[RPG] How does HERO system differ from other systems?


I'm interested in the HERO system. What does it do that other systems don't? What are its unique features?

I'm not so interested in a breakdown of the system itself (for example, all the stats), but in how it compares to other systems.

Best Answer

Succinctly, the things that make HERO distinct:

  • The game uses only 6 sided dice, and with typical super-heroic games, each player will need about 15 to 20 dice for comfortable play.
  • Point-buy system for creating all "characters" in the game (including inanimate things that have character-like status during play, such as bases, vehicles, robots, and so on), where the costs for character aspects are, for the most part, rationally based on a very small set of core principles (5 point gets you 1d6 worth of effect; 3 points gets you an ability based-skill roll at the base value, 2 points get you +1).
  • Nearly all special abilities are, essentially, built in an abstract fashion. You purchase a game-mechanical effect, and then you describe the "special effects" the power will have during play.
  • The point-buy system includes ways arrange groups of power-purchases in coordinated ways (frameworks) and awards you for this coordination (through cost breaks).
  • Actions in the tactical turn are all valued at "how much of a phase they require" -- in this way, HERO is similar to games that let you have "one standard action, one movement action, and one minor action" and give you a way to trade one action type in for another: HERO has actions that are full-phase, half-phase, 0-phase, and no-phase (there is a subtle distinction between these last two).
  • Player activity is organized into 12 segments each round, a character's SPD determines how many phases the character has each turn, and thus 12/SPD determines (roughly) the number of segments that transpire for each phase of a player's activity -- this means that low-SPD characters take much longer (in game time terms) to hit someone than high-SPD characters... this level of turn-by-turn complexity is very elegantly handled by the phasing mechanism, and I haven't seen this level of detail in any other RPG (I have seen games that use "phased activity", but even with these games, typically the amount of time it takes me to throw a punch is the same time it takes you to throw a punch: not so in HERO).
  • Injury in HERO is classified into several types: all characters have several measures of health: BODY, STUN, END. Reducing BODY kills a character, reducing STUN knocks a character out, and reducing END exhausts a character. All attacks are either "normal" attacks (reduce STUN, mostly) or "killing attacks" (reduce BODY, mostly). In general, tactical use of powers and long-term tiring activity reduces END. The way in which injury is calculated is rational and clever.
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