Thursday, November 2, 2017

Gorgon Archer - Hero System 6th Edition - Character Advancement

Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

Similar to Dungeons and Dragons, Hero System characters advance based on acquiring experience points. However, where as in D&D experience slowly accumulates and is used as a determiner for when a particular threshold is reached to trigger a new level, Hero System characters can choose to spend the points as they come in. There is usually a place on the official character sheets to keep track of how much experience has been spent as time goes on so that you can do a cost check further on and tell whether the character has too many or too few points (it does occasionally happen that points get lost in the shuffle).

Experience is awarded per session with a minimum of 1 point of experience being awarded to every player who participated in the session. There are other considerations as well. If the session concludes a particularly long and complex adventure then the award is a base of 2 points, +1 for each session that was involved. If the adventure was especially difficult or the characters were heavily outnumbered or outgunned, then that's +1 experience for one or +2 if both apply. There are optional guidelines for rewards involving roleplaying, each awarding 1 point for when it appears. Being clever, inventive, subtle, or roleplaying well; solving a mystery; and achieving a resounding success are all grounds for a 1 point bonus. However, and this is something I don't particularly agree with, you can lose experience points for roleplaying poorly or if the adventure ends in a complete failure.

Assuming the 1st to 5th level advancement I did for the D&D version accounts for between ten and eighteen sessions; or between one to three story arcs; I am going to assume fourteen sessions and two major story arcs, one of three sessions and one of five sessions. I am going to assume that eight of the sessions involved either increased difficulty or being heavily outnumbered and that two sessions had both situations. I am not going to use the optional reward guidelines as they feel a bit too nebulous.

That said, for the course of the fourteen sessions, I'm assuming the character receives 36 experience points.

Starting Stats


(Cost) Improvement
(2)Stealth 13-
(3)Conversation 11-

Archery Martial Arts (Stats using Huntress' Bow without applying Combat Skill Levels)
(4)Basic Shot - (1d6+1 damage, OCV 6, DCV 6, Range Modifier +2)
(3)Defensive Shot - (1/2d6 damage, OCV 5, DCV 8)
(4)Ranged Disarm - (25 Str Disarm, OCV 6, DCV: 6)

(1)Life Support: Extended Breathing (Holding Breath is 1 End per Turn instead of 1 End per Phase)
(2)Life Support: Longevity: One-fourth human aging (400 year life span)
(3)Life Support: Immunity to all Animal Poisons

(9)The Huntress's Bow: Ranged Killing Attack, 1/2d6, Obvious Accessible Focus (-1), Attack Versus Alternate Defense: Power Defense (+1), Gestures (-1/4)

(2)Reputation: +1d6/+1, Hero 14-, Large Region: Capital City
(3)Tavern-Keeper: Contact 11-, Good relationship

(36) Experience spent

Complication Changes
(15)Gorgon: Distinctive Feature: Concealable, Major (Distrust/Curiosity)
(5)Curmudgeon (Formerly Cynic): Psychological Complication: Uncommon, Moderate
(10)Budding Affection: Psychological Complication: Common, Moderate

Awarded Contacts:
Knight 8-, Has connections with Major Institutions
Priestess 8-, Has connections with Major Insitutions

(0/15)Petrifying Stare II - Severe Transform: 1d6, Target must be able to see the gorgon(-1/2), Partial Transform (+1/2), Target Heals Back Normally

Further Notes

Experience points in Hero System are typically spent for a couple of different reasons. One of the reasons most familiar to D&D players is to become stronger but it is difficult to say for certain whether this is the most common motive players have when spending experience points. Another, related, reason would be to address issues that have occurred within the game where the character is weak. In other cases, the character might want to give mechanical weight to developments that they have pursued in the game. Yet another reason is to fill out the character with capabilities that they intended to include but forgot in the course of character creation. This last typically has the idea that this isn't a new development but simply something that existed but has now been revealed.

In this case, the places where the character purchased points to become more powerful are primarily represented by the archery martial arts maneuvers purchased. These three maneuvers give the character the ability to do increased damage, have an easier time avoiding harm, or even disarm an opponent at range.

The two skill purchases might have been to address weaknesses encountered in the game. While the character still doesn't have good skills with persuasion or interrogation, she at least has picked up the ability to engage in sensitive conversations without giving offense. Likely there have been a few cases where the situation got worse because of some social gaff on the part of the huntress. Likewise, the Stealth has been improved from 12 or less to 13 or less, raising the likelihood of success on an unmodified roll from 74.07% to 83.8%. This likely means that there have been a few cases where the gorgon's stealth wasn't as successful as desired.

The Huntress's Bow is likely an example of giving mechanical heft to a development that occurs within the game. As I had stated previously, a piece of gear that has not had points spent on it is accessible only at the whim of the GM. They have no obligation to let you keep it. However, if you found a magical weapon or armor, the GM might decide to give you the opportunity to pay experience to make it a firm part of your character. This makes it a sort of signature item of yours and even if it is taken away briefly, you will almost certainly get it back. If you don't get it back, then it is typical that the points devoted to that item are allowed to be redistributed into some other benefit rather than simply being lost.

As a side note, the Huntress's Bow is an example of a moderately complex power construction. It's a focus, meaning the character can't use the power unless they have the bow on hand. It attacks Power Defense meaning that Physical Defenses and Resistant Physical Defenses will not reduce the damage it does. The half-d6 looks like weak damage until you remember that the majority of opponents won't have any armor or gear to resist it, plus the archery maneuvers can be added in to increase the damage as can the Combat Skill Levels the character started with. Also, I did not take the Charges limitation, meaning that this bow does not run out of ammunition. This could be just a desire not to have to deal with ammunition and simply assuming there are arrows on hand, or it could mean that the arrows manifest when the string is pulled.  For a more complex construction, I could have created a Flash power linked to the Ranged Killing Attack such that the bow also caused people to go temporarily blind when they were struck by its arrows. Thematically, the RKA and the Flash would be one single power or effect, but mechanically they would be two linked powers.

The reputation and the tavern-keeper contact could be representations of backing up story developments with the expenditure of character points as well. Another option is that these are ideas that the player had and directions they wanted to take the character. Perhaps there was an NPC the GM made off hand that the player liked and felt their character had made a good connection with, or maybe they created the idea of the NPC themselves and ran past the GM about adding to the game. The 11- marks how often the character either is available to help or capable of helping.

The reputation might be a combination of responding to weaknesses that have caused the character trouble and a decision to give mechanical heft to a story direction. The heroic reputation does moderately counteract the bad reactions she would get from being a gorgon,. Also, the character might just have gotten a little bit tired of playing a total outcast. Other changes and expenditures contribute to the likelihood of that theory, more on that later.

The immunity to poison and the extended lifespan are definitely to fill out concept. I had prioritized those elements to a low level and by the time I remembered them, there wasn't much I was willing to let go so I just left it to the advancement section. Granted, I had considered dropping the petrifying gaze entangle to a 2d6 Body, 2 Defense entangle and get an extra 5 points out of that but I decided to keep it as an example of how this works. As a side note, Immunity and Longevity have a 1pt to 5pt scale. Longevity 5 would be for not aging at all. Immunity 5 would be something like immunity to all terrestrial poisons or all terrestrial diseases. Longevity used to be referred to as Immunity to Age.
The extended breathing could be breathing exercises they have picked up in the course of their adventures, possibly at the same time that they picked up the martial arts. Alternately, they might have ended a session with the possibility of having to traverse an underground river and wanted to be sure they could hold their breath for a longer time and at the end of the session that introduced that possibility, spent experience to take a power to make it easier, linking it back to that earlier martial training. This is perfectly allowable and helps simulate a lot of the fiction Hero System is meant to reproduce.

Now we come to places where experience points weren't spent.

In the case of complications, it is possible to spend experience to reduce the value of Complications and make them less troublesome. Possible but I wouldn't recommend it at such a low number of Complications. I usually end up having extra complications beyond the point value I am required to have, such extras provide 0 extra points, but I do find complications are great for giving a character personality. So buying them off is a bit like saying "let's make this character more boring now." However, sometimes a particular complication might just not be appearing in the game or else might no longer make sense and then you and the GM might want to remove or redesign that complication to better fit what is going on.

In this case, with the increased reputation and contacts, the GM likely felt that the "Extreme Reaction" part of the distinct appearance no longer fit. Certainly some people might still be rude or distrustful, but the fact that she is well known around the city as a hero now means people aren't just going to break out the torches and pitchforks when they see her. Talking, they agree to reduce that to a "Major Reaction" described as "distrust" or "invasive curiosity." This left 5 points that needed to be reassigned, the player might have suggested reducing the Cynic down a bit since this increased socialization and the Conversation skill pointed to the character being less bitter and got another 5 points out of that so they could take a "Budding Affection" complication for some NPC or another.
Likewise, it isn't uncommon for the GM in Hero System to award contacts, wealth, and other perks as part of the natural development of the story. These are generally viewed by players and GMs as bonus experience points which have a designated way to be spent. However, the sanctity of points still applies. If the priestess or knight were to die, the character would likely get nothing to replace them. Meanwhile if the tavern-keeper were to die, the gorgon would be able to reassign those points elsewhere.

The last thing here is the "Possible" which represents something that the character plans to put into the character but doesn't yet have the points to do it. I usually have one or two of these while running a character and I often set aside experience points in order to save up for such things. In this case I didn't do that but wanted an example of such anyway. I have noted that the player has spent 0 out of the 15 necessary points to get that power. It would represent an improvement on the petrifying gaze which is currently a very short-lasting entangle effect that can be broken out of by physical strength (as a side note, I should have other limits piled on to that but the limit that the target has to be able to see covers most things). A transform physically transforms the target and requires them to spend a long time recovering, just as if they had been injured. The Partial Transform advantage allows for the effects to ramp up to the final level. For example, if the first use only gets a small number of points on the target, their skin might start turning grey but they wouldn't have real mechanical penalties yet.

One thing to note is the things that didn't improve. Basic combat values didn't improve even though archery specifically improved tremendously. Health and Endurance didn't improve. Basic characteristics didn't improve. Only the things that the character felt were lacking or which they were interested in pursuing. This fits in very well with the fact that the initial system started with superhero comics which is a fiction mode where characters appear to be more static in terms of power. They are often fighting the same enemies over and over again. They are always taking on the same rogue's gallery of minions and masterminds and when they gain new things it is mostly lateral or personality growth rather than pure vertical growth.

The growth seems to be slow, but even 1 character point can provide something that adds interesting things to a character. Also, psychologically, you tend not to notice the growth as much. A lot of the developments you get over time are taken to address specific problems and often don't come up regularly. Then suddenly the situation is back and you remember, oh, I can do this thing that deals with this. A lot of the time, the same basic thugs or orcs or the like you fought at the beginning remain just as dangerous, but now you have a broader range of options for how to deal with them. By comparison, a higher level D&D character tends to just flat out overpower the things they had difficulty with at 1st through 5th level.

One of the downsides of this is that you don't have those moments of suddenly displaying a massive boost of power. It can happen, but it takes a certain amount of planning as you have to set aside points and save them to spend all at once. This usually happens when you are saving up to buy one large trait.but there's nothing stopping you from saving and spending a whole bunch of points on a variety of characteristics or skills at once to simulate some sort of level-up or shonen "I'm more powerful than ever before" reveal scene.

It should also be noticed that while Hero System suggests for GMs to set caps on how powerful individual statistics can get, but there is no cap on the total point value of a character. Also, the GM can always decide that the scope of the campaign has increased and thus raise the caps of characteristics. Even in this case, unless the characters are faced with enemies that just flat blow them out of the water in the first encounter, they're rarely going to spend experience on improving the core central stats because you don't spend points for no reasons and if the character is still hitting and dealing damage reliably there is no reason to increase those capabilities. If the character still manages to get through fights with most of their Stun and Body, there's no need to improve defenses or Health. You spend points on interesting things and to address troubles.

Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

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