Heroes Against Darkness: Development Update

Now that the alpha rules of Heroes Against Darkness have been publically released for a few weeks, it’s a good time to let you guys know what I’m working on at the moment and what I’m thinking about working on.

Stuff I’m Working On:

Filling Out the Martial Powers

As I mentioned in this blog post, I’ve collapsed all of higher level variants of the martial powers into the single base power and added details of the changes at higher levels, like this:

Careful Strike (Warrior Level 1)

Condition Target in melee range
Attack d20 + Melee Bonus + 2
Against Armor Defense

Level 4:

Level 8:

Level 12:

Weapon Damage + Melee Bonus – 2
2d Weapon Damage + Melee Bonus – 4
3d Weapon Damage + Melee Bonus – 6
4d Weapon Damage + Melee Bonus – 8

This has had the desirable effect of reducing the length of the power list for the martial characters (yay for the trees!), but it’s also thinned out the powers at higher levels. Previously, martial characters had a couple of powers listed each level for every level up to 10 and higher. Now, the new powers gradulally fall off between level 6 and 7. I’d really like the martial characters to have unique powers all the way to level 10, so I’ve been working on filling out those higher levels with appropriate powers.

For example, at level 10 Barbarians have a unique interrupt power:

Hard to Kill (Barbarian Level 10)

Action Time Interrupt
Interrupt Condition When the character is hit with an attack that would reduce his or her HP to 0 or less.
Power Effect Character immediately reduces the damage by Constitution Bonus. The power cannot be used again until the start of the character’s next turn.

One of the things I think I’ll try to do for each of the classes is give them an appropriate interrupt power at higher level, like the Barbarian’s Hard to Kill example. I think that these are interesting powers to play, and players of high level characters should have had enough experience with the game to be able to handle the intricacies of Interupt martial powers.

The goal is ultimately to have all of the martial classes have five powers at level 1 (including Melee Attack and Ranged Attack), 2 powers each at levels 2-5, and 1 new power each level from 6-10. This will give each martial class a total of 17 powers once they reach level 10.

HAD SOLO 01: A Solo Adventure

So another thing I’ve been working on is a short solo adventure, along the lines of the Ghost Tower of Witchling Fens adventure by Robert J. Schwalb from Dungeon Magazine issue 182.

The idea of this solo adventure is to allow people who are thinking about running Heroes Against Darkness with their play groups to try out a short adventure on their own to familiarize themselves with the underlying principles of the rules. The adventure will come with a few pre-generated level 1 characters, presented like those in the Pathfinder Beginner Box. The Pathfinder characters are printed on a landscape sheet, with the character sheet itself in the middle, and then the left and right margins include relevant rules information and powers for the character.

I’ve just finished the flow-chart of the adventure (using Twine, which is an awesome gamebook authoring tool), and I need to add in the encounters, create the pre-gen characters, playtest it and then package it all up.

Drop me an email if you’d like to playtest the solo adventure.

Stuff I’m Thinking About:

High Level Spells

With the move to have unique martial powers effectively top out at level 10, I’m thinking about bringing the higher level spell powers back to a maximum of level 10.

One of my goals with the spell powers in Heroes Against Darkness is to make sure that they never become useless at higher levels (via scaling power spells with X anima costs, etc), so clamping the most powerful spells to level 10 shouldn’t have a huge mechanical effect. Right now, the most powerful spells are the variantions on ressurection that each magi class has:

• Warlock: L13 Reincarnate (Transfers character’s soul into new body)
• Healer: L10 Restore Life (Returns dead character to 1HP)
• Canonate: L11 Ressurect (Returns dead character to 1HP, but with Ability Scores temporarily lowered)
• Necromancer: L12 Reanimate (Returns dead character to 1HP, but with Ability Scores permanently reduced by 1)
• Mystic: L13 Recall Soul (Returns dead character to 1HP, Wisdom permanently reduced by 2)

So all of these spells will have to come back to level 10 at the highest, which means that Restore Life might need to drop down to level 8 and the Reincarnate and Recall Soul will top our at level 10.

Opportunity Attacks

Everyone hates opportunity attacks, right?

Maybe not necessarily everyone, but lots of people hate them and lots of other people love them. So, right now I’m thinking about introducing opportunity attacks (or something like them) to each class.

The problem with opportunity attacks in 3rd Edition and 4th Edition is that they are very powerful, and those games added lots of associated powers that made them even more powerful (such as feats and attacks that trigger off opportunity attacks). So what I want to do is to introduce something like opportunity attacks (such as a Reflex Strike, for example) with a few differences:
• They’re only available to martial classes
• They’re not available until the character is capable of dealing 2d melee damage (level 3, 4, 5 or 6)
• Each class’s variation of the attack might be different, for example a Rogue might trip an opponent instead of hitting him
• The attack will deal less damage than usual
• The attack will have a trade-off cost, which is the condition Hindered (character only has Major, Minor and Free Action – no Move Action)

Here’s an example of the power for a Reflex Strike:

Reflex Strike (Level 4 Warrior)

Action Time Interrupt
Interrupt Condition Target moves out of melee range and moves more than 10′ in a single move.
Attack d20 + Melee Bonus
Against Armor Defense
Level 8:

Level 12:

Level 16:

Melee Bonus
Weapon Damage + Melee Bonus
Weapon Damage + Melee Bonus
2d Weapon Damage + Melee Bonus
Power Effect Character is Hampered until end of character’s next turn

Spell Anima Costs

Another area that’s been taking a lot of hind-brain bandwidth is the underlying principles that are used to determine the Anima costs of spells. Originally I just eyeballed the spells and their levels to determine their costs, but a couple of spells crept in that were way too powerful (for their cost), such as one of the early versions of the Plasma Bolts spell. When that happened I set about creating a set of guidelines for the cost of spells, which now appear in the On Magic section of the Game Master’s Guide.

Basically, I’m trying to nail down the relationship between the each of the aspects of a spell:
• Magnitude of the effect (such as number of dice of healing or damage, or the amount of a bonus or penalty that it applies)
• Number of targets
• Ongoing duration
• Defense it targets
• Range
• Effect range (such as a radius)
• Persistence of effects in the environment

Ultimately, I’d like to create a set of guidelines so that any GM can work out the Anima cost of (almost) any spell.

This process is proving tricky, especially when factoring in spells with multiple targets or that deal multiple dice of damage (or healing). The first step I’ve taken along this path was to (reluctantly) create an additional rule:
• Rule: Magi cannot spend more Anima than 1 + Level on a single spell.

This rule prevents casters from simply discharging all of their Anima at once into a single target or in some other fashion.

I hate papering over cracks with rules, but I think that this one is core to the power of a spellcaster.

HAD ADVENTURE 01: An Adventure Module

I’ve been running my play group using Heroes Against Darkness now since last May (when the rules were about 30 pages long). I plan to turn some of these materials into a module that will be ready for the 1.0 release of Heroes Against Darkness.

The current stable version of the rules can always be found here: Heroes Against Darkness – Game Rules.

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