What good is the Hero System?

edited April 2012 in Story Games
I got inspired by David Artman in a prior thread to dig up the Hero System 5th edition rulebook from the stacks. I've read it and earlier Champions books over the years, but never played it. Now I'm curious about your thoughts as to what this game is good for.

Because this is the Internet, I'll use an extra paragraph to clarify that I don't do passive-aggressive bullshit: the above question is genuine, I'd really like to hear if anybody has experiences with the system and what it does well. I'm myself mostly puzzled by much of the game text - the mechanical complexity is a non-issue, but I'm struggling to discover what is appealing about the game in comparison to others. I can sort of almost see intriguing possibilities in creating really out-there character concepts and playing them, but then the system doesn't quite get me anywhere after the chargen, at least as far as I can see. I'd like to hear from people who've played imaginatively fresh and exciting games with this system, to get a sense for the style and emphasis of successful play. If you've got e.g. links to inspiring and instructive actual play reports, I'd like to read up on how the game is being used in practice.

By coincidence I read the "Champions Universe" setting book a while back, as well as the "PS238" setting book, both for the Hero System. Both are superhero settings, and both books felt pretty pointless to me off-hand. This is to be expected of a licensed property like PS238 - those books are always just endless stat blocks for the licensed characters. However, the Champions Universe book surprised me in that apparently it's a pretty recent tailor-made setting for Hero System, specifically built to highlight the game's possibilities. Perhaps I'm not getting the literary qualities, as I did not see many interesting ideas or any over-arcing themes in it; it was just a big mishmash of superhero cliches. I've never thought that I didn't "get" superheroes as a genre, but perhaps I'm just not enough into it to appreciate this stuff?

Regarding the rules system itself, it is largely as I remember it. Here's the broad strokes, and I appreciate it if any expert wants to correct my understanding:
  • The Big Promise of the game is that it can tally up the advantages and disadvantages of individual player character concepts in terms of GM-directed adventure roleplaying and realize any two character concepts in a mechanically "balanced" way. Thus you can allow players to make "any character they want" without having to worry about GM-fiat needed to maintain the fun.
  • The concept of balance as advocated by the game pertains to the idea of adventure roleplaying: the game is going to be about GM-created adventures that the player characters participate in, attempting to e.g. foil the plans of a supercriminal by cleverly using the strengths of their own characters to their advantage. We need player characters to be balanced in terms of operative strengths (particularly tactical fighting strength) because the plot arcs are going to involve a lot of fighting, and all player characters should be able to "contribute". (I'm misusing the quotation marks all the time because I'm not quite sold on this traditional rpg theory myself - for certain types of rpg composition these are solutions in search of problems.)
  • A big part of character creation is the development of disadvantages for your own character. You get extra points for purchasing powers for the character by taking on disadvantages: the basic presumption is that the "best" character is one who has nothing or no-one weighting him down, a particular sort of superman. Here it is important for the creative work to understand that the best character you can make is actually one where you yourself accept and embrace the "disadvantages" of your character; by choosing them well you can end up with a whole bunch of character-building points essentially for "free", by taking on disadvantages that represent the way you honestly were planning to play anyway. For example, if you really want to play a vampire character, speaking of the fiction of the game, then you won't mind that your character'll be fucked up by sunlight, which is something that would give you extra points for other things. After all, that's what being a vampire is about!
There are many things I don't think I understand here, though. They're not mechanical things, but rather fundamental matters of creative agenda - what this game is for. For instance, to give an idea of what is confusing me:
  • The effect-focused rules take great care in ensuring that the guy who punches hard pays the same number of character building points for his punch as the laser-beam guy pays for an equivalently strong laser-beam, but there is very little benchmarking here to tell me what these numbers mean. Is, like, 5d6 damage a lot in comparison to something real or fictional? Given a setting, how strong should something in that setting be in Hero System terms? HeroQuest does a lot of similar things, but in that (the earlier editions, anyway) I have very clear guidelines of what level of power e.g. "2nd level mastery" represents in the fiction. How do I decide how many dice worth of energy blasting my character should have? Should I just look at what the other players are making and build off that, or what? Should I play a few sessions to find out that the X number of dice I bought is too much or too little for what I had in mind?
  • Does the GM cheat on the dice or scene framing to railroad an adventure's plot towards his preferred conclusion? The game text is totally focused on this monolithic vision where it's already assumed that I know what I'm going to do with these detailed player character builds the system enables. I don't know, though, as I haven't played the game and don't know what it's good for. Should the GM set up villainous characters with the same build points the PCs get and then possibly have battles to the death with no fudging? Or is the messing with build points for the benefit of the players, and the GM should have a plot ready (informed by the disadvantages and such of the PCs, of course) to execute with the necessary amount of fudging? Or should I prep a campaign setting with benchmarking (see the above point) and then just let the PCs run around and encounter whatever, whether stronger or weaker than them?
  • I don't want to get into a GNS argument with anybody who isn't comfortable with the Big Model, but if you know your stuff, feel free to tell me about the creative agenda possibilities here in technical terms. I can sort of see a potential for snowflake simulationism (that is, a game where the joy is in creating and expressing a detailed player character), but what role does the Big Promise of the game serve in that - what use do I have for balance between characters? On the other hand, I can see a whiff of physical simulation where the joy is in finding out whether the Hulk or Thor wins in a fistfight, but... the physics and especially the benchmarking is so arbitrary, you know, so how do I know whether a hand grenade should do 4 dice or 5 dice or however many dice of damage?
I'm still in the process of reading the 5th edition book through, and I might read "Fantasy Hero" next in my spare time reading slot, so maybe a vision solidifies at some point. Right now, though, I'm mostly confused by this stuff. Clearly the Big Promise has seen a huge amount of work put to it, but I'm uncertain about what type of game I should imagine myself playing with this. What do I do with the fact that all the player characters are fairly balanced in terms of how hard they punch? Run a tournament circuit?

I'll close by saying that the most inspiration I've had for the game so far has been that it might be interesting to develop some entirely off-the-wall custom superhero campaign set in a world where the player characters are the first public superheroes. Something relatively gritty in social terms, without a lot of genre veneer. Probably low-ish point buys, and most importantly, weird '80s characters with somewhat elaborate background mythology and their own advance-planned friends and foes. For example, I'd see the Super Trucker, one of my favourite lame superheroes, as appropriate here. (I especially like the idea that this peculiar hero has his own villain in Highwayman, the man who sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for a demon-infested truck. It's like this truck insanity steals over what was supposed to be a sane story.) Perhaps we could spend a session or two developing the character backgrounds and counting build points, after which the game could be played along the lines of Sorcerer or such vanilla narrativistic games? I've no idea if this is even in the ballpark of what the Hero System does, it's just what's been swimming in my head while reading through the endless power-lists. I'm not even sure if I'd be seriously rooting for the Super Trucker to triumph against anything, or if I just want to laugh at weird superhero concepts. Also, maybe this would work better with the entire hero team built on the same theme with each other instead of each individual having their own brand of weirdness to contribute. Monomyth, as it were.
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Comments

  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenPerhaps I'm not getting the literary qualities, as I did not see many interesting ideas or any over-arcing themes in it; it was just a big mishmash of superhero cliches. I've never thought that I didn't "get" superheroes as a genre, but perhaps I'm just not enough into it to appreciate this stuff?
    This, exactly. Champions makes much more sense if you're a superheroes fan, especially if you were a superheroes fan between the ages of 13 and 20.

    Champions' system only makes sense in light of the idea that it imagines that superheroes are real, and then goes into excruciating detail on their capabilities. This is something that comic book fans have done forever. I did it for a while - arguing over who would win between two characters is the quintessential example. It approaches comics not as a medium and comic book characters not as characters, but as a set of capabilities that can be deployed by the creator/player.

    Detailed pastiches like Champions Universe, Freedom City, Watchguard, and so on, are meant to "give players permission" to fuck with the setting and characters. Again, a common outcry of the comic book fan is "Character B just wouldn't do that" (this is why continuity is killing comics, but that's a rant for another time). So instead of Reed Richards, you have a Reed Richards-a-like who has a similar position in a different fictional universe. Not to mention the licensing element.
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenThe Big Promise of the game is that it can tally up the advantages and disadvantages of individual player character concepts in terms of GM-directed adventure roleplaying and realize any two character concepts in a mechanically "balanced" way. Thus you can allow players to make "any character they want" without having to worry about GM-fiat needed to maintain the fun.
    This seems pretty close, though the advice sections I've seen definitely acknowledges that you can make unbalanced characters in the game if you're more skilled than your friends. Really the point values are meant so that you can express your character's capabilities in excruciating detail - not necessarily so that your character and your friend's will be balanced in some way.
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenHere it is important for the creative work to understand that the best character you can make is actually one where you yourself accept and embrace the "disadvantages" of your character; by choosing them well you can end up with a whole bunch of character-building points essentially for "free", by taking on disadvantages that represent the way you honestly were planning to play anyway. For example, if you really want to play a vampire character, speaking of the fiction of the game, then you won't mind that your character'll be fucked up by sunlight, which is something that would give you extra points for other things. After all, that's what being a vampire is about!
    This is true - though it also has the weakness that if you give the character flaws that you are confident will never enter the game, you get those points for free. The game does warn about this...but it really has to. This is the central source of imbalanced character design (as you identify balance above).
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenIs, like, 5d6 damage a lot in comparison to something real or fictional?
    There should be a section for mundane weapons and effects that tell you approximately how much damage things like a policeman's gun do and what an average person can take, etc.
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenDoes the GM cheat on the dice or scene framing to railroad an adventure's plot towards his preferred conclusion? The game text is totally focused on this monolithic vision where it's already assumed that I know what I'm going to do with these detailed player character builds the system enables. I don't know, though, as I haven't played the game and don't know what it's good for. Should the GM set up villainous characters with the same build points the PCs get and then possibly have battles to the death with no fudging? Or is the messing with build points for the benefit of the players, and the GM should have a plot ready (informed by the disadvantages and such of the PCs, of course) to execute with the necessary amount of fudging? Or should I prep a campaign setting with benchmarking (see the above point) and then just let the PCs run around and encounter whatever, whether stronger or weaker than them?
    This procedural GM advice is pretty weak, as I recall. All of these things seem feasible to me, except maybe battles to the death, because death is pretty rare. Also, you don't really need to railroad in a supers game to reach a superhero-like outcome because once you've got the buy-in to "normal" superheroes, the chances that players will ignore a bank robbery or even a house fire are zero. It's basically the entire concept of the game.
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenI can sort of see a potential for snowflake simulationism (that is, a game where the joy is in creating and expressing a detailed player character), but what role does the Big Promise of the game serve in that - what use do I have for balance between characters? On the other hand, I can see a whiff of physical simulation where the joy is in finding out whether the Hulk or Thor wins in a fistfight, but... the physics and especially the benchmarking is so arbitrary, you know, so how do I know whether a hand grenade should do 4 dice or 5 dice or however many dice of damage?
    Both of these are right (though as you know I think the simulationism category is garbage) - you don't need precise balance between the characters so long as everyone gets to use the very-detailed capabilities they designed, and the benchmarking/physics stuff is in there, you just need to keep reading.
    Posted By: Eero Tuovinen. I'm not even sure if I'd be seriously rooting for the Super Trucker to triumph against anything, or if I just want to laugh at weird superhero concepts. Also, maybe this would work better with the entire hero team built on the same theme with each other instead of each individual having their own brand of weirdness to contribute. Monomyth, as it were.
    It does help with character design when you have a limited number of origins, yes. This is why despite the ridiculous breadth of shit in the Marvel universe, every Marvel RPG has a section where it says "there are really only 4 kinds of heroes" or whatever.

    A weird/goofy superhero universe has plenty of material out there for it. But if you're not that interested in superheroes, then don't do it.
  • edited April 2012
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenI got inspired by David Artman in a prior thread to dig up the Hero System 5th edition rulebook from the stacks. I've read it and earlier Champions books over the years, but never played it. Now I'm curious about your thoughts as to what this game is good for.
    Back in my Champions days, I was part of two different gaming groups and each had their own style of play. In the first group, each player had a huge portfolio of characters and villains (in the 30 to 60 range, really.) and we had round robin GMing. So, we'd have comic book sized adventures that lasted two or three sessions and it was about being the Fantastic Four or the Justice Society. We were all huge comic book nerds and totally loved that. The second group was almost the polar opposite, 8-10 players at the local gaming/comicbook store each with one unique character that was part of a single super team. I was the omly GM in a very sandbox campaign with weekly newsletters, a continous campaign, and long tail consequences for charaacter action (and in-action if they failed to follow up on some leads in the newsletter.) Both were tremendously fun games.

    Now, this was back before they 'GURPified' the universe. We never seriously put any effort into playing the other Hero system games. Similarly, I don't own any GURPS rules except for the OGRE sourcebook because I'm a fan boy. So, I really can't say much about the bullet stopping system books that came out later.
    --
    TAZ
  • Posted By: JDCorleyThis, exactly. Champions makes much more sense if you're a superheroes fan, especially if you were a superheroes fan between the ages of 13 and 20.
    Well... I'm pretty into it, relative to your average hobbyist. Been since my childhood in the '80s. But could be that we're not hardcore enough here in Finland. Hearing the way many American comics hobbyists talk about it, superheroes are almost a way of life. In comparison, I'm into it enough to have read thousands of issues of the various big brand superhero comics, but not enough to e.g. discourse upon this stuff in polite company (unless asked), or enough to remember ever having speculated about the lives of the comics characters outside the stories.

    Considering the vicarious thrill of setting up a match between Superman and the Hulk to see "who would win", how do you benchmark this stuff? I might be too adult or too into creating stories myself, as it seems difficult to me to do any meaningful modeling of superheroes in a physics-based system. In the comics these guys always punch hard enough to suit the story, within the rough categories of special effects and concept. If you want a story that's about the Thing as an underdog against the might of the Hulk, then you establish early on in the story that this is how we're playing things this time around so the audience can keep up. Do you just need to hash the numbers out among the group in detail so that your respective visions of how the individual heroes work match the numbers?

    I mean, I think I get the idea that it would be interesting to set up your superhero world based on physics mechanics and then allow unexpected events to unfold. There just doesn't seem to be a lot of procedure for that, so I'm a bit at sea as to how one would go about it in practice. For example, would it be any good if I started by statting up your average Atlantean warrior (as in, undersea civilization that is capable of providing a pulp-style large-scale threat to surface civilization) and then used him to stat up some aliens, etc. until I had enough of a crunch landscape to compare characters to? I can sort of imagine how putting more or less points into individual powers in character creation would acquire meaning once I had enough of a setting statted up that I could say that having strength at X makes your character the equal of an Atlantean, while at Y he's at the level of your typical government killbot. Seems like this would be possible if the GM worked very hard on it, I suppose. Meanwhile I'm somewhat bewildered by how I'm supposed to choose whether my laser beam should have 4 or 5 or 6 or however many dice of attack value.

    Perhaps I might explain what seems to be lacking by comparing the system to something very similar that I'm familiar with: Solar System from The Shadow of Yesterday is technically a point-buy system, and it flirts with the sort of effect-based design Hero System embraces. However, while TSoY enables you to build your character out of pretty abstract pieces, it emphasizes the ties those building blocks have to the fiction very strongly. For example, if you were statting up Adamantium weapons in the two systems, in the Solar System you would first define an "Adamantium" quality and then buy that for things, and whether Adamantium proves to be strong or weak or whatever all depends on the unexpected, semi-chaotic interactions within your crunch landscape; Adamantium is what it is, and whether that is enough will be seen in play. In the Hero System, in comparison, there is no such thing as "Adamantium"; Adamantium is just special effects that you name-drop to explain why you have a big number on your armor plating or whatever it is. I get why TSoY insists on these fictional ties, as it gives meaning to the numbers you use when you can say that this conflict here will "truly" (in the context of our campaign) show whether Adamantium is greater than Vibranium. What I don't get is how the numbers in the Hero System gain meaning, as anything that happens in the fiction is just going to be vague special effects. It looks like the system never mans up and decides what "Adamantium" means. (And here I of course don't mean that the system would need to man up - what I mean is, I'm not seeing a procedure wherein the play group produces these sorts of factual points of contact where the fiction and the mechanics touch each other in concrete ways. So I guess that it's the GM who is apparently never going to man up and commit to Adamantium being X points worth of armor.)

    To be fair, Strength as an attribute specifically does have some pretty good concrete benchmarks, I noticed a table that charted Strength scores vs. how much a character could lift in real terms. But then I've also come across a lot of stuff like e.g. handcuffs that have however many dice of Entangle effect to them, and I'm left to wonder whether those numbers were set from the viewpoint of benchmark realism, or did the example-writer just decide how many points he wanted the handcuffs to cost and gave them however many points of Entangle that would buy. In places the game seems to be all about putting realistic numbers on your fiction, but at other places it's very clear about a narrative logic being at work: your character's equipment will only be as useful as you pay for, and you're expected to explain for yourself why it might fall short of what might be expected of it. It's all sort of confusing, perhaps because I've yet to come across any great mission statement on what the process of play is supposed to look like once you've created these characters.

    Anyway, you have a good point about the importance of buy-in to the genre. I've done some superhero gaming (Capes, homebrews, etc.) and it's basically going to work only insofar as the players commit to maintaining the genre. Not that difficult from any other genre I guess, although there are games that enforce their genre in more subtle ways (like say D&D). So I get that part. What I'm left to wonder about is whether there is some purpose of play that Hero System is especially suited for. If a passionate advocate of the system wanted to suggest me something to try out with it, what would it be? Or is this one of those things where you need to feel the need inside you and let your own inspiration guide you into doing whatever?

    I'm sure that the above seems really confused, I'm trying to explain the impressions the game text leaves me with. I'll read some more, to be sure; I think there's a GMing section in the back somewhere, and I remember nothing about that from my last read-through many years ago.
  • Oh, also! I don't say it above, but I do obviously get that this is a traditional game text that doesn't really prescribe in very exact terms how the game should be played. So I'm not expecting miracles in that regard, it's a given that the game's authors and publishers all think that the game is an universal tool that suits any purpose whatsoever I might have. More like, I'm interested in hearing how people like Todd here have used the game. Ultimately you can figure out what a game is good for from the aggregate of what people usually do with it, especially in environments where players switch games easily when something better for their purposes comes along. Also, somebody here might have a grand Theory about what Hero does so well that I totally should try it out. Bonus points for advicing a bit on how to practically achieve it, too, of course ;)

    I don't expect an actual mother-lode, but sometimes I get amazing flashes of insight by delving deeply into the mindsets and styles of play involved in various games. I'm reminded of how I grogged Tunnels & Trolls several years back from reading actual play reports, for example.

    Todd, if you don't mind: do you remember how challenge-focused your play was in your Champions campaigns? Were the players trying to win, or was it more like seeing whether our characters would win, this time? Did the GM's fudge with the rules, and in what ways? Was it very important for everybody's characters to be built on the same number of points, were there arguments about the validity of the various points-saving tricks?
  • I have no input of my own, but Joel Rojas advocated for Hero System on the Canon Puncture podcast. Might have something in there for you.

    http://www.canonpuncture.com/?p=1919
  • My Hero System experience is limited--broad but not deep. It's a system I want to like, and want to play more of, having played a handful of games from the Hero System stables: Champions, Fantasy Hero, Star Hero, Horror Hero, Danger International, Super Agents, Dark Champions, etc, etc...
    What I like about Champions--and thus what it's good for to me--is building superheroes and then putting those heroes through their paces in solving typical comic book challenges: a little bit of investigation and lots of fighting. As a player, I've actually never cared about the 'balance' between characters--I'm not good at optimizing my builds. Although the points spent may be the same, different allocations between abilities, skills, and powers create gaps in capabilities depending on the situation. I like how this creates the potential for a team approach, at the risk though of sidelining some characters in different phases of an adventure.
    As a GM for Champions, I don't usually limit villains to the starting point levels for player characters. They will have whatever points are necessary to make them flexible and versatile, and to make them consistent with whatever crime or plot they are supposed to be planning. They will, however, generally remain within the active offense and active defense points range set for the campaign. This is how, as a player, one would know if a 5d6 attack is a lot or a little--if offenses should be in the 40-60 active point range, then a 5d6 blast (at 25 pts) would be a little weak. But that might be ok if the player's concept is in line with it. After all, a typical Normal might have 5 BODY and 10 STUN, with 2 Physical Defense. So a 5d6 attack will most likely knock out or even kill an average person with one hit.
    Champions combat is intriguing to me because of the potential interaction of the various stats, abilities, and powers. High Speed has to be matched with Endurance, or the character will tire out quickly; a high defensive combat value may allow risk in lowering armor and defense scores. Part of the fun is figuring out what limitations the villains possess in order to defeat them.
    On Disadvantages (called 'Complications' in Hero 6E), they actually have to be disadvantageous. A vampire who never goes out in daylight (or who never suffers in some way through not going out) would get 0 points from that Complication. So they're definitely part of how the player was planning to play the character, but their impact in play should make things difficult. In play, some of them can be the hooks for the story. For example, a PC's Hunted is actually the main villain; or the PC's Dependent NPC is the main victim of a crime. In these cases, the Complication really isn't making things more complicated! But they are useful hooks and flags in any case, even though they really were 'free'.
    I find that, as much as I like Champions, I prefer the lower powered Hero System genres (Fantasy Hero, Star Hero, etc.). Things are a lot simpler! Champions has away of turning everything into a writeup (Flashlight: Sight Group Images +4 to Perception, Area of Effect 1m...27 active points...). I just want a flashlight!
    One last point--my experience with Champions predates other superhero games except Villains & Vigilantes. So, at the time, Champions was definitely the best superhero RPG. Now, it would have to go up against Mutants & Masterminds, Capes, Icons, Marvel Heroic, etc. The reason I would pick Champions to play a superhero campaign now would be to focus on set-piece battles using miniatures and maps--giving me an excuse to paint more miniatures. It would be several layers of detail deeper than playing HeroClix, but still similar. For a game more focused on Responsibility rather then Power, I'd likely play something else.
  • edited April 2012
    Posted By: Eero Tuovinen.... More like, I'm interested in hearing how people like Todd here have used the game...how challenge-focused your play was in your Champions campaigns? Were the players trying to win, or was it more like seeing whether our characters would win, this time? Did the GM's fudge with the rules, and in what ways?
    As a GM, my Champions games were very 'sandboxy' I suppose. Story arcs started with newspaper headlines about multiple crises, and play was about whichever headline the players chose to investigate. I admit it was very formulaic: investigate the villain, fight the villain (and usually lose); figure out the villain's weaknesses, fight and defeat the villain. Rinse and repeat. Combat was played out on a grid with miniatures and scenery because everything is about knockback, turn rates, areas of effect, bystanders, etc. I did not fudge the rules; I tried as hard as I could to win the fight with the villain as written, and usually could win the first fight or end it on the villain's terms through the risk to the innocent. A sequence I well remember is defeating a powerful Brick type hero with an acrobatic flyer (Harpy, of course) through a series of Move By attacks at a riverside running trail. Those were the days! The Brick won the second round, though, by forcing Harpy to fight in confined spaces. She had a Disadvantage related to collecting shiny things or something like that.
  • Posted By: Ludantohttp://www.canonpuncture.com/?p=1919
    Hah, excellent! Here's what I got out of that as the main points:
    • Effect first, Hero is all about it: what strength it has, that's the basis. You can narrate your character trick-shooting things, but if the effect is actually telekinesis (perfect, non-lethal manipulation at distance), then that's how you stat it up. The color of shooting with guns won't affect anything unless it's been pre-constructed into the mechanical representation.
    • The players have authorial power through creating their characters: you choose how to spend your points, and you can spend them in ways that impact the setting powerfully.
    • The system of the game has remained consistent over the decades; different editions have been fine-tuning, not entirely new games.
    The effect-based philosophy is a tough thing to swallow for me personally, creatively. It occurs to me that it's going to be the most useful for you if you have this pent up need to express specific things in your play. This is the opposite of being open-minded and adaptative to whatever is up. Hero is clearly not about accepting that this is how firearms work in this game, let's see what this comes to mean for the game-world. Rather, I need to have a passion for showing the other players how this is the way I think fire-arms should work, and my character has the coolest fire-arms around.
    Posted By: Mel WhiteChampions combat is intriguing to me because of the potential interaction of the various stats, abilities, and powers. High Speed has to be matched with Endurance, or the character will tire out quickly; a high defensive combat value may allow risk in lowering armor and defense scores. Part of the fun is figuring out what limitations the villains possess in order to defeat them.
    Posted By: Mel WhiteThe reason I would pick Champions to play a superhero campaign now would be to focus on set-piece battles using miniatures and maps--giving me an excuse to paint more miniatures.
    Good stuff, Mel. This game is really pretty combat-focused, isn't it? (You need to remember that I've never seen it being actually played - not a common game here in Finland by any stretch of imagination.)

    So what I should actually be doing here is to focus on figuring out and appreciating the combat system, which is the basis upon which the chargen builds. Sort of like 3rd edition D&D, which is really about maneuvering into the next combat, with the non-combat abilities of the characters as afterthoughts.
    Posted By: Mel WhiteOn Disadvantages (called 'Complications' in Hero 6E), they actually have to be disadvantageous. A vampire who never goes out in daylight (or who never suffers in some way through not going out) would get 0 points from that Complication. So they're definitely part of how the player was planning to play the character, but their impact in play should make things difficult.
    Well said, except of course that things being "difficult" for the player characters is also part of the ideological underpinnings here. This whole system of balance seems like it'll only feel important to you if the players identify strongly with their characters and are constantly trying to beat somebody in power. If you view play in this way, then you can say that a disadvantage is a "difficulty" for this player who would otherwise have his character always act in a perfectly inhuman manner. I can well imagine how a smart player will only ever take disadvantages that imply events they wouldn't mind their character going through.

    I mean, in what drama-oriented game would you think that having a conscience is a disadvantage :D

    Of course, the interesting question is, which way am I supposed to think of this? Should I try to pick disadvantages that I'm happy to play along with, or disadvantages that I think the GM will have great difficulty using against me? Or should I be a good sport and pick disadvantages that are easy to use against me, even if I wouldn't want them, so that taking them is a painful choice between my ideal character and the sweet build points I get for it? What am I supposed to be trying to do here, when creating a character?
  • I played in a Champions game that lasted close to a decade, and it was tremendous fun at the time. It's basically the opposite of a modern Story Game, and the real appeal of it lies with certain gamers who came of age in the comics culture of the 80's, I think.

    A couple of points I haven't seen mentioned: it's one of those games that's played by a lot of people who don't otherwise consider themselves 'role-players' because of the comics connection. The strong grounding in a specific mileu of 4-color superhero stories is very appealing to the kind of comics fans mentioned above.

    One other thing about it that really seems to capture some gamers' fancy is the tremendous agency that the constant micro-management of PCs, aided by an insidiously incremental xp system, affords players who find that appealing. The joke among Champions fans is that it's the only game you can't possibly create a PC for without a separate computer program, and we love it that way. I spent at was as much time back in my 20s tweaking PCs, trying out builds, and mashing up Villain powers sets in Hero Builder as I did playing.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenDo you just need to hash the numbers out among the group in detail so that your respective visions of how the individual heroes work match the numbers?
    Yes, exactly. That's why the numbers are so detailed. So you can say, well, this guy has X amount of accuracy but Y amount of impact, and argue over that, and eventually reach some kind of conclusion.
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenThe effect-based philosophy is a tough thing to swallow for me personally, creatively. It occurs to me that it's going to be the most useful for you if you have this pent up need to express specific things in your play. This is the opposite of being open-minded and adaptative to whatever is up. Hero is clearly not about accepting that this is how firearms work in this game, let's see what this comes to mean for the game-world. Rather, I need to have a passion for showing the other players how this is the way I think fire-arms should work, and my character has the coolest fire-arms around.
    I agree, this is a great insight, and I think really addresses your benchmark question better than I did.
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenShould I try to pick disadvantages that I'm happy to play along with, or disadvantages that I think the GM will have great difficulty using against me? Or should I be a good sport and pick disadvantages that are easy to use against me, even if I wouldn't want them, so that taking them is a painful choice between my ideal character and the sweet build points I get for it? What am I supposed to be trying to do here, when creating a character?
    This is what I identify as the main weakness of Hero - it's only slightly less in GURPS where it's pretty clear that you are supposed to pick disadvantages based on a vision for the character and their place in the setting. Like, you take "weakness to sun" not because it'll give you points, but because it fits your vision of the character. When you start from the points, it's really easy to go the wrong way.
  • Posted By: Eero Tuovinen

    Of course, the interesting question is, which way am I supposed to think of this? Should I try to pick disadvantages that I'm happy to play along with, or disadvantages that I think the GM will have great difficulty using against me? Or should I be a good sport and pick disadvantages that are easy to use against me, even if I wouldn't want them, so that taking them is a painful choice between my ideal character and the sweet build points I get for it? What am I supposed to be trying to do here, when creating a character?
    I dread Disadvantages. Some are not a big deal--as you mentioned, they reflect the way I would play the character--such as 'Code Against Killing'. It's a disadvantage because it means the villain will always survive to fight another day, even if he has to break out of the superpen to do it. Some are simply standard for the genre--Dependents, Vulnerabilities--Lois Lane and kryptonite stand ins. Even the Psychological Limitations are bearable--they are roleplaying guides: Patriot, overconfident, showoff, etc.
    The 'problem' with Disadvantages is that there are only so many you can take of each type, so eventually you have to start taking ones that are actually disadvantageous [if you max them out]. Hunted--I do not like this because I hate the idea of being in a fair fight, or to have even a weaker Hunter show up while I am in the middle of fighting someone else. It only has to happen once for the Disad to be legitimate! Secret Identity--you've probably read the Daredevil stories when Matt Murdoch gets outed--it ruins his life. You know some GM is just waiting to pull that. Enraged--not good for a team player. Dependence--just seems too risky! Etc.

    Primarily, the Disads should match the character concept. A vampire has some classic limitations. But for other characters, the disadvantages are broader. They should be roleplaying guides, genre staples, and flags for the GM about the types of game you want to play, the people in it, and the campaign world you want to be in. For example, a blue-skinned aquatic human may be a Distinctive Feature, or it may be a Social Complication: Minority. That tells us a lot about the campaign world.

    Plus, you don't have to take all the Disads; perhaps your'e not Famous (10 points) after all. No paparazzi for you!

    If I were GMing, I would want the players to take Disads in order to do one or more things: add to the campaign world (Hunteds, Dependents, Rivals--because all these are characters or organizations that need to be written up; a particularly useful disad is Hunted (Only Watching) to simulate a character belonging to some powerful organization, especially tied to the Social Complication or Psych Lim 'Subject to Orders' for the purposes of hooking the character into a storyline); create story flags (Psych Lims (avenge my brother; defeat the Hand)), flesh out the hero (social complications, vulnerabilities, susceptibilities, distinctive features). The points earned from the Disad will help me figure out whether or not it matters in a particular session, or if I should build a story arc around the Disad. Some Disads will get bought off with experience points, although more likely the points will be spent on more powers!
  • This thread is near and dear to my heart. I've played every edition of HERO/Champions save for 3rd and 6th, and I've been in multiple, multi-year campaigns. Champions was the first supers RPG I ever encountered, back when 1st edition was new and weird. I've also gotten into a pretty involved discussion of the system with Ron Edwards and Storn Cook over on the Forge. I really enjoy Ron's insights into HERO.

    Ergo, a barrage of responses from me to the posts so far is forthcoming.

    As for the question posed by the thread's topic... Eero, any investigation you do into HERO should be seen as an academic exercise in exploring the roots of the hobby. IMO, HERO really serves no particular purpose any more. That said, it is second only to D&D in its impact on the hobby, and is well worth examining.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenHowever, the Champions Universe book surprised me in that apparently it's a pretty recent tailor-made setting for Hero System, specifically built to highlight the game's possibilities
    The Champions setting is something that has accreted over the course of decades, having essentially begun as the world surrounding various characters that have been with the game since the beginning. E.g., Dr. Destroyer was one of the first major villains featured in one of the first Champions adventures ever published. It's mostly a Marvel pastiche, and it has evolved over the decades in various ways. What you read in the Champions Universe book is a compilation of much of the setting info that has been written over the last 30 years of HERO.

    Unfortunately, all of this setting IP was sold off to Cryptic Studios in 2008 as part of a (now proven failed) infusion of cash into Hero Games. Cryptic took this IP and created the Champions Online MMORPG.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenThe effect-focused rules take great care in ensuring that the guy who punches hard pays the same number of character building points for his punch as the laser-beam guy pays for an equivalently strong laser-beam, but there is very little benchmarking here to tell me what these numbers mean.
    Champions has always defined what the it calls "Normals", i.e., the baseline for a character before any points are spent. All primary characteristics are 10, secondary as figured from those 10s, and no points in any skills other than those defined as "Everyman". That, in addition to stats for mundane weapons, provides your baseline.

    Beyond that, it's up to the GM to provide the players with a set of guidelines. NO HERO GAME CAM BEGIN WITHOUT THESE. These guidelines define the "power level" for the game, and whether it's a power-heavy (supers, high fantasy) or skill-heavy (modern, low fantasy) game. A set of guidelines would include upper and lower ranges for characteristics, max levels for skills, how many points can come from Disadvantages and max active points in any powers.

    Of course, what typically results is that everyone buys up as many of their abilities as possible to the prescribed limits, so what you get is everyone having mostly the same amount of damage-dealing and damage-resisting capability. (And this is why combats in Champions take so long; it's not because of the system's complexity in play—though it is certainly complex.)
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenDoes the GM cheat on the dice or scene framing to railroad an adventure's plot towards his preferred conclusion?
    Absolutely. Many editions of Champions have contained the canonical "golden rule" text, and scores of adventures written for the game assume plots that will proceed no matter how the players impact events (see Ron's discussion of The Coriolis Effect). The GM has a massive amount of power in HERO.
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenI don't want to get into a GNS argument with anybody who isn't comfortable with the Big Model, but if you know your stuff, feel free to tell me about the creative agenda possibilities here in technical terms.
    Ron talks about this in various essays on the Forge. HERO's default mode has been very GNS-Sim since the release of the 4th edition, but the roots were always there. There is also a lot of potential for GNS-Gamist play, as system mastery is a big part of enjoying HERO. But, as you can see from what Ron has written and some of John Wick's great "Play DIrty" essays, HERO has launched many a GNS-Narrativist. Remember, Champions was one of the first—if not the first—RPGs to mechanize "story" elements, namely Disadvantages. You literally get points for having a moral code, being in love, having an enemy or having to answer to a powerful organization. These can easily become fodder for premise-addresing play. (An example from me is forthcoming.)

    HERO, as a product, touts itself as being able to "do anything". IIRC, Clyde Roher asked Darren Watts (former co-head of Hero Games, though not one of the original creators) whether HERO could be Narrativist. Darren's answer was basically, "Sure. It can do whatever you want." We can be cynical here and say that Darren is just trying to sell his game, but in some sense he is right. HERO doesn't really demand any given agenda in play. Whether one considers this a strength or a weakness depends on your perspective.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyChampions makes much more sense if you're a superheroes fan, especially if you were a superheroes fan between the ages of 13 and 20.
    I'd say, "especially if you were a fan when Claremont/Byrne were writing X-Men and Wolfman/Perez were writing Teen Titans in the '80s". :)
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenBut then I've also come across a lot of stuff like e.g. handcuffs that have however many dice of Entangle effect to them, and I'm left to wonder whether those numbers were set from the viewpoint of benchmark realism, or did the example-writer just decide how many points he wanted the handcuffs to cost and gave them however many points of Entangle that would buy.
    I think it's safe to assume that the examples in the book (esp. the sidebars in the Powers chapter) are all based on benchmark realism. 5th edition is when Steve Long's dominance of the game's design begins its dominance, and Steve is all about accurate simulation. IIRC, he actually solicited many of these from various dedicated fans, too, and with fans, it's all about getting things "right".

    Remember, outside of a context for spending points ("I have an active point max of 45 for my attacks"), you're just thinking about how something would work and assigning it stats, and then calculating the total cost.
  • Posted By: Mel WhiteAs a GM for Champions, I don't usually limit villains to the starting point levels for player characters. They will have whatever points are necessary to make them flexible and versatile, and to make them consistent with whatever crime or plot they are supposed to be planning.
    This is pretty standard practice. You'll notice that many official villain write-ups have a "villain bonus" or retroactively-assigned XP to make up for any points beyond what a typical PC would have at the start of a game. You make the villain you need, and don't worry too much about the points.

    Now, whether you keep their attacks and defenses in line with the PCs is another story. There is no real guidance for "balanced encounters" in any of the HERO rulesets, and I've honestly argued myself blue in the face on the HERO boards asking for such, to no avail. Generally, you create the villain however seems "right".

    That said, many fans (and maybe even the 6th ed. book) have written up some guidelines for how lopsided combats will become if the numbers are too far out of whack.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenMore like, I'm interested in hearing how people like Todd here have used the game.
    The Champions I played as kid were about building characters as best we knew how and then having fights.

    The long-term HERO campaigns I've been in were all focused on extended, episodic, genre-appropriate plot lines. Much like a classic Marvel comic, we'd shift from one plot line to the other, eventually weaving some of them together in service of some big villain that needed defeating or crisis that needed solving.

    For example...

    My main PC was a divorced father who constantly had to deal with an ex-wife who was afraid his superhero identity was putting their son in danger, meanwhile his son is totally enamored with his super ID and his super teammates, thus getting into trouble all the time, meanwhile he was falling in love with a member of the signature super team in another city, who was maybe in love with him, but had an evil twin sister that disguised herself as her so she could get me to impregnate her with a child of prophecy, meanwhile my guy is growing into his role as leader of his own super team, trying to reign in teammates who, unlike him, have no code against killing, meanwhile blah, blah, blah... AND THEN DR. DESTROYER TAKES THE PENTAGON HOSTAGE.

    It was very common in my last group, no matter what genre in which we played, that everyone would create PCs in isolation of each other, and thus most sessions were spent taking turns focusing on their disparate plot lines, until we got to a point where everyone met up and took on whatever was the main challenge that week. It honestly made for some pretty boring play much of the time. "Is it my turn yet?"

    I would say that our play was pretty much GNS-Sim. People created their wacky characters and enjoyed Right-to-Dreaming them in the GM's weathered, well-worn campaign setting. It was obvious (to me) that combats often had pre-determined outcomes, and that the GM has certain ideas for the sessions which would be followed no matter what.

    There were some moments of Narrativism, especially with my main PC, as I had front-loaded him with lots of issues ripe for addressing, primarily his role as a father and how that reconciled with being a superhero. Or, his code against killing...

    Which brings me to example I promised:
    Posted By: Mel WhiteI dread Disadvantages. Some are not a big deal--as you mentioned, they reflect the way I would play the character--such as 'Code Against Killing'. It's a disadvantage because it means the villain will always survive to fight another day, even if he has to break out of the superpen to do it.
    Technically, a PC does not always have to follow their Disadvantages. The key is that there be repercussions when they don't, be it paying points to buy off the disadvantage (or earning its removal through play) or having consequences.

    During one climactic battle, our team was fighting an uber-villain who had once been one of earth's greatest heroes, but was now insane, and who had infected all of earth's children with some sort of psychic virus. We were having almost no success defeating her (hours of play time at the table); our attacks were just bouncing off. One of the other players was a gun-lugging hard-ass with no code vs. killing. She was begging me to just let her kill the villain, but I refused to let her; this was a former hero, dammit, and we were going to save her.

    But then... the villain announced that she was going to use her Jean-Grey-Phoenix-like power to kill every single child on earth, my PC's son included.

    The gun-bunny's player looked at me. We both knew her PC had lots of combat levels purchased toward targeting specific hit locations.

    I nodded back at her. "Take the shot."

    The GM's jaw dropped; I had never broken that PC's code, not in years and years of play. A few segments later, the villain's brains were splattered all over the sidewalk. (Granted, she then reverted back to this messiah-like being of light who cured all the children, but still.)

    Now, I didn't have to buy off the code vs. killing Disad, but the shadow of that decision to kill loomed pretty large over the rest of the campaign. My PC had a public ID and was generally considered a hero, but now... all of that came into question. Especially with his ex-wife!

    So, there you go.
  • Posted By: Jim CrockerI spent at was as much time back in my 20s tweaking PCs, trying out builds, and mashing up Villain powers sets in Hero Builder as I did playing.
    Yup. I would argue that the primary appeal of HERO is this kind of lonely fun. Most of the discussion on the Hero Games boards is all theoretical discussion around "How would you build this?" Actual play is pretty secondary, honestly.

    Thing is, there are lots of games that scratch this itch these days: GURPS, Mutants & Masterminds, Wild Talents and lord knows how many others that have come and gone over the years (DC Heroes, Tri-Stat, etc.).

    Ergo, this is why above I say that HERO really serves no specific purpose these days, possibly save for being very good at the lonely fun aspect. Still I think that many of the things that were revolutionary about Champions back in the day are commonplace and, at least IMO, done better by other RPGs out now. E.g., if you want a trad, point-build supers RPG, M&M will get you there faster and in more style than HERO.
  • Posted By: buzzAs for the question posed by the thread's topic... Eero, any investigation you do into HERO should be seen as an academic exercise in exploring the roots of the hobby. IMO, HERO really serves no particular purpose any more. That said, it is second only to D&D in its impact on the hobby, and is well worth examining.
    Great stuff all around, Mark. You having a firm opinion on the above matter, specifically, is nice to see. I just talked about the Hero System with my brother Markku today while waiting for the showing of Iron Sky (better than you'd expect, but not as good as it should be, by the way) to start, and he had a similar viewpoint. This sort of surprised me, as he's into many of the things the game promises, and has played Champions and whatnot back in the day - it's his library that I'm looting for these books, basically.

    My own impression of the game is currently that as you guys have intimated, it's a system that tries to really hard not be about anything. I don't mean anything thematic even, just that it's very pure about that presumed old school value of being a system that is not intended for anything in particular. It just exists. You'll have to have some purpose for yourself, and maybe these tools'll be exactly what you need to pull things off. This is maybe... not exactly in line with my own design philosophy. It's not making me jump in joy, at least.

    On the other hand, I find that I like a lot of the math. It's often very straightforward and very simple, fundamentally. I mean, all the supposed complexity in Hero is really just front-loaded point-buy complexity, it seems to be pretty simple in actual play. (This is in comparison to games that have in-play complexity like say Rolemaster.) Your turn just comes around and you call your attack like it's D&D. The initiative system based on speed is less complex than what I'm currently running in our D&D campaign, for example. Pretty nice speed system, by the by - I like how bold the system is about giving extra actions, which is something many mechanical traditions abhor. I am sort of academically interested about how giving one character 10 actions for every one the other guy gets holds up in practice; maybe the defense math is just so comprehensive that you won't necessarily have anything constructive to do with your 10:1 advantage in action economy.

    I think I'll keep reading the Hero stuff for a while yet, I'm seeing all sorts of little bits that could be repurposed for modern needs in the combat mechanics. It'd take balls to grasp at this one-second phase thing and ride it to its logical conclusion in some game that focused on it with determination.

    One question that occurs to me is, has anybody created any dazzlingly colorful and impressive fluff for this game? Like, could be actual play reports, or maybe some sourcebooks or something. One would expect for a long-running game like this to have something like that in the textual tradition. Or, maybe some fan has like, transcribed the entire DC superhero cast for Hero somewhere in the Internet, or something like that? An encyclopedia of statted-up handcuffs? I'd be interested in taking a look at some fruits of the creative labour, if such exist.
  • One question that occurs to me is, has anybody created any dazzlingly colorful and impressive fluff for this game? Like, could be actual play reports, or maybe some sourcebooks or something. One would expect for a long-running game like this to have something like that in the textual tradition. Or, maybe some fan has like, transcribed the entire DC superhero cast for Hero somewhere in the Internet, or something like that? An encyclopedia of statted-up handcuffs? I'd be interested in taking a look at some fruits of the creative labour, if such exist.
    Eero, here is the RDU wiki. Stands for Red Dragon Universe (who was the very first character) and is the game that Jim Crocker mentioned going a decade. I also was involve in it as well. Well, it's still going and now we are up to 2 decades, I run a BASH game online that is a spin-off right now. Just started about a month and half ago.

    While Neil, the main GM, didn't write up a ton of actual play, mostly "issues" with who starred in them, as we get to the later games (check out UNITE) and some PBeM games, there is a ton of stuff to sift through. And a fair amount of art. Much of it done by me.

    http://rdu.wikispaces.com/

    Buzz, I forgot about that thread over at the Forge. I re-read it. Interesting stuff.
  • edited April 2012
    Posted By: Eero Tuovinen...it's a system that tries to really hard not be about anything. I don't mean anything thematic even, just that it's very pure about that presumed old school value of being a system that is not intended for anything in particular. It just exists. You'll have to have some purpose for yourself, and maybe these tools'll be exactly what you need to pull things off. This is maybe... not exactly in line with my own design philosophy. It's not making me jump in joy, at least.
    I don't have anything to say about Hero in particular, but I think it's worth pointing out that this "do as thou wilt" school of design is surprisingly influential in indie games too, and shows up in some surprising places. Not just in Fate and Fudge say (though that's a great example), but also elsewhere. For example, a lot of John Harper's designs (Lady Blackbird, Danger Patrol) strike me as being somewhere in between this and the more thematic and sandbox-y play of TSOY (occupying a space somewhere in the vacinity of Savage Worlds [EDIT: and the original d6 Star Wars and maybe the new Marvel], opting for ease of use and consistent fun over embedding deep content in the rules). There's a reason that it's really easy to hack minimalist, do-as-thou-wilt rules systems to handle all sorts of interesting characters and settings. Hero and GURPS -- with their tendencies towards "realism" -- are often too detailed to hack easily, but many of the impulses and potentials are still there. I'm just saying that the impulses behind these sorts of designs may be closer to home than we realize, though the execution is different.

    P.S. In Lady Blackbird and Danger Patrol, it seems like part of the goal is for the players to play a significant role in actively bringing the fun and the rules support them in doing that and try not to get in the way of players bringing the awesome. And because the concepts and characters and color are all so rich, it feeks really empowering because -- when you step into those shoes -- you know exactly what to do from a lifetime of consuming similar fiction. And the rules provide enough backing to do the rest. Not sure if that's what Hero is expecting as well, but it's interesting to think about.
  • Posted By: Eero Tuovinenhas anybody created any dazzlingly colorful and impressive fluff for this game?
    Aaron Allston's Strikeforce supplement detailing his campaign and notes for running supers, some of which made its way into 5th end 6th edition Champions genre books.

    Scott Bennie's Gestalt campaign book (by Blackywyrm Games, under a license from Hero Games).

    To a far lesser extent, I documented some of my World of the 400 campaign that I ran for about 100 sessions in the late 90s, split between a teen UN team and a private school for superteens in a world with only 400 superbeings. I ran Champions from the time it came out in 1981 to the end of century, and found its toolbox very useful for indepth immersive roleplay, although I was very fortunate in the high quality of my players. In particular, I wasn't interested in emulating comic books (I already have plenty of comic books), but in exploring what a world with superbeings might be like, and what the relationships and internal lives of those supers might be like. I haven't run 5e or 6e, which grew too big for my tastes, and around 2004 or so I discovered Sorcerer and Dogs in the Vineyard and moved along. I'm still very nostalgic for supers, and occassionally think about adapting Bliss Stage or attempting Clinton Nixon's The Face of Angels.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenTodd, if you don't mind: do you remember how challenge-focused your play was in your Champions campaigns? Were the players trying to win, or was it more like seeing whether our characters would win, this time? Did the GM's fudge with the rules, and in what ways? Was it very important for everybody's characters to be built on the same number of points, were there arguments about the validity of the various points-saving tricks?
    In the round robin games we'd have point balanced groups and we sat down and designed characters together. In the FLGS group we'd have people come in and out and varying points due to experience, since I was the only GM for that, it meant every character went by me for review. The round robin games were much more challenge oriented, the FLGS group had more 'day in the life' moments. Both groups stay close to the system and there was very little fudging mechanically. As a GM with a lot of plots in motion, I probably fudged NPCs and hunteds more often to preserve story passing and keep the bad guys balanced (after all, I argued that the villians were gaining XP as well.)
    --
    TAZ
  • edited April 2012
    [lost post. curse you smartphone!]
  • Posted By: StornStands for Red Dragon Universe (who was the very first character) and is the game that Jim Crocker mentioned going a decade.
    Oh, man, the RDU write ups on the Hero Games boards are some of the best session reports I've ever read!

    I'm glad Carl mentioned Strike Force. Eero, that's probably one of the most important Champions supplements; and it practically invented the concept of examining actual play to improve play.

    I hope my vomiting forth above was helpful. This thread just set my brain on fire!
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenOn the other hand, I find that I like a lot of the math. It's often very straightforward and very simple, fundamentally. I mean, all the supposed complexity in Hero is really just front-loaded point-buy complexity, it seems to be pretty simple in actual play.
    I agree that most of the complexity is in the pre-game building, but there still is a decent amount of math in play. One of the guys in my aforementioned campaign had special damage tracking sheets; sets of tables that let you track how much STUN, BODY, and END you took each phase. I thought it was overkill at first but then I started doing the same thing. And then there's Adi/Drain/Transfer powers, adding damage to advantaged attacks based on STR, turn modes, tracking velocity... it can get hairy sometimes.

    And, yeah, I actually like some of the math, too. FYI, int he current (6th) edition, there are no more Figured Characteristics. Now those just start at a default and you buy them up; no more "layered currency".
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenPretty nice speed system, by the by - I like how bold the system is about giving extra actions, which is something many mechanical traditions abhor. I am sort of academically interested about how giving one character 10 actions for every one the other guy gets holds up in practice; maybe the defense math is just so comprehensive that you won't necessarily have anything constructive to do with your 10:1 advantage in action economy.
    Limits on SPD is actually one of the more important bits of GM dial-setting. If there is too a big a disparity between the low and of SPD and the high end SPD, fast PCs will hog spotlight time and simply accomplish far too much more in a turn. There's actually a number of fan-made attempts (and probably some tucked in published products) to replace the default SPD system with something more D&D-like.
  • caveat - I havent played or read hero system, but your questions seems to ask "why is building fighty characters that fight - fun?" Ignore if thats not one of your questions

    Basically this = sqaud-based tactical wargame fun. The fun comes from designing your character and to a lesser extent, collectively designing a team, to be effective at fighting, and then to test your design 'in the field' against enemies and situations the GM throws at you. You have to make design decisions during chargen and tactical decisions during play. The GM needs to pitch the opposition so that it stretches the team's capabilities in such a way if they have designed poorly or execute tacticas poorly, they will lose and if they have designed well and execute the right tactics, they will win. In other words, such that the players design and execution chocies matter. too much opposition or too little renders the players choices moot. The ability to create unbalanced (too powerful or too weak) characters duing chargen renders the players choices moot.

    Anything else you do in a game like this, besides getting to the next tactically interesting, evenly-opposed fight scene is fluff - it can also be fun, but if you dont get the basic squad based tacical fun locked in, it will be a dud game.
  • Initial post to Eero, so I can give my thoughts without influence by the thread--yes, this is a TAD rude, but I will post to the thread's prrogression next.
    The Big Promise of the game is that it can tally up the advantages and disadvantages of individual player character concepts in terms of GM-directed adventure roleplaying and realize any two character concepts in a mechanically "balanced" way.
    Not necessarily. Many of the STOP and Magnifying Glass Powers are unbalancing, point-for-point. I'd say, rather, that the points system gives you a rough gauge against a baseline (the 100-point Competent Normal; i.e., most of us). But GM approval is generally necessary... UNLESS you've followed a Campaign Sheet (no one but me ever seems to make one, but it's CRITICAL to setting actual power level and balance vs. wonk-factor).
    The concept of balance as advocated by the game pertains to the idea of adventure roleplaying: the game is going to be about GM-created adventures that the player characters participate in, attempting to e.g. foil the plans of a supercriminal by cleverly using the strengths of their own characters to their advantage. We need player characters to be balanced in terms of operative strengths (particularly tactical fighting strength) because the plot arcs are going to involve a lot of fighting, and all player characters should be able to "contribute".
    Yes, it's origins as a supers game show in the emphasis on fighting stats, maneuvers, etc. But it doesn't HAVE to go that way (see Campaign Sheet, again); but is IS a task resolution system, not a "story engine" or dirty hippie shit like that. (joking--I love dirty hippie shit)
    You get extra points for purchasing powers for the character by taking on disadvantages: the basic presumption is that the "best" character is one who has nothing or no-one weighting him down, a particular sort of superman. Here it is important for the creative work to understand that the best character you can make is actually one where you yourself accept and embrace the "disadvantages" of your character; by choosing them well you can end up with a whole bunch of character-building points essentially for "free", by taking on disadvantages that represent the way you honestly were planning to play anyway.
    And here's where I think folks miss some of the innovation (for the 90s) of Hero System: many of the disads give player agency to world creation. Hunted, in particular, lets players suggest the principle aspects of an NPC or organization. Not QUITE Lumpley Principle-violating, though, because you don't tend to get into huge detail (e.g., stats) for the NPC/organization. Or suppose I'm making the "Troll" Package, to make my guy, and I add an allergy disad or similar: now, all Trolls have it, in the game world. (Ditto, for professional packages, but that's sort of like defining a "class" and anyone could define their's differently.)
    but there is very little benchmarking here to tell me what these numbers mean. Is, like, 5d6 damage a lot in comparison to something real or fictional? Given a setting, how strong should something in that setting be in Hero System terms?
    Well, it's a bit ass-backwards, but the "benchmark" is a normal human, at 75-100 pts (50+25/50), using all 10s for stats. A 10 in STR gives (IIRC) 1/2d6 Killing, 1d6 Normal. Didn't you look at the stat charts? About every STR level has some "real world" weight equivalent. It gets hazier with some of the other stats, but just remember that the baseline is 10. Also, there's a TON of "guns and gear" and such-like somewhere in the book--more baselines, for Power comparison. And, hell, most of the Powers themselves have examples of "normal" things built using it, if applicable (see Energy Blast and similar).
    Does the GM cheat on the dice or scene framing to railroad an adventure's plot towards his preferred conclusion?
    This speaks back to disads: when the GM rolls them, and how he makes them fit into any sort of prepped material. I don't recall what the Campaign Advice sections says about that, but it's obviously NOT railroady, if it's a random chance of showing up by the RAW.

    Now, how one sets up a challenge/preps is really a huge topic, but Hero is no different than, say, D&D for that (NO, I won't!). I tended to prep by just having a timeline of what the adversary would do, when, and how the players might hear about it in advance (to prevent) or in the moment (to respond). But that doesn't mean they always followed my leads... or even engaged the adversary I'd wrote up! It supports sandbox play as well as any other game of it's ilk, though, so freeforming isn't to tough (for me, with twenty-five years experience with the game, and thirty years with similar, trad games in general).

    Also, I've really played it more in sci fi, modern, and fantasy settings; not much supers since I was 14 or so. With an appropriate Campaign Sheet, in Heroic setting (i.e., money matters, items can be bought, etc), it can do any number of "other games," assuming a trad, tasky approach.
    I'm still in the process of reading the 5th edition book through
    Ah, so you haven't even seen the Campaign Sheet in the back, then, eh? Or the "GM advice" later in the book. LOTS of stuff, there (for what it's worth--I can't recall the nuances of 5E's content in that back section).
    What do I do with the fact that all the player characters are fairly balanced in terms of how hard they punch? Run a tournament circuit?
    A: They're not; and 2: as a game, it very much rewards niche-protection/specialization. I mean, my guy might not even "punch" necessarily--maybe I'm the faceman/moneybags/charmer that handles the press fallout and shit?
    I'll close by saying that the most inspiration I've had for the game so far has been that it might be interesting to develop some entirely off-the-wall custom superhero campaign set in a world where the player characters are the first public superheroes.
    Aberrant does that well, too, if you prefer the White Wolf system. And it has a cool "Taint" mechanic that can get you into BIG power, but makes
    you REAL off-putting to the normals. LOVE that ruleset, really. Hate the "baked in" setting elements, some, though (e.g., every super "awakens" to their power--yawn).

    But Hero does it just fine, too. The whole POINT of it is that it can scale (reasonably well), has bits you can toggle on and off, and lets you use it for any genre of play, mostly.

    Or, hell, run a game which REQUIRES each player to take a STOP power; and watch how quickly it goes out of GM control, becoming more of a game of player-to-player negotiation and player agency.
    Also, maybe this would work better with the entire hero team built on the same theme with each other instead of each individual having their own brand of weirdness to contribute. Monomyth, as it were.
    It might, but I doubt it; see above RE niche protection.

    But "own brand of weirdness" comes up a LOT, with "power gamers" who take a shit-ton of psych disads, thinking they can just RP them away. ANOTHER reason to use the Campaign Sheet: curtailing disad distribution beyond the base rules in the Starting Build Points section (paraphrasing), like so: "Yes, you guys are building at 100+50, but you can't take a psych disad worth more than 10, more than one hunted/watched, [... etc.]."
    ---
    And now, some anecdotes on "dirty hippie" play in Hero:
    * One GM once let me build a PC to run as a sort of "co-GM" role. I made a bum who thinks he's in a fantasy world (modern-day game) and has a 1d6 penetrating transform always on (look it up). THUS, if he was in an area for long enough, it would change to its fantasy analog (e.g., a plane he flew cross-country on ended up transforming into a dragon with a hoodah on its back). Some of the players didn't like the transforms of themselves, though (stupid gamers, don't know how to have rightfunnow!), so I had to just ignore them a LOT (in character). Um, he also had an imaginary companion named Clara, who it was later revealed was his dead daughter--whom he'd killed accidentally when his transform power started coming online.... and that was why he was insane. All THAT from two psych lims and some quiet time to think about them.

    * A buddy of mine made a guy who was nearly totally unkillable. No other real ability; just stacks and stacks of DR, armor, etc. He did shit like just jump out the window of a building, to get outside/downstairs. Needless to say, the more the public was exposed to him and his unorthodox way of doing things (he'd ALWAYS been this way, so he had, like, NO sense of self-preservation, nor fear), the world started reacting to HIM, not the other way around. It got wild... IIRC, he ended up converting some disad to a “Hunted: The Whole World” to represent how thrill-seekers (or weirdoes) would routinely try to kill him in some novel manner, as he went about his business.

    Damn... I played with some clever folks, now that I think back....
  • Storn: that website's quite amazing! I love the character backgrounds, the players have clearly cared about the guys they'll be depicting in the game. The system also has clearly inspired all sorts of quirky ideas for what the character can or can't do.

    I'll also note that I've started digesting the combat rules, and I suspect that this is, indeed, the heart and soul of the game. I mentioned upthread about how all the verbiage seems like it doesn't really say anything about anything; well, the combat rules certainly make bold mathematical statements on all sorts of things! I absolutely love the math in the distinction between normal damage and killing damage, for example: with normal damage the dice you roll indicate stun damage (which I assume you can shed somehow during a fight - haven't read that far yet) and then you basically also cause the number of dice in real injury; with "killing damage" (which is used to represent the distinction between cinematic non-serious bashing and the things that are lethal even in a movie) you read the real damage directly off the dice and multiply by d6 to get the stun effect (or even better, multiply on the basis of the hit location). Beautiful and bold - I mean, this stuff and the initiative system (which is what I've read about the combat system so far) take some strong steps to indicate the basic concepts they want to focus on in a combat, and in hindsight it's pretty obvious that the large power lists are pretty much there just to reduce all the fictive particulars into initiative, killing damage, bashing damage and probably a few things I haven't gotten to yet. Interesting reading, to be sure.

    To clarify, I have read this book before, but the combat system is exactly the sort of thing I tend to skip or skim when I'm just browsing a roleplaying game text. They're long and difficult and they're not really too interesting reading for a gamer like me - I much prefer reading the parts of the system that hits on the game's actual topic, which usually means things like character classes or special subsystems like magic or whatnot. In the case of Hero System this is clearly a mistake - I recommend that anybody who's read the game the way I've done before, get back to it and skip the power lists this time around; that stuff is clearly ancillary, it's all just detail that feeds into the combat system. I can easily imagine how I'm not the only one who's gotten lost in the power listings at the start of the book, especially as the point-buy rigamarole is so distinctive a part of the game.

    Anyway, I'll have to read more later. (In case you're wondering, I progress with the book so slowly because I'm just reading a page at a time here and there in between writing my own stuff.)
  • Posted By: buzzI'd say, "especially if you were a fan when Claremont/Byrne were writingX-Menand Wolfman/Perez were writingTeen Titansin the '80s". :)
    .....shut up.

    I mean, uh, yes. That's right.

    :(
  • Cross-posted with David, above.

    Excellent post, David. Very thought-provoking. And you're totally right in that an illusionistic playstyle would have to roll over quite a few powers in the book pretty explicitly. But then, that's what illusionism is - a cancer on the back of rules-systems, telling you that it's easier to not use them ;)

    Doing Hero with the D&D method would be absolutely zany, especially in the superhero genre. I guess that the historical time-frame is right in that people have probably done a lot of this early on, before storytelling caught on. Sort of an enticing thought to try that, actually, as there are indeed many powers and disadvantages that have interesting branching effects (what I call "organic developments" in the D&D context) that are very anti-Aristotelian and very much a part of a real setting. For example, the system gives you direct dice probabilities for whether a given non-player character will be available to help a PC during a given adventure. It's not a "GM decides" or even "GM decides, but has to be 70% of the time". It's a straight roll, and you adapt or not.

    I wonder about the stakes-setting and such, but I guess a superhero genre game with the D&D method just swings towards the more deconstructive sort of superhero story... like, Superman himself isn't dying, but he can fail if the dice say so, and if he does, then his friends, his city, his world are fair game. Sort of like being a comic-book writer but without the mandatory roll-backs whenever a permanent change to the situation setup happens. And instead of it being a big-name limited run alternative world story, it's pretty much the main attraction. Hmm, I guess that you can get pretty high stakes in emotional terms in this way, even with a genre as traditionally conservative as superheroes.

    I imagine that this sort of campaign would involve a lot of play around the everyday and practical details of superhero-hood. Sort of like "we're doing superheroes, but in the real world, so let's talk a bit about how your character pays his rent". Sort of resembles some Call of Cthulhu playstyles I've heard of, where the campaign arc pretty much revolves around examining the consequences of discoveries and the establishment of the PCs as genuine full-time occult investigators/warriors. Appealing an idea, to be sure.
  • Posted By: Eero Tuovinenit's a given that the game's authors and publishers all think that the game is an universal tool that suits any purpose whatsoever I might have
    Not really, to my mind. It's a GENERIC system, but not Universal. Universalis is the only "true" Universal system I've seen.
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenYou can narrate your character trick-shooting things, but if the effect is actually telekinesis (perfect, non-lethal manipulation at distance), then that's how you stat it up.
    Heh. Reminds me of a long conversation with an old friend about how all (or almost all) of Superman's powers were just a big, whomping, flexibly-defined Telekinesis.
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenShould I try to pick disadvantages that I'm happy to play along with, or disadvantages that I think the GM will have great difficulty using against me?
    Both? Neither (e.g., picking disads that define the world in some way).
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenI am sort of academically interested about how giving one character 10 actions for every one the other guy gets holds up in practice; maybe the defense math is just so comprehensive that you won't necessarily have anything constructive to do with your 10:1 advantage in action economy.
    That situation would NEVER happen in any of my Campaigns, primarily because I USE THE CAMPAIGN SHEET. (I'm gonna say it every time it applies!) If you don't have active cost limits on Speed, the Speed Arms Race begins... and everyone will end up with around 6 or 7. Only the speedster guy would have a 10 or 12.

    Meanwhile, my Brick with Speed 3 flattens your Speed 12 guy (you spent over 250 points on it!?!), when he lands his first punch.

    But, really, a good GM has Speed very much constrained to suit his vision of power levels.
    ---
    And, so it looks like most folks hit on my points about player agency (through disads--though no one mentioned Packages) and, to an extent, the Color behind an effect (viz, the "this is guns in this game" example). And there's all kind of Theme to chew on in there, too.

    Keep reading, Eero; I think you'll find it to be a cool game, for what it mainly does (high simulation, "realism", combat); and you'll start to see the ways it "hippifies" through player choices in creation and play (viz, the Code Against Killing, "Take The Shot" example).

    It can do anything. ;)
  • A question that I've brushed upon upthread, but not quite verbalized:

    The package deals in character creation sort of resemble the kind of fixed point of contact between system and fiction that e.g. TSoY has. For example, if somebody (GM, player, whoever) creates a "dwarf" template, I would sort of expect that using it in a campaign would be a tacit admission that dwarves objectively are represented by this template in our campaign - that is, all dwarves have it, and those who don't have it are not dwarves.

    How common is this sort of thing in the play culture? Clearly people value the effect-first design a lot, but to me it seems that making these sorts of statements about the fiction is the more interesting thing to do. Saying that "all firearms in this campaign deal killing damage, you can't have guns as a special effect without it being lethal, this is what a gun means to us" seems like an interesting thing to do, even as it is also the exact opposite of effect-first thinking. I imagine that this would be less common in a superhero game, being as how the genre thrives on pretty free flight of fancy. Equally, I might imagine that an e.g. fantasy game would have more equivalences between the mechanics and the fiction.
  • I think it is really difficult to say how common anything is in play culture.

    In my Hero System games, we would tend to work by precedent. So if someone creates a dwarf and defines a package, then by default we would assume that another dwarf would also use that package. However, this was not absolute. Sometimes we would look at the package and realize that it didn't properly apply to all dwarfs (say like a dwarf raised in a largely human community). So precedent could be overturned rather than representing absolutely fixed rules.
  • To David Artman: We would also use the campaign sheets, and I consider them a core part of the system. I especially liked the magic system design sheets from 4th-ed version of Fantasy Hero, which worked very well for setting principles for magic in a game. (Most of my play has been using 4th ed, which in my opinion is the best version available.)
  • That brings up a question I should have asked earlier, John: can anybody give a quick run-down of the publication history of the game? What are the different editions like? Why is 4th the best? How is the new 6th edition? The team working on the game has apparently changed a lot over the years? I know enough to know that the game was originally called Champions when it was first published sometime in... very early '80s? I think my brother has a Champions book from those early days in his library, too. That's about as much as I know about the extrabiblical matters, except that Ron Edwards is a big fan ;)

    As I've mentioned, this game is really quite esoteric here in Finland. GURPS is a few magnitudes more popular, for example, even if that isn't one of my own strong points, either. I actually have a really shallow grounding on the generic systems, all things considered.
  • Sure. The publishing sequence goes

    1981: 1st ed Champions
    1982: 2nd ed Champions
    1984: 3rd ed Champions
    1989: 4th ed Hero System
    2002: 5th ed Hero System
    2009: 6th ed Hero System

    1st and 2nd editions Champions were dedicated superhero games. The skill system was present but much more rudimentary than later on, martial arts was quite different (single fixed cost based on your STR), and powers were much more limited. 3rd ed Champions was similar, but it was the basis for two major expansions and a series of other genre games: Danger International, Justice Inc., Fantasy Hero, and others.

    A bunch of the rules from the various genre games were then collected into the 4th edition, which took a selection of what were deemed the best rules from the first round of genre games.

    5th edition came much later after considerable turnover. (Incidentally, I have a writer credit in Hero 5th because they incorporated an article of mine.) It was a significantly thicker rulebook than 4th, including many more examples as well as more detailed rules text. 6th edition was a further refinement of the rules that became even larger and split the core rulebook into two books.

    Moving into opinion territory, I should start with my own background.

    I was never really a comic book fan as a child, but I got into Champions play as a young teenager. Really, I got into superheroes through Champions more than through comics. Since then, I have used the Hero System on and off for lots of games in lots of different genres - though most broadly in the action/adventure side (including pulp action, martial arts, and Star Trek as well as superheroics). Despite many flaws, I think it is a solid game design whose worth has been demonstrated through tons of play. If a theory suggests that it isn't good for anything, then I think the theory needs to be fixed to match it back to reality.

    I prefer 4th edition to be best because it has a good selection of ideas from the various genre games. I prefer it to 5th and 6th mainly because those are even more complex and unreadable than 4th. I prefer it to 1st - 3rd because those were written around four-color superheroes, which I think the system is only a moderate fit for. (Here I'm agreeing with Storn's critique.) If I wanted to emulate the narrative feel of four-color superhero comics, I would choose a more minimalist and loose system that doesn't require powers to be defined in advance. Still, I think the Hero System works great for gritty superheroes as well as other action/adventure genres like wuxia, space opera, and many others.
  • edited April 2012
    Posted By: David ArtmanAnd here's where I think folks miss some of the innovation (for the 90s) of Hero System
    Heck, Champions debuted in 1981. The concept of point-buy and things like Disads totally blew my little mind back then. :)
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenHow common is this sort of thing in the play culture?
    Well, it's a common part of the published rulebooks, though package deals are primarily found in "heroic" games, like fantasy or modern action. But like John says above, it's hard to say how common any HERO option is out in the wild. When I've played fantasy or SF with HERO, we pretty much made things up from scratch.
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenThat brings up a question I should have asked earlier, John: can anybody give a quick run-down of the publication history of the game?
    Some facts:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champions_(role-playing_game)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero_System

    Summary, as best I can recall:
    Champions debuts in 1981, created by George MacDonald, Steve Peterson, Bruce Harlick, and Ray Greer. I believe MacDonald basically wrote the basic rules while bored during a college lecture. It went through three editions and spawned various spin-off RPGs (like Fantasy Hero), but then in 1989 there was a great unification, and the core system behind these games was turned in the Hero System proper (generally called "4th edition"), and all of the previous spinoffs essentially became genre supplements for Hero System. This is also when Hero Games partnered with ICE. Then after a number of years Hero Games and ICE sort of collapse, Hero Games is sold to Cybergames, and the system is in limbo until 2001, when Steve Long, Darren Watts and some angel investors buy it back and publish a 5th edition. A revised 5th edition ("5ER") comes out in 2004, and then a sixth edition comes out in 2009. Now, Hero Games is down to a single employee (neither Steve nor Darren), and Steve uses Kickstarter to fund new books.

    As for difference between the editions...

    Champions 1st-3rd are all very similar, and all fairly skinny books, 80-100 pages. The focus is strictly superheroes, and the game is the least complex it will ever be. Ron Edwards will tell you this is when Champions was at its best, particularly 3rd edition.

    Hero System/Champions 4th is when we get the unified, "universal" engine. This edition is all there is from 1989-2001, so I suspect more people have played more of this edition than any other. Lots of options from the various Hero-based RPGs are amalgamated in 4th, leading to an overall increase in complexity, number of skills, and number of options for tweaking the system to your chosen genre.

    Hero 5th and 5ER build on the foundation of 4th, tweaking a lot of the system and, especially in the case of 5ER, providing LOTS of guidance text for adjudicating the system and building components. The page count of the core rules balloons. This is when Steve Long takes over as developer of the Hero line. The original creators are no longer involved in any way.

    Hero 6th is still recognizably Hero, but Long starts making more dramatic changes. Figured characteristics are no longer figured, COM goes away, and Disads get renamed to Complications. (There's probably more, but I have yet to read my copy, honestly.) The core rules practically double in length; they are now a two-volume set of 300+ pages each. Still, this is the first full-color edition, with a great layout from Fred Hicks of Evil Hat.

    EDIT: Cross-posted with John, who also gives an excellent run-down.

    I have spent most of my time with 4th, 5th and 5ER. I'm hoping to run some 3rd edition for a friend of mine for the heck of it.
  • Posted By: StornEero, here is the RDU wiki. Stands for Red Dragon Universe (who was the very first character) and is the game that Jim Crocker mentioned going a decade. I also was involve in it as well. Well, it's still going and now we are up to 2 decades, I run a BASH game online that is a spin-off right now. Just started about a month and half ago.
    Hahah! That's actually not the decade-long game I was thinking of, because I was only involved in RDU myself for like 2 years or so. : )

    Our college game that we started in CT, featuring the exploits of the 'Good Guys, Inc.', ran off and on for about that long, too.

    So, yeah, as you can see, it has inspired multiple iterations of would-be Marvel Editors in Chief over its storied history. The lovely fun aspect of the system seems to naturally encourage deep immersion in the world-building that goes along with it.
  • edited April 2012
    Posted By: buzzPosted By: StornStands for Red Dragon Universe (who was the very first character) and is the game that Jim Crocker mentioned going a decade.
    Oh, man, the RDU write ups on the Hero Games boards are some of the best session reports I've ever read!

    I'm glad Carl mentionedStrike Force. Eero, that's probably one of the most important Champions supplements; and it practically invented the concept of examining actual play to improve play.


    For what it's worth, one of the things that got me politely booted from that campaign was making a choice for my PC that 'broke' the GMs game and then talking the other PCs into going along with me. The GM literally had to stop the game for the evening mid-way and go home and rewrite the next sequence of the campaign because we did something he completely didn't see coming. I've always been a lot more loosey-goosey with continuity, but this was early aughts and none of us had really glommed onto any of the Indie game scene yet so we didn't really have a way to talk around the problem.

    It was an amazing experience at the time, for sure: the exhaustive detail that the GM put into keeping track of the entire world and obvious care he took with crafting his storylines was pretty impressive. Now that I have a much clearer understanding of the different approaches and have other options for more free-form 'play to see what happens' gaming, I think I'd be able to appreciate it on its own terms more than I was able to then.

    EDIT: Looking over the WIKI shows my PC mentioned, but with no hotlink to him. Storn, you will be amused to know that Geoff showed up for our first try of Marvel Heroic wearing his Speedball T-shirt last weekend. : )
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenHeck,Championsdebuted in 1981. The concept of point-buy and things like Disads totally blew my little mind back then. :)
    Yup. I saw it in the local independent neighborhood department store (remember those?) and I can clearly remember the voice in my head saying "OHMYGODITSDnDWITHSUPERHEROES"

    I went home and statted up a Thor clone that I've played in one iteration or another through every edition of the game. It's that kind of thing.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenYou can narrate your character trick-shooting things, but if the effect is actually telekinesis (perfect, non-lethal manipulation at distance), then that's how you stat it up.
    Heh. Reminds me of a long conversation with an old friend about how all (or almost all) of Superman's powers were just a big, whomping, flexibly-defined Telekinesis.

    Hahaha! Speaking of 80's John Byrne comics...
  • edited April 2012
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenDoing Hero with the D&D method would be absolutely zany, especially in the superhero genre. I guess that the historical time-frame is right in that people have probably done a lot of this early on, before storytelling caught on. Sort of an enticing thought to try that, actually, as there are indeed many powers and disadvantages that have interesting branching effects (what I call "organic developments" in the D&D context) that are very anti-Aristotelian and very much a part of a real setting. For example, the system gives you direct dice probabilities for whether a given non-player character will be available to help a PC during a given adventure. It's not a "GM decides" or even "GM decides, but has to be 70% of the time". It's a straight roll, and you adapt or not.
    Breaking people of D&D habits was one of the hardest things with Hero... if you stand there and say "I swing, I hit, I do X damage..." you'll get killed straightaway. The combat rules are there to be used tactically.

    Incidentally, a few years ago I wrote a document entitled, somewhat misleadingly, "A Look Back At 3rd Edition Champions", on the web here. It's basically a rundown on how the rules changed between pre-4th edition games (Champions and Fantasy Hero, mostly) and 4th-5th edition era.

    It would help to think of the 1st-3rd edition Champions and the other standalone games (Fantasy Hero, Danger International, &c) as "first generation Hero System", 4th-5th as second generation, and 6th as a two-point-five or third generation. 4th and 5th have more similarity between them than any two other editions.
  • Posted By: buzzPosted By: David ArtmanAnd here's where I think folks miss some of the innovation (for the 90s) of Hero System
    Heck,Championsdebuted in 1981. The concept of point-buy and things like Disads totally blew my little mind back then. :)
    Yeah, Champions was extremely ground-breaking at the time. In particular, not just disads in general but the idea of players deciding for themselves who they would typically fight and protect (Hunted and Dependent NPC - both with rolled frequency).

    I also think much of the adopted GM advice is fairly clear and well-written. The following is from the 5th edition (the version I had saved), but it builds on previous advice.
    As a GM, you'll find it all too easy to get caught up in your story, the great story you've got planned out, and to make sure you tell that story -- no matter how many improbable plot twists you have to throw in or player actions you have to ignore to make sure that your story takes place. But the player characters are the focus of your story, and therefore they and their players are the most important elements in your story. You should slant the story to suit them, not the other way around. Learning how to do this, and do it well, is one of the hardest things about good GMing.

    The first and most important thing to do is to plan stories which your players and PCs will want to participate in without having to drag them along by ring through their noses. There are plenty of ways to do this. First, work the PCs' Disadvantages into the story, as discussed above -- if it's someone's archenemy, girlfriend, or Vulnerability that's involved, the PCs will have incentive to get in on the action. Second, make sure that each PC has his moment in the sun -- a scenario featuring him as the main character. One of the standard ways of doing this is to bring something from that character's past back to haunt him -- an old enemy he thought was dead, a long-lost love, anything like that. If the player has developed a "background story" for his character, then incorporate part of it into a scenario, allowing the PC to learn more about himself.

    Second, learn to adapt your stories to the players' cool and interesting ideas. Many a GM rejects ideas that the players come up with in the middle of a story, simply because the players' idea is different from what he has in mind. It doesn't matter if the players' solution to the mystery or combat situation is as good as, or better than, his own; he's determined to follow through with his story, and damn the consequences. This is wrong. Remember, your story focuses on the players and their characters. If they come up with an idea which is as good as (or better than) what you had planned or thought they would do, and you can adapt the story to conform to their ideas without ruining other parts of it or making major changes to the campaign world, do it. The players will gain a great sense of accomplishment and heap praise upon you for your excellent GMing -- and you didn't have to do a thing but listen to them and react accordingly.

    Similarly, when a player asks, "Is there a so-and-so nearby?", he usually has some neat idea in mind for using it, something you'll likely enjoy. Unless it's impossible for that object to be in that area, tell him yes. He'll feel like he's contributing to the story and the world, and you get to have fun seeing just what he has in mind.
  • Posted By: jhkimUnless it's impossible for that object to be in that area, tell him yes.
    "Say Yes or Roll Dice," eh? ;)

    *sigh*... now I gotta go re-read 5E. Heh. That's April and May free time covered.
  • Annnnd... Apparently, Darren is going for a new LARP system based on Hero (theater/parlor LARP; not boffer/Airsoft... thank GOD! [see thread bottom]):
    http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?621779-LARP-Kickstarter-Champions-Live-Action
  • Ha haa haa, how entirely precious. There is an entire chapter on falling damage here. Loving it. Also, there's some serious benchmarking material related to e.g. electricity damage here. Should help considerably in figuring out how much electricity damage you want your character to have - is he like an entire powerplant all by his lonesome, or what.
  • The LARP uses stopwatches as the randomizer, taking the hundredths of a second number as your percentile roll when you need it. There were a bunch of gamers roaming the halls of Dreamation with cheap stopwatches on lanyards; it gave me flashbacks to my teenage years at swim meets, except for the Champions logos on them. It was weird and nostalgic and a little surreal for me.
  • Eero, there are some fairly extensive drowning rules as well.
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