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Heroes of Horror (3.5)


Heroes of Horror provides everything players and Dungeon Masters need to play and run a horror-oriented campaign or integrate elements of creepiness & tension into their existing campaigns.

Players can develop heroes or anti-heroes using new feats, new spells, new base classes and prestige classes, and new magic items. The book presents new mechanics for different types of horror, including rules for dread and tainted characters, as well as plenty of new horrific monsters and adventure seeds. Different types and genres of horror are discussed in detail.

This supplement focuses on running a horror themed D&D campaign.

It includes two new base classes, including the popular Dread Necromancer, several prestige classes, feats, spells, and magic items. Includes rules for Taint, Horror checks, and rules for making villains.

Product History

Heroes of Horror (2005), by James Wyatt, Ari Marmell, and C.A. Suleiman, is the second genre splatbook for D&D 3.5e. It was published in October 2005.

Continuing the 3e Line. With the advent of D&D 3.5e (2003), Wizards of the Coast began to published more GM-focused supplements. There were monster splats and terrains splats … and also a pair of genre splats. The short-lived Genre Series began with Heroes of Battle (2005), which talked about military campaigns; now it concluded several months later with Heroes of Horror, which provided both GM support and player crunch for horror-focused campaigns.

A History of Horror. Horror is deeply ingrained into the fabric of D&D. That comes from the dark, horror-tinged fantasy of the sword & sorcery genre, which was one of Gygax's strongest influences when creating D&D. It was probably the source of the many undead the infiltrated D&D from its earliest days — including originals like the lich. Classic villains like Acererak, Kas, and Vecna feel like horrific sword & sorcery antagonists as well.

However, D&D's best-known horror offering came from a different source. I6: "Ravenloft" (1983) instead focused on running D&D as a gothic horror game. It was followed by I10: "Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill" (1986) and then an entire gothic horror setting, Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990). Ravenloft went through two-and-a-half-editions over the next decade and supported approximately sixty supplements.

Other scattered horror books appeared in 2e days, including DMGR6: The Complete Book of Villains (1994) and DMGR7: The Complete Book of Villains (1995). The D&D horror genre was then reborn in the '00s when the generalized d20 system made it possible to support many different genres. Thus, Wizards released not only the Book of Vile Darkness (2002), which focused on evil in D&D, but also Call of Cthulhu (2002), a (somewhat) more modern look at horror. Meanwhile, White Wolf was updating Ravenloft with a complete line of their own (2001-2005).

Reimagining Horror. For D&D's newest look at horror, Heroes of Horror, Lead Designer James Wyatt moved away from the Gothic horror of Ravenloft and the modern horror of Call of Cthulhu. Instead, Heroes of Horror returns to D&D's sword & sorcery roots with its main influence being the weird writings of Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961).

To support this classic horror, Wyatt wanted characters to fear that evil "might corrupt them -- not just by luring them into evil deeds, but also by eating away their flesh or devouring their souls". Instead of presenting a world where innocents went insane, Wyatt instead went Medieval on insanity, describing a setting where evil people were mad … and mad people were evil.

Expanding D&D. D&D's biggest previous investigation of horror, Ravenloft, contained several horror-flavored rules including horror checks, fear checks, and the evil-focused powers check. Heroes of Horror covers much of the same ground, but in more nuanced ways.

Instead of a horror or fear check, Heroes of Horror contains a dread check. It models being scared as something more than the traditional either-or of shaken (a minor inconvenience) or frightened or panicked (out of the fight). Instead, dread creates a whole palette of possibilities, including dazed, shaken, fascinated, confused, and paralyzed.

Instead of a powers check, there's now taint, a mechanic that Wizards originated in Oriental Adventures (2001) and then generalized in Unearthed Arcana (2004). It expands on the idea of being frightened, creating additional repercussions of physical corruption and mental depravity.

Heroes of Horror also contains some short details on dreams and nightmares, harking back to Ravenloft's own dreaming rules in The Nightmare Lands (1995).

However, there's no sanity system in Heroes of Horror, even though D&D already had sanity rules in Call of Cthulhu and Unearthed Arcana. Wyatt felt that sanity didn't fit into D&D's medieval setting, because it presumed a scientific worldview that was being broken and because it depended on a very modern take of psychological disorder. (The taint system was probably a fine replacement.)

The Forgotten Heroes. Heroes of Horror includes two new classes.

  • The archivist, a studious cleric, is a very archetypical role that hadn't been seen much in D&D.
  • The (dread) necromancer had a much older pedigree. This sort of magic user appeared as a specialty starting with AD&D 2e (1989), but when TSR expanded the idea in "The Complete Book of Necromancers", it was intended for NPCs only! Heroes of Horror marked the first real opportunity for PCs to take on the role of a more fully-featured necromancer.

Monsters of Notes. Heroes of Horror includes a short chapter on monsters. It starts out with ideas for presenting archetypical monsters like Frankenstein and The Wolf-Man in D&D, then moves on to new critters Some are weird originals, like Wyatt's favorite, the corruption eater. Others are horror-flavored takes on classic creaturues, including tainted elementals, dusk giants, and cadaver golems.

About the Creators. Wyatt began writing for Wizards in 2001, working on core book such as Oriental Adventures (2001) and Deities and Demigods (2002). He'd soon be working on his biggest project ever, D&D 4e (2008).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

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December 9th, 2016
Bit of a niche title, but useful. There are a number of rules and guidelines that can be incorporated into non-horror campaigns at the DM's discretion such as dreamscapes, omens, and expanded rules on fear. One of the primary reasons to get this titl [...]
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