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Role Playing (Games) Books Media Book Reviews

Iron Heroes: A low magic tabletop game 221

ajs writes "Monte Cook Presents: Iron Heroes is an advanced role playing rule book, based on Wizards of the Coast's d20 System (the rules that underpin the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons). What's unusual about it is that it presents both a setting and rules for "low magic" fantasy that doesn't sacrifice high adventure to get its gritty action." Read the rest of Aaron's review.
Monte Cook Presents: Iron Heroes
author Mike Mearls
pages 240
rating 9
reviewer Aaron Sherman
ISBN 1-58846-796-1
summary d20 System variant Player's Handbook

Monte Cook Presents: Iron Heroes (I'm just going to call it Iron Heroes from here on) is published under Cook's imprint, Malhavoc Press, by Sword & Sorcery who are best known for their d20 System rules variants and supplements. Sword & Sorcery, in turn, is owned by White Wolf Publishing, well known for their World of Darkness line of storytelling games. Originally titled "Iron Lore", the title was changed before publication due to legal entanglements. But, enough about the publisher, let's discuss the book.

Mike Mearls, a regular contributor to Dragon Magazine and long-time d20 System author, has a vision, it seems. His Iron Heroes game gives us a window into a world where the fabled dragon-slaying knight doesn't carry a glowing trinket of a sword that solves his problems, but has to rely on his skills and experience. On its own, this would be a serious undertaking, but the goal of Iron Heroes is to balance such a world as closely as possible with the established mechanics, threats and rewards of the d20 System. This is something which I would have considered difficult enough to be impractical before I read Iron Heroes.

The book begins by explaining that inexperienced role players need not apply. This is intended as an advanced rulebook, and those not already familiar with d20 will have everything that they need, but may find the book daunting (this is the only major flaw I've found in the book). If you are aware of the d20 System, you will note that none of the usual d20 classes are there. Instead of the rogue, there is a thief. Instead of barbarian, there is a berserker. These are not capricious name changes, however, since the mechanics of each of these variant classes are quite different from their d20 equivalents. More on why in a bit...

To begin to explore the idea behind Iron Heroes, imagine the iconic fantasy setting that D&D generally presents. Now suppose that you make two changes: there are no overt gods interfering with the daily workings of the world (and hence, no divine magic), and magic itself is a wild and dangerous force, not to be toyed with lightly or without consequences.

These two changes produce a world in which the focus of high fantasy adventure turns from the wizard and the magic sword to the muscle-bound weapon master or the stealthy thief. To compensate for the fact that the characters will not have access to powerful magic, each of the core classes in Iron Heroes is substantially more powerful than their standard d20 counterparts. The base attack bonuses (BAB) increase at a faster pace and feats are gained much more quickly than in the SRD (the official, and freely available d20 System rules).

For the rest of the system, the mechanical differences can be summed up as follows:
  • Feats are more tree-like, allowing progression and specialization in each feat.
  • Skills and other actions can be used in creative ways by players and game masters alike, with a well balanced system for determining difficulty of unusual "stunts" and "challenges".
  • Traits, a "variant rule" in standard d20, are a core mechanic in Iron Heroes.
  • Since magical healing is rare at best, characters have reserves of hit points that they can make use of between encounters.
  • Armor class is replaced by defense and damage reduction. Defense is the active capacity that a character has to avoid a blow. Armor, on the other hand, reduces damage taken by a character, using the standard d20 rules for damage reduction.

Of course, the most glaringly different element of Iron Heroes from d20 is the magic system. Magic is dangerous and unpredictable in Iron Heroes, so while there is an "arcanist" class, their spells are used cautiously and often with consequences. The magic system itself is quite different from d20. An arcanist pulls "mana" from elsewhere and focuses it using a "method". Methods are the mechanical effects of a spell, but the strength and "special effects" (to use a Hero System term) of a spell are determined by the amount of mana used and the player's preference respectively. This makes for a magic system which is much more flexible than in standard d20, but not as free-form as, say, the magic system from White Wolf's Mage. Magic is also quite a bit more limited in Iron Heroes, but I imagine that that will be addressed by later supplements.

The system is not easily combined with an existing campaign, so don't look to Iron Heroes for classes to add to your existing characters or for NPCs to introduce into other games. In a world full of magic items, for example, Iron Heroes combat classes would be far too powerful, and Iron Heroes arcanists would be hobbled by the restrictions on their magic use.

In short: this game marks—for me—what the d20 System and the Open Gaming License are all about. It presents a rich set of mechanics that build in compatible ways on what we already have access to, and gives us new ground to cover in the already well-covered ground of the fantasy role playing industry."

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Iron Heroes: A low magic tabletop game

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  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs@ajs.c3.14om minus pi> on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:51PM (#14484505) Homepage Journal
    This was about Iron Heroes, of course, but if you thought my review sounded like something that would interest you, I suggest taking a look at all of Malhavoc's books. Monte Cook has his name on Iron Heroes, but Arcana Evolved is actually his work, and it's equally good, IMHO. They both have their own setting, but AE takes it a bit further. It has some published fiction to give you a sense of the world, its own spell lists (many of the spells being core d20, but some are removed and many are added), and it's more compatible with the core d20 classes than IH is.
  • by slashbob22 ( 918040 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:54PM (#14484523)
    We attack your site with a +5 Slashdot.
    • They said reduced magic, you forgot to add the reduced magic modifier. Slashdot only provides +2, but it has an agro of 5 million.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      A +5 slashdot? More like an extra sharp diamond slashdot if you wanted to keep with the low magic setting. I think all the trolls will "smash dat serva good!" before you have a chance to get anywhere near it with your sword though.
    • by x_man ( 63452 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:33PM (#14484903)
      Bah! Real tabletop gamers don't use simplified rule systems and only one die. We want to-hit tables, armor charts, save modifiers and most importantly, lots of dice rolls. When my warrior executes a jumping, 360 degree sword sweep while simultaneously imbibing a potion of gaseous form and making a rude gesture to the boss monster, I expect to feel the beginnings of carpal tunnel!

      I fling my poo at the d20 system and especially D&D 3E with its new fangled, computer-artsy books and "prestige" classes. No good DM should be letting his players live past level 10 anyway.

      Long live HackMaster! []

      • I fling my poo at the d20 system and especially D&D 3E with its new fangled, computer-artsy books and "prestige" classes. No good DM should be letting his players live past level 10 anyway.

        Okay, your poo-fling attack uses a base of 6 dice. Would you like to invoke your Simian Ancestry skill for an additional 2 dice? The d20 handbook has a base defense of 4 dice, with a bonus 2 for it's high-gloss low-stick cover.

        The most carpul tunnel-inducing game I ever played was Shadowrun (though I'm sure others c
        • Ah, if only real life resembled that:

          Comrade Anatoli, I want to bomb capitalist pigs in Washington DC!

          Comrade Boris, I would love to comply, but building missile that works requires skill check, then building missile silo means another skill check, and then aiming missile requires combat round, and maybe capitalist pig president has armor rating too good for good Communist missile. Then, if we hit, we have to do skill check to run like fucking bastards away from missile site because capitalist missiles

        • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <> on Tuesday January 17, 2006 @12:04AM (#14488241) Homepage Journal

          The most carpul tunnel-inducing game I ever played was Shadowrun (though I'm sure others can name worse).

          Aftermath! back in early 1980s (don't ask me how old I am) used a system combining a d20 to hit (including many complicated modifiers), a d100 for hit location, and variable damage dice. Armor reduced damage after damage was calculated, and the amount of damage prevented by a particular type of armor could vary depending on the type of damage inflicted (projectile, bashing, etc.).

          It was a ludicrously complicated game, and combat between four or five PCs and a half-dozen opponents could easily take an hour to complete. Still, we loved it. Then again, we had more time than we knew what to do with. To think that I could have been learning the piano or playing on the football team or actually working on my homework during all those hours that were consumeed by battles between the grim survivors of the apocalypse and their mutant enemies.

          As for elegant RPG systems, the second and third editions of RuneQuest win, hands-down in my book. RQ was attribute and skills-based. Everything, including magic, had skill percentages attached. Becoming better at skills became more difficult as you improved, so building up a truly powerful character took real effort. There were no feats or talents, but RQ's simplicity encouraged more role-playing and less power gaming. It also encouraged you to be careful with combat, because even the most powerful character could be taken out with a couple of lucky shots.

          These original RQ rules served as the basis for the Call of Cthulhu rules, and a host of other games (like Stormbringer!) which have since faded into the same obscurity that long ago enveloped Aftermath! I play d20 games now, primarily because my gaming friends and I only get to play about four times a year, and we decided to standardize on one set of rules that would apply to a variety of genres. Still, the use of PC classes to define characters seems limiting to me, and the hit die mechanics of combat make for (in my opinion) an artificial distinction between weak characters and godlike characters. In all of the best fantasy and sci-fi fiction, even the most powerful character can be taken down by a lucky or inspired but weaker character. That just doesn't happen in d20, which leads to more wargaming/power gaming, and less roleplaying.

          • I never could get my group interested in playing it, but Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay had a pretty good system for realism and complexity, but it seemed (by reading the book anyway) to be pretty fast moving as far as game mechanics. One of the combat elements that I liked was, if memory serves, a percentile to hit and reverse the numbers for hit location. Killing two birds with one stone is pretty handy. Of course I never actually played it, and most of the time my group never did bother with hit location.
            • WFR was mostly OK. However a few things (the magic missile equivalent for one) were very unbalanced, which made life difficult for the GM. When a level 2 (of 4) wizard gets a spell that allows one instant kill per turn, then it's tricky finding opponents that'll provide a challenge!

              The combat system was easy to use (just percentages to hit). I found it unsatisfactory though, because it didn't take into account the relative skills of the other person. It allowed parrying to try and cover that, but parryi
        • Funny, my experience with Shadowrun usually involved very brief combat. Of course my character knew his limitations and only engaged in combat when the odds were in his favor, usually heavily in his favor. Oh, the fond memories of decapitating sleeping guards with my monofilament whip. The only time there was drawn out combat was when our trigger happy paranoid street samurai thought our smooth talking was STARTING to turn south. We didn't even actually get into trouble and the fool started to empty his
  • by TiggertheMad ( 556308 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:55PM (#14484537) Homepage Journal
    ...To compensate for the fact that the characters will not have access to powerful magic, each of the core classes in Iron Heroes is substantially more powerful than their standard d20 counterparts...

    Oh, good. I was just saying to a friend of mine the other day, that the 3.0/3.5 D&D rules don't crank up the power gaming factor enough for me over the 1st and 2nd edition rules. And here, we go, instant karma.
    • Try GURPS. It's much less prone to power gaming. When a superhero can be taken down by a grenade as easily as a conscript, you have to think about your actions a bit more. Although I noticed that the new version seems to have left out powerstones (basically mana batteries), which makes being a D&D style combat mage much more difficult in GURPS v4. It also helps to have a more mature group to play with.
      • You don't actually play GURPS or you're thinking of a much more constrained version of "super hero" than I'm used to in GURPS. Your average 200pt super in GURPS might well be vulnerable to physical attacks like a grenade, but they might also be insubstantial, have a massive force field, or any number of other forms of limited invulnerability.

        In a 500pt game, I'd be shocked to see a character that found grenades bothersome.

        Of course, I'm using 3rd edition as a benchmark. I never read 4th (by that time, I was
      • Try GURPS. It's much less prone to power gaming.

        Cough. It doesn't let you power game by increasing power as fast as D20, but its point-based character creation system lets you munchkin really hard (though not as bad as Champions). GURPS appeals much more to Tactician-style gamers than Power Gamers and Buttkickers, though. It's pretty much the poster child for that style of play.

        Personally, I can't stand the amount of dice rolling and the complexity of combat in GURPS, but I've always been a diceless / ru
  • Since the link isn't working, I'll ask here: what classes are in the game?

    Of the base D&D classes, only two (warriors and barbarians) have zero magic-derived abilities. A couple more (rangers, rogues, maybe monks and paladins) could be fairly easily adapted to be magic-free. But is that it? Or did Monte cook up (pun intended) some new and innovative magic-free classes for us?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I can answer this easily, and go beyond your question.

      You have 10 classes in Iron Heroes. One, the arcanist, is special and wierd, because it's a magic user. It is actually statted out seperate from the other classes. The other nine are the meat of Iron Heroes: the fighting classes!

      First comes the archer. This class is for all ranged weapons, be they bows, slings, or daggers. They gain a number of abilities that rely on you spending time aiming at your target. While any class can be decent at ranged,
  • Not The First (Score:4, Informative)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:58PM (#14484567) Journal
    This isn't the first such setting. The Harn setting was a low-magic medieval/fantasy setting that really discouraged over-the-top mages. I played in the setting a few times, but found it duller than hell. It's fun to read, though.
    • Re:Not The First (Score:2, Interesting)

      by MrLizard ( 95131 )
      Harn was, as you note, dull. Iron heroes isn't. It's a sword&sorcery setting with the 'sorcery' pretty much in the hands of NPCs or suicidal PCs. The focus is on Cool Combat, not on how many hecatres of wheat you can grown. Think Conan or Thieve's World.
    • Hârn is a great setting, but many of its gamemasters prefer the "serfs stuck in the manner" campaign. These can get quite dull. But it doesn't have to be that way anymore than D&D has to about silly dungeon crawls. It's a great setting for cthulhu-esque horror, political intrigue, exploring ancient civilizations, and sweeping military campaigns.

      Where many newbies to Hârn get messed up, is that it doesn't provide a pre-determined campaign direction. You'll have to figure that one out on your
    • I agree. Harn is boring as crap, but the maps were I-have-no-words-but-off-the-scale fabulous, and easily worth the price of admission.
  • Branch out (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:58PM (#14484569) Homepage Journal
    If people are excited about this, maybe it's time they broadened their horizons and examined some non-d20 games. Really! They do exist! You don't have to settle for the Microsoft of roleplaying.

    If you want gritty low-magic, Chivalry & Sorcery and HârnMaster have been around for two decades. Newer games such as Burning Wheel and The Riddle of Steel also provide nice gritty action. Or explore completely new genres with Serenity, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, and Tekumel.
    • Re:Branch out (Score:5, Informative)

      by ClayDowling ( 629804 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:05PM (#14484655) Homepage
      I'm going to strongly recommend nosing around the Internet for these different games. I've found that only the most progressive and free-thinking of game stores stocks anything outside of the old standbys of D20 and White Wolf.

      Have a look at [] and [] for some excellent examples.
      • Re:Branch out (Score:3, Informative)

        by Arandir ( 19206 )
        Most game stores get their stock from distributors, and distributors want to buy in huge lots that will quickly sell. It's a small market, so most games and supplements never show up in a game store. You're going to have to find them online.
    • Re:Branch out (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs@ajs.c3.14om minus pi> on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:31PM (#14484885) Homepage Journal
      I've done a lot of tabletop role playing. I've played D&D in many forms (Basic, Advanced, 2nd ed., and d20-based 3.5). I've also played GURPS, Traveller, Champions (as "Champions", but I've also played a number of Hero System variants), World of Darkness (a few Mage games and a Wraith game), Shadowrun, some home-grown systems and some other stuff I'm probably forgetting.

      While I don't want to enter into the flame-infested waters of "what's best", I will say this: good role playing and a creative GM/DM/storyteller/what-have-you is far, far more important than what system or setting you choose. If everyone knows D&D, by all means use it, but don't feel constrained. Focus on the quality of play.

      I tend to avoid single-genre systems, which is why I'd written off D&D for many years (I was barely aware of 3.0's release), but the fact that I was dragged out of GURPS and Hero System into some World of Darkness games made me remember that, even using a system that I despised, role playing was fun. That's why, when I asked my friends to join a game I was planning, I reluctantly chose to use D&D 3.5...

      And now, I'm hooked. d20 is everything that D&D should have been from day one. The Microsoft of games? I think not... perhaps the Linux of games would be more like it. It's based on a rich history going back to the early 70s, and yet it's completely new. It retains some of the quirks of the original (e.g. classes), but for the most part, it's a ground-up redesign with modern usage in mind. It's also free (though in the case of d20, it's a non-commercial sort of "free", but you can still run a pretty good game from nothing but the d20 SRD).
    • You don't have to settle for the Microsoft of roleplaying.

      Your comment makes my Brujah angry. Rawwwrr.
    • Re:Branch out (Score:3, Informative)

      by sphere ( 27305 )
      Don't forget HeroQuest [], the latest fantasy RPG set in the extraordinarily detailed world of Glorantha. Wily old veterans may remember RuneQuest, the first Gloranthan RPG (circa 1978 - 1995) and perhaps the closest rival to D&D/AD&D in the early days of role-playing. Others may have tried the A Sharp's Gloranthan computer game King of Dragon Pass [].

      I'm an old RPGer and I'm playing my first HeroQuest PBEM (play by email) campaign. Frankly I think Glorantha is a blast. Jaded role-players ought to give it
    • The words "new genres" and "Call of Cthulhu" cannot be utilized in the same sentence. Most geeks who don't know much of DnD and RP in general still can make references to Cthulhu jokes (which involve creating a character, dying, and then creating a new character 5 minutes later)
      • I meant "new genres" in terms of something that isn't a high fantasy dungeon crawl. To most D&D players, Cthulhu is just another monster that can be defeated with a sufficiently high experience level.
    • Re:Branch out (Score:4, Informative)

      by Planesdragon ( 210349 ) <slashdot@castl e s t e e l s t o n> on Monday January 16, 2006 @04:50PM (#14485589) Homepage Journal
      You don't have to settle for the Microsoft of roleplaying.

      Bad, false example.

      d20 is a copylefted version of D&D, which makes things like SpyCraft, Iron Heroes, the World of Warcraft RPG, Mutants and Masterminds, and a slew of others possible, without a single dollar ever being paid to Wizards of the Coast.

      d20 is the Linux of Roleplaying, not the Microsoft.
      • In the past TSR/WotC used their size and legal clout to force independent adventures and fandom off the internet. If they think I'm going to kiss their butts just because they've given me "permission" to do what was always legal to do (but for their horde of lawyers), they've got another thing coming.

        The d20 license is nothing more than an elaborate scheme by WotC/Hasbro to get their logo on other publisher's games.
        • Re:Branch out (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Planesdragon ( 210349 ) <slashdot@castl e s t e e l s t o n> on Monday January 16, 2006 @08:50PM (#14487411) Homepage Journal
          If they think I'm going to kiss their butts just because they've given me "permission" to do what was always legal to do (but for their horde of lawyers), they've got another thing coming.

          It has always been legal to re-design Windows from the ground up.

          It has NOT always been legal to copy Windows and turn it into whatever you want it to.

          The OGL is a significant and real copyleft, no matter what you may have been told by "fandom" types who think D&D is a terrible game that everyone should abandon for their particular rule. The exact text of anything released under the OGL can be reproduced in ammounts far exceeding anything that a Court would recognize as fair use--up to and including selling the SRD as a seperate product.

          The d20 License, OTOH, is a shameless attempt to get their logo on other people's compatible games. Except that, by and large, the companies who put it on their books (like Malhavoc and Mongoose) are the ones pushing for the logo, not Wizards.
      • Fudge is the Linux of roleplaying. d20 is more like Java.
    • Re:Branch out (Score:3, Informative)

      by sammy baby ( 14909 )
  • My Take (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hoplite3 ( 671379 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @02:59PM (#14484580)
    I've read the book, and I really like the idea of classes not dependent on magic items. There are two principle troubles I have with Iron Heroes:

    (1) Armor provides variable damage reduction. That means that every successful attack involves another die roll. This requires discipline, or it will really slow the game down. Every extra: "make an x roll" instruction from the DM is a slow mechanic. The power of the d20 system is its speed and ease, and I think this idea runs counter to that.

    (2) Many of the new feats and classes are strongly reliant on a battle grid. That means Iron Heroes is a tactical game in addition to a roll-playing game. That's not necessarily bad (in fact, it's fun), but it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

    Overall, I'd say there's lots of good stuff, though. Didn't Cook write the rule system for Fallout? That had the best rule system of any computer RPG I've ever played. His expertise shows in the rules for this game.
    • Re:My Take (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Zephiria ( 941257 )
      Uhm... DnD has allways really been a tactical game, depending on how you approach it. I remember playing ADnD and the DM putting out a massive (1mx500mm) grid on the table and drawing on it with washable marker and things, we used lil plastic soldiers for markers and so on. Now i'm not saying DND is allways about tactical combat but it certainly is a core theme of it, given its origins. All that aside i havnt seen this rule book myself, but it does sound interesting, the idea of a better/different armour
    • Just do what I did: Create a Javascript script and run it on your handlheld... instead of roll, roll, roll... just tap, tap, tap, results. I love it and it sure makes stuff easy - espcially when you don't have to that difficult math... like addition. :-P
  • Ars Magica (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sckeener ( 137243 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:07PM (#14484660)
    People keep reinventing the wheel. It is neat that this is a D20 system, but low magic systems are plentiful.

    My favorite low-magic system is slightly biased towards mages, namely Ars Magica. It is on its 5th version (2nd was my favorite.)

    It has a magic system where you can create spells on the fly, healing is difficult, and god is real (and so is the Devil)
  • Hah! d20 is for inferior minds!

    Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2.ed, now THAT is role playing!

    Long live Forgotten Realms and Elminster!

    • Now you are talking! AD&D 2nd edition was by far my favorite - and had a fantastic series of hard-cover books with great. Art. My friend was a Dungeon Master made it really tough - characters ran away from many battles. My campaigns, I gave out lots of magic items, characters sailed up levels, they took out 2-3 dragons at once - massive power-gaming battles with more magic flying around than we could keep up with at times. They played in my campaign for 4 years.

      Long live gratuitous power gaming!
  • Sounds rather like Warhammer FRP
  • Old-school (Score:4, Interesting)

    by brainstyle ( 752879 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:15PM (#14484717)
    I recently played D&D for the first time in a bazillion years, and it was something of a disappointment. I just wanted to do that first adventure, D&D basic, go down into the dungeon, and find some evil druids in the last room. Instead, we wandered around a town in the Forgotten Realms for a while, worried about boring minutiae ("What colour do you want the stitching in your robes to be?"), and in general had a boring old time.

    Now, I have a sample size of one, so I don't know if this is just a case of a DM with very different ideas of what should go on in a game of D&D or what, but it seems to me that RPGs aren't what they once were. When I go to local game stores, I just can't find much that captures what they were like back in the day. Is there something out there for people like me, looking for a more old-school kind of game outside of an MMORPG?

    RPGs seem to have become way too bloody serious. I just want to kill some kobolds.

    • Re:Old-school (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jdigriz ( 676802 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:47PM (#14485027)
      Your DM is inept. Sack him.. We've been gaming for a couple of months with 3.5 rev rules. Started at 3rd and got to 6th level by now. In between, we've rescued hostages, fought goblins, ogres, hill giants, pteranadons and a bunch of giant bugs, acquired a pet Dire Weasel, met an angel, discovered ancient temples with powerful secrets, accidentally found ourselves on the wrong side of the planet, and are currently preparing to defend an abandoned but strategic dwarven city from a half-demon and his band of duergar. Fun times!

    • Re:Old-school (Score:3, Insightful)

      by talornin ( 745646 )
      I hear you my friend!

      Now a days its all about getting under the skin of your character, playing the part to the full! BECOMING the role! I have acutaly played with groups that didnt want to use stats or skills at all, they just wanted to write character descriptions for three hours.

      It was a relief when my group from the old days got togeather over christmas and dusted off our old heroes! Fireballs flew, dices where rolled, critical hit tables where once again hailed as manna from heaven!

      I do enjoy some m
    • I am replaying Baldur's Gate. Already played thru with my power character fighter/mage/cleric multi-class. Now I am trying a humble str 3 bard, 17 con, 18 everything else. More of a challenge and good way to do more than just fight. I can wear armour only if my mage casts strength on me. Mostly I strum my harp and get the hell out of the way, cast a couple spells.

      Good game. Can export character to BG2 and expansion and keep right on playing.
    • Play Style (Score:3, Informative)

      by Valdrax ( 32670 )
      I recently played D&D for the first time in a bazillion years, and it was something of a disappointment. I just wanted to do that first adventure, D&D basic, go down into the dungeon, and find some evil druids in the last room. Instead, we wandered around a town in the Forgotten Realms for a while, worried about boring minutiae ("What colour do you want the stitching in your robes to be?"), and in general had a boring old time.

      Sounds like you're a Power Gamer or Buttkicker in group full of Character
      • I'm personally boggled by the fact that they were playing D&D. D&D (particularly 3.0/3.5) is much more geared towards fast, kick-in-the-door style play than drama. There are other systems that aren't so crunchy and filled with combat-oriented mechanics that would suit them better.

        Maybe it's just me, but I don't see why you need any "mechanics" to handle anything but the combat. Why do I need "rules" to govern anything other than what happens when I try to stab someone with a pointy stick? To me ro
        • off the top of my head, most of the non-combat D&D rules deal with how you interact with NPCs--hard to just roleplay that out, since the DM *is* the NPCs for purposes of roleplaying, and it's hard for the omniscient one to be unbiased (in a situation of say, trying to bluff or change someone's attitude towards you) --so some mechanics were necessary to eliminate DM-partiality from the equation.

          My take on it at least. I agree that Player-player interaction should be totally freeform and not involve any
        • I guess the reason is to balance the mental stats against the physical ones. For instance, if CHA isn't used in skill or RP rolls to say, affect how people react to you, then everyone's going to have a low low CHA and pump points or the better rolls into the physical stats.

          No one will play any of the classes or prestiege classes that focus on interaction.

          It has to do with min/maxing(which is really munchkinism the way most people use it) really. You may not care - and it's fine to ignore INT, CHA and WIS sc
    • Re:Old-school (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs@ajs.c3.14om minus pi> on Monday January 16, 2006 @04:08PM (#14485181) Homepage Journal
      This was not a "D&D thing". Go pick up an issue of Dungeon Magazine, and you'll see that the art of the dungeon crawl in modern D&D is not dead. In fact, it's now more popular than ever. There are, however, a practically infinite number of ways to run a game, and your DM might decide to run a ROLE-playing game, rather than a role-PLAYing game. That's their call, and you should let them know what you think.

      For old-time's sake, I ran the first session of my new D&D game (my first D&D game in most of a decade) as a dungeon crawl, and I was shocked that my players actually liked it. Sure, I was unsteady with the new rules and taking far too long at combat, but sometimes players just want to go kill something.

      Of course, they also enjoy the role playing, but it's not an either-or proposition at all.
      • Personally I think the main thing to get in D&D is some sense of why you're invading the dungeon, and maybe some changes you can bring to the world through your actions. Not so much focusing on RP, but adding something that can't better be done in an MMORPG.

        I mean, if all the game is about is killing things, it's faster and easier to play WoW or Diablo II.
    • Re:Old-school (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TrueBuckeye ( 675537 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @04:13PM (#14485215) Journal
      My opinion is that is the fault of the DM, not the rules or the game. Some people want that game, so the DM should be able to deliver that, but if you want a hack and slash sort of game, then that's what you should be able to play.

      As an example, in a game I started recently within 10 minutes of sitting down (character creation was done via email before the session) the characters had been in a bar brawl, were falsly accused of murder, and were on the run from the law trying to clear their names. The session ended 4 hours later with them having a massive fight against flayed monks and an evil cleric in a long forgotten tomb they uncovered.

      Either look for a new DM or explain to your current one what you would like to try for just one session. It can be a blast if you play the game that fits you. There is alway room for the other stuff here and there (investigating, contact building, negotiating) but if you want hack and slash, d20 can certainly do that.
    • I recently played D&D for the first time in a bazillion years, and it was something of a disappointment. I just wanted to do that first adventure, D&D basic, go down into the dungeon, and find some evil druids in the last room. Instead, we wandered around a town in the Forgotten Realms for a while, worried about boring minutiae ("What colour do you want the stitching in your robes to be?"), and in general had a boring old time.

      Yeah, you need a new DM. Stuff like equipment purchases are best done "o
  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:33PM (#14484900) Journal
    It's nice to have a d20 system that provides what some players and GMs are looking for, but most great GMs I've played with (and I've tried to aspire to) have made roll-your-own solutions.

    It doesn't matter what system you play with. The setting, the gameplay, the amount of die rolls -- it just depends on the GM.

    All the DnD games I DMed were low-magic. Getting a +1 sword was a Big Deal (tm). And typically, items with beneficial effects also had drawbacks -- i.e., that +1 sword drew a lot of not-so-positive attention from NPCs. Playing magic-users or clerics was discourage (though not that big a deal, since I required 'natural' die rolls for stats -- it was a rare cleric who was wise enough / pious enough to cast a lot of healing spells)

    My point is that while differing rules systems can provide better frameworks for a good game, it's up to the GM and the players to make a good game. It really helps if the GM and the Players are all very honest when they discuss what kind of world it's going to be.
  • by Randolpho ( 628485 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:34PM (#14484921) Homepage Journal
    The book begins by explaining that inexperienced role players need not apply. This is intended as an advanced rulebook, and those not already familiar with d20 will have everything that they need, but may find the book daunting (this is the only major flaw I've found in the book).

    "Inexperienced role players need not apply"? A more appropriate sentence would be: "This book is only for rollplayers* with at least three advanced mathematics degrees."

    Seriously, though, I've read it, and if you're the type who likes tons of solid rules about what you can and cannot do in combat, along with more Final Fantasy style limit break special moves than you can put in a Bag of Holding, it's the book for you. But you'd better be ready for some slow combat, 'cause there's lots of stuff for you to keep track of.

    IMO, this is more of a miniatures wargaming ruleset than a roleplaying ruleset. If you're more into roleplaying, you're probably better off with a more abstract combat system; then you can do whatever sort of cinematic moves you want, with a single role.

    * Misspelling deliberate
    • Er.... That last word should be "roll". Looks like I feel into my own homophonic trap.
    • "This book is only for rollplayers* with at least three advanced mathematics degrees"

      First off, there's no need for anything beyond basic grade-school math in the game, and even that's pretty tame (no long division, even).

      Ok, hyperbole aside, this game is really not that complex, but you need to REALLY GET d20 before you even think about looking at it. You need to understand why the feat system is the way that it is, and what it is that you're trading off in terms of progression by removign magic items. You
  • by ltwally ( 313043 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @03:39PM (#14484962) Homepage Journal
    I avoid all things Monte Cook.

    Why? Simple: his books, though certainly original, are consistently the least balanced in the DnD world.

    One perfect example of this is The Book of Vile Darkness (BoVD). Anyone that's actually used this book knows that the creatures inside are far more powerful than they are listed as. The result is an imbalanced game where the players and DM alike constantly have to second-guess the information inside the book. Wise DM's often outright ban it.

    What about Malhavoc Press? Those books make the ludicrous foes found inside the BoVD look like child's play. Malhavoc Press books consistently bend and break the DnD system, and an experienced DM carefully restricts their useage.

    So, does my rant have a purpose? Yeah, it does. Monte Cook should be relegated to an "idea man," where he comes up w/ ideas and leaves the implementations to people that know what they're doing. Unfortunately, he has a direct hand in his creations. This results in the George Lucas effect, where something that could have been wonderful is turned into a horrid aberration. All you really need to know is to stay away from any product with his name on it. (The only exception being the core DND books.)

    And, no, I'm not trolling. I'm speaking from a wealth of experience with this man's books.

    • Monte Cook's stuff is all great for a very particular style of RPG play that I personally despise -- the "life is cheap" style of gaming. There are no heroes, because PCs can and will be dropped like flies almost at whim. Evil is stronger than good, and the world is very bleak. It's a very old-school way of play where you don't really identify well with your characters either due to lack of interest or as a defensive mechanism if you're trapped in a game with GM like that.

      Personally, I dislike Monte Cook
    • BoVD is not unbalanced, but:

      1. It and the Book of Exalted Deeds are meant to be used together or not at all, and
      2. The creatures in it are meant to be used in a game that involves characters similarly empowered.

      Those two books modify the nature of your game, and expand it. It's not unbalanced if used as intended, but if you treat it as an appendix to the Monster Manual, you're going to unbalance your game.
      • BoVD is not unbalanced, but: 1. It and the Book of Exalted Deeds are meant to be used together or not at all, and 2. The creatures in it are meant to be used in a game that involves characters similarly empowered.

        I hate to sound like one of those obnoxious, rule-whore gamers... but you're quite wrong.

        The BoVD was created over a year prior to the BoED (which is also less than balanced, but not quite as badly so as the BoVD). While the BoED's index even says that it was written as a counter to the BoVD,

    • That's great and all, but Iron Heroes wasn't written by Monte Cook. So this is kind of off topic.
  • obligatory (Score:2, Funny)

    by acslat3r ( 848858 )
    I want to cast magic missle!
  • by Raleel ( 30913 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @04:14PM (#14485237)
    I have a fair amount of experience with it. We did some betatesting for the bestiary book that came out for it and ran an online game through OpenRPG for about 6 months. I've also run a couple of one shots.

    1) there are magic items, but they are generally cursed. Like... gives you +1d6 to damage, but you berserk blindly killing everyone around you.

    2) the powers of magic items are often rolled into feats.

    3) you get more feats. Generally, one every other level. Some classes get more (men at arms defining ability is them getting a feat every other level in addition to the regular feat every other level.. thus they get a feat every level)

    4) the skill stunt rules and attack challenge rules are very fun. they really make the system. Nothing you couldn't port over to D&D, but it would be hard to get people to do them due to general lack of skill points (the thief in IH gets 12 skill points per level vs the AD&D rogue at 8). The attack challenges would be easy to port, but no one would do them since AD&D has AC inflation (in IH, you get a base defense bonus, but suffice to say, you can lose it easily and people can then power attack you into oblivion).

    5) It is very fun. It can also get old. If you want a light game, I would definitely recommend it. If you want a heavy game, it can work, but is a little harder. If there is something you have a hard time doing in AD&D (for instance, a swashbuckler or an archer type that isn't munched like crazy), IH probably has the fit for you. I felt it was particularly strong in mounted combat, ranged combat, and special maneuvers.
    • OT: but how does OpenRPG work? Are there any good communities where someone might get started in a game with it? I've looked over the main site, but not much luck so far for me.

      I've installed the program, but I really don't get the whole tree/node thing.
  • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @04:19PM (#14485289)
    When I was in the US several years ago I visited a mall, and noticed that they had a D&D shop next to the mall eatery. You know, a shop where they sell board and roleplaying games targetting the geek/nerd community.

    In any case, what surprised me most were comments I heard while I was sitting there eating. Many people had a very, very negative image of the shop. I counted at least eight negative comments during the 15 or so minutes I was sitting there.

    I have to wonder how much the negative image such gaming has in the eyes of popular culture leans people away from investigating it. It is quite likely that many of those who made the negative comments had never actually played any of the games in question, yet they still felt the need to believe the negative (and false) stereotypes associated with such games.

    Perhaps the industry should work on legitimizing such games in the eyes of the general public. Even a single celebrity endorsement might turn the tide.

    • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @04:48PM (#14485572)

      "When I was in the US several years ago I visited a mall, and noticed that they had a D&D shop next to the mall eatery."

      The US is a big, diverse place. Where were you? What kind of negative comments did you hear? Depending on locale, I'd expect different kinds of negative comments. "That game store just wants to sell warhammer miniatures and the guys that work at the counter don't even know anything about the games they sell..." That's one variety. "Those heathen devil worshipping sinners with their evil satanist dungeons and dragons..." is another. The former, I might understand. As for the latter, I expect to hear similar things outside clothing and music stores.

      There's 'The popular culture', and then there are 'popular cults.' Don't confuse the two. It's not just a USAn phenomenon. They have outspoken religious fanatics in many other countries too.
      • San Francisco, of all places. Considering the large number of high-tech firms in that region, I thought that there would be a greater degree of tolerance towards such games. But perhaps its proximity to Hollywood and L.A. has some effect, too.

        The comments were towards the culture itself, not towards the service of the store clerks, or anything of that sort. I believe one of the comments was along the lines of "limp-wristed nerd faggots playing their Torture and Dragons". I remember that particular one becau
    • A lot of that comes from Fundie Christian nonsense, and from that Tom Hanks career-starting abortion, Mazes and Monsters, which was, despite any claims one might have heard, based on incredibly loosely on one James Egbert Dallas III. But I find for a lot of folks, that movie (which was about LARPing anyways) seems to have convinced them of the Satanic influences of D&D.
  • I Play Iron Heroes (Score:2, Informative)

    by osarusan ( 946362 )
    I play Iron Heroes regularly now, having switched over from regular D&D in the fall. In short, Iron Heroes is fantastic! The lack of magic everywhere makes for a game that feels more like Conan or Willow as far as cinematic action goes. Someone asked about classes... The classes are not divided among social roles anymore either; they are divided up among combat styles. Off the top of my head, there is an Archer, Armiger (gets huge bonuses in heavy armor, acts as a tank), Berserker, Executioner (assass
  • by Bazzalisk ( 869812 ) on Monday January 16, 2006 @04:46PM (#14485561) Homepage
    I mean, come on, classes? levels?

    This is not innovative in any way - much better games have existed for nearly twenty years - games that created innovative ideas which seemed to have become industry standards, like point-based chargen and skill-based character design. The release of a low-magic version of a game that has barely evolved since the late eighties is not news.

The goal of Computer Science is to build something that will last at least until we've finished building it.