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Hero System 5th Edition (revised) Hardcover – January 1, 2004
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|Hardcover, January 1, 2004||
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"The Hero System (or HERO System) is a generic role-playing game system that developed from the superhero RPG Champions. It is used as the underlying mechanics of other Hero Games role-playing games such as Dark Champions, Fantasy Hero, Star Hero, and Pulp Hero. It is characterized by point-based character creation and the rigor with which it measures character abilities. It was one of the first RPG systems to forgo the use of non-cubical dice. The HERO System character creation system is entirely points-based with no random elements. Players are given a pool of points, the size of which varies depending on the campaign type, with which to buy Characteristics, Skills, Talents and Powers. They can gain additional points by taking Disadvantages that hamper their character in play. Abilities in the HERO System, particularly Powers (a broad category that includes superpowers, magic, psionics and high technology), are modeled based on their effects. The player chooses an effect the power models (such as Energy Blast) and chooses a set of modifiers to fine-tune the power's function. Each modifier makes the Power more or less expensive. HERO System products and players are notorious for the ingenuity and complexity of their power constructions. Tasks are resolved using three six-sided dice and Power effects (especially damage) are resolved by rolling a number of dice based on the power's level. Unlike the d20 System, experience awards are in the form of character points, which have the same value as those used in character creation and can be applied directly to the character's abilities upon receipt."
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Top Customer Reviews
Hero Games was not the first game with point-based character generation (FGU's Bushido/Aftermath! (1979/1981, respectively) system comes to mind, as does the obscure Supergame, DAG Design (1980)), but in a lot of ways, Champions turned that basic idea into a genre-defining concept. Give the players points. Then give them more points for taking disadvantages. At a blow, the game gave players incentives to challenge their own creations and make them really role-play.
Another feature of the game was the idea of taking basic effects and modifying them to make them more or less powerful in different conditions. This is where the game gets complicated, and some math skills (or purchasing Hero Games truly formidable Hero Designer Software) are required to get characters built right. However, a little practice and you end up with an assortment of in-game effects that are unique to your character and suit your taste to a T.
This game is chock full of examples of powers and abilities that are appropriate both to the superhero genre and any other genre you can imagine. Fantasy adventure? Sure. Old West? Why not? Espionage and superspies? Absolutely. Pulp action? Look, it's all there.
Hero Games has a newer edition of this work, and there are some significant changes between the two. Sixth Edition is a fine work and I would not wish to disparage it. But the fifth edition is, essentially, the same game as the first edition published way back in 1981. Very little has changed. Very little needed to change.
Do not be discouraged by the size of the book or how complex the system appears at first. The system is very fluid and offers a huge range of options for new and old gamers to try.
If I had to compare the system to another that was published. I would say the Hero System is an expanded set of rules to what Big Eyes Small Mouth 2nd edition had introduced.
So if you are looking for a system that explains things in generic terms, to let you be creative, this is a purchase you should consider.
(Some might know the HERO System as "Champions, the Superheroic Roleplaying Game!")
The HERO System is the king of point based Game Systems. Instead of a class + level structure like D&D and it's many imitators, in the HERO System a player has a certain number of points (varying by genre and power level) with which to buy characteristics, skills, special abilities, and so forth.
It's purpose is to allow a GM to run any genre, any point level, any time period with one set of consistent rules. It's very doable to take a normal fellah from a modern world campaign into a supers or space empire game and vice versa without missing a beat if you wanted to, but more importantly once the GM and players have learned the rules system, then rather than having to learn an entirely different rules system to play some other game, they can just adapt the good bits of the other game and run it in the HERO System instead.
It's point based open framework set up allows this to work. The key to any point based system is balancing abilities costs against their benefits so that one character's x points of y is equivalent in usefulness to another character's x points of z, and the HERO System does an excellent job of this essential internal balancing.
The strength of a point based system is greater flexibility in design; the weakness is that lacking GM oversight unscrupulous and ignorant players alike can come up with some pretty abusive characters. Thus the game takes a little bit of GM monitoring of character desing to work correctly.
Where the HERO System really excels however is that instead of having a lot of prepackaged abilities on a set list, it instead has a mechanic based upon the idea of reasoning from effects and then using a collection of base game mechanics modified to express that concept in game terms.
Thus rather than having umpteen abilities that all do the same general sort of damage the HERO System instead types damage into the broad groups of Energy, Physical, Mental, Flash, and Power damage, (Physical and Energy is also broken down further into "Normal" damage and "Killing" damage), and then provides a single base mechanic for each which is purchased in die amounts, and modified by various advantages and limitations to behave in ways appropriate to a desired effect.
So as an example a crusty mercenary in a gritty space campaign might have several types of guns, a wizard in a fantasy campaign might have several offensive spells, and a fire projector in a superhero game might have super powers all based on the same base power, "Ranged Killing Attack", just modified appropriately to model their respective game effects.
To continue the example the guns of the merc might have a variety of advantages like "Autofire", "Armor Piercing", and "Explosion" as good things, and limitations like "Charges", and "Obvious Accessible Focus: Gun" as downsides. The Wizard might have several attack spells with advantages similar to the merc and limitations like "Incantations", "Gestures", and "Extra Time". The Fire Blaster super might have advantages like "0 END", "Continuous", "Uncontrolled", and "Sticky" to indicate that they light things on fire, they continue to burn after the attack lands, and can light anything that touches them on fire too; it might take limitations like "Restrainable: Hands" and "Not In Space or Underwater" to indicate that if their hands are retrained or they are in a non flammable environment they cant use their power.
As you can see this kind of set up is extremely flexible and "inclusive", allowing the modeling of a lot of effects with the same basic mechanics. It can also get very wordy and complicated, and an oft cited complaint by detractors of the system is that the character generation is complex, and involves some basic math.
While it can take a bit of time to make an HERO System character, depending on how many points are available to a character and how outre a character concept is, but on the plus side once the initial build of the character is done, the character grows slowly over time rather than in repetitive stair stepped plateaus like happens in a class + level game.
The combat system itself is Turn based and breaks everything into 12 second Turns. Each second in a Turn is called a Segment. Every character has a Speed attribute measured from 1 to 12 which indicates how many segments they get actions each 12 seconds, broken down evenly across the Turn. Thus a character with a SPD 4 goes on the 3rd, 6th, 9th, and 12th segments of each Turn. When a character takes an action it is called a Phase, and actions can take anything from a "0 Phase", "1/2 Phase", "Full Phase", or more. Most combat actions take a 1/2 Phase by default.
Characters can hold a 1/2 or Full Phase and act later than their initiative, and characters can "Abort" to defensive actions like blocking or dodging or jumping out of the way even if it's not their initiative. Attacking ends a character's Phase.
Because character's can react to opponents out of initiative order, HERO System combats involve a lot of give and take and have a lot of tactical flexibility.
In addition to using weapons and unusual powers where appropriate to the genre being modeled, there are numerous basic manuevers that any character can use at no cost in character points, and there are better manuevers that can be bought. There are also rules for knockback, and very specific rules for interacting with the environment so things like hurling opponents into walls or hitting them with telephone poles or ramming them with a vehicle are all common occurances in various genres.
Due to the almost limitless variety of effects possible, HERO System combats can be very wild and yet they are also meticulously tracked to the second. On the plus side the action is very clearly defined, cinematic, and makes for great RPG-tales later. On the downside combat can take a while if a GM doesnt take steps to streamline where appropriate.
From a gaming perspective, the HERO System is for those GM's that know what they want and arent afraid of a little extra work to get exactly that, rather than settling for whatever design decisions the developers of other games wrote into their systems. The ability to create precisely what you want in your settings and characters is also an enabler for roleplaying as it allows richly realized character concepts.
The HERO System allows for fun, unique games that are highly memorable even years later. It empowers GM's and Players alike to make the worlds and characters that they want to make rather than having to work with whatever X game company decided to provide in their supplements.
Ive been playing with the system for 14 years now, across a variety of genre and have never had cause to regret it. Two thumbs way way up.