Heroic Fantasy is a dungeon crawl play-by-mail game published by Flying Buffalo. It has been active since 1982. The initial edition involved nine dungeon levels. Flying Buffalo published subsequent editions due to challenging gameplay initially, eventually limiting the game to four dungeon levels with a fifth "outside" level where players can assemble an army and capture one or more castles. The game is open-ended; gameplay continues until players decide to stop.
In the game, players can create a party of up to fifteen characters within certain limits. Various races are available for characters which can be fighters or magic users, the latter which has various spells at their disposal. Players can encounter non-player characters (NPCs), fight monsters for experience points, and collect treasure while their party progresses through the dungeon levels.
The game received various reviews in the 1980s, ranging from generally to very positive. In 2011, Heroic Fantasy won the Origins Award for Best Play by Mail or Correspondence Game.
Gameplay began in 1982. Heroic Fantasy was Flying Buffalo's third PBM, which the company also made available as an early turn-based computer game on a commercial network known as "TheSource".:35
In the 1980s, players negotiated a nine-story maze. In the 1990s, Flying Buffalo Inc. programmed two subsequent editions with the following rationale:
In the first two versions, we told the players there was going to be nine levels to the game, and the object was to go through all nine levels and exit. Players exiting from the ninth level would be given wall plaques as a prize. We never actually finished programming the lower levels, because only a couple people ever got as far as the 6th level, and after eight years only a half dozen are playing in the 5th level. We decided that maybe nine levels was too much.
The company reduced the number of dungeon levels to four, with players then exiting the dungeon to adventure in an outside environment, "recruiting an army, until you find a castle to invade".
Heroic Fantasy is a game in which the players lead a team of characters. At the outset, players choose a party of up to fifteen characters using one hundred "points", which can be used to maximize the size of the party or choose a smaller party of stronger characters. Various options are available when choosing characters including races such as dwarves, giants, fairies, leprechauns, and gremlins; and types such as magic users or fighters. There is no final object of the game or way to "win"; the purpose of the game is to advance by negotiating challenging mazes, defeating monsters, and collecting treasure and experience points. After capturing a castle on the fifth, outside level, players can "retire", defend their castle, or look for more to capture.
While negotiating mazes, players have various spells available for use, including "blast", "sleep", and "fireball". Players can find different types of treasure in the mazes, to include four types of potions: healing, strength, poison, and Stygean, the latter which adds "ten to the character's Constitution regardless of its current value". According to Jim Townsend there is also a fifth—a cloning potion—which replicates a character that is "VERY rare". Players can also find magical items such as elf cloaks, fairy rings, glowing amulets, shining and glowing rings, and Thundereggs, which have various properties and effects, as well as basic treasure such as gold rings, coins, and jewels, which provide only experience points.
While exploring mazes, players can encounter other player characters as well as monsters run by the computer, or non player characters (NPCs), with the latter being more prevalent. According to Jim Townsend, NPCs belong to clans, and actions taken against one are viewed similarly by other NPCs in the same clan (e.g., an attack against one clan NPC will cause other clan NPCs to attack a player's party on sight later).
W. G. Armintrout reviewed Heroic Fantasy in the November 1982 issue of The Space Gamer. Armintrout commented that "Heroic Fantasy is a fun game of dungeon delving, and I can recommend it to anyone who enjoys the insides of underground mazes. There are a lot of options, and a lot of player-vs.-player interaction. The speech orders add a distinct role-playing dimension." In the April 1983 issue of Dragon, Michael Gray stated "This is Flying Buffalo’s science fiction play-by-mail game of conquest, trade, exploration and diplomacy. And it's nothing short of a masterpiece!"
A D Young reviewed the game in the October 1983 issue of White Dwarf, stating that "Heroic Fantasy is an excellent game for beginners. It does not involve very much diplomacy (although it can, if one runs into groups of other players), and the rescue-party rule makes it a game you can enjoy for a longtime." Graham Masters Jr. also noted the latter theme in the Sep–Oct 1982 issue of Computer Gaming World, stating that "HF allows a player whose group has been severely weakened through the death of several characters to send in a "rescue" party."
- "Heroic Fantasy". The Space Gamer. No. 53. July 1982. p. 16.
- Flying Buffalo Inc. (1990). "Rules for Heroic Fantasy". Flying Buffalo Inc. Retrieved May 15, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
- Armintrout, W. G. (November 1982). "The Great Buffalo Hunt: Heroic Fantasy vs. Catacombs of Chaos Featured Review". The Space Gamer. Steve Jackson Games (57): 2–5.
- Townsend, Jim (March–April 1987). "A Real Look at Heroic Fantasy". Paper Mayhem. No. 23. p. 24.
- Townsend, Jim (March–April 1987). "A Real Look at Heroic Fantasy". Paper Mayhem. No. 23. p. 25.
- Townsend, Jim (March–April 1987). "A Real Look at Heroic Fantasy". Paper Mayhem. No. 23. p. 26.
- Gray, Michael (April 1983). "The PBM scene: Facts you can use when YOU choose what game to play". Dragon. TSR, Inc. (72): 35.
- Young, A D (October 1983). "Microview". White Dwarf. No. 46. Games Workshop. p. 29.
- Masters Jr., Graham (September–October 1982). "Heroic Fantasy: An Interactive Role-Playing Game or "How Revenge is Going to Be Sweet"". Computer Gaming World. 1 (6): 11, 44.
- "GAMA > Origins Awards > 38th Origins Awards". 13 February 2013. Archived from the original on 13 February 2013.
- Loomis, Rick (May 1999). "Heroic Fantasy: An Article Originally Appearing in FBQ#48 dated June 1983" (PDF). Flying Buffalo Quarterly. No. 79. pp. 12–14. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
- Moody, Loren (November–December 1986). "Heroic Fantasy". Paper Mayhem. No. 21. p. 21.
- Rodgers, Patrick (May–June 1992). "New Horizons for Heroic Fantasy". Paper Mayhem. No. 54. pp. 18–19.
- Townsend, Jim (March–April 1987). "A Real Look at Heroic Fantasy". Paper Mayhem. No. 23. pp. 24–28.
- Townsend, Jim (July–August 1997). "A New Heroic Fantasy: Part I". Paper Mayhem. No. 85. pp. 4–6.
- Townsend, Jim (September–October 1997). "The New Heroic Fantasy: Part II". Paper Mayhem. No. 86. pp. 4–8.