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.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Sour Grapes vs. The ENnies

The ENnie nominations have just been released, and I've got a huge case of sour grapes!


Heroes Against Darkness may not have been released by some hot (or huge) company, but it's an actual free product than anyone can download and play and use forever for free.

Let's take a quick look at the their best 'free' products:

An adventure that was available free for one day of the year:
Black Crusade: Broken Chains

A demo of a real paid RPG (Dragon Age):
Dragon Age: Quickstart Rules

A short adventure released as a promo for a real paid RPG:
The One Ring: Words of the Wise

A conversion guide from Pathfinder to Shadowlands?:
Shadowlands Conversion Guide

Another short adventure released as a promo for a real paid RPG (Pathfinder):
Pathfinder Module: We Be Goblins!

UPDATE: There is a free download of the Black Crusade adventure, but it wasn't on the first ENnie nomination post, and before the nominations came out you'd have to find the link through Google (not through the ENnies or the publisher):

Here's what a real free product looks like, enjoy:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

More AnyDice d6 Dice Pool Probabilities

Following my previous exciting and enigmatic post about d6 dice pool probabilities, I've also run the same combinations of dice pools through AnyDice to see what the probabilities are when you take the cumulative totals of the pools, rather than just the highest of either pool.   The results are (obviously) a lot different.

First though, here's the AnyDice code:

function: opposedhighestcume of A:n and B:n
      if A >= B { result: 1 }
      result: -1

output [opposedhighestcume of 1d6 and 1d6]
output [opposedhighestcume of 2d6 and 1d6]
output [opposedhighestcume of 3d6 and 1d6]
output [opposedhighestcume of 4d6 and 1d6]

output [opposedhighestcume of 1d6 and 2d6]
output [opposedhighestcume of 2d6 and 2d6]
output [opposedhighestcume of 3d6 and 2d6]
output [opposedhighestcume of 4d6 and 2d6]

output [opposedhighestcume of 1d6 and 3d6]
output [opposedhighestcume of 2d6 and 3d6]
output [opposedhighestcume of 3d6 and 3d6]
output [opposedhighestcume of 4d6 and 3d6]

output [opposedhighestcume of 1d6 and 4d6]
output [opposedhighestcume of 2d6 and 4d6]
output [opposedhighestcume of 3d6 and 4d6]
output [opposedhighestcume of 4d6 and 4d6]

That code outputs either -1 or 1, depending on which pool 'won':
•   1: Attacker's total is higher (or ties, which is also a win).
•  -1: Means that the second pool 'won' and the attack was unsuccessful.

Here are the results for the cumulative opposed checks, with ties resolved in favor of the attacker:

Attacker's pool
(down the left)
1d6 2d6 3d6 4d6
1d6 58% 16% 3% 0%
2d6 91% 56% 22% 6%
3d6 98% 85% 55% 26%
4d6 99% 96% 81% 54%

Here again are the previous results for the 'highest dice' opposed checks, with ties resolved in favor of the attacker:

Attacker's pool
(down the left)
1d6 2d6 3d6 4d6
1d6 58% 42% 34% 30%
2d6 75% 61% 53% 48%
3d6 83% 72% 65% 60%
4d6 88% 79% 73% 69%

That's all pretty boring, right?  

Well, hopefully it will make sense one day. :-)

Check out Heroes Against Darkness, which has a dice mechanic no one could call innovative: Heroes Against Darkness - Game Rules.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Tabletop Forge Kickstarter!

In working on Heroes Against Darkness I've discovered the great community of role-players out there on the internets, and specifically the great community of not-crazy role-players on Google+.   Through these people I've met and gamed with Charles Jaimet, who's one of the programmers of Tabletop Forge, which is a free Google Hangouts application:

"Tabletop Forge is a Google+ Hangout application that lets you play tabletop roleplaying games inside of a Google+ Hangout.   It includes things like dice rolling, whispering, and map functions.   Please see the features page for a list of all the current features and the roadmap for what we have planned in the future!"

I mentioned that Tabletop Forge is free, so Charles and Joshuha Owen launched a Kickstarter to support the project, allowing them to license game tokens, maps, and other cool game add-ons.   The Kickstarter is in it's last few days, so this is your last chance to get on board and help support these guys who are building a great tool for everyone in their own time.   Every dollar you pledge helps make Tabletop Forge better, and that's good for everyone (although it does sound a bit like socialism... :-) ).

As an added bonus, the $120 HORN OF SUMMONING pledge level gets you four-session Heroes Against Darkness mini-campaign with me (think of how awesome that would be).

Go show Charles and Joshuha some respect and put some money in to their Kickstarter:

Tabletop Forge: The Virtual Tabletop for Google+ Hangouts

Heroes Against Darkness is also compatible with real live people:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Review of Heroes Against Darkness on The Free RPG Blog

Rob Lang's just posted an awesome review of Heroes Against Darkness on The Free RPG Blog:

Heroes Against Darkness by Justin Halliday

I'm not too proud to cherry-pick quotes:

"It is breathtaking."
"Most remarkable of all for a free RPG: It's finished."
"It's an unmissable Post-Old-School fantasy RPG."

Check it out for yourself at the downloads page:
Heroes Against Darkness: Downloads.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

AnyDice vs. a d6 Dice Pool Mechanic

I've been mulling over a set of super-simple RPG rules for kids (maybe from 4 and up).   As part of this I've been thinking about a simple (but playable) dice mechanic that involves opposed pools of d6s, with only the highest dice counting for each of the participants (and ties resolving in favor of the attacker, although this could change).

I've finally managed to get AnyDice to spit out the probabilities I was after for the opposed dice pool mechanic (gosh I hate it when people get excited about their 'new' dice mechanics).

This code for AnyDice spits out the amount by which the highest dice of the first dice pool is equal to or greater than than the highest dice of the second dice pool:

function: opposedhighest of A:n and B:n
      if A >= B { result: A-B }
      result: -1

output [opposedhighest of 1@1d6 and 1@1d6]
output [opposedhighest of 1@2d6 and 1@1d6]
output [opposedhighest of 1@3d6 and 1@1d6]
output [opposedhighest of 1@4d6 and 1@1d6]

•  -1: Means that the second pool 'won' and the attack was unsuccessful.
•  0: Means the highest dice of each pool were tied, which can be resolved in favor of the attacker or the defender.
•  1+: Higher numbers represent the disparity between the attacker's highest dice against the defender's highest dice.

Here are the results for the opposed checks, with ties resolved in favor of the attacker:

Attacker's pool
(down the left)
1d6 2d6 3d6 4d6
1d6 58% 42% 34% 30%
2d6 75% 61% 53% 48%
3d6 83% 72% 65% 60%
4d6 88% 79% 73% 69%

And, here are the results with ties resolved in favor of the defender:

Attacker's pool
(down the left)
1d6 2d6 3d6 4d6
1d6 42% 26% 17% 13%
2d6 58% 39% 28% 21%
3d6 66% 47% 35% 27%
4d6 71% 53% 40% 31%

What does it mean?   Which one is better?   

I'm not sure yet, but I'll let you know!

Check out Heroes Against Darkness, which has a dice mechanic no one could call innovative: Heroes Against Darkness - Game Rules.