Heroes Orever! (Sic)
Let Your Immagination (Sic) Run Wild!
Role (Sic) A D12 To See What Happens!
When the game you’re about to create a character in has a cover layout so bad that part of the title is covered up, plus multiple spelling and grammatical errors on the back cover, you know you’re in for a winner! Sorry, I mean, you no your inn four a wynner! (Not sic… probably…)
As further evidence: The key table that provides the game’s resolution mechanic uses “Role” for “Roll”. I know lots of people like to spew out “It’s called role playing, not roll playing” when you confront them with their broken mechanics, but this takes it too far!
Anyway, “Heroes (F)orever” was published in 1999 by Guild of Blades, and republished in 2005, and is still available (with, gods old and new preserve us, a line of supplements) on Drive-Thru RPG. I am using the 1999 version, which I own. I own a lot of regrettable items. Writing these articles lets me justify them, because nothing justifies spending good money on bad games like spending an afternoon writing an article no one will read.
And my wife still puts up with me. Immagine (sic) that!
Oh, as for where I’m getting “immagine” (sic) from…
So as you can see, this is a work of rank professionalism. Really rank. I have a bunch of other GoB stuff lying around here, and if I’m feeling sufficiently masochistic, I might dig it out.
As there’s pretty much a spelling, grammar, and/or punctuation error on every page (it’s as bad on that score as Road Rebels, but Road Rebels actually had higher production values and did a better job of fulfilling its design goals), I’m not going to risk what little sanity I have reading this book in more detail than I have to in order to make a halfway honest attempt to build a character within the game’s expected paradigm. Thus, to be fair, it is certainly possible that in the course of this article, I may highlight some error, contradiction, or confusion which is, in fact, explained in the middle of an irrelevant paragraph 20 pages away from the rest of the rules.
As long as I’m discussing production values… the front and back cover art is probably the best the book has to offer, such as it is. The interior is a mix of barely-passable work by the defining artist of 70s RPGs, This Guy I Know, He’s Really Cool, He Did That Bitchin’ Painting On My Cousin’s Van, who came out of retirement for this product, and low-res (72 DPI from someone’s old Mac Plus, I am certain of it… in 1999!) clip art, and higher res (but still obviously bitmap, not vector) art that has been crudely scaled up or down and only occasionally bears any obvious relationship to anything discussed on the page.
But, for now, let’s make a hero!
Heroes Very Limited
As you might guess, an 80-page (more or less, not every page is numbered, because screw you, that’s why) digest-sized book does not, in fact, contain an extraordinarily complete game system. The bulk of the book is the power listing, and the powers are fairly inflexible. If you’re used to systems like Hero or GURPS, where you construct powers out of sets of generic effects, advantages, and disadvantages, you’ll be shocked to learn that’s not how it works here. While a handful of powers let you spend points incrementally to purchase levels, most just have a “You got it/You don’t got it” cost. There’s no real power modifier system to speak of; the handful of modifiers provided are not particularly useful. Want an energy blast that can’t affect wood, or want to have extra strength after dark, or trade off range for damage? Yeah, good luck with that. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Demonstrating tremendous creativity, individuality, and unwillingness to be bound by convention, the authors of Heroes Forever decided that the best place to present the rules detailing how a character is created would be the end of the book. Thus, you have a few dozen pages listing the point costs for powers, but no real idea how many points you get, until later. But I’m still getting ahead of myself. Let’s discuss the Mechanic. Because, yeah, there’s pretty much one.
Early in the book, we have a table. On the “Y” Axis is the number you “role” on a D12, because why not a D12? On the “X” axis are numbers which represent the relevant ability or modifier. In the body of the chart are some random numbers. I mean, seriously, they’re random. Remember, a D12 provides a linear result, so there’s no sense in placing the numbers out of order. Just have the dashes (meaning “failure/no effect”) at the low end and the results values following. The only “advantage” I can see to the random placement of the results is to prevent someone using loaded dice… and if that’s the main concern of your game design, buddy,you’ve got some problems.
The number, by the way, can be anything. It might be the hit points of damage you do. It might be an abstract “successes” number. It might be the winning lottery numbers… hey! Maybe this game was produced by the Dharma Initiative! Hey, remember when “Lost” was cool, and we all thought there was a deeply planned out backstory that tied everything together? Remember how colossally depressing it was to realize the writers had no idea what they were doing and just tossed random ideas out with no plan in mind? Remember when I was trying to make a character using an incoherent mess of a late-90s supers game? You do? Damn, if you’d forgotten, I could just spend the rest of my time whining about Lost. Well, fudge. Back to the game, I guess.
Behold! Electric Arrow!
I prefer random roll systems for these reviews, because it feels more “fair” to me. I want to give every game a decent chance, and it’s trivial to find ways to break a non-random game simply by being an asshole and trying to force it to do something it was never intended to do. (In the case of Heroes Forever, that would be “pass Remedial English”.) So to add a little randomness to this review… more than was used when deciding how to spell words in the game, that is… I went to a Random Superhero Name Generator, clicked a few times, and got “Electric Arrow”. Let’s use that as an inspiration.
After going to the back of the friggin’ book to find out how many points I get, I discover there’s three “Damage Class” levels. In other games, these would be “Power Levels” or “Game Styles” like “Street-Level” or “Four Color”, but here, they’re “Damage Class”. Meh. As gaming sins go, this is pretty venial. Anyway, the levels are 100 (baseline, “just better than human”, 350 “Damage Class 2”, which seems to be, roughly, “Fantastic Four/X-Men/Justice League not counting Superman or Wonder Woman” level, and “Damage Class 3”, which is “Superman/Thor” level, more or less. I should note that the descriptions of the Damage Classes are basically split between some stuff near the front of the book and this section at the back, and that the Damage Class 2 and 3 requirements mandate where you need to spend the bulk of your points.
Because I’m lazy, I will go with “Damage Class 1”. I figure “Electric Arrow” is a vigilante who uses a high-tech bow (possibly enhanced with motors, or something) and shoots, well, arrows that have tiny comic-book-tech super-batteries in them that will shock/stun miscreants, because having invented this technology, our hero… let’s call him, erm, Oswald Prince… thinks he can do more good sneaking out at night to shoot muggers in the local slum than mass-marketing it and selling it at cost to parts of the world with little or no reliable electrical infrastructure.
There are five attributes: Strength, Endurance, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Presence. The secondary attributes are Hit Points, Initiative, Dodge Bonus, Weapon Mastery, Defense Level, and Attacks. (That latter is “Attacks per Round”,. you default to 1, but you can spend 50 points to get a second. With only 100 total, I’ll skip it.)
We start at 2 in all of our primary attributes; human maximum is 10, but it’s made semi-clear in the description at the end of the book that even Damage Class 1 characters can exceed this, so I suppose the “Maximum” is there to let GMs know what non-supers should top out as. (Did I mention there’s virtually nothing about making NPCs, running the game, setting up fights, etc? There’s a resolution mechanic, two pages of combat rules, a page of optional combat “tactics” (a rule for being outnumbered, a rule for combining attacks on a target, and options for what happens when you run out of hit points), and the power listings, and that’s really pretty much it. Do you want to punch through a wall? There’s nothing here on how many hit points a wall has. The GM just decides if it’s possible (I would guess using the “Damage Class” descriptions as a rough guide), and then picks which attribute you use and how many successes/points/whatever you want to call the numbers in the Main Chart you need. But I digress.)
Addendum: I discovered “Normal Human” in the Disadvantages section. I’d take it, except that you can’t take powers, which (as will be shown below) I need to be able to make any kind of attack except with my fists.
Since Electric Arrow is supposed to be a vigilante type, I figure we want to focus on Dexterity as his most important stat. If we start at 2 and go up to 10 (making him on par with the best humans), that’s 24 points. Other base attributes should be pretty good, too.
Strength: 5 (6 pts). This lets him lift 500 lbs.
Endurance: 5 (6 pts). This adds 5 to his hit points, too, bringing them to 12.
Dexterity: 10 (24 pts)
Intelligence: 4 (6 points)
Presence: 8 (6 points)
That’s 48 points.
On to the secondaries: I want to be good with a bow, so that’s Weapon Mastery. If I raise it to the human maximum of 20, that’s 40 points, which doesn’t leave me with a lot. So let’s go to 10, for 20 points, and toss a few into other secondaries for now:
Hit Points: 12 is my base, I will spend 5 to bring that to 17. (5 pts)
Initiative: 2 (2 pts). This is added to my Dexterity for initiative.
Dodge Bonus: 3 (6 pts). Likewise, added to my Dexterity for dodging.
Weapon Mastery: 10 (20 pts). This is… you guessed it… added to my Dexterity for attacking with a specific weapon, namely, my bow.
Defense Level: This is bought as a power.
Attacks: I ain’t spendin’ 50 points for an extra attack.
So I’ve spent another 28 points so far, bringing our running total to 76 points.
And here’s where we hit yet another problem. My attack score with my bow is 20 (10 from Dex and 10 from Weapon Mastery). How good is that? Well, we would subtract a target’s Dexterity + Dodge to determine which column of the result table to roll on… and what’s a typical street thug’s stats? Or a generic low-level villain? Dunno. Maximum dodge, for any character, is 20. Hm. So is maximum dexterity. And the result table starts compressing things early on, so you get ranges like 16-25.
(Side note: Int, Dex, and Pre costs are multiplied by 5 when advancing them past 10. Fortunately, I don’t have to go recalculate anything.)
Now, how much damage does a bow do? There are no equipment tables. After a little searching, I found out that the attack roll is basically used to determine hit or miss. If you get a ‘-‘, you missed, otherwise, you hit. Then you use the power level of the attack, minus the defense level of the target, to determine the damage column. The actual attributes can vary; for a melee attack, you use Strength instead of Dexterity (logical enough, but it kind of screws martial artist archetypes).
Now, how do we add the “Electric” part to “Electric Arrow”? Since I can’t just buy a bow, I need some kind of attack power. This is not unusual for superhero games, where the range of possible attacks is so large that it’s better to start with the mechanics and then assign it a manifestation. Since I can “do anything that [my] immagination (sic) can thing of”, this should be easy, right?
The best thing I can find is “Energy Blast”, which includes “Kinetic” and “Lightning” as separate powers. The latter has a base cost of 10, +1 per attack level. The former has no base cost, just 1 point per level, and a range of 200′ (vs. the “line of sight” range of an electric blast… I suppose I shouldn’t have to mention I didn’t find any rules for range modification to “to hit” rolls). I suppose if I want the “electric” in my name to make sense, I have to go with Lightning Blast. Let’s take it up to level 10, for 20 points.
I need some defense, and I’ve got 8 points left. Might as well spend 5 on Armor. That leaves me 3. I will look at disadvantages, and then, go back a few paragraphs to write an addendum on the “Human Maximum” rule.
The “Age” disadvantage makes you subtract 2 from all your primary attributes. It grants you 30 points. Raising all of those attributes back up by 2 will cost you 22 points. So, for all practical purposes, it gives you 8 free points. Let’s take it! Oswald is a bit long in the tooth, but still precisely as spry as he was when we started this exercise, and I’ve got 8 more points, for a total of 11 left.
Skills? The skill section is notable for how the writers justify not including many skills (the list of skills not included seems cribbed from Champions, by the way). For example, there are no martial arts skills, because you just raise your combat stats. There is no “Driving” skill because, and I quote, “uhh, didn’t you learn that in high school”. (Capitalization and punctuation is (sic)). Lip Reading? “anybody has a chance of doing this, base it off your INT attribute”. (I guess Stephen Hawking is a world-class lip reader.) Acrobatics? “just purchase more DEX”. And so on. The actual skills provided are weird, presented in a manner more akin to what other games might have as “Backgrounds” or “Careers”… well, some of them. Pirate/Smuggler is like that. It also discusses how it applies to ship-to-ship combat, which is a major part of most typical supers games. “Disguise” is a skill, despite it being more self-teachable/”anyone can try” than acrobatics. “Vehicles” lets you drive/pilot something beyond a car or bike for 5 points/vehicle. You need to pick a specific vehicle, so if you can drive a bulldozer, you can’t drive a riding mower. (Hey, a riding mower isn’t a car or a bike, is it? Huh? Is it?)
Nothing there seems suitable for Electric Arrow, and I’ve got these 11 points burning a hole in my soul… I mean, pocket. The game itself is what’s burning a hole in my soul.
Let’s add “Blinding Flash” to his powers, as a kind of electric discharge. And speaking of “discharges”, this game reminds me of… never mind. That’s 10 points. With 1 point left, I might as well kick my hit points up by 1. You never know.
(I skipped over “Leathal Touch” (sic) and “Invisability” (sic), because I got kind of (sic).)
And thus, mercifully, we come to the end of another exciting exploration of “Lizard’s Pile Of Games He Picked Up Somewhere”. If anyone wants me to look at the 2005 edition and its supplements, you can bloody well buy them for me at Drive-Thru RPG and send me a download link. I ain’t payin’ for ’em.