Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Gorgon Archer - Hero System 6th Edition - Character Creation Analysis

Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

Hero System is a point buy game and when you are creating characters, the GM usually sets some caps and limits based on the sort of game desired. Hero System is most well known for the Champions setting which is for superhero games. In this case, I am going to be making a standard heroic character which is 175 points with 50 points of complications. By comparison the standard Superhero game is 400 points with 75 points of complications. Given this is a heroic fantasy style character, I am not spending points on equipment which means that any gear she has is at the mercy of the GM's will. In general, a character only spends points on signature items and the spending of points tends to mean that you will get it back, or replace it with something similar, between scenarios.

There are a few different categories of things that can be purchased with these points. Characteristics which are the basic capabilities of a person such physical strength, mental resilience, and base combat capability. Skills which normally represent trained capabilities such as deduction, stealth, weapon skills, martial arts, persuasion, and so on. Powers which can be used to create a variety of things ranging from magic, psychic abilities, equipment, and exceptional skills. Prerequisites, which represent social things like contacts, allies, identities, money, property, and so on. Talents, which represent action movie type feats that are a bit north of everyday reality and a bit south of superheroes. As a note, Talents are basically powers pre-packaged at low levels so you can easily just add them to your character.

Hero System does have templates similar to Dungeons and Dragons' classes but they're optional and everything has a set point value so that when you drop something from a template you know exactly how many points it is worth and can use that to pick up something else from another template or simply purchase from scratch. This makes it possible to model any concept you can imagine without resorting to home-brewing rules and mechanics.

The downside, which is an upside from my perspective, is that this freedom comes with an increased complexity resulting in character creation often requiring longer time frames than in a template based system such as D&D. Also, because of the ability to craft your own character there's a higher amount of skill required and someone more used to the system can create a far more efficient and effective starting character than someone who is new to the system. This means GMs need to take a closer look at characters to make sure all the math adds up and make sure the character fits within the desired style of the game you are running. 

As for Characteristic levels, 10 is the base level for most characteristics and 20 is generally the highest level reached by normal humans with 21-30 being for legendary people and anything above 30 being truly superhuman. Because it came out in 1981 it, like many games from its time, uses characteristics that are familiar to D&D players in some ways and the 1-20 human range fits in well with the range D&D follows now (though carry limits in Hero System ramp up quickly. For Example, 45 Str in Hero System means being able to lift 12.5 metric tons relatively easily, and up to 50 metric tons if they strain themselves.)
The Speed characteristic is the only one that has a upper end. It runs from 1 to 12 and represents on which phases of a 12 second turn the character acts. So a Speed 3 character acts on phases 4, 8, and 12, while a speed 4 character acts on phases 3, 6, 9, and 12. A speed of 2 is the average person while a speed of 3 is noted as a "skilled" person and 4-5 is a "competent" person. 6-7 are "legendary" and anything from 8 to 12 is superhuman. I've rarely seen Speed get higher than 8 and even that was specifically a speedster character in a superhero game.

The original edition of Champions had figured characteristics, whose base levels were determined by the levels you bought up the primary characteristics. The most recent edition removed that layer of complexity and all characteristics now have a set basic level. I believe this is part of why the new editions' standard point levels are so much higher though another part is the expansion of skills, talents, and perks resulted in the fact that well-rounded characters were expected to spend more points on background traits.

Skills are the next category and include variety of categories such as physical skills, social skills, and background skills. Most skills are purchased to have a number which is the target or less the player needs to roll on a skill check (an especially difficult or easy check might adjust this number up or down in a particular situation). The base number is usually 9 + a relevant characteristic divided by 5. So if you have a Dexterity of 15 then Stealth and Acrobatics checks would have a base 12- value. Other skills provide set bonuses such as reducing the penalty for making multiple attacks in a single phase and so on. Skill Levels provide specific bonuses or benefits to some rolls and they get more expensive the more broadly they apply. A Combat Skill Level with karate, for example, would cost 3 pts per level while a Combat Skill Level with all combat would cost 10 pts per level. Penalty Skill Levels, the most common of which is Ranged Skill Levels, are specifically applied to cancelling out penalties. Languages and Martial Arts are also considered skills with martial arts packages being a set of maneuvers each costing 3 to 5 points and languages have fluency levels ranging from 1 to 5. There are also familiarities which allow a character to use some equipment without penalty. Some familiarities are occasionally given out for free if the GM and players want to assume every player has them.

Powers initially seem to be meant to specifically represent superhuman capabilities but are also the basic mechanic through which most of the world is built. A gun is a Ranged Killing Attack bought with the Obvious Accessible Focus (OAF) limitation. Increased movement speed for an Olympic Athlete would be purchased as Running, Swimming, or Leaping at small levels. The various martial arts maneuvers at their base level are very small levels of Hand to Hand Attack or other bonuses. At the more complex levels, you can use multiple powers linked together to describe a single fictional effect.

In some campaigns, the GM doesn't will expect you to spend character points on your equipment. This is especially true of superhero games where equipment is often one of a kind signature items connected to that character. In other games, you will likely be allowed to have weapons and armor suitable for your wealth level and background. That said, if you really want to keep a particular item, it is suggested that you spend points on it. The GM is not obligated to allow you to keep items you didn't pay for with points so you might find your weapons and wealth stolen and have to find ways to replace them. Spending character points on a weapon gives a fair amount of security that losing that item will be temporary. You will either recover the specific item or get a replacement that is similar. If the item is well and truly lost and can not be replicated, then you are usually allowed to re-assign those points to some other benefit or save them with other unspent experience to purchase something later.

Prerequisites are social benefits such as wealth, allies, sidekicks, vehicles, contacts, reputation, special legal rights, and other such things. They were introduced into the system at about the 3rd or 4th edition and have been used to round out a lot of character personality every since.

Talents are the sort of capabilities you would encounter in a pulp novel, action TV show, or fantasy adventure. At their base level they are powers pre-built to make it easier to just plug them into a character as their cost has already been calculated. They often cover things like danger sense, resistance to interrogation, ambidexterity, especially skill with a particular weapon,

There are also Power Advantages, which make a power more effective while increasing the cost, and Power Limitations, which make them less effective while decreasing the cost. Power Frameworks are another facet of character creation and are split include multipowers with a set pool that can be allocated to a selection of linked powers so that the powers are on when points are allocated to them and off when they lack allocated points. Multipowers are often used to represent tightly linked abilities like an arsenal of specialty weapons, arcane spells, or the like. The other framework is similar and is called a Variable Power Pool and is primarily different because there are no specific powers tied to it. Someone with a VPP would assign the points as they needed based on the limits created when it is purchased. VPP's might be used to represent the armory of a noble with far too many weapons and gear to simply list them on a character sheet, the abilities of an especially versatile spellcaster, or superheroes able to manifest things out of nowhere like the Green Lantern.

Complications used to be referred to as disadvantages and represent things that cause the character trouble. This could be a bad reputation, being in love with a particular character, having a particular character hunting them for some reason, having a distinctive feature that makes you easily recognized, having a secret identity, having a public identity, being a minority, being vulnerable to particular attacks, having anger management issues, and so on. Complications are where a lot of the personality and backstory of a character make themselves known in the mechanics.

The reduction of points spent on complications is because it was just flat difficult to fit all the complications into play when you had to buy 100 to 150 pts worth of them. Which was disappointing because a lot of a character's personality and development goals tended to be wrapped up into Complications/Disadvantages. 50 points tends to be enough for one two high impact elements to a character's backstory or perhaps three to four low impact elements that combine for a quirky character with a less single-note drive. You can avoid having any Complications by simply not spending the appropriate number of character points, essentially buying off all your complications, but it tends to create a rather unimpressive and boring character.

Gorgon Archer

Characteristic: Value/Cost
Strength: 8(-2) - Lift: 75 kg, Damage: 1.5d6
Dexterity: 15(10)
Constitution: 15(5)
Intelligence: 13(3)
Ego: 12(2)
Presence: 12(2)

Offensive Combat Value: 6(15)
Defensive Combat Value: 6(15)
Offensive Mental Combat Value: 3(0)
Defensive Mental Combat Value: 5(6)

Speed: 4(20) - Phases 3,6,9,12
Physical Defense: 5(3)
Energy Defense: 5(3)
Recovery: 7(3)
Endurance: 35(3)
Body: 10(0)
Stun: 30(5)

Total Characteristic Cost: 93

(Cost) Power
(3) Scales: Resistant Defenses: 2 rPD
(20) Petrifying Stare: Entangle 3d6, 3 Defense, (Target must be able to see her face -1/2)
(4)Running +4m (16m/32m non-combat)
(2)Swimming +4m (8m/16m non-combat)
(2)Leaping +4m (8m/16m non-combat)
(5)Infrared Vision
Total Power Cost: 36

(4)Weapon Familiarity: Common Melee Weapons, Common Ranged Weapons
(3)Climbing 12-
(3)Stealth 12-
(3)Survival 12-
(10)Defense Manuever IV
(6)Combat Skill Levels: Hunter's Weapons (Spear, Bow, Dagger) 2 Levels
(4)Penalty Skill Levels: Negate 2 points of range penalties with Bows
(3)Shadowing 12-
(3)Breakfall 12-
(0)Common: Native
(4)Sylvan: Complete Fluency, Accent
(3)Goblinoid: Fluent Conversation
Total Skill Cost: 46

Grand Total: 175

(20)Gorgon: Distinctive Feature, Concealable, Extreme Reaction (Fear/Hostility)
(10)Cynical: Psychological Complication: Common, Moderate
(20)Good-Hearted: Psychological Complication: Very Common, Strong

Total Complications: 50

Character Advancement
Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

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