Lazy Luddite Log


HeroQuest Homebrew

It has always struck me as odd that my favourite medieval fantasy role-play game is American rather than European. Surely the Europeans would do a genre usually set in an analogue of Europe better than the Yanks. It may just be that Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) was in the right place and time for teenaged me to discover it. Mind you, I was reading Fighting Fantasy solo game-books, a UK product, a few years before I encountered D&D, so there may be more to it than that. I somehow never got into the other fantasy role-play games on offer, however, I also changed my version of D&D rules so much that it may as well be another game.

Anyway, this post is about a fantasy boardgame that I’m into called HeroQuest and it is British. You can tell because it has odd monsters in it called Fimir. I think the biggest attraction of HeroQuest is its many lovely plastic figurines and miniature furniture. I had it sitting and gathering dust for ages but then one day decided to use it in my recently retired D&D game as a quick-and-dirty aid to developing and revealing a dungeon to my players. Following that, I decided it would be fun to play a game or two and so did that with some friends.

On that first occasion we used the standard HeroQuest rules except for one small advisory I made to the players. There are four sets of spell cards in the game that loosely correspond to the four classical elements. The rules instruct the Wizard player to choose the first set and the Elf to choose the second set. The final two sets are then allocated to the Wizard. However, my advice was for the Elf to make sure to choose either Water or Earth. Only these two sets have one healing spell each and my advice results in two players, assuming both spell-casters are played, having that spell to cast, which I think is better practice for the whole party.

I feel that this one small protocol also shifts the four original adventurers in the game into the four standard roles in D&D. Naturally the Barbarian is a Warrior and the Wizard is a Mage. The Dwarf has the skill of finding and disarming traps and so arguably works as a Rogue. And as long as they can heal one could imagine the Elf as a priestly character.

On The Equivalence Of Religion And Magic

This is hardly a universal model. The distinction between combat and stealth specialists (warriors and rogues) is one we can see across many forms of fiction and history. However the separation of magical and religious experts in D&D is something of a forced one.

In human history the religious practices of foreigners have often been interpreted as magic. The powers-that-be grant the status of religion to those beliefs they approve of and stigmatize as magic those beliefs they oppose (or in more recent and secular times magic is trivialized as silly and wholly fantastic). But spell-casters and workers-of-miracles belong to the same category.

I should embrace that realization but have somehow been conditioned by D&D to enjoy the distinction between mage and cleric. Patterns absorbed in youth are powerful and, in this case, safely confined to a recreational part of my life. And recently in my playing of HeroQuest I have gone beyond the dichotomy by expanding the concept of magico-religious specialists from two to four.

New Characters And Rules

In subsequent game sessions of HeroQuest I tested some new rules that allow for playing with an additional four characters. For a while I have possessed four pewter miniatures and decided to add these to the original four terra-cotta toned plastic figurines. I rarely use such accessories in D&D but they are nifty and I had deliberately assembled a party of feminine miniatures to contrast with the prevailing notion of adventure as a masculine pursuit.

The new HeroQuest characters I developed for these miniatures were the Guardian, the Whistler, the Templar and the Sorceress. Even just finding names for them was fun. These expanded rules, described here, allow use of the new characters and modify the existing characters to reflect the larger potential adventuring party.

* The Barbarian has the combat skill of Damage Transference. If he slays an opponent with less than the damage he rolled then the excess damage automatically transfers to another opponent standing adjacent (vertically or horizontally) to the opponent just slain. This reflects the action image of a great sword passing through one monster and lodging into another.

* The Dwarf is mechanically adept and thus can disarm traps as in the original rules. And now the Dwarf rolls 1 extra Defence Die in facing Fimir due to his experience in fighting these oversized brutes.

* The Elf gets 'starter spells' of the Water set. The only way the Elf can get more spells than this is if he expends 1 Mind to retain a spell just cast (see Magic Rules). And now the Elf rolls 1 extra Defence die in facing Goblins and Orcs due to long experience of resisting these creatures.

* The Wizard gets the 'starter spells' of the Fire set. Following that the Wizard can draw six random extra spells from the Well of Magic. He can also expend 1 Mind to retain a spell just cast (see Magic Rules).

And here are some new champions.

* The Guardian is described thus…

‘You are the Guardian. Your armour is resilient and the speed of your sword-arm is renowned. You are a brave defender of peace and justice in the realm.’

She has the following statistics:

Attack - 2 dice
Defence - 3 dice
Movement - 2 dice
Mind - 3 Points
Body - 7 Points

The Guardian has the combat skill of Divided Attack. She can nominate to make two attacks of half damage value. If (as is usually the case) she attacks with 2 dice she can now attack twice for 1 dice each. If she has had her attack enhanced by magical item then two attacks can be made with the dice divided as evenly as the number allows.

* The Whistler is described thus…

‘You are the Whistler, a daring and flamboyant swashbuckler who is at home both in city tavern or wilderness ruin. Your music gives you the almost magical ability to interpret echoes but beware what it brings you.’

She has the following statistics:

Attack - 2 dice
Defence - 2 dice
Movement - 2 dice
Mind - 3 Points
Body - 7 Points

The Whistler has the skill of Echoing Melody. She can nominate to play her flute while in a corridor. Her awareness of the echoing of her lilting tune off surfaces allows her to detect monsters or objects around the closest corner she is facing. She can tell how many monsters or objects are there. She can also tell if they are moving (likely a monster) or still (likely some object). She can also tell if they are small (Goblins and Skeletons) or medium (Orcs, Zombies, Evil Mage) or Large (Fimir, Mummies, Chaos Warriors, Gargoyle). There is a draw-back to this ability however in that there is a 1 in 3 chance that each monster thus detected will now move towards the Whistler on hearing her music. Secret traps and doors cannot be detected by this ability.

* The Templar is described thus…

‘You are the Templar, a crusader for all that is sacred. Others see you as a moral guiding light with her feet firmly planted on the ground. You lose all composure, however, in facing the Undead, which you must attack with ferocity.’

She has the following statistics:

Attack - 2 dice
Defence - 2 dice
Movement - 2 dice
Mind - 4 Points
Body - 6 Points

The Templar gets the 'starter spells' of the Earth set. The only way the Templar can get more spells than this is if she expends 1 Mind to retain a spell just cast (see Magic Rules). Also she gets 1 extra damage die in attacking Undead but must attack any she encounters.

* The Sorceress is described thus…

‘You are the Sorceress, naturally-attuned to things beyond mortal ken. You cast a host of spells with flair and grace, but beware the thick of battle, for it may be your undoing.’

She has the following statistics:

Attack - 1 die
Defence - 2 dice
Movement - 2 dice
Mind- 5 Points
Body - 5 Points

The Sorceress gets the 'starter spells' of the Air set. Following that the Sorceress can draw six random extra spells from the Well of Magic. She can also expend 1 Mind to retain a spell just cast (see Magic Rules).

* Magic Rules

Give particular characters starter spells as follows...

- Wizard: Fire
- Sorceress: Air
- Elf: Water
- Templar: Earth

In each quest spells are expended. Once cast they go into the 'Well of Magic' (a common spell card pile). However, a character can nominate to retain a spell they already have at the cost of 1 Mind Point. They nominate to do this on casting the particular spell. Total Mind Points are restored at the start of a new quest.

Only the Wizard and Sorceress can draw a card from the top of the freshly shuffled Well of Magic for subsequent use. They can do this up to 6 times over the course of 6 or more turns (only drawing one card in any one turn). The number that can be drawn is limited by how many cards are currently in the pile.

If fewer that all four spell-casting characters play then any excess spells are automatically put in the Common Spell Pile.

Note that 0 Mind Points results in coma for the rest of current quest unless somehow restored. If they cannot be revived then the comatose character must be left in a safe room or be carried out (rendering another character ineffective for adventuring while carrying).

* Other Rules - Item Use

Various cards make reference to which characters can use particular items. For purposes of an expanded party the new characters correspond to old characters as follows:

- Barbarian > Guardian
- Dwarf > Templar
- Elf > Whistler
- Wizard > Sorceress

* Other Rules - Adjusting Game Difficulty

For every extra character beyond 4 added to a party the board should be given an additional 1 or 2 monsters or traps.

Most monsters have just 1 Body. However level bosses can have 2 or even 3 Body. A 3-Body level 'boss' can also be served by a 2-Body ‘deputy boss’.

These changes are scant compared with what others have done and shared online. There are stacks of new characters and expanded rules on offer and some go so far as to turn HeroQuest into a full-blown role-play game that escapes the confines of the board. I, however, have D&D for that, and so my expansion is relatively small and uses existing game elements as much as it can, such as finding a way of sharing only twelve spells among as many as four characters. Still, I think it is fun and boosts the options of play. All the new and altered characters work well, except possibly the Whistler, whose unique ability is as much comic relief as it is a novelty.

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