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Tywyll

What happened to HERO?

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I was a big player in the 5th edition era and have most of the sourcebooks (I'm already regretting the few I gave away). I even got several of the 6th ed books when they came out.

 

But I took a hiatus and now that I come back, 8 or 9 years later, I see nothing new. Was Complete Fantasy the last book published? Did 6E just kill the line? What happened while I was away? Is there anything in the works that I don't know about (other than the Drivethru DMsguild thing)?

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I'd love to hear from the insiders as to what happened from their perspective.

 

My guess is, if they'd released something like Champions Complete  instead of 6e, the game would be in a much better position right now. The massive, two-volume 6e came out when not a lot of gamers wanted that sort of game. (That it also had some changes that turned off a portion of the game's base didn't help.)

 

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It's probably a combination of a number of factors, some of which may be public and some not.

 

My personal take is that the most egregious issues are the total lack of marketing and the move away from selling in bricks and mortar stores. Word of mouth is still very important in the RPG scene and you can have the best system around but if no one knows about it, it won't matter.

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The reasons why Hero Games as primary publisher of Hero System products declined are probably various, and which one might be identified as primary would depend on who you ask. ;)  Not being an insider I'd prefer not to comment on that.

 

However, if you look under Hero Sixth Edition in the website store you'll find a lot of material published for it; but most of it was produced by third-party publishers, or prepared by individuals on their own initiative before being submitted to Hero Games for consideration.

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First party support for the Hero System is non-existent, and while it is nice to have third party support for an RPG, that alone is not a sign of a healthy brand. I would argue that while D&D has grown significantly in the last several years, in large part thanks to streamers like Critical Role and WotC's heavy support of the game, other systems like HERO have declined due to lack of same.

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I believe some of it was the timing of 6th coming out. You had 5th ed then not too long 5th Rev. came out. Then I don’t believe it wasn’t really too long that 6th was announced and we also went through a recession at the time. I do believe asking $120 (for both books) was another nail in the coffin.

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1 hour ago, Lord Liaden said:

To be fair, the hobby itself suffered a general downturn. Only a few of the tabletop games are really prospering today, having absorbed most of a diminished player base.

Yeah that’s another point too. I don’t think that it was just one cause but several smaller issues that came at the same time.

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Yeah, the causes for decline are numerous and varied, but the lack of a rebound--like D&D has enjoyed--can be summed up with "No resources put into the brand", both in terms of official supplemental material (it pretty much just stopped after FHC), and in terms of evangelizing, administrating, and advertising online streaming akin to Critical Role and organized play akin to D&D Adventurer's League.

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Saw a report that in 2013 table top role playing games sales were $13 million. Last year (2018) it was $65 Million. 

 

That is a massive increase over the last few years, and shows how much popularity and growth the industry has undergone, but I wonder how much of that is strictly D&D money? Did they do $40 million in sales last year, and every other TTRPG combined make up the other $25 million? 

 

Even if that was the case, $25 million is still almost double what the whole industry took in in 2013. 

 

Or was it even more lopsided, with D&D making $55 Million of that, and everything else only making $10 million combined? 

 

Still, this should be (maybe it is) the golden era of RPGs, but it seems like only D&D is really capitalizing on it.  The massive public recognition, advertising, book quality, art quality and spin-off materials (novels, etc...) means that anyone trying to compete with D&D is going to find it rough going. I guess the old, "it takes money to make money" is very true.

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D&D is just really easy to pick up and play (5E is anyway, and the last time I played was 1st Ed AD&D). Hero isn't.

 

I think this is important. It isn't just Nerds that play anymore, RPG has gone mainstream and 'normals' play. I've seen hipsters in drainpipe jeans and 'Nerd' t-shirts. Other, Beautiful People have hijacked the hobby. You don't have to be weird anymore and revelations that you play are met with interest rather than wedgies.

 

Beautiful People - people in general these days it seems - want something that they can run with straight away. That ain't Hero System. 

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Yeah, it's just us ugly folks playing HERO. *sigh* It's a shame ... 😉

 

But generally speaking: HERO has always been quite under the radar. As far as I remember (started with Champions back in the 80s) it was always the "odd system out" - you had a better chance to find someone playing GURPS (which BTW is also not as popular as it used to be).

 

No publications from HERO Games sure is a bummer.

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32 minutes ago, MrAgdesh said:

D&D is just really easy to pick up and play (5E is anyway, and the last time I played was 1st Ed AD&D). Hero isn't.

 

Is it?  

 

I play in a weekly D&D 5e game and it's anything but fast playing and easy to learn.  There are many, many rules, dice, and exceptions to rules just to make it appear to work.

 

Where D&D shines is the ease of making a level 1 character.  Once you get a few levels and archetypes, features, and spell slots come into play it frankly becomes a mess of horribly balanced spells, feats, and exercises in accounting.  I play a simple Fighter (Cavalier) without spells or flashy abilities and I'm super underpowered compared to everyone in the group.  My choice, but someone needs to take the hit.

 

HERO, in comparison, has a painful character creation process rife with math.  It's so time consuming and error prone that we've been using computer programs to do it for decades.  Once you're in game, things are pretty straightforward I would argue.  At the very least I would assert it's no worse than modern D&D.

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8 hours ago, sentry0 said:

 

Is it? 

 

It is, very much easier :sneaky:

 

But we are not talking about the same aspect of the game.

 

Everytime the "easy" question comes up discussion swerves into chargen or disagreements about being "easy" in play.

 

But that is not where the major damage comes from.  The primary failure is game/world/adventure generation.

 

Popular RPG (D&D, CoC, etc):

1 Players buy new game.

2 Players decide who will GM and when to start.

3 SHORT intro chapter give everyone enough information to understand the game premise.

4 Players build PCs using prebuilt abilities, equipment, spells and such balanced for the game.

5 GM selects one of dozens of prebuilt adventures or quickly assembles one using prebuilt creature/threats.

6 Game begins, this routinely happens within the same week.

 

HERO

 

1 Players buy game

2 Players decide who will GM

3 GM designs/stats practically everything from how magic works to creatures (weeks of work)

4 GM explains how all the stuff he designed works.

5 Players then design PCs based on 3&4

6 GM then adjusts adventures to account for PCs custom builds.

7 Game begins weeks to months later

 

The problem is that brand new HERO purchasers rarely get past HERO step 3.

By the time the GM gets enough material designed to actually play they usually discover the rest of the players are 6 weeks into the D&D game they started while waiting.

 

HERO  is a very easy game to run, and runs no slower than any other including D&D.  If a HERO game runs slow it is usually caused by player indecision.

 

The upcoming Content program should help new players be able to overcome this by allowing access to prebuilt adventures and content that can actually be played at the table. But it won't solve everything.

Once material is available, we will need to start running these prepackaged adventures in the public.  As in at your FLGS and Cons.

 

There needs to be interest generated that will motivate stores to look for the books and stock them.  Enough demand that will either draw the books into general distribution or prompt the FLGS to open another account for a single product.

 

Something to move HERO out of the boutique mode and back into popular gaming. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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29 minutes ago, Spence said:

The primary failure is game/world/adventure generation. 

 

Agreed.  We are also definitely not talking about the same thing 😁. I sincerely hope the Hall of Champions program helps alleviate some of the pain of setting up a campaign by providing interesting settings and canned adventures.  Honestly, we have no one but ourselves to blame now that the gates are open to us.

 

I also am a member of a Meetup group that runs weekly mini-cons and I've noticed that the 5e tables always fill up first.  The non-5e tables?  Good luck with that.  That's sort of the problem with the hobby, the vast majority of people are only interested in playing D&D.   Critical Roll is a big factor I think... people think that playing D&D is like that.

 

Unpopular Opinion: the hobby is currently in a bubble that will burst.  All the hipsters will run with their hands above their heads back to their craft breweries as they await the next trend.  Calling it now 😝

 

 

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I hear these are record years for GenCon, and the indie RPGs / storygames are really an area of growth. In the absence of more detailed numbers, I'd hesitate to talk about the main reasons but I'd hazard that HERO can make a comeback with the right product line strategy and a good marketing approach.

 

Note: I'm not saying that we should entirely ditch the strengths of HERO. I've written some articles about it, and I believe that HERO is about characters and story as much as any other RPG, but a different kind of storytelling and tolerance for plausibility than others.

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I think that one of the lures of D&D is that you definitely notice a character progression. I'm not a fan of level based systems, but in this case, it does impart a feeling of improvement and heroism as new abilities unlock as you gain experience.

 

With Hero, you tend to start out, more or less, as you want and surging forwards dramatically is not something that I have noticed in 30 years of playing it. Instead, your experience tends to creep up on you - unless you save for something big like a Radiation Accident.

 

In Heroic games you are also more likely to find Maxima and caps on Stats and Skills, which the GM doesn't want you to exceed for fear of breaking game balance. This is perfectly reasonable of course, but can further a feel of stagnation when the character has a ton of XPs that he doesn't know how to spend.

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46 minutes ago, KawangaKid said:

Note: I'm not saying that we should entirely ditch the strengths of HERO. I've written some articles about it, and I believe that HERO is about characters and story as much as any other RPG, but a different kind of storytelling and tolerance for plausibility than others.

 

Agreed, it certainly is about characters as much as any other RPG, perhaps more so.

 

The single biggest and best thing that Hero has given me is the requirement to come up with a character concept prior to actually playing. This reverse-engineering was a major strength. Rather than roll up a set of numbers and decide what class and race you are going to squeeze them into, you think about your class and race first and then put the numbers where you want them. I like that as it encourages people to think about their characters more from the outset and that's when the Disdvantages/Complications form.

 

Of course, some players just want to start out with the bare bones of something and see how their character grows. They want to hit the floor running into an adventure and thinking about their character's past history and foibles isn't high on the agenda.

 

There is a guy near me (Bruce) who runs a game in a local pub on Tuesday nights. Its the Dungeon Crawl Classics system. He runs each of the sessions as self-contained adventures and always welcomes new players to drop in (and out) as required. One of my players tends to go most weeks and I've asked him about how it runs. If the scenario doesn't finish for example, he always leaves it at a position where new players can be added or drop out next week. So, never on a cliffhanger, but more like in a local village.

 

My friend says; "Its a fun game, very old school, and not the way we play, but its enjoyable and he's always fully subscribed".

 

I've noticed an 'Old Skool Resurgence' of late - people harkening back to less sophisticated times where you simply used to listen at the door, check for traps, pick lock etc, and go Monty Hauling from room to room. We've moved on from this with more elegant systems and requirements because most of us have played a very long time. But there are an awful lot of new gamers who have never experienced this style of play and quite enjoy it to kill a few hours before their next commitment comes up.

 

This might sound like gamer snobbery (it is to some degree) but I'm mainly trying to suggest that before any big campaigns get launched to draw people to Hero, you consider this style of popular play and how well suited it is to your system. If Bruce ran Hero at the pub for example, he's going to have to have pre-gens made (rather than you rolling up your own character which is admittedly part of the fun) and spend too much time explaining the intricacies of the system to new people, rather than just "Roll d20 to hit".

 

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7 minutes ago, MrAgdesh said:

Of course, some players just want to start out with the bare bones of something and see how their character grows. They want to hit the floor running into an adventure and thinking about their character's past history and foibles isn't high on the agenda.

 

the easiest way to do this is to create modern day pulp characters or danger international characters, I feel. Asking someone to build a full on super-hero may be a bit too much.

 

In a way, this is similar to DCC which tends to start off people with 0-level characters, making character creation even easier than the classic roll 3d6 x 6 times approach and choose a class.

 

Another approach: a campaign with a random power roll-up for low powered characters, then slowly award points to build up their characters. 

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5 hours ago, KawangaKid said:

HERO can make a comeback with the right product line strategy and a good marketing approach.

 

Quite possibly. However, Hero Games lacks the resources to pursue either.

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Given that reality, I give Jason props for looking for inexpensive but innovative ways to build momentum for the Hero brand: Hall of Champions, Champions Now, Character Creation Cards, PDFing older materials... he definitely hasn't been sitting on his hands. :thumbup:

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