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Katherine

Hero System for Horror gaming

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

AND there is a book slated (for "eventually" aka sometimes possibly 2008+) that will update that material.

 

The 4th Edition book (its brown with some kind of burny-face guy on the cover...try ebay) is fairly decent.

 

It all depends on how you define "Horror." I've never been fond of the Call of Cthulu Sanity Checks. So a Hero game in Horror is what you make of it. If you are battling oggly-googlies every week and demons and stuff, that's pretty horror-ish...in my mind.

 

At the same point, you can run a Heroes v Zombies pretty easily with the stuff that's out there now.

 

I currently run a Monster Hunter (kind of like Buffy but with less camp) campaign that I consider fairly horror-ish out of only a couple of the books. It's a little more work for me to come up with villains and mooks, since there aren't many books devoted to the genre, but I do all right.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

It's certainly possible to use HERO for horror. As my colleagues have pointed out, Hero Games published a sourcebook for horror for the previous edition of the game, and plans to put out a new one in future. There are also some guidelines for running horror games in the "Genre By Genre" chapter of the Fifth Edition, Revised core rulebook.

 

The key thing to keep in mind is to make the menaces that the heroes face a serious threat to them. Horror is about feeling threatened and vulnerable. In HERO that generally means starting the PCs relatively weak with fairly low point totals, and using some of the optional rules that increase the lethality of attacks in the game, such as Hit Locations and Bleeding.

 

There are also some very good fan websites dealing with HERO horror gaming. For example purposes I recommend William Mistretta's excellent Twilight of the Dead site, with detailed notes for running a campaign in the world of George Romero's "living dead" movies, both general and HERO-specific. A lot of his advice is applicable to any horror-themed game. Here's where you can view it: http://www.yamoslair.com/totd.html

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

I've run horror using Hero (previous editions) both with and without Horror Hero. It largely works. I generally use 50+50 characters and minimize the use of powers and talents to low level, genre-appropriate things like Mental Powers so the PCs are fairly vulnerable. To my mind, you can pretty much do Horror out of the box with Hero. Horror Hero just makes some kinds of Horror easier.

 

Much of horror ultimately revolves around how you handle the atmosphere, design the stories, etc. "SAN" or related mechanics (such as Horror Hero's long term stress) are not required. They are more of a convention in horror RPGs to give the GM and players a guide to how "horrified" their characters should be. A buddy and I once built a Hero version of the COC SAN mechanic (SAN = 2 x EGO or something like that, and then you lose SAN much like you lose END or STUN), but Horror Hero's stress system works well too.

 

Some quick IMO notes on Horror Hero:

 

It's not a bad supplement, but not the best Horror RPG I've ever seen. I look forward to Hero eventually getting it updated to 5th ed. and perhaps remedying some of its weak points. The campaigns outlined in Horror Hero do leave a little to be desired, although I like the Pulp one as a background for a Pulp horror-action campaign. My problem is that they all have a kind of Conspiracy X vs Conspiracy Y or heroes vs. evil conspiracy vibe, whereas the horror genre goes much beyond those and the other concepts/possibilities seem to be given short shrift. However, the Spirit rules, Long Term Stress rules, magic systems, etc. are all useful to a Horror GM. Some interesting monster and NPC designs but also some blah! ones.

 

Have fun!

 

David

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

To do 'horror' properly you have to ask a series of fairly simple questions, not the least of which is, "How do you, the author, define horror?" In other words, what scares you? I can watch movies about the devil walking the earth all day long and it never strikes a nerve, since the PRE attack the film is making has to battle my psych lim, "Does not believe in Hell." That's a problem for the film! I'm not the target audience.

 

So question two. Now that you know how you define horror, do you know how your audience defines it? Within the confines of HERO there's nothing we cannot do. Low level heroes with no stat over 15, and a skill cap of 13-? You've got some pretty strong 'normals' and that's about it. Are you trying to replicate Chill and other stand-alone horror games? Allowing people to learn & use Gifts for out-of-combat purposes (sceances, mediumism, psychometry, and so on?)

 

Third, medium. Gaming is about affecting change - it's about the PCs having one power that no NPC has, and that's to change the world around them. To alter events, to be the trigger puller on dramatic moments. NPCs don't get dramatic moments, other than to be rescued by the PCs or occassionally save someone else's butt, but generally, they stand back while the PCs do the crazy, exciting stuff.

 

The problem with horror, as a whole, is that simulating it in-game immediately diverges from some of the core elements that define what gaming means, certainly to me. One of those key elements being, as I noted, the power to affect change. Horror is often best defined as powerlessness under specific circumstances. The greatest special forces team doesn't stand a chance against a traditional vampire; for one, he's probably not going to go into a straight gun fight. Two, he's not going to do them the service of standing still and waiting for them to load, issue orders & fire.

 

The opening scene of X2 was great for that reason - how do normal Secret Service agents protect the President from an opponent who's ignoring the laws of physics? Oops. THEY CAN'T. You take this far enough, throw in some more blood & make the Secret Service PCs instead of NPCs and suddenly the party is fighting a monster that constantly steps in & out of real space and is throwing people around like rag dolls. That can be a piece of horror.

 

The second element that really defines horror is the unknown. It's more frightening when you catch glimpses of what's happening, less so when you know it, you've defined it, and you can defeat it. For my sci-fi game, there's a horror section the party is going through now - much of the terror comes from facing off against the undead with nothing more than automatic weapons, and better, seeing the results of other people's efforts with said weapons not amount to much. Already the scene is set to really freak some people out, with dimensional tears popping up when least wanted, things that don't always die to bullets coming out, or an endless swarm of them coming out.

 

Best part? When they activate the nacelles on level seven? Their psionics will deactivate while in the area of the field.

 

No pressure.

 

So doing any and all of those things in hero is entirely possible and in many cases very simple.

 

Hope that helps.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

Van Helsing is more of an action movie with horror elements. The heroes are too on-par with the villains to really have much of a fear factor.

 

Your point being? This is the HERO System we're talking about after all! :D

 

(Actually, I know what you and the others are saying. But my playing group loves the Hero System because it allows them to play larger-than-life characters. They want their cool gadgets (I curse that movie for introducing that crossbow-chaingun!). Mind you, it still easy to scare the bejeebus out of them because my monsters Hero-sized too :eg:).

 

 

Go pillage and plunder and pilfer and sack

then back to the ships and the sails

But mates remember, when burying the jack,

DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES!

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

Depends on how you define horror, if you want to play Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, I don't think it would work so well, but if you want something like Phantasm 2, or Evil Dead where the PCs are capable of fighting back to some extent then it certainly is possible.

 

I've used HERO for monster hunting campaigns which works well, I also used it for Call of Cthulhu which worked but it was very different from BRP CoC.

 

I don't think of horror as scaring the players as much as creating a sense that even their successes are only delaying the inevitable. Its not about the body count its about crushing their hope, giving them just enough success to keep at it but not enough to feel good about it. Kind of like throwing a drowning man a rope, then showing him the anvil its tied to just before you drop it into the water. :eg:

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

Is Hero system appropriate for a horror campaign?

 

It's not inappropriate. It wouldn't be my first choice, mind you, but it would be my second, well ahead of the game systems specifically designed for horror. I have a certain nostalgic fondness for Torg's Orrorsh mechanic where you finally find out why people split up in horror movies.

 

(Monsters, at least the powerful ones, have the power to paralyse people with fear when first encountered, so staying in a group just lets them kill you en masse. But each subsequent encounter with the monster by any member of the group makes the group more resistant to this effect, especially, if the group member is killed. So the smart thing to do is split up, look for the monster's trick weaknesses and hope the monster gets someone other than you.)

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

It's not inappropriate. It wouldn't be my first choice, mind you, but it would be my second, well ahead of the game systems specifically designed for horror. I have a certain nostalgic fondness for Torg's Orrorsh mechanic where you finally find out why people split up in horror movies.

 

(Monsters, at least the powerful ones, have the power to paralyse people with fear when first encountered, so staying in a group just lets them kill you en masse. But each subsequent encounter with the monster by any member of the group makes the group more resistant to this effect, especially, if the group member is killed. So the smart thing to do is split up, look for the monster's trick weaknesses and hope the monster gets someone other than you.)

 

I thought it was so Fred could shag Daphne (and sometimes Velma) while Shaggy and Scooby sneak off to the kitchen....

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

You just know Daphne would pick Shaggy, if no one was watching.

 

 

I've had plenty of success running horror in Hero. The Orrorsh mechanic David mentions is great, but for the most part I prefer simulation to immersion (to use the computer game terms) when it comes to lengthy roleplaying. For that reason I never used any Hero versions of CoC SAN or similar genre-enforcing constructs. Minor modifications to basic Hero works just fine.

 

Of course for any horror game, the GM has to be committed to creating the proper mood and the players have to be comfortably on board.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

The challenge of using Hero for Horror is that Hero is designed to be fairly cinematic, and is geared towards PCs who are heroes and therefore get to fight back. Depending on how you define horror, that paradigm may or may not fit. So some tailoring may be necessary.

 

The good news is that Hero is designed to be tailored. And because the system is so open-ended, it's easy to make high-powered monstrosities that will make even 200-point heroes feel helpless!

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

Well, yes, you can do it that way - Ravenloft assumes this to some extent. Based on the d20 model as it is, it's very easy to get caught up in the 'leveling' aspect and the acquisition of gear & spells. Hero is fantastic because you can set caps, skill caps, only allow specific Gifts or Super-Skills, and go hog-wild with the mystery & monster design. The only thing keeping Hero from simulating Horror perfectly is...

 

Oh, right. Nothing. ;)

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

You just know Daphne would pick Shaggy' date=' if no one was watching.[/quote']

 

oh c'mon, you know he's been pimping her for years, that how he affords both his addictions.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

Just to throw in my own thoughts here; HERO would be great for Horror games. Despite it's cinematic/super heroic roots, it is one of the most easily customized games.

 

For starters, you could set initial scores to 8 for physical stats. Keep the points low and/or place a cap of about 13 for most stats.

 

Add in the Bleeding and Hit Location rules. This makes most attacks a very serious thing.

 

Beyond that, consider that Horror is usually a sub-genre of something else and can easily be tacked on to just about anything. Fantasy Horror could look live Ravenloft or perhaps even World of Darkness Dark Ages from the human perspective. SciFi horror could look like anything from Alien to Event Horizon. Dark Champions is easy. Such a wide breadth there with examples like Supernatural or the movie Seven.

 

The key to remember is that Horror is more psychological than physical. It would be harder to do with characters that can take a .50 BMG round than somebody who could get popped with a .22 LR, but the point of horror is to make the characters feel vulnerable. You don't require a whole bunch of rules for that and even the most stalwart character has a weakness to be exploited.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

One idea I've had which may help here is for a VPP that every creature has: "They always come back."

 

No matter how thoroughly the PC's get rid of something, it will return. Eventually. The real cost of these powers (in the VPP) can be reduced by adding increments of Extra Time, so that the more dead you make them, the longer they will stay down.

 

You just know Daphne would pick Shaggy' date=' if no one was watching.[/quote']

 

Okay, speaking of horror . . . :eek:;)

 

Of course for any horror game' date=' the GM has to be committed to creating the proper mood and the players have to be comfortably on board.[/quote']

 

Not necessarily. Part of horror is the betrayal of trust; related is the perversion of innocence. In the same way as children are more effective emotional gutwrenches for being possessed by the poltergeist, you get more of an effect when you introduce the next element of adversity not at the beginning of the next session, with some random stranger and a few paragraphs of background; but at the end of the session where the PC's finally beat back the greater darkness, and are relaxing with their loved ones to get in some quality time as a reward for their victory - and these SO's suddenly sprout fangs, tentacles, and glowing eyes, and try to make sweet, demonic love to the PC's. That's ending on a cliffhanger ;)

 

Of course, to have that trust in the first place, you need to build it through recurring sessions, or the players may walk away in disgust before they realize what's going on. This is why occasional horror one-shots (say, around Halloween) work so well.

 

The problem with horror' date=' as a whole, is that simulating it in-game immediately diverges from some of the core elements that define what gaming means, certainly to me. One of those key elements being, as I noted, the power to affect change. [b']Horror is often best defined as powerlessness under specific circumstances.[/b]

 

(emphasis mine)

 

I don't think of horror as scaring the players as much as creating a sense that even their successes are only delaying the inevitable.

 

Hmm, these sound oddly familiar, like many of the WWYCD's I've come up with ;)

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

Gaming is about affecting change - it's about the PCs having one power that no NPC has' date=' and that's to change the world around them.[/quote']

 

As a side note, and off-topic for this thread, I disagree. As someone who runs a game where the PC's have the power to change themselves, and most NPC's enjoy the same ability, I'm fairly sure that gaming doesn't need to be about affecting the world around them.

 

Of course, since they can affect a world that no NPC (in fact, no other person) has access to - their own minds - this seems almost identical to what you're saying, in that respect. In both cases, they're taking a level of reality that no other character has explored and no other character can fix (or improve), and seeking some level of control.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

I think that Hero could emulate Horror well ... my question pertaining to this is how people would emulate horror. Personally, I like horror rules ... this spawns from people playing the equivelent of 50 pt heroes and going up against more powerful critters and not batting an eyelash. I find that having rules on hand for horror checks works well in groups like this.

Loosely, what I've played with is requiring a Fear Check. Fear checks involve the following ...

Fear Check (Ego+Pre)/5 + 9 = base roll.

To make a Fear Check, the GM has players roll their Fear Check - (the Monsters Pre/5)*. If they succeed, they can move on. If they fail, they're at 1/2 DCV and are a bit shakey. If they critically fail the roll (a roll of 18), they are at 0 DCV and can only move away. Heroes may buy up their Fear Check with levels of Fearless.

Fearless (3/level): Each level in Fearless applies a +1 to a hero's Fear Check. The GM may constitute a Fearless cap, depending on the feel and rules of the campaign.

 

 

*Alternatively, a modifier may be applied based on situation. I.e.: if someone walks into a blood-stained room, they may get a bit shaken (-3 Fear Check).

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

I don't think Horror has anything to do with a system mechanic. It's an attitude with which to approach any game. Whether a GM can adequately portray horror is primarily based on the abilities of the GM - the mechanics are neither here nor there.

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Re: Hero System for Horror gaming

 

I don't think Horror has anything to do with a system mechanic. It's an attitude with which to approach any game. Whether a GM can adequately portray horror is primarily based on the abilities of the GM - the mechanics are neither here nor there.

I disagree ... to an extent :) In the example I spoke of above, I was running a six person group during one of those instances and, while most of the players were into the game, I had a few that just persisted to rub against the grain and think their joe-schmoe-normals were Batman material (which they weren't by a long shot). Personally, I think this is where mechanics win over feel.

To run a true horror campaign, I think there has to be some feel of horror to it, and that falls on the GM's shoulders, but there should also be some feel that the players bring to the table as well (with an understanding that horror is just that ... horror). In 9 out of 10 instances, feel should outweigh mechanics, but it's nice to have the mechanics there ... after all, it's not a free-form game that we play. If you look at a player who's character is obviously a bit scared, you don't suddenly say "You're character can't move" without something to back it up :)

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