Unchained Heroes: Gritty Fantasy Hack


If you are looking to run a Low Fantasy, gritty, Unchained Heroes Campaign, this hack is for you. Each section of this hack will tell you how to quickly adapt the High Fantasy Gaming of Unchained Heroes into a more low-key and gritty setting.

What is Low Fantasy you might be asking? Low Fantasy has all the fantasy trappings that we might expect, but magic and the supernatural are uncommon and very rare; as opposed to High Fantasy where it is quite a prominent part of everyone’s lives. If you need a comparison, think of the Conan Universe or even Lord of the Rings. In those universes, magic is always present, but reserved for wizards, elves, and those willing to meddle in the dark arts; each use of it was something extraordinary and spectacular.

Advise your players that with this hack, they might find it wiser to work around conflicts rather than plowing straight into them. Death is going to come to everyone in a much more regular and brutal fashion.

Key Roleplaying Elements

This section gives you the mood of the setting by describing a few roleplaying features of a Low Fantasy Setting. If you are looking for the kind of things you see here, then this hack is for you.

  • Magic is rare
    • Magical Healing is often costly and unavailable
  • People live by their wits
  • Superstition plagues life
  • Technology is in the Dark Ages

Game System Changes

These are the changes you will need to apply to the Unchained Heroes RPG to make a Low Fantasy, gritty campaign setting. Each area goes through the book in order and tells you what is modified or removed.

Character Level Restrictions
  • Player Characters cannot advance beyond 20th level. Villains have no Level Cap.
Hero Class Restrictions
  • Clerics, Necromancers, Rogues, Sorcerers, and Warriors are the only playable Hero Classes. Exceptions can be made for the other Hero Classes in special circumstances.
Hero Species Restrictions
  • Dwarves, Elves, and Humans are the only playable Species. Exceptions can be made for the other Species in special circumstances.
Hero Class Ability Adjustments
  • All Active Hero Class Abilities now cost Energy. If there is no Energy Cost, use 30 Energy or the Out of Combat Energy Cost +10.
  • All Active Hero Class Abilities that would directly cause Trauma Damage (this excludes those that cause the Open Wounds and Brittle Conditions) now grant +1dp to your Ability Dice Pool no matter how much Trauma Damage they would cause.
  • All Abilities with the Heal Ability Function that heal the Current Health of a Combatant have their Energy Cost increased by 20.
  • All Abilities that would heal Trauma Damage have their Action Times increased to 1 hour and their Energy Cost Tripled. Abilities that heal both Trauma and Current Health only have their Energy Cost tripled.
  • All Abilities that would heal Energy to Combatants have the added Activation Cost that forces the user to Sacrifice 1 Health per 1 Energy restored to everyone affected by the Ability. This is in addition to any other Energy Costs or Health Sacrificed when activating the Ability. This rule does not apply to the Tide of Battle Maneuver.
  • All Abilities that would cause the Teleport Effect are removed.
Talent Adjustments
  • All Talents solely available to the Cerebral, Ogre, Oracle, Umbral, or Visceral Hero Classes and Species are removed.
  • All Talents will see their Action Times increase to 1 minute unless otherwise dictated by the Gamemaster to reflect the additional time it takes to perform these extraordinary powers.
Technique Adjustments
  • All Techniques solely available to the Cerebral, Ogre, Alchemist, Oracle, Umbral, or Visceral Hero Classes and Species are removed.
Mundane and Magical Item Adjustments
  • The Weapon Group – Guns is removed.
  • The Tesla Gloves and Tesla Gauntlet weapons in the Exotic Weapon Group are removed.
  • The Magical Item Limit for all Heroes is reduced by 2 and can never exceed 13 (which would be reached at Level 16 in this scenario).
  • Rejuvenation Potions are removed.
  • All Runes and Wands of Power are removed.
Building Block and Statistical Adjustments
  • Critical Effect Limit is changed to 5 from a cap of 12.
  • Energy Restoration Rules  are modified.
    • Energy is restored at a rate of 10 Energy per hour. A Tide of Battle Maneuver functions normally.
    • Energy is no longer restored to Maximum Energy after 5 hours or rest.
  • Martial Strength and Spell Potency is capped at a Base Value of 15 rather than 25.
Advanced Rules, Terms, and Condition Adjustments
  • The Teleport Effect has been removed.
  • The Rejuvenation Condition has been removed.
Villain Adjustments
  • All Villain Health is reduced by 50%.
  • Fodder and Minion Grade Villains with the Undead Creature Type suffer the Dying Condition when struck by an Ability with the Heal Ability Function.
  • All Elite and Boss Grade Villains should have their Battle Skills reduced by 1 per 5 Villain Levels. This should be calculated based on the level category baseline on tables 10-2 through 10-5. Adjust this general rule as required for the situation.
  • All Villain Damage and Healing modifiers are reduced by 50%.
  • All Elite and Boss Grad Villains have their CRIT reduced to “+2 plus 1 per 6 levels.”
  • Villain Onslaught Actions cause the Exhausted Condition if they are Champion or Physical Vanguards and the Weakened Condition if they are a Sentinel or Magical Vanguard. This should force them to use more Basic Attack Actions rather than the more powerful Onslaughts.



There you have it. If you apply these modifications to the overall architecture of your Unchained Heroes Campaign, you will be well on your way to playing in a gritty, low fantasy campaign setting. Mechanically, you should see players using Basic Attack actions a lot more, less healing being done, a greater impact from Trauma Damage, and an increase in the likelihood that fights will be more deadly.

Lastly, as with all rules and hacks, you can modify and change this as you see fit for your gaming group.

-Turk Zapt

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