So I set out to make a simple and robust D&D variant, with faster gameplay and more differentiated classes.
"What makes this feel a little older-edition while still like 4E is that as your PC advances in his or her class, new abilities are unlocked (like 4E), but you don't get any choices about what those abilities are."
This is a similar approach to that taken for 5th edition, but I can claim no credit here :-)...
"That will likely be a turn-off to players who like to game the class system to come up with whatever "character build" they are seeking, but lately that's been my biggest turn-off in recent D&D editions."
One of the areas that hasn't improved in D&D 5th Edition, is the encounter creation, which is frankly terrible (especially at higher levels):
"Another Fourth Edition quality that HAD has that I like is its use of creating encounters using a budget of XP that is spread over multiple monsters who have different roles, like Brutes or Casters. I liked the "monster ensemble" quality of 4E encounters because they gave mobs of orcs, et al diversity instead of being eight carbon clones of each other. They also helped negate the advantage PC groups tended to have in their strength of numbers. Where Halliday really shines in this edition, and arguably his best game feature, is that he provides an extensive framework for building your own custom monsters, including scaling them up by encounter level and monster type."
The other major break from D&D in Heroes Against Darkness is the replacement of 'Vancian' magic with a bespoke anima system.
"The magic system is the biggest break from D&D, insofar as they eschew the Vancian "fire and forget" spell structure and instead use a system of "anima points" which are burned to cast spells. That follows a lot of non-D&D fantasy systems."
The important element of the anima system is that it allows spells to be cast with more 'power', ramping up their effectiveness, another element that appeared in D&D 5th Edition. The idea of ramping the power of spells and attacks is an area where I'm clearly obsessed.
In the Forge Engine, my in-development RPG, I'm incorporated this idea of variable effort into the core of the system. All activities, magic, attacks, even attribute tests, allow the player to choose the amount of energy that they put into the action.
So in Forge Engine an attack can be a simple swing and strike, or the character can dedicate more energy to the attack (such as by carefully aiming and swinging as hard as possible) to improve its chance of dealing more damage.
Back to Heroes Against Darkness. In conclusion, our correspondent likes the system, which is nice:
"But the bottom line is that Heroes Against Darkness hits a lot of my sweet spots when it comes to heartbreakers, and for a great price, .pdf or hardcover."
Graph, Paper, and Games - Heroes Against Darkness review
And if you're looking for Heroes Against Darkness, you can get the PDF for free here, and print versions as well:
DriveThruRPG - Heroes Against Darkness