Friday, September 24, 2010

Creating Hero System Characters 101

Creating Hero System Characters
by Jenevieve DeFer AKA Tasha

Hero System Characters 101
It is pretty common for someone to look at the Hero System rule book and be totally overwhelmed by the options inside. Usually first characters are a mish-mash of powers of wildly varying power levels and are not really suited for play. After seeing this come up time and time again on the Hero Games forums I thought that it was time for me to try and answer this question once and for all. So I created this little tutorial and guide.

1) Learn everything possible about the campaign.
ie What Genre, What kind of adventures will be run (ie Action, Political, soap opera etc). Does it take place in one spot (ie one city) or will there be travel? How often will characters be engaging in combat? How serious is the game (is it comedy, Tragedy, high drama or something in-between?)These questions give you a direction for the design of your character. It will allow you to make a character that will fit within the GM's campaign.

2) Come up with a basic idea of what the character is beyond adventuring.
ie Marine Corps Sniper, High Society Socialite, College Professor, News Reporter etc. This gives your character a life outside of adventuring and gives greater depth to their background. This step also can give you ideas for people who may be attached to the character both for good or bad (ie a Dependent or a person Hunting the PC) Write these ideas down.

3) Now work on the character's Adventuring side.
Wizard, Healing Priest, Person turned into metal, Thief/Rogue, Person who can create fire effects, Warrior. Be general at this point, specifics come next. Also think about quirks that will make this character different from any other character of your type(s)

4) Take those generalities and be more specific.
Write out what the character can do in plain english (don't even worry about opening a rule book yet). This step is VERY important for Super Heroes and for Spell Casters. Done right this will both help with writing up powers and will suggest weaknesses.Make sure that this list shows what you want your powers to DO. Fiery Body from being possessed by flame elemental is a good start, but you need to write down specifics of what the Character does with that Fiery body. The more specific and detailed the writeup the easier it will come to write up powers.
ie Fireperson the flaming superhero
a. Can project bolts of fire
b. Body's fiery aura can vaporize bullets and is resistant to heat effects
c. Being made of fire makes character lighter than air and allows her to fly
d. can see heat (ie Infrared Vision)

5) Discover the power level of the campaign.
You need the Point levels of the campaign (ie 350pt supers, 150pt Heroic normals).
Find how powerful should your attacks be (ie 10d6, AKA DC10, AKA 50pt attacks) and also the average and maximum Active Point values allowed for any power. Then find what the Dex and SPD range is and what the average number for both of those are. Average and maximum OCV, DCV, OMCV, and DMCV (for 5e players the last two are Mental combat values). Maximum and average PD and ED also maximums for unusual defenses (ie Power def, Mental def, Flash Def). The average is important as it tells you what most PCs should have for that ability, so you can decide whether your character should be above or below that value.

6) Start writing the character up using the rules.
This is where you open your Rule books and Genre books. I recommend starting with skills. See if you can find a write up of your profession in the genre book. Most of the professions have some sort of package that lists out skills (and complications) that are appropriate for that profession. You may think of more. Next work on Perks (things like favors, contacts and licences), Go onto Talents, then Powers. When you start to write up powers go back to your list of what your powers should do, then find the power in the book that best fits that write up. Start with the abilities that translate easy. (ie Can project bolts of fire; sounds like either a Blast or a Killing Attack Ranged or it can be both if you like).
b. This is also a good time to buy Int and Presence. Keep in mind that 3s and 8s are breakpoints and will save you points.

7) Now balance the character so they fall within the points budget.
This is a great time to see if some of the powers can be purchased in a Multipower. Also think of limitations on your powers. ie"Power requires a Roll" is a good limit for beginning heroes. Also think of weakness in those powers. ie Fire powers probably don't work under water or in Vacuum. This a good time to lower stats that you were kind of wishing for but don't break the character's concept to lower (ie Presence can be a good stat to lower). If you cant come under budget, then go onto the next step. You might find ways to save more points in the proofing stage

8) Proof the character vs campaign limits and power levels.
These question are to reality check the character so they aren't a total wimp or over-powered.

a. Do I have at least 1 attack power that is straight up dice of damage? (ie Strength, Energy Blast or Ego Attack). This means one attack power that has no advantages ie NND, Armor Piercing, Penetrating etc. If your powers all have gimmicks you can find yourself in situations where the character cannot damage their opponent(s) at all, which can make for a frustrating gaming experience.

b. Are my defenses = 2x to 2.5x the average damage dice (AKA Damage Class) being thrown in the game? (ie if the campaign is based on 50pt (10d6 powers), then I should have from 20-30 Defenses.

c. Can the PC take one attack at campaign average Damage Class with an average damage roll and not be stunned? (ie have my Con Score exceeded by damage taken after defenses) 1d6 does 3.5 average stun. so 3.5 x 10d6 = 35 stun on average - PD or ED (lets go with 20) and you take 15 stun which means that you need 16 Con to not be stunned by an average hit (round to 18 to take advantage of figured chars).

d. Do I have enough STUN to take 2 - 3 average attacks? ie using the numbers above the character takes 15 STUN per hit and should have 30 STUN to 45 STUN

e. Do I have enough End to use my most common attack + end using defenses + movement for one full turn? ie ((Sum Attack End Cost + Defense End Cost + Movement End cost/2)* SPD). Your movement end is halved is because you take half moves during any phase you attack.

f. Do I have a movement power that is faster than 12m/phase? or is moving slowly ok for the character concept. There is nothing more annoying in a Champions game than being the only character that is moving base movement. In a Heroic level game even moving a couple of meters more than base can be a huge advantage.

g. If your character has ego powers remember to have Mental Defense at 2x to 2.5x the dice of Mental Attack (not the dice of Telepathy or the other mental powers). The character should have around 20-30 Ego and OMCV and DMCV around 5-7. Most people never buy their DMCV above the base of 3 or their ego above 10. You can bank on this being true in all campaigns with the exception of ones that are all mentalist based. So take advantage of that fact to save points. For Telepathy, Mind Scan, Mental Illusions, and Mind control, you can reality check these by using the formula 3.5 x dice rolled -10 (avg ego). On a 10d6 attack you roll a 35 on average, subtract 10 for avg ego and get 25 which means that you get +20 effect on most rolls (with a -1 on breakout rolls on +20 effects to boot). 6d6 averages 21 which gets +10 vs most targets

h. Your CV scores should be at least campaign average. OCV should be at campaign average or average +1

i. This is a good time to buy any other Characteristics that I haven't talked about above.

9) Does the character still fit the points budget?
If you are under budget go to Complications/Disadvantages which is the next step. If not, then really look hard at all of your powers and skills and see if there are things that can be cut (and purchased later when you get exp). Also, see if there are extra limitation you can place on your powers to help save points.

10) Start putting together your Character's Complications (AKA Disadvantages).
Go back through your notes and see if any complications jump out at you. If the PC was a crusading lawyer or reporter perhaps some criminal is hunting the character. Perhaps you know that the character is curious, and/or has strong convictions against killing. Perhaps that body of flame has a weakness against cold attacks. Complications are good for the character. They give the GM something to grasp onto to help write adventures that involve the character beyond just being there. Don't be afraid to have that weakness to alien glowing rocks, or Ice attacks, have a sweet curious Aunt May, or a Wife/Husband,Girlfriend/Boyfriend. These things make your character interesting, not your powers and skills. If you are really hurting for ideas go to this site, it's a real nice resource for Physical, and Psychological Complications along with Social Complications Masterlist of Limitations

    a)Write your Compications all down in plain English just like you did for your powers. Open the book to the Complications Section (or Disadvantages if playing 5eR or earlier).
    B) Use the things you wrote down and see what Complications from the book fit best.

11) Transcribe the Character onto a character sheet Make one copy for you and one for your GM. If you use a program like Hero Designer it can make the whole process easier by taking the math out of the equation for you. Check it out on the Hero Games Web store. It’s inexpensive and makes character generation very easy. It also works for making both 5th Edition and 6th Edition characters.

12) Go through your notes and write down your character’s background.
ie Job/Career in other words what the character did before they started adventuring. A background can be anything from a bullet pointed list of events all of the way up to a short story. Make sure the GM receives that background along with the Hero system character sheet. You are done and if you have followed all of the steps you should have a well-rounded character that isn't a total wimp. A character who can contribute both inside and outside of combat, and has a background that the GM can use to write adventures that include the PC in the plot.

Congratulations you have finished your character!


  1. Been updating the blog post as people on Hero Games forums suggest changes.

    Will probably update/edit for clarity soon

  2. Tasha, this is awesome. Once recommendation I could make is to advise people on recommended cut-offs for stats to save CPs in a 5th Ed. game. IE: go for a 27 DEX vs 30 as it's cheaper but averages out in figured characteristics the same way. I remember back around 2nd or 3rd ed. they had that in the actual character building rulebook, but I haven't seen anything like that since. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for the comment. Though if you already are buying a 27 dex, you should go one more for a 28 dex and get the round up for Dex Rolls.

    Though the numbers work for 5e pretty well, I was thinking of 6e when I wrote the essay.

    The things to keep in mind for 5e and earlier is Str, Con and Dex give a ton of Figured stats. If you are buying up Multiple Figureds, you may find that buying up the primary will give you a bit of a boost and save points. Also remember that 3/s and 8's are important to the primaries due to skill round offs. Though if you are playing Heroic games 14 dex is a better buy than 13 due to CV round offs.