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Brian Stanfield

PSLs in a Fantasy HERO magic setting

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If I have defined magic in a Fantasy HERO setting to "require a roll," with a -1 per 10 Active Points, can Penalty Skill Levels be used to offset that penalty? What level of PSL is it if it applies to a group or "school" of spells? Can Combat Skill Levels be used in a similar fashion? Also, if I use the Inventor (Spell Research) skill, can PSLs be used to offset those AP penalties as well? I realize that there is a great deal of granularity I can introduce with the HERO System Skills book, but I'm trying to get my head around what the rules say. The PSLs are defined as either offensive or defensive, so this is the main source of my confusion.


For example, if I allow a 3 point PSL for all spells, can it be used for the Active Point penalty for all spells (offensive and defensive, etc.) as well as for the Spell Research penalty (which is neither offensive nor defensive)? Or can a 4 point Combat Skill Level be defined as covering the AP penalties for "all spells of a certain group?" If that's the case, it would no longer apply to the Spell Research skill, regardless of the group or "school" it is being used for.


I realize this is a big nest of questions, but ultimately if you can help me get a handle on how to offset the AP penalties for the "requires a roll" Limitation, that will get me started.

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As discussed on 6E1 84-85, “Penalty Skill Levels (PSLs) are a type of Skill Level that only reduce or counteract a specific type of combat-related penalty.” The key phrase here is “combat-related penalty,” which means a penalty to OCV or DCV. Common examples include Range Skill Levels (which offset the Range Modifier’s OCV penalty), Targeting Skill Levels (which offset the OCV penalties imposed by the Hit Location Table), and Encumbrance Skill Levels (which offset the DCV penalty for being Encumbered). The important thing to note here is that PSLs do not apply to Skill Rolls or Skill Roll penalties. (The same applies to Combat Skill Levels (CSLs), which also only affect CV.)


To create the sorts of abilities you want to build, you need to use Skill Levels (6E1 88-89). Depending on what type of SL you buy, you could have it affect the Power:  Magic roll used to cast spells, the Inventor (Spell Research) roll used to create new spells, a KS: Arcane And Occult Lore roll to research some obscure historical fact about magic — or maybe just one or two of those things.


For example, in the land of Korrak, wizards typically use several Skills as part of their craft. First and foremost is Magic (a form of the Power Skill), which they use to actually cast spells (and which suffers the standard -1 per 10 Active Points penalty). The second is Domination (another form of the Power Skill), which they use to control demons, elementals, and other summoned beings. The third is Spell Research (the Fantasy form of Inventor), which they use to create new spells. The last is KS: Arcane And Occult Lore, which is the general Knowledge Skill covering all sorts of mystic learning.


If we look at the Skill Level Table, we see that the more Skills an SL applies to, the more Character Points it costs. One of them is the 3-point SL, which covers three related Skills. That fits pretty well here, since we have four related Skills, but one is a KS that the character won’t use in combat much. So a wizard could buy, for example, +3 with Magic, Domination, and Spell Research.


As they stand, those three SLs with Magic, Domination, and Spell Research can be used at any time to assist with rolls using those Skills. If you only want the SLs to offset penalties (such as the Active Point penalty), you can take a Limitation on them to reflect that. Creating different “packages” of Skill Levels whose use you define with Limitations might be a great way to add ‘flavor” to your magic system and help to distinguish one wizard from another.


I hope that helps! If I've missed anything, plesae post a follow-up here, or PM me. I love creating magic systems and enjoy talking about how to create them using the HERO System, but usually that's more appropriate for a private conversation than clogging up the Rules Questions board. But I'd say a lot of HERO fans also enjoy discussing this sort of thing, so if you haven't yet, try posting your thoughts, ideas, and questions on the Fantasy Hero and/or Discussion boards -- you'll get all sorts of great suggestions. :)

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