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Problems With Fantasy Hero Complete and Newbies


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#1 Brian Stanfield

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 06:01 PM

So I have a few problems with trying to teach Fantasy Hero Complete to new folks. I am tying to teach a buddy FHC, and he's been gaming for decades, but there are some problems cropping up. I'd like to get some feedback from sone newbies, or anyone else, who can see the problems with learning the system from an "outsider's" point of view. My buddy's point is that the new FHC is written with the intention of teaching new people, but it is written and presented in a way that is useful to Hero System veterans, not newbies.

  1. First off, in all honesty, it's horribly edited. I can find at least one typographical error on virtually every page, which is really bad form for what is supposed to be the new face for Fantasy Hero. I want to recommend a product I am proud of, and this falls short. This is, of course, a different issue which has been discussed elsewhere. The aesthetics of this book don't really give a fantasy feel in its presentation either.
  2. The rules are obviously boiled down versions of the larger sourcebooks. For people who are experienced with the rules, this is a great summary to work with, but for my friend they were hard to understand. He noticed right away that, without examples (which were intentionally removed to save space) the rules were really dense. 
  3. The layout of the text is not exactly intuitive. From my friend's perspective, he wanted to learn how to make a character. Here is what he found, and didn't find:
    1. ​​He found characteristic maxima tucked away on page 24, but couldn't find beginning values (hidden away in the appendix on page 252!).
    2. Templates are mentioned on page 12, which is what he was looking for, but there is no reference to where they are available (page 202-211). From an experienced gamer's perspective, he wanted to have some sort of suggestions to work from, and felt like he was floating in the game mechanics without any sort of reference point.
    3. He wanted to see what equipment was available, etc. This isn't available in the Equipment chapter (p. 188), but it tucked away on the last page of the book before the Appendices (p. 248)! Again, this was off-putting because none of it was intuitive.
  4. ​As discussed in this thread  http://www.herogames...mage-is-normal/   my buddy had a hard time understanding the damage in FHC. We sorted it out in time, but I realized that, while Damage Classes are nominally explained on page 183, there is no chart comparing normal damage to killing damage. The definition uses Active Points to explain the two kinds of damage, but the Damage Class chart offered in other texts is an essential tool for understanding how they work. I mean, there is absolutely nothing intuitive about a 5DC killing damage attack when all that is defined is that 3DC is 1d6. There's no way for a beginner to understand this.
  5. The powers are mind boggling to my friend. In all honesty, he doesn't need to know the build for each thing (weapons, spells, talents, etc.). It is just too overwhelming for him. Is there a way to mediate the information overload? He doesn't need to see how the sausage is made at the beginning. 

​I don't want this first post to get too long, so I'll keep it brief. Please add your observations on how the book appears to new eyes. What is expected, what are the impediments, what would make it better?

 

I'm asking all of this because I'd like to create some sort of introductory text for newbies. Something between the Hero in 2 Pages document and Fantasy Hero Complete. For example, I love how Monster Hunters International​ is laid out. It is different than other Hero System books because it defines the setting first, before the character creation. I realize, however, that there is a very strictly defined setting for those rules, and that Fantasy Hero Complete is intentionally more generic. But are there some things that can be presented as standard beginning material (like a magic system, for example!) that give a new person a feel for the new system?  What are the basic tropes that everyone expects to see when they open a fantasy book that can be taken as a baseline for a new game setting/rule book introduction? 

 

Some of you may remember the old Basic D&D classic module, The Keep on the Borderlands​. It was simple, generic, but also introduced the players to new rules and things as it also introduced their first scenario. I'd like to create something kinda like this. What would you like to see in it, and what should be included? What is the order of importance for introducing the material? 


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#2 Cantriped

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 06:50 PM

Speaking of Keep on the Borderlands; this page has a pretty decent 6th edition conversion:  http://alphawolf10.w...ule-conversions

 

As a GM experienced with playing and running HERO system, I can attest that it is sometimes difficult to teach new players the game. I don't necessarily agree with all of your opinions regarding FHC: I feel like it's layout is a huge improvement on the 6th edition core rule books, and in terms of usability I feel like it is comparable to Pathfinder's Core Rulebook (which is easily twice as large). The last group I taught learned the game as we went. I wouldn't subject a new player to reading the entirety of FHC anymore than I would subject one to reading the entire Pathfinder Core Rulebook; to do either is basically asking for them to fall off the learning curve. Regardless of the system, I usually expect to be the one building the first character a new player plays.

 

Regarding Layout issues you encountered: The base values for each characteristic are listed in the first line of the description of each characteristic. For example, on FHC 17:

Strength (STR)

  Base Value:  10

  Cost:  1 CP per +1 STR

 

Based upon the rest of the complaints registered above regarding FHC, I have the following advice for teaching your buddy FHC.

 

If your friend is the type who learns better by example: Print out the Elf Ranger (FHC 223), the Goblin Rogue (FHC 224) (and perhaps a copy of "HERO In Two Pages" for him to reference during play). Have him pick one character or the other, and run a quick session with you playing the other as an NPC. Consider having them fight a Giant Spider (FHC 231) in a cave for the rewards of a Poorly Locked Treasure ChestTM​. Keep your copy of FHC handy, and look up/explain game elements as they come up. Alternatively, find out what kind of character they want to play, and build something as close as possible while keeping it simple (no paragraph long compound power constructs).

 

If your friend is the studious type: Consider having him read the book more or less backwards, have him read the "Introduction", and the "Core Concepts And Game Basics", then skip to "Swords and Sorcery - Fantasy Roleplaying". Then backtrack to "Characters And The World", "Combat", and "Equipment", only after all that should you consider allowing them to read it cover to cover. I don't really suggest this route so much through; the learning curve for Hero is much steeper if you try to study it like a college textbook.


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#3 Amorkca

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 06:56 PM

Hi Brian

 

Looks like Cantriped beat me to the link from Christopher Taylor's site...

 

I'm currently running a Supers game with 4 new players and 3 Old Timers (though we are all rusty).

 

Interspersed with this I've been doing some Danger International type scenarios as they haven't got any powers yet and its giving them a feel for the game as we go along.  The other challenge I run into is that not all the players are there every game, so its like I'm re-explaining everything multiple times as we go along...

 

But - everyone is having fun!


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#4 Chris Goodwin

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 07:18 PM

I pretty much agree with you.  That's partly why I wrote my How to Play HERO System document, linked in my signature.


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#5 Christopher R Taylor

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 07:21 PM

Eventually, sadly its gonna take years, I plan on releasing a player and GM 2-book fantasy hero rules set for my campaign setting that I hope will have stripped down and simplified rules for the players to make stepping into the game easier.  The plan is to make a "Powered by Hero" setting presented as if it is a game on its own, and people can get the real Fantasy Hero book to get the full version of all the rules.

 

Because I agree, we can definitely use an easy intro version of the game for new players.  While its definitely true what Cantriped says:

 

I wouldn't subject a new player to reading the entirety of FHC anymore than I would subject one to reading the entire Pathfinder Core Rulebook; to do either is basically asking for them to fall off the learning curve

 

I think a tutorial intro to the game would be a big help.  We're talking about doing that with Champions, and I plan on doing it for Fantasy Hero.  It probably will end up actually being a reskin inspired by Keep on the Borderlands, to be honest.  One part is already out (Two Kings Keep) but that's not the intro.

 

The more I think about it the more I like this super simplified, spoon-fed way of getting players into the hobby, because we're not the same culture we were in the late 70s when D&D hit.  We have to adapt to the customers, not demand they adapt to us.


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#6 Cantriped

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 07:26 PM

I'm asking all of this because I'd like to create some sort of introductory text for newbies. Something between the Hero in 2 Pages document and Fantasy Hero Complete. For example, I love how Monster Hunters International​ is laid out. It is different than other Hero System books because it defines the setting first, before the character creation. I realize, however, that there is a very strictly defined setting for those rules, and that Fantasy Hero Complete is intentionally more generic. But are there some things that can be presented as standard beginning material (like a magic system, for example!) that give a new person a feel for the new system?  What are the basic tropes that everyone expects to see when they open a fantasy book that can be taken as a baseline for a new game setting/rule book introduction?

 

I like your idea of creating an introductory text, there are several people on the boards working on similar projects at the moment. One of the most frequently commented upon holes in the product line is in 6th/CC/FHC compatible adventures. I'm not sure if they still include it, but when I bought FHC the digital edition came with a sample campaign setting, an adventure, and some additional creatures and sample characters. The campaign setting/adventure wasn't much to my taste, in large part because I didn't like the example magic system. However it was fairly well written and interesting. It struck me as being a fairly good starting point for an entirely new-to-Fantasy-Hero table.

Magic systems are a funny thing about Hero... In most table top RPGs the Magic System is fairly hard coded into the system, and new campaign settings often have to shoehorn themselves in around the existing magic system. Meanwhile, every single campaign setting I've read, or campaign I've played in in Hero has had a different magic system. Everyone has their own opinion on how it should be done, and Fantasy Hero​ (the Genre Source book, not to be confused with Fantasy Hero Complete​, the rulebook) literally has a half a dozen or more viable and completely different Magic Systems.

 

If you are going to seriously consider creating an introductory text, my research on the subject has yielded that "most people want" something that as an addition to (or replacement for) Fantasy Hero Complete makes the game completely plug and play​ (in that you could buy this product in the morning and be running it by that afternoon's gaming session). To do so as a supplement to Fantasy Hero Complete,​ such a product needs:

1)  A campaign setting with at least a vaguely defined world, a reasonably defined economy, one or more reasonably defined magic systems, and at least one exhaustively defined settlement which the players can use as a headquarters.

2)  One or more adventures which the GM can run in that setting without modification, including full write-ups of every enemy to be encountered.

3)  Enough example characters that a table of six can all play a character who fills the role they desire to fill without any duplication. As with enemy write-ups, such example characters would have to be able to be used in the included campaign setting without modification.


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#7 zslane

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 07:40 PM

Monster Hunters is the only product of its kind for the Hero System, and sadly, it ought to be the template by which all Hero products are shaped but isn't. I mean, it's fine and all to have a comprehensive reference document that describes the whole system in all its minute glory, but apart from that, there should only be setting-based product lines (like MHI) that provide books full of setting/campaign material and lots of pre-built character examples, templates, magic systems, creatures, gear, etc. so that players can get started more or less right away.

 

But this is not the operating philosophy of Hero Games, and so you're pretty much on your own when it comes to putting together the sort of material you need. You've come to right place though. If there is any material that can help you, the folks here can point you to it. Just don't expect it to have an official Hero Games logo on it, or have any sort of stable on-going product development like you'd find for D&D or Pathfinder.


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#8 Brian Stanfield

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 08:10 PM

Regarding Layout issues you encountered: The base values for each characteristic are listed in the first line of the description of each characteristic. For example, on FHC 17:

Strength (STR)

  Base Value:  10

  Cost:  1 CP per +1 STR

 

Heh, I don't know how that escaped my attention. That's a big DUH on my part. Thanks for pointing it out.

 

Speaking of Keep on the Borderlands; this page has a pretty decent 6th edition conversion:  http://alphawolf10.w...ule-conversions

 

I've seen this as well. I actually grabbed it and planned on using it on our first adventure, but never got through the character creation process. I'd like to create something similar to this with the rules included in a stripped down version.

 

 

I pretty much agree with you.  That's partly why I wrote my How to Play HERO System document, linked in my signature.

 

That's a great writeup. I've seen it before, but it didn't occur to me to direct my friend to it. It's a good overview of the whole system!

 

 

Eventually, sadly its gonna take years, I plan on releasing a player and GM 2-book fantasy hero rules set for my campaign setting that I hope will have stripped down and simplified rules for the players to make stepping into the game easier.  The plan is to make a "Powered by Hero" setting presented as if it is a game on its own, and people can get the real Fantasy Hero book to get the full version of all the rules.

 

I was thinking of the same thing. Sort of like a Players Handbook for new players. There was something about opening up the original AD&D Players Handbook for the first time and diving right into creating characters. Lots of charts and stuff, and lists of weapons and equipment! It was enough to get me hooked, even after playing the Basic rules. On the other hand, I'm not sure there's much of a need for a GM Guide, because that's basically what the other rule books are for (I'm assuming, of course, that the GM is going to be more experienced. This may not be a fair assumption).

 

But the "Powered by Hero" is exactly what I was thinking. I like the way that Monster Hunters International has that sort of plug-n-play feel to it. It seems like this approach can be used for lots of settings, and as a beginner product it could really help people overcome the rules-overload.

 

 

 

I think a tutorial intro to the game would be a big help.  We're talking about doing that with Champions, and I plan on doing it for Fantasy Hero.  It probably will end up actually being a reskin inspired by Keep on the Borderlands, to be honest.  One part is already out (Two Kings Keep) but that's not the intro.

 

The more I think about it the more I like this super simplified, spoon-fed way of getting players into the hobby, because we're not the same culture we were in the late 70s when D&D hit.  We have to adapt to the customers, not demand they adapt to us.

 

I have Two Kings Keep, and plan on using it a little later. I have several of the scenarios you created, and enjoy them and will definitely use them. I hadn't made the connection to The Keep On The Borderland, but that makes perfect sense.

 

But as you say, I'm thinking that a very basic tutorial is the way to go. I'm thinking of an approach like this in a brief players handbook:

  • Here's the world you're in (very locally outlined with maybe a larger map to suggest future adventures). Explain the economics, culture, and the equipment and weapons available.
  • A few hooks for adventures (you meet at a tavern and hear several rumors, etc. etc.).
  • Here's the character archetypes to choose from (fighter, thief, etc.): pick one.
  • Here's the races in the world: pick one.
  • Here's how magic works (in a very basic way: maybe a skill-based system to start off).
  • Here's a list of spells (costs only, and not the build information).
  • ​Pick some skills, grab some weapons and equipment and let's play.

​I think that at every step of the way other books can be referenced, such as the HS 6e1 & 6e2, Grimoire, Bestiary, Equipment Guide​, etc., without needing them to be on hand to play at first. But if I can use stuff from existing books, players won't have to "re-learn" anything as they expand their grasp of the game. If I use monsters from the Bestiary, spells from the Grimoire, and the equipment list form Fantasy Hero 6, I can use them as the core rules that will be constant through all game settings.

 

​The more I can hide the intricacies at first, and just promote playing and having fun, then curiosity will draw people into wanting to learn the mechanics in more detail. As much as Fantasy Hero Complete is intended to be a learn & play book, it's still too complex for a newbie to feel like he can start right away. The powers section alone is enough to overwhelm anyone, and leave them feeling lost. My buddy's head just about blew up when he hit this section. I tried to tell him he didn't really need to know it, but he didn't feel like he could "know" the system without knowing that. In this case, I think less information is actually better. The GM should know these things, of course, but beginning players don't need to know the build for an invisibility cloak: he just wants to put it on and sneak around.


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#9 Brian Stanfield

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 08:16 PM

Monster Hunters is the only product of its kind for the Hero System, and sadly, it ought to be the template by which all Hero products are shaped but isn't. I mean, it's fine and all to have a comprehensive reference document that describes the whole system in all its minute glory, but apart from that, there should only be setting-based product lines (like MHI) that provide books full of setting/campaign material and lots of pre-built character examples, templates, magic systems, creatures, gear, etc. so that players can get started more or less right away.

 

But this is not the operating philosophy of Hero Games, and so you're pretty much on your own when it comes to putting together the sort of material you need. You've come to right place though. If there is any material that can help you, the folks here can point you to it. Just don't expect it to have an official Hero Games logo on it, or have any sort of stable on-going product development like you'd find for D&D or Pathfinder.

 

I'm trying to build it myself, but I also want to do it in a way that might also help other people. Really, I think everyone ought to be playing Hero games, but there's just not good ways to get them into it unless they're already invested somehow. Fantasy Hero Complete is really more like a recap summary for experienced players. It doesn't give newbies what they really need: a setting and some starting points. Seriously, what new player would read that book and then feel prepared to create an entire world for players to play in?! It's intimidating enough to create a character for the first time, imagine trying to do that for every NPC, villain, monster, etc.?!

 

As you say, I'm on my own here, but think maybe this can become a group project if we can figure out the core basics that a newbie needs to get started. I'm hoping we actually can get some newbies into this conversation!



#10 Brian Stanfield

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 08:21 PM

Magic systems are a funny thing about Hero... In most table top RPGs the Magic System is fairly hard coded into the system, and new campaign settings often have to shoehorn themselves in around the existing magic system. Meanwhile, every single campaign setting I've read, or campaign I've played in in Hero has had a different magic system. Everyone has their own opinion on how it should be done, and Fantasy Hero​ (the Genre Source book, not to be confused with Fantasy Hero Complete​, the rulebook) literally has a half a dozen or more viable and completely different Magic Systems.

 

The magic systems! I know you've seen a few of my posts about magic. Sooooo many options! So what I'd like to do is create a really simple magic system (like a skill-based system) and leave it at that. As you say, I'd just hard-code it into the setting, and then offer spells from the HS Grimoire in a very boiled down way, and call it good for the first campaign. This makes it easy for the GM, and then perhaps everyone would be ready to explore more detailed character creating, etc.



#11 Brian Stanfield

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 08:42 PM

There is a quick character generation section in Champions 5e which is really interesting. It seems they do a great job of fleshing out the archetypes, and then use them to make quick character generation possible. I think this has some interesting possibilities in fantasy, since many of the archetypes are pretty standard, and the races offer a second layer of variability.

 

I saw that High Rock Press is going to produce Champions character creation cards, and this seems like a really cool idea for beginning characters who don't need to see how the sausage is made. Just mash up some things and get them playing as soon as possible. Let them explore the combat system and other mechanics by playing them, and then let them dig further into the character creation.



#12 TheDarkness

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 08:53 PM

I don't have the fantasy hero book, but one thing I can note from other of the genre books is that, unlike most games, Hero might be best presented as things like stats and dice rolling conventions first, THEN the combat system, then skills, powers, the stuff to build with.

 

Putting character creation before the play part of the system mistakenly gives the impression that combat is as complex as character creation, and may send some people running for checkers.


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#13 Brian Stanfield

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 09:13 PM

I don't have the fantasy hero book, but one thing I can note from other of the genre books is that, unlike most games, Hero might be best presented as things like stats and dice rolling conventions first, THEN the combat system, then skills, powers, the stuff to build with.

 

Putting character creation before the play part of the system mistakenly gives the impression that combat is as complex as character creation, and may send some people running for checkers.

 

If I do actually design something, I'll probably leave out the powers altogether. For a fantasy setting, the spells are what matter and they can be presented in a pre-packaged way.

 

I do like your idea of inverting the presentation, with combat first. I know that one of the things that my buddy was confused about was what role each characteristic had in combat. If you don't know what OCV or PD is, you don't know if you've created a character with good or bad characteristics. If you teach the combat first, it naturalizes the other stuff. Of course, teaching combat without first discussing the characteristics may be a bit tough as well. . . . As with most of these issues, it's a chicken-egg problem.


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#14 TheDarkness

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 10:02 PM

Yeah, I think that having the combat viewed first, as you said, makes purchasing powers and skills make much more sense.

 

I also think the combat section should have the explanation penetrating and such, since they are very common influences on damage.

 

Obviously, it would not make sense to include all things, such as many drains, in the combat section, but if the player gets the combat, they understand a lot more of the system, and are more likely to be able to build something.


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#15 Christopher R Taylor

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 11:19 PM

Putting character creation before the play part of the system mistakenly gives the impression that combat is as complex as character creation, and may send some people running for checkers.

 

Its kinda of standard for game system layout, that's what D&D does, for example, and has since 1st edition AD&D.  I'm not sure it matters much but I'll give it some thought.  I do plan on putting the powers in very abbreviated form in the book so people can use it for basic spell creation of their own, and the more detailed stuff in the GM book but that's in the future and I'm still working stuff out.  
Discussions like this really help me in thinking this through, though.


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#16 TheDarkness

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 11:52 PM

Its kinda of standard for game system layout, that's what D&D does, for example, and has since 1st edition AD&D.  I'm not sure it matters much but I'll give it some thought.  I do plan on putting the powers in very abbreviated form in the book so people can use it for basic spell creation of their own, and the more detailed stuff in the GM book but that's in the future and I'm still working stuff out.  
Discussions like this really help me in thinking this through, though.

Yeah, it's really not actually a difference in content, so it's funny that it could make a difference in understanding. I recall reading a short story once written in two columns, each column described the same event from two different perspectives. Depending which one you read first, it tended to color your perspective on the overall event.

 

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#17 Lucius

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 05:59 AM

Monster Hunters is the only product of its kind for the Hero System, and sadly, it ought to be the template by which all Hero products are shaped but isn't.


Doesn't Monster Hunter have an issue with some of the monsters being built using Powers or rules that aren't presented in the book?


That said, since hunting monsters is more or less THE classic Fantasy Role Playing Game player activity, maybe something like a modified Monster Hunter International - with the gun fetishism stripped out, magic as a player option expanded on, and without the ridiculous "the world is crawling with monsters but somehow all the world's governments conspire to hide this fact from everyone" notion - would be a good introductory fantasy setting, with bounties paid in gold by an emperor or perhaps a transnational Council of Wizards or Temple.

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#18 Doc Democracy

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 06:09 AM

Oh!  Lucius just reminded me.  I was sitting in Fantastic Beasts, enduring the stuff about Potter films that annoy me, when an idea came to me.

 

I was thinking that there must be an area effect power covering the whole world that is essentially a cumulative effect mind control that makes people dismiss the supernatural and explain away the source of disruptions caused by supernatural activity.  Direct evidence in front of your face'heals the damage' but if you do not have prolonged exposure you will, after a while, forget or explain it away again.

 

That would work for settings that rely on the world in general to ignore and fail to prepare for such stuff.  If you want to be able to explain it in game terms.  :-)

 

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#19 Doc Democracy

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 06:10 AM

I might supplement that with a global area effect transform, all written and media reporting of supernatural events get similarly 'edited' so that reportage is not a good source of evidence after the event.

 

:-)

 

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#20 Lucius

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 06:15 AM


I do plan on putting the powers in very abbreviated form in the book so people can use it for basic spell creation of their own,[/font][/color]

I think, honestly, that's a big part of our (Hero System's) problem.

I mean, thinking that gamers in general (as opposed to those of us who are already fans of Hero) WANT to be able to do things like create their own spells.

  • The powers are mind boggling to my friend. In all honesty, he doesn't need to know the build for each thing (weapons, spells, talents, etc.). It is just too overwhelming for him. Is there a way to mediate the information overload? He doesn't need to see how the sausage is made at the beginning. 

To borrow a metaphor, I think most players want to open up a menu and find a tasty but limited selection of delicious flavors of sausage (not too many or it will be too hard to choose,) not be led into a kitchen full of ingredients and invited to make their own sausage. Or maybe even they just want to find "sausage" on the menu.

Now I think of it, this is a very useful metaphor. Because now I can say that the way Power builds are presented could be compared to printing every recipe of every dish on the menu.

Lucius Alexander

I enjoy creating a brand new palindromedary tagline with every single post I make. But how many people actually do something like that?
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