D’you know this bloody hessian underwear is really making me itch. Keep it authentic they said… stick to traditional adventurer’s clothing! So how many barbarians or elven trackers do you know walk round in what is essentially rough string drawers?
A poxy nine of clubs I drew and now I’m stuck up a rickety old, decrepit staircase facing a bloody Reeking Assassin!
This doesn’t look too positive…the rain has started so everything that was once smouldering is now steaming, including my tinplate cardboard bastard sword and MDF shield…
Press play for your Hereticus ambience
Before I launch into a most lengthy meandering ramble as is my norm, I know the ‘purists’ withing the gaming hobby will, no doubt, be most offended and aghast at what may follow…
”this is no roleplaying game…this dungeon delving shoot ‘em up!” I here you scorn through gritted teeth. Well, this is an exploration of the genre from a soloists perspective of a section of the gaming hobby that is in its truest nature, not something that can instinctively welcome soloists with open arms.
How do we, the soloist wishing to embark on adventure, wanting to interact with our surroundings, dearly desiring to meet and socialise with characters in strange worlds, how do we achieve such a thing by our selves? Surely there is a strong need for at least one other human in all of this? One might draw this conclusion but in my journey of exploration in to roleplay, I have discovered a number of games that, at first glance may not conform to roleplay in its truest form but, as I hope to illustrate shortly, this little offering Gladus Hereticus has a distinct role play feel and could scratch a certain itch.
And what is more, there is not a call for a stuffy old, overprotective Dungeon Master to hold our hand to guide us throughout the savage ruins…the adventure that awaits us awaits us and faces us alone!
So What’s All The Fuss About?
Gladus Hereticus is a lite solo dungeon crawler (city crawler really…), using a pack of regular playing cards to generate areas, encounters, loot and for resolving attacks and checks.
Work your way through a destroyed city and attempt to survive long enough to assemble the device that could reverse the fate of this place. Level up, gather equipment and fight off the horrific inhabitants of the Smoldering City. Once you feel you are strong enough, venture into the Necropolis beneath the city – who knows what foul and terrifying creatures will be down there…
Gladus Hereticus is a rogue-like: highly lethal, randomized and with no roleplaying but plenty of combat. Be prepared to make tough decisions, and to meet death’s sweet embrace more often than you would like.
So basically this is a system that offers us, the soloist adventurer, the opportunity to explore unusual city scape environments in a fantasy setting, experience the real hack and slash of dungeon campaigns but without the huge amount of preparation usually associated with roleplay games.
But does simplifying roleplay still give us opportunity to enjoy this nature of game?
Immersion or Subversion?
Quite an interesting point! I would like to have seen a little more background information to each of the scenarios in this booklet…something to help set the scene. Not a gigantic essay but a passage or two to flesh out the scenario introduction.
That said, the way the game allows us to generate locations, encounters and to become involved in combat, we certainly feel thrown nostrils first into the affray of a dire and grusome world. As with all roleplay a large portion of the world we explore is down to imagination and this is no different. The location tables and monster/encounter tables are all scenario appropriate so it provides us with a wealth of headings to mentally create our story. As mentioned above, a little back story might help set the scene but once inside the game we do feel fully immersed in the world Tom has created. Unlike many more complex roleplaying systems this keeps things very simple and running at a good pace. A single player operates a single character with three attributes (generated at the start of play) which are basically Strength, Movability and Health. Beyond that we only need to track equipment and experience points to help us level up. Though the character gas simple attributes, the game still feels like a rich, thematic play.
Playing cards…no, playing-cards run this game. Although we do play cards…just to clear up the confusion. Unlike many counterparts that rely on a wealth of multisided dice, modifiers, skill tests, health tests and wooly vests, this game is driven by a set of tables and a simple deck of regular playing cards. When generating hero stats, locations, loot or encounters we draw a card from the deck and apply the value to the appropriate table. Usually one card per draw/table.
This makes for very quick world generation. We draw a card to give us a location in the Smouldering City (for example) This number equates to a specific location…like a garden shed or tunnel or…well…all sorts. A second card draw gives us the encounter and loot at that location. Then we fight or search (depending on what turns up) Once again the looting and combat are delt with through use of card draws and tables…as is the damage and bonus ratings. Everything is simple, easy to work out and just as simple to apply.
Combat and monster damage are all handled in the same manner with a card pull and referenced on the appropriate table. Certain ability traits we have give the occasional modified +1 or so, but the combat system is quick, often brutal and actually has enemy reactions
…and that is about it. New locations, new encounters, fight and loot.
On the face of it, that may not sound so fulfilling as a roleplay exercise but once involved in gameplay, it really does start to come to life. The story generated is within your mind but, I suppose, could equally be recorded as a journal of the adventure. A piece that could be looked back on retirement from adventuring.
Wood Chits and Cardboard Bits:
This is a simple ten page pdf document available from Dungeon Master Guild. It is nicely presented and has everything necessary to set us off on our adventures. It also comes with an ink friendly version to print, if needed. Ten pages is not a gigantic Tomb but considering it is only around $3 and has two different adventure scenarios to delve into, I think it is not too bad value for money…obviously we need to find a scrap of paper for jottings and a deck of regular playing cards…oh, and a pen or pencil to do scribblings. The rules suggest using die for tracking enemy health but this can be accommodated quite easily on paper, using the old grey matter for the maths.
Meeples and Standees:
- Writer/designer: Tom Jensen
- Publisher: Ostfront Publishing/web published
- Age of Concent: 10+
- Playtime (recess for those of the US persuasion): 30 mins -4 hours
- D.O.B: July 2018
This is specifically designed for a single adventurer operating a single character out in the nasty world, exploring locations looking for the all important Loot and slaying…or fleeing from the rather unpleasant inhabitants of the two scenarios included. Though very simplistic in natue, a simple card draw and the cross-reference of a table generates a whole variety of location for us. Within a chosen location we repeat the procedure to identify the type of encounter…then act accordingly. The game is not designed for us to negotiate, barter or carry out lengthy discussions about the weather but it does give a us the opportunity to explore an imaginative world (almost of our own creation). We can fight beasties, find loot and even level up. Things that can be found in any D&D adventure. The system of play, the random generation mechanic, the use of the playing cards keeps all aspects of the game complexity to a minimum, making this suitable for those lighter, more chill-out times…when we don’t want our brain to melt and trickle from our ears.
I have spoken to Tom about his plans for the system and he has mentioned additional scenario/region material to expand the world and the possibility of a printed version of the book.
The Real Nitty Gritty:
- Winners and Losers: This is very much dependant on the luck of the encounter and the risks we take. Potentially we could be adventuring, levelling up and having a wail of a time for up to three hours. Equally, reckless stupidity could get us “deaded” in thirty minutes or less.
- Rules is Rules is Rules: This is a very simple rule system which has been laid out effectively over ten pages. The charts we require are easy to follow and differ from one scenario to another. This is an aspect I particularly like, as it means that although the encounters are randomly generated, they are appropriate to the setting. A giant floating three-legged octopus will not try to suck our spinal fluid dry in a burnt out brothel.
- Lucky Buggers: In creating the world, the locations, the encounters tables have been formed and a deck of cards is used to give us a randomly generated number. I don’t number crunch and never play “death by analysis paralysis” so have no idea the chances of certain number turning up. Unlike dice rolling there will undoubtedly be some predictability (for the card counters amongst the audience) but random is key to keeping this fresh. It is, at the end of the day, the luck of the draw and, although we can mitigate some of the negative effects by running away (for example) we still have to deal with what materialises before us.
- Highs and Lows: The setting feels quite dark and foreboding, as do many of the locations and encounters but as they are just headings without further description or illustration, they will only be as dark as our imagination. As such, the game really is what you make of it/put into it.
- Footprints All Over Both Sides of My Table: As we only require a notepad and a deck of playing cards (usually only drawing one or two at a time) the surface we require for play could almost be limited to our lap. A fold down aircraft/train table would be quite sufficient to accommodate the game.
- Build It Up Just To Tear It All Down Again: Open a deck of cards and shuffle them. That is all we need to set up. Creating our own stats and the encounters throughout the adventure are all generated as part of game play so set up is seconds…and as we record our progress as scribbles on a piece of paper, we can stop, leave and return to the game at any point without any need to leave gameboards at the mercy of wandering cats.
Me, Myself and I:
This will never be a substitute for a large scale roleplay campaign and I suspect that it is not trying to do so. This, certainly for me, provides opportunity for a roleplay/dungeon exploration fix without the prep, without the need for a group to all be free on the same night and a system that requires nothing more than a deck of cards, pen/paper and a phone or tablet with the tables/rules on. This fact makes this game a very portable solo game experience. One that can kill time onboard a train, bus or plane…or any other “out and about” location. Hardcore role-players may not find this a substitute for their group campaigns but I think it offers some of the same gaming experience with out a fraction of the fuss. There is sufficient randomness in the encounters and locations to make numerous visits to each location possible without the feeling of repetition. I don’t know if I should really refer to this as a gate way game to the genre of roleplay, but I am sure for novice or experienced players it will give a taste of what role play is about. Without trying to belittle its worth, this is more a “filler” game (although I personally hate that phrase), but a filler that is exciting and one that offers us a challenging game experience.
Depending on how quickly we die…and just how in-depth we wish to take the exploration, we could be spending up to four hours in this forsaken place. This is a large investment of time but as there are no real components bar a piece of note paper, it is the sort of adventure that can be dipped in and out of as and when we feel fit. For me this makes it a versatile system which, even if only played once will cost less than a dollar for each our of entertainment.
Yay or Nay:
Without a doubt I think this is a Yay!. It is simple, to the point, easily accessible and thrilling to play as a solo explorer seeking plenty of hack and slash! Gladus Hereticus smoulders its solitary way into hacking the BSoMT 1d8 die roll into a (6). Small scale, affordable and accessible, this is definitely one soloists (or even multiplayers wanting a solo dungeon fix) should look into. At less than the price of a large take-out coffee, I think it is definitely a bargain.
hahaaaa…. now to reap my rewards…a loot draw…
I wonder if I manage to reveal the Ace of Spades it’d give me a better resilliance to attack…something like a brass deartalker hat and windresistant shin protectors?
d’oh, the three of diamonds…
…a slightly worn fishing rod minus reel
Something For The Weekend, Sir?
Tom Jensen plays Gladus Hereticus
Dungeon Master Guild link for the game pdf: