I came across an OSR post on Reddit about a new tabletop RPG called Heroes of Adventure. After reaching out, the Nameless Designer agreed to answer some questions about the project. Enjoy the interview.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hey everyone, sorry to say I’m a little social media shy (hence the ‘Nameless Designer’ moniker). I’m based near London in the UK. I have a full-time job, family and life commitments and enjoy a little bit of RPG gaming and design as a bit of a pastime/hobby.
I was first introduced to role-playing games as a child and played through my teenage years before hanging up the dice due to; work, life, sports and other interests. I’ve reintroduced myself back into the role-playing game scene again after a break of nearly 30 years!
When did you start playing tabletop RPGs?
Whilst on a family trip from the UK to the US in the early 80’s my Dad purchased a copy of the Basic Dungeons & Dragons box set (Moldvay Edition) and eventually ran a game for my friends and family complete with a lovingly crafted hand drawn map and the use of miniatures. As we explored those creepy dungeons and encountered all sorts of frightening and fantastic beasts I was hooked and played RPGs all the way through my teenage years.
We mostly played Dungeons & Dragons (Basic edition and then moved onto Advanced edition) but we also tried other systems (Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Paranoia, MERP, TMNT, Judge Dredd, Dragon Warriors and Shadowrun to remember a few). I also read my fair share of Fighting Fantasy/Lone Wolf (the ‘choose your own adventure’ type) books.
What is Heroes of Adventure?
Heroes of Adventure is a tabletop role-playing game about a group of travellers, explorers, mercenaries and treasure hunters who travel through the perilous wilderness from settlement to settlement taking on missions, jobs and adventures that others refuse to do.
In short, it’s my take on the classic fantasy adventuring genre of yester-year.
My aim was ‘reboot’ the genre for my group of players who hadn’t played a role-playing adventure in years. I wanted to keep a lot of the classic touchstones (heroic adventurers, exploration and survival, classes and roles, levels etc) that we were all familiar with; make the rules more streamlined as we were planning on playing these sessions virtually/online during the pandemic and also to redesign some of the challenges (i.e. bestiary, races and lore) so the players could rediscover the game again and once again learn how to overcome different challenges.
In terms of the ‘theme’ there were several personal preferences I wanted to include (and everyone’s tastes are different here) such as; making magic feel uncommon powerful, strange and wild and also retain a grim and gritty feel with resource management elements such as scavenging and crafting included.
One element that evolved through design was the focus on shared world building concept by including various ‘prompts’ during character creation to encourage the players to add something to their setting and then develop this further collaboratively during play.
What spurred you to create the game system.
Developing a role-playing game system started as a way of quickly running a weekly online role-playing game during the time of the pandemic and re-connecting with friends and family who hadn’t explored creepy dungeons and fought fearsome dragons since those nostalgic days of the 80’s.
We hadn’t run a regular adventure in years and with busy lives nobody wanted to commit time and effort to buying, reading and learning a new system for something which could have been very short-lived.
Designing my own system allowed me to:
- Reduce the investment cost and effort for our group and get a game up and running quite quickly (the original rules started as 4 pages).
- Address perceived imperfections with other systems.
- Develop a game to suit my style and ‘flavour’ of classic fantasy adventuring.
- Do something creative and…
- Once you start house-ruling you are on a slippery slope to creating your own game any-way.
How long did it take to create and playtest?
Overall it took just under 2 years to get from a handful of pages at the start to a 200-page complete rulebook. It’s fair to say the scope has definitely grown since my original vision of producing a small zine-based product.
I started the project early 2020 when the pandemic started and we had a game running within a few weeks. The hero creation system was pretty much in place from the start and from a referee’s perspective I could run the game using two basic tables namely; the target number table (sets a target score by challenge) and a reaction/outcome table (low = bad, high = good outcome).
I had also started to follow the independent RPG zine scene (i.e. Kickstarter/Itch and ZineQuest in particular) and wanted to condense the rules into a small zine I could print and circulate to my players. I went through various presentation and layout iterations throughout 2020 before I had even locked down all the rules which was a time-consuming effort. This meant that progress was pretty slow overall when the output should have been limited to something the size of a zine.
However by the end of 2020 I had produced a 52-page Players Guide/Rules zine which I printed and posted to my players as a small Xmas gift which was well received as our online games were still continuing at this point.
As we entered into 2021 we had run a few adventures, I had collated some feedback and had intended to work on a second iteration of the players guide.
The constant tweaking of the layout was the biggest time drain and I eventually made the decision to write everything into a text document and nail down the words and rules before touching the layout again. I probably got towards 70-80% of the final text before I went back to the layout which did help move this work forward a couple of steps.
By this time I had consolidated the rules in 4 pages (from 20-30 pages), tightened and condensed the wording, added a referee’s and bestiary section and organised the book into a more logical sequence.
I found some stock art online that I purchased/licenced and was fortunate that a friend produced the cover art for me and at this point the final layout really started to come together.
There probably a little reluctance to finish and publish this due to a desire to make sure everything was ‘perfect’ (every word considered; every aspect tested) but I suspect the project would never see the light of day if that approach continued. I came across the Finish Your Damn RPG game design jam on Itch.io which was the exact incentive I needed to get this project into a publishable state.
I did end up getting a few copies printed for my players so it’s great to hold something tangible in my hand after a lot of effort.
Any plans for expansions like modules?
Yes, I definitely want to write a starter adventure as I think that’s a missing component. Unfortunately the time pressure of the game jam deadline meant I had to focus on the core rules.
Secondly, I’ve released this as the ‘zero edition’ playtest version as there will undoubtedly be lots of things to balance, edit and refine as I continue to play the game and gather feedback from my players and anyone else who reads it and is kind enough to comment. At some point in the future I would like to think there will be a clean, concise, fully balanced, play-tested, spell-checked and well-edited ‘first edition’.
Have you ever designed an RPG before?
No, this was my first real undertaking (excluding an entry into a 1-page role-playing game jam hosted on itch.io last year).
Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for reaching out and showing an interest in the game, I hope people find some interest or enjoyment from it at their table. Heroes of Adventure can be downloaded for free at https://nameless-designer.itch.io/heroes-of-adventure