The BLOOD of HEROES
The Superhero and Villain RolePlaying Game
Pulsar Games, Inc
Once upon a time, there was a very good Super Hero Roleplaying game called DC Heroes that was put out by Mayfair Games. But, alas, at some point they lost the license or didn't renew, and the game came to an end. But, like any comic book death, things may not be as they seem.
The Blood of Heroes Role-Playing Game, written by Tony Oliveira and Ray Hedman and published by Pulsar Games, Inc, has licensed Mayfair's "Exponential Game System" aka "DC Heroes" and come out with a 352 page softcover book with the complete game system and a roster of characters created for the Blood of Heroes Universe.
The book starts with the typical "What is a Role-Playing Game" section, along with a disclaimer that even though you can play nasty villains, the author's don't endorse that sort of activity in real life. The editor then kindly provides a one page summary on page 3 of what has changed between Mayfair's exponential game system and The Blood of Heroes game system. This is quite handy for those who are familiar with DC Heroes and gives a good jump start into the game.
Chapter One is the Introduction and is where the eight basic Ideas that you need to understand the Blood of Heroes RPG are presented. The first of these ideas is Attribute Points, abbreviated as AP's. This is the basic form of measurement in the game, and is used for everything including time, distance, volume, character attributes and skills, and damage done in combat. The key to the game is that by expressing everything in AP's, it becomes easy to transfer one unit of measurement to another, such as a character's strength to how much he can lift. Each type of measurement is given an Effect Unit that corresponds to a real world value. This Effect Value is equal to 0 AP's. For example, the Effect Unit for weight is 50 lbs, and the Effect Unit for time is four seconds. Each additional AP of measurement is worth twice as much as the one before it, giving an exponential progression. Thus one AP of weight is 100 lbs, two AP's of weight is 200 lbs, and three AP's of weight is 400 lbs.
The second basic Idea is Attributes, which are the natural abilities that every Character possesses. There are nine Attributes, broken into three groups.
The Physical Attributes are:
Dexterity is your Character's skill in using his hands and body, the degree of control he has over his physical self, or his ability to deflect a Physical Attack.
Strength is your Character's physical power, the amount of physical force he can bring to bear on an object.
Body is more than just your Character's physical self. It is his resistance to physical damage.
The Mental Attributes are:
Intelligence is a measure of how easily your Character grasps ideas, the degree of control he has over mental energy, and his ability to manipulate information.
Will is your Character's mental power,
Mind is your Character's resistance to mental damage in the form of Mental Attacks.
The Mystical Attributes are:
Influence is the force of a Character's personality, his ability to affect the emotions and responses of others, and his mystical potential.
Aura is the effectiveness of your Character's personality, his ease at controlling a group, and his mystical strength.
Spirit is your Character's ability to resist fear, his control of emotion, and his resistance to Mystical Damage.
There is a second way that the attributes are divided up, this is Acting/Opposing, Effect, and Resistance Attributes.
The first Attribute of each of the Physical, Mental, and Mystical types is considered an Acting/Opposing Attribute. These are used to determine if an action is successful, usually by comparing your Character's attribute to the opposing Character or objects same attribute. Often this attribute is replaced by a Power or Skill that the Character may have.
The second of each of the Attribute types is considered an Effect Attribute. Effect Attributes are the amounts of power that a Character can direct at an opponent or object once it has been determined that his action is successful.
The third of each of the Attribute types is Resistance Attributes. These determine how much damage a Character can take in physical, mental, and mystical areas.
The third Idea is rolling the dice. Blood of Heroes uses two ten sided dice. If you are rolling 1D10 and get doubles, you have the option to roll again and add the results. You can keep doing this as long as you get doubles, but if at any time you roll double 1's, you automatically fail at the action you were attempting.
The fourth and fifth Ideas are using the Action Table and the Result Table. These seem somewhat intimidating at first, but if you take the time to read through the descriptions and follow the examples, they soon start to make sense. These are very important to the game, once you know how to use them, you know how to resolve almost any action in the game. The Action Table tells you if you were successful in the action you attempted, if you are, the Results Table tells you how effective your action was. Just because you are successful in your action, doesn't always mean it has an effect. Anyone can successfully hit a brick wall with their bare fist, but it usually takes someone with special skills or powers to actually do damage to the wall.
The sixth Idea consists of Skills and Powers. The difference is that Skills are something that the average human can be proficient in , Powers are something that only "super" Characters possess. You can also attach Bonuses and Limitations to skills and powers.
Idea number seven is Hero Points. These are earned through adventuring and can be used to obtain items, Powers, Skills, or temporary increases to Character Values during play. Basically, you want to spend some to permanently improve your character, but you always want to keep a few in reserve to save your bacon during adventures as well.
Idea number eight is Automatic Actions. This is a discussion of actions that are so simple to perform that they do not require a die roll. An example is a Character with 6 AP's of strength does not need to make a roll to lift an object that weighs 6 AP's or less.
The next section is a short walk through adventure that helps demonstrate how the game works, which then leads into the Character creation section.
Characters begin with 450 Hero Points and use these to purchase Attributes, Powers, Skills, and Advantages. You can also gain additional Hero Points by selecting Drawbacks for your Character. You can choose to play a Heroic Character, a Villain, or an Anti-Hero, who falls somewhere between a Hero and a Villain. Of course this selection will be limited according to the type of campaign that the Game Master is going to run. Character creation can be fairly straight forward and quick if you are creating a Character with only one or two Powers, or it can be quite involved and complicated if you want a Character with alot of Skills, Powers, Linked powers and Bonuses and Limitations.
One of the interesting features of the Character Generation is the option to create a Background, Description and Personality for your new Character. You can gain an additional 15 Hero Points for each of these that you do. This encourages and rewards those players who do more than just come up with a set of numbers to represent their Characters.
Another aspect of Character Generation is the selection of a Motivation for your Character. Why has he or she decided to slap on the spandex tights and run around fighting other super powered beings? There is a choice of several motivations for the different Character types
Personally, I find the Character Generation system to be a reasonable balance between being easy to use and being able generate a unique character. It is harder to use than something like the Star Wars RPG, but easier than something like Rolemaster. A spreadsheet or character generation program is useful, but not a requirement.
After the Character Generation section, there is a section on Experience and Character Growth. This covers what sort of activities you gain Hero Points for, what can cause you to forfeit Hero Points for an adventure (for example a Hero who initiates Killing Combat) and how to spend your Hero Points on improving your character after the adventure is over. You can even add completely new Powers and Skills to your Character if you want, although it is awfully expensive to do so.
The next sixty or so pages give detailed descriptions of all the Advantages, Drawbacks, Bonuses, Limitations, Powers and Skills that are available in the game. There are a wide variety of these, enough to make most characters you could think of.
The next four chapters are "The Rules","The AP system","Combat" and "Character Interaction". These go through in more detail the concepts introduced earlier in the book. Again, it looks a little intimidating to start with, but once you actually start using it, the system works very well and goes quite quickly, which is important in a Comic Book universe.
Also important in a Comic Book universe are gadgets. Life just isn't complete without your handy can of Bat Shark Repellent. Gadgets are built in a manner similar to Characters. They can have Attributes, Powers and Skills. Gadgets can also have a reliability number, which is a measure of how frequently the Gadget jams, breaks down, or just plain fouls up. The Gadget section is sixteen pages long, and includes rules on how to build gadgets, modify gadgets, and repair gadgets. There is also a four page section of examples of real world gadgets. One of the things that impressed me about the original DC Heroes game, which is carried over into The Blood of Heroes RPG was how they dealt with the Batman problem. That is, how is it that Batman always seems to have the exact item he needs stored in his utility belt? What are the odds that someone designing a Character that uses gadgets would have actually included Shark Repellent? The answer is: The Omni-Gadget!
Omni-Gadgets are devices whose exact Powers and Attributes are not defined until the gadget is taken out and used. Of course there are several limitations on what an Omni-Gadget can and cannot do. Basically you make a gadget that has a certain number of unassigned AP's, it costs 5 times as much as a regular gadget, and for additional costs you can increase the range of potential abilities it may have. All in all, a very elegant solution to the problem.
The next thirty pages covers Gamemastering, both in a general sense as well as specifics related to the game. There are sections on keeping stories on track, awarding Hero Points, creating NPC's, balancing combat, and an entire chapter on Subplots.
All in all, the rules section of the book covers 205 pages. The next 126 pages presents The Blood of Heroes universe, with over 100 sample characters. I must confess, I just gave this section a quick flip through, as I'm more interested in either creating my own universe, or using an existing comic book universe as my campaign setting. But it is definitely a good resource for Character ideas and examples. The last few pages list some Animals that Characters may encounter, and some reprints of some of the commonly used Tables and a Character sheet. Unfortunately, these are printed on a dark grey pages (the Character sheet is abit lighter), it would have been nice to have printed these on a white page and include a "permission to photocopy" tag.
Overall, this still remains my favorite system for Super Hero games. The production value and artwork are not up to those of the older Mayfair Games, but are reasonable especially considering this is probably a rather small organization. The price was also reasonable for a product of this size. I actually would have prefered to see the Appendix with all the characters come out as a seperate book, it would have made the size of the rulebook a little more managable, but I can understand why they included it. I think they knew if they seperated them, people like me would only buy the rules and not the character supplement and they are hoping to get people interested in their universe.
Stay tuned next month for a review of the Sidekick Sourcebook, a Blood of Heroes Rules Companion, and possibly a list of where you can find some additional resources on the Web, such as Character Sheets and Character Generators. If anyone knows of some good ones, drop me a note or post them to the Discussion Board, even if the are designed for DC Heroes.