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bluesguy

Experiences teaching people Hero Game system

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So in my years of RPG and specifically playing Hero, I have taught three different groups to play Hero.  The first time was after college when I formed a gaming group.  The people who wanted to play either knew AD&D, participated in the SCA, or were just your everyday nerds :snicker: ...  I taught all of them how to play Hero.  After a while a few players were able to create their own characters without much help from me.  Other people in the group started running games and they used Hero because they liked it.

 

The second time was when we moved and we formed a new group.  A few of us knew how to play Hero and the rest were all AD&D players.  That was a short lived group because we moved again.

 

The third time is with my current group.  First I taught my teenagers how to play the game.  My son has taken to the system and has turned into a rule-lawyer (which can be very frustrating at times :winkgrin: ).  He has also started running his own game and is doing a really good job.  Then we had two other people start playing with us - D&D/variants.  And our newest member had never played a single RPG but wanted to do a group thing with us.  My son and I do most of the 'heavy lifting' when it comes to character creation.  Everyone has gotten very good at character concepts & back stories - which makes the actual character creation pretty easy.

 

So here is the approach I take with new people:

  • Think about who the character is.  What makes the character 'tick'?  What do they do when they aren't being a "hero"?  How did they become a "hero"?  Do they have goals?  If we are playing a superhero game I will ask them about what kind of powers they want (which may have come out of how they became a "hero")?  This is absolutely a critical step for people who play Pathfinder/D&D variants, because in Hero the character concept comes first and then the game mechanics starts.  In Pathfinder/D&D variants you roll dice and try to figure out kind of viable character you have based on the random rolls :sick: ...
  • Then I sit down and explain exactly what each characteristic is.  When we get to Stun and Body I use some examples like "Body damage is like having a bruise, cut, broken bone.  Stun is more the 'shock' of the injury."  Explaining normal vs. killing goes something like "Bruce Lee punches you that is a normal attack.  If he hits you hard enough he will break bones.  Dirty Harry shoots with his gun it will put a physical hole in you."  And then with Stunned I just tell them to think "Punch drunk boxer - still standing but definitely not thinking straight".
  • We talk about how to build the powers/talents/perks/skills they need to make the character work in the beginning.  Along the way we might map out how to use future XP to meet the original idea.
  • Complications grow out of the first step.

Combat:

  • I got off the forum or download a one page explanation of how combat works.  Everyone gets that sheet.  Then I have a few mock combats with new players so we can step generic combat and combat for their character.  We will talk about what will most likely be effective for them in combat. 
  • When we play I will have the following dialog:

GM:  Ok you are going to hit the bandit in front of you

Player:  Yep

GM:  Do you know what to roll?

Player:  No

GM:  Ok.  You start with an 11 and then add your OCV to that.  Then add any skill levels you want to use in the attack to the previous number.  Then add any pluses/minuses for the maneuver you are using.  What is that number?

Player:  11 + 5 + 2 = 18.

GM:  Now roll 3d6 and subtract it from the number you just calculated.  And tell me that number.

Player: Rolls a 10.  So 10 from 18 is 8.

GM:  Excellent that means you hit a DCV of 8.  Next time do the math ahead of time and roll the dice.  You can then just tell me "I hit a DCV of 7."

  • Usually people learn how to do combat within a session or two.  I have one person who has not learned how in 8+ months.  So we all help her out.
  • I also sit new people next to experienced folks so they can get some help.

 

What do the rest of you do?

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What do the rest of you do?

 

Crash and burn.  :)

 

...at least with my current gaming group.

 

I first played Hero back in 1994, but that campaign only lasted a couple of months, so I only had a basic inkling of what could be done with the system.  I absolutely LOVE the idea behind Hero (at least as I see it) -- You can build anything you want (within limits set by the GM). 

 

I think what holds the greatest appeal for me is that characters can evolve more organically.  If your characters find themselves constantly running into scenes where a particular skill is useful, anyone/everyone can develop that skill (with appropriate background/role-playing of course!).  Skills aren't pigeon-holed based upon character archetype or having to gain a particular level.  You want to learn something, find someone to teach you or set aside time to self-educate and you can learn to do whatever (again, within the constraints of the campaign).

 

My group is primarily AD&D / Pathfinder players, and the regular weekly gaming sessions usually involve running canned campaigns.  These games tend to be extremely combat heavy, and as such the players build characters to reflect this.  In fact, if you try to run something that isn't combat-centric, you're still going to wind up with combat-oriented characters (that seems to be what almost everything in D&D / Pathfinder is about).  Since the campaign / adventure paths are pre-scripted, character backgrounds don't really matter, so nobody generally bothers to come up with one...(I usually put some effort into background, but with the current adventure path, even I didn't bother :( )

 

So, I decided to try running a Fantasy HERO game with this group.  I had picked up and read everything I could get my hands on for 6th edition (i've purchased just about every book in hardcopy and PDF).  The problem I ran into, given my lack of experience with the system, was figuring out where to set the limits for the characters.  I also tried to let the players create their own characters as well -- with my help...but again, not knowing where to set limtis / what reasonable limits for the type of game I was wanting to run would be (magic-rare/low fantasy) I wound up with a bunch of characters that were nigh invulnerable, impossible to hit, or were capable of slaying a "normal" NPC with no chance of missing...Of course, they didn't have any skills outside of combat (except for stealth), so other than as killers they were pretty much useless.

 

We went through several iterations of toning characters down, adding skills, complications, repeated attempts to get some kind of background before we eventually settled on a group of characters that I estimated would at least be "playable".  Each character was required to have ties to at least one other character.  I was trying to avoid having to come up with a scenario to introduce the characters to each other...I wound up with two groups of tightly-knit characters who had to have an introductory scenario...and when they met, they decided they didn't like each other and tried to kill each other (even though the scenario clearly put them all on same side)...GAME IMPLOSION.

 

Next attempt.  Since we had struggles with where the limits ought to be, we took our next run at running Champions level characters, where the limits (or lack thereof) would have less of an impact.  Of the 5 players in the group at the time, only two put any effort into back story -- the others simply went through the motions (kinda like doing something just to get it done because someone said you had to).  I eventually told them that if they didn't come up with the backstory, I'd come up with it for them (and that's what I wound up doing).  They were more focused on "playing the powers" than building the characters.  Still, we came up with some playable characters, and started to play.  I had difficulty building encounters that would prove in any way challenging for them, and when I did, they immediately spent their experience points to eliminate their weaknesses...(That mentalist really messed us up, I'm spending all my XP on mental defense! [until its impossible for even Charles Xavier to even detect that I have a mind])

 

I haven't given up.  For my next attempt, I'm returning to my favorite genre:  Fantasy.  This time, after visiting the forums and having picked up a couple of additional source books, I have a better idea of where to set the limits and what to include when calculating those limtis.  All the same, I'm going to have the players provide me with the character concept and background (if I can drag it out of them), and I'm going to build the characters.  We'll have to wait to see how it goes...

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I'd suggest first running a one-shot game using pre-gen characters. (I run a lot of convention games, so I have a decent library of one-shots to choose from; if you don't, just throw together something simple or buy/download a module from somewhere.) I love character generation in Hero, but it can be pretty overwhelming to newcomers - so skip it! Start out by showing them how simple the game plays once you have the character created. By the end of one 4-6 hour adventure, they'll have a pretty good idea what the stats mean and how the system works. Then the next session you go into "tell me about your character" mod and help them translate that into game elements, but they'll already have some sense of, say, the difference between OCV and PD.

 

When I run convention games, I get at least one Hero novice per con, and it's not unusual to get a complete RPG novice now and then. I start by giving a (by now well-rehearsed) 5-minute tour of the character sheet: here's what the Characteristics mean, here are your Skills, here's how the Skill Roll core mechanic, etc. Then when we get to the first combat, I have another 3-5 minute spiel on the basics of combat. Most players, that's really all they need to get going.

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I'm currently running the "superhero" game in two separate groups, one at the local game store on Thursday nights and the other in a person's basement (so no, that one's not public, sadly). They are their own campaigns, set in different cities, with different cosmologies and different threats facing them.

 

When it came time to set up the first group, many years ago, I had Hero Designer and not a whole lot of experience with 6th Edition. Still, I created serviceable characters for them which they've stuck with for the most part. (It's interesting to note that the one of the players in that group who I had played with before, and knew the most about the Hero System, created the character that most quickly became ungainly and clumsy for him, necessitating a recent switch.)

 

I let them decide what they wanted in their character, and entered their choices in Hero Designer. I got serviceable characters out of that, and they've managed the occasional combat I've thrown at them. Fortunately they're easily amused by the unusual situations I throw at them (currently they're trying to reason out why the CEO of a small security company got car-bombed, how it was done with an explosive so small it fit in the fuel line, and what a pistachio-eating teleporting undead ninja has to do with any of that. Unfortunately they seem a little selfish and cowardly, concerned with what I'm going to throw at them next and how they can defend against it. Let's face it, anyone who feels the need to take Life Support  (Eating: Character only has to eat once per year; Immunity: All terrestrial poisons; Longevity: 200 Years; Safe in High Pressure; Safe in High Radiation; Safe in Intense Cold; Safe in Intense Heat; Safe in Low Pressure/Vacuum; Self-Contained Breathing; Sleeping: Character only has to sleep 8 hours per week) and eyeing putting even more points into it is trying to hedge his bets.

 

Group #2 got a little faster start, because by that time I had the Champions genre book. Have you ever taken a good look at that thing? Toward the back there's a collection of templates called the Superhero Gallery, and it contains skill groups, complication groups, and twenty different prefabricated mix-and-match character archetypes. That allowed for faster character creation, except for the one guy who had some idea what kind of character he wanted, and I built that for him. And he seems happy with it. Combine it with the Hero Designer package for that sourcebook, and you can crank out characters pretty darned fast.

 

I will say, though, that neither group really gets it. The one group hangs onto my copy of the Champions Powers book (and the Hero Designer package for that is a must too) and uses it as a power sourcebook instead of a book of worked examples of what the power system is really capable of. They play enough other games that they sometimes forget the whole 11+OCV-3D6=DCV Hit thing, and that they roll 3D6 and aim low to succeed at skills, but what they do for playing the game they still manage to enjoy immensely, almost to command-performance levels. And they are learning how to count Body and Stun, so there's that. And yes, I seriously doubt it's because I'm That Good.

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My biggest epiphany in teaching people to play HERO has been treating the provided character sheet simply as a building sheet and designing a sheet that hides most of the numbers not needed often in gameplay, that uses words to describe powers rather than game terms, and has some design features that tie the sheet into the genre being played (even if that was simply a decent font).

 

This is a long-standing rant of mine.  game designers spend forever thinking of the mechanics and getting the rule book right and then seem to ruch out whatever black and white set of boxes with numbers in it that will suffice to hold the details the GM requires.

 

The character sheet is the players window to the system and the game.  The character sheet is the primary way in which the game designers must hook the players with the system and genre they are peddling.  We deserve better!  :)

 

I would say the first sheet that put me on this loop was Justice Inc - it screamed pulp to me.  That was pre-cheap printing and PC design tools...so much could be done now.

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I think this is an appropriate question/comment for this thread:  How do you handle "effectiveness limits" with new players?

 

The problem I've run into is that I have a group consisting of 6 players and the GM.  All of the players come from a D&D / Pathfinder background, which (nowadays) encourages munchkinism.  In fact, in many of the "canned" modules/adventure paths, if you don't min-max to the hilt, there are tasks you have no chance to succeed in.

 

Given that background, when I set campaign guidelines, such as average DCs around 4 or 5, with a maximum of 8, my group tends to wind up creating characters with 8 DCs BASE (then add in skill levels, martial maneuvers, pushing, etc.).  It's simply how they think.  And they do that with EVERYTHING.

 

I plan to address this in my next attempt by creating the characters for them, so they'll be reasonable.  My concern is, as soon as they start getting experience points, I'm going to see them immediately invested in maxing out attacks and defenses.

 

So, the question is:  how do you convince players to change their style of play?  Or do you?

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I think this is an appropriate question/comment for this thread:  How do you handle "effectiveness limits" with new players?

*snip*

 

So, the question is:  how do you convince players to change their style of play?  Or do you?

 

Play a different game first that has it's game mechanisms specifically designed for a different game style of play, like a Fate Core of Cortex Plus game or perhaps Burning Wheel. Because these games are designed around a vastly different paradigm than D&D/Pathfinder style games, where proactive character design and the overall goal is a more story focused, narrative driven game system these games could show players like you are describing a different way of how to play role playing games. Even using Supers Revised Edition could be a good change of pace, and it has a superb random character generation... I know it works because I bought the pdf, flipped to the random character generation chapter, and made a complete character using the charts and never read the book.

 

Right now they are so used to number crunching-min/maxing rpg systems that they will only take what they know and apply it to whatever game they go into. Games like Fate Core change that paradigm because it's truly different enough in it's focus and scope that one of two things will happen... either these players will become aware that there are actually different styles of playing these games that can lead to newer and fresher experiences, or these new games will be so different to them that their minds will explode and they won't be able to handle it, and either way you learn how versatile your players are. :)

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Right now they are so used to number crunching-min/maxing rpg systems that they will only take what they know and apply it to whatever game they go into. Games like Fate Core change that paradigm because it's truly different enough in it's focus and scope that one of two things will happen... either these players will become aware that there are actually different styles of playing these games that can lead to newer and fresher experiences, or these new games will be so different to them that their minds will explode and they won't be able to handle it, and either way you learn how versatile your players are. :)

Checking out the Fate Core system now.  We've tried a couple of different systems, so far, the most role-playing heavy system we've used is been Pendragon; and even in that system, the vast majority of characters focused (as much as possible) on improving combat capabilities ahead of everything else.  After I've read through the Fate system and feel comfortable enough with the rules to give it a run, I'll run out and buy some sponges...Gonna need something to clean the grey matter off the walls when their minds explode!  :)

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My biggest epiphany in teaching people to play HERO has been treating the provided character sheet simply as a building sheet and designing a sheet that hides most of the numbers not needed often in gameplay, that uses words to describe powers rather than game terms, and has some design features that tie the sheet into the genre being played (even if that was simply a decent font).

Amen! I always use simplified character sheets that focus on playability and leave out most of the math. (You need to know AP cost for Adjustment Powers, but most of the other numbers are irrelevant once play starts.) If I need to reference the mechanics in mid-session, I can always pull up the HD file for reference.

 

How do you handle "effectiveness limits" with new players?...Given that background, when I set campaign guidelines, such as average DCs around 4 or 5, with a maximum of 8, my group tends to wind up creating characters with 8 DCs BASE (then add in skill levels, martial maneuvers, pushing, etc.).  It's simply how they think.  And they do that with EVERYTHING.

Yeah, that's always a challenge when introducing players that are used to D&D/Pathfinder/et.al.  A few thoughts:

  1. One advantage of most class/level systems is that combat and noncombat abilities are segregated to an extent and don't really "compete" with each other: you go up a level and your combat stats go up by "x" and you have "y" points for skills, etc. But in Hero, every point you put into, say, languages is literally one less point you have for combat skills. That can really encourage min-maxing if the players get focused on that rather than on building three dimensional character.
  2. One way to counter that is to start with the "tell me about your character concept" discussion before anyone goes near actual mechanics; get them thinking about their character as a character first, rather than a collection of stats.
  3. Be absolutely clear that the maximums include skill levels & bonuses, not just the base, and that you will be very stingy about granting exceptions. In fact, you may want to call them "parameters" or something instead, since guidelines implies optional adherence.
  4. One trick I've seen is to ask each player "what is your character the best at?" and allow them to exceed the guidelines in that one area only. So if the character's concept is "strongest man in the room" then he's allowed a STR that maxes out or exceeds the guidelines, but he couldn't also buy his OCV or INT above the guidelines. Then if another player wants a STR above the guidelines (initially or with later XP) you can play the "I'm concerned you're going to step on Bob's Strongest Man schtick" card.
  5. I have sometimes required that PCs put a minimum number of points (typically 10) into Background Skills. I don't have to worry about this with my current group of players (Thanks guys!), but for some players it really forces them to think about their character as a person. And they don't have to worry about putting themselves at a disadvantage by "wasting" those points, because everyone has to do the same thing.
  6. Don't forget the "min" half of min-maxing: occasionally put the characters in situations where they're put at a disadvantage for having below-average abilities. You don't have to be a dick about it - in fact, you can sometimes play it for laughs to the players don't feel you're picking on them. And you don't want to overdo it, unless you really want all your PCs to trend toward the middle of the bell curve. But at least once in awhile, highlight the fact that choosing to minimize certain areas will put them at a disadvantage.
  7. Lastly, few things are more frustrating as a player than to have your combat monkey sitting on the sidelines for 2 hours watching the more well-rounded characters handle the interact-and-investigate phase. So when a player drafts an all combat PC, say "I see this game as including a fair amount of investigation and interacting with NPCs outside of combat. I'm not sure what this character will have to do during those scenes, and I don't want you to be bored. How do you see your character contributing in between fights?"

So, the question is:  how do you convince players to change their style of play?  Or do you?

The catch here is, are they playing that way because that's all they know? Or because that really is what they like to play? Part of the GM-Player contract is that you'll do your best to run a game that everyone will enjoy (including yourself of course). It may be they're used to games where points in noncombat skills are essentially wasted, in which case you need to reiterate that not all problems in your campaign will be solvable by fighting, and then reward them when they use those skills.

 

On the other hand, it may be that they really just want to play a series of combats and regard everything in between as filler. If that's the game they really want to play, trying to change their style of play can be an exercise in frustration for everyone! I point to the comic Full Frontal Nerdity, where the GM is always trying to run these thematic, role-play heavy games with lots of character interaction and drama...but his players just want to kill things and get more powerful. And after every game, he's surprised and disappointed that the players didn't play it the way he wanted them to. That's a fundamental disconnect that in real life will kill a game group quicker than anything. So have that conversation up front and find a middle ground that everyone can live with.

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So, the question is:  how do you convince players to change their style of play?  Or do you?

 

In my Fantasy Hero games I always tell people to be prepared for 50% combat and 50% role playing (no combat - maybe no dice at all) when all the sessions are averaged out over a year.  We have had sessions where we have spent then entire session in combat (or a series of combats); other sessions where it was all interactions; and some with a mix.  By telling people this ahead of time everyone knows what is expected.

 

There have been a few players that have been total skill monkeys with practically no combat skills (run away, dodge, use my sling) to almost pure combat monsters (ok so you want to haggle with the merchant about the price of that armor, do you have trading or any other helpful skill?  No... Ok, the merchant makes his skill roll and you end up happily paying 2x the normal price... Opps).

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Play a different game first that has it's game mechanisms specifically designed for a different game style of play, like a Fate Core of Cortex Plus game or perhaps Burning Wheel. Because these games are designed around a vastly different paradigm than D&D/Pathfinder style games, where proactive character design and the overall goal is a more story focused, narrative driven game system these games could show players like you are describing a different way of how to play role playing games. Even using Supers Revised Edition could be a good change of pace, and it has a superb random character generation... I know it works because I bought the pdf, flipped to the random character generation chapter, and made a complete character using the charts and never read the book.

 

Right now they are so used to number crunching-min/maxing rpg systems that they will only take what they know and apply it to whatever game they go into. Games like Fate Core change that paradigm because it's truly different enough in it's focus and scope that one of two things will happen... either these players will become aware that there are actually different styles of playing these games that can lead to newer and fresher experiences, or these new games will be so different to them that their minds will explode and they won't be able to handle it, and either way you learn how versatile your players are. :)

 

My solution is just to tell people "If you min-max all the time, you will make enemies of your fellow players. For the purposes of Champions, no one wants to be the guy who kicks the kryptonite out of the way for Superman." And they GET it. When you explain that, they get it.

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My solution is just to tell people "If you min-max all the time, you will make enemies of your fellow players. For the purposes of Champions, no one wants to be the guy who kicks the kryptonite out of the way for Superman." And they GET it. When you explain that, they get it.

 

I get the point you are making but my first thought when reading your post was "Playing Batman would still be pretty fun". :D

 

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You are not mean enough. Like when you say, "I had difficulty building encounters that would prove in any way challenging for them, and when I did, they immediately spent their experience points to eliminate their weaknesses."  YOU RULE THE UNIVERSE. 

 

If they defeat 10 thugs, let one escape and bring back 20 friends.

If they beat your big bad villain, tell the players that his big brother has shown up--take the same character sheet, add 20 to all the numbers on it, and have at it. 

Assume the villains ALSO learn from their defeats. Make sure that whatever the heroes did last time won't work again. 

Make one player's stupid skill the one they need to turn off the 50 PD/50 ED force fields the villains have acquired. 

 

And you talk about how they spend their XP...why are you giving them XP to spend? If they aren't achieving the goals you give them--to role-play, work on background, and so on--they shouldn't be earning experience. For example, you could make a tally mark every time a player gets it right, and give out XP based on the number of tally marks each player racks up. Someone will be greedy enough to become creative in order to get ahead.

 

Ultimately, not everybody likes the same thing. If your idea of fun and theirs are just that different, maybe you need to find other people who won't fight you every step of the way. But in my experience, players eventually do find out that roleplaying is fun, even if they end up roleplaying "the guy who gets in trouble for shooting first." Try being mean before you give up.

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I taught my kids how to play Hero. I didn't like any of the printable Hero Designer exports so I made up character sheets that took out all the Hero gobblygook and presented the information in as much plain English as I could muster. I explained how END worked, summarized damage rolls, the whole nine yards. The kids loved it and that is still the most memorable gaming session that they played with me.

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You are not mean enough.

...Use sparingly. If the players get the idea that no matter how much ass they kick, you're going to just "cheat" and throw something heavier at them, the conclusion they're likely to draw is "Wow, this guy is a dick!" and find a new GM.

 

If they aren't achieving the goals you give them--to role-play, work on background, and so on--they shouldn't be earning experience.

To a point, yes. Letting the players know they can earn as many (or more) XP by avoiding a fight is great - and is something that D&D/Pathfinder-school gamers may need to be reminded of. But giving out 0 XP because the players didn't do things the way you wanted them to? I'd be looking for another GM.

 

Sorry to be so blunt; maybe that's not what you meant. But this comes across as exactly the sort of heavy-handed, adversarial "It's MY game and the players are my chess pieces" style of GMing that I freakin HATE. Roleplaying is supposed to be a collaborate experience.

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...Use sparingly. If the players get the idea that no matter how much ass they kick, you're going to just "cheat" and throw something heavier at them, the conclusion they're likely to draw is "Wow, this guy is a dick!" and find a new GM.

 

Short answer: I don't think we have any real disagreement. This particular GM sounds like he's getting pushed around, and so I recommended some pretty strong measures to create better collaboration between the GM and the players. I don't beat up PCs just because I can.

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As the GM in question, I can say it was a combination of factors:

1.  Lack of any recent experience with the system (hadn't played it since 1994 and was trying to run a game with a single read through 6E1, 6E2, and 6E Fantasy Hero.

2.  That lack of experience made it difficult to figure out where to set the limits / guidelines for the type of game I was wanting to run (low fantasy).

3.  Min/max type gamers.

 

We decided to play a "gladiator" campaign in an empire roughly similar to ancient Rome.  The characters were all slaves (for various reasons), but all sold and sent to the same gladiator "school".  This set up allowed for the characters to choose to play just about any race (captured on the battlefield, or in a raid of some sort) and character type (being captured in a fight makes it more likely that you're a warrior-type, but if your warriors lose, then pretty much anyone could be captured and taken).

 

I believe the relevant portion of my campaign guidelines wernt something along the lines of this (it's been 2 years, and things went so badly I pitched my original notes, so I'm working from memory:

1.  Averge OCV and DCV would be in the 4 to 6 range with a max of 8 or 9.

 

One particular character caused me a problem.  The player decided to play a kobold warrior,setting up the kobolds as a tribal culture near the borders of the empire.  His reasons for playing a kobold were simple:  smaller than man-sized, -2 to the opponents OCV.  He also took martial arts, but he only ever used one maneuver:  Defensive Strike (+1 OCV, +3 DCV)...And, of course, he bought the campaign maximum of and 8 or 9 base DCV.  The end result was that he effectively had a 13 or 14 DCV.  Tack on a few combat skill levels, and you have a nightmare -- a character who is only hit on a 3 on 3d6 vs any opponent with an average (even upper end of average) OCV.

 

After the problem became apparent, I approached the player and asked him to "tone it down a bit".  The response I got was basically "I'm not going to make it easy for you to hit my character."  My response - "I'm not asking you to make it easy, but it SHOULD be possible.  If I have to build something that will be capable of hitting you, it's going to pretty much slaughter everyone else."  This was still met with refusal.  Other characters had similar issues, though not as egregious (that -2 to opponents' OCVs made a BIG difference).

 

Since that campaign collapsed, I've purchased and read many more HERO supplements, and started reading and posting to these forums for advice, and I've learned quite a bit along the way.  I've gotten a better handle on what to include when calculating the campaign guidelines (for example, it was not clear to me until we started playing that CSLs and benefits from maneuver should be considered when figuring out whether or not a character "fits" within the guidelines).

 

I still think, with my particular group, I'm going to wind up having to create the initial characters in order to wind up with a set of characters that will be fun for everyone.  I also need to get better at defining campaign guidelines and recognizing builds that are going to exceed those guidelines.  I also need to get a better understanding of the tactical options that are available in HERO.

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Pegasus40218- a board member came up with tactical notes mostly like this-

 

A character can stand up as part of an Abort ("Get to one's feet" being a 1/2 Phase Maneuver that has the defensive benefit of improving the character's DCV from 1/2 DCV for being Prone). 
 
Ask the GM to fully describe the SFX, any "wind up" for various maneuvers, various "tells" required by activation Limitations on their abilities, and similar in-game details pertaining to the opponents' actions not only informs tactical decisions, it also results in a much better described and higher quality mental picture of an encounter. And that's just beneficial to good roleplaying, plain and simple.
 
Similarly that amount of detail makes opponents far more memorable and is particularly advantageous and enriching to the game in the case of reoccurring NPC's.
 
 
The terrain is either your greatest ally or your greatest enemy. More battles have been affected by terrain and environment than any other consideration. Pay attention to the details of the battleground du jour, taking full advantage of sight lines, cover, concealment, avenues of approach, useful objects, and high ground. Use it to your own advantage, deprive advantages to the opposition, and be mindful of hazards. Ask the GM to describe the scene in detail and if not playing on a battlemap, draw a quick abstract sketch and ask the GM if it's accurate. Understanding where things are at in relation to each other is very important, particularly for highly mobile characters.
 
 
Pay attention to events in play. Be aware of where characters are in relation to each other, who has yet to act in a Phase, who has acted in a Phase, and be particularly alert to unexpected opportunities that transpire.
 
TIMING
 
Combat is all about timing. Doing the exact same move with the exact same rolls can be brilliant or stupid, all based upon timing. Assuming you Know the System, Your Character, Your Enemy, and the Terrain, you have a plethora of tools in your character's toolbox at your disposal, but without understanding when it is a good idea to use which one it amounts to naught. Some players have a tendency to find one or two actions that work for them and then just blindly apply them to every situation regardless of whether it is appropriate or not. Don't get hung up on a particular stunt or trick. It's not a question of Holding, or Aborting, or Maneuvering, or Alpha-striking, or what have you. All are good options for characters of various designs, but only when timing favors them. Similarly some players have abilities that are only useful in certain circumstances, but they try to use them in situations where they are not appropriate, or success with them is not auspicious. Growing frustrated by failure, the player then disregards the ability and never uses it again. It's like getting frustrated when a wrench fails to drive a screw, and subsequently never using the wrench even when presented with a bolt that needs to be tightened. A good chunk of solid tactics is simply using the right tool at the right time.
 
RISK MANAGEMENT
 
An important corollary to tactics is managing your character's risk. Blindly charging about doing dangerous things without a commensurate potential for payoff only works for so long. It's all well and good to take risks, but remember to Cover Your Ass (CYA). Understand when the situation is conducive to employing an all out attack, when it is conducive to holding back, when an all out defense is necessary, and when you should gain space to recover. In a larger sense you should also consider risk to your character's teammates and allies, if any. Sometimes the best thing to do in the bigger picture is to "take one for the team" to protect a crucial teammate, or to set another teammate up. OPPORTUNISM Sometimes events occur that are irregular, unplanned for, unpredictable. It is often worth extra risk to capitalize on these unexpected opportunities. In militaristic jargon this is known as "targets of opportunity". When opponents unexpectedly lower their DCV, turn their back to the character, suffer a fumble, take an action early in a Phase (and thus briefly lose their ability to Abort), have to change clips, or otherwise suffer a momentary impediment it is tactically sound to exploit the opportunity. Characters with "Code of the HERO",  "Honorable", and similar Disadvantages may not be able to capitalize on such boons, but other characters certainly can.
 
 
Tactics are essentially fluid and situational so it is basically impossible to codify them into  inviolate strictures without rendering them counterproductive. For tactics to remain viable they must remain flexible and agile. However, there are some general rules of thumb that will serve you well in a HERO System combat.
 
DON'T BE A ROCK EM SOCK EM ROBOT
 
Do not have your characters just stand around hitting and getting hit. Not only is this boring, it uses like 1% of the Combat System. You might as well just roll dice randomly to kill time, if that's all you want to do. Move around, use Manuevers, Abort to defensive actions intelligently, use things in play to springboard off of, get creative. Combat doesn't have to be a race to the last hit point.
 
HOLD YOUR PHASE 12 All HERO System combats start on Phase 12. This gives everyone a chance to go in the same Phase and prevents slower characters from getting bent over a barrel before they get a chance to do anything. It is all too tempting to start off the combat with a bang and rip loose with an all out attack, but unless you can totally devastate the opposition or have defenses that are so good you can weather the return fire it is a mistake. Hold your action and be prepared to take evasive / defensive action if necessary. Let your opponent show their hand first, and if possible counter punch after they have committed themselves to something.
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EXCEPTION: PREEMPTIVE STRIKE

 

If your character happens to know that the opposition has an attack that is so powerful allowing them to use it results in something between an unfavorable trade and total catastrophe, then by all means take them out first even if it means going in Phase 12.

 

EXCEPTION: HIGH ENDURANCE COST ABILITY If your character has an attack that has a non-negligible Endurance cost, then use it before the end of Segment 12 if possible so that the free Post Segment 12 REC will help defray it's cost.

 

ONE IN THE HAND IS WORTH TWO IN THE BUSH aka "Kick em when they are down"

 

A lot of players are used to games without a clean "STUN" concept, and once opponents go down they stay down. Not so in the HERO System. While "agents" or "mooks" might stay down at the GM's option, notable characters get Recoveries and will stand back up again if allowed to regain their composure. It's amazing how even players that have been playing HERO's for a while seem to forget this. When a tough opponent gets staggered or goes below 0 STUN hit 'em again to make sure they stay down (unless it runs against your character's roleplaying of course). LOW DCV = SWEEP, HIGH DCV = OTHER OPTIONS Once they are exposed to the idea and see how it works, many a player becomes enamored of Sweep and Rapid Fire (same mechanic), and proceed to use the Maneuver every chance they get without recourse to the consequences. This is a mistake that they are easily made to pay for as their DCV drops to half and they subsequently get drubbed by return fire. Which isn't to say that Sweep and Rapid Fire aren't good options. They are fantastic options in general, but they favor characters that have lower DCV and higher OCV via combat levels. The lower the character's DCV to begin with, the less impact dropping to 1/2 DCV is. Characters with high DCV should pursue other options to increase their volume of attacks such as Multiple Power Attacks, Autofire, or taking advantage of Two Weapon Fighting to reduce the DCV penalty of Sweep / Rapid Fire. For some characters Spreading is another useful option for affecting more than one opponent, but this has bigger ramifications and is discussed independently below. SEGMENTS (1, 5 ,7, 11) According to the Speed Chart that drives combat's flow, fewer SPD values get actions on Segments 1, 5, 7, and 11 making these Phases ideal for taking Held Actions, particularly if your character has a follow-up action in the Segment immediately following. Its also useful to set up Haymakers to end in 5, 7, and 11 (not so much 1 due to crossing Post-Segment 12). Hold to the end of 4, 6, or 10 and start a Haymaker, and let it land in 5,7, or 11.  

 

TWO-FOR-ONE SPECIAL

 

Using one action to take out two opponents, particularly in a case where one is adjacent (in HtH range) and the other isn't, is a very effective tactic. There are several ways to do this.

 

KNOCKBACK RICOCHET Not in the main rulebook, but clarified in the Rules FAQ and later publications (such as the aforementioned Combat Handbook), a character can Knockback an opponent in such a way as to hit a third character. This requires a to-hit roll using only the attackers base OCV vs. the third character's DCV.

 

PITCHING ENEMIES

 

Similarly, though not as efficiently, it is possible to throw an opponent that has already been grabbed in a previous Phase at another character.

 

SHOVE

 

The Martial Maneuver Shove is quite useful in this regard -- you can Shove one character some distance and into another, also gaining some movement yourself. It is also one of the easier ways to move opponents around against their will, and all in all a very under utilized Maneuver.  

 

MARTIAL MANEUVERS AND MULTIPLE POWER ATTACKS

 

Martial Maneuvers built on different bases can be used together as a Multiple Power Attack to pull off very efficient actions like Nerve Strike + Take Away + Leg Sweep and other such devastating combos. If one is prone to watching Kung Fu movies, a lot of the crazier stunts seen therein are most closely modeled in the HERO System via creative combinations of MPA'd Martial Maneuvers.

 

SPREADING

 

A frequently overlooked gem of a rule, Spreading allows a character to either trade damage classes for extra OCV, or more commonly to trade damage classes to make a non-AoE attack into a small AoE. I've seen innumerable players with characters that could spread their attacks never use the option. There is even an option to allow characters to Spread their Strength, which is a very useful trick. Beg your GM to allow it, but beware the opposition using it on you.

 

KEEP YOUR ENEMIES WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM aka "don't turn your back on a loaded gun"

 

If possible, try to position your character so that no enemies are behind them, particularly if the character has a high DCV and lower defenses.

 

DEFENSE MANEUVER

 

Failing that, if it is at all justifiable for your character's concept, get Defense Maneuver IV. It's just about the best spent 10 points you'll likely have on your sheet.

 

TARGETABLE FOCI aka "How many points did you save with that Focus again?"

 

Don't forget you can target Foci. Even if a Focus is indestructible (most aren't), you can knock it loose if it's Accessible and thus deprive an opponent of whatever abilities were purchased via the Focus.

 

CONCEALMENT

 

When using the Terrain to ones own advantage, Concealment is often available. Use it.

 

SHIELD OF OPPORTUNITY

 

If the situation presents itself and your character is taking ranged fire, feel free to rip up or grab some appropriately useful object and use it as a Tower Shield to provide concealment and if the GM is kind some extra DEF. INTERPOSING In a situation where some opponents are close in to fight in HtH, and other opponents are standing off to use Ranged attacks try to maneuver in such a way to keep the closer HtH opponents between your character and the ranged opponents.

 

DROPPING PRONE

 

When receiving ranged fire, and assuming no opponents are inconveniently close to melee range, don't forget that you can Drop Prone as a 0 Phase Action, which is combinable with an Abort to Dodge or similar. This is not exactly the same as Dive For Cover, though you do go to 1/2 DCV for being prone. The advantages of doing so are three fold; first off unlike D4C there is no DEX Roll involved, secondly if you don't abort to it but do it on your own Phase it can be combined with other Actions (such as Full Move, Drop Prone), and finally you benefit from any Concealment which can either impose an OCV penalty on a shooter or even prevent them from firing at your character at all if they can no longer see you.

 

AERIAL SUPERIORITY

 

Ideally you want to keep enemies on the ground and your character or allies that have the capability off the ground. It is almost always a smart tactical move to ground an opponent or to get oneself or an ally off the ground.

 

ALTITUDE

 

An efficient tactic for characters able to gain altitude via some fashion is to get above an opponent and shoot from above them, seeking to do downward Knockback. This gains three things if successful; firstly the opponent takes damage from the initial attack, secondly they lose altitude at a disfavorable rate (it takes 2" to go up 1" for most forms of movement, but Knockback is 1 for 1), and thirdly enough Knockback will put them into the ground for more damage (and if they are Flying, Gliding, or Swinging they take an extra d6 of Knockback).

 

FMOVE IS YOUR FRIEND

 

Full Move (FMove) Maneuvers are great because they frequently allow your character to take three or more 1/2 Phase Actions in a single Full Phase. That's just good Action Economy no matter how you slice it. The three FMove Standard Maneuvers (Move By, Move Thru, and Grab By) are all decent, but the FMove Martial Maneuvers are all worth their weight and several are among the best Maneuvers in the game.  Whether your character has the Martial versions or must rely on the Standard ones, get familiar with them and apply that knowledge liberally.

 

CLUSTER****

 

This probably goes without saying, but if your character has a respectable AoE or Autofire and several opponents clump together in nice tight little kill radius, it might be a good idea to shift gears from what you were planning on doing that Phase and taking advantage of the opportunity to punish them for it.

 

CHANNELING

 

Similarly, it is possible to arrange a battlefield to force opponents to clump up for AoE's, and it is also possible to push them together over time via intersecting lines of fire that leave a seemingly safe pocket somewhere. The opposition naturally finds their way into this pocket and then blammo. In games with more unusual abilities this can also be accomplished by using abilities like Force Wall, Darkness, and Change Environment to render areas undesirable or off limits, forcing foes to group up. Knockback and Throws can also be used to cluster opponents; several allies could all deposit an opponent into a tight area to set a blaster or equivalent up for a big finish, for instance.

 

SWITCH UP

 

Often a GM will present a group of opponents that are individually well suited to facing off against one or more PC's. If the GM then engages the PC's individually with these mini-nemesis and the PC's get stuck in with them accordingly, it can make for a long fight. Let the GM have a little fun, but after about a TURN or so consider having your character deliberately disrupt the pairings. Cheapshot an opponent that is giving a comrade a hard time of it, freeing your ally to either finish them off or in turn helping out another ally (maybe even you). This is good tactics (it's never smart to fight your enemies battle), but on the other hand it can be frustrating to the GM, so use responsibly.

 

DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO

 

If for some reason you aren't sure what to do, or no particularly worthwhile target is presenting itself then 1/2 Move and Hold a 1/2 Phase. Consider it your filler action of choice. If you frequently find yourself with nothing to do it's possible you need to reevaluate the character and either get an ability that takes time to use like Find Weakness or Aid so that you can translate all those extra actions into something useful, or perhaps lower your SPD and recoup some points. Alternately you might just be indecisive, which you are on your own to resolve.

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So I think Pegasus40218 you have presented us with what not to do when introducing a new group to Hero.  Thank you for sharing it with us.  I also thinking learning from our mistakes is really powerful.  Learning from others is a sign of wisdom.

 

 

Back to the main point of the thread : How have you introduced new groups to Hero.

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Short answer: I don't think we have any real disagreement. This particular GM sounds like he's getting pushed around, and so I recommended some pretty strong measures to create better collaboration between the GM and the players. I don't beat up PCs just because I can.

:rockon:

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When we play I will have the following dialog:

GM:  Ok you are going to hit the bandit in front of you

Player:  Yep

GM:  Do you know what to roll?

Player:  No

GM:  Ok.  You start with an 11 and then add your OCV to that.  Then add any skill levels you want to use in the attack to the previous number.  Then add any pluses/minuses for the maneuver you are using.  What is that number?

Player:  11 + 5 + 2 = 18.

GM:  Now roll 3d6 and subtract it from the number you just calculated.  And tell me that number.

Player: Rolls a 10.  So 10 from 18 is 8.

GM:  Excellent that means you hit a DCV of 8.  Next time do the math ahead of time and roll the dice.  You can then just tell me "I hit a DCV of 7."

 

 

Grrk.  Sorry but that description makes my brain malfunction.  I would never ever understand that.  I mean, clearly it works for your group, but I've heard of people doing it that way and I just can't wrap my head around it.

 

I think of it the following way:

 

If you roll an 11, you hit a DCV equal to your OCV.  For every point you roll under 11, you hit one better DCV.  For every point you roll higher than 11, you hit one worse DCV.

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Grrk.  Sorry but that description makes my brain malfunction.  I would never ever understand that.  I mean, clearly it works for your group, but I've heard of people doing it that way and I just can't wrap my head around it.

 

I think of it the following way:

 

If you roll an 11, you hit a DCV equal to your OCV.  For every point you roll under 11, you hit one better DCV.  For every point you roll higher than 11, you hit one worse DCV.

This really does seem to be a binary thing with Hero gamers: our brains are only capable of holding one method of calculating To Hit. :) For some people, [Roll = 11+OCV-DCV] makes perfect sense and [11+OCV-Roll=DCV] is completely confusing; for others, it's the other way around. I think the [Roll = 11+OCV-DCV] tends to be more popular among people who've been playing Hero longer (After all, that was the only way to do it until 5ed introduced the "alternate" method.) That was how my brain was wired for 20+ years, and it made perfect sense. Then I tried the [11+OCV-Roll=DCV] method, found it much easier...and now my brain has trouble going back to the old way. :winkgrin:

 

I would say I find the [11+OCV-Roll=DCV] method much easier to explain to new players, partly because it's closer to the way To Hit is calculated in most RPGs. To simplify it more: I pre-add the 11+OCV and write that on the character sheet as the "Attack Roll." Then the formula just becomes:

 

Attack Roll +/- any Bonuses/Penalties – 3d6  =  DCV hit

 

It helps that this is essentially the same mechanic used for Skill/Characteristic Rolls, so they really only have to learn one: "Take this number, subtract 3d6, and tell me how much you make/miss it by."

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