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Homebrewing Hero points


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For a while I played Mutants and Masterminds fairly regularly before moving on to HERO, which on the whole, I think I like better, due to its greater degrees of customization and differentiation of effects, however there's one thing that I think M&M did a lot better, which I'd like to attempt to port over to HERO, and that's Hero points, and by extension, power-stunts. Hero points and power stunts, in my opinion, did a lot to help give the game a comic-book feel, and even with non-superhero games gave the players the ability to make their characters feel a bit more like Big Damn Heroes.

 

For those unfamiliar with the system, Hero Points in M&M can be used a number of ways:

 

-Edit Scene: essentially alter some aspect of the scene; good for if a player has a good idea for something, but it requires some alteration of the current scene to do so. An example given being to ensure that the chemicals to create a defoliant are present in a lab, in order to stop a plant based super-villain. In my opinion, not necessary for most cases (as a good GM will usually practice the "say yes" or "yes, and" or "yes, but" school of responding to players' ideas), but it can be useful when an idea begins to strain plausibility. In either event, this is non-mechanical, so it can be ported over as-is.

 

-Heroic Feat: essentially you get an advantage (essentially equivolent to a low cost perk or talent) or power advantage (essentially equivalent to a low cost adder) for one turn. This I don't necessarily think needs to be ported over, though I'd say Maybe something like gaining 3-5 points worth of skill, perk or talent  (with some appropriate exceptions) for an appropriate duration (one phase for combat stuff, or otherwise a single useage, such as Access lasting until the end of the scene, or until outside of the access-location). But on the whole, I think it's less necessary, and could do more harm than good trying to force its inclusion.

 

-Improve Roll: Reroll any d20 roll (essentially every roll in the game, from skills to attack rolls, to resistance rolls, which includes damage) and add 10 to the result if it's 10 or under. I see splitting this up into two parts. Firstly, this is most often used to reroll a failed check and (usually) pass it, though it has the side benefit of allowing more difficult maneuvers than usual to be attempted with a greater opportunity for success than one would expect for 1-(1-success%)^2. With a bell-curve system, however, the same d20-based mechanics are less applicable. To that end I figure the reroll a failed check and (usually) succeed aspect could be fulfilled with a reroll of 4d6 drop highest.

 

For most situations it works out to approximately similar effects: for example, the benchmarks for average tend to be natural 10+ or 11-, and a roll which needs a natural 10+ on a d20 will succeed 100% of the time with a Hero-point reroll, where a natural 11- 4d6 drop highest reroll will succeed about 82.5% of the time (or roughly 93.4% between both rolls), and between a 8- roll (26% success) and a 16+ roll (25% success), which are rough benchmarks for difficult checks. With the M&M system the reroll succeeds 50% of the time, and with the 4d6 drop highest system the reroll succeeds roughly 49% of the time. On the whole it's less powerful than the M&M system for average checks and about the same for difficult checks, which is about where I think it should be, since the M&M system is quite powerful and could do with being nerfed a bit (though, admittedly, the ability to automatically succeed at an average check shouldn't likely break the game for most genres, and certainly not superheroes, for which it is suited)

 

-Inspiration: Essentially an out for stumped players to get information of of the DM when they're completely lost with respect to a puzzle or mystery. I've never seen it used, and even if it were to be used, it involves no mechanics. No need to waste diigital ink on it. Next!

 

-Instant Counter: Based on the countering mechanics of M&M. Doesn't really apply to HERO, and probably doesn't need to be converted over,

 

-Recover: This use of Hero Points serves 3 purposes, the first being, to remove damage. The second being removing certain status effects, the most important of which being stunned. The final being, the removal of fatigue, thus allowing effortless extra effort. Extra effort normally just does what pushing does: gain extra strength, speed or levels in a power at the cost of heavy fatigue, however it has another use in the form of "power stunt" which allows you to (roughly) turn a power into a multipower for a single use, allowing heroes to pull off one-time uses of a specific power as often seen in comics (spider-man parachuting down with webbing, for example, or an electric manipulator defibrillation someone to revive them, in complete unscientific fashion); essentially this is akin to many of the uses of the power-skill, however in my opinion Power-stunting better represents the source material since the cost to power stunt regulates its frequency of use, where the power-skill is limited by the GM's willingness to say "Alright, if you want to keep doing this, buy a VPP".

 

Essentially the first two uses should be fairly simple: Spend a Hero Point to take a recovery or recover from being stunned as a zero-phase action instead of a full-phase action. The third use probably can piggy-back off the power-skill, and hopefully manipulate it into a more genre-fitting mechanic: essentially, a player can spend a Hero Point to use an appropriate power skill, whether the character has it or not (though you must have an appropriate power to the power-skill itself; an 8 Str hero doesn't get Brick Tricks), and, if the character does have the skill, automatically succeeds on the check, though a GM may still require a roll to determine the degree of success. This is essentially "free" of the many of the usual usage restrictions of the power skill, as the costs of a Hero Point can be assumed to pay for the repeated usage restriction and the like. This usage does not extend to Activation Rolls for powers, which use the power skill, however, and in such a case, the reroll function of Hero points would be more appropriate.

 

anyway TL;DR:

 

I'm thinking of porting over Hero points from Mutants and Masterminds over to Hero (mostly champions), with the following usage options:

 

-Reroll a 3d6 roll, rolling 4d6 drop highest and choose either result.

-Take a Recovery or Recover from being stunned as a zero-phase action instead of a full-phase action.

-Use a Power skill you do not have or automatically succeed on a Power skill to use a "power stunt"

-gain a small cost (less than ~5) perk or talent or skill for a single use (with some disallowed, on the basis of common sense [i.e. anonymity, for the most part] and balance [i.e. favor])

 

in addition to the non-mechanical options, such as Edit Scene and Inspiration. So does anyone with more experience see any glaring flaws or unintended consequences with this conversion?

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Here's the list I have of stuff you can do with hero points in my game, if I'd ever remember to use them:

 

-Recover from being stunned instantly

-Wake up at 1 STN/1 END from unconsciousness

-re-roll any one skill or attack roll

-do something heroic automatically (anything you could theoretically do - even if it takes a max roll - as long as its heroic and moves the story along, such as break through a wall to get to the hostages or lift something that would require a push)

-Ignore a complication

-force an opponent to miss

-automatically hit a location (if hit locations are being used)

-ignore a presence attack

 

My problem is that I keep forgetting to hand out the points.  My theory was, any time someone does a great job role playing, any time someone does something really impressive or spectacular, any time someone is forced to take an action they don't want to with a complication, they get a hero point.  But I rarely remember to hand them out :(

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My Heroic Action Points list is similar to CT's:

 

Heroic Effort:

  • Pushing:  Instead of making an Ego Roll to Push, the character spends 1 HAP.  The END cost of pushing is unaffected.  The circumstances under which a character may Push and the amount of APs gained by a Push are likewise unaffected.
  • Change a Critical Failure to a normal Failure.
  • Change a Failure to a Success.
  • You cannot change any roll to a Critical Success through HAPs.
Lucky Dodge:
  • Add 3 to your DCV.  If you are already performing a Defensive Action (Dodge. Block, Dive for Cover, etc) then the DCV lasts until the start of your next Phase.  Otherwise the DCV bonus only lasts through the current Segment.
Catch a Second Wind (may be done while unconscious):
  • Gain all the benefits (and none of the penalties) of a Recovery without taking a Recovery Action.  Also removes the Stunned status.  This can only be done once per Segment.
Escape Death (may be done while unconscious):
  • Automatically stabilize yourself if you are bleeding out.
  • If damage would take you to -BODY (thus killing your character), you can spend 1 HAP to leave your character a exactly -(BODY-1) (note: you will bleed out on your next Post-Segment 12 recovery unless stabilized).  The GM is fully justified in giving you some sort of lasting/permanent injury as a result.
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I think what you're willing to allow and how you use hero points has a lot to do with how often and how easily you give them out.  If you are very sparing with them, you're going to allow them to do more impressive stuff.  If you hand them out several at the beginning of a session and for lots of things, you're going to be a lot more careful about how they can be used.  So each campaign is going to approach the concept differently.

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I've thought about using something like that as well. I was introduced to Hero Points through the old Mayfair Games DC Heroes system. In addition to some of the above ideas, I considered:

 

Heroic push -- you can push beyond 10 points. You still pay End for the full amount. Push for as much End as you have. You might also be able to add appropriate Advantages to the power (such as area effect) if situation appropriate. This is how Superman moves planets.

 

Heroic haymaker -- you can use an old school 4th edition haymaker. +50% damage. So your 14D6 attack becomes 21D6, pushed to 23. It's Clobberin' Time!

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In what my little group's done so far, we rolled for HAP's as per CC - and immediately agreed to never do that again. Last session, we just gave everybody 7 (average of 2d6), and called it good. 

 

I've thoroughly enjoyed the use of Destiny Points in Fantasy Flight's new Star Wars games, so if I wind up doing something beyond Iced Coffee & Gourmet Popcorn wargaming (which is like Beer & Pretzels wargaming, run by a hipster who doesn't drink) I'll probably veer closer to that.

 

Most of what my players have used said points for is declarations about the world, and occasionally bumping up their rolls. The latter is more to lend dramatic weight, honestly -at the power levels we're playing at, the by-the-book efficacy bump is really minor - but I've found it's a great way to get more collaborative, shared authorship going with a group that's been historically resistant to such. 

 

Introducing shared narrative control over a game world to a group is best done in small chunks, I've found.

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Another possibility is using a hero point to add to minimum rolls.  So for a hero point, you add 1 to minimum rolls, so you now can roll now lower than 2 on every die.  Again, it depends on how many points you give out.  If you hand out 7 at the start like Altair, that's probably going to be too powerful.  If you don't start with any and earn them, it might be too weak.

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Yeah, the 7 points thing is rather tailored to my group's style, which entails almost never spending such things unless you've got a surplus. Even then, it's often rare. I use the term "Elixir Problem" to refer to this, and me & my homies have it in spades.

 

The term is a reference to the Final Fantasy series of video games, in which there are these incredibly rare single-use items - the titular Elixirs - which completely restore a character's HP & MP. You can't buy them, and there are only so many in the world. Invariably, I would get to the end of the game, and be sitting on a massive pile of unused elixirs. I never used them, because they were a non-renewable resource, and I might need them later. This is even more pronounced with me in tabletop RPGs, and one of the reasons that Vancian magic & I don't really get along. 

 

The Fantasy Flight system I'm referencing gets around this, by making said points a communal pool, that flip from light side to dark. A player uses one, they flip it from light to dark. The GM uses one, it goes the other way. 

 

I've found that Hero points - by any other name - tend to be a more satisfying experience for all involved when they're a renewable resource. YMMV.

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My system intended to use that flip idea for some uses of Hero Points.  If you burn a hero point to avoid a complication, then the GM gets it and can use it for villains (who get a pool).  The purpose I see for hero points is to make the game feel more like the genre.  So if you're playing Champions, you encourage their use to make it feel more like a comic book, where there's never a panel where Spider-Man fails to catch the falling girl because he rolled an 18.

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The purpose I see for hero points is to make the game feel more like the genre.  So if you're playing Champions, you encourage their use to make it feel more like a comic book, where there's never a panel where Spider-Man fails to catch the falling girl because he rolled an 18.

 

I'mma riff on that for a second. 

 

I'd say that HAPs (or whatever you want to call them) generally serve a couple different purposes:

  1. Addressing improbable dice rolls, or otherwise emphasizing player choice and agency over probability
  2. Emphasizing certain actions, calling them out as significant
  3. Providing another strategic resource to be used/managed
  4. Introducing narrative elements into the game world

There are probably more, but those are the big ones that I tend to see most often. I'm sure I'm forgetting something. Anyway! The utility of these can vary depending upon play style, personality, and what type of game is being played at the moment. I'm a communication researcher, so I can't help but look at it this way - and while I shan't drag this into a discussion of unified play style typologies - I will point out that gaming is often "about" different things to different people, and that's  a good, healthy thing. 

 

Having said that, I've seen #1 rankle a lot of people, who have a very firm investment in the dice saying what they say. Cool! That's important to you - maybe don't use these kinds of things. Conversely, maybe just don't use them yourself? #2's value is somewhat diminished in a HERO game, because there's already pushing to fill that role. Likewise with #3, I don't know how many people have bemoaned the lack of tactical options or bookeeping in HERO.

 

#4 tends to be somewhat contentious, because it takes something that's usually very rigidly controlled - the game world - out of the hands of just one person, and spreads that around a bit. 

 

Anyway. If it isn't clear already, my play style really lends itself to the kinds of things that HAPs introduce; I enjoy them a great deal. I really like them as a GM - I often have a hard time being as diabolical as I really want to be. So I flip a point, and now I don't feel bad about introducing the terrible thing. 

 

Many GMs do not have this problem, I know. I do. And this is a lovely way to address it.

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I see HAP as a way to help those players who for whatever reasons tend to roll very poorly.  I have a couple of players that can go for 4 to 6 sessions without using a single HAP.  And I have other players who use them up pretty quickly.

 

Word. My most mathematically-inclined player also has the dice luck of someone who was cursed by the official witches' board of Las Vegas (they should have one) for card-counting or some such. His dice luck is really bad. Of course, it's more pronounced because he is keenly aware of how statistically improbable his rolls are, so there's also a primacy/recency effect.

 

HAPs offset this somewhat, and let us get back to the game. :)

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There used to be an adage in roleplaying games: the dice never lie.

 

And I can definitely see the appeal of that philosophy, especially from more of an old-school perspective.

 

In my experience, the dice lie all the ruddy time. But my play style is decidedly not old-school, which plays a part. This is also, in large part, a reaction to the binary nature of outcomes in classic RPG models; either you succeed, or you fail. The issue with that, is that this too often means that success = interesting, and failure = not interesting. 

 

If the game becomes significantly less enjoyable for everyone involved based on chance - and not player agency -  then mitigating that has value.

 

Now, this is in no way a criticism or mockery of the hardcore, old-school approach, which is cool and has value. It's just not my thing. Like playing Roguelike video games - often times they'll be described as "not for everyone." Who is everyone? In this case, hi! It's me. I'm one of the people that isn't for. I don't enjoy it, but I don't mind if someone else does. Why would I?

 

My S/O adores the taste of Macha. I think it tastes like grass, but I really dig some coffee types that just taste like burnt beans to her. People like different things, and that's amazing and wonderful.

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Again, it comes down to what you're trying to do with your game.  Do you want a tactical set of mechanics based on die rolls?  A simulation of a genre setting?  A system to allow interaction for storytelling?  All these things will lean toward different approaches.  For me its about simulating the genre, and telling a story.  If the dice or rules get in the way of that, well then its time to nudge them aside.

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Again, it comes down to what you're trying to do with your game.

 

Yep! Couldn't agree more. 

 

I'm probably drowning my statements in qualifiers; sorry if that gets on anyone's nerves. I can get really excited about things that I like, and I want to avoid coming across like I'm attacking the way that anybody else plays. Mainly because these boards are awesome, and have been super-welcoming, and I don't really want to stir up discord.  :rockon:

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Hero points and offering extra dice are a good way to emphasize some actions as more worthy than others in a game. Not all action checks are equal.

 

Hero points and extra dice are gaming resources (real-world resources, not fictional like ammunition) for the players to manage. Resources and their exchange ought to occur at the critical points of gameplay. Where and how players choose to expend resources indicates what the game is really about for them (a concrete feedback mechanism for the GM).

 

Try thinking about what you want the game to be about, where the critical gameplay events occur to support what it's about, and give the players a resource to expend at these critical events. The players will probably be able to intuitively manage from there.

 

A bit manipulative, but hey. You're the GM.

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I have tried dice-less systems and games. They usually end up favoring the story that the GM wants to tell over the interactive.

 

Seen it go a couple ways. Really depends on the GM, the players, and the communication dynamic between them. Which did you try, out of curiosity?

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I'm thinking of tying them to Luck and Unluck, and using tokens.

 

The player can spend a Fortune Token to get out of an Unluck roll, or call for a Luck roll.

 

I'm thinking of allowing Luck dice to be added to a resolution roll, and then drop the highest. Maybe I can use Unluck to add and drop the lowest.

 

I plan to revamp the Complications system so that most (maybe all?) Complications don't get you Character points at start, but get you Fortune Tokens in play as they come up.

 

 

Lucius Alexander

 

The palindromedary thinks players will call them misfortune tokens when I use them against the party

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Yeah, I think I prefer the complications not giving points, but instead Hero points or Fortune tokens, or whatever the preferred nomenclature is. In pretty much every game I've played with Disadvantages or complications or flaws that give back points for simply taking the complication, it always feels like there's a level of Min-maxing to taking them, if only to try to meet but not exceed the maximum complication limit. With systems that give back expendable resources, it becomes a lot more justified in taking complications based on the character, since they have their effect proportional to how much they actually impact the character.

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I'm thinking of tying them to Luck and Unluck, and using tokens.

 

The player can spend a Fortune Token to get out of an Unluck roll, or call for a Luck roll.

 

I'm thinking of allowing Luck dice to be added to a resolution roll, and then drop the highest. Maybe I can use Unluck to add and drop the lowest.

 

I plan to revamp the Complications system so that most (maybe all?) Complications don't get you Character points at start, but get you Fortune Tokens in play as they come up.

 

 

Lucius Alexander

 

The palindromedary thinks players will call them misfortune tokens when I use them against the party

 

Yeah, this is the philosophy of Fate, where you get points when something comes up. I think for my own purposes, I will try tying it to a flip-point system, probably Fantasy Flight Star Wars.

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Yeah, I think I prefer the complications not giving points, but instead Hero points or Fortune tokens, or whatever the preferred nomenclature is. In pretty much every game I've played with Disadvantages or complications or flaws that give back points for simply taking the complication, it always feels like there's a level of Min-maxing to taking them, if only to try to meet but not exceed the maximum complication limit. With systems that give back expendable resources, it becomes a lot more justified in taking complications based on the character, since they have their effect proportional to how much they actually impact the character.

 

Can I quote you on that?

 

Lucius Alexander

 

The palindromedary says, he means in another thread.

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