Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sell me on the HERO System - if you Can ;)

RPGNow is running a sale on the HERO System.

I remember playing Champions back in the day when it was a boxed set that requires a shit ton of D6s to game with. Now it seems like you need a shit ton of books. Still, the price is right to take a peek, assuming the peek is worth taking.

Is the HERO System worth the taxing on my mind it will entail to learn a new system (I'm assuming what i played back in the day is barely recognizable compared to what I played in the mid 80s)?


  1. Structurally about the same. The rules have become more organized and perhaps legalistic in some ways -- I've seen some bits that basically clarify how the rules are supposed to work where someone found a loophole -- but overall I think more consistent. Fundamentally much is the same, it's mostly the particulars that have changed.

    Still, Energy Blast is 5 points per d6 and Killing Blast is three times as expensive, and you can still build your powers the way you want, if you can afford them.

  2. I think I'd argue that the complete rules above are actually a pretty bad way to learn the game. They are encyclopedic in their thoroughness, and don't lend themselves nearly so well to a new player as one of the smaller options - the Basic Rulebook, Champions Complete (if you want strictly supers), Monster Hunters International (for play in the world of Larry Correia's MHI) or the forthcoming Fantasy Hero (currently in Kickstarter with a $10 PDF entry point, with a focus on fantasy games, naturally).

    1. That's fair. These are reference books that are good to have, but they're not light reading.

    2. I concur. I didn't get into HERO until the Sixth Edition and I found trying to learn the game with the two massive Sixth Edition tomes, collectively 1200 pages in length to be too daunting. I ending up getting the Basic Rulebook to learn the game and then reference the giant blue books when needed. Ultimately, I found getting into HERO like learning a new language. It's an endeavor not to be entered lightly, requires an commitment and an investment of time but once you get it, it's like a whole new world is open to you that you were excluded from before. Not sure if that helps but for ten bucks you really don't have much to lose. The great artwork in the HERO core is at least worth ten bucks so you'll get your money's worth regardless. As for needing a shit ton of books, you don't need anything beyond the core but once you crack the code, you'll want to get more than the core, so much more. When you consider that fifth and sixth edition are more or less the same thing, there are dozens and dozens of gloriously crunchy books to get. I now have over 50!

  3. The hero system is a beautifully balanced system. A work of art. Brutalist, modern art. Evocative and powerful and almost overwhelming in its perfectly balanced fury.

    It is one game where the mechanics jump off the page and can you by the throat and throttle you into awed supplication.

    As a game, it's very dense and slow. If you like 4e, then you will nut yourself over Hero.

    In other words, it's the Grape Nuts of RPGs.

    I have over a hundred superheroes and supervillains lovingly constructed down to the last character point. Perfect works of art that do exactly what I mean for them to do mechanically. I could pull them out and play with any Hero group anywhere in the universe and in any century, and they would behave perfectly, like so many clockwork gnomes animated by a divine clockmaker.

    And so these tiny works of art, each painstakingly crafted over hours and sometimes days, sit in a binder in a box under a table in my basement.

    Maybe forever.

    The game's the thing, man. And the game is slow, and doesn't suit my style.

    The rules are slow. They are laid out very well. But they are so dense, you have to really want it to get the most out of the system.

    There's no soul there. The rules have no soul. Nothing animates them.

    Even in play, the GM can use them to make whatever he wants to. This is more true than in almost any other game system.

    But instead of a world, it's a puppet show. The pieces all move exactly right. But there's no soul to it.

    I have an incredibly deep admiration for Hero. I really, really, really want to love it. But instead of love, it's this really platonic deep respect.

    The Hero System, it's destined to always live in my friend-zone.

  4. Hero System is fundamentally the same game it was in the 80s. With expanded options and details. The new Champions book is a standalone game in its own right so I would start with that. Then use the main hero system book as a reference.

  5. Get Hero Basic or Champions Complete (not on sale, unfortunately), and wait for Fantasy Hero Complete. Based on your schedule Erik I think you'll find little time to absorb the monstrosity that is the Hero 6th main books! I know I can't. That said I'll still probably get them for the hell of it.

  6. Don't bother with any of this stuff, this is reference material for the die hard completist who wants every 'i' dotted and 't' crossed for them, and who has next to no imagination. The *only* book you need to run Hero games is *Champions Complete*. Although it is written with a superhero experience in mind, it is totally usable to run sci-fi, fantasy, modern espionage, whatever floats your boat. I used Champions 1e back in the day for precisely the same - all it takes it a little old school imagination.

    I ran a Champions game for my old school fantasy group last summer, only one of whom had any experience with it, and that was from 20 years previously. The others approached with massive trepidation and foreboding as they had all heard how difficult Hero was, how mathematically intense it was, how it was crunch to the point of despair, but within 20 minutes they were all engrossed and couldn't believe how it had acquired such a bad rep. Half of them went and bought their own copies of *Champions Complete* over the next few days. Seriously.

    That two page "everything you need to know about Hero" document really does distil the rules down to two pages. There is a single unified mechanic that anyone can explain / understand in 5 mins, then you're off. Character generation can be as light or intense as you like. Even complicated characters can be rattle off in 5 minutes using the excellent Hero Designer character software. However, for your typical fantasy characters there is no more to it than buy your stats, buy your skills, maybe a couple of talents (eidetic memory, etc), get some disadvantages, and a spell or two if you're that way inclined.

    Now, I'm not saying this is an easy jump if you're a class 'n' level kind of guy who likes to know exactly what you get and when, with no messing around. However, if you're more at the RuneQuest / d100 end of the old school spectrum, it really is no more than that with the random stats replaced by a point buy system.

    A bad ref can make any game system suck and be onerous to the players. Hero is no exception to that, but it is better at making bad refs worse, no question about it.

    In summary, it really isn't as much of a big deal of a system as it's made out to be. Although Hero Games did try to make it one with the disastrous 6th Edition and nearly went under (deservedly) as a result. I reckon the *Fantasy Hero Complete* Kickstarter PDF is likely worth $10 of anyone's money.

    Hope that helps with the informed choice thing :-)

  7. I can't. I can't even sell it to me, and I'm a sucker for a huge discount.

  8. Hero is a really addictive character generating game that no one ever wants to play.

  9. Just get a used copy of the 4th edition Big Blue Book. Every version since has been turned into law school textbook style and will make your eyes glaze over. So many Hero players believe in letter not spirit of the law, the writers feel they have to spell out every possible interpretation of any phrase, it's very "That depends on what 'is' is" in style.

  10. I'm a lifetime (30+ yrs) Champions / HERO guy, but no fan of 6th Edition. In fact, I think it killed the line by being a flavorless, fix-what-isn't broken, overly-long monstrosity.

    And after several false starts at teaching newbies the rules that went wonky (mostly slow combat, and rules munchkinery), I''ll never play with rookies again...which is no way to ensure the system grows and thrives.

  11. Almost made a go of Fantasy Hero, but it was too much crunch for me to handle. Champions suffered from both complexity and imbalance, build your hero wrong and you are siting on you ass watching someone else finish the fight. Might pick up the .pdf anyway. At least as a .pdf it won't break my arm to pick it up.

  12. foo... looks like the sale is already over.


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