or lower defenses/saving throws is a factor and it effectively simulates the relative capabilities of the combatants.

But.   Hit points already does this.

The higher level monster already has more HP and the lower level monster already has less HP.   So the change to bounded accuracy means that your attacks and defenses are relatively (or entirely) static and you have the same chance of hitting a higher level monster as you do a lower level monster. In fact, the whole idea of monster levels may have also been zeroed out, with the monster's HP becoming its only variable.


As these rules are presented so far in the D&D Next playtest, there is no progression at all (at least none in the first three levels).   There's a possibility of them allowing +1 to one or more ability scores at 4th Level, but that only translates into an actual increase to a modifier every 8th level!   I'm not sure that I want to play a game where my character's only development and progression over time is his (or her) hit points.

HP Escalation

The introduction of bounded accuracy (why can't we just call it +0 per level!) has put more emphasis on the amount of HP that characters have at the start of the game, and the amount that they gain each time they reach a new level.   One of the areas of Heroes Against Darkness that I'm thinking about closely is the HP escalation at higher levels.   Basically, the removal or reduction of +1 per level means that you have the opportunity to scale back the HP increases that characters see over the course of the supported level scale, meaning that 'high' level characters end up with 60 (or so) HP instead of 120 HP.

Monster XP Values

It does make we wonder, if they went to all the trouble of zeroing out other areas by introducing bounded accuracy, why haven't they also zeroed out the monster XP values (which are all multiples of 25).

Defenses and Saving Throws

The reintroduction of saving throws to D&D Next is another area I'm conflicted about.   Actually, that's not entirely true.   I'm not conflicted, I think that it's a truly retrograde step.

D&D 4th Edition replaced the earlier saving throw sets (either five or three) with a set of four Defenses, which included armor class.   The advantages of this were:

•   It moved all dice rolls to the attacker
•   It clarified which defense an attack was against
•   The Defenses could have bonuses added separately

When D&D Next was first announced, the designers talked about doing away with Defenses by having attacks made against ability scores, which struck me as a fantastic idea because it removed the additional layer of abstraction and removed some numbers.   However, in the playtest documents it's clear that they weren't able to execute this idea, probably because of the relationship between ability scores and ability modifiers (there's a blog post in that chestnut).   I think that they would not have been able to reconcile the fact that ability scores increase by 2 for every 1 point that modifiers increase, leading to the 'Defenses' (the ability scores) outrunning the attack bonuses (the ability modifiers).

Instead, we've ended up with a fairly complicated hodge-podge of numbers and modifiers for the saving throws (makes you wonder why they didn't just go back to Defenses, but I imagine that the grognards wouldn't have a bar of those).

Here's what we have now:
•   The spellcaster has a Save DC (say around 14).
•   The spellcaster also has a Spell Attack bonus (around +4).
•   Some spells are cast against the target's AC, in which case the spellcaster rolls and uses their Spell Attack bonus to beat the target's AC.
•   Other spells are cast allow an saving throw and specify an ability, so the target rolls and adds their relevant ability modifier to try to beat the spellcaster's Save DC.
•   To further complicate the issue, there are other spells that offer no defense and no save.

Frankly, it's a mess.   You've got numbers flying back and forth across the table.   You've got three different resolution mechanics for different spells.   And all because they wanted saving throws back.

That's the price of progress (sarcasm).

Of course, there is a way of using ability scores as Defenses, but it requires the designers to kill one of D&D's most sacred cows.   And that is another blog post for another time...

Head over to the game rules download page and see why defenses are better than saving throws: Heroes Against Darkness - Game Rules.