Monday, January 24, 2022

HERO 5E in the 2022 Character Creation Challenge

For say 24 I revisit the queen of the cryptids in the #charactercreationchallenge. 

Having done Champions 2nd edition I decided to move on as a test to HERO 5th, the other hero system game I have on my shelf. The much higher degree of detail on the powers and (especially) skills and talents, along with the much higher number of points to accommodate those changes, leads to not just the usual hero system paradox of choice where there are no guardrails to spark character ideas from the setting, so you're really helped by having an idea walking in, but the point economy being somewhat inflated. 

There are so many more points being sloshed around and so few set guidelines on where they should go with so many possible overlaps. For example, your PCs actual defensive ability is a mix of their Speed (which gives them more actions to default to), Dexterity for base Combat Value, Combat Maneuver and skill level choices, Armor, Resistant Defenses, Damage Reduction, etc. etc. that unless you're familiar with play it's really hard to know what's "good". This is less pressing in 2E where there were fewer points and options, but 5e PCs have nearly twice the points, but are supposed to be the same relative power level. That makes it really hard to balance. 

As a test, I took one of the heroes I made in my personal "campaign in a month" challenge from last year.

and built her in 5E to see what I got. The V&V PC, Ragk-Na, Queen of the Cryptids, was from a lost civilization with the knowledge areas of Government/Bureaucracy and Crime with super high charisma, reduced intelligence, and a disintegration power That got me to a sort of Conan-as-70's Hulk/Swamp Thing, someone not terribly bright who travels around and always sides against the local oppressor. From that we have the disintegration ray as barbarian combat. 

The Southern U.S. holds a hidden subterranean culture of cryptid humans, the last offshoot of the Neanderthals who had made it to North America via unknown means some 40,000 years ago. The Neanderthals settled in a deep cave complex running from north Alabama to the Florida panhandle. Ragk-Na ruled her tribe, and through her ferocity and cunning conquered all of their neighbors, forging an empire. Unfortunately, while she was smart, she was careless and misled by her genius (Int 6!) shaman-advisors into acts that impoverished some to the advantage of others. The rebellion left her shaman advisors in charge and Ragk-Na fleeing to places where none would follow: The Surface! 

Ragk-Na was lost among the magic of the people of the surface world, but the "Inherent Savage Nobility of the Cryptid Race" makes her compelling, and her advantages over humans make her a fierce combatant. She has ruminated on her mistakes, and her rough hewn honor makes her an impressive judge of human character. If Ragk-Na does not join in a conflict, you're probably on the wrong side. Compared to humans she's not terribly smart, nor capable of long-term plans, but she's honest and has learned to be just. She can speak, and has learned some English, but Neanderthal vocal structures are limited so she doesn't talk much, relaying on her face that conceals no craft or malice, her gestures and her clear empathy to get her point across as she moves from town to town across the American South and Gulf Coast, helping people deal with physical and moral threats. Shell-Crown of Rulership or no, she is every inch a queen. 

Ragk-Na is as strong and tough as humans can get without extensive training; she's stockily built, comparatively agile and radiates a quiet dignity or a terrifying presence based on circumstances. She's also capable of incredible combat ferocity:, armed with her beloved crystal-bladed spear and hatchet she is more accurate than all but superhumanly trained fighters, and can go into bursts of the Battle Rage of the Noble Savage and raining down blows that will destroy pretty much anything not made of super-alloy and lay even the strongest foes low. 

Moving her to hero made a lot of shifts, major and minor. I had to nail down a skill set rather than the broad AOKs, but while that was somewhat irritating it didn't take too long. The development of Neanderthal Martial Arts took longer, and there are some things, like her Defensive Move, that were added not because they were in the original conception but because they were in the rulebook and looked cool and I had a couple more points to what I budgeted for combat skills. I'm pretty sure her combat skills are solid – with the skill levels she has a OCV 10/DCV 8 with Offensive Strike and does a base of 7d6 damage to which she can add weapons, along with a decently high set of defenses – but depending on the campaign this could be too high or too low. 

Then we get to powers. Enhanced Senses is easy enough for her incredible judge of character (though this is probably more powerful than the original version), the Mental Defense and increase PRE and EGO when dealing the Cryptids both capture her fairly well. And a couple of dice in Luck because I've got the points. 

Weapons are where it gets interesting. In V&V she would just have whatever weapons I said she had, and they'd be normal gear and give an increase to hit and damage. In super-heroic HERO I have to work out the point cost for them. But I just don't want to spend the time on that, and I have points sloshing around, so I give her a Variable Power Pool for her weapons. My original pool had been 26 active, 13 control, with a the control needing a Focus, limited to weapons, and possibly with charges for any ranged attacks. 

But I have a million points sloshing around. And I don't want her to have to make skill checks in the middle of the fight to swap weapons, so I make it "cosmic", i.e. no time to change, no roll. (At this point Ragk-Na only had a Speed of 4; since I ended up with 10 points left I moved it to 5, and kept a half phase action on her changing her pool, but points sloshing around). I also boost the number of points to 30 AP.

Because of how I bought this, with the focus not on the control cost, I can put a focus on any individual power, lose the focus and not lose the points. For practical purposes she wouldn't be able to just use the same point array, but disarming her doesn't make her weaker. Plus, the limitation goes from 'weapon powers' to 'crystal weapons', so while she does most of this with killing attacks, HTH attacks, etc. it also opens up a vast range of other 'powers' that could be done by 'crystals' in a comic book sense. That means dispels of magic effects, missile deflections, force walls of using the crystal blade of the axe as a shield, etc. etc. While she never _has_ do so this, she _can_ and her versatility is now huge. 

Her potency is now much higher. She can take a HTH Killing Attack at 20 points with 0 END cost (30 AP), which with her STR turns into 40 AP. And if she makes an offensive strike with the weapon element and damage class boost its 65 AP, or 3d6+1 killing attack. (Or she can hit them with the haft of the spear or flat of the axe for 13d6! Is this too much? I don't know. 

Her disadvantages (though I really like the Champions Now formulation of Situation) I had the advantage of the other character I made last February as people to be hunting her, but I added some friendly cryptozoologists as her support cast. Not as weird as a Gerber 1970's character, but it grounds her some. 

I like the character concept a lot, but it's hard to say whether she's well designed. 

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