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Running the Game

Running a game of Heroes & Monsters™ is a lot easier than running most other roleplaying games, simply because there are not as many rules and your own discretion overrides them anyway. Most situations are handled by making common sense decisions concerning what happens next.

For example: the players are in combat with a group of orcs and the fighter wants to trip one of them. It’s up to the Game Master to decide what the fighter needs to do or roll to be successful.

If a Player decides that his character is going to jump through a wall of fire, with several bottles of flammable oil in his backpack, it’s up to the Game Master to determine whether or not they explode.

This means making up a lot of stuff on the spot. If you’re not a good storyteller or if you’re not up to doing a lot of creative thinking on the fly, it might be better that you try a different game— one that provides more rules and guidance for every situation that might arise. But if you’re a good storyteller, creative and fair, the small, spartan rule-set of Heroes & Monsters™ frees up your creativity to create a fantasy role-playing experience completely different from the type of game that depends on a multitude of rules.

Heroes & Monsters™ also frees up your creativity in terms of customizing the game. Unlike a more complex game, you can add house rules wherever you want to without accidentally messing up something else buried in the rules. If you want to use critical hits and fumbles, add ‘em in. You won’t break anything—there’s not that much to break!

Being A Player

Here are some suggested principles and pointers when playing Monsters & Heroes™: ? Live and breathe your character during play. See things from their perspective.

  • Speak to the other players in character and address them by their character names.
  • Seek out adventures and excitement.
  • Share the spotlight with your GM and fellow players and support their characters so that they can shine.
  • Get to know the game rules so that you know what you are doing and help to speed up play.
  • During play, be creative and embellish your character with background stories and other important characters that the GM and other players can use to develop the shared narrative.
  • Offer to make a round of tea or bring snacks.
  • Dance when you go up a level.

Being a Game Master

Here are some suggested principles and pointers when Gming Monsters & Heroes™: ? Create a compelling and magical setting, which the characters can shape and develop with you through their heroic exploits.

  • Give your setting a life of its own, but place the heroic player characters in the center of it.
  • Provide opportunities for the player characters to shine and be the heroes.
  • There are many character fulfilling rewards of greater substance than loot and experience levels.
  • Provide props such as maps, figures, plans and music; anything that helps to visualize the setting and adventure.
  • Listen to your players, note their ideas and inventions, and use them to help fuel the stories that you are all telling.
  • Address the characters directly by their names.
  • Ask questions all the time, allow the players to narrate outcomes of action.
  • If fate suggests that character death is necessary then you have the Ooa table to determine the outcome. Make character death noteworthy and meaningful, but don’t shy away from it.
  • Give your monsters and other Npcs their own purpose and objectives.

Example OF Play

Here’s a short example of play with a party of 1st level characters.

GM: So you’re in the sewer, knee deep in muck, it’s dark and to the north there’s a portcullis, what do you want to do?

Fighter 1: Is the portcullis Nearby?

GM: Yeah.

Fighter 1: I’ll move to it and as my action I’ll check it for traps.

Fighter 2: Assuming it’s safe, I want to bend the bars.

Magic User: And I want to cast light on my staff.

GM: Ok, Fighter 1, test your Wisdom by rolling a d20 under your WIS score – to check the portcullis for traps.

Fighter 1: *rolls* Made it!

GM: You’re confident it’s free of anything designed to do you harm, Fighter 2, still want to bend the bars? If so test your Strength!

Fighter 2: *rolls* Piece of cake!

GM: Good stuff, now Magic User, you cast Light on your staff. That’s a level 1 spell right?

Magic User: Yup.

GM: Ok, well test your Intelligence and add one to your d20 roll, if you fail you lose a level one spell slot for the rest of the day.

Magic User: *rolls* I need to roll under, not on it, right?

GM: That’s right.

Magic User: Damn, I failed.

GM: Unlucky! Beyond the bent iron bars is a long dark sewer tunnel heading deep down. What do you want to do?

Fighter 2: Explore down the tunnel..?

Fighter 1: Agreed! I’ll sneak ahead.

Magic User: And I’ll protect the rear!

GM: Ok Fighter 1, you move down the sewer, still Nearby to your friends, please test your Dexterity to see how quiet you are.

Fighter 1: *rolls* I’ve got a 17. I’m such a failure!

GM: Ouch. You’re making so much noise being sneaky, a Ghoul hiding in the darkness close to you leaps and attacks!

Fighter 1: Bugger!

GM: Initiative time! Everyone test their Dexterity, passing means you act before the Ghoul, failing means you go after. Fighter 1 you test with Disadvantage.

Fighter 2: I go before.

Magic User: I’m after.

GM: Fighter 1?

Fighter 1: How long was it to roll up a character again? I go after.

Fighter 2: I want to run down the sewer and smash the Ghoul with my Broadsword.

GM: Ok Fighter 2, you move Close to the Ghoul. Test your Strength to see if you hit it, you should add +2 to the roll, as the Ghoul is a powerful opponent.

Fighter 2: *rolls* Rolled a 7! *rolls again* So that’s 8 HP damage.

GM: Good hit! Now the Ghoul’s turn. Fighter 1 test your Strength to try and avoid the Ghoul’s paralyzing claws and bite. Remember the +1.

Fighter 1: *rolls* Ugh! 18.

GM: Oh dear. You feel a painful numbing sensation run through your body. The Ghoul paralyzes you.

GM: Yes. Magic User, you see the Fighter 1 fall rigid to the floor, what do you do?

Magic User: I’ll start backing away slowly.

Fighter 1: I’ll get you in the next life you git!


Player characters explore lost dungeons, brave abandoned crypts and traverse dark woodlands. In short, they go on adventures.

Game Masters are encouraged to design adventures that challenge the players and force them to think creatively.

Heroes & Monsters™ is built around a few core themes that should be present during the adventures of the player characters.

Exploring the Unknown

Player characters will be traveling to the wild, dangerous places of the world. As a referee, describe these places with a sense of mystery, wonder and danger. The ruins of an abandoned castle shouldn’t be just “creepy.” Use descriptions like, “long spires of broken towers cast shadowy claws across a courtyard littered with the remnants of long forgotten glory.” Often times the player characters may be the first beings to set foot in a location in one hundred or even one thousand years. These amazing locales have existed since time out of memory and have a rich history that began long before they arrived. While the referee doesn’t need to know the entire history of every place the characters visit, they should strive to evoke a sense of the legendary and ancient in these places.

Heroic Characters

The player characters are the heroes of their age—or they will be, with a bit of experience under their belt. They are a cut above most normal folks. Soldiers are mundane protectors of a village or castle, but fighters and duelists are masterful warriors with intense training or untapped natural talent. Moreover, the player characters are the active forces for good in the world. Buried deep in the heart of a thief is a spark of roguish nobility and while he may offer no quarter to a dark beastie in combat and slit his throat without a moment’s hesitation, he’s not likely to rob a goodly church aiding the community—unless of course he discovers the high priest is fleecing the good faith of the local congregation.


The world of Heroes & Monsters™ is one riddled with danger.

Combat is deadly and even the most powerful barbarian lord can find himself near death after a few lucky spear thrusts from a pack of goblins. Battle is not entered lightly and whenever a sword is drawn, it could mean the end of that warrior’s life.


Magic is not just a resource to be expended. Magic spells are something that draws power from the fabric of reality or the blessings of the gods. Even a “simple” first-level spell is a miracle or powerful incantation to most in the world.

Magic items are not bought and sold in shops, for they are not easily crafted and often require exotic and rare components or incantations to create. The most powerful magic items are those wielded by heroes and empowered by the very legends which they were a part of. They are not cast aside lightly by their wielders because they often grow in power alongside them. As a hero’s legend becomes more renowned, so too does the artifact grow more powerful.

Non-human player characters are regarded as exotic and rare, immediately noticed in a world dominated by the mundane ways of the human race. Elves are rare, wondrous and exotic.

Halflings are a curiosity. Their homelands exist in places far from most known settlements and their presence is a portent of stranger things to come.

Even the weakest monster is something to fear. Goblins are sallow eyed beasts with leering smiles who titter madly as they cry for blood. Skeletons and zombies are unholy abominations who evoke fear and revulsion from all who see them. Greater beasts are things of legend and song. Giants, dragons and other terrible creatures inspire pure awe when seen, as if myth has stepped from the voice of a fireside story and into reality.

Bringing The Heroes Together

Heroes & Monsters™ is a game about a group of adventurers.

They’re a team, a fellowship, a band of allies. Whenever possible, character creation should be done as a group. This way players can work together, feed off of one another’s excitement, and naturally develop connections between their characters. An important thing to remember is that the player characters should be united in one way or another and have a sense of shared trust between them. After all, going out to explore dangerous places filled with horrible monsters isn’t exactly something you’d do with another person whom you didn’t trust. This isn’t to say that the player characters are all best friends.

Conflicts of ideology and priority can make for interesting roleplaying and a character may be predisposed to certain stereotypes depending on their character—but in the end, the players need to trust each other at the gaming table to know that even if their characters don’t like one another or have struggles, that no one is going to leave each other hanging when things get tough.

Connections between characters can be anything; from two characters being family or childhood friends, to friendly rivals, to everyone working together for the same employer—the reasons they’re all adventuring together are endless. They don’t even have to begin as friendly. Maybe a Cleric has a young Thief as their ward because the Thief is on parole in return for service to the Cleric’s holy order. Sure, these two characters are going to begin from a place of distrust, but through roleplaying and putting their lives in each others hands the characters could learn important lessons from one another.

It’s important for players and their characters to begin the game with some common ground and a basis of trust. It contributes to a positive gaming experience for everyone at the table.

Veteran Characters

Some campaigns might require more powerful starting characters.

As a guideline, you can use the following table to determine the starting levels for the player characters: Campaign Type Starting Level Starting Money

Standard 1 200 gp Heroic 3 500 gp Epic 5 1,000 gp

Challenging The Players

Heroes & Monsters™ is game where combat is a dangerous undertaking and quite likely to get those involved killed. Both players and referees should remember this before leaping blindly into battle. That’s not to say that combat should be absent from a campaign —far from it. The epic clash of swords or watching a few brave warriors face off against a terrible dragon are staples of the fantasy genre and an important part of Heroes & Monsters™. But even a tenth level character is only a few steps from death.

While they might be able to handle the spears and arrows of some blood-thirsty orcs, the greater monsters of the world such as giants, dragons, undead knights and terrifying sea beasts can destroy an entire adventuring company with little effort. When players enter battle, they need to think carefully, plan their tactics and prepare—even then, victory is not assured.

On the other side of that, the referee should not go out of their way to kill the player characters. There is a fine line between challenging the characters and overwhelming them and it can take a few sessions of being the referee to find that balance.

For your first few game sessions ease your players and their characters into things. Perhaps fudge a few dice behind a screen or shield and reduce the damage taken from a lucky sword strike or perhaps the player characters stumble upon a cache of magical healing potions at just the right moment. You don’t always have to coddle your players just to keep them alive, but when you find the balance between fun and danger everyone at the table has a better experience.

Designing an Adventure

Basically, the “adventure” is just the setting for the game – usually a map and then notes about certain locations on that map. As the Players tell you where their characters go and what they do, you’re referring to the map and your notes to describe what happens as a result. Don’t try to plan for all contingencies—it’s guaranteed that the players will do something unexpected during the adventure and you’ll just have to roll with it, thinking on your feet and making up new things as you go. Just as you challenge the Players with adventure, they challenge you to keep up with their collective creativity.

For the basic dungeon adventure, draw the dungeon floor plan on graph paper, number the rooms (or other important locations), and then write yourself a “key” to remind yourself what monsters, treasures, traps, and tricks are found in these numbered locations.

Creating A Campaign

A campaign is the world beyond the adventure—the cities, forests, coastlines, and kingdoms of the fantasy world. The players will almost certainly want their characters to explore the wilderness, visit cities, and do all sorts of things in the fantasy world. At the beginning of the game, you might want to sketch out a map of a single village (as the starting point) and some of the surrounding area. (The location of the first adventure—a dark forest, perhaps) As the players move their characters around from adventure to adventure, you can expand the little map into an entire fantasy world with the continents, kingdoms, and great empires at your disposal.

If you want to take a shortcut, you can set your entire campaign in a fictional world created by the author of one of your favorite fantasy stories. Most of these have maps and the author has already created the details and feel of the world for you. For example: the worlds of Conan’s Hyboria (Robert E. Howard), of Elric and the Eternal Champions (Michael Moorcock), and of the Dying Earth (Jack Vance) are popular fictional settings ready for gaming.

Indeed, publishers have already created pre-packaged campaigns for all three of these examples.

Dungeons & Wilderness

Many Game Masters will create a map of the Underworld or Wilderness in advance of play. The player characters will then explore the map but are unaware of its contents.

In the Dungeon a map is filled with monsters, traps, treasure, and any mysterious creatures or locations the Game Master can dream into existence.

The Wilderness map is created using hexagon paper, with each hex representing 6 miles, and having a primary terrain and possibly an interesting feature.

A feature could be a Magic-User’s tower, a Fighter’s stronghold, and an Evil High Priest’s dark temple or maybe it could be a small elf like creature, sitting on a tree stump, playing a magical flute. Let your imagination run wild when creating features.

Dungeon Doors

Dungeon doors are large, heavy and even unlocked are hard to open. An unlocked door can be opened by making a successful STR test. Fighters have Advantage on the STR test.


Torches and lanterns illuminate a 30-foot radius. Players using a light source cannot normally surprise monsters, but they can of course still be surprised. It is assumed that all monsters see in the dark, unless they are charmed or otherwise in the service of players.

Listening at Doors

Characters can hear noise making a successful WIS test. Note that success indicates the player heard something, but they may not know what caused the sound.

Secret Doors

Secret doors can be detected by any player who is actively searching for one with a successful WIS test. It takes one turn for each 10’x10’ area searched.


Most traps and pits are triggered when any player who passes over the triggering mechanism fails with a DEX test. Players falling into a pit trap will take 1d6 damage per 10 feet fallen.


Creatures that are traveling long distances must rest for a full day for every six days that they travel.

Failure to do so results in a cumulative –1 penalty to to-hit and damage rolls due to long term fatigue per six days (or part of six days) of continuous travel after the initial six. This penalty is reduced by 1 for each full day of rest taken.

Note on finding secret doors and traps

Ideally, players will be descriptive enough during a search that they will automatically find a trap or secret door. For example, if moving a wall sconce opens a secret door, and the player says “I examine the sconces on the north wall for anything unusual”, a Referee might automatically allow them to figure out how the secret door opens. If, however, they merely state “I search the north wall for secret doors”, the Game Master can require a die roll.

Some features might be so well hidden as to always merit a die roll, or at least a roll with some sort of adjustment.


Although wise adventurers carry supplies with them, they sometimes prefer to—or need to—supplement their carried food with fresh food, whether hunted or foraged. Characters who are traveling can gather food while on the move.

If the party move at only 2/3 of their normal per-day movement rate, they can gather (from hunting and foraging) half of their day’s food at the same time, meaning they only need to use half of a day’s carried food supply each day.

If the party chooses to remain stationary, they can gather (from hunting and foraging) a whole day’s food, and don’t need to use any of their carried supplies.

In either case, if the party member leading the foraging or hunting (which may be an NPC guide) succeeds with a WIS roll, twice as much food is gathered that day.

Finding Treasure

The amount of treasure a monster owns or guards is usually related to the monster’s HD. That’s not necessarily realistic, but keep in mind that treasure is one of the ways the game reflects what a character has done: it’s used in awarding experience points. Too many large treasures and the characters will become powerful without actually having done very much. Too many monsters with small treasures and the characters won’t gain levels to reflect their achievements.

As a general guideline, the monetary value of a treasure ought to be about 100 times the monster’s HD x HD in gold, and keep in mind that hunting and patrolling monsters likely won’t be carting their treasure around with them. If the characters can’t find the monster’s lair, they may get none of the treasure. Also, it obviously doesn’t make sense for every wild boar and wolf to have a cache of treasure hidden away somewhere. Averaging the treasure out over several of the monsters in an adventure is a good way of making sure the characters get the right amount of experience points from treasure. Perhaps the goblin treasure hoard contains some “extra” treasure to account for the wolves in the area. If the characters avoid the wolves and kill the goblins, so much the better.

If they have to fight the wolves and never find the goblins, then the treasure is there for them to find next time.

Magic Items

Items imbued with magical power, from simple trinkets to ancient artifacts, can be discovered in lost halls, deep underground, buried with legendary kings, held at the bottom of lakes, in ruined castles or found in the treasure hordes of emperors and dragons.

A magical item should be relatively rare and, for those of more power, come with a story as to their creation. These stories could be very old, drawn from ages past when the item was conceived and wrought. Magic items can be anything that has been enchanted to hold a spell. Give the item a 1d6 Usage die to see how long the effect can be called. Each time the item is used roll the die. Here are some examples: ? Potion of Healing – heals 1d8 HP.

  • Potion of invisibility – as per the 2nd level Arcane spell.
  • Potion of Changing – as per Disguise Self Spell.
  • Ring of Protection – 1d8 Usage Die – Provides 3 Armor Points per activation.
  • Brush with Death – a broom with level 2 magic missile.
  • Gloves of Knocking – I’m going to leave that one to your imagination.

Most Magic items will have spell powers up to 2nd Level, but the same principles apply to all spell levels.

Magic Weapons typically add +1 to any attribute being tested whilst using the weapon and +1 to each damage dice rolled. More powerful weapons (+2/3) can be found if the GM includes them.

These weapons will have names and histories, which the players can discover or create.

Magic Armor increases the amount of AP by +1 in addition to any other effects.

Creating Magic Items

Elves and Magic-Users can enchant magic items. Placing a spell into an item takes 1 week of dedicated time per level of the spell.

A mixture of common and rare arcane materials are expended to bind the magic to the item. The materials cost 100 coin per level of spell.

Elves and Magic-Users can create magic weapons and armor at 5th Level. It takes 5 weeks to create a + 1 weapon or suit. Material cost is 5 times the suit value. At 7th Level Elves and Magic-Users can create +2 items and at 9th Level +3.

Detecting and Understand Magic Items

Items imbued with magic are generally detected using the 1st level Detect Magic spell.

Understanding the sort of magic an item carries requires a successful INT test.

Runepriest (Dwarf)

A Dwarf Fighter/Cleric.

Starting HP: 8+1d6

HP Gained per Level: 4

HP Gained during Resting: 1d8

Weapons & Armor: Any light and medium weapons and battle axes, no other heavy weapons. All armors and shields.

Attack Damage: 1d6/1d4 Unarmed or improvising

Special Features

Special: Rune priests cannot banish undead as Human


Extra Attacks: As part of their action a rune priests can make up to 1 attack per 3 levels (4, 7 & 10) with any weapon.

Axe Fighter: Rune priests have Advantage on attack rolls when fighting with axes or hammers (Pick one weapon at rune priest creation).

Fortitude: Rune priests have Advantage on CON rolls against poisons and diseases, and Advantage on INT rolls to avoid damage or effects from spells and magical devices.

Miner: Roll with Advantage when mining, spotting traps, slopes, shifting walls, and new construction.

Small Stature: When fighting very large creatures, such as Giants, Ogres, and Trolls, Dwarfs only take half damage from the creature’s attacks.

Darkvision: A dwarf can see in complete darkness (nonmagical) out to Nearby distance.

Clerical Spellcasting

Rune priests can cast a number of Cleric Spells per day, see the Spellcasting section. They share the same spell progression as the elves.

Sacred Text

Rune priests start with a large sacred text containing a total of 1d4 spells from the Level 1 and 2 Cleric Spell lists.

Leveling Up

Roll to see if attributes increase, roll twice for STR or WIS. Rune priests have a slower rate of leveling than the other classes and need one additional game session played before being able to level up.

Nightshade (Elf)

An Elf Mage/Thief.

Starting HP: 6+1d6

HP Gained per Level: 3

HP Gained during Resting: 1d6

Weapons & Armor: Any weapon. Leather Armor and no shields

Attack Damage: 1d6/1d4 Unarmed or improvising

Special Features

Thieves’ Skills: Roll against DEX with Advantage to open locks, remove traps, pick pockets, move silently, or hide in shadows. Roll against WIS with Advantage to hear noise. Roll against STR with Advantage to climb sheer surfaces.

Strong Mind: Elves are immune sleeping spells and have Advantage on tests to resist illusions.

Steal Spell: Once per day Nightshades can attempt to steal a magic effect from a creature. Before executing the attack action the hero must declare the intention. Only creatures with special abilities can be affected. You can try additional times at levels 4 and 8.

Darkvision: An elf can see in complete darkness (non-magical) out to nearby distance.

Elf Spellcasting

Nightshades can cast a number of Arcane Spells per day; see the Spell casting section below.


Nightshades start with a spellbook containing a total of 2 spells from the Level 1 Magic-User Spell lists.

Leveling Up

Pick 2 attributes and roll twice to see if attributes increase.

Nightshades have a slower rate of leveling than the other classes and need one additional game session played before being able to level up.

Nightshade Spell Progression

Note: columns are spell slot levels, lines are character levels.

Level 1 2 3
1 1
2 2
3 2 1
4 2 2
5 2 1 1
6 2 2 1
7 2 2 2
8 3 2 2
9 3 3 3
10 4 3 3

Master (Halfling)

A Halfling Fighter/Druid.

Starting HP: 6+1d6

HP Gained per Level: 3

HP Gained during Resting: 1d6

Weapons & Armor: Any weapon. Leather Armor and no shields

Attack Damage: 1d6/1d4 Unarmed or improvising

Special Features

Extra Attacks: As part of their action a Halfling can make up to 1 attack per three levels with any weapon.

Blessing of Nature: When Masters are outdoors they gain Darkvision out to nearby distance. Also they can cast purify food and drink 3 times per day.

Small Stature: When fighting very large creatures, such as Giants, Ogres, and Trolls, Halflings take only half damage from their attacks.

Stealth: Rolls with Advantage when hiding in shadows or undergrowth, moving silently, and keeping hidden.

Master Spellcasting

Masters can cast a number of Arcane Spells per day; see the Spell casting section below.

Rhymes OF Nature

Masters start with a pouch of exotic spices containing a total of 1d4 spells from the Level 1 and 2 Cleric Spell lists.

Leveling Up

Pick 2 attributes and roll twice to see if attributes increase. Masters have a slower rate of leveling than the other classes and need one additional game session (3-4) played before being able to level up.

Master Spell Progression

Note: columns are spell slot levels, lines are character levels.

Level 1 2 3 4 5
1 1
2 2
3 2 1
4 2 2
5 2 2 1
6 3 2 2
7 3 3 2 1
8 3 3 2 2
9 4 3 3 2 1
10 4 3 3 2 2

Appendix Puppeteer (Gnome)

Starting HP: 6+1d6

HP Gained per Level: 3

HP Gained during Resting: 1d6

Weapons & Armor: Light and Medium weapons. No Armor or shields

Attack Damage: 1d6/1d4 Unarmed or improvising

Special Features

Burrowing Animals: Puppeteers can speak at will with those kinds of animals

Master Illusionist: When performing certain spells; Gnomes roll with advantage when trying to keep spell slots. (Ventriloquism, Blur, Mirror Image, Phantasmal Force, Alter Time, Illusionary Terrain, Feeblemind.

Small Stature: When fighting very large creatures, such as Giants, Ogres, and Trolls, Gnomes only take half damage from the creature’s attacks.

Darkvision: A Puppeteer can see in complete darkness (non-magical) out to nearby distance.

Puppeteer Spellcasting

Puppeteers can cast a number of Arcane Spells per day; they share the same spell progression as the elves.


Puppeteers start with a spellbook containing a total of 1d4 spells from the Level 1 Magic-User Spell lists.

Leveling Up

Pick 2 attributes and roll twice to see if attributes increase. Puppeteers have a slower rate of leveling than the other classes and need one additional game session played before being able to level up.