Explore Mystic Worlds With The Hero's Journey

The Hero's Journey is a Swords & Wizardry Whitebox variant, the personal hack of James M. Spahn, author of the acclaimed White Star. The rules are simple and well-worded, and the book implies a humanocentric, mystical sort of fantasy backdrop, but you could also just rip the game apart for neat alternate rules for your own campaign.

There are two extra attributes to complement the familiar six: Appearance and Luck. The former governs reaction rolls (so that Charisma becomes less of an overtuned attribute), while the latter provides save rerolls and the ability to check if blind luck helps out the character. Wisdom is also renamed Willpower, but it basically functions the same way.

There are six available races (Dwarf, Elf, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Hafling, and Human). Each race has their own formulae to determine attributes (for instance, Half-Orcs have 2d6+6 Strength and 2d6+1 Intelligence) and class restrictions, along with a couple special abilities (mostly small bonuses and extra weapon proficiencies).

There are a total of 14 classes to choose from (such as the Acrobat, Druid, Jester, or Thief). They have the usual abilities one would expect, although many work similar to skills in Lamentations of the Flame Princess (roll below the skill value on 1d6). Some classes have pretty steep requirements (Wizards need 15+ Intelligence!).

Combat is deadly even by OSR standards. Characters may only have a maximum of 3 hit dice, and above third level hit points increase only by a static amount. For instance, a 6th level Duelist has 3d6+7 hp, while a 10th level Thief has 2d6+11. Armor Class is somewhat worse as only shields, Dexterity, and class abilities improve AC, while armor provides damage reduction.

XP, by default, is gained for defeating foes and certain meta-game actions (such as performing well, making other players laugh, encouraging other players to contribute, etc.), but it’s easy to overrule if it’s not to your taste.

There are 128 monsters and a bunch of magical items described; pretty much what you would expect in a D&D-esque game. The rules for magic item creation are very restrictive (basically, only 10th level Wizards may try doing it), which is understandable considering the implied setting, but it still takes an interesting option away from the players.

Magic weapons and armor, however, can be created "spontaneously." Scoring a natural 20 with a weapon, barely surviving a blow because of your armor’s reduction value, or avoiding a hit by a single point because of your shield earns the item a Mythic Point. At certain thresholds the item gains magical properties. This is one of the coolest rules in the book, in my opinion.

The Hero’s Journey is a neat rulebook with a clear layout, offering multiple optional rules for basically everything. What’s missing? Random encounter tables, adventure creation guidelines, and substantial GM advice. You could use the player-facing rules and the bestiary as is in conjunction with your favourite GM-facing procedures, or just steal your favourite bits and merge them with your own old-school frankengame.

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Dire Bare

You're not supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but . . . . I might just pick that up based on the cover and the title. Sounds very interesting!


Very similar to a cover from The Hobbit


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It's a good game. At this point, I'm not sure that OSR games need things like GM advice or adventure creation guidelines. They're targeted at people who have been playing a while. IMHO, of course.


Crown-Forester (he/him)
Yeah, I'd be concerned about getting hit by Tolkien family's lawyers about that. It's way too close a copy of Tolkien's artwork.


Has anyone played this game? Can you speak to the balance?
For example, the classes are limited to 3d6 HPs (3rd-level) plus +1 or +2 each level thereafter. So an average 5th level fighter might have 15-17 HPs. Yet spells like fireball still do 1d6/level. This seems to make spells even more powerful (as if the discrepancy between high-level Wizards and fighters wasn't high enough in OSR games...).


First Post
It's worse than you thought, but not much. With 5d6 HD, the average S&W White Box fighter has 15-17 hit points. The Hero's Journey fighter has 3d6+5 with an average of 14-16.

I haven't played Hero's Journey, but I have have been playing a White Box/White Star (because I like space elves, so sue me) campaign since before its release, so it was a lot simpler to strip HJ for parts rather than switch to a new-but-just-different-enough-to-confuse system.

The Hero's Journey does have lower hit points than White Box, but keep in mind that a max level White Box fighter has a maximum 71 hit points with a high Con and will have around 31 if rolling each level with an average Con.


First Post
Hero's Journey RPG is a lot of fun.

If your typical S&W White Box character's motivation is "gold and glory" and DCC are "Muder-Hobos", then your typical HJ character says "You know what would be lovely today? An adventure!". The tone just feels different to me.

If you like this game, might I also suggest my own Hedgewitch class for it. It adds hedgewitches, gnomes, more professions, more monsters and more spells and magic items.

And for the next hour or so it is on sale.


Jeff Scifert

Hero's Journey is one of the most beautifully produced books I own. Very clean layout, terrific use of sidebars for House Rules, and great Elmore art!

I also love the concept of the spontaneous magic item generation. It reminds me of a simplified version of the Covenant Item rules from the D20 Midnight RPG. Very flavorful and something I am house ruling into many of my campaigns.

I agree that the cover is very evocative of Tolkien and is an intentional homage, which I love! Gives the reader a sense of the types of epic adventures the players will undertake.

Get this book if you love anything remotely OSR; I cannot say enough good things about it!

Ynas Midgard

It's a good game. At this point, I'm not sure that OSR games need things like GM advice or adventure creation guidelines. They're targeted at people who have been playing a while. IMHO, of course.

I meant advice and guidelines specific to this game. It has 7 pages dedicated to GM advice (with subheadings like Themes, Bringing the Heroes Together, Designing Adventures, Developing Campaigns, and Challenging the Players), but it's very thin and doesn't really emphasise what the GM is supposed to do different than, say, running ACKS or DCC (simply changing all the props doesn't turn OSR murderhobo adventures into heart-warming fantasy, just like how you can't turn Romeo & Juliet into hard science fiction just by telling the same story set on a space station).

It's not that big of a problem, but consider how Beyond the Wall gets its tone across by the mechanical differences (specifically the character and setting creation procedures). Now, The Hero's Journey is way too close to S&W and LL to accentuate the tonal differences purely on a mechanical level. That's why I think specific guidelines to adventure creation would have been useful.

Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention. I just gave it a read-through. I have been looking for a good RPG to start with my 13-year old and as much as I love Labyrinth Lord, the attack matrix can slow things down; this is a great OD&D variant. Love it!


First Post
I just ordered the hardbound version from Lulu... I'll slip back in here after it arrives with my 2 cents worth. Thanks for the comments from those who own The Hero's Journey Fantasy Roleplaying... you sold me!

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