Friday, November 30, 2012

Mini-Review

The following is the first part review of Heroes & Other Worlds by Robert Saint JohnThe second part will come after play testing an adventure or twoThen Pt 2 will provide more insight into actual game play and his thoughts on them.  Thanks RSJ for taking time to craft this first review of Heroes & Other Worlds!

Mini-review for Heroes & Other Worlds - Pt 1

I don't have a general gaming blog, but I wanted to share my initial thoughts about Christopher Brandon's new game Heroes & Other Worlds. This is only based on two read-throughs, one quick and one leisurely, and I'll follow up with a lengthier review (probably on RPGGeek and RPGnet) after I get some play time in on it this weekend.

Short version: a worthy successor to The Fantasy Trip, but introduces some smart and unique twists that make it much more than a clone. Much more fleshed out than Legends of the Ancient World and Dragons of Underearth, and somehow captures the spirit of the Moldvay Basic Set. At 120 digest-sized pages, a surprisingly complete game that is well-organized, slickly presented and will appeal to fantasy gamers old and new.

Details: Although I referred to it in yesterday's post as a retro-clone of my personal favorite FRPG, Metagaming's The Fantasy Trip (1980), Heroes & Other Worlds (HOW) is more like the "missing link" between TFT and GURPS that never existed. It's completely compatible with TFT and its weird offspring Dragons of Underearth, and Dark City Games' more recent Legends of the Ancient World (and, as a result, compatible with all those programmed modules from both Metagaming and DCG). Heroes are either Adventurers or Wizards (with a flexible blurry line between them), and character generation is a breeze with a point-buy system to build the attributes of Strength, Dexterity and IQ. Based off the attributes, players choose spells and skills. XP is gained during adventuring to be spent later. Combat and task resolution is basically 3D6, roll-under attribute.

Where HOW diverges from its predecessors is the introduction of a fourth attribute representing health/fatigue, Endurance. Similar approaches have been adopted by TFT players over the years as a house rule (for various reasons), and Steve Jackson did something similar with Health for GURPS. Only Heroes have Endurance, monsters and NPCs do not. Endurance basically stacks on top of Strength and is depleted through damage or spell-casting. When Endurance is gone, damage starts hitting Strength, but Endurance points are recovered much more quickly than Strength.

Another notable divergence in HOW is that Heroes do not improve attributes over time. XP is applied to improving Skills and Spells, much like in Traveller. Choose those initial attributes wisely! And realize that as the adventures and monsters become more challenging, NPC hirelings (well-detailed in HOW) are going to be essential.

Combat, weapons and armor are much like they were in the other games, but not necessarily so dependent on the use of counters/miniatures and a map.

That's the first half of the book, basically a Players Guide, including 3 pages of Skills, 15 pages of Spells (IQ8-IQ18), and plenty of examples throughout. The rest of the book is Referee Resources, with 20 pages of Terrors (monsters), Treasures and Magic items, a solitaire adventure (Dark City's "Orcs of the High Mountains"), guidelines for building and stocking dungeons (with optional random tables), a 7 page sample refereed dungeon, tables of weapons and equipment, and very compact character sheets (like TFT, a 3x5 index card will do just fine). The entire book (POD from Lulu) is digest-sized, very nicely laid out, and illustrated profusely with art that ranges from very good to excellent. Fans of the original TFT are in for quite a treat when they see some of these illustrations, and I'll leave it at that.

Verdict: $15 PDF, $20 paperback. Pricier but comparable in almost every way to the Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox Rules. A great introduction to adventure gaming, but especially appealing to players like me who thought TFT was a more "logical" approach to fantasy gaming than OD&D, and never quite got over the fact that TFT met a premature demise.

More info: 
http://heroworlds.blogspot.com/
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