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Experiences teaching people Hero Game system


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How do people teach other games like D&D or Pathfinder?

 

I'm trying to think back when I was taught how to play my first RPG. It was AD&D 1ed back in 1980 and I and a group of high school freshmen were taught by a pair of sophomores. One session and I was hooked. I was off to the local hobby store to buy my own copy of the Player's Handbook. I devoured that book in one night and rolled up my own character for the next session. I remember rolling 00 on percentile dice which qualified my character for psionics--the DMs who taught us had yet to read those rules and had no idea how to use them.

 

Two years later I discovered Champions 2ed in a hobby shop, bought it, brought it home, devoured it and never looked back. I didn't have anyone to play the game with until a year later, but in very little time I had a bunch of characters built because building them was so much fun. No teachers, no flash cards, no simplified character sheets or tutorials "boiling down" the rules. Just me and the rulebook. I think it really helped that I had the previous experience with D&D (and experience playing wargames before that).

 

If I had to come up with a beginner's curriculum based on my own experience, I would teach them how to play something else first, like D&D. And then I'd move on to Champions, though I'm not sure which edition I would use (I'd be tempted to start with 2e just for its relative simplicity, but 4e is my favorite). While CC represents the current state of the game, I don't think being "current" is of much importance to beginners who don't know the differences between the editions anyway.

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I worked up this little sheet to help people just starting to play.  Its based on a Savage Worlds sheet someone did and I got handed when I learned that system and it was useful.  Just a quick referen

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 o

So my wife of 18 years has finally decided she'd like to try out this weird hobby of mine! I'm talking her through the basics of how RPGs work, this is how you create a character, etc. And she asks "D

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Aaron Allston wrote a great D&D module called Treasure Hunt in which you started out as 0 level nobodies and as you tried to do things you became a given class.  There were items in the game that let you mimic certain abilities, and you learned from them (like wands and scrolls) so you could begin to become a mage or a cleric, etc.  I like that concept as a very basic beginner Fantasy Hero 101 sort of module and some day I want to write one up for Hero.  Start with maybe 25 points - all race and personality based complications - and then learn to be a hero through this introductory adventure.  By the end of Treasure Hunt, the PCs were level 1 and had a class, some basic gear, and a story to tell.

 

That seems like a pretty sound approach these days.

 

When I first learned D&D I sat down with a book and a guy that knew how to play, and he helped me roll up a guy, ended up a Paladin I think.  I figured it out as we went along and learned, which I'm sure everyone can still, if they want to put in the time and effort. Its just finding people who won't get distracted or give up 'cause its too hard, so you gotta sort of wean them away from having their hand held by tutorials and simple structures.

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I think the concept of the tutorial game is underutilized. There's a non-cynical answer to why video game tutorials have taken root, and it's that learning-by-doing is engaging. (I can get a bit tangent-y on this - my late academic mentor was big on researching video games - I will go on all day if not stopped.)

 

The new Star Wars game, by Fantasy Flight, Edge of the Empire? I picked up its beginners' box when that first hit market (it came with the funky dice) and wow was I impressed. It did a great job of introducing concepts in a fun, organic way, and teaching the mechanics of the game through play. I thought it was freaking fantastic. And it introduced concepts in a way that helped them stick.

 

In fact, I feel like every game could use such a product. If my current work goes well enough, I might try my hand at writing some, see if people like them.

 

But yeah, the point is that a lot of people really dig something different in the user interface of the game. One of my friends never puts anything down in shorthand - the numbers just live in his head, and it messes him up if he deals with the results and not the formulas. I tend to work in the opposite fashion.

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I think a very stripped down "players handbook" type of work for each genre - Fantasy Hero 101, Champions 101, etc would do well. In fact, each book could break a few of the standard Hero rules by gently nudging people into the system using templates as "classes" and blocks of advancement in templates as "levels" with information on customization.  You want to play Champions?  Here's your level 1 Martial Artist.  You can level up your Mentalist with these groups of powers per block of xps.  A super basic stripped down combat presentation would also help, along with some tips on playing the game to its fullest.  Equipment and introduction to the game could take up the rest of the book, with lots of art and simple, crayola-color styling.  Even put some cards in the bundle so younger and less-experienced RPG player types get that multimedia experience (bundling an app would help too if someone had that expertise).

 

The idea would not be to make a bonehead version of Hero, but to make a super basic tutorial introduction type of book.  Then players could ease into the game from other systems and computer games in a more comfortable fashion and then as they are used to it, get the real rules under their belt.  Sort of like the Player's Handbook then the various class guides for D20.

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The idea would not be to make a bonehead version of Hero, but to make a super basic tutorial introduction type of book.  Then players could ease into the game from other systems and computer games in a more comfortable fashion and then as they are used to it, get the real rules under their belt.  Sort of like the Player's Handbook then the various class guides for D20.

 

Pretty much this. 

 

HERO can be pretty daunting, but from what I can gather, it's much more internally consistent than say, D20, which makes no sense. You learn it, because it's there, but D&D is actually a pretty terrible first roleplaying game from a mechanics standpoint. HERO's actually not that complicated, but its content isn't always elegantly communicated. 

 

That's not a criticism of DOJ, which is 3 people as I recall, but an observation. Companies like Fantasy Flight and WoTC have departments dedicated to visual communication; of course they're good at this.

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I think a very stripped down "players handbook" type of work for each genre - Fantasy Hero 101, Champions 101, etc would do well. In fact, each book could break a few of the standard Hero rules by gently nudging people into the system using templates as "classes" and blocks of advancement in templates as "levels" with information on customization.  You want to play Champions?  Here's your level 1 Martial Artist.  You can level up your Mentalist with these groups of powers per block of xps.  A super basic stripped down combat presentation would also help, along with some tips on playing the game to its fullest.  Equipment and introduction to the game could take up the rest of the book, with lots of art and simple, crayola-color styling.  Even put some cards in the bundle so younger and less-experienced RPG player types get that multimedia experience (bundling an app would help too if someone had that expertise).

 

I liked the, "superhero gallery" from the 6e Champions genre book.  It had the basic archetypes, and a plug-and-play approach to building them. This could be done for other genre as as well. I don't think the skill or combat systems need any simplification. I also don't think that building a, "class" system on to Hero is a desirable activity. People already have class-based systems for superheroes, fantasy, and a bunch of other genres. Why should we go back to rollers when we have wheels?

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In my continuing efforts to keep a good gaming group together and use Hero I just recruited a new player.  He posted on a local Meetup group that he was looking for a gaming group.  Now I have posted in the Meeting group about what I running.  I provide links to two articles on my website, Gaming Biography and Current Campaigns.  After we started talking he was on board with playing with us (Sunday will be the first time).  We meet face to face this morning and my wife, daughter and I liked him.  Also he bought a copy of the Fantasy Hero Complete PDF and was digging through it.  He noticed right away that in d20 games the system and everything about it is suppose to 'balanced' vs. Hero where the GM use the Hero system as a toolkit and has manage game balance themselves.  He liked that.

 

If he sticks with us that means I will have convert three former d20 players into Hero gamers.

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Wish I could work my mojo better. I used to convert people all the time, now my whole gaming group seems to want to play Savage Worlds now, because its easier.  Maybe I should break out the construction paper and crayons, make some pictures with glitter so they like the game better.

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Wish I could work my mojo better. I used to convert people all the time, now my whole gaming group seems to want to play Savage Worlds now, because its easier.  Maybe I should break out the construction paper and crayons, make some pictures with glitter so they like the game better.

Clearly you guys aren't playing a supers campaign...

 

In my experience, most fantasy rpgers aren't willing to sign up for Hero's complexity and detail. That sort of opt-in seems to be easiest to sell when playing superheroes.

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Oh boy, this could take awhile for me.

 

I've alway been the GM.  Almost never a player. 

From the time my friends and I picked up Gamma World when I was in 5th grade (a looonng time ago).

 

I've run three groups with the Hero system over the years.  All 4e (only books I've owned).

One was Fantasy Hero, the other 2 Champions based (although I prefer to make my own settings).

This last one is for my wife and kids after the kids found my old books and wanted to try it (thanks Marvel Movies...).

 

Things I have done over time to make it easier to run the game while trying to teach new players, and keep it from going min/max.

 

First, as others have said, make their first round of characters for them.  Let them say what they want to be in general terms, then try and incorporate that as much as possible.  Let them know they aren't necessarily 'married' to this character.

 

Second, as also pointed out, don't make the characters to powerful.  Start on the low side of 'normal' for the campaign so they either have room to grow - or are affordable if the player decides to change and wants to 'buy' their former PC as a follower.  You will never find a player so devoted to a follower they have bought - as when they have actually played that follower for several games and were invested in it.

 

Third, give them a real reason to work together and tailor the first several sessions toward that goal.  For me, preferably with as little (or no) combat as possible.  In fact, I generally always make the openning sessions (and first story arc) more of a 'real world' sort of feel where the situations involve interaction and creativity, not combat.  I try to include situations where resorting to combat actually makes the situation worse (go ahead and hit the protesters or hecklers.  I have the plot thread involving the paper/summons and court proceedings already written up with the other PCs called up as witnesses, co-defendants, etc...).

 

Fourth ties in to #3.  If you can, make the first game involve introductions to a lot of the skills, without actually having any huge danger involved.  For the one Fantasy Hero game, that involved the PCs going to the local harvest festival and getting involved with the local figures (that would play large parts later), involved in games/contests that made use of skills and abilities (pole climbing, pie eating, axe & knife throwing, archery contests, stone throwing, pugilist and wrestling contests, etc, etc) that let them get used to dealing with the Hero system without actually being in any real danger (although besting some figures would start the rivalrys that might create that problem later).  There were also many opportunities for social interactions (dances, feasts, markets, etc) where the PCs would interact with the NPCs and start to generate their contact, create favors, gather equipment they didn't start with, learn about plot threads that would lead into the future story arcs, etc.

This allowed the players to see that the combat machine might do great in the wrestling match, but fall on his face a bit in the foot race and doesn't get much of anywhere at the evening feast and danceand other players shine.

 

Fifth and a biggie for me, don't just hand out experience points.  The players earn them, but seldom see them as 'free' points without taking a 'hit' in the process.  In our games, the players don't get their 'points' at the end of a session, they get them at the beginning of the next.  I will put together a paper with a selection of options (usually at least 4) for the player based on what happened in the previous session(s).   If the selections were to be equal to 2 points it might go like option #1 is +1 STR and a favor, #2 is a contact 11-, #3 is 2 End and a favor, and #4 is ONE Xp.

So if they want points they can spend however they feel, they will only get HALF what the other players get.

I may also have an option that adds a disadvantage the player can add in with additional 'bonuses' - if they player chooses to take it. (Ie, they have a +1 Persuasion, a contact & a favor, but now also have a rivalry with a merchant family leader that feels slighted in an argument the player helped mediate...)

Now, at the end of each session, I will ask the players what they feel they accomplished (like the one who mediates a fight between two families at a dance may feel that they ingratiated themselves to the family - which if I agree translates to favor/contact...) and try to put options in that support that view - if it obviously isn't just a player ploy.

This lets the players and I both have a hand in the character's development, and prevents the min/max player from becoming overly powerful as they only acrue half the Xp of the others...

 

There is so much more I could add, but I think this is already a bit of a wall post...

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Your number five would kill it for most players I know.

 

My players in hero tend to become more diverse with xp, but if they saw me limiting their expenditure by that much they would quit. After all the main selling point of Hero is that you can make anything.

 

The rest of your ideas are pretty sound and I have tried them all with new players. But I also allow after action tweaks. So the at the end of the game night the players can fine tune their characters. This normally takes effect as moving three or four points around here and there the first couple sessions.

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Players may want to take a "don't tell me what to do" attitude, but ultimately what they do and what they spend their XP on will be subject to campaign guidelines, house rules, and GM discretion. There's kinda no getting around that. In my experience, players who can't accept the intrinsic limits of being a player don't stick around long.

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I think HERO should encourage players - especially in Champions - to think about and write down what they expect the experienced version of their character to look like. It doesn't have to be written in stone like a level based system but it's useful stuff for the player and GM to reference later when the topic of spending XP comes up.  It's the most freeform part of the system.  Putting some structure around it up-front is much easier than after the fact.

 

HM

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Players may want to take a "don't tell me what to do" attitude, but ultimately what they do and what they spend their XP on will be subject to campaign guidelines, house rules, and GM discretion. There's kinda no getting around that. In my experience, players who can't accept the intrinsic limits of being a player don't stick around long.

 

Having the guidelines and limits is not the same thing as "you can only spend these XP on X or Y. I don't care that you've been studying Nuclear Astrophysics. You can't take it as a skill. Why? Because I said so!"

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Having the guidelines and limits is not the same thing as "you can only spend these XP on X or Y. I don't care that you've been studying Nuclear Astrophysics. You can't take it as a skill. Why? Because I said so!"

Huh? Did somebody advocate for GM tyranny when I wasn't looking? Maybe I've lost the continuity of this discussion, but I can't figure out whose point you are refuting.

 

Don't get me wrong, I agree with you 100%, but that's because what you said should, well, go without saying. Who in their right mind would argue otherwise?

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I wonder what advice people here have on finding new players.  My old group I've been playing with since, oh, the late 80s, has shuffled off like paste-eating infants to another game system because its "easier" (I'm not bitter or anything) after playing Hero for decades, and I want new players.  

 

I have an idea for a Champions campaign I want to playtest and possibly write up as a Champions 101 series of adventures and sourcebook (ambitious, I know but I have no life).  But I need players and I only know of 2 reliable ones.

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They don't seem to have any interest in a supers campaign, to be honest.  one of the guys (the newest add) seems to have no real feel for superheroes or comics - he's from England where they never really took off and aren't part of the culture.  Another just doesn't seem to like them very much.  Its possible I could hook them by asking for playtesting I dunno.  Its just very disappointing and depressing to me.  What's especially frustrating is that the players keep saying things like "I like how Savage Worlds lets you do this..." followed by something Hero always has done, better.

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