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How Do You Handle Gear & Equipment in Heroic Games?


Special Equipment Distribution  

13 members have voted

  1. 1. What rules do you use for special equipment (magic items, alien tech, etc.)?

    • Players Spend Points to Buy
      1
    • Players Spend Resource/Equipment Points
      2
    • Players Spend Wealth (gold, credit, etc.)
      3
    • Players Get Found Gear for Free
      6
    • Other (Explain Below)
      1


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I know this has been brought up in the past, but I was thinking a bit about gear and equipment and was wondering how Hero GMs handle player's gaining such things? Do they buy them with points? Resource/Equipment points? Do they spend wealth like gold or credit? Can they just use items they find for free?

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Explain below:

 

I handle it exactly,the same,way that I handle it in games that are not HERO System: whatever is appropriate in the moment.

 

Did Colonel Thennec find an antique carbine and a few shells in the back of the ship's locker?  It's his now.  Does Koloth the Virile admire that coal-black battleaxe with the standby thing on the other end?  Does Koloth have forty gold?  It's his now.  Did Cartier steal an elegant walking stick with a concealed .38 single-shot in one end and a dagger in the other?   It's his now.

 

On the other side of the coin:

 

Did Thennec fire the last of the shells for his carbine? Well, it's useless now, except maybe as a fragile club.

 

Did Koloth lose his axe over the sides of the vessel?  Well, it's gone now.

 

Did Cartier manage to break his cane?  Well, he doesn't have thise anymore.

 

Without any malice or snidery intended, I would lay a small wager that everyone here has played a non-HERO, non points-buy game.  Considering that, I find it baffling how often this discussion comes up.

 

 

 

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Mundane equipment:  Characters can start with gear reasonable and appropriate based on their concept and skills for no cost in points or money. 

 

Special, specialized, extra powerful stuff: By which I mean magic items.  I've always been on the side of characters paying points, but I'm not sure how tenable that is.  If they pay points to start with them, but characters who find them in play can't afford the point cost hit but get to keep them anyway, it's unfair to the former.  I'm still working on that one.  Maybe one-fifth point cost for both?  That sounds more fair and more doable. 

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Characters have to pay points for specialized personal gear, or any non-mundane gear they want to start with.  They get higher quality or magic gear as they adventure.  Gear that they pay points for is either reproducible or replaceable if lost, but gear they acquire through adventuring can be lost, broken, stolen, or used up.

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In the modern Fantasy game I ran a few years (okay, couple of decades?) back, the characters had to pay points for any innate abilities, spell casting ability, or signature magic items (one character had a family heirloom magic sword). Then they had a small gear pool— a set of points to use to buy any mundane (or commercially available magical) items that they would have with them during an adventure. We didn't track exact levels of money for the game, but they had to be able to justify the items based on their current (approximate) level of financial solvency. We also discussed the kinds of things their business ( a small security/private investigation agency) kept on hand, for them to trade out adventure to adventure. There was an understanding that anything purchased through the gear pool could be easily taken away, but equally easily replaced through purchase/looting/etc. Easy come. easy go.

 

When things got rough (usually toward the end of an arc), they could take the opportunity to "gear up," and have double the Gear points viable for their pool. There needed to be an in game explanation/justification for the temporary power up. Since my group and I had a high level of trust, that was never a problem.

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I played with players paying points for everything just for an experiment. I just treat every object like a power with lots of limitations. This way I don’t really have to sort out “magic items” as opposed to mundane, found items or purchased items, etc. it’s not a perfect system, but when I’m trying to teach points build to new players it helps them learn how things fit together. 
 

It rationalizes some of the usual problems, but ha its own drawbacks of course. the main problem is how to treat lost items. They get their points back of course, but special heirloom items or magic items may have more of a story arc built into retrieving them, and so on. Found and purchased items, of course, are the most problematic with this approach, so as @Dr.Devicesays, it requires some trust. 

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One of the ways I balance magical items is with complications, and treat them as pre-6th hero, where complications reduce the overall cost.  So that sword is magical, but it LOOKS magical, so it has distinctive looks.  It has a reputation as being cursed.  Turns out it really is cursed; it has 2d6 Unluck.  And its hunted, by demons who want to take it back to hell, so you have a small chance of a demon showing up to get it.   That kind of thing.

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On 11/17/2022 at 7:59 PM, Duke Bushido said:

Without any malice or snidery intended, I would lay a small wager that everyone here has played a non-HERO, non points-buy game.  Considering that, I find it baffling how often this discussion comes up.

 

Because many Hero Acolytes fetishize the point system, mostly as GMs, especially if they have come from Champions. Especially Recent editions.

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Oh , you are one of those that think math is fun.  I see. 
 

In all seriousness, I ran a Fantasy Hero campaign for nearly 20 years, and equipment handling became detailed. I  ROTC on the 1980s and WW2 re-enacting in the 90s an no matter the nation, combat and sustainment gear was between 70 and 120 lbs. so for most normal people, that was their hiking carry limit.  Generally, what wasn’t weapons or armor was sustainment equipment (camping gear).  I just carried that through to FH.  So this kept encumbrance reasonable. Anyone wearing heavy plate had animals to carry the sustainment gear, and sometimes servants to set it up. But often a long cloak, was all one had for sleeping rough.  

If you paid points for something you could reasonably expect to retain it or get it back with a little effort.  If you bought it, you had to account for it, but it could be taken or lost permanently due to circumstance. A lot depended on the skills and attitude of the party. 

 

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10 hours ago, Scott Ruggels said:

If you paid points for something you could reasonably expect to retain it or get it back with a little effort.

 

 

And That sums up exactly why I dont do points for equipment.  For all fantasy games outside of HERO, it isn't possible to "just know" that you get to keep your favorite doodad.  In practice, I have found this knowledge to be disruptive to suspension of disbelief:

 

If I jam my +2 OCV magic sword into the bridgework where the logs are broken, the caravan can cross over safely, because it can't be broken, or I wouldn't have it,  and that isnt fair, because I paid points for it.

 

There are more extreme examples from my own experience, but two thumbs, touch screen, etc.

 

If I am playing DnD and have an heirloom item and I break it or lose it, well...  That's that.  It is a bit offensive to me that HERO fans demand otherwise, but only because I spent points on it-  points that I am not going to require them to spend on it anyway.  Points that they did not get to spend on Characteristics, Skills, Talents, etc, because they had the misfortune of playing under someone who really, truly believes that points are the be-all end-all of game balance.

 

Now let's remember who I am:  I am the guy who thinks that points are nothing but a limit switch that keeps new characters from starting out with everything (like the threat of death in Traveller character generation does: eventually, you are too satisfied with what you have to keep rolling) and a means by which character progression can be somewhat controlled.

 

I am also the guy who still allows "extra life" from that old Dragon article, because I cannot accept that "points gone forever" is somehow unfair: in order to believe that, I would have to accept that all points spent have equal value and equal utility, which would require rejecting forty-odd years of evidence to the contrary.

 

All that is part of my decision-making process, which ultimately leads me to "heroic level characters don't pay points for equipment, period."

 

 

 

 

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This is in my Field Guide, but I found a way to make a compromise between the two systems.  Most gear is just found, you don't have to pay for the sword you pick up off the Ogre Baron.  But if you want to make a magic item, you have to have the points to pay for it up front (balanced by any complications) then you get the item.  BUT if you lose it, you do not lose the points.  They are either set into xps, or you get an equivalent replacement, or something of that sort.  The points are an earnest, a barrier to gaining the power, but are not permanently put into it.

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@Duke Bushido the biggest argument I’ve seen for paying points for equipment is to help balance out spellcasters versus fighters. There some lengthy debates on this so the very short version is a spellcaster pays for points to cast arcane bolt lets say a reasonable 5 pts and more than likely a skill roll so a minimum of 3 pts. Typically (and yes this is a sticking point) the arcane bolt does roughly the same damage as a bow. So the fighter gets to pay only 2 pts to be able to roughly that same thing a a spellcaster. Another area where I’ve seen (and looked at) is in Martial Art games. Way the rules are in a Heroic level game with a measly 1 pt investment (weapon element), a weapon wielder can outclass the Barehanded Master. 

 

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13 minutes ago, Ninja-Bear said:

@Duke Bushido the biggest argument I’ve seen for paying points for equipment is to help balance out spellcasters versus fighters. There some lengthy debates on this so the very short version is a spellcaster pays for points to cast arcane bolt lets say a reasonable 5 pts and more than likely a skill roll so a minimum of 3 pts. Typically (and yes this is a sticking point) the arcane bolt does roughly the same damage as a bow. So the fighter gets to pay only 2 pts to be able to roughly that same thing a a spellcaster.

 

 

The spell caster is not using equipment, whereas the archer is.  I may well be mistaken (and apologize appropriately if I am), but I had thought we were discussing charging for equipment.  In you example, the archer- at my table- would have paid _zero_ points to chuck arrows into the citizenry.

 

However, he still has the peoblems associated with using equipment: he can target one person, suffers for lack of skill, equioment needs maintenance, can break, can be taken away, has finite ammunition, requires both hands-- if it is a longbow, he likely takes a penalty for setting, penalties for attempting to fire and stay behind cover and all those other things,

 

The wizard who bought the ability to his magic missile suffers no real chance of not being able to use it whenever he wishes, is never going to lose it- best of all, after taking a recovery or two, the archers arrows are not automatically replenished.  The wizard takes a breather and lobs a few more bolts of damage, etc.

 

Looked at from the other end, you are charging the archer two points to get screwed in relative ability.

 

 

13 minutes ago, Ninja-Bear said:

 

 

Another area where I’ve seen (and looked at) is in Martial Art games. Way the rules are in a Heroic level game with a measly 1 pt investment (weapon element), a weapon wielder can outclass the Barehanded Master. 

 

 

I suppose this all boils down to the level of realism you are looking for in your Martial Arts game.  From my perspective, this makes complete sense: weapons were invented for a pretty solid reason: they give considerable advantage over the guy who isn't using one.

 

Weapons still exist to this day for that very same reason.  Weapons have continued to evolve because we want advantage over the guy who has last year's weapon.  Revisit the thoughts in the Star HERO thread about swords in sci-fi.  Even today, long before star-spanning human empires and FTL travel, we have stopped carrying swords.  Why?  Because as a whole, we have learned that brandishing a sword is a good way to get shot- once upon a time, by an arrow, and then by a lead pellet, then a shaped lead projectile from much further away, then depletes uranium, then large hypersonic steel or tungsten rods-

 

The barefoot monk- while fun to play in a game heavy with barefoot monks, has realistically little chance against a flamethrower, or a knife taped to the end of a stick.

 

 

Now as far as the more popular and inlmpressively unrealistic martial arts games, I really can't discuss those knowledgeably: they have zero appeal to me, as the source material has zero appeal to me.  I am more along the lines of the old Ginsu commercials:

 

"In Japan, the foot can split wood.  But it can't cut a watermelon!"

 

I tend to think it is also a poor choice for stopping a sword, too, and functionally hillarious for stopping a bullet.

 

In all honesty- while your points make me wish I could still acces this site through my computer so I couos use a proper screen and keyboard to discuss them, I have to call attentionntion to fact that you are making my point that "balance via character points" is absolutely nothing less than a deeply-held mythology with a devout religious core that refuses to accept that.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

The spell caster is not using equipment, whereas the archer is.  I may well be mistaken (and apologize appropriately if I am), but I had thought we were discussing charging for equipment.  In you example, the archer- at my table- would have paid _zero_ points to chuck arrows into the citizenry.

 

I believe the 2 points reflect Proficiency with ranged weapons.

 

2 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

I suppose this all boils down to the level of realism you are looking for in your Martial Arts game.  From my perspective, this makes complete sense: weapons were invented for a pretty solid reason: they give considerable advantage over the guy who isn't using one.

 

Weapons still exist to this day for that very same reason.  Weapons have continued to evolve because we want advantage over the guy who has last year's weapon. 

 

So we want that level of realism, but not the realism that weaponry evolved, so that big weapons list reflects a bunch of inferior items and no more than three or four that a competent warrior with the wealth to choose would reasonably select.  We also shy away from the realism that people do not get repeatedly beaten into unconsciousness with no lasting harm, and people injured near to death tend to suffer long-term complications.

 

And we haven't even added in magic yet!

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3 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

 

The spell caster is not using equipment, whereas the archer is.  I may well be mistaken (and apologize appropriately if I am), but I had thought we were discussing charging for equipment.  In you example, the archer- at my table- would have paid _zero_ points to chuck arrows into the citizenry.

 

However, he still has the peoblems associated with using equipment: he can target one person, suffers for lack of skill, equioment needs maintenance, can break, can be taken away, has finite ammunition, requires both hands-- if it is a longbow, he likely takes a penalty for setting, penalties for attempting to fire and stay behind cover and all those other things,

 

The wizard who bought the ability to his magic missile suffers no real chance of not being able to use it whenever he wishes, is never going to lose it- best of all, after taking a recovery or two, the archers arrows are not automatically replenished.  The wizard takes a breather and lobs a few more bolts of damage, etc.

 

Looked at from the other end, you are charging the archer two 

 

And if you (which it seems you are) set up a campaign like that then there is no problem.  However if you run a game out of Fantasy Hero 4th ed- Western Shores  then the problem is there. The campaign has in its guideline thar all spell colleges take a -1 total in common limitation. Going by memory a solid 90 percent of the colleges have OAF, gestures and incantations, Side Effects and most importantly Requires Skill Roll. So the Fire Bolt is (I think) 2D6 RKA. So the spellcaster to cast a Fire Bolt has roll to Activate the spell (and you really want to not miss the roll) then roll to hit. If someone takes his Focus, he’s done. Someone gags and or grabs a hand, he’s done.  So now the spellcaster is spending at least twice the amount of points to be just as comparable as the archer. Naturally the spellcaster can buy WF: Bows but when points start to get thin and those points can go to a better roll where would you spend them? I’m just pointing out that campaign design does affect character choices.

 

Btw, my ninja are clapping their hands and catching sword blades!

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But by that same logic, the longbow has most of those issues.

 

It has no Activation but has to roll to hit. There are no Side Effects or Skill Roll but you need the weapon proficiency. And if someone takes your bow or grabs your hand then you're not going to be shooting, are you? The rest is just universal utility. No one knows you're a spellcaster until after you start blasting, that bow is visible from a good distance.

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2 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

 

And if you (which it seems you are) set up a campaign like that then there is no problem.

 

 

I do, typically, but again: I dont do a a lot of fantasy.

 

 

2 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

However if you run a game out of Fantasy Hero 4th ed- Western Shores  then the problem is there.

 

I do set the occasional story in Western Shores.  I set a few in the Broken Kingdom.  Most I don't.

 

Either way, I don't have problems, because- like a lot of the written material, it doesn't appeal as-is.  That doesnt really matter, though, because even as-written, the magic rules arent problematic.

 

2 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

The campaign has in its guideline thar all spell colleges take a -1 total in common limitation. Going by memory a solid 90 percent of the colleges have OAF, gestures and incantations, Side Effects and most importantly Requires Skill Roll. So the Fire Bolt is (I think) 2D6 RKA. So the spellcaster to cast a Fire Bolt has roll to Activate the spell (and you really want to not miss the roll) then roll to hit. If someone takes his Focus, he’s done.

 

Same problem with a long-bow.  There is a whole separate discussion in activarion roll (can I has magic?) Roll then roll to hit.  There are other options there, but I think we have jad enough drift to save that for later.  ;)

 

 

 

 

2 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

Someone gags and or grabs a hand, he’s done.  

 

Same with pretty much anyone without straight-up telekinesis.

 

2 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

So now the spellcaster is spending at least twice the amount of points to be just as comparable as the archer.

 

I don't like to use this because it comes across as far smarmier than it is intended, but-

 

 

So what?

 

There are two facts here: one says he chose to spend points on magix instead of skills or talents that would prevent this.  Since the dogma dictates that all hundred-point characters are equal, this is a fair thing, right?  A hundred-point character without magic and with wrestling and grappling skills has pinned his arms, or a high-stealth sleight-of-hand character has stolen his focus.  So what?  They are all one-hundred-point characters; they are all perfectly equal in the eyes of the dogma; this is perfectly fair and correct.  I am more disappointed that he didnt take greater pains to protect a clearly valuable focus: he understood the focus rules when he bought the spell, I assume. 

 

 

This argument continues to confirm that points are not equal and the only way to make them to be equal is to force non-magicians to pay for the mundane items that can be used to counter magic, which turns it right back into superheroes with signature weapons they never lose. Hammers the never lose, ropes they never lose (which is great, because they are handy for binding wizards), door spikes they never lose, bottomless vials of poison, etc.

 

It strips away the universal aspect and reveals the reskinned superhero game underneath it- unless points can be permantley lost (which causing screaming fits on this board when mentioned), which is how it works in pretty much every other game:

 

I take a permanent injury in Traveller that reduces my STR _permanently_ from 9 to 7, and that's that.  Same in DnD; same in every non-HERO game I have ever played.

 

In HERO, though, players have the expectation (to the point that it may be hardwired into the newer editions; I don't remember), the player is going to expect to have those 2 points refunded immediately so he can spend it elsewhere:  look!  A cyber-arm!  It's an IIF, too, so I can get back the two STR and squeeze in a pip of END (older editions).  Neat-O!

I dont buy into it, because, again: you get superheroes, with all things resetting to the status quo immediately.  Okay, it kind of works with Fantasy HERO: th Animated Series, but again- it's superheroes.

 

2 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

Naturally the spellcaster can buy WF: Bows but when points start to get thin and those points can go to a better roll where would you spend them?

 

Good question, but again: this is something that the _the GM is responsible_ to make the Player aware of during Character generation:  you can be really good at magic, really good at not-magic, or a singer/actress where you dabble a little in both, but aren't really great at either (except for Jennifer Lopez, who is startlingly good at both, within a certain range of either).

 

_Points_ do not make or break game balance: this discussion continues to demonstrate that.  _Game Masters work to ensure a game is balanced.

 

 

 

2 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

I’m just pointing out that campaign design does affect character choices.

 

At no point have I disagreed with this.  I agree completely: in some campaigns, a magic wielder suffers more drawbacks than non-magical characters.  In other campaigns, they are unto Gods.

 

In some campaigns, bows; in others, swords.

 

 

2 hours ago, Ninja-Bear said:

 

Btw, my ninja are clapping their hands and catching sword blades!

 

 

Excellent!

 

Now do a flail!

 

:)

 

 

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OK, trying again as requested :)

 

9 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

The spell caster is not using equipment, whereas the archer is.  I may well be mistaken (and apologize appropriately if I am), but I had thought we were discussing charging for equipment.  In you example, the archer- at my table- would have paid _zero_ points to chuck arrows into the citizenry.

 

If the Archer wants to use the bow with no penalties, he needs to be proficient with it.  I believe that is where the cited cost of 2 points is coming from.

 

9 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

I suppose this all boils down to the level of realism you are looking for in your Martial Arts game.  From my perspective, this makes complete sense: weapons were invented for a pretty solid reason: they give considerable advantage over the guy who isn't using one.

 

Weapons still exist to this day for that very same reason.  Weapons have continued to evolve because we want advantage over the guy who has last year's weapon.

 

This just comes to a personal pet peeve that "it's not realistic" tends to be used in a very cherry-picked fashion.  Yes, it is realistic for the unarmed combatant to be at a disadvantage.  It is also realistic that the most modern weaponry is superior, so we don't have a group of characters whose signature weapons are a Trident, a Longsword, a Musket and a Submachine Gun.  Long lists of weapons that are more or less balanced against one another is just as unrealistic  as the unarmed combatant being as effective as an armed opponent. But they are a staple of RPGs - all the PCs don't show up armed identically.

 

PC's get the crap kicked out of them routinely. If we want realism, they should have long-term impairments as a consequence.  Real people don't get beaten into unconsciousness five times a day and suffer no long-term injuries.  They don't recover from nearly bleeding out on Monday, then recover from third-degree burns on Wednesday, get frostbite and hypothermia on Friday and show up hale and hearty the following Monday.  But RPG characters just take a lickin' and keep on tickin'.  That's no more realistic than our unarmed combatant being easily able to fight armed opponents.

 

This is before adding anything even more unrealistic, such as magic or psychic powers - just plain physical "realism" in the game.

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One I homebrewed my FH backgrounds. The old campaign had magic and you bought magic skill to use magic, but no minuses were applied due to spell difficulty. Minuses were applied like negative modifiers applied to snipers. 
 

The currently psised campaign has no combat magic, and little other magic save potions ( to keep things moving.  Having spent the entire summer of 2018 in the hospital, and needing an additional 2 months to rebuild my endurance, the potions would allow the PC to complete their journey in a season rather than a year. ). Weapons were cheap, bronze tipped spears on 3 meter shafts, as they were provided by the employer. The problem was finding out a way to fight horse archers successfully before the horse archers killed the guards, took the human women and the loot and left.  So in this campaign they didn’t even pay for weapons. It was employment equipment, like security guards get. 
 

but having this concern over characters balanced between each other is false in my view. For me, it’s not about balance, but screen time and agency within limits of the situation. Everyone is useful in different situations. I guess I don’t follow the dogma strictly,but then I am bad at math. 
 

 

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12 hours ago, Grailknight said:

But by that same logic, the longbow has most of those issues.

 

It has no Activation but has to roll to hit. There are no Side Effects or Skill Roll but you need the weapon proficiency. And if someone takes your bow or grabs your hand then you're not going to be shooting, are you? The rest is just universal utility. No one knows you're a spellcaster until after you start blasting, that bow is visible from a good distance.

Yes and a bow is paid for by money not points. Both spellcaster and archer could use it as is with a penalty. So the archer pays a point to be better with a bow. Spellcaster pays roughly 10 pts to do the same thing. And that’s fair?

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