Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What is Heroes of the Sundered Chronicles, and how does it differ from Swords and Wizardry?

Over this past weekend, I started the open playtest of the RPG I’ve been working on, titled Heroes of the Sundered Chronicles.  I wanted to spend a few minutes talking about what this game is and how it differs from Swords and Wizardry and other OSR games.

What is Heroes of the Sundered Chronicles?

In short, Heroes of the Sundered Chronicles is an OSR game that represents how I want to play.  I took the Swords and Wizardry rules and hacked out the pieces that don’t work for me, and replaced them with my own versions.  I added a skill system, because I like skill systems.  I’m not a fan of skill systems where the player drives the choice of mechanics to use for a situation, and I try my best to address that in the rules.

A secondary objective is that the game better fits my campaign world that I’ve been publishing adventures for over the last couple years.  I plan to continue to publish adventures set in this world, and they will continue to be fully Swords and Wizardry compatible.  Looking at it from this angle, Heroes of the Sundered Chronicles is a variant ruleset of Swords and Wizardry that is designed specifically with playing these adventures in mind.

Where does it differ from Swords and Wizardry?

  • HotSC has a default setting – Acteos.  There are references to this setting throughout the book, such as which races are available and how magical travel works in the setting, but the bulk of the setting details has been segregated into its own chapter near the end of the book.  I have plans to use these rules for games set in other worlds myself, so I didn’t want the setting to be so heavily implied that it felt mandatory.
  • Attributes are a little more meaningful than in Swords and Wizardry, but less so than in Third Edition.  Attribute bonuses are a little more standardized, and go up to +3.
  • HotSC presents a different list of races in the core rulebook.  Humans and dwarves are present, but elves get an entry in the monster chapter.  Players can also pick Kavarli, which are sort of half-giant like stone-kin, the monstrous Liontaurs (which are exactly what they sound like), the feline Rashka, or the Sylvans, which are kind of like wild-elves with antlers.
  • There are no racial restrictions on level.  Humans get a couple of racial traits to compensate.
  • Four classes are presented – The Fighter, the Mage, the Paladin, and the Thief.  Each class has a specialization to pick from, which allows for a small amount of customization.
  • A skill system has been added.  Thieves get a couple extra skills at first level, but otherwise everyone has the same progression.  The system has an emphasis on the Referee calling for skill rolls, deciding which skill is applicable and which attribute modifies it depending on the description of a player’s actions.
  • The equipment lists have been bolstered with a few more options.
  • Due to the increase in the size of Dexterity bonuses to AC, Dexterity bonuses only stack with armor up to a maximum of -6 [+6] (plate mail allows for no Dexterity bonus).  Any magical bonuses or shield bonuses apply afterward.
  • Combat uses a simpler format.  Group initiative is rolled, the group with initiative goes first, resolving all effects to completion (including spell casting), and then the party that lost initiative goes.  This is how I’ve always played.
  • Magic is broken down into alignments.  Mages can cast Neutral spells and either Law or Chaos spells (a choice that has nothing to do with the character's alignment).  Paladins cast Law spells only.  There is only one master spell list, instead of a different list for each class.  6 spells per alignment are presented for each spell level (18 spells per spell level, 5 spell levels).
  • Mages have access to lesser magic, which are weaker spells that can be cast an unlimited amount of times per day without preparation.
  • Mages can swap out a prepared spell to create healing or destruction effects.  They can do one or the other, chosen at character creation.  As such, there are no healing spells on the spell list, and the few damage spells are weaker and have a secondary effect.  For example, Flame Strike deals 6d6 damage (where a 5th level spell converted into an area damage effect would deal 10d6) but also blinds targets that fail a saving throw.

There’s definitely other changes than I’ve listed here, but these are the big ones that are in the current playtest release.  The current release covers all the player chapters, and is a free download (no login or registration required) if you’re interested.

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