Hero System

From Academic Kids

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Hero_system_5th_edition.jpg
Hero System 5th edition book cover

The Hero System is the overarching name given to the generic rules underlying the Hero Games role-playing games such as Champions, Fantasy Hero, Star Hero, and Justice, Inc.. It was one of the first systems to forego the use of polyhedral dice. Originally, each of Hero Games RPGs was self-contained, much as Chaosium's Basic Role-Playing games are. Later, as GURPS (Generic Universal Roleplaying System) became more popular, a generic version of the rules was published.

The Hero System's biggest innovation was its use of a point-based system for character creation with a tool-kit approach to creating abilities. The rules only define the ability's effects in combat--the player defines what the ability looks like when used. For example, the ability to project a jet of fire could be bought as "Energy Blast," or any of a number of other abilities. The player then defines it as a "jet of fire," with all that implies: it has the possibility of starting secondary fires; it looks, smells and sounds like a jet of fire; etc. This Energy Blast could be modified by any number of modifiers such as "Explosion," "Area of Effect" or "No Range." These affect how the power works as well as its final cost.

Each player creates his character starting with a pool of points to buy abilities (such as the aforementioned "Energy Blast" and "Armor"), increase characteristics (such as "Strength" and "Intelligence") and buy skills (such as "Computer Programming" and "Combat Driving"). This pool can be increased by taking disadvantages for your character (such as being hunted by an enemy, a dependency of some sort or having people who depend on your character in some way). The initial pool, as well as the final pool size, is determined by the Game Master, as well as the point limits on each individual ability.

The advantages of this system are:

  1. It eases game balance issues for the GM: a 200-point character is generally less powerful than a 300-point character.
  2. It is very flexible in character creation, allowing players to create nearly any character they can imagine.
  3. It uses only common six sided dice.

The primary disadvantages are:

  1. Complexity, though perhaps not as much as some other systems, such as Rolemaster.
  2. Combat has a tendency to slow things to a crawl. Twenty seconds of combat can take hours to adjudicate.
  3. Flexibility in character creation gives large advantage to veteran players who spend time optimizing power limitations and frameworks. This can lead to one 200-point player character being much more powerful than another.
  4. Depending upon the Game Genre, many dice may be needed.

Hero Games, at the time of this writing, have released a Revision of its Fifth Edition of the Hero System. The Fuzion system had initially been intended to be "Hero 5th", but due to fans' resistance to the Fuzion system (and the late-1990s recession of RTG), Hero Games abandoned Fuzion.

Powers

The powers system is divided into a set of standard powers, and a list of advantages and disadvantages that can be applied to each power. Many of the powers have specific advantages and disadvantages that apply only to that power. The powers in the Hero system are categorized roughly as follows:

  • Adjust — Modify the Characteristics of self or another.
  • Attack — Inflict physical damage to an opponent.
  • Affect Body — Change shape, size, density, &c.
  • Affect Sense — Alter or hinder a character's senses.
  • Defense — Protect against an attack or mishap.
  • Mental — Affect the mind of another.
  • Movement — Employ various forms of movement.
  • Senses — Improve or expand upon the sensory abilities.
  • Other — Powers that do not fall into the other categories.

Within each of these categories are multiple powers that have more specialized effects. Thus for the movement category there are powers that can be used for running, swimming, climbing, jumping, gliding, flying, tunneling through solid surfaces, and even teleportation. For certain game genres there are even powers for travel to other dimensions or moving faster than light.

Each power has a base point cost for a given effect. This could be, for example, a certain number of points per six-sided-dice of damage inflicted upon a foe. The advantages and disadvantages are then selected for the power, and summed up. These modifiers are typically in integer increments of ±¼, but can range up to ±2 or even higher. The real cost of the power is then determined by:

Real Cost = Base Cost × (1 + Advantages) / (1 + Disadvantages)

The energy cost (and possibly the skill) required to activate and use a power is typically based on the base cost of the power. The real cost just gives the point expenditure required to gain the power.

The rules also include schemes for providing a larger number of powers to a character for a given cost. These power frameworks reduce the cost either by requiring the group of powers to have a common theme as in an Elemental Control Framework, or by limiting the number of powers that can be active at one time with a Multipower Framework. Powers within a framework can share common disadvantages, further reducing the cost.

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