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What is HERO combat like?


Altair
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I know, I know. Awesome, right? Cool! But what are the defining traits that lead to that experience?

 

Comparisons to other systems are useful, so long as they're not super-pejorative. Like, D&D 4th is slow, tactical, and greatly rewards coordination between one side of a conflict - a lot of its Big Cool Stuff is synergy-based. Or not! Someone who really likes D&D 4th (full disclosure: I'm not that guy) could probably describe it better.

 

So what is HERO combat like? It seems to be a big part of many people's games - what makes it unique? How does it flow? What's the pace like? 
 

Most importantly, what does it look like when it's running well?

 

Thanks!

 

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More seriously, the thing to remember is that since Hero combat has many tactical options, initiative modifiers and in-combat damage recovery methods, combat flows as fast and smooth as players can make choices.

 

If you have dithering players, it can be agonizing to get through a single combat turn. However, if players plan ahead and understand what their characters can do, combat can flow like a cinema scene.

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Imagine you're at a supermarket checkout line, and there's fifteen people ahead of you, and they all have a full basket of groceries. And none of the items are marked. And everyone wants to pay by check. And it's the girl's first day on the job. And she doesn't speak English.
You take a few minutes off that, and you start to get an idea of how long a turn of combat is in Hero.

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Hero combat is very cinematic and kinetic.  It is more blow-by-blow than many other systems, with each attack and move being specifically depicted.  The actual maneuvers are more abstract: for example you have one called "kick" that is not merely a kick but any stronger attack than a simple punch or quick blow - an uppercut, a patented overhead two handed Kirk punch, etc.  The combat is a bit slower than some systems - especially with inexperienced players - but faster than others.  You'll find it can really create some very visual, dynamic results particularly in a superheroic game.

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I am struggling to get back into gming Champions (my buddies are bullying me to do it for quite some years now) but the flow of combat is what I DREAD in Champions! This is not 20 years ago when we were are attending university or school and had tons of time at the weekend and considered 6 hours of gaming short and 8 the norm - and 9-10 not out of the question. Every Saturday. Hell, we played one of my Pulp Hero adventure Saturday, Sunday AND Monday (was a holiday)!

 

Today, it is Sundays from 3 pm to about 8 with our nurse coming in late since she sometimes has to work and can't make it before 4 and we loose time with chit-chat anyway so it is 4 hours of gaming, 4 1/2 if we are lucky. And I don't what to spend it playing though half a fight. I still remember our last Fantasy Hero campaign (generally fondly actually) when we had one measly fight against some orcs to get across a bridge. The fight was well-ballanced and we all have 20+ years of HERO under our belt but still it took about an hour. So, that was that for the gaming-day. With D&D, any old school game or basically most others this would have been a 10-15 minutes affair and we would have had the cahnce to get to the real adventure (can't count the ors I killed during my gaming-life).

 

Yes, HERO gives you a lot of options. But honestly: Most of the time all you do is hit the target like in any other game - this way or the other. And then shuffling levels, choosing manouvers, rolling for hit locations, checking and multiplying Body and Stun damage, deducting Armor, checking for Stunning, Impairment/ Disabling damage and Knockdown really takes a lot of time. Sure, you can play without it. But if I want to play  a game I like to PLAY THE GAME, not some watered down version of it.

 

With Champions I still remember instance were some super got knocked to -5 STUN and the player ha dto wait for half and hour or more to get back into the game because all this happend on Segment 6 and between him acting again and the other players and the villains were about 30 Phases and actions!

 

Can't have that with just 4 hours of play!

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Behold my transmutation power, as I take thoughtful replies, and butcher them in paraphrasing!

Paraphrase: It can die in analysis paralysis 

 

Paraphrase: It is very zoomed-in.

 

 

Cool! Nothing there really contradicts each other; I get the feeling the speed issue is very much a case of three factors:

  1. System mastery: how familiar are players/the GM with HERO? Do you have to look up how Stun multipliers work, or is it fresh off the top of your head? 
  2. How good are players/the GM at making decisions quickly?
  3. How much bookeeping is involved, and how quickly/naturally does it come to players/the GM?

That allows for a wiiiiiide range. Complicated characters + new players + indecisive types sounds like a recipe for disaster.

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Heh. It can be, but I've shepherded more than one group of newbies to becoming proficient with the system, and it doesn't take very long. Indecisive types can't really be trained away easily and are difficult to deal with in most systems.

 

My recommendation? Don't use everything at once. Hit locations and multipliers can be held back for more advanced play, and they aren't even used in superheroic play. Limit the number of levels to speed up the math. Keep all characters at the same SPD number or within one point of each other. Maybe most PCs are SPD 3, and the combat expert is SPD 4.

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If everyone knows what they are doing, it can flow very fast.  If you have one guy who doesn't know what he is doing but the rest are willing to help, it can flow fairly well.  Unless that person is the GM.  If you have a person who doesn't know what they are doing and insists on playing a complicated character, it can really drag.  The more people in your game who don't understand the system, the worse it goes.  If the GM doesn't really know the system very well but he insists on using all the options... you might as well bring a pillow because you're going to be there all night.

 

Part of the benefit of Hero is that it has a ton of character options.  You can have everything from a ninja Medusa who can do flying kicks while she turns people to stone, all the way to mind controlling shapeshifter who mimics people's powers when he touches them.  There are a ton of combat maneuvers as well.  You can unload with a huge haymaker that does extra damage but won't land until the end of the next round.  You can blaze away full auto with suppression fire.  You can block and counterstrike.  You can fly by a person, grab them, and hurl them into the sky.  You can deflect bullets.  You can dodge lasers.  You can throw a tank at people.  There are a lot of combat options.  There's also the Speed chart -- a detailed listing of which characters act in which order.

 

It's a lot to take in at first.  Honestly I'd suggest having a few one on one sessions with the players just so they understand the basics of the combat rules.  But once you've got it down, it is easy.  It is more cinematic than any other game I've played.  You play fights out blow for blow.

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Behold my transmutation power, as I take thoughtful replies, and butcher them in paraphrasing!

 

 

 

Cool! Nothing there really contradicts each other; I get the feeling the speed issue is very much a case of three factors:

  1. System mastery: how familiar are players/the GM with HERO? Do you have to look up how Stun multipliers work, or is it fresh off the top of your head? 
  2. How good are players/the GM at making decisions quickly?
  3. How much bookeeping is involved, and how quickly/naturally does it come to players/the GM?

That allows for a wiiiiiide range. Complicated characters + new players + indecisive types sounds like a recipe for disaster.

That recipe applies to many systems, including various flavors of D&D given all the splat books, etc. (haven't looked at 4E or 5E).

 

Keep it simple to start with (as has been discussed in a couple of these threads. Add more later as you become more comfortable with the system.

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I am now proud to say that I can add to this conversation from experience!

 

We ran a little punchy thing, 3 Supers, a pile of skeletons and a fire demon threw down tonight. I probably got a lot of things wrong, and tripped over myself a couple times in remembering how to do what with damage rolls (forgetting about stun multipliers, for example), but on the whole it was a lot of fun. 

 

Takeaways:

  1. Velocity can lead to great big piles of dice when a speedster uses move by/through. Our rookie gymnast speedster knocked said fire demon into a liquor store, much to everyone's delight
  2. I am bad at counting dice. I can get a touch self-conscious if I take too long - probably going to practice some damage rolls in my free time
  3. As a group, we had undervalued defense a little - getting stunned and losing a turn is a much bigger deal in Hero then in Savage Worlds, where turns go by much quicker. I expect everybody to come back with juggernaut CON scores
  4. Holy butt, knockback is delightful
  5. It can be incredibly satisfying to have a high DCV & PD - my character (Normally, I can't stand mixing running opposition in addition to a party member, but this was just a straight-up brawl) wound up shrugging off 14 different skeleton attacks over the course of a phase, and it felt very satisfyingly brickish.
  6. Swinging is fun
  7. So is running up skyscrapers
  8. Or flying
  9. Making things up on the spot was easier than I feared - Fire demon dude wound up with a 10d6 blast, 7 CV, because that seemed about right. 
  10. All told, it took a lot less time for 3 heroes to fight 1 demon and 14 skeletons than I thought; we made it to phase 5. Thanks for bunching up, guys!

Lots to learn, gonna do this again soon.

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If I had to compare it to any other game systems, the best fit I could find would be "Shadowrun".

Sure, the tests are totally different. But the Combat turn structure, Body+Stun damage mechanics and tactical depth are comparable at least. They even both have a notion of Aborting (since SR 4 to full Dodge/Parry).

 

As with Shadowrun one of the biggest issues can be dealing with widely different SPD/Actions per Turn. So try to keep them as uniform as is feasible. But some concepts simply need higher SPD/more actions per turn to work out.

 

Comparing the two systems I would say:

Hero Tests are less granular.

Hero Character builds are more granular.

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Great that you had fun.

 

Here is some unsolicited advice on counting dice.

Look for patterns that add up to 10, I tend to group the dice in sets of ten and can count them very fast that way. It takes a little time to get used to, but you could master it in half an hour of practicing if you choose.

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Here is some unsolicited advice on counting dice.

Look for patterns that add up to 10, I tend to group the dice in sets of ten and can count them very fast that way. It takes a little time to get used to, but you could master it in half an hour of practicing if you choose.

 

Great advice and that's exactly what I've always done. But I still have to snark and say, "Oh, boy! Homework!" :)

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Imagine you're at a supermarket checkout line, and there's fifteen people ahead of you, and they all have a full basket of groceries. And none of the items are marked. And everyone wants to pay by check. And it's the girl's first day on the job. And she doesn't speak English.

You take a few minutes off that, and you start to get an idea of how long a turn of combat is in Hero.

 

Sounds like every game ever when played by a group unfamiliar with the rules.

 

If it's running well, the mechanics fade to the background and we have players "unleashing a torrent of flames at the Skeleton - 'The Flames of Justice will purify this foul abomination' "  [player rolls; that would hit DCV 10; GM:  hits; player rolls damage and GM applies it - it's knocked out].  "The skeleton is engulfed in flames - its singed bones clatter to the asphalt." 

 

If it's not, we get "Attack this one with my Fire Blast - rolled an 8"  "what's your OCV?" "lessee...7"  "You hit"  "rolled 47 STUN, 13 BOD"  "it falls".  Like most games, it's the descriptions, not the mechanics, that make combat interesting.

 

Practically, you can set the game for the combat speed you like.  Look at the standards for, say, Standard Supers.  The characters will have CV's with the same average, so typically hit 62.5% of the time.  They'll have 6 - 14 DC's (the norm tends to be 12, at least in my experience), and defenses of 20 - 25.  So let's say everyone has about 50 STUN, 12 DC attacks and 25 defenses.  A typical hit averages 42 STUN, or 17 past defenses, so three hits to take down an opponent, and he'll recover pretty fast.  3 hits will be the average for five attacks, so if characters have SOD 5- (again where I find the norm tends to be), the combat will last over 1, but less than 2, turns.  That can take a while.

 

Now, what if we drop those defenses from 25 to 20?  Average attack does 22 instead of 17, so three hits is a more solid takedown.  Drop 5 from everyone's STUN and it becomes even more solid, with two hits sometimes taking a target down.  Suddenly, combat is way faster.  Added advantage - subtracting 20 is quick & easy.

 

Pump those defenses up to 30, and the average attack is doing 12 STUN - combat will drag out much longer.

 

Decide how long YOU want combat to take, and set the campaign parameters accordingly.  In fact, if you as GM combat slow now, try bumping all the opponents up 3 DC's and dropping their defenses by 10.  Every attack in the game will now do about 10 more damage, and fights will end much quicker.

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Yeah if combats are taking too long you can use little tweaks, not stripping down the system but using it well.  Lower enemy DCVs unless that's their speciality (not being hit as a defense, or someone unusually agile and remarkably difficult to hit).  Make bad guys stay down when they are unconscious and not recover unless specific to the plot.  Treat cannon fodder as x hits, so when they have been hit a certain number of times - no matter how damaging - they fall down and stay down.  That kind of thing helps.

But mostly its description, setting, and story that makes things flow.  If you find yourself going "oh boy, another fight" then start finding ways to make the fight different.  OK so its a barfight, but what if the bar is on a train speeding out of control?   Or on a ship that's sinking?  Or during an earthquake?

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Another 'trick' is when the combat is suppose to be a short interlude use the "One Hit Wonder" rule.  So lets say the heroes are sneaking up to a well guarded fort and encounter a patrol.  The patrol is suppose to be a small problem - maybe the players will want to use their uniforms to get into the fort.  Make the individuals in the patrol One Hit Wonders.  Anyone gets a solid hit on one of them and they go down and stay down.

 

I have a session that is coming up and the players are inside a fort that is under siege by Orcs and Giants and a very intelligent Wyvern (with an attitude).  We are not slogging that out.  Instead the orcs will all be one hit wonders so the players can get to the main opposition - the Giants and Wyvern.  I am sure the orcs will get in a few lucky 'nicks' on the PC but hardly anything to slow them down.

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Great that you had fun.

 

Here is some unsolicited advice on counting dice.

Look for patterns that add up to 10, I tend to group the dice in sets of ten and can count them very fast that way. It takes a little time to get used to, but you could master it in half an hour of practicing if you choose.

That's what my group does as well. And for normal BODY damage, we just look at the 6s and 1s and add the difference to the number of dice rolled.

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That's what my group does as well. And for normal BODY damage, we just look at the 6s and 1s and add the difference to the number of dice rolled.

 

Definitely.  "I rolled 10 dice, so that's 10 body.  Oh I've got two 6s.  That's 12 body.  Poop I've got four 1s.  Only 8 body."  It's faster for us.

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