Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hero 6th Edition: Decoupling Figured Characteristics

One of the big changes in the 6th Edition of Hero is the decoupling of the secondary characteristics from the primary characteristics, which caused a lot of furor when first announced, and still is a sticking point for longtime Hero fans.

It certainly pulls me in different directions.

Figured Characteristics
When I was first introduced to Hero, being intrigued by the concept of secondary stats which were figured from the primary ones. This was not something altogether new to me, having been introduced to the concept in my youth by the original Top Secret RPG.
It spoke to me because it meant certain consistencies in a very customizable point-based character creation system. Characters with high Strength would tend to have a better Physical Defense, while characters with high Constitution would tend to have better Endurance and a better Energy Defense, and so on.

However, it added to the complexity of learning the system and raised questions in a system that was often touted as one where "you can build EXACTLY the character you want". Part of that, aside from several innovations like separating game effect from special effect, was a very anti-GM fiat / pro-Player bias with the character sheet as a key contract in the game play. If it was on your sheet, you could use that ability as per the rules stated and the GM -- who could, of course, still throw ridiculously powerful enemies at you and manipulate the environment to take advantage of your weaknesses -- had to allow it if he'd agreed to let you play your obscene point-shaved monstrosity in the first place.

Why did it raise questions? Well, in a system where you can build "EXACTLY the character you want", why do you have to jump through extra hoops to build a high Strength character with a crappy Physical Defense by deducting points from your Physical Defense to spend elsewhere?

The concept of decoupling is to remove the derivation formulas from character creation. Therefore, no more
PD = STR/5
ED = CON/5

and so on. 
Now, this is a step towards one of the game's rep of building exactly the character you want, because you spend points on all characteristics to buy them up from  zero and the hidden infrastructure that built in consistency is replaced by guidelines for normal, excellent, and superpowered ratings for each. And it does help make teaching the game easier. And it does make character building easier.

But it also feels like the 6th Edition of the game has taken a major step away from one of the long-running defining elements -- the figured characteristics. 

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