Heritage Composer (TinyD6) (Patreon Request)
This massive book clocks in at 112 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 107 pages of content, laid out for booklet-size (6’’ by 9’’/A5), so let’s take a look!
This book was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my supporters.
So, what does this do? Essentially, this is a DIY-heritage composer, which has assembled a total of 125 Heritage Traits (partially compiled, partially new) and categorized them in 5 different tiers of power, differentiated by the number of base Hit Points the Heritage starts with. This range usually spans 8 to 4 HP. Nice: The book is pretty newbie-friendly and walks you through the basic considerations, like considering setting and genre, help with finding the proper inspiration, and then assembling the total. This is not just basic: The book provides advice like making your nonhuman characters closer to the ends of the HP spectrum, talks about talent choice, and skills.
The organization of the massive array of traits is helpful – it ranges from weakest or most restricted to strongest, from 8+HP to 4+, respectively. The book also clearly states the base line of 6 HP for humans in most settings, explicitly providing a context that’s easy to work within even for people less experienced/new to roleplaying games. Okay, so what can we find among the 8+ HP Heritages? Well, we for example have ameboids[sic!] (shouldn’t that be amoeboid?), who are immune to blunt object-damage, have only a 15 ft. speed and suffer Disadvantage on reaction rolls. We also get the Artificial Lifeform, ability to see in the dark, a Heritage representing coming from the depths beneath the waves (super helpful, but makes spending prolonged time on land dangerous). Being Gigantic makes you twice as tall, but prevents you from sneaking/hiding, and all Tests featuring equipment and Attacks using regular-sized weapons are at Disadvantage, plus you can’t use Light Weapons. Equipment and weapons have to be custom-made and are more expensive. Okay…so where is the hardcoded benefit beyond the system-immanent size benefits here? This one is pretty punitive.
On the plus-side, having a shell, being High-G Born, or being a hardlight projection (Red Dwarf, anyone?) are covered alongside living rock. The latter is super interesting, as it renders you immune to conventional Light and Heavy Melee Attacks and imposes Disadvantage on Ranged attack, but also makes you heal very slowly. You can be made of living metal (!!), elect to not need to sleep…or you can be really hard to destroy, at the cost of being somewhat of a parasite, requiring blood, youth, etc. to sustain yourself. Undead come with a wear and tear table.
The 7 HP Heritage Traits include being aquatic (the regular version), having corrosive fluids, foresight, multiple arms, the ability to protect yourself with a kinetic shield, or what about Claws as a Mastered Weapon, at the expense of not being able to make ranged weapons? There are also means to be able to process pretty much anything as food, an uncanny ability to go unseen, being venomous, etc.
The 6 HP Heritage Traits include being an Acrobat, Alchemist, Bar Fighter, etc. This region also includes being able to speak with animals, going Berserker, and a trait that marks you as being able to process information with Cold-Blooded detachment, making you hard to manipulate or intimidate. Classic notions such as becoming a Defender or Diehard are provided, and Eidetic Memory is also included in this context.
In the 5 HP-range, we have chameleon skin, healing via cold , having echolocation, being able to generate taser-like stunning shocks, and the pdf does include having an excellent metabolism, sense of smell, etc. are provided here – as is the classic hypnotic gaze, having a pheromone-based communication, web spinners, etc. are provided here. I really like the one that has you “zeroed out” – you don’t officially exist, whether due to glitch or magic.
Finally, the 4-HP range, we have insectoid bodies, the ability to conjure forth canine or feline spirits. Being naturally buoyant, being a descendant of fey, jumping through shadows or plants, etc. – you get the idea.
So, how does the system work? Method A): You choose two traits and take the lowest HP. Method B) You choose two traits and a drawback. Method C): Choose two traits AND limitations for each of them…and beyond these and their considerations spelled properly out, the pdf also provides some rough advice for handling Heritages with more than two Traits.
After this section, the book provides an array of drawbacks, which grant additional Hit Points upon taking them; these can be greed, being an enemy of the authorities, etc., we get quite a few interesting ones. The book also provides drawbacks specifically crafted to net you a bonus Trait, including classics such as being arrogant, having allergies, etc. – neat!
Beyond the drawbacks, we also get so-called Paragon Traits, which essentially mean that you embody something – you can have only one of those, and ideally, they are earned in game. The book does spend quite some time explaining how impact- and meaningful they should be regarding the roleplaying implications. To give you an example: Deadly Focus lets you concentrate an Attack against a single opponent, which deals 6 damage sans Test. The foe must make a Save Test at Disadvantage or suffer full damage, half as much on a success. The Trait works with any weapon group, but requires the character to focus EXCLUSIVELY on the one specific group chosen. If an enemy is killed with this Trait, all enemies witnessing it suffer Disadvantage on their next Attack. A character with this Paragon Trait may also not have Berserker. In some ways, paragon Traits almost fill the class niche – expert survivalist, great magics, really skilled at some tasks – with these, you can pretty much play the iconic adventuring party.
This is not where the book ends, though – instead, we get full rules for playing animal companions, with different guidelines for Small, Medium and Large companions – these rules provide concise and imho pretty well-balanced options. Furthermore, the section comes with, you guessed it, yet more Traits, such as Animal Telepathy, being psionic, being able to talk, etc. Moreover, we get a handy list of player traits suitable for Animal Companions, and two different options for handling advancement.
And guess what? More to come! The pdf then proceeds to provide rules for playing as a monster, including some salient advice on balancing them versus a non-monstrous party, with e.g. increased XP-cost providing a suitable way of keeping them from overshadowing “regular” characters. Once more, we get a list of recommended traits, before we dive into a selection of sample heritages, which range from alien species to shadow fey to robot cats and undead spirits bound into inanimate objects. A 3-page worksheet (great handout) and a massive index complement this book.
Editing and formatting are very good as a whole, on both a rules-language and formal level. While I noticed a few minor hiccups, none of them really impeded my enjoyment of the book. Layout adheres to a one-column full-color standard, and features quite a lot of rather neat full-color artworks I haven’t seen before. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with bookmarks for chapter-headers, but not for individual traits – some additional bookmarks here would have been nice.
Geoff Gander’s Heritage Composer is a well-crafted tome, no doubt about that. It is interesting to observe how much depth and versatility the author manages to squeeze out of the relatively simple TinyD6-engine. It is also pretty impressive to observe that, for the most part, the balancing is really impressive and well-done; this does a much better job at delivering well-rounded toolkit-like races/species/heritages than many comparable games. Looking at Savage Species and Advanced Races Guide there…
But I digress: If you enjoy TinyD6, consider this to be a must-own book. It is versatile, interesting, and covers a lot of breadth without becoming obtuse or hard to handle. While there are a few minor snafus, the system as a whole is easy to customize, seamless in use, and inspired. My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up, and this gets my seal of approval.
You can get this great booklet here on OBS!
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