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Session Zero Issue 6 - The Eternal
Publisher: Brian Holland
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/28/2018 12:01:03

Reading Mini-Review:

In true DW fashion, the adventure offers prompts to come up with a shared background and hooks.

I like the idea of using cards to create the adventure. The cards influence the Big Bad, The Eternal, some other players, and the village. That makes the adventure re-usable - in theory. In practice, the idea behind the adventure is the same. So you'll know the secret behind the strange happenings of the Dwarven village. And that will limit its appeal to play it again.

The author did a fabulous job of using the Countdown Die mechanism from ICRPG with tailored GM Moves to drive the action and provide clues to the mystery.

Locations and background information offer enough material for several sessions. Obviously, the author put some work into coming up with custom moves, items and stats for The Eternal, and adventure locations.

You can also link it with other adventures from the Session Zero line. (See here.)

Layout and typesetting do a good job of not getting in the way. I glimpsed some decent black and white images. Overall, look and feel strike me as functional but nothing to write home. No digital bookmarks but that's not necessary with 36 pages.

I'm itching to convert The Eternal to an old-school leaning RPG like The Black Hack.

I liked SZ06 a lot and it sounds like it will be fun to play.

I encourage you to take a look at Brian Holland's patreon campaign for the Session Zero zine.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Session Zero Issue 6 - The Eternal
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Tatzelwurm
Publisher: Matush Manhunt Publications
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/18/2018 00:55:50

Excerpt from a review on my blog: https://dieheart.net/tatzelwurm/

Tatzelwurm gives off a distinctive old-school feel by being geared towards a healthy Game Master (GM), use of random tables, and minimalist rules. It reminds me of Original Dungeons & Dragons, but it's evidently not a retro-clone.

The straightforward task resolution, free-form magic and the fresh take on divine magic are a selling point for me.

Tatzelwurm encourages rulings and a strong Game Master role. For the GM there is minimal overload when it comes to adjudicating this game - at least at the beginning. During play, the GM will have to make a lot of rulings when it comes to magic and miracles.

I’m not a fan of the standard elves, dwarves, humans. The setting information is sparse, but there are some interesting tidbits, e.g., a Tibetan region.

Yet this game has a lot to offer if you like a more open-ended approach to old-school gaming and are looking for something different than a retro-clone.

Full review here: https://dieheart.net/tatzelwurm/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tatzelwurm
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Dice Roll Zine #1
Publisher: Hogtown Games
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/01/2017 02:14:05

For $4 the zine is a steal. It offers terrific content for a gonzo sci-fi/fantasy old school game and thoughtful rules. Plus, as a solo gamer, I found a lot of practical tools. I'm surprised about how much I like this zine. It provides a different take than the dark stuff that I prefer in Vacant Ritual Assembly or Wormskin. I like that the author included extra downloads of the maps. And I value that the text is released as Open Content under the OGL. The layout is friendly and straightforward. That is a feat in itself. Paired with the artwork and the maps, Dice Roll Zine #1 looks nifty. Digital bookmarks would have been lovely. But not having them is not a dealbreaker. Full review is available at https://dieheart.net/dice-roll-zine-one/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dice Roll Zine #1
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Exodus System SRD
Publisher: Thunderegg Productions
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/17/2017 12:36:35

Edit: Jacob lowered the price from $4.99 to $1.99, so I'm giving the game 4/5 stars.

Excerpt from the full review: https://dieheart.net/exodus-system-srd-review/

The ruleset delivers on being simple and genre-neutral (geared towards slightly heroic antics). I love the open design: no classes, free-form skills, mix character roles. I like the task resolution and the combat system. Within its scope, it offers a lot of flexibility.

It pains me to say: I don't find the game worth the $5. Exodus System SRD has some neat ideas. With its lackluster presentation and the high amount of alternative (free) games, it still falls short.

I would have liked to see it as a Pay-What-You-Want product. Then add a "premium PDF". It could have a nicer style, some artwork, digital bookmarks and "exclusive content" (e.g., more roles).

This is a reading review, so take it with a grain of salt.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Exodus System SRD
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Blood and Bone
Publisher: Arcana Games
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/03/2017 22:31:28

Full Review at https://dieheart.net/blood-and-bone-review/.
Blood and Bone (BnB) spouts "Game of Thrones meets Dungeons and Dragons" as its tagline. It is a dark and gritty new fantasy RPG with interesting mechanics and a vibrant setting.
The core mechanics are streamlined and easy to learn. But they are still complicated enough to make gameplay and character advancement engaging. BnB is a classless and skill-based system.
It smells like D&D 5e in a "give me the same - but different" vein. Mechanics lean towards combat and giving characters enough options to shine in such situations. It features a classic distribution of narrative rights.
The world appeals with a dark tone and flavorful descriptions. Player characters can have supernatural Blood powers, although the game claims to be without magic.

The artwork is amazing. It also includes strong female characters (no chain-mail bikinis) and a few people of color. The look and layout remind of D&D 5e. The background looks like cream-colored paper. Printing this out will be a pain.

The PDF offers a complete game and setting at 89 pages. But it has no digital bookmarks and no hyperlinks.

Thoughts:

  • BnB has a streamlined system with no classes. The customization options for the player characters and the game system look like they will make a fun experience
  • I like how one combat roll informs you about a successful hit, incorporates the armor rating and how many wounds you have inflicted. Combat is fast.
  • The skill system looks workable, e.g., you need to broaden out to increase your skill ratings - one-trick ponies are not possible. I like how Thievery encapsulates sleight of hand and pickpocketing. So everyone can disarm traps or listen on doors. But dungeoneering doesn't seem to feature strongly in this game anyway.
  • Character creation is front-loaded. You need to create a detailed background with Beliefs etc. That is not so good for emergent play but offers hooks for the Game Master.
  • The authors used plenty of examples to clarify rules except for Healing. It is intentionally open to accommodate different playing styles. Is it too vague to be a useful guideline?
  • It has some ideas from story games. For example Tenacity: a meta-currency as a dissociated mechanism, rewarded when you play according to your Beliefs or Complications.
  • There are still "superpowers" in the game, although the authors don't call it magic.
  • Tere is a "Saga variant": players create several PCs but only play one per session.
  • NPCs look quite detailed, so I'm not sure how much work it is for the Game Master to come up with them. NPCs have traits like PCs, that means I need to learn all the Traits as a GM or write them down on the NPC sheet.
  • The game supports the standard fantasy play style. While the game says you can create "Court of Scheming Nobles" as a campaign premise, there are no game mechanisms for intrigue or social conflicts. I wonder how that fits into the promise that it is like Game of Thrones?
  • I appreciate how dark the setting is: you gain Blooded power when others die, you can use poison and Apothecary, the Tarn use undead servants and soldiers, etc.
  • Kudos for including an example adventure.

https://dieheart.net/blood-and-bone-review/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blood and Bone
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Age Of Legends
Publisher: 6d6 Fireball
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/31/2017 06:09:30

This supplement makes a very good impression. It creates a compelling re-imagined Ancient Greece setting, is complete and full of new options for players and Game Masters of the 6d6 RPG. Everyone interested in pseudo-historic ancient gaming worlds should take a look at Age of Legends, even if he doesn’t use the 6d6 RPG. The world material is a fantastic read and the abstract nature of the mechanics may even make the system-specific information feasible for other games. More at http://dieheart.net/age-of-legends/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Age Of Legends
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Wormskin Issue 5
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/26/2017 02:03:46

http://dieheart.net/wormskin-two-to-five/

This is about the Drune, a cabal of evil sorcerers. They are seekers and hoarders of arcane knowledge.
The article gives you everything you need. History, powers, lifestyle, relationship with other factions, etc.

I appreciate the info about hex-crawling in Dolmenwood. It offers some procedures and tables for weather, encounters, random events, etc.

The hex locations in this issue are colorful: creepy spells gone wrong, strange monsters, psychic stones that radiate madness, a time-warping monolith.

There is another mini-location/monster: the Hag of the Marsh. Comes with a spooky dwelling, hag haggling, adventure hooks, rumors and magic items. It perfectly fits the zine's theme.

The writers finish this issue with more monsters. There are the amphibious Boggin, animated thorny wood creatures called Brambin, etc.

I love Dolmenwood's monsters. They are unique and macabre. I can see myself using them in another setting if I want to add some disturbing creatures.

This zine is a favorite read of mine. The product is styled in a minimalist new OSR-style way with color and font highlights. Most of the artwork is excellent.

Running this setting is a bit cumbersome, though. The source material is spread over six booklets.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wormskin Issue 5
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Wormskin Issue 4
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/26/2017 02:02:59

http://dieheart.net/wormskin-two-to-five/

Excellent artwork and maps. But the font size got smaller and thus this issue is harder to read.

We get a treatment about a half mule cruel demigod. Plus, a rumor table and a mini-dungeon/location. There are also some hooks for the players and some trivia. This could make a nice gaming session. The authors certainly provide you with enough material to kick off.

I welcome the article about the fickleness of fey magic items. There are 12 complications, e.g. the item stops working when it is exposed to birdsong.

The authors included a section about Lesser Stones of Dolmenwood with a d30 table to roll on. Yay, tables! The stones have alluring features, e.g.:

Fine, Drunic script surrounding High Elvish runes (the latter of much greater antiquity). The runes possess the power to 1. warp time, such that the full moon will occur this night; 2. summon a flock of ghost crows (see Wormskin issue three) to do the invoker's bidding; 3. bring about extreme, unseasonal weather in a mile radius for 24 hours. The power of the runes has been tapped such that only one versed in Drunic ritual may command it.

The rest of the issue concerns itself with the second part of the Ruined Abbey of St. Clewd. The authors did a splendid job with the adventure's layout. Every location gets a mini-map, so you don't have to flip around in the book/PDF.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wormskin Issue 4
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Wormskin Issue 3
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/26/2017 02:02:25

http://dieheart.net/wormskin-two-to-five/

Here we learn about the history of Dolmenwood. It is interesting to see how the languages evolved and share traits. It gives me a deeper sense of the setting and makes it more credible and well-rounded.

The Witching Ring is one of the unique features of Dolmenwood. What happens when you destroy the ancient stones? What happens when the Cold Prince, a fey lord, is allowed to return?

The hex locations with elk-goddesses, badger magi with adorable sweaters, and a Mouse-shrine emphasize the fantastical.

You'll also get part 1 of a dungeon-crawl: The Ruined Abbey of St. Clewd. I would have liked to see the whole adventure in one book. In this issue, it's about the aboveground church. I care for the cool artistic map.

Another plus is the Ghostly Monk Creator. It amuses me that some of the monks strike with useless attacks, e.g. "ranting and raving".

Again, the issue concludes with new monsters. Great entries. For example, the Gloam:

Gloams are undead entities formed from the corpses of a multitude of crows, ravens, or magpies. [...]

The artwork is beautiful.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wormskin Issue 3
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Wormskin Issue 2
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/26/2017 02:01:46

http://dieheart.net/wormskin-two-to-five/

The artwork is a mixed bag. There are some really cool pieces of original art. And the public domain art is just meh.

I have no opinion on the d30 table about tavern food. Might be useful to add some flavor (pun intended) to your game. I find the article about Psychedelics more interesting. How to sell it, how to manufacture it.

The first issue was a bit sparse on actual setting information. This time you have 7 hex descriptions of The High Wold. The village of Lankshorn could be a starting point for the characters. There is enough trouble with the goat-men to offer players opportunities for adventure.

You'll also get a portrait of Lord Malbleat, a cruel goat lord. He could make a good adversary.

Issue 2 concludes with new monsters. I like how you'll also get 1d6 tables for encounters. One of my favorite monsters is the Witch-Owls.

Tall, milky-white owls with violet eyes and uncannily rotating heads, these beings go abroad at dusk to hunt. Rather than the flesh of rodents and lesser birds, witch-owls feed on the psychic bodies of the sentients upon which they prey. The sighting of a witch-owl in flight—even in the distance—is regarded by woodland folk as an ill omen of great portent.

I appreciate the eerie tone of the setting. It's a cruel, twisted world. It reminds me of the original fairy tales. They are dark and grim instead of lovey-dovey like the Disney versions.

This is a fitting continuation of Issue 1. Just buying the first two issues gives you enough fresh material which you could incorporate into an existing campaign.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wormskin Issue 2
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #6
Publisher: Red Moon Medicine Show
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/23/2017 02:00:31

Original review on the blog.

Vacant Ritual Assembly #6 delivers flavorful and thematic content for Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP). Or other OSR games. It is choke-full of grisly locations, adventures, encounters, and factions. And it comes with an interview that introduced me to another interesting old school game.

Spoiler Alert!

First, you'll get Grigoro's Wonders Untold. It is a traveling circus full of weirdos. It comes with some background info that could add plot hooks for your players. But nothing very obvious. You have orange siamese yeti, a demon that is charmed by human society and the enslaved ghost of the owner.

Next is an island adventure by Kathryn Jenkins called From Dunnholt It Rises. It has a dark tone and horror theme with the plague, rats, witches and an island's heart that can be eaten. I like the two evil factions that play against each other: the witches vs. The Good Doctor. But the adventure looks very linear, so that is a downside.

Then there is a campaign hook plus a faction that players can join. Again of the macabre vein. The Gallows on Heretic Hill and A Light in the Black detail an interesting in-world-justification for "resurrecting" players as undead agents. That helps mitigate the mortality of old school games. And it offers a way to send players on missions for the faction, the Noosefriars.

You'll also get a mansion crawl by Kreg Mosier, Death Planted the Esther Tree. I love the pretty maps and the adventure premise. A cursed demon tree that was once the household's daughter and now wants revenge. There is also a curious illness: the Ebonwood Rot which transforms you into an Ebonwood Tree. It would be devious to confront your players with this...

The zine also features some monsters and weird encounters: The Grimsly Hill Cherubs and The Lathnos Sugar Cane Crop (by Anxy P.).

Every issue of VRA has an interview. I know that some people have no interest in that. But I found them mostly worth reading. This one has a conversation with Emmy Allen. She wrote a game that was unknown to me. Wolf-packs and Winter Snow is a prehistoric fantasy game with influences of LotFP, Warhammer Fantasy and ACKS (Adventurer Conqueror King System). It also has random world generation. That sounds mighty alluring to someone like me, so I'll need to check it out.

Look'n'Feel

The paper quality is much better, one of my main gripes with VRA. Layout, font choice, boxed text make this easy to read. Nice artwork round up the appealing production. Like many zines, this is not a fancy art book but a good looking minimalist booklet nonetheless.

tl;dr

VRA zines are always a delightful read of the bizarre and gruesome kind. This issue lives up to the high quality of the previous copies. It even has more content than before.

Even if you don't use all the material, there is something you could use. I find that most entries are easy to insert into your campaign if you like the tone.

P.S. Reviews of previous issues can be found here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #6
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Stay Frosty
Publisher: Garske Games
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/30/2017 12:46:28

Full review at dieheart.net/stay-frosty.

  • An eclectic blend of different OSR mechanisms geared towards military sci-fi point crawling - excellently done. Casey combined familiar rules to create something fun and easy. There are some cool rules "twists" like the tension/danger balance or the rules for Battle of Wills.
  • It's 30+ pages and costs USD <del>$4.99</del> $3.49. Just a fact. People compare it to TBH at USD $2.00 and complain. It probably depends on what you expected. Stay Frosty looks like a great ruleset for a gaming night of over-the-top hilarious action. For me, that's worth shelling out five bucks.
  • It is not a serious game and quite focused. Great for a one-shot (or few shots) when you want to battle bugs and look cool doing it. The GM creates location-based missions for you and your team of buddies. Stay Frosty is not an all-purpose sci-fi game or space opera game or whathaveyou. Play marines, kill stuff with the TBH engine at its core. That's it, for better or worse.
  • I love the overall style of this: the crappy looking art, the tone of writing. Very flavorful. But it is not everyone's cup of tea.
  • Random generators for the GM are a plus. It's always nice to have some tools to make prep easier.
  • The game fulfills what was promised. So if you're looking for "an OSR game of future marines versus whatever the universe can throw at them" - look no further.


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stay Frosty
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Session Zero Issue 1 - The Smoldering Swamp
Publisher: Brian Holland
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/24/2017 13:41:01

Full review at dieheart.net.

  • Session Zero is a promising new zine for the DW community. There has been some silence around DW fanzines for a while. I'm glad to see that Brian has taken up the gauntlet to create something new.
  • The setting idea is fresh and offers some appealing opportunities for players and the Game Master.
  • The author delivers a well-rounded package for setting creation. There are enough tools for the Game Master to get up and running in no time. I can imagine that some of the ideas can be useful for other fantasy RPGs, too.
  • Session Zero follows DW's adage to ask questions and build upon the answers. If your players are not up for that, some of the material of this zine falls flat. (This is not the zine's fault though. Just something to be aware of. Make it clear to the players that you need their input.)
  • Brian could improve the organization. The artwork has a homely charm but is not superb. If you want to help, you can head over to the patreon to raise money for more artwork.
  • The zine is PWYW and packs a punch for (basically) free.


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Session Zero Issue 1 - The Smoldering Swamp
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Wired Neon Cities - Minimalist Cyberpunk Roleplaying
Publisher: Trollish Delver Games
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/17/2017 05:06:18

Review at dieheart.net

WNC impresses with a fast character creation. It has iconic classes like Hacker, Mechanic, Gunner, and more. The classes feel unique and have their own gimmicks. For example, the Doc is the only one who can do a Surgical Action and heal 2 wounds. The Face can reroll tests related to personal interactions.

As a player, you might enjoy adding Augmentations to your character. These serve to distinguish your character further. And they add some advantages to your repertoire. E.g. a Derma Shield increases your wounds by 2 for 1d3 rounds once per combat.

WNC uses a simple d6 system. Each character has four attributes: Brawn, Nimble, Mind, and Person. You have an array of numbers you can distribute. It says what number you have to roll for a success. So, if you have Brawn 3+, you need to roll a 3 or more.

Combat runs smooth, too. WNC uses a round-based combat system with Initiative. Each successful attack deals one damage. There is no armor in the game.

You don't make an opposed test or roll against Armor Class. No, you either test your own Brawn (melee attacks) or Nimble (ranged attacks) score. So it is one roll with your attribute.

Characters have a number of Wounds. If characters are down to zero, they are out of combat. Non-Player Characters (NPCs) die. Some Augmentations can make you harder to hit, and some increase your Wound score.

Status Effects (prone, stunned, poisoned etc.) and combat options (Bull Rush, Parry etc.) make the combat system surprisingly versatile for a minimalist game.

The rules fit on 2 pages. The game can be a bit unclear at times because of the small word count.
Can I use a Surgical Kit (heals 2 wounds) without the Doc class? If I have the Doc class, do I need it to take a Surgical Action?
The Eagle Eye Augmentation gives you a +2 bonus. On what? Attack or damage? Probably attack. Luckily, the bonus only works once per combat. Otherwise, it would be too powerful.

Also, I would like to see more stuff. More items, weapons, hacker gear, Augmentations, drones, yadda yadda yadda. I hope that Scott puts out some supplements in the future.

Speaking of drones and hackers, the rules here work well. Mechanics can make drones (e.g. a Spy Drone or Gun Drone) by making a Mind test. I find it a bit redundant to have to roll for it. Players will likely want to try as long as they have the money and time for it. So the test only serves as resource management.

I like the mechanisms for Hacking. The Hacker needs to collect a number of successes to break into a system. For example, a complex network needs 3 successes. So, after 3 fast rolls, everyone knows the result. That means you don't have to spend hours for a mini-game with one player when he tries to hack something. And everyone else is bored. I'm looking at you, Shadowrun.

Game Mastering WNC is a breeze because the game is so easy. The rules for creating opponents are ingenious. NPCs just have one number they roll against for tests and combat, and may have special actions. But that's it! Example:

Juicer: Drugged-up psycho. 5+, 5 wounds, special action: Make a Test. If successful, Juicer regains 1 wound.

How does it get any better than that? I can create opponents on the fly. Stick some special gimmick on them to make them unique. Done.

Kudos for including an example setting. Glow City is a sprawling metropolis without government - ruled by three mega-corporations. This is more a teaser than a fully fleshed out setting. But it should be enough to get you started.

WNC uses a simple layout and good stock art that fits the theme. There are some minor typos. All in all, the game is easy to read and easy to understand.

Trollish Delver Games has already published several good lightweight games. This one doesn't disappoint either. And it is PWYW. If you like the rules, you can also get a Fantasy version and a sci-fi version (In Darkest Warrens and Astounding Interplanetary Adventures).

Final Thoughts:

  • WNC fits the bill of an ultra rules lite game with enough flesh to make it feel like cyberpunk.
  • The system is dead simple. The use of a single d6 makes it lightning fast. But it comes at the cost of having not a lot of room for subtle tones - modifiers have a strong impact. This is offset by the fact that many Augmentations only work once per combat. There is not much room for mechanical character development.
  • Please give me more gear, items, whathaveyou.
  • You can easily expand and mold the game to your needs. Steal some ideas from In Darkest Warren, for example.
  • WNC is a game that makes me want to play it. The rules fit together nicely and are wonderful in their simplicity. It would also be a good introductory system for beginners. No weird AC, grid based combat, and complex sub-systems.
  • I would like to see an open license for this game. That way, others could add to WNC, translate it etc.

Give it a shot.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wired Neon Cities - Minimalist Cyberpunk Roleplaying
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Heroic Fantasy
Publisher: Wordplay Games
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/22/2017 05:16:22

What Do You Need to Know About Heroic Fantasy?

Heroic Fantasy (the game) touts itself as a heroic variant of the old school game The Black Hack (TBH). Heroic Fantasy (HF) has nine classes, a race and alignment system, more spells, magic item creation, PvP. And more.

I got a review PDF from the author, Graham Spearing. This is a reading review.

How does Heroic Fantasy compare to The Black Hack?

TBH offers a rules-lite game experience on 20 pages. It added modern ideas like player-facing rolls to the traditional core. Thus, TBH feels old school without being a straight retro-clone. (Read more about TBH here.)

Where does HF fit into? I see HF as a set of house rules to TBH, although it's a stand-alone game. It feels almost like the same game, but catered to a different gaming table.

HF makes gameplay even more heroic. In TBH, low-level characters are sturdier than in OD&D because they have more hit points (HP). Spellcasters can cast magic more often. HF cranks play up a notch. Armor is more powerful. And the game increases HP combat refresh for the melee classes. That means that characters don't die easily. (In this regard, both TBH and HF are not vanilla old school.)

What does Heroic Fantasy add to TBH?

I felt that TBH left a lot open to interpretation because of its small page count. HF remedies that. The author explains the rules in greater detail. The book contains a section with tips for players and the Game Master.

The changes to character creation come to mind. HF adds dwarves, elves, and halflings. Dwarves get a Usage Die for natural armor but get Disadvantage on keeping their spell slots. The rules for elves and halflings follow the Tolkien scheme, too.

I like how it pays off if you keep your halfling well fed:

If a halfling manages to have two breakfasts before elevenses then they are indomitably cheered and will automatically succeed at one test whilst digesting throughout the day.

Players can also choose between three alignments (Good, Neutral, Evil).

The classes feel like old friends in new garments. Very familiar, but adjusted towards TBH's mechanics. You can pick between nine classes: Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Necromancer, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Warrior, Wizard.

Bards and Necromancers come with their own spell list. The Ranger has a Precision Strike and an animal companion. Paladins can Lay on Hands and must follow a Geas. And so forth.

I like the Rogue. It's a catch-all for the professions in the gray area. At first level, you have one specialization, e.g. Tomb Robber or Charming Swindler. You get another at 4th and 8th level.

The gimmicks from the TBH Thief are spread between the different specializations and new ones were added. So the focus is narrower.

The Warrior is similar to TBH but gets a Power Strike and a Signature Strike.

And players can customize their characters with two Aspects. Yes, those that made Fate popular. E.g. "Celebrity chef to King Dravok the Unsteady."

Bonds are another addition, this time from games like Dungeon World.

When it comes to the main rules, there are some tweaks, too.

Interestingly, you see a nod towards indie narrative games with the Fate rule. The Game Master (GM) introduces a new detail to the story if you roll exactly equal to your stat on a test. You might dislike the fact that this rule breaks the standard task resolution. When you roll a d20, you must roll under your attribute to succeed. So an equal result should count as a failure. With this new rule, the GM can decide if the test was successful or not and insert the new story detail. I'm not sure if this rule is necessary. As a GM I can add a twist whenever I like. At least that's how I play it.

What about armor? In both TBH and HF, armor absorbs damage. Yet in HF armor mitigates slightly more damage (e.g. plate mail 12 instead of 8). The Usage Die mechanism offsets this. The players must roll the UD. You must reduce armor points when you roll a 1 or 2. You can repair your armor for coin, though.

But don't forget that monsters deal less damage than characters of the same level. A 1 HD (Hit Die/Dice) monster only attacks for 2 damage (1d4). The GM must make sure to throw monsters of higher levels at the PCs so that they pose a challenge. I'm not sure if HF's higher armor points help here, even if you take damaged armor into consideration.

Ambush rules and rules for hordes extend the combat system. The horde mechanism simplifies how the GM can handle multiple opponents.

I also like that HF includes an easy solution for Player vs. Player and rules for magic items. The ideas for creating magic items are mechanical instead of flavorful but that's ok.

A bestiary rounds up the book.

Yeah, But...

At its core, I see this book as a set of house-rules. It is in the same genre like TBH (Fantasy/Heroic Fantasy). The power level feels nearer to newer editions of D&D than to the grittiness of the earlier versions.

The additions are worth the price if you want more options for your TBH-game. But I don't see it as an "own new game" like some other TBH hacks.

You could pick and choose what you want to use and slap it on the core engine. Don't like the narrative task resolution but want to keep the PvP? Easily done.

Thoughts

  • New classes, more spells, and monsters, extended combat rules, magic item creation, deities, an adventure.... moar stuff! That's good, right?
  • I like the addition of Aspects and Signature Weapons/Strikes for character creation. I don't see the need for the Fate mechanism.
  • It is The Black Hack extended and tweaked. You won't like Heroic Fantasy if you don't see the merit in The Black Hack.
  • Perhaps characters are too powerful. They sport a good amount of hit points and easier spellcasting than in traditional old school D&D. Pair this with strong armor and high damage output. Oh, my!
  • The book's layout is simple and readable. Nothing too fancy and it serves the purpose.
  • Good set of house-rules. It could have been advertised as such instead of packaging it as an own stand-alone game. But now you have everything in one place - that's nice, too. The price is fair.


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Heroic Fantasy
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