Heart & Glory – A Fantasy RPG Forged in the Dark

I’m working on a fantasy game using the Blades in the Dark mechanics, intended to run all kinds of fantasy adventure. I’m going for a softer focus and game structure, so that the system can cover all kinds of adventures, evoking the usual D&D-style themes. Here are some of my design goals:

  • Fluid adventure length – characters can recover stress (which is called Heart in this game) and even slowly heal injuries during the adventure.
  • Fluid campaign structure – the players can take downtime but it is not forced at the end of the adventure phase.
  • D&D-style classes (mainly old-school inspired)
  • Each class/playbook has their own talent (stress-like) track that they use for special abilities (e.g. wizards use them for casting spells)
  • Less abstract – but not too complex – resource and equipment management.
  • A single crew sheet to handle crew upgrades without defining the type of adventures the party will go for (this is one for the future)
  • A possibility to convert and run published fantasy adventures.

It’s still very much work in progress, some playbooks and rules are still missing, but I have two playtest sessions coming in a couple of months so I’m looking for impressions, thoughts and/or suggestions. All are welcome.

You can find the latest version here: Heart & Glory Playkit.

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This is absolutely brilliant, I love it. I’m definitely going to pitch this to my GM for his current Dungeon World campaign. On account of that, I’ve taken exhaustive notes on the entire document, but do please read them with the context that these are my personal nitpicks, and anything I didn’t comment on I thought was great.

For Resistance rolls, if you have say, only one Heart left and you roll a “2” and a “3” on your resist roll, would I be right that you lose nothing and don’t resist any consequences?
I really love the way armour works.
The rules for persistent spells are very neat. Is there some in-universe condition or catalyst that is consumed in the attempt? Otherwise players could cast at Tier-1 reliably at no obvious cost or risk. If there is no in-universe requirement, perhaps a Heart cost, or set the minimum Talent to 1?
Under “Resistance Rolls and Magic” you refer to MAGIC, but a Cleric can spend their Talent to defend as well, right?
Under Talent, you use “Priest” instead of “Cleric”
Turn Undead doesn’t seem to give you any permission you wouldn’t have making an Action Spell with the Death Domain.
Blessing can go infinite with two Clerics in your party. Probably not a real balance concern, but might also be too good? I think you’d pretty much always want to burn all your Faith into this and then sit back and watch your party win.
Battleborn seems worse than baseline magic defense. Maybe +2d per? In a combat focused campaign it is more broadly useful, but it isn’t too hard to think of a way for most domains to defend against any arbitrary attack.
Overall the Fighter seems a little focused on converting Grit into +Effect. It is probably mechanically effective, but might be more interesting to merge some of those abilities, and add some that give the Fighter some alternate options.
Is Elusive meant to be “attack another ally instead”? If not, that is a very powerful effect, and if it is, then you should probably specify, someone will misinterpret. Maybe an optional higher Luck cost to redirect it to an enemy?
Lockmaster seems like a hard sell, since it is likely one of your best actions. Maybe make popping locks automatic with the right tools (instead of costing Luck) or adding +1 max Luck so it isn’t a dead Ability in sessions without serious locks and can pay for itself once?
Same feel with Trapfinder, though that at least usually has higher Consequences.
Lightning Reflexes is free in normal Blades, and in Dungeon World, probably doesn’t need to cost Luck.

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@Antifinity wow, thanks for your kind words and also for your notes which are super-useful.

When thinking about the design, my breakthrough ideas were about how magic and equipment (esp. armour) should work. As for the special abilities I was more in a ‘write it down first, think about it later’ mode. I reckoned I needed some playtesting and insight (such as yours) to be able to create a proper balance.

To answer your notes:

Yes, that would be right. You can attempt to resist but it’s not granted. Also, since armour and other perks can add a lot of dice to the roll, resulting in a lot of low-result dice, this would IMO make it a little harder and costly to resist multiple consequences and particularly multiple levels of harm.

Well spotted. A minimum talent cost of one could be a solution, but an in-fiction cost is also a good option.

These are typos. Cleric and Wizard magic should work the same. I was referring to the Cleric as ‘Priest’ in earlier version, changed it, but not everywhere.

You are right, I just tried to port Turn Undead from old-school D&D. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a special ability at all.

Oh, I never thought of the possibility of two clerics. I’ll think about it. Maybe limit to 1 Faith, or make it the same as Fighter’s ‘Leader’ ability (which gives Heart to allies). As a general rule, I want to avoid ‘once per day’ conditions, but that’s also an option.

Yes, good idea. And maybe only 1 Grit per use in that case.

Yes, definitely, this will be the direction I’ll be going in.

Yes, it means another ally. I’ll change it so it’s more clear.

These are good ideas, together with the Trapfinder comment. I’m having a general problem with the Thief, because I want to have him all or most his ‘thief skills’ combined in the starting special ability, but also give the Thief the possibility to improve some of them. I think the Thief special abilities need some more thought overall.

I agree. I’m considering each classes special ability list in terms of balancing how much Talent they spend. If the Wizard uses their talent to cast magic (and it’s potentially costly) then they don’t need other abilities to be talent-costly. But for the Thief, it’s the other way round. This balancing definitely need some more thought put into it.

Anyway, thank you so much for taking the time to revise the document, your notes are a great insight. I’m looking forward to churning out the next version with these ideas in consideration.

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Hi dkusan

Nice job! I haven’t read everything in detail yet, but since Antifinity praised the way you use armor, I went to check that specifically because that’a one of the points where I’m less satisfied in vanilla Blades or in Band of Blades.

And I found that I had had the same idea as you fot my own hack (which is very much not written at all): adding the armor rating to the number of dice for the Resist roll. However the way to resist multiple consequences or further reduce Harm level is a nice trick in your rules!

However, the way you do it, do you allow using Armor even without “Resisiting”? That means, if I have 3-Armor but don’t want to spend Heart, I just roll 3 dice without bothering about my attribute rating?

And what about if resisting multiple consequences would use different attributes? How do you do it?

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Hello, A_B! Thanks for your questions.

That’s a good question. Off the top of my head, If you don’t actively resist, I’d just let the armour take the harm, meaning the armour’s rating would be reduced by the level of harm, until it’s repaired (during Downtime). So if you have 3-armor, and you suffer level 1 harm, it would become 2-armour. Also, maybe, if the armor is reduced to 0, it could be permanently destroyed.

This was actually my original idea (and it’s similar to the original Blades) - have armour directly reduce harm 1-for-1, but with an option to repair it during rest, but I thought it would be a bit too fiddly to have another ‘stress’ track for armour.

I think I would have separate resistance rolls for each consequence. Of course, I would allow adding armour rating to the roll only where it’s plausible in-fiction that armour actually helps against the consequence.

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I see, thank you.

Well, it’s difficult to have a system which does not add too much complexity to the game but satisfies all the particular wishes of the players.

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I have updated the game to version 0.4.5. It includes some smaller fixes in the reference sheets and quite a few changes in the playbook special abilities, mostly Cleric and Thief. I have posted the full changelog here.

The next update will probably be two new playbooks, Paladin and Ranger.

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Looks good! Custom magic domains are a great addition. I think all the playbooks have really solid Special Ability options now.

I will point out that Healing Hands can go infinite with two Clerics most of the time. Not a disaster, but might suggest it is too efficient/powerful. Unless “total result” means the sum of the dice. Then it definitely goes infinite, and I imagine it’ll usually fully heal the target.

Elusive also is strictly worse than the default “Protect” action. Should probably give the target a bonus to resist, or give it the Devil’s Footsteps effect “maneuver to confuse your enemies so they mistakenly attack each other” Alternatively, you could remove “Protect”, if you want redirection to be expensive in your game.

Thank you very much for your input.

I have tweaked the Cleric’s “Healing Hands” special ability to be able to heal harm only, and I have reflavoured (and renamed) “Elusive” since the original wasn’t especially interesting, after giving it a few thoughts.

Changelog.

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Hi Daniel
I have a few more questions.

  • How many TALENT points do each player have initialy? Always 5? In the current rules this maximum never goes up? Maybe qith Tier?

  • Tier: is that a group/crew characteristic as in BitD (not yet detailed in your rules as written)?

-“Resistance dot”. Is that the small circle near the name of the Attribute? From what I’ve read, there is only one way to get one, and that’s during character creation. Shouldn’t it also be possible to add another by spending XP after completion of an Attribute XP track?

Yes, everyone has five Talent points. Talent is a form of Stress that doesn’t change with advancement. But what a character can do with those point does improve as the crew advances in Tier, through position and effect.

Whether five is the right amount of Talent points, I don’t know. It will take some playtesting to determine that.

Yes. My plan is to have a single crew sheet which handles Tier advancement and crew upgrades, but I’m not there yet :grinning:

Yes, that’s correct. You can get only one next to the Attribute name at character creation. You also get a resistance point, just as in Blades, for each action track that has at least one point. But since I lowered the number of Actions from four to three with each attribute, this is a way to get four resistance dots in one of the attributes.

There is a possibility that a crew upgrade will be able to give more use to the fourth resistance dot, but that’s stil a bit far down the todo list.

I’ve added a fifth playbook – the Bard – which now makes it a nice group of five playbooks.
Just in time for my next playtest session next week, which I’m really excited about :slight_smile: