Hearth & Blade Overview

Hearth & Blade is a campaign setting built using a modified version of the P6 Codex, created by Brian Habing. In turn, the P6 Codex is an implementation of Ryan Stoughton’s E6: The Game Inside the World’s Most Popular Roleplaying Game designed for Paizo’s Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

So, What Exactly Is “P6”?

Normally, characters in the Pathfinder (and most d20 RPGs) progress from level 1 to level 20 in a linear fashion. Ryan Dancey, and employee for both WOTC and Paizo, has suggested that this has resulted in four distinct quartiles of play:

Levels 1-5: Gritty fantasy
Levels 6-10: Heroic fantasy
Levels 11-15: Wuxia
Levels 16-20: Superheroes

P6 caps regular PC and NPC advancement at 6th level, after which point only feats are gained. This allows the game to focus on the gritty and heroic stages, and bypasses much of the bloat and number crunching the occurs at higher levels. Hearth & Blade uses P6 as a way to reinforce the setting’s low-magic, survivalist themes.

P6 can be seen as an off-shoot to the idea of having a lower level cap, as presented in the Gamemastering chapter of the Core Rulebook. However, instead of simply ending the campaign at 6th level, characters advance as normal through 6th level and then continue to earn feats after that point. A P6 character with many feats beyond 6th level is certainly more powerful than a 1st, 3rd, or even 5th level character, but they can not wade through armies of foes or fell a dragon with a single blow.

The Fundamental Rule

Upon reaching 6th level, characters cease normal advancement. Instead, for each 8,000 additional experience points received beyond 6th level, the character may select a new feat that they meet the prerequisites for. The list of feats available for this “epic advancement” is expanded to include both epic and signature feats, which are unavailable to characters who are below level 6. These feats are designed so that a character can approximate being 7th level after five epic advancement feats, and even have the opportunity to earn a power or ability that would typically have been earned at 8th level (or 9th, in some uncommon cases).

For purposes of encounter balancing and experience awards, characters with 5 epic advancement feats will generally be equivalent to 7th level, and those with 10 epic advancements will be roughly equivalent to 8th level. Depending on the optimization of the character class choices, individual feats chosen, and magic items acquired, these might be beneficially adjusted up or down for any particular encounter. Beyond ten epic advancements, additional feats still add to the character’s power, but the characters begin to fall behind in terms of hit points, base attack bonus, saves, available magic items, and spells. They will likely never approximate the raw combat capability of 9th level characters but may still be able to challenge even more powerful foes by less brute force means.

This fundamental rule has a large impact on Hearth & Blade’s world design. Spells for PCs and NPCs stop at 3rd level except for a few epic rituals, extremely powerful monsters are exceptionally rare if not absent, and magic items are vastly limited. In particular, there is almost no teleportation and the only way to return from the grave is as one of the undead. On the other hand, the lack of super-heroic powers gives a logical reason for castles and armies to still exist.

One way of envisioning the character levels is that a 1st level character is roughly equivalent to a journeyman craftsman – a squire just completing their training, a conscripted farmer just off their first tour of duty, or a wizard just finishing their apprenticeship. A 3rd level character is roughly equivalent to a master craftsman – well above the peasants, common laborers, and even craftsmen in most rural villages, but not uncommon in the towns and cities. Fifth level would include the renowned master craftsman – one who has achieved a rare height for their profession; they would only be found haphazardly in anything smaller than a city and be few in number for any given profession even in a larger city. Beyond 6th level, a character or NPC would be truly epic, the type about whom legends will be spun unless they work hard to hush them up.

Hearth & Blade Implementation

There are five guiding principles presented in Hearth & Blade:

A Focus On Core
95% of the content found in Hearth & Blade is presented in – or inspired by – the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. Although there are many new feat, class, and race options for players to explore, an emphasis was put on making the game playable using only the Pathfinder CRB and this website.

No Feat Taxes
Inspired by this articleHearth & Blade uses a revised feat tree that removes a great number of feat taxes that slow character progression. This change was implemented to allow characters to hit their builds a bit faster and to increase the overall enjoyment of low-level play. Additionally, there are a few new combat options that players can utilize without taking a feat.

Epic Feats
After progressing to 6th level, characters are able to gain access to epic and signature feats. Epic feats may only be purchased during epic advancement (and not as part of obtaining 6th level). They are often capabilities that would be obtainable by a 7th level character in Pathfinder. Signature feats are epic feats that impart a capability typically available for an 8th level character in Pathfinder (or in rare circumstances, 9th level). Each character may take one signature feat.

Low Magic
Access to spells above 3rd level is severely restricted in Hearth & Blade. Only casters who have taken epic ritual feats can do so, and only with increased casting times and at the cost of many memorized spells. Teleportation, resurrection, wishes, and many other potent magicks are notably absent in the world of Hearth & Blade.

No Crafting
Characters have no access to crafting of any sort in Hearth & Blade. Magical items are rare, and are generally only found during adventuring rather than bought in shops or created by PCs.

Setting Specific Content

Hearth & Blade features new and revised classes, races, feats, and equipment. Class, race, feat, and equipment content that is not presented on this website is unusable in the campaign setting. A few notable changes include:

All Pathfinder RPG races have been removed. All characters must pick a human lineage – presented under the “People” tab above – which grants traits and powers similar to a more traditional race selection.

Druids, Paladins, Wizards, Sorcerers, and Monks have been removed. In their places are Wardens, Crusaders, Mystics, and Delvers.

New weapon and armor lists replace those found in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook.

As mentioned above, the standard feat list in Hearth & Blade is slightly altered from the one found in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook.

Acknowledgements, Permissions, and Copyright

This web site uses trademarks and/or copyrights owned by Paizo Publishing, LLC, which are used under Paizo’s Community Use Policy. We are expressly prohibited from charging you to use or access this content. This web site is not published, endorsed, or specifically approved by Paizo Publishing. For more information about Paizo’s Community Use Policy, please visit paizo.com/communityuse. For more information about Paizo Publishing and Paizo products, please visit paizo.com

Pathfinder is a registered trademark of Paizo Publishing, LLC. Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is a trademark of Paizo Publishing, LLC.

Many thanks to Ryan Stoughton for the development of his E6: The Game Inside the World’s Most Popular Roleplaying Game, and Brian Habing for adapting the rule-set for Pathfinder in in P6 Codex. This site was not published, endorsed, or specifically approved by either party.

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System Reference Document. Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, based on material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.
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