Bennie for your thoughts

February 16, 2018 at 1:13 am

“Only criminals and bloodsuckers reward bad behavior.”

–Ted Nugent


There many ways to encourage players, from experience awards and treasure to narrative controls. Players who are clever, or play their characters well and embrace the story should be rewarded.

The methods we like provide the players with an immediately useful benefit that they control. Like bennies in Savage Worlds or Action Points in d20, a quick boost to a die-roll gives immediate positive reinforcement to a player and provides encouragement to the whole table. But what does this do to the power balance of game?


Reward Requirements: What to give them for

The first question you need to answer is that exactly are you rewarding. Some systems just give out these ‘rewards’ for each rise in power level, or achieving story goals. That seems pretty arbitrary and really not the reward we’re looking for. Others suggest giving them out for coming up with clever solutions, finding important clues, deep character interaction, or comical table-talk.

I’m as enthusiastic (and as guilty) about funny non sequiturs as the next gamer, but It seems like not the most productive thing to reward. I suppose if a character makes a particularly clever observation… but otherwise it becomes just another distraction for the table.

Moving the game forward and embracing a PC’s personality on the other had, those are things most games can use more of. Hopefully it will be more than rewarding a good die roll, but a choice the player makes that makes the game better.


How many to give

Many games suggest giving out in-game rewards at the beginning of each session. If you’re going to be using this mechanic a lot i can see that, because you don’t want players to just to hoard them. And, rewards are better when they are earned. But if it is mechanic you want to use, you should not make them too rare. Everyone at the table should have a chance to earn them each session, and not feel like using them is too risky.

I ran a Savage Worlds campaign where I left a bennie out on the table, ands allowed the players to reward one their own each night. It could’ve been easily abused, but the players took it seriously, and were more judicious about it than I usually was.


What they be used for

Typical uses for in-game rewards are for boosting actions, avoiding damage, powering abilities, and re-rolling tests. Some games even allow using these rewards for narrative control over the world at large. This can be open to wide interpretation, but can add interesting wrinkles to your games. A clever player might add an interesting physical element to a game (a rain barrel at the base of a building they wish to jump off), or a social one (they served with the bartender is king’s guard) that add depth and involvement with the players. It can also be easily abused, so you will have to trust your players.

In general, in-game rewards should provide an immediate boost to a player’s actions, or mitigate a risk. It might just be me, but I don’t like mechanics that roll back time or replace outcomes. Re-rolls or stopping damage are great for player success, but I’m always slightly bothered by failure the never happened or the wounds that miraculously disappear.

I prefer rewards that are used to add to a die roll, or even penalize an opponent. Usually on something that is resolved immediately. Being able to recover some level of wounds is also helpful. Or even gaining an additional actions, or being able to act before their opponent are good rewards. The more rewards you plan on giving, the more volatile your game will become, as these benefits throw off most games balancing systems.


Swing dice and HEX

To put this idea into practice, we decided to come up with an optional in-game reward system for our own Heroic Expeditions. We call them Swing Dice. Briefly, swing dice can be awarded to players at any time and can be used to add a die to a test, or lower an opponent test by a die.

A Swing die can be rewarded to a player for any reason a GM chooses, but the most common reasons are:

  • Solving a conflict in a clever or surprising way
  • Uses character knowledge or skills to advance the story
  • Performs a heroic or exceptional task, or makes a sacrifice to benefit the group
  • Plays the character’s personality (or Drawbacks, if using the optional system) to their own detriment.

A swing die (all dice in HEX are d6) can be used at any time, but must be declared before the result of an opponent’s test is known. Alternately, a swing die can be used to recover 1d Stamina or 2ST, change their Initiative position, or take an additional action in a round.

If the GM desires, a swing die can be used to make a narrative statement by the player ’true’ in the game world. This should be something small (the baron pays 1 copper each for rat’s killed in the sewers), and not contradict something already in the world. One could also be used to allow a character to have a low-cat mundane piece of equipment, or know a piece of common knowledge.

A swing die is only usable in the session in which it was given, and can not be carried over into later sessions.

This system is compact, easy to manage, and rewards good play without disrupting long-term game balance. And hopefully, makes sessions more engaging and fun for both players and GMs.

Do you think in-game rewards add value, or just complicate your games? Did we overlook some aspect that drastically changes how rewards are given? Or do you have a system we could all learn from? Let us know in the comments below:

Drawbacks & Disadvantages —
do they belong?

February 8, 2018 at 4:31 pm

“Conceal a flaw, and the world will imagine the worst.”

—Marcus Valerius Martial

The pitch for virtually every role-playing game ever written is “create a hero and live out their adventures.” But how much of that role is ever really lived? How often do we simply push our PCs through the mechanics or the story — facing the risks and reaping the rewards — compared to trying to emobody the character?

In fairness, many of the stories. movies, and other media that inspire these adventures don’t often have nuanced characters. Sometimes a hero is just a hero, but other times you might want to play it a little differently. Luke Skywalker’s robot hand never seemed to provide any problems, but Jaime Lannister’s golden one is a bit more of hindrance. And for many players, having a weakness or a flaw can provide a window into their motivations, and perhaps be the spur that drives them to become heroes in the first place.

How do drawbacks, disadvantages, and hindrances affect your gaming sessions? Did we overlook a choice that you use to make characters memorable? Let us know in the comments below.


Class Consciousness: The Wizard

February 2, 2018 at 10:06 pm

“Sorcery is a sword without a hilt. There is no safe way to grasp it.”

― George R.R. Martin

On the surface, it would seem, it should be quite easy to replicate the structures of a class-based “magic-user” in a skill-based system like HEX. But the truth is more complex.

The Way of the Wizard

A class-based spell caster in a traditional Vancian system has a much more structured advancement, with increasing levels of power doled out in predetermined increments. HEX is much more fluid, and allows a magical Adept more choice in how they choose magic, and even how magic they want to wield.

Vancian magic places a strict hierarchy on spells, doling out spells in set amounts at set power levels. In HEX, a wizard powers magic with their own stamina, and they can choose which of their spells to cast at any time. In addition, the higher Intelligence required for powerful magic creates opportunities to access Aspects that might be as powerful as their spells.

But the point of these exercises are to streamline the process, and give new players guide-posts on their path of advancement. So grab your grimoires and let’s get to it.

Wizards in the early days did little beyond their spells, and we will follow that method. Most of our Attribute points (4) will be put into Intelligence, with some into Dexterity (2), and the rest increasing Stamina rather than true strength. This will them weak, but they will not be carrying heavy armor or weapons to affect their abilities.

For Aspects, the package only has Literacy and Arcanist, and leaving one point for an additional Universal Aspect. Spell choices are balanced between attacks, defenses, and battlefield control. As the Wizard gains experience, most of their advances will improve Intelligence to gain more powerful spells, Stamina to fiuel them, and Expertise to gain a broader vairiety of spells. Feel free to trade out any of these choices for spells you prefer, or Aspects that make sense for the character.

Wizard Package and Path
Wizard Package
+2DX, +4IQ, +4SA (2). Starting Aspects: Literacy (1), Arcanist (2), Diplomacy (1). Blur, Staff, Bolt, Detect Magic, Light, Vigor/Weakness, Sleep.

Wizard Path:
1. +2 SA
2. +1 IQ (Flight)
3. +2 EX (Stone Flesh, Telekinesis)
4. +1 ST
5. +1 IQ (Lightning)
6. +2 SA
7. +1 DX
8. +1 IQ (Spell Shield)
9. +2 EX (Telepathy, Hammertouch)
10. +2 SA
11. +1 IQ (Iron Flesh)
12. +2 EX (Remove Thrown Weapon, Fireball)
13. +2 SA
14. +1 IQ (Staff of Power)
15. +1 DX
16. +2 SA
17. +1 IQ (Dissolve Enchantment)
18. +2 EX (Unnoticeability, Conjure Elemental)
19. +1 EX (Dissolve Enchantment, Enchant Weapons/Armor)
20. +1 IQ (Long-distance Teleport)

New Aspect: Arcanist (U) — IQ10
Cost: 2
Type: Professional
Prerequisites: Literacy
This is the knowledge of the mechanics and theories of magic. Figures with this talent can read magical tomes and understand magical concepts. While it does not confer spellcasting ability, it allows a figure to recognize spells being cast or persistent visible spell affects. The check is 3/IQ, and spells of IQ 15 and above adding -1adjIQ to the test.

Alternate Wizard Packages

From at least the first edition of AD&D the class of wizards became splintered into subclasses of specialties. Players wanted to excel at one type of magic, and were willing to be penalized in other areas for it. In HEX, you could simply choose to focus on type of spells, but that does not offer the same character-building scheme as a D&D style specialty wizard.

There have been many methods of breaking down ‘schools’ of magic and determining their opposites over the years. Most seem cumbersome and a little arbitrary. This breakdown may be just as arbitrary, but aligns well with the spells used in HEX and the types of wizard that players like to create.

Conjuration involves control over portals and planes, summoning creatures to fight for you or making walls appear at will. Opposed by Evocation.

Enchantment is the magic of the mind, from tricking it into believing implanted images to near total command of others. Opposed by Transmutation.

Evocation is the manipulation for pure magical energy, from shooting lightning from your fingers to dispelling powerful curses. Opposed by Conjuration.

Transmutation is using magic to alter the physical world, including healing wounds and taking flight. Opposed by the mental magic of Enchantment.

All other spells form the common arcana, the practical magic that all wizards access equally.

For a complete breakdown of HEX spells and their schools, click here.


Optional Aspect: School Specialization (U) — IQ12

Cost: 3
Type: Professional
Prerequisites: Wizard
Some wizards focus on one type of magic to the exclusion of others. A specialist wizard gains +2IQ in casting spells of this this school, and gains one free spell for their specialty each time they take an IQ advance. However, a specialist wizard is barred from taking spells for their opposing school.

Class Consciousness: The Cleric

January 2, 2018 at 6:32 pm

“In the war of magic and religion, is magic ultimately the victor? Perhaps priest and magician were once one, but the priest, learning humility in the face of God, discarded the spell for prayer.”

― Patti Smith

Of all the ‘classes’ that have been handed down to us from the RPGs of the 70s and 80s, the Cleric — or Priest — class has always been difficult for people to wrap their heads around.

The original cleric of D&D was loosely based on medieval crusaders and horror movie vampire hunters, and other systems like Runequest tried to make them more shamanic. But they always seemed to end up as a mish-mash of healing, support, and second-tier warrior. And then, of course, The Fantasy Trip ignored divine power altogether and left the priesthood as simply an occupational skill.

One of the problems, for me, is that role-playing games are self-centered by nature. The players create heroes and go on adventures to seek glory and treasure for themselves. A cleric, by definition, serves something more important than themselves. Any glory or gain must be shared with their patron, and the character ends up overshadowed.

Arbitrary strictures on choices (no bladed weapons) and artificial moral boundaries (like alignment) always put clerical characters at risk of losing their abilities, as not even their power belongs to them.

Later version of D&D and many other RPGs have tried to address this, giving religious characters options reflecting many kinds of patrons, and choices as varied as the broadest pantheon. This often lead to the opposite pole of overwhelming complexity and confusion.

In Heroic Expeditions, virtually any character can serve a god, and their choices of Aspects and Attributes can reflect that god’s attitudes. The Priest (and Theologian) Aspects are reflections of temporal power and authority, not magic. Magical power comes from within, regardless of what inspires it. A character’s faith, and adherence to it, is left as a role-playing concern.


The Road of the Righteous

Cleric Package and Path
Cleric (Wizard) Package:
+2ST, +2DX, +4IQ. Starting Aspects: Axe/Mace (4), Priest (2), Literacy (1). Starting Spells:Vigor/Weakness, Acuity/Confusion, Clumsiness/Deftness, Refresh, Healing.

Cleric Path:
1. +1 IQ (Bless/Curse spell)
2. +2 Expertise (Shield)
3. +2 Expertise (Physicker)
4. +1 DX
5. +2 Stamina
6. +2 Expertise (Charisma)
7. +1 DX
8. +1 ST
9. +1 IQ (Remove Thrown Spell)
10. +2 Stamina
11. +2 Expertise (Destroy Creation, Dispel Illusion)
12. +2 Expertise (Theologian)
13. +1 IQ (Megahex Avert)
14. +1 DX
15. +2 Expertise (Diplomacy, Courtly Graces)
16. +1 IQ
17. +1 IQ (Master Physicker)
18. +2 Stamina
19. +1 IQ (Death spell)
20. +1 IQ (Revival)

That said, what if you wanted to build a warrior priest in the mold Saint Cuthbert? It would require a balance of Aspects and spells, as well as Attributes. But it can be done.

To allow any level of magical prowess they will have to built as a Wizard, which will limit the choices of Aspects. Traditionally, clerics used heavy (if blunt) weapons, and that will require Strength. A fair amount of IQ will be need to access spells. Dexterity can not be overlooked, but since spells cannot be cast in iron armor we won’t have to overcome extreme DX adjustments. Let’s start with 2 points in ST and DX, and 4 in IQ.

The gives us 12 points for Aspects and Spells. They will need a weapon, and Axe/Mace (4) seems thematic. They should have the Priest Aspect (2) and Literacy (1). Their beginning spells will include Vigor/Weakness, Acuity/Confusion, Clumsiness/Deftness, Refresh, and Healing.

One of the most iconic abilities of these ‘classic’ clerics is their power over the undead. If this aspect is important to you, you could house-rule this as part of the Priest Aspect.

New Aspect Aspect: Rebuke Undead (Priest)

A figure with the Priest Aspect may attempt to Turn or Command the Undead. This task costs at least 3 Stamina and takes a full action. The figure rolls 3/ST in competitive test against the Undead. If they succeed by more than the opponent, the undead creature is cowed by the Priest, and can not move within 1 MMH of the priest. For every additional 3 Stamina the Priest wishes to spend on the attempt, roll one less die in the test. A figure with the Theologian Aspect always rolls one less die to Turn of Command undead.

For each point the Priest wins the contest by, an additional undead creature is cowed. And if the Priest succeeds by 5 or more, one creature can be destroyed.

The typical skeleton or zombie has 8ST, and may be easily turned by our cleric, but more powerful undead like a wight (ST12) will be much more challenging.’

Alternate Cleric Packages

The only truly common ‘alternate’ cleric from the early days of class-based RPGs is the druid. Frankly, it has veery little in common with the cleric presented here. I may have to give them a treatment off the own.

Cloistered (or Pacifist) clerics might be a viable alternative package, though. It would start with +3 DX and +4 IQ, and +2 Stamina in lieu of ST gain. They would rely on their wizard Staff instead of heavy weapons. They would also use defensive magic like Shock Shield and Stone Flesh over armor. Social Aspects like Diplomacy and Charisma would be taken earlier, and Universal Aspects like Lore and Academic would replace more martial skills.

Are there aspects of the ‘classical’ cleric that we have overlooked here, or do you have a better way of bringing this kind of character to life in a skill-based system like HEX? Let us know in the comments below.


Class Consciousness: The Thief

December 14, 2017 at 9:26 pm

This thief was an artist of theft. Other thieves merely stole everything that was
not nailed down, but this thief stole the nails as well.”

― Terry Pratchett, Sourcery


As we discussed in the previous Class Consciousness entry on Warriors, character classes are a simple way of codifying a PC’s advancement to greater levels of power. While some players might rather invent a character from whole cloth, others prefer having a structure to hang their ideas on.

The Thief ‘class’ has been at gaming tables since the Greyhawk supplement of original D&D, picking pockets, hiding in shadows, and stabbing backs since at least 1975. Later softened to Rogue, the class exemplified stealth, cunning, and agility.

While its core abilities usually revolved around breaking and entering, lurking, and pilfering, many types of characters were categorized as thieves. Con-men, Tomb raiders, thugs, and swashbucklers often ended up as thieves.


The Crooked Path

Thief Package and Path
Thief Package:
+1ST, +4DX, +2IQ and 2 Expertise. Base Aspects: Melee weapon, Ranged Weapon, Detect Traps, Remove Traps, Silent Movement, Climbing, Thief.

Thief Path:
1. +2 Expertise (Alertness)
2. +1 DX
3. +2 Stamina
4. +2 Expertise (Streetwise)
5. +1 IQ (Recognize Value)
6. +1 DX
7. +1 Expertise
8. +1 Expertise (Acrobatics)
9. +1 DX
10. +1 IQ (Stealth)
11. +2 Stamina, or +2 Expertise (Sly Cut, above)
12. +2 Expertise (Assess Value)
13. +2 Expertise (Master Thief)
14. +1 ST
15. +1 DX
16. +1 IQ
17. +2 Expertise (Master Mechanician)
18. +2 Stamina
19. +1 IQ
20 +2 Expertise (Disguise)

To create a Package for the basic Thief in Heroic Expeditions, we will focus on the skills and abilities that began with D&D. Aspects are very important to a Thief, so they will need a fairly high IQ, Dexterity is also critical, and Strength can not be completely overlooked if we want our thief to survive. Let’s start with 4 points in DX, 2 in IQ,1 in ST and the last point in Expertise. This will give out thief the capability to carry iconic weapons like the rapier and short bow, and hit with reasonable accuracy in light armor. It will also give us the points to start building up our Aspects.

Starting Aspects should include a melee weapon (1-2), ranged attack (2), Detect Traps (2) Remove Traps (2), Silent Movement (2), Climbing (1), and of course Thief (2). Depending on the style of thief you want to play, you might want to take Streetwise, Recognize Value, or a specialty weapon like whip.

The thief’s Path will include increases in DX to improve their success with their Aspects, as well as IQ to access more complex skills. Expertise will be a handy way to maximize their Aspect pool, as only a Bard or Spy would need Aspects beyond IQ 13.

As they progress along the Path, a thief will want to take Alertness, Acrobatics, Mechanician, Assess Value, Stealth, and Master Thief. Master Mechanician is also a goal. If a thief takes a more social route, Charisma, Streetwise, and Disguise might be substituted for lock and trap Aspects.

A cornerstone of the Thief class throughout D&D’s history was the back-stab, or sneak attack. HEX creatures do not have large hit point pools like those games, and combat is run very differently, but if you wanted too replicate that feel, you could house rule something like this.

New Aspect: Sly Cut
Cost: 2
Type: Combat
Prerequisites: Stealth
A figure with this Aspect that attacks an unaware opponent (through Stealth, Ambush, or Surprise) with an aimed attack gains either +4adjDX on the attack or removes 4 AD from the defender. Only one of these can be chosen, and the choice must be made before the attack.

Another old school aspect we always liked was Theive’s Cant. Depending on your campaign world. You might want to have a secret Language Aspect for it that only thieves can learn.

Alternate Packages: Thief

Bards are often considered thieves. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons even required several levels of Thief to become a bard. Bards might not be as skilled at Climbing or Removing Traps, but they will have Charisma, Bard, Diplomacy, Mimic, and Courtly Graces. A Bard would begin with 3 points in DX, 3 in IQ, 1 in ST and 2 additional Expertise.

Advanced Aspects would include Master Bard and Disguise. A bard might also consider learning a spell or two, like Dazzle or even Control Person.

Swashbucklers are also commonly lumped in with thieves. ST is more important to them than other types, and they require less IQ points. A swashbuckler would start with 2 points in ST, 4 in DX, and 2 in IQ. They would need the Sword talent, Weapon Training, and Acrobatics. Depending on their style of play, they might to take Charisma or Sex Appeal as well.

Their path would include DX increases, IQ raises to 12, Expertise to expand their Aspects and Stamina to survive their exploits. Silent Movement, Running, Climbing, and Stealth are among their standard thief talents, along with Fencing, Weapon Mastery, and the Two Weapons Aspect. Swashbucklers like to be the center of attention, and may consider Leadership Aspects was well.

Are there iconic thief builds you would like to see for HEX? Did we overlook some obvious aspect of a thief? Join the conversation and let us know below.


Class Consciousness: The Warrior

December 6, 2017 at 8:11 pm

Every class, as a class, is almost sure to have more defects than qualities. As soon as you put men together, they somehow sink, corporatively, below the level of the worst of the individuals composing it.

― Aleister Crowley, Magick Without Tears


One of the core precepts of role-playing games is that characters have ‘classes’ that define their abilities and track their improvement over time. From the very beginnings of Dungeons & Dragons to the newly released GURPS-inspired Dungeon Fantasy, classes have been an easy way for players to define their creations and guide their choices.

On the other hand (and the RPG spectrum has a truly Kali-esque number of hands), games like The Fantasy Trip, Savage Worlds, and our own Heroic Expeditions have no classes, or a very simplified class structure. HEX divides characters between Explorers and Adepts, depending on whether they focus on magic or worldly talents.

I have always felt that class structures were too restrictive, and force players into trenches that make making a PC unique more difficult, but that is simply taste. Classes provide real values, especially to new players. Classes not only give characters a foundation, but also built-in goals and motivations to increase their power.

Classes (or Professions, Careers, etc.) can also ground a character in the world they are playing in. A Knight character is probably part of a feudal system and will have obligations and restrictions based on that, whereas a Red Wizard of Thay will have a very different community and codes of conduct.

These benefits can gained in a skill-based system without adding all the mechanical restrictions of classes. For HEX, we’ll call them Packages and Paths. Let’s take a look at a few, starting with warriors.


The Way of the Warrior


Warrior Package and Path
Warrior Package:
+4ST, +4DX, +0DX. Base Aspects: Melee Weapon, Shield, Ranged Weapon or Thrown Weapon.

Warrior Path:
1. +1ST (ST13)
2. +1DX (DX)
3. +1DX (DX14)
4. +1IQ (IQ9)
5. +1ST (ST14)
6. +2 Expertise (Weapon Training)
7. +1IQ (IQ10)
8. +2 Expertise (Warrior)
9. +2 Expertise (Horsemanship, Running)
10. +1D+X (DX15)
11. +2 Expertise (Range Weapon Training)
12. +2 Stamina (SA16)
13. +2 Expertise (Weapon Mastery)
14. +1ST (ST15)
15. +1ST (ST16)
16. +2 Expertise (Veteran)
17. +1IQ (IQ11, Tactics)
18. +2 Expertise (Expert Horseman)
19. +2 SA (SA20)
20. +2 Expertise (Leadership)

The warrior (all the way back to the Gygaxian fighting man) has always been a character class that relied on strength and power, and focused its efforts on weapons and armor. One might be tempted to load a Warrior Explorer in HEX with a high ST and cut loose— especially considering the ST requirements of some of the heavier weapons.

A high ST warrior can do a lot of damage with a large weapon, but without DX they will not be able to hit often, and even less if they wear heavy armor. These will need to be balanced. Only a basic intelligence is required for most weapon skills, and can be improved with experience.

Given that, our basic Warrior package would start out putting 4 points in ST and 4 in DX, and none in IQ. This will give a human a ST of 13, and the capability of using all but the heaviest weapons. An 12 DX would hit around 75% the time unarmored, and would hit roughly 37% in leather armor and carrying a large shield.

Base Package Aspects would include Sword (or Axe if preferred), Shield, Bow or Crossbow, or Pole Weapon and Thrown Weapons. This would leave a point or two to customize your base warrior, giving them Literacy, Horsemanship, Seamanship, or even Sex Appeal to set them apart.

The Warrior Path would improve ST by 1 quickly, to allow them to trade top to even heavier weapons. DX improvements would be equally important to offset armor choices. Stamina increases are helpful to withstand prolonged combats as well. Once you’ve reached ST14 and as much as DX15, a warrior will want to improve their IQ to gain new Aspects.

Important Warrior Aspects include Weapon Training and Warrior, as well as physical Aspects like Running, Swimming, and Alertness. A warrior may want to learn a specialty weapon like Cestus or Naginata.

A Warrior’s advanced Path (40 Att points or more) should still include moderate increases to ST and DX, but will probably focus more on Aspects. Improving IQ will allow them to gain Fencing or Weapon Mastery, Tactics, and Two-weapon fighting. Depending on their role in the campaign, they may want to have Expert Horseman, Courtly Graces, or even Strategist.

This path shows that even a straightforward Warrior PC can be advanced through 50 Attribute points with little difficulty and without becoming overpowered.


Alternate Packages: Warrior

Almost as soon as Warrior classes appeared, variations on the concept followed. The holy paladin, the wise ranger, and the thrill-seeking Swashbuckler are as much a part of fantasy gaming history as the fighting man himself. And, they are just as easy to create in a skill-based game like HEX.

Rangers rely on Aspects more than a standard Warrior, and will need a higher IQ. Their base package would be 3 points in ST and DX, and 2 points in IQ. Base skills would include Sword (or similar weapon), Bow, Animal Handler, and Naturalist, leaving points for Alertness or additional physical skills like Swimming, Running, or Climbing. Rangers typically use lighter armor and weapons, and will rely less on ST and more on DX.

As they increase in experience, their Path will include increasing DX to 15 or so, and IQ up to 12. Additional Aspects would include Woodsman, Silent Movement, Veterinarian and Weapon Training in their favorite weapon. As they become mighty heroes they will acquire Aspects like Expert Naturalist, Stealth, and Fencing. They might even learn a few spells like Trailtwister or Control Animal.

Paladins are the martial arm of a church, and are held to a high moral standard. They are usual strong warriors, but they have divine gifts that might be seen as magic. If you want to use paladins in your campaigns, you might allow them to bypass the restrictions against iron and magic. Their base Package would be 4 points to ST, 3 to DX and one to IQ, but they will need to improve IQ faster if they wish to use magic.

Their initial Aspects would include a Weapon, Shield, Charisma, and perhaps Priest. You might want to consider a One-point Aspect like ‘Ordained Warrior’ to reflect their place in church hierarchy. Their Path may take them down the martial route of Weapon Training and Warrior, or a more social route of Diplomacy, Courtly Graces and Theology. As they gain experience, they will want gain spells like Detect Enemies, Vigor, Refresh and Healing.

Launching the Expedition

November 30, 2017 at 6:40 pm

I’ve also regarded a sense of humor as one of the most important things on a big expedition. When you’re in a difficult or dangerous situation, or when you’re depressed about the chances of success, someone who can make you laugh eases the tension.

—Edmund Hillary


What were we thinking?

This seems like a pretty valid question. In a world with hundreds of RPGs of different genres and complexities, why create another one? I guess the answer is personal taste. We loved the simplicity and action-focus of old school RPGs like The Fantasy Trip, but wanted to take advantage of nearly 40 years advancement in how these game are actually played. To capture the original spirit of those first generation games, but add in better organization, streamlined systems, greater consistency, and easy to use mechanics.

Those RPG pioneers loved seriously complex tables and intricate subsystems a lot more than they liked continuity or proof-reading. We wanted to play, and tried not to let the game get in the way.

A sort of an apology

November 16, 2017 at 6:52 pm

“Well, I’m back”

— Samwise Gamgee


It has been several months since there has been any activity on this blog, and for that we are sorry, But there was a reason for it.

When we began this project, it started a group-enabled world-building exercise.  Were chose to create a role-playing setting based on a more primitive bronze-age, rather than the hodge-podge medieval Europe so many games fall into. And to keep that visceral feel and unrestricted flexibility, we wanted an old-school rule-light system that wasn’t already borne down by its own canon. And we tried to use the long out-of-print system from Metagaming called The Fantasy Trip: In The Labyrinth.

Designed by Steve Jackson, the man who would go on to create GURPS, TFT is a compact, flexible and exciting RPG. It is also nearly 40 years old, poorly packaged, inconsistently edited, and so poorly organized that they published a separate index for players to find the rules spread across the several books.

We loved the style of play and open nature of character creation, but the rulebooks themselves became a major hindrance to world-building and role-playing. So we did what any obsessive nerds would do in this situation— we wrote our own rulebook.

We tried to capture the spirit of old school games like TFT with its deceptively nuanced, but quick, combat system, as well as its unrestricted character building structures to create an easy-to-learn, fast-paced, and entertaining RPG for our fantasy world and beyond.

Enter ‘Heroic Expeditions’, a retro-inspired role-playing game for fantastic trips into labyrinths and beyond.

A play-testing version of the rules are posted here, and we welcome you to download, play, critique, and enjoy what we’ve done. We are still in the process of testing and editing the game, so your input is always welcome.

And watch this space for rules expansions, design discussions, and new ways to make HEX an exciting addition to your gaming table.

Let the Heroic Expeditions commence!

The Season for Giving…XP

January 6, 2017 at 8:43 pm

“Just as a puppy can be more of a challenge than a gift, so too can the holidays.”

— John Clayton
krampusx1Like many game masters, we at the Aerie have been thinking about the holidays. Not only the real-world holidays that lead to cancelled games, but in-game holidays that your players’ characters share with family and friends.  Whether they are simply analogues to real-world celebrations (like a mid-winter Yuletide) or something specific to your game-world (Happy St. Cuthbert’s Day!), holidays can add detail to your setting and help connect player’s to their environment.

There are many ways of going about creating holidays for your game worlds (like here, here, and here), and an equal number of ways that they can be celebrated. You want to make each one unique, with their own foods, music, modes of dress, and activities. But beyond adding fluff for PCs to wander through on there way to killing things and taking their stuff, what can you do with a holiday backdrop to add excitement to an RPG scenario.

As our gift to you, here’s a few ideas:

Cities Slicker series: Fantasticism

December 22, 2016 at 7:26 pm

“As a kid, I lived in a fantasy world. I used to believe ants could talk. Not once did they say thank you.”

—Willard Wigan

gettyimages-98345265I think many of us create and play fantasy role-playing games as an escape from reality and way to explore ideas that aren’t bound by strictures of our societies, or even our natural laws. So it seems slightly odd how much effort we put into plausible structures and believable rationale for our fantasies as we strive for the vague Gygaxian “verisimilitude”.

And sometimes these efforts undermine the magic of our creation. Our desire to create a logical hierarchy to the Church of Grognar Brighthelm might just throw shade on his holy radiance, or building a food chain where dragons have a steady food source might starve the joy from your questing knights. Sometimes its enough that Grognar shines, or that a dragon’s diet consists entirely of princesses.

Its a game, so don’t sweat the small stuff (like gnomes).