|Tesh, Changeling Warrior, locked in combat with a Redcap
To this end, as I'm penning these adventures (yes, I'm writing several) I decide to break from traditional fantasy RPGs and not list a recommended level. The world of The Hero's Journey is dangerous, regardless of your level. That's already implied by the fact that characters do not see a huge increase in their Endurance, even when they reach high levels of play. It's more akin to "I can get his by a sword two or three times an probably not die" instead of the more traditional route of "I can fall a hundred feet and keep on swingin' without any problem."
As an example, a 10th level Warrior with a Resolve of 18 that rolled maximum Endurance at 2nd and 3rd level would still only have an Endurance of 50. By contrast, the bite of an Elder Wyrm does 4d10 points of damage. This means that the mightiest Warrior in history, a literal living legend, could most definitely survive ONE bite from an Elder Wyrm. A second bite (or a swat from the other claw and tail attacks it gets in the same round) would almost certainly kill that same Warrior. This also makes a 10th level Wizard that casts Wreathed and Consumed can do between 10 and 60 points of damage to everyone in a 20 foot radius. A genuinely cataclysmic explosion. And that's not to speak of the mind an reality altering powers of the Fey...
So, as you can see, combat is deadly in The Hero's Journey. But strange creatures have no "alignment," and have their own reasons for acting as they do then roleplaying becomes the most valuable tool in a character's bag of tricks. Conan cleaves through countless foes with a swing of his axe. Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser face off against half a dozen wizards at the gates of Lankmar. But when Tristan crosses into Stormhold, he rarely uses his sword. In Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship runs from most combat encounters. When Bilbo faces off against the spiders of Mirkwood he uses hit and run tactics to distract them -- not to face them in battle. The clever hobbit doesn't even think to try to kill the dragon outright. It's not that these things are impossible, it's that slaying a dragon or felling a giant in The Hero's Journey is a genuinely legendary and requires genuinely legendary planning, skill, and even luck.
|Tucker (Human Yeoman), Flynn (Half-Elf Bard), Bandoras (Halfling Burglar),
and Evelyn (Human Wizard) are about to have a very bad day...
Given that in traditional fantasy roleplaying adventures a recommended level is usually provided to gauge the viability of combat encounters, it seems at odds to name a recommended level when writing adventures for The Hero's Journey. Combat is rare and deadly in The Hero's Journey, regardless of character level. It is the stuff of legendary songs or sorrowful laments. That goes beyond a character's level and permeates the entire essence of the game. Be clever. Be resourceful. Be diplomatic. Be heroic. Your sword when all else has failed, not as the first solution to a problem.
On the other side of that Narrators running The Hero's Journey shouldn't rely too much one combat. A single tense battle or a few small combats to build drama can be useful, but if your game turns into a meat grinder of character, then your players will never get invested in either their characters or your legendarium. Use combat sparingly to keep the inherent drama of its presence high and when players use a quick wit or clever turn of phrase to avoid bloodshed, then that is to be commended. A hero is not measured by the body count they leave in their wake.
So the adventures I write for The Hero's Journey will have no "recommended level." Instead they will tell stories inspired by folklore and heroic fantasy literature. Players will need to rely on more than their weapons and spells to solve problems. They will need to be of stout heart, quick mind, and perhaps, just a bit lucky... but then again, what hero hasn't been saved by these things more often than not?
|Bandoras and his lucky Rabbit's Foot
The Hero's Journey, Second Edition goes live on Kickstarter on January 7th, 2020. All art in this blog post is by Nic Giacondino and appears in the game's core rule book. Art is owned by Barrel Rider Games, Copyright 2019.