The HERO System seems complex at first glance, but don’t worry, it’s easier than it looks. Unlike many game systems, which have different types of rules for different parts of their games (combat, magic, character creation, or what have you), the HERO System has a lot of consistency and internal logic. Once you learn the important parts, it becomes easy to figure out how other parts of the system work.
The HERO System uses six-sided dice (d6) to resolve combat, the use of Skills, and similar situations. The number before the “d6” notation indicates how many dice to roll. For example, 12d6 means 12 dice; 2d6+1 means roll two dice and add one point to the total. Most dice-rolling in the HERO System requires you to roll 3d6 and get a result equal to or less than some number. This is written in the text by a minus sign (-) following the number. For example, a Skill your character can perform successfully on an 11 or less roll is written 11-.
Whenever you attempt any 3d6 roll — whether an Attack Roll, Skill Roll, Characteristic Roll, Perception Roll, or other roll — a result of 3 (three ones) always hits or succeeds; a result of 18 (three sixes) always misses or fails. The Gamemaster (GM) should consider giving a character some advantage when his player rolls a 3 (perhaps some extra dice of damage), and some disadvantage for rolling an 18 (perhaps reducing the character’s DCV for a Segment or two).
Movement in the HERO System, and other things involving distance, are measured in meters, abbreviated “m.” For example, a flying character might buy Flight 20m, meaning he can fly up to 20 meters as a Full Move.
In the HERO System, you use Character Points (see below) to purchase all of your character’s abilities and powers. Sometimes this requires calculations involving division or multiplication. Examples include determining the Active Point cost of a power to which you apply an Advantage, the Real Point cost of a power to which you apply a Limitation, a character’s DEX Roll, and the Endurance (END) cost of a power.
When you calculate the cost of something using division or multiplication, always round off to the next whole number in favor of the Player Character (unless a specific rule indicates otherwise). Numbers from .1 to .4 round down; numbers from .6 to .9 round up; and .5 rounds up or down depending upon what’s best for the char- acter. You only have to round to one decimal place (unless the GM requires more precise rounding).
If a calculation involves two or more separate parts or stages, round at each separate step of the calculation.
The rounding rules only apply to division and multiplication. If a character buys something that costs less than a full point, he doesn’t get to round that down to zero — he has to round it up to 1 point, because there’s no division or multiplication involved and he’s not allowed to get something “for free.” The minimum cost of anything in the HERO System, no matter how the cost is calculated, is 1 Character Point.
Sometimes the rules require the character to halve the value of an Advantage or Limitation, which is expressed as a fraction. In that case, the rounding is in favor of the character, as usual. For example, +3⁄4 rounds to +1⁄4 (since it’s best for the character), while -3⁄4 rounds to -1⁄2; +11⁄4 rounds to +1⁄2, -11⁄4 rounds to -3⁄4.
HERO System books use some standard abbreviations for cross-referencing purposes. “6E1” is this book, The HERO System 6th Edition, Volume I: Character Creation. “6E2” is the other main rulebook, The HERO System 6th Edition, Volume II: Combat And Adventuring. Thus, a reference to "6E2 37" means page 37 of Combat And Adventuring.
For other standard HERO System abbreviations, see the Glossary,
The heart of the HERO System is its rules for character creation. Using them, you can create any type of character, power, gadget, or ability you want, subject to the GM’s campaign restrictions.
You build HERO System characters with Character Points. You purchase everything a character can do — from his ability to lift heavy objects, to his skill with weapons, to his ability to use magic or superpowers — with Character Points.
Your GM will tell you how many points you have to build your character with — the more points, the more powerful the character, generally. You can spend most of your Character Points without any requirements, but you only get to spend some of them if you take a matching value of Complications for your character. Complications are disadvantages, hindrances, and difficulties that affect a character and thus help you￼to define who he is and properly simulate the concept you have in mind for him. For example, your character might be Hunted by an old enemy, or adhere to a Code Of Honor, or be missing one eye.
There are five things a character can buy with Character Points: Characteristics, Skills, Perks, Talents, and Powers.
All characters have Characteristics (such as Strength, Intelligence, and Speed), which represent basic physical, mental, and combat capabilities common to most characters. An average human has Characteristics of about 5-10.
Several Characteristics all have Characteristic Rolls equal to 9 + (Characteristic/5) or less. For example, a character with a DEX of 20 has a DEX Roll of 13(9 + (20/5) = 13). When the GM asks you to make a Characteristic Roll (such as a DEX Roll to walk along a narrow beam), you roll 3d6 like normal. The more you make (or fail) the roll by, the greater your degree of success (or failure). The GM imposes negative modifiers on the Characteristic Roll when you attempt particularly difficult feats, making it harder to succeed.
A character’s Skills represent specialized knowledge or training he possesses. This includes such things as knowing how to fly a plane, investigate a crime scene, or fire a blaster pistol, or the character’s in-depth knowledge about any subject you can think of (physics, Fire Demons, Great Britain, alien races...).
A character can try to get information, perform a task, or gain other benefits from knowing a Skill by making a Skill Roll. Most Skills have a Characteristic-based Skill Roll, typically between 8- and 18- (the higher, the better), and are rolled the same way: roll 3d6; if the total on the dice is less than or equal to your character’s Skill Roll, he succeeds; if it’s higher than the Skill Roll, he fails.
Perks are special resources a character has access to — money or property (like a really fast car or a headquarters), contacts, permits or licenses, and the like. See Chapter Four of 6E1 for descriptions of the Perks a character can purchase.
Talents are unusual abilities or attributes a character possesses. They’re usually better than Skills, but not quite as powerful as Powers — in fact, they’re sort of a cross or “middle ground” between the two. They include things like a natural sense of direction, a “sixth sense” for danger, having extremely fast reflexes, or being able to speed read. Some of them involve rolls similar to Skill Rolls; others function automatically.
Powers are abilities possessed by some characters. Typically they’re abilities “beyond those of normal men,” though you can also use Powers to create many abilities and devices that are perfectly appropriate for characters who are “normal men.” Each Power costs a certain amount of Character Points, depending upon how powerful or useful it is. Some Powers have an incremental cost, such as 5 Character Points per d6 of effect.
You can create any ability you can think of — flying, becoming invisible or intangible, changing shape, firing energy bolts or mental blasts — using Powers. They can simulate a superhero’s powers, a wizard’s spells, or a vigilante’s super-skills, just to name a few. You also use Powers to construct equipment and weapons.
Characters can build many abilities using Powers alone. But sometimes a character wants a power that’s better than normal. For that, he needs to apply a Power Advantage to his power. This makes the power more effective, but also more expensive.
Similarly, sometimes a character wants an ability that doesn’t always work properly. For example, maybe his powers only work at night. To represent that, he applies a Power Limitation to the ability. This makes the power less effective, but also less expensive.
The HERO System combat and adventuring rules allow your character to do just about anything you can think of. The rules provide lots of options, but you don’t have to learn them all at once. Instead, start out with the basics, and learn the details as you play. The basics are:
Two of a character’s Characteristics — Dexterity (DEX) and Speed (SPD) — determine when he acts in combat, and how often. The rules divide combat time into 12-second Turns, with each second referred to as a Segment. The character’s SPD indicates which Segments he can take an Action in; these Segments are his Phases. Thus, a character with 5 SPD has five Phases — five times each Turn when he can act. The Speed Chart indicates the Phases for each SPD.
In each Segment, several characters may have a Phase — for example, characters with SPD 3 and SPD 6 both have a Phase in Segment 4. All characters who can act in a Phase act in order of DEX, from highest to lowest. Thus, a character with DEX 20 acts before one with DEX 18. However, a character may Hold his Action and act later in the Phase if he wants.
A character may take an Action in each of his Phases. His Actions may include Full Phase Actions (which require his entire Phase) or Half Phase Actions, which require only half of his Phase (in other words, he can perform two Half Phase Actions per Phase). Full Phase Actions include using more than half of your meters of movement or recovering from being Stunned. Half Phase Actions include using up to half your meters of movement.
Attacks are a special type of Action. A character may make a Half Phase Action and then attack; in that case, the attack is considered a Half Phase Action, too. But if a character makes an attack before making any Half Phase Actions, the attack is considered a Full Phase Action. In other words, once a character makes an attack, that’s all he can do that Phase.
Some Actions take so little time to perform that they are Zero Phase Actions. Characters can perform Zero Phase Actions at the beginning of a Phase or after making a Half Phase Action, but not after making an attack. Zero Phase Actions include turning a Power on or off.
Some Actions take no time at all — a character can perform them whenever he wishes, even if he doesn’t have a Phase or has already acted in a Phase. No time Actions include making a Presence Attack, speaking, or making a roll when the GM asks you to.
A character’s Combat Value, or CV, determines his chance to hit targets in combat, and to avoid being hit.
Combat Value is two of a character’s Characteristics: Offensive Combat Value (OCV) and Defensive Combat Value (DCV). Various Combat Maneuvers, Combat Skill Levels, and other factors may modify a character’s OCV or DCV.
To attack, roll 3d6. Add 11 to your OCV and subtract the number rolled from the total. That indicates what DCV you can hit. If the target’s DCV is equal to or less than that, you hit him; if it’s higher than that, you missed him. For example, if a character has OCV 10 and rolls an 8, he can hit (10 + 11 8 =) DCV 13 or less.
Mental Attacks are slightly different. They use Mental Combat Value (MCV), which is defined by two Characteristics, Offensive Mental Combat Value (OMCV) and Defensive Mental Combat Value (DMCV). Otherwise, making a Mental Attack is basically the same as making any other kind of attack.
If a character hits his target with an attack, the attack does damage. There are two basic types of damage in the HERO System: STUN damage and BODY damage. Taking STUN damage decreases a character’s STUN and can knock him out; taking BODY damage decreases his BODY, which causes injuries and can kill him. All types of attacks cause one or both types of damage. Some, such as Mental Blasts, only cause STUN damage. Most, such as Blasts, punches, guns, and knives, cause both STUN and BODY.
Another important distinction is between Normal Damage attacks and Killing Damage attacks. Most attacks do Normal Damage, but Killing Attacks do Killing Damage (which, as its name implies, is deadlier). Normal Damage and Killing Damage are calculated differently and applied to defenses differently.
Characters have defenses that protect them against damage. All characters have Physical Defense, or PD (which protects against physical attacks like punches and clubs) and Energy Defense, or ED (which protects against energy attacks like laser beams or fire). PD and ED are Normal Defenses; they protect against Normal Damage. The character subtracts his defenses 15 from the STUN and BODY damage done to him, and applies the remainder (if any) to his STUN and BODY. If a character hit with a 22 STUN, 6 BODY physical attack has 10 PD, he takes 12 STUN (22-10) and 0 BODY (6-10). But Normal Defenses offer no protection against the BODY of Killing Damage; for that, characters need Resistant Defenses, such as Resistant Protection.
If a character loses more STUN from a single attack than he has points of CON, he becomes Stunned (dazed and unable to act). In the above example, if the character has a CON of 12 or higher, he won’t be Stunned by that attack; if his CON is 11 or less, he’s Stunned. A Stunned character must spend a Phase to recover from being Stunned before he can act again.
If a character loses all of his STUN from one or more attacks, he’s Knocked Out (unconscious) and completely unable to act. However, he wakes up when he regains STUN. Characters regain lost STUN by taking Recoveries. For each Recovery taken, the character gets back his Recovery Characteristic (REC) worth of STUN and END.
If a character loses BODY, he’s injured — he suffers burns, cuts, bleeding wounds, broken bones, and so forth. If he loses all of his BODY (down to 0 BODY), he begins to bleed to death. When he reaches his negative BODY (for example, -10 BODY for someone who normally has 10 BODY), he dies. Characters heal BODY damage at the rate of REC in BODY per month.
The HERO System 6th Edition contains everything you need to create characters and settings for a roleplaying campaign. All you need is paper to write your character down on and some dice. If you’re the GM, you’ll either have to create a setting and adventures for your campaign, or use published ones.
Those are the basics. Now you can start designing your first character and get ready to play your first game!
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