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Brian Stanfield

I have a horrible confession to make . . .

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So, I've been a member of the forums here for three years now and have really enjoyed the interactions with other HEROphiles. I started playing in the '80s with Champions 2e, moving to 3e, and all the other games at the time, including Justice, Inc.Fantasy Hero, and my personal favorite, Danger InternationalI. I played these games and loved them, mostly as a player but occasionally as a GM (and that was very rarely). And then I took a 30 year hiatus. I got back into gaming a few years ago, and discovered that HERO was not a system, and was in it's 6th edition! I missed the later 3e innovations, and 4e & 5e altogether. I had some serious catching up to do! I've gotten as many of the books and PDFs for 6e as I could get, and a good portion of the 5e books as well, and I've been learning the rules as best I can for the past three years. I'm on the forums daily, reading other people's insights and advice, and occasionally offering my own (for whatever it may be worth). But here's my confession: I've never GMed a 6e game!

 

I don't have group to play with . . . yet. I say that because I'm getting some friends together to try to teach them the HERO System for the first time. None of them have ever even heard of it, so I'm starting from scratch here. So I need some advice on how best to teach them the 6e game when I'm barely even competent enough myself to play it!

 

Here's a bit of background info to frame the situation: I'm not sure what sort of genre they want to do. They'd probably be interested in a supers game, but that seems like it's drinking from a firehose to learn the rules that way. I'd like to start with a hero-level game to get them familiar with the rules. They may like a modern espionage game (since most of them are too young to remember the Cold War). I'd love to play a Pulp HERO game, but I'm not sure they'd be into it. They'd probably enjoy a Fantasy HERO game as well, but I'm kinda burned out on fantasy right now. I'm positive they'd love to play a martial arts game, but that again would be drinking from the firehose!

  1. So, my leading question is this: what do you think is the best genre for teaching the 6e rules? After figuring out which genre to play (and it's going to be up to us as a group, certainly, but I'd try to sway them based on the wisdom of these forums), there are all sorts of other questions.
  2. Is it best to start with pre-gen characters, as is my inclination for teaching the game? It seems like the best solution, at least for a few game sessions, so they don't have to themselves figure out all the rules before they even play their first game. This makes sense for all the genres, but especially a supers genre in which all the powers are in play. It's just too complex, it seems to me. What's your experience with this? When, then, is the best time to introduce them to the character generation part of the game? I'd have to sit with everyone, probably as a group, to lead them through the process. Is it better to give them a quick overview of the process and let them mull the rules over at home, or to lead them through a long and probably boring "session 0" to shepherd them through the process? Again, what's your experience in this important part of teaching the rules?
  3. Now the nuts and bolts: which parts of the rules are the most important to teach first? I've tried a few different ways with some people, and I can't find a good way to explain it all efficiently. There's so much going on. My plan is to hand out the "HERO In Two Pages" document as a precursor to session 0, but then when it comes to game time what's the best way, in your experience, to teach the overview of the game? My inclination is to go through the character sheet and explain the parts, such as the characteristics and skills and such. But without a combat to run through, it's all a hypothetical exercise to them. Do we just jump into a combat and then I explain what the CVs and DEFs are, etc.? Or do I try to explain it all up front? I suppose the 2-page primer will do a lot of that for me and that I'm worrying to much, but that's what I do: worry. As for actually playing the game, what is a good way to soft-start the rules, in your experience?
  4. What's the best way to start playing? Do I start with some simple skill-based activities (this is obvious if it's a heroic-level game), making sure everyone has some sort of skill to use? And then move into a combat? I've seen this suggested before, and it seems prudent. But again, I'd like to get some of your experience with this process.
  5. This is the part that scares me the most: what's the best way to introduce combat? So much has changed since my 2e days. The basics are still the same, but there are so many more maneuvers now, and so many intricacies involving the maneuvers that I just can't keep it all straight in my head just yet. I've read, re-read, and re-re-read the rules many times, and I have a good feel for them, but certainly not a mastery. I'd have to look up so much of it to begin with, just to be sure. But I don't want to bore everyone by checking on the rules all the time. Nothing is worse than stopping a game to look up the rules. What do you suggest, based on your experience.
  6. I'm going to create some handouts for the players. Other than the 2-page primer, and their character sheets, what do you think is worth handing out to the players? A complete list of maneuvers is possible. But I was thinking of limiting the number of maneuvers available to them at first. Does this seem like a good idea? Just start with the basics that I'm familiar with, limit them to those few things, and then grow from there? What else do I need to hand them? This is especially obvious if I do a Fantasy HERO game where I have to probably create pre-gen spells and races and such. But what else is worth giving to newbies as handouts? I don't want to overload them on information, but I don't want them to feel totally lost either. What have you tried in your games?
  7. Have you tried teaching 6e using 3e games? I've considered beginning with one of the 3e games for teaching the rules, but I'm inclined against that because the character creation process is so different than in 6e. Even working with pre-gens, I'd have to explain why certain formulae exist on their character sheets, etc. Why teach a set of rules only to then tell them that the rules they need to know for 6e are different? This doesn't necessarily seem like a good idea to me. Have you tried this approach? Does it work?
  8. What else am I missing? What am I forgetting? I barely remember what it was like to learn the game the first time, but I remember being overwhelmed when we started with character creation for Champions. Yikes! Talk about overload! But I was a kid and I got over it in a couple of days because the rule book was only a pamphlet compared to the rules now. What can you offer me as advice, based on your experiences (both positive and negative lessons are welcome). What am I not even seeing as potential problems?

 

Ok, now that I've completely outed myself, let the advice begin. I hope that you are willing to help, because I know that you all have plenty to offer in terms of advice. But please, as I've emphasized in my questions, let it be based on your own experience, tested over time (either successfully or unsuccessfully: both are valuable). Let's try to avoid hypothetical debates over what's missing in the game or why it's losing popularity because it's so hard to learn, etc. etc. I've been part of these discussions, and while they're lots of fun, this isn't the time for it. I'm in need of real help that you know will work base on what you've done at your own gaming sessions. 

 

Let me introduce this caveat, just so nobody else has to: I realize that this is all very highly contextual, and that Your Mileage May Vary, and all that sort of stuff. So just jump in and let me have it. Tell me what works for you, and I'll sort out the details for myself. Every little did-bit, no matter how random it is, will be a help to me. I want people to love the HERO System like I do, so I want to make this as pleasant an experience as possible. Thanks in advance for your help!

Edited by Brian Stanfield
Edited because I can never get a bulleted or numbered list to work on the first attempt. Does anyone know how to make them work?

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1)  What is the best genre for learning the 6e rules?

My first instinct is to say:  "Whatever genre you and your players enjoy playing the most"; but, that's really kind of a non-answer and has nothing to do with the rules themselves.  For experimenting with the toolkit, I'd probably go with Champions.  Other genres generally have more mechanical limitations (normal characteristic maxima, effectiveness caps, etc.) and you, as GM have to worry more about character balance issues.  With Champions, there are fewer (if any) limitations and character balance is generally less of an issue (though you still have to watch out for "unplayable" characters).

 

2)  Is it best to start with pre-gen characters?

With a group that's new to HERO, absolutely.  I'd also recommend having 2 copies of each character:  one for the player and one for yourself.  If you're going to teach them the system, you'll need to know the characters as well or better than the players do at first.  For example, if a situation arises where a particular skill would be useful, rather than expecting a player to be aware that their character has the skill needed, you can point it out to them and tell them where to find it on the character sheet.  I would also recommend building twice as many pre-gen characters as you have players with a brief (1 or 2 paragraph) write-up describing each and let the players choose which character to play.

 

3)  Which parts of the rules are most important to teach first?

With pre-gen characters, teaching them the core game play mechanics -- how to make attack rolls, normal and resistant defenses and how/when to apply them, how to roll damage for normal and killing attacks, how to make skill rolls, combat skill levels, penalty skill levels, what presence attacks are and how to use them, how to read/understand a power/ability, tracking END, how to read and use everything on a character sheet.  I wouldn't worry too much about powers at first, beyond explaining the powers/abilities that their characters have.  As the game progresses, you'll have the opportunity to teach them how to build new powers/abilities for their characters.

 

4)  What's the best way to start playing?

If you're using pre-gen characters (that you're building), I'd recommend building a scenario/adventure based around those characters.  Be sure to include at least one situation / encounter that's really aimed at letting each character get at least one turn in the spotlight.  Since many games involve a lot of combat, you could simply run a couple of mock combats; again choosing adversaries aimed at showing that each character is more or less effective dependent upon the opponent (or can be).

 

5)  What's the best way to introduce combat?

If you've covered the core game play mechanics, and maybe run a few mock combats or an actual adventure scenario that includes combat, this should be covered.  If you're using pre-gens, the characters should all be reasonably effective.  If you choose to run mock combats, you can do a post-mortem after each combat and tweak anything the players weren't happy with when it comes to the effectiveness of their characters...but you'll have to watch for the tendency most players have to min-max.  For example, in my experience, if you have an archer in a Fantasy Hero game (using weapons instead of powers), don't be surprised if the player isn't happy if his archer/ranger character only has the STR to use a medium longbow (1d6+1 dmg) instead of a heavy longbow (2d6).  You'll have to decide whether or not you want players starting out with the biggest, baddest weapons and armor in the game.

 

6)  What sort of handouts?

The HERO in 2 pages is a decent primer.  Other than that, the character sheet should have everything they need.  If you want to spend some extra time providing a more detailed description of some of the skills and maneuvers, I'd try to create a handout specific to each character.  Don't try to include everything to start -- that's going to overwhelm new players -- just include what their characters have.

 

7)  Have you ever tried teaching 6e using the 3e games?

No, can't say that I have.  But, many of the core mechanics haven't changed, so if you have material from an older edition that you found useful when you were learning the system, by all means use it.

 

? What else am I missing?

For the game to be enjoyable long term, one of the things I've found that gets lost on many new players -- particularly those coming from other more rigid gaming systems -- is the importance of special effects (SFX).  For example, in my experience, too many players coming from D&D will simply build a Blast power and not even bother to specify the SFX, with the expectation that it will be equally effective on everything.  But you'll need to make sure they specify:  is it a fire blast?  (Fire-based creatures may be at least partially immune.), etc.  Particularly as your game advances, when the players start adding new powers and abilities to their characters, it can be helpful to have them describe what they imagine it looks like when their character uses the new power/ability.

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3 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

So, my leading question is this: what do you think is the best genre for teaching the 6e rules? After figuring out which genre to play (and it's going to be up to us as a group, certainly, but I'd try to sway them based on the wisdom of these forums), there are all sorts of other questions.

Superheroic. Hands down.

Even if it was generalized away from those roots, they still show in a lot of rules. The rules are Optimized for Superheroic play first, heroic play second to thrid.

 

3 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

Is it best to start with pre-gen characters, as is my inclination for teaching the game?

The Character creation is certainly too complex to throw the players into the Deep end here. Maybe you could get them to design a Character in OpenLegends and then parse it to Hero? I have been theorizing that it might be a good learning and abstraction tool.

 

However, Pre-Generated can mean a lot of things. It could mean you pick characters from the books. Or that you handcraft the Ideas of the players (if you know them). But it is not nessesarily bad to have throwaway Characters for the first intro games.

 

3 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

Now the nuts and bolts: which parts of the rules are the most important to teach first?

I would say Combat. Again, the game seems optimized for (Superheroic) combat resolution. Most of the powers have combat oriented uses.

Even powers like Mind Control are balanced on how they interact with Combat System.

The combat is the Systems Strenght.

 

3 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

What's the best way to start playing? Do I start with some simple skill-based activities (this is obvious if it's a heroic-level game), making sure everyone has some sort of skill to use? And then move into a combat? I've seen this suggested before, and it seems prudent. But again, I'd like to get some of your experience with this process.

 

3 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

This is the part that scares me the most: what's the best way to introduce combat?

Again, I think Combat is Heroes Strenght. And here I want to point you to teh Original intro page of Mindmistress:
spacer.pngInsert other media

Start with a fight against normal, unpowered Criminals. Maybe have all of them fight in paralell. Leave superfights for later until the players got a "feel" for the rules.

 

3 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

I'm going to create some handouts for the players. Other than the 2-page primer, and their character sheets, what do you think is worth handing out to the players? A complete list of maneuvers is possible. But I was thinking of limiting the number of maneuvers available to them at first.

You do not want to overwhelm them with too many maneuvers. Aborting alone a very problematic thing to get your head around.

As for handouts, this is my old Power Guide I wrote for introduction purposes. It should help equally with Parsing Sheets (without the books) and getting into the basics of Character Creation:

 

 

 

 

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I'm probably echoing what Pegasus said, but...

 

1. what do you think is the best genre for teaching the 6e rules?
Purely IMO, but I'd say grab Champions Complete and keep rule use to that book. The other option is to run a heroic genre that your players like... Low Fantasy or Zombie Apocalypse or something that is very resonant. Most importantly, you as the GM should enjoy it

 

2. Is it best to start with pre-gen characters?

Without a doubt, for two reasons. You want you players to "play the game" not "work the system" right off the bat... and two, your character designs will go a long way toward setting the standard for games going forward. They will look at these characters as examplars and tend to follow them. Teach your players to play HERO the way YOU want them to play HERO.

 

3. Which parts of the rules are most important to teach first?

To me, HERO is about task resolution (bellcurve 3d6) and simulating action adventure combats. That is what the SYSTEM is designed to do. Note that it isn't enough to create a game. A game requires the reason/purpose for playing in the first place, goals for what you want to achieve in play, etc. With HERO you are creating the game you want, so you need to be clear on those. "I want this game to simulate great episodes of a zombie apocalypse show, where it is about disparate people banding together to survive and maybe, maybe rebuild!"  which is very different from, "I want this game to simulate Fallout 4, so you all feel like a group of Vault Dwellers exploring the surface!" which is very differnet from, "I want to play a D&D like game, but with HERO rules" which is altogether different and sets different expectations. 

 

4. What's the best way to start playing?

If you have pre-gens, and I again suggest that, one thing I like is to leave a couple things open... like "Important Contact" and "Important Person (DNPC) and have the players come up with those things, knowing they will be immediately part of the game... that the player is creating part of the world by inventing people who are meaningful.  Then I like to do a "shared story telling" session designed to set the groundwork on how the PCs all know each other and why they are together. Do NOT role play out the difficult, awkward, grinding of getting the PCs together. The game starts once they are all "on the team" so to speak. I like to have each player come up with a very short, three sentence origin. Lots of details left open. "Major Magma was a mutant whose powers were really dangerous. He almost ended up in prison or dead, but the Army approached his parents with a training and powers support program. He has excelled in the Army and become one of a select few military supers." Then go around and have the next PC do the same. Once done... go back and go around again, asking leading questions. "OK... how did Major Magma become a well known hero during the California earthquake?"   And give each PC a scenario.  Then go around with, "How did Major Magma get assisted by Quiet Fury during the gang war?" and each player makes up a story that connects their charcter with another.  By this time, most players are using other stories to feed their own.  End with, "What brought you together four months ago, and why have you continued to team up?" or whatever is appropriate. The players get to tell stories and therefore make up part of the world and are bought into "being a team" and that doesn't have to become a grind of the early sessions.

 

5. What's the best way to introduce combat?

IMO, the very first scene of the very first game should be "in medius res" and start with, "The zombie stumbles from the alley with a snarl reaching for you with rotted, grasping hands. What do you do?" or whatever is important. Put them right into a very descriptive, action scene against enemies they should do well against... and let them react to it. IMO, I always tell players, "Don't look through the book for rules on what you can do... put yourself in your charcters shoes and react accordingly, and we'll find the rule that best simulates that. You are a ex-truck driver with a sawed off shotgun and a machete, scrounging for food... a zombie is coming for your brains.  What do you do!" As they describe it, you can apply the appropriate ruling. "I go for an all out swing, trying to cave the things head in with my machete!" (Great, that's an attack, targeting the head, here's how we do that...) or "I jump back, trying to get way, (Cool, we'll call that a dodge, here's how we do that...) etc. 

 

6. What sort of handouts?

eh... I'd keep these minimal. Character sheets, maybe a quick guide to key stats/numbers on the sheet. I'm not a big handout guy.

 

7. Have you ever tried teaching 6e using the 3e games?

I don't think of it this way... more of a larger concept, "HERO enables all kinds of action adventure characters to be built with a base set of rules. Not all rules/powers/abilities/skills etc., apply to all games, but are there IF they are applicable for the kind of characters, genre we want to play. The idea is to use the parts of HERO we all feel best create the game we all want to play. (I'm personally really big on everything being group oriented and integrated, to avoid players coming to the table with their individual expectations already baked into their character, rather than building up those expectations together with the group.)

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When are you starting?  My convention game is the weekend after this coming one, and I'll have some more data for you after that.  

 

5 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

So, my leading question is this: what do you think is the best genre for teaching the 6e rules? After figuring out which genre to play (and it's going to be up to us as a group, certainly, but I'd try to sway them based on the wisdom of these forums), there are all sorts of other questions.

 

6e Champions didn't work for my group.  :)  That's my only data point so far.  Interesting side note: two of my players from that game have signed up for my Danger International game at GameStorm, and they both sound excited about it.  That leads me to...

 

5 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

Have you tried teaching 6e using 3e games? I've considered beginning with one of the 3e games for teaching the rules, but I'm inclined against that because the character creation process is so different than in 6e. Even working with pre-gens, I'd have to explain why certain formulae exist on their character sheets, etc. Why teach a set of rules only to then tell them that the rules they need to know for 6e are different? This doesn't necessarily seem like a good idea to me. Have you tried this approach? Does it work?

 

I will let you know how it goes.  Anecdata:  back around 2003 or so I'd read a posting by S. John Ross (and I have no idea where now, so I can't go back to it) where he was talking about trying to get back into the HERO System with the big books.  That wasn't working for him, so he picked up Danger International, which was lighter weight enough that he could relearn how the game worked without being buried, and helped him get back into the full game.  I recounted that on the boards, which led to Steve Long talking about the project that would eventually become Sidekick.  I don't know if that project was already in the pipeline when I posted, but it was definitely one of the things that helped it along.  

 

I think it can work very well, but again I will let you know how it works.  

 

5 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

Is it best to start with pre-gen characters, as is my inclination for teaching the game? It seems like the best solution, at least for a few game sessions, so they don't have to themselves figure out all the rules before they even play their first game. This makes sense for all the genres, but especially a supers genre in which all the powers are in play. It's just too complex, it seems to me. What's your experience with this? When, then, is the best time to introduce them to the character generation part of the game? I'd have to sit with everyone, probably as a group, to lead them through the process. Is it better to give them a quick overview of the process and let them mull the rules over at home, or to lead them through a long and probably boring "session 0" to shepherd them through the process? Again, what's your experience in this important part of teaching the rules?

 

I'll be using pregen characters for my convention game.  I created almost all of the PCs for my aborted 6e Champions game.  I thought that might be a better solution, but I think the jury is out.  

 

5 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

This is the part that scares me the most: what's the best way to introduce combat? So much has changed since my 2e days. The basics are still the same, but there are so many more maneuvers now, and so many intricacies involving the maneuvers that I just can't keep it all straight in my head just yet. I've read, re-read, and re-re-read the rules many times, and I have a good feel for them, but certainly not a mastery. I'd have to look up so much of it to begin with, just to be sure. But I don't want to bore everyone by checking on the rules all the time. Nothing is worse than stopping a game to look up the rules. What do you suggest, based on your experience.

 

If you've gone straight from 2e to 6e, I can see that being somewhat difficult.  I had a decent amount of 4e play, and there's not as much wholesale change from 4th to 6th as far as that goes.  Based on my experience, I'd keep a handout with the list of maneuvers handy.  I'd intended to do this with my Champions game but forgot, but on the character sheets, I'd go through -- with not just the maneuvers but with their non-maneuver attack powers as well (Blasts, etc.) -- and in the OCV column I'd write down not the bonus or penalty, but the total 11 + their OCV +/- the adjustment for the maneuver.  So they can look down their sheet, and for whatever attack they're doing they can say "It says here 20" or whatever.  They can roll against that and tell you how much they made it by, which is the OCV they've hit, or you can tell the target's DCV and let them subtract that and roll.  (I wouldn't worry too much about trying to keep your NPCs' DCV's secret.)  

 

For yourself:  you might pull the bank robbery scenario out of your 2e Champions book, and play through it by yourself with the 6e versions of the same characters, or their equivalents.  Again, have the list of maneuvers handy for reference, and take notes on what you need to look up.  

 

And the old school OCV/DCV/DEX/phases/etc. chart you write down all of the characters on is still a thing.  Hero Designer will actually pull out that data for you, and there's an export for it that generates the full sheet.  

 

5 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

What's the best way to start playing? Do I start with some simple skill-based activities (this is obvious if it's a heroic-level game), making sure everyone has some sort of skill to use? And then move into a combat? I've seen this suggested before, and it seems prudent. But again, I'd like to get some of your experience with this process.

 

I wish to heck I knew.  If I had more time in my convention game, I'd run through a sort of semi-in-character "boot camp" with a drill instructor persona teaching them some basics of stat rolls, skill rolls, combat.  What I'm planning right now is just start it with roleplaying and skill use, and combat will happen when it happens.  Again, I'll let you know how it goes.  

 

5 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

I'm going to create some handouts for the players. Other than the 2-page primer, and their character sheets, what do you think is worth handing out to the players? A complete list of maneuvers is possible. But I was thinking of limiting the number of maneuvers available to them at first. Does this seem like a good idea? Just start with the basics that I'm familiar with, limit them to those few things, and then grow from there? What else do I need to hand them? This is especially obvious if I do a Fantasy HERO game where I have to probably create pre-gen spells and races and such. But what else is worth giving to newbies as handouts? I don't want to overload them on information, but I don't want them to feel totally lost either. What have you tried in your games?

 

I'm planning on creating for myself a Danger International GM's screen with charts from that book, possibly make cheat sheets for the players from those as well.  I think there are a lot of good 6e cheat sheets, GMs screens, and other helpful files in the Downloads section of the forums.  

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Just a quick thought re: combat maneuvers.  There's certainly no reason why you couldn't prune down the list of maneuvers that you introduce your players to.  You could just limit it to the standard list and exclude the optional maneuvers, or you could be even more selective and remove standard maneuvers that strike you (no pun intended) as having a lower probability of being needed for your first few sessions (for a random example: Shove).  This will allow you to focus on a shorter list to study up on ahead of the first game.  Of course, it would be good to make sure that your players know in advance that other maneuvers will be introduced later on, once everyone gets up to speed with the basics.

 

One other idea is that - if you have the time to do so - you can try to make yourself a bullet-point summation of the essential rules that govern each maneuver, to make it easier to refer back to quickly in the middle of a game as opposed to skimming through the full text and hoping you don't miss a key phrase in the heat of the moment.

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My advice basically boils down to start simple.   

 

1 - Start with whatever you want, but start with only some of it.  Drip-feed mechanics will keep player sense of "I understand this!" much higher than dumping the books on them.  Start with just Characteristics.  That's all you use session 1.  Then introduce skills.  Then introduce the basic powers that act like characteristics except one thing, like Telekinesis or Blast.  Then introduce KAs.  People learn much much better when they're learning one thing at a time. 

 

2 - Absolutely start with pregens.  Tying into 1, make pregens but don't put everything on them at first.  Make the whole character, of course, but then trim off everything that's not a characteristic.  Then session 2 you re-add the skills.  This ties into the mechanics drip-feed, and means a player isn't tempted to say "I have something called Entangle, can I use that now?" 

 

3 - Universal rules first.  Anything you'd need to run a drunken seduction attempt turned barfight.  Once people have the everyman rules down, expand as desired from there.  But they have to know how to roll a check or throw a punch before you can do fancy things. 

 

4 - Only you can know your group, but skills -> combat and combat -> skills are both good paths to follow. 

 

5 - Don't start with all the maneuvers.  Have fight one be just Strike.  Introduce Aborting and Dodge and Block next fight.  Progress from there, and allow a player to "cut ahead" if they really want to Grab that one dude right now. 

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On 3/21/2019 at 11:43 AM, Chris Goodwin said:

When are you starting?  My convention game is the weekend after this coming one, and I'll have some more data for you after that.

 

I’ll look forward to hearing from you. I wish I was even remotely nearby; I’d play for sure. I thought about using Danger International for an introduction because it’s tight, concise, and my absolute favorite version of the game. But I really want to use 6e rules, and I don’t want to create confusion about the figured characteristics and stuff like that. I’ll just strip down the 6e to the basics and try that. 

 

Let me me know how the con game goes. This will give me some good ideas, I’m sure. 

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On 3/21/2019 at 4:10 AM, Brian Stanfield said:

I don't have group to play with . . . yet. I say that because I'm getting some friends together to try to teach them the HERO System for the first time. None of them have ever even heard of it, so I'm starting from scratch here. So I need some advice on how best to teach them the 6e game when I'm barely even competent enough myself to play it!

 

Nonsense. I've always found that the best way to do most things is to do a little research to get broad strokes and then just throw yourself into it, fail, adapt, then try again. Repeat as necessary. We're talking about playing a game, not launching yourself in a rocket over a ravine. The Risk / Reward ratio is in your favor here; just go for it.

 

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  1. So, my leading question is this: what do you think is the best genre for teaching the 6e rules? After figuring out which genre to play (and it's going to be up to us as a group, certainly, but I'd try to sway them based on the wisdom of these forums), there are all sorts of other questions.

 

The genre you are most comfortable with generally, and that you are excited to run a game in.

 

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  1. Is it best to start with pre-gen characters, as is my inclination for teaching the game? It seems like the best solution, at least for a few game sessions, so they don't have to themselves figure out all the rules before they even play their first game. This makes sense for all the genres, but especially a supers genre in which all the powers are in play. It's just too complex, it seems to me. What's your experience with this? When, then, is the best time to introduce them to the character generation part of the game? I'd have to sit with everyone, probably as a group, to lead them through the process. Is it better to give them a quick overview of the process and let them mull the rules over at home, or to lead them through a long and probably boring "session 0" to shepherd them through the process? Again, what's your experience in this important part of teaching the rules?

 

Yes, definitely do pre-gens. And don't try to be clever or cute with the character builds. Make a list of the most archetypal character types for the setting you intend to run and knock out one of each kind right down the line, no fancy bull$#!%. Make sure each of them has something to offer, something to differentiate them, but are otherwise bread & butter, basic builds.

 

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  1. Now the nuts and bolts: which parts of the rules are the most important to teach first? I've tried a few different ways with some people, and I can't find a good way to explain it all efficiently. There's so much going on. My plan is to hand out the "HERO In Two Pages" document as a precursor to session 0, but then when it comes to game time what's the best way, in your experience, to teach the overview of the game? My inclination is to go through the character sheet and explain the parts, such as the characteristics and skills and such. But without a combat to run through, it's all a hypothetical exercise to them. Do we just jump into a combat and then I explain what the CVs and DEFs are, etc.? Or do I try to explain it all up front? I suppose the 2-page primer will do a lot of that for me and that I'm worrying to much, but that's what I do: worry. As for actually playing the game, what is a good way to soft-start the rules, in your experience?

 

Don't teach. Just start a low-risk combat on Phase 12 and call down the DEX order. 

 

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  1. What's the best way to start playing? Do I start with some simple skill-based activities (this is obvious if it's a heroic-level game), making sure everyone has some sort of skill to use? And then move into a combat? I've seen this suggested before, and it seems prudent. But again, I'd like to get some of your experience with this process.

 

I highly recommend "in medias res" as an intro. Get people into it right away. 

 

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  1. This is the part that scares me the most: what's the best way to introduce combat? So much has changed since my 2e days. The basics are still the same, but there are so many more maneuvers now, and so many intricacies involving the maneuvers that I just can't keep it all straight in my head just yet. I've read, re-read, and re-re-read the rules many times, and I have a good feel for them, but certainly not a mastery. I'd have to look up so much of it to begin with, just to be sure. But I don't want to bore everyone by checking on the rules all the time. Nothing is worse than stopping a game to look up the rules. What do you suggest, based on your experience.

 

Mastery is overrated. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good enough. The best way to start is simply to start. Keep it simple, and go. Imagine the events of the play session to be a movie. If the movie is boring, you're doing it wrong. Just wing it. Learn as you go. Don't be afraid to get it wrong. If you run into something you don't know, either take a beat to look it up (or have someone else at the table look it up while you keep the plates spinning) or just make a ruling "for now" and keep the tempo going.

 

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  1. I'm going to create some handouts for the players. Other than the 2-page primer, and their character sheets, what do you think is worth handing out to the players?

 

Nothing. That's already a lot of information to slap on the average person. Pick or make a character sheet template that has the info you want on it, and run with just that. 

 

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  1. A complete list of maneuvers is possible. But I was thinking of limiting the number of maneuvers available to them at first. Does this seem like a good idea? Just start with the basics that I'm familiar with, limit them to those few things, and then grow from there? What else do I need to hand them? This is especially obvious if I do a Fantasy HERO game where I have to probably create pre-gen spells and races and such. But what else is worth giving to newbies as handouts? I don't want to overload them on information, but I don't want them to feel totally lost either. What have you tried in your games?

 

You're getting lost in details. 

 

Have players explain what they are trying to do, interpret that into rules or rulings for them on the fly, and apply whatever rules you know off the top of your head or can quickly look up. Anything else, just wing it. Look up anything you were unsure of before the next session and if you got it wrong, admit that to the players next time and present how it should have worked and how that sort of thing will be resolved thereafter. GMing 101. 

 

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  1. Have you tried teaching 6e using 3e games? I've considered beginning with one of the 3e games for teaching the rules, but I'm inclined against that because the character creation process is so different than in 6e. Even working with pre-gens, I'd have to explain why certain formulae exist on their character sheets, etc. Why teach a set of rules only to then tell them that the rules they need to know for 6e are different? This doesn't necessarily seem like a good idea to me. Have you tried this approach? Does it work?

 

If you intend to use 6e-based rules, then don't muddy the waters. Go forth as you intend to continue.

 

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  1. What else am I missing? What am I forgetting? I barely remember what it was like to learn the game the first time, but I remember being overwhelmed when we started with character creation for Champions. Yikes! Talk about overload! But I was a kid and I got over it in a couple of days because the rule book was only a pamphlet compared to the rules now. What can you offer me as advice, based on your experiences (both positive and negative lessons are welcome). What am I not even seeing as potential problems?

 

The main problem is your own lack of confidence. Worry less about mechanics and more about fun. Be confident in your ability to entertain your players for a handful of hours. The game you choose to do that with is just a tool, but its your own ability to frame an engaging adventure and keep things moving along that will be the difference between a good or bad experience for the group...not your grasp of rules. 

 

Just tell your players up front that you are learning the game too and wont always get it right, and promise to do your best. That's all they can reasonably ask of you.

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Thanks, @Killer Shrike, for the encouragement. I’m used to spending so much time on the forums with people who have mastered the rules that I forget that I don’t have to be one of them. I’ve got the ball rolling with some people, and I’m in the process of narrowing down what sort of game they’d like to play. Then I’ll be off and running, for better or worse. I can’t see how we won’t have fun in the end. Thanks for reminding me to just have fun. 

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3 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

Thanks, @Killer Shrike, for the encouragement. I’m used to spending so much time on the forums with people who have mastered the rules that I forget that I don’t have to be one of them.

 

If I can badly paraphrase an old software development axiom:

 

Your players won't care whether or not you've memorized the rules.  They will care whether or not they've had fun.

 

Get a story going - get them engaged.  The rules are there to facilitate fun.

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One thing maybe as important as the rules is whether they've played a RPG before and have some idea what they're supposed to do.

 

I had a Fantasy Hero group once who I started off as escaped slaves on a pirate ship which had been set on fire accidentally during the escape. The ship was just off the coast of an unknown land in one direction, no features visible in any other direction. The ship had no life rafts or boats on it.

 

The three players are trapped on the prow of the ship by the pirate captain and some crewmen. Only three enemies at a time could reach the players. This was an introductory combat to give them a feel for the system while trapping them in place so they wouldn't have to worry about movement, being flanked, excessive equipment, or anything complicated. Every few phases a piece of burning debris would fall from the masts and sails to hit a combatant, causing either physical or energy damage. Obviously from my descriptions and from what I explicitly said, the ship wasn't going to last long.

 

The combat went okay and the players won. Then stayed on the ship. And stayed on the ship. And stayed on the ship despite getting hit by ever-increasing amounts of burning debris. The players couldn't figure out what their characters should do about them being on a burning ship with a grassy shore being a hundred yards away and with them not being weighted down by any significant amount of possessions. Let me note that one of them, the healer/druid, was a former D&D player and all three had WoW experience. None of them thought to check the dead enemies for loot.

 

And they couldn't figure out that they needed to get off of a ship that was fully engulfed in flames until after they'd all taken unnecessary burns.

 

Once they finally swam to "shore", I described that they were actually standing in water amid salt water grasses which stretched endlessly to the north and south. But to the east about a mile, they could see that the grass ended, transitioning into some hills. So the players discussed for 30 minutes, no joke, which direction their characters should go and finally decided to go north.

 

They'd started early in the day and trudged northward all day and coming close to the end of the day, I pointed out to them that since they were wading through endless (explicitly endless) salt marshes with a very few scattered trees that there was no dry place for them to camp, except for the land which continued to be clearly seen about a mile away to the east. So they discussed it and decided to find a tree which they could climb to spend the night. And despite me telling them at intervals that they had BODY damage which wasn't going to heal anytime soon naturally and that the druid had free healing spells, nobody wanted to perform or get any healing spells.

 

Anyway, I ended up having to put them on railroad tracks until they got enough of an idea of what to do that I didn't have to tell them what to do in order to reach the meat of the adventure. I guess if I'd told them that the hills had a bright yellow exclamation mark for a quest marker that they would have moved immediately in the direction I wanted them to go. But I kept thinking that even though the world was a sandbox that they'd instinctively want to do the interesting things rather than all the obviously boring things.

 

TL;DR

If they're new players, tell them what to do then let them decide how to do it, if the only other choice is to let them drive you crazy.

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44 minutes ago, archer said:

Anyway, I ended up having to put them on railroad tracks until they got enough of an idea of what to do that I didn't have to tell them what to do in order to reach the meat of the adventure. I guess if I'd told them that the hills had a bright yellow exclamation mark for a quest marker that they would have moved immediately in the direction I wanted them to go. But I kept thinking that even though the world was a sandbox that they'd instinctively want to do the interesting things rather than all the obviously boring things.

 

I couldn't tell you how many games I've been, usually as the GM, in that have gone like this.  And I haven't GMed all that many games.  

 

44 minutes ago, archer said:

TL;DR

If they're new players, tell them what to do then let them decide how to do it, if the only other choice is to let them drive you crazy.

 

I'll have to remember this for my Danger International game.  I've got two players that I know have some roleplaying experience; an ongoing D&D campaign and an aborted Champions 6e campaign (that lasted two half-sessions).  What will be somewhat helpful is that my DI game is based around the military, so I can explicitly run a "training mission", and if the players get sidetracked I can have their commander radio in with orders.  

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On 3/21/2019 at 12:10 PM, Brian Stanfield said:

Now the nuts and bolts: which parts of the rules are the most important to teach first?

As I just learned, the Design of the Character Sheet can help you figuring that out:

 

On the Default Sheet, Page 1: The central parts are teh Vital Information (HTH Damage, Phases, CV, CSL, Pre Attack) and Defenses. It also contains the Hit Location, Combat Maneuver and Combat Modifier table. There is only one part of page 1 that is unambigiously not realted to combat: Experience Points.

So as I said Combat is a pretty big focus. :)

 

If you really want a different game, it might even be nessesary to make a minor reorganisation of the sheet.

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So, this might be kinda repetitive, but what do y'all think is critical to teach people who are learning the game? I ask this because things like Presence attacks are totally unique, and I would probably forget to teach it if I didn't write it down in a list of things to teach. So, let's start a list of things that really ought to be taught to beginners (in no particular order, although a list in order of importance would be great too):

  • Presence attacks
  • skill rolls
  • attack rolls
  • damage rolls
  • allotment of skill levels each phase

What else is critical?

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2 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

So, this might be kinda repetitive, but what do y'all think is critical to teach people who are learning the game? I ask this because things like Presence attacks are totally unique, and I would probably forget to teach it if I didn't write it down in a list of things to teach. So, let's start a list of things that really ought to be taught to beginners (in no particular order, although a list in order of importance would be great too):

  • Presence attacks
  • skill rolls
  • attack rolls
  • damage rolls
  • allotment of skill levels each phase

What else is critical?

Tracking END, Recoveries, skill versus skill rolls, movement, the speed chart. 

Power construction with adders, advantages, limitations.  Though that should be saved for last of the basics, and maybe even saved for after all the basic powers get introduced. 

 

I'd argue that Presence Attacks and skill levels are non-critical and should be added later. 

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1 hour ago, Gnome BODY (important!) said:

Tracking END, Recoveries, skill versus skill rolls, movement, the speed chart. 

Power construction with adders, advantages, limitations.  Though that should be saved for last of the basics, and maybe even saved for after all the basic powers get introduced. 

 

I'd argue that Presence Attacks and skill levels are non-critical and should be added later. 

 

Thanks for those! I knew there were some obvious things I was forgetting. 

 

You know, I'm never sure if a Presence Attack is basic or if it is advanced, you know? I mean, it doesn't take any time so can be done at any point (which sorta breaks the speed chart a bit), so it's a bit advanced. But also, just looking ferocious and intimidating your enemy is the most basic thing too, and that HERO System makes it part of the game is pretty special, and worth pointing out ahead of time as an "ace up the sleeve" sort of maneuver if all else fails. 

 

I'm definitely saving Powers for later. I'm steering the group towards a heroic-level game with pre-fabs characters just so we don't have to deal with all that stuff. But I want to tantalize them with what the Powers can do, so I'm leaning towards maybe a fantasy game with low  pre-fab magic, or maybe a "weird tales" sort of Pulp game to give a flavor of the powers without making them the focus. Some of them are interested in a horror or post-apocalyptic game, which can help learn low-level Powers. I'm going to leave it up to them in the end, so they have an incentive to want to learn. 

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I played in a Champions game last night and ran my Danger International game today, and I have one piece of advice based on experience that I think will help.

 

Don't use OCV.  Add 11 to it and call it Attack Roll or Attack Value or something similar, and have that show up on the character sheet.  Maybe a couple of adjusted values for 1/2 OCV and 0 OCV, if those ever come up in play.  

 

That seemed like the hardest concept to get across.  Start with 11!  Add 11 to your OCV!  

 

No, just add 11 to it to begin with, and put that on the sheet, in big bold letters impossible to miss.

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1 hour ago, Chris Goodwin said:

That seemed like the hardest concept to get across.  Start with 11!  Add 11 to your OCV!  

 

It doesn’t help with the way it’s worded in 6e: 11+OCV-dice roll=the DCV you can hit is just so convoluted compared to 11+OCV-DCV=the die roll you need to beat. I understand you don’t want to give away the DCV, but it becomes fairly evident after a couple of attacks, so why make it harder on folks just trying to figure it out? Of course, the basic math all works out the same, but for some reason it just seems harder for people to learn the first way. I guess because the first way results in a different number each time (the DCV hit differs with each roll), whereas the second method provides a (relatively) stable target number each time you attack (just roll under 12 each time). 

 

For or my first pre-gen characters I may do what you suggest and just put an attack number. Anything to simplify the learning curve. 

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I have one player in my current campaign with no prior experience with the system, so I started off by having him give me a description of what he wanted his character to do with no reference to game mechanics.  Then I built a character to match what he;d described.  He wanted a character who used real world firearms which are a bit underpowered for superhero games, so I built a VPP that only changes in the workshop/arsenal, gave him a list of the weapons he could use at the start, and told him that when he wanted something special he could give me a description and I'd work out the stats.  Admittedly, I have a table full of gamers with decades of gaming experience and only one is unfamiliar with HERO, but designing a character based on the player's verbal description might be a good alternate to a pregenerated character.

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3 hours ago, Deglar said:

. . . designing a character based on the player's verbal description might be a good alternate to a pregenerated character.

 

Agreed. They’ll all be beginners, however, and so for their first “learning game” I’m just going to give them a session or two of pre-gens to simplify the learning. I want to then reboot a more long term campaign and let the, build their own characters. I want to try to have them all talk out their characters together, at the table, and then work with them to accomplish their visions. Hopefully this gets them to build things together with lots of overlap in their stories, especially in their psychological complications and things. 

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16 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

It doesn’t help with the way it’s worded in 6e: 11+OCV-dice roll=the DCV you can hit is just so convoluted compared to 11+OCV-DCV=the die roll you need to beat. I understand you don’t want to give away the DCV, but it becomes fairly evident after a couple of attacks, so why make it harder on folks just trying to figure it out? Of course, the basic math all works out the same, but for some reason it just seems harder for people to learn the first way. I guess because the first way results in a different number each time (the DCV hit differs with each roll), whereas the second method provides a (relatively) stable target number each time you attack (just roll under 12 each time). 

 

I think we had a couple of different issues going on:

  • We old timers kept losing the thread of the math.  OCV of 7, plus an OCV bonus of 2 for the attack, -3 for the range, minus his DCV of 5 was... wait, what was his OCV again?  We didn't add the base 11, did we?  The new folk suffered from this some, but not as much I think because the old timers were doing most of that part.  Adding in the 11 beforehand and writing it on the sheet would help.  What I think would be even better would be for each attack -- martial arts, regular combat maneuvers, weapons, Attack Powers even -- to write down on the sheet 11 + the character's base OCV + the OCV bonus or penalty.  That can to an extent be done in Hero Designer export templates.  
  • "Wait, what do I roll again?"  The new folk were new to a couple of different RPGs; two of my Danger International players (the ones in my regular D&D game) were also in a D&D game with me later Saturday night.  When one of us old farts says "What do I roll?", the GM can say "DEX" and we know instantly that that means 3d6 less than or equal to 9 + DEX/5, or 1d20 + Dex bonus, whichever game we're playing.  When the new folk say "What do I roll?" they're starting by asking, which die type.  I've seen it with the same people in our D&D games.  Our regular home game D&D DM starts with a brief refresher at the beginning of the session, but even so... in a D&D game the DM can say "Roll your Investigation / Arcana / Perception" and the old hands know it's roll 1d20 and add the appropriate bonus.  How to fix that?  Be specific about both the die type and purpose.  "Emily, give me a to-hit roll on 1d20 against his AC of 18" works better than "Emily, give me a to-hit roll."  And the hard part about combat math in Hero is the pause to work out OCV, with modifiers, and DCV with modifiers, before finally saying "Okay, you want to roll 3d6 less than or equal to a target number of 15..."

I don't mind in either game telling players the target's DCV or AC.  I'd almost rather do that because if they're going against the same target, or same type of target (e.g. another agent or goblin), that number's not going to change.  

 

I think the "Which die type?" is just going to come through repetition.  Every time at the beginning of the session, remind the players.  "If I don't tell you specifically how many dice of what type to roll, assume it's 3d6 (or a d20 plus some bonus) against a target number.  If it's a damage or effect roll, it'll be written down on your sheet.  If it's not one of those, I'll tell you how many dice and what types."  They'll still forget, but reinforcement through repetition is the name of the game.  And be patient with them, even if it's the fifth time in a row they've asked "Now which dice do I roll again?"

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Oh, and character sheets.  I think that leaving off the point values from a character sheet is fine, but I think if you're going to use a simplified sheet with needed values not listed it behooves the GM to have the full sheet where they can refer to it.  Our new players were happy to be able to look on the sheet to find a value, even if they needed a reminder about where to look again.  

 

Some years ago I was trying to work out a Hero sheet that had giant boldface headings like "Attack", "Defense", "Movement," and so on, to draw the eye to those, so that when the GM says, "How fast do you run again?" the player can glance down and "Movement" is one of the easiest things to see.  That's another thing that can be done in Hero Designer.  

 

I'm otherwise going to tentatively say that, in my experience, simplified character sheets are not as good of an idea as they might seem.  Others' experience may vary, however.

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So I am going to jump in with my $0.02.  I'm probably repeating other comments, so I apologize ahead of time.

 

1)  What is the best genre for learning the 6e rules?

For completion sake, Supers.  It can use every rule that Hero has.  For ease of learning, modern heroic.  It keeps the learning curve down as a lot of stuff people are familiar with, there isn't D&D bais, and as long as you leave hit locations and critical off, combat is much easier.

 

2)  Is it best to start with pre-gen characters?

I don't think so.  Character creation is a big plus in the game for players.

 

3)  Which parts of the rules are most important to teach first?

How to keep track of stats and how to roll for combat and skills.

 

4)  What's the best way to start playing?

Given how you describe the original post, I would just give out blank character sheets and have them describe their basic characteristics as a normal human.  Then run them in something like a brawl or fist fight.  Then have some bring out a knife or a gun.  Hopefully by now, they would have create a 100-150 point normal without them going James Bond in skill and levels.  I would have them have a common accident which gives them super powers.  I wouldn't worry about point total but you should have them record the number points every thing costs and how to spend their xp.  After a set of games, I would them say they can keep their current characters or design their own.

 

5)  What's the best way to introduce combat?  

Probably the typical fist fight is the best initial combat.  Its not lethal, can introduce the concept of blocking and dodging as well as grabbing, haymakers, and simple punches.  It will also allow them to keep track of end use, stunning, and body and stun loss.  It will also introduce them to how to calculate normal attacks.

 

6)  What sort of handouts? 

Character sheets with basic maneuvers.

 

7)  Have you ever tried teaching 6e using the 3e games?

Nope.

 

? What else am I missing?

If you are doing supers, I've found heroclix and matchbox cars make good props.

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11 minutes ago, dsatow said:

2)  Is it best to start with pre-gen characters?

I don't think so.  Character creation is a big plus in the game for players.

 

I'm going to disagree with you here.  For the Champions game I tried last year, I asked them what they wanted and made the characters for them.  It would have completely fallen apart if I'd tried to hand them the books or even HD and had them create their own.  Too many options.  I'd say that pregens are probably best, followed by asking them what they want and building it for them.

 

11 minutes ago, dsatow said:

? What else am I missing?

If you are doing supers, I've found heroclix and

11 minutes ago, dsatow said:

matchbox cars make good props.

 

 

This, for sure.  In a state of madness on Friday morning I ran to the dollar store and bought several bags of classic green and tan plastic toy soldiers (plus their assorted vehicles); those worked exceedingly well for a military game.  

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