Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Modeling Continues-Kazamir Dungeon Module



Life has left little time of late for this hobby that I love. I have been able to keep running my post apocalyptic Savage Worlds game and have built terrain for that game as well, but my goal of modeling the major campaign areas of my 1st Edition AD&D campaign has not been completely idle, either.

These are some pics of a terrain module which encompasses the second level of the major dungeon in my Rysanthis setting, Kazamir. 

I do look forward to finishing it and using it in a game. I tried to give it a multi level effect and there are both natural caverns and engineered chambers and tunnels left from the days of the Jennerak, though the dungeon has been turned to wholly evil ends long ago...




It takes up an entire table in length but leaves room for players and DM. Very inconvenient to transport. I made a very conscious effort to get as much maze like effect as possible while not making it stuffy for miniatures play, and I like it's raised effect. I have about 15 hours into it, and about five bucks in paint so far. It's halfway done, roughly. I didn't picture everything but it has about twenty chambers and rooms. I am now hunting statuary and adornment for it in thrift store toy bins.

Kazamir dungeon lies beneath a ruined fortress of the same name on a lake island near the shores on which lie an abandoned and crumbling town called Barrow.

Hope it inspires someone to model your game world!



 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

From the Reliquary: 1st Edition AD&D Re-Discoveries and How I Never Played by the Book



Greetings Maze Dwellers. It has been truly long since I have entered the chamber of blogging. But a recent period of cold sickness has laid me low and since I've had some down time, what did I choose to read for entertainment?

None other than the first edition original three hardcovers of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game, Players Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and the Monster Manual. 

I have read them nearly cover to cover this past week and several items jumped out at me that made me realize I had never really played the game as written.

I have already commenced games to rectify that!

If you played 1st Ed. AD&D, did you follow the DMG closely and apply it to your early campaigns? Unless you were reading carefully, here are a few things you may have either missed or maybe you chose not to use these guidelines for reasons of flavor or expediency.

I have reconsidered them and plan to include them to add some depth and flavor to my next AD&D games.



LEVELING UP IS NOT AUTOMATIC
(DMG, Page 86)

Playing the game as youngsters, we either missed this or decided it was a pain, but when a character gains sufficient experience points to attain a new level of experience, this progression is not automatic. Game time must be taken on the calendar to receive training from a qualified teacher for the new level and there is also a cost in gold--your current level multiplied by 1,500 gold! 

When you are name level (9th or higher and you get a fancy title), self study and training are normative for you but there is still substantial cost. 

I can see why people would skip this-personally I always assumed the experience you gained adventuring was why you leveled up but it makes sense that you would need instruction. 

Why would one include this guideline instead of simply adding up XP and updating the character? It adds some depth and flavor with NPC characters and organization, for one thing--it seems of interest and roleplaying fun to watch the players develop professional and mentor relationships that could be an ongoing element of the game. It also adds some new dimension with the calendar--the passage of months and years chronologically noted always give the game a more realistic feel. And, since AD&D has that weird surplus of gold, it is a means of maintaining balance in the coin-purse.


SPELLS ARE NOT AUTOMATICALLY ACQUIRED
(DMG Page 38-40)


  I think we cheated ourselves by not using the acquisition of magic spells guidelines in the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Player's Handbook. Usually it was a matter of, "You leveled up, you get to pick new spells, here is your list to pick from."

That this was incorrect is probably a no brainer to a lot of old school AD&D players, but we just didn't bother with the recommended method, which is that new magic user and illusionist spells must be found in magic books and scrolls and the like or else taught from willing teachers. Spells can also be researched and created by the player character, as well.

Clerics and druids are another matter, of course. Clerics gain 1st level spells through rituals and disciplines learned as acolytes, second level through continued prayer and spiritual service, 3rd-5th through bestowal by spiritual intermediaries of the cleric's deity, and spells beyond 5th are from the direct channel of the deity itself. Druids apparently gain them in similar fashion but the spells come from spirits of Nature and Nature itself.

In point of fact, my position after reading the books all over again is that I don't even want my players running spell casters to even know the spell lists, beyond acquired spells. Granted, most will because of past playing experience, but any neophytes I get at table again will not if I have anything to say about it. 
This way, my game will not make magic mundane, i.e., a list in a rule-book. Hearing rumors of new spell powers or conceptualizing them on one's own would provide a great impetus for quests, (to say nothing of gathering material components for spells known) and add depth to the experience of being a magic user or illusionist character. Instead of always tagging along simply to provide magic to a party and gathering gold, hoping for the odd scroll, the magic user may him or herself organize the next expedition to pursue rumors and legends of places or beings who may provide new magical knowledge or to acquire material components in dangerous locales or from mythical monsters.
It might even involve the magic user hiring their own party members to go along!

Clerics and druid characters need not know all of their spell lists, either. Certainly there would be mysteries of what powers may be unlocked at upper levels. Religious texts studied in temples and shrines may provide knowledge of spells that could be gained through proper service and prayer, druids might glimpse these possibilities in moments of intuition. They could also be revealed by spirits or religious teachers. Again, alot more roleplaying and campaign potential then simply handing the player a book and saying "Pick your spells."

Imagine a druid learning about the existence of a Stoneshape spell from a spirit in a giant stone sitting by a magic pool instead of just flipping through the PHB. It would take a little imagination to make all spells known that are available, but one could reveal two or three spells from the same source as well.

The Players Handbook states that the cleric prays for his or her spell, but that the DM, who plays the higher power, can ignore the request altogether or else substitute another spell (PHB, page 40)--there is no reason a completely new spell could not be revealed to the cleric at this time. 

Also, in the class description of the cleric on page 20 of the PHB, it states that a cleric is not necessarily the devotee of single deity but possibly to more than one ("The cleric is dedicated to a deity [or deities]...")...imagine a cleric learning new spells by spiritual exercises in a shrine, temple or other holy place of the deity whose sphere of domain the spell comes from...lots of adventuring material!


THE USE OF THE PLANES OF EXISTENCE AND ASTRAL AND ETHEREAL TRAVEL

This was an area I did not use as written in the Players Handbook(Appendix IV), probably because at 13 I had difficulty conceptualizing the planes. To be sure, we had adventures in planes beyond the Prime Material, but it was largely improvised and not based on the structure provided, which in fact is tied into alignment.

In fact, after carefully considering how Gary ordered the Multiverse in the PHB (and Dieties and Demigods) I have come to believe that the alignment system (and even the oft ridiculed alignment language rule) is actually far more orderly and tied into the fabric of the AD&D universe than I first understood.

The absolute balance of alignments, as emanating from their original outer planar sources (deities, demigods and other powerful beings)is the physics of the Multiverse. The reason alignment is rigid and organized into absolutes that admittedly seem quite strange at first glance (Chaotic Neutral, for example)is that this order is, for lack of a better word, divinely ordained and maintained. Character, NPC and monster alignments reflect the arrangement of the outer planes where all exists in a semblance or harmony and stability. If alignments were seen as the color spectrum and complimentary/contrasting color wheel, all makes sense. Nirvana and Limbo stand as opposite neutrals and buffer the gradients of alignments which could not exist side by side.

This is why in the fabric of the AD&D Multiverse, where player focus is upon the Prime Material Plane where Greyhawk and other milieus exists, alignment and the adherence to alignment is more than just an arbitrary game mechanic...it is tied up to the phsyics and material nature of the visible and known world. 

When you don't behave according to alignment, you fool with the very balance of the universe. When you change alignment, you actively go against it. This is why penalties occur for a cleric who changes gods or alignment, and why a thrice changed cleric is instantly killed by the forces of the Planes. (DMG, page 39). It is why a Paladin who violates law is penalized, even if acting on behalf of what he believes is for true good. And this is why even those who involuntarily violate or change alignment (such as by means of magic devices like a helm of alignment changing) require things like atonement spell to set things right.

It helps to picture the Prime Material Plane as a place where lines of alignment intersect, and this intersection results in warfare, philosophical conflict, and ideological debate. If each line of alignment is followed out of the nexus to it's spiritual place of origin, there is to be found no opposing alignment, excepting those of astral travelers upon the plane, which pose little threat to the plane's order.

Spells of Astral Travel (cleric and magic user) are not simply a ticket anywhere one wants to go--actual PC knowledge must be gained from some source, a manual, teacher, or deity. In the spell description for Astral Spell it plainly states that where a cleric can go is dependent on his or her conceptualization of the Outer Planes.

Certain magic items and spells can put you out there on the Astral Plane and the Outer Planes, but then one is like a sailor on a ship that is lost at sea. The acquisition of planar knowledge thus becomes an integral part of the campaign once such lore is known to exist and can provide endless adventures!

An entire campaign could, in fact, be cobbled together from the exploration and mapping of the planes.

In any event, these are a few of the thoughts I have had since revisiting the 1st Ed. AD&D books. I may share more, and welcome others to expand on these topics.

 




 

Monday, October 24, 2016

PHOENIX ROAD Savage Worlds Homebrew Campaign Begins!






This was a very good weekend for gaming in my house.

The game I had been playing in for the last year or more, a 5th Edition D&D campaign based on the WoTC release Rise of Tiamat  wrapped up and I was asked if I would like the volunteer to run a new campaign.

The request came with one wish from the players--would I run Savage Worlds?

My familiarity with the system was comprised of me having heard the name, and that was it.

I have been wanting to run a post apocalyptic campaign for some time, so I agreed and decided to give the game a go.

I have been tailoring my setting and digesting the Savage Worlds rules when I was made aware of a Savage Worlds demo game at the local game shop. I went, had a blast, learned the rules fairly well in a few hours, and was given a free rule book to boot just for playing! It was a great time.

So our group met and generated characters for Phoenix Road this past weekend.

 I drew heavily from several sources for my campaign setting, borrowing elements from FALLOUT, the Den of Earth segment of the Heavy Metal film, the Postman film, and various Epic and H.M. magazines I have about. Of particular inspiration was a two part comic story in Epic called "Apocrypha" by John and Laura Lakey, wherein humans, being made sterile through various self inflicted disasters, spliced human genes with animal genes since animals could still reproduce--they look somewhat like the human animal hybrids in the musical animation Rock N Rule.

So our party ended up being two humans who begin the game awakening from Stasis in a mountain side vault, the android overseer who maintained the Vault since the Cataclysm, a human psionic character whose mental gifts make him a  shaman amongst his nomadic tent dwelling people, and three "Splicer" descendants..a feline imperial renegade, a canine assassin, and a bear spliced female warrior with a death vendetta against a religious cult called the Renunication, a sect who murdered her kin because they were deemed abominations. The Renunciation disavows splicers, tech in the hands of the Profane, books, and psionic characters whom they deem to be witches...

Phoenix Road takes place some three centuries after the End. Roads have been busted up by forests, the ancient cities are merely dangerous quarries where people salvage materials for fortresses and new settlements, there are strange mutated animals, and prewar humans, unaffected by splicing or later pollution,  are rare. Society is feudal dark Ages stuff...but of course, somewhere, the Enlightened and their ancient technologies must surely exist.

Anyway, this is what we are going to run with, I look forward to updating you to our adventures!




Monday, October 17, 2016

Free Kindle Download Fantasy Novel: DARK FATE, VOLUME ONE by Matt Howerter and Jon Reinke




Greetings Maze Dwellers. If you are searching for a new swords and sorcery read, I thought I would appraise you all of a new offering by graphic artist/author Matt Howerter and writer Jon Reinke, the first of a series entitled DARK FATE, THE GATHERING.

This book is currently available for free download at Kindle right now, and I will be grabbing a copy, so expect a review soon, but by all means do not wait on me!

I have had the privilege of gaming semi-frequently with Mr. Howerter, and he is a superb player and DM.  He is employed in the graphic arts field and is the cover artist for the DARK FATE  books.

I have met Mr. Reinke as well and he is also an avid gamer, highly intelligent and a very warm person to boot.

It is my understanding that Matt and Jon (and their families) have been continuing an ongoing and continuous Wheel of Time rpg campaign that began in college--pretty cool.

A free book to get you started is especially enticing since Volumes Two and Three of the DARK FATE series are finished and available for $2.99 each as Kindle Downloads!








Matt also does freelance graphic arts, is an accomplished illustrator and is very conversant with computer rendering as well. He has been commissioned to  do book covers for other authors and has also illustrated game products. So aside from letting you know about his book, if you are a writer or rpg designer who needs cover art, illustrations, or maps, I cannot praise his work highly enough.

Here  is Matt's Map of Orundal:



 Another piece of art by Matt!---






Here is a link to his Deviant Art page if you would like to see his illustration gallery:

HOWEITZER at Deviant Art

And here is a link to Amazon where you can read reviews of DARK FATE, order a print copy, or get your Kindle download for free!

DARK FATE: THE GATHERING


Great job, Matt and Jon!


Adventure forth!













Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Old School Game Review: Dave Millward's HEROES, A ROLEPLAYING GAME SET IN THE DARK AGES





In a dim and misty dungeon known as the eighties, I once casually passed by, in a chamber of games, a game book upon a shelf. It had an awesome Viking illo on the cover and the ambiguous title HEROES in large, black runic-looking letters. It looked different than all of the brightly coloured, flamboyantly decorated books and boxes around it...plain and unassuming.

Intrigued, I picked it up and looked it over and after cursory examination determined that it was apparently a historical rpg and had no fantasy elements at all--no dragons, no wizards, no dungeons. Thinking such a game was not to my taste, I put it back and never gave it another thought...for a long time.

Flashforward to the 2k's, the age of the Internet and the subsequent opening of the reliquary of ye olde school games--great blogs like Grognardia, websites like the Acaeum and forums such as  the Original Dungeons and Dragons Discussion suddenly had images, discussions, and histories of many fascinating games... some once thought lost, some obscure, some never abandoned by the faithful few. Moreover, with the advent of Amazon, E-Bay and other online used book sellers, for pennies or for Sovereigns, one could actually come back into possession of lost or surrendered books... or whet curiosity by buying games perhaps never owned but always wondered about. 

And this without having to rely on a luck roll in musty old book stores or garage sales!

One item that called to me as I surveyed these relics and read their lore was the game I had looked at once but never bought... but which now highly intrigued my gamer head.

I speak of Dave Millward's HEROES

Mr. Millward's original game is now once again available as a scanned PDF for download at a reasonable price--and with it, there is also available a sleek revision with new art, a few mechanic tweaks and rules clarifications from his original labour of love. 

I was thrilled to get a copy of the original HEROES, and spent nearly two weeks absolutely immersed in it. 

After a thorough read of the rules, I offer to you what I personally found engaging about this book, and I will also try to explain a bit about the system of HEROES and it's setting. 


 ------

HEROES is a quasi historical rpg in a Dark Ages setting.

I say "quasi" because Millward basically created a microcosm of Dark Ages Europe that is easier for a GM to manage (politically and game-event wise) than would be the authentic historical milieu. He named this realm The Questerlands, and populated it with fictitious nationalities and kingdoms which someone possessing even a thumbnail sketch of European Dark Ages history should be able to readily identify with their real-world counterparts. For examples, "Russland" is Russia, "Angonia" is England, "Ispania" is Spain and so on. The map provided with HEROES is not identical to real Europe, but the locations and proximity of the kingdoms of the Questerlands corresponds closely enough to give the setting a flavor and atmosphere that tastes like the real Dark Ages.

The city which features centrally to the game is Triente, which is modelled after the real city of Venice with its many intrigues, maze like precincts, and political prominence. 





-----

Character objectives in a game of HEROES are quite different than in a game of Dungeons and Dragons --the usual game incentive of Loot is present, to be sure... but Loot is chiefly desired because it is the means by which one's social status may be raised. This is somewhat more important in HEROES, rather more important than gaing new X.P. Levels in D&D. 

What HEROES characters want to gather are Personal Experience Points--or P.E.P. It is these,along with money, that help a player to develop the character and interact with Non Player Characters through social status. 

P.E.P. can be spent to raise social status directly or, if a player chooses, to develop attributes and combat capabilities. Unlike D&D's Experience Point system, which awards points for monsters killed and treasure gained, P.E.P. are rewarded solely at the GM's discretion.

And they are valuable coin--for example, gaining simply 3-5 P.E.P. after a session of HEROES would be considered a rich haul...more than sufficient to lift character strength and eminence.

However, P.E.P. can also be lost... either through bad role-playing or by simply not keeping up with Triente's carousing scene to fulfil character obligations like drinking, wenching, courting and, in general, keeping up a rep. 

Failing to to do any of these things will result in loss of P.E.P. and thereby, eventually, social status. And yes... that will affect you on the dice tables!

You can gain Personal X.P. Points in HEROES for doing this
 
One thing must be stressed--a streak of rather black humour underlies HEROES.

Unlike D&D, HEROES is not a game where a player should become very attached to a character 

Expect instead to be creating new characters on a fairly regular basis, and learn to look at these characters as simply being memorable figures in a longer, multi-character campaign narrative that is meant to arouse the darker humour of GM's and players, rather than create the stuff of bard tales!

Character deaths are actually part of the entertainment here--combat is swift and lethal, and moreover, there are tables whereon a single roll of the dice determines one's fate in the face of warfare, plague, or legal punishments.

In fact, one gem of the book is the list of Heroes in the front dedication, apparently all PC's from Millward's early campaigns.

The ignoble ends of these characters are described in epitaphs such as: "Ivar the Axe, whose head was caved in by a mug", "Brian the Brewer, who couldn't swim in his armour" or "Wally the Unmentionable, who just disappeared."

Indeed, Irony is abundant in the even title of HEROES, because selfishness, skullduggery, and naked, bald ambition are the hallmarks of character progression-- this would appear to be Millward's somewhat wry commentary on the oft alleged "heroism" of the Dark Ages warrior class. 

Don't look for paladins here.

The altruism assumed of characters in most fantasy games and settings is roasted somewhat in HEROES...BUT: it is tongue in cheek, not cynical.

I think it very safe to say that Millward, a citizen of England, is a great fan of Monty Python and it is a similar sort of humour, the lampooning of romantic and chivalrous notions, that is very evident in this game.


CREATING A HERO

Character generation is completely random in HEROES--one dices for nationality, beginning social class, and character attributes. Nationality and social class determine also beginning equipment and weapons, as well as any professional or religious training the character starts with.  

There are seven basic character attributes mostly determined by the roll of a ten-sider: these are STRENGTH, AGILITY, INTELLECT, PERSONALITY/CHARM, BERSERKER POTENTIAL, MISSILE SHOOTING ABILITY, and COMBAT VALUE (melee skill). A table is included for modifications to these attributes based on one's Social Background.


HEROES has a very limited skill system that depends upon Social Class--skills are described only by a name and are largely self explanatory, so there are no detailed skill ranks or levels--someone of a Merchant Class background, for example would have: "Commerce, good judge of quality, counting, IQ x 10% chance to read and write."

Regardless of whatever social rank one rolls upon character creation, though, the character’s effective social rank within the city of Triente, while influenced by rolled rank,  is not directly equivalent...it must be earned.  

The Basic Game  


Although it is possible for the Umpire (as the game referee is called)of a campaign of HEROES to conduct a campaign by designing detailed maps and adventure scenarios (as with D&D), this is not the thrust of HEROES as it was designed to be played.

Instead of creating maps and their keys, an Umpire designs "Incidents"--encounters that result from a random dice roll oft thrown to see what exactly happens in a given period of time after players have announced their actions for the week.

You see, a game begins with the Umpire asking each player what his or her character is going to do for the week.

The player may decide to visit a tavern and drink, to court the one they love (or can possibly raise their social status...), to study warfare, engage in commerce, equip for a merchant venture or raid, mount a foray against bandits, join a militia, or... you name it. 

There are tables for many of the above mentioned actions to determine the resultant encounters and outcomes arsing from them, but there is also ample room for a player to do anything they want that week, table or no.

One thing I love about HEROES is that player actions may be undertaken jointly, as with the traditional D&D party ("We all go to the Dancing Cup together!").. or, each player may declare separate actions.

The Umpire then helps (?) the player resolve the outcomes these actions through dicing on tables, role playing whenever necessary, working out any combats or encounters, or, if the dice call for it, using an Incident.

Incidents take you from the larger, summary actions (metagaming, if you will) into the the sort of close and personal role playing and conflicts one is used to in D&D. 

Millward has provide a good number of Incidents to get you started, and some Incidents are potentially recurring in every game, while others are one time story arc beginners. 

For example, every week there is the chance of encountering a rabid dog--prior to rabies vaccinations, this was a fairly common danger, and so there is a standard 10% chance of such an encounter weekly! So look out, because unless the highly chancy folk cure works for you (eating the dead dog's scruff..), your character will join Edgar Allen Poe in a most undesirable fate...

Beware rabid dogs--since there are no clerical spells in HEROES (or any spells at all), you are officially screwed if you get bit--unless a folklore method works.

Other Incidents are unique, though... like, say, bumping into the palanquin of a noble's daughter in the street and having to dice against a percentage chance of falling completely in love with the lass! If you fail this "saving throw" (or succeed at it, if you'd rather call it), you must seek her hand in marriage and satisfy her father's demands for her hand!

Other Incident encounters involve chance meetings with city militia, merchants, clergy, nobility, riff raff, and insane religious zealots.

Incidents outside Triente can range from civilized encounters to dirty skirmishes with foreign troops or highwaymen. And of course there are encounter tables for the high seas, mountains, and marshes as well...inclement weather or getting lost is as big a danger as meeting hostile travellers.

As we've stated, there are  more than enough Incidents to get you going, but as Umpire, you will want to create your own list and the neat thing about it is that you can fill a notebook with random Incidents that are as detailed or sparse as you desire, and pick or dice for them at random. HEROES frees you somewhat for the need for the structure and detail a game of D&D might require.


Politics 

Another awesome feature of HEROES is that, depending on group tastes, politics and intrigue can either feature as a very large part of the campaign or else have absolutely no primacy at all. A sparse political outline is given in the appendices, and you are given to know that there is an Emperor and a powerful Duke who answers to him and oversees Triente

Four rival families of means control various quarters of the city, as do a Bishop, the Duke, a prominent merchant company, and, in several quarters, the City Commune.

All of these factions desire to dominate Triente, and all are stalled by a system of checks and balances arising from the opposing/mutual interests of every party involved.

One of the most interesting political features of HEROES are the tables which detail employment, secular or religious, within Triente.

A player may opt to try and win employment in such an office (a matter of the dice) and if successful, might choose to undertake the duty with utmost fidelity (thus ensuring a regular income) or else choose, perhaps more likely, to accept bribes or rob the employer...such nefarious actions will net coin increases but are also attended by a percentage chance for discovery, leading to disgrace and possible punishment.

The Game Mechanics  

 
2d10 (Percentage 1-100)are the main resolution mechanic for HEROES, and there are a myriad of tables to cover nearly every game contingency... but, lest you be dismayed by this, rest easy; the tables are arranged very neatly and they resolve simply, usually with a single roll of a die or percentile.

If you like table driven game engines in an rpg (and some do) HEROES provides many such fascinating tables...tables which, I might add, would, in many cases, port over to a D&D game very neatly, some "as-is". Even if you can't get into a "quasi-historical" setting like HEROES but want to add new ingredients to an existing D&D  campaign, many would be quite exciting additions!

Consider the following examples:

Determination of Nationality/Country and starting weapons.

Social Background and beginning skills.

City Professional, Official and Clerical Employment Positions including income, influence, and underlings. (There is also a table for menial jobs to raise one's wages if you find yourself a paycheck away from the street...because you must maintain a residence!)

Comprehensive movement and encounter tables for varying terrains and nations.

A Slave Market table for resolving what happens to unfortunate PC's who, through war or criminal offences, wind up in bond. None are pleasant, and some are downright scary--like eunuch service or, in some more barbaric areas, being tormented for sport...roll well, my friend.

Hireling and Mercenary table for getting together an expedition.

Village Characteristics table for players who decide to go marauding in the borderlands...this table covers population, armed defence, and available livestock for plundering.

Weather Tables and Encounters for Sea Voyaging (including chance of sinking).

Combat Tables for man to man combat, skirmish and large scale forces. I should note these are very barebones in the original HEROES edition, but more on that later.



My favourite table in HEROES, though, is the Trade Table. It has a detailed list of items, commodities and livestock and gives the value of these by lots and how much of a profit you can expect to get for them in a given place. To use the table, you simply cross index the trade item with the nation or city where you want to buy (or sell) the goods and there is a percentage die to be thrown to determine availability (in the case of buying). 

If you are a marauder or brigand you can of course acquire trade items by means other than buying...cough, cough.

Some trade items are more precious in certain areas than others, and this gives merchant-minded characters a great incentive for equipping voyages or overland expeditions--which, need I tell you, leads to ADVENTURE! The trade table would be quite unobtrusive but imminently useful in a game of OD&D!

There are a variety of paths players can choose from in HEROES, as a group or individually: --brigandry and alleyway skullduggery, raiding and pillaging, war, diplomacy, city or church service, or trade, to name the major ones.

Criminal enterprises can lead to dire punishments, of course (Hey! there is a table for that too!)...but all depends only on player choice and character alignment.

Alignment is a simple matter in HEROES -you pick a number from 1-5 and you then choose Law (Alignment A)or Chaos (Alignment E). So a 1A character would be inclined to law but not nearly as fanatical as a 5A! And a 5E character is just bad news all around! Players are awarded or penalized P.E.P's in accordance with playing in a chosen alignment.

Now,if you happen to roll the status of exile when you are generating your social background, you are assumed to be evil...  why else would you have been cast out!?


Monte Python Meets Macbeth  

There is a great deal of material presented in the original HEROES to keep you busy for some time. The historical basis of the game is not stifling... the Umpire has room to fudge. One needn't be a history major to run a campaign, because, remember it's "QUASI-historical". 

That said, the Dark Ages mood is somewhat built into the tables and mechanics of HEROES, as is the rather gallows humour that permeates the text of the rules book.

I was very pleased with my purchase of this game; I have not yet had a chance to play it but having read the rules I do plan to get a game going someday. 

You see, it's not for everyone; a few D&D players I approached about getting a game going either found it offensive ("P.E.P.'s for wenching and drinking? Really!?") or else limiting ("What, no magic!? No monsters? Nah.") But, I did get maybe's from a few people and be sure I will hit them up!

My PDF of HEROES is from scanned copy of the original game; as such, you do get the occasional crooked page and (grumble, grumble) the Map of the Questerlands is the worst casualty of all--though useable, it is difficult to make the four page spread match up at the edges due to poor scanning. Still, this is a minor glitch, and all the rules are legible and clear. 

I laminated my map with clear packing tape...not the best, but, hey, it works, my map is beer-proof, very important for those longer game sessions where ale is involved.


My only other issue with the original HEROES is that the individual combat system is somewhat confusing.

Attacks are worked out on a percentage roll based on a number factor--this "combat factor" derives from weapons skills and attributes. 

The combat matrix is not, perhaps, as clear as it could be--or, rather, the table is perfect but the rules are thin as to how to use the table.

For example, there is a bit about Weapon Proficiency in the character creation section..but I am stymied to find anywhere in the rules where they explain how to actually use weapon proficiency in relation to a character's Combat Factor. 

Still, there is enough there that I can wing it, and, aside from this quibble of mine, which I admit may be due to a misreading fo the rules, the rules are clear enough on every other front.

In mass combats, HEROES is somewhat easier to work out; there is a table for a single resolution roll instead of detailed wargaming rules. 

One finds out the results of a mass battle in seconds and you also find out whether or not your character was wounded, captured, and/or sold into slavery!

I love the artwork in the original HEROES. It is fine amateur work by someone who probably later became a fine artist-simple pen and ink sketches that have a character and flavor very suited to the game and which possess a certain whimsical movement and intrinsic, understated humour. There are no full page illustrations other than the cover, but the interior art is prolific and provides great headings for each rules section.

It is my understanding that in the newest edition of the game, HEROES 2.0, which I do not yet own, the combat glitches and other small errata I have mentioned are revised for easier clarification.

However,  the original HEROES contains more than enough clarity for a reasonably intelligent person to conduct a fun campaign with no problem.

You can order a copy of HEROES at the link below. Based on my study of the rules, any DM worth his or her salt could make a party of salty warriors writhe with ecstasy in a HEROES campaign!

Good luck in the Mazes! 

HEROES: A ROLEPLAYING GAME SET IN THE DARK AGES 

P.S. The two signed cartoons are not in the HEROES book but are my own work and something I hope to add more of here at the Mazes! Hope you like!