The Great Iron Heroes Hack

So, what is Iron Heroes? From the Malhavoc Press website:

Iron Heroes is a variant player's handbook in the tradition of Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed. This exciting new game of heroic combat action is for skilled heroes who have no need for magic swords or arcane trinkets. Armed with their cunning, talent and unmatched bravery, they wade sword-first into a savage world of high adventure.

Leaving aside the sell-job stuff, IH is basically a variant d20 system that introduces new mechanics and rules concepts that allow you to dispense with the usual high-magic trappings of D&D, while retaining the high-powered, wahoo feel of that game. More importantly, it's also an opportunity for me once again to indulge my gearhead nature, which hasn't had an outlet since I stopped playing D&D.

IH is great if you're a gearhead. Mike Mearls, principal IH developer, has admitted that its release was rushed (leaving for a job with WotC will do that to your schedule), so the classes, feats and other mechanics often leave something to be desired in terms of balance and general polish. That's not to say the game isn't playable right out of the box, but if you like to change things around in the quest for perfection, it offers boundless opportunities for tweaking and hacking.

Thus I've embarked on the Great Iron Heroes Hack. Here you'll find tweaks to chargen and other rules elements: classes, feats, maybe traits and skills if I get around to it. By and large I've tried to work within the structures laid out in the book; thus classes (usually) keep their basic class progression, but the specific abilities may be modified. Sometimes I'll introduce new abilities if I feel the class merits it, or change feats into class abilities, or vice-versa. Thanks to everyone on the various boards who took the time to critique these. All of this is released as open content under the OGL.

In the best traditions of open source, everything here is in a constant state of flux. If you believe you've found a problem, please don't hesitate to tell me about it; I'll have a look, and if I agree, a fix will be posted (with due credit given). The emphasis is on correctness, not stability. (And besides, this is a game that's only been out since August 2005 and has a player base a fraction of D&D's size. If you're worried about legacy issues now, heaven help you if/when IH actually becomes popular.)

Needless to say, much of this page will be meaningless if you don't already play Iron Heroes. But if you don't play IH, what are you doing here anyway? Go here or something.

Latest update (23 June 2006): Minor tidying up here and there. Some bugfixes to the hacked chargen worksheet, now at v0.83.3.


Here are the changes I've made to the base Iron Heroes classes so far. Design notes are scattered throughout the text; click on the little buttons to reveal them. You know you want to.

I've generally made the feats and class abilities more closely related, tidied up loose wording of abilities, and boosted token-based abilities compared to the stock tactic of using Rapid Shot each round. See the archery feats below as well.
A new scheme for gaining armor tokens (I consider the current one to be conceptually flawed), and streamlining of the armor abilities. I don't want to have to remember multiple different use actions and criteria. See the armor feats below as well.
Biggest change is a radically revised token scheme that now encompasses sneak attack damage. Among other things, the idea is to give the token pool a bigger part to play, and emphasise the distinct combat style of the class.
Now gets fixed attack and defense bonuses, instead of working off squares moved. See the design notes for reasons why. Also gets bonus feats and is generally tidied up. And since harriers seem to be annoyingly hard to kill, I've added some suggestions at the end on how to fight them.
A significant change all round. Sneak attack works off tokens to be consistent with the executioner, plus instead of a fixed progression I've given it customisable abilities like the archer and weapon master.
Weapon Master
Another significant change. No more tokens (see notes), and weapon abilities have individualised feat prerequisites. Instead of encouraging any particular playstyle (which is what tokens tend to do), I'd rather let the player decide how they want to express the concept of being a master of a weapon.
Murderous assassin
A villain class designed to represent more stealthy opponents than champions or demonic brutes. Hits hard, but lacks staying power.
Revised rules for multiclassed base defense and feat masteries.


Still not much here so far, but I'm working on it.

Skill revisions
Skill uses: negate defense, battlefield challenge.


Here are the changes I've made to the feats in Iron Heroes so far.

Archery feat chains
Far Shot, Manyshot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Shot on the Run.
Armor feat chains
Armor Mastery, Shield Mastery.
Defensive feats I
Combat Expertise, Dodge the parrying and dodging chains.
Defensive feats II
Combat Reflexes, Mobility the movement-related chains.
Offensive feats I
Improved Feint, Weapon Finesse some of the finesse-related chains.
Offensive feats II
Foe Hammer, Power Attack making the big hits.
Miscellaneous feats
Champion of Battle stuff that doesn't (yet) go anywhere else.


I made an Excel worksheet to assist in character generation. Now (as of June 2006) it's been split into two versions. The first uses the standard rules in the book; the second uses all the hacks and revisions on this site. I'm probably making a nightmare for myself maintenance-wise, but what the heck.

Assorted house rules

IH-related links

Change log

Mail me

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