The BLOOD of HEROES
The Superhero and Villain
Pulsar Games, Inc
Reviewed by Brent Knorr, 2001
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, that game came to an end. But, like any comic book death, things may not be as they seem. And, as is also the case in comic books, history is not static and things are subject to change and revision.
Pulsar Games, Inc, has licensed Mayfair’s “Exponential Game System” aka “DC Heroes” and in 1998 The Blood of Heroes
Role-Playing Game, written by Tony Oliveira and Ray Hedman come out as a 352 page softcover book with the complete game system and a roster of characters created for the Blood of Heroes Universe. In 1999, The Sidekick Sourcebook, a 184 page softcover book was published. Joshua D. Marquart had collected all of the rule clarifications and new rules, powers, advantages, drawbacks, maneuvers, etc that had been created on the Internet mailing list formed by a large contingent of fans of DC Heroes. These were cleaned up for internal consistency and became The Sidekick Sourcebook.
In August 2000, The Blood of Heroes Special Edition was published and sold out within two weeks.
The Blood of Heroes Special Edition, Second Printing was published in February 2001. There were a few revisions and some new artwork added between the first and second printings. This book combines the original Blood of Heroes RPG with the material from The Sidekick Sourcebook and adds a few new rulings. This is also a softcover book, with 366 pages and a much nicer cover. The font is slightly smaller, and they have gotten rid of the dark gray boxes that were hard to read in the original version.
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 the previous editions and The Blood of Heroes Special Edition.
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. A new addition to Blood of Heroes Special Edition is the option of gaining another additional 5 Hero Points for creating Personal Data for your Character. An example of a Personal Data section is provided. 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 no more difficult than designing a character under a D20 system 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 eighty or so pages give detailed descriptions of all the Advantages, Drawbacks, Bonuses, Limitations, Powers and Skills that are available in the game. This is about 20 pages more than what the original Blood of Heroes had. There are a wide variety of these, enough to make most characters you could think of.
The next four chapters are “The Rules”,”AP’s And The World”,”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 seventeen pages long, and includes rules on how to build gadgets, modify gadgets, and repair gadgets. The section on computers has been expanded significantly from the previous version. 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.
Chapter 8 is on Magic and is new for The Blood of Heroes Special Edition. I believe most of the rules existed in the previous version, but they have been gathered up into their own chapter for convenience and easy reference.
Chapter 9 covers Wealth, including buying items, purchasing parts for Gadgetry attempts, upkeep and bankruptcy.
The next four chapters are “Gamemastering”, which describes how to handle different types of Campaigns, how to recover from mistakes, how to set the mood and keeping stories on track. “Adventuring”, which describes how to create an adventure and set Standard Awards (Hero Points), “Subplots”, which covers how to create them and and how to work them info adventures. “Game Situations” covers more of the specifics in Gamemastering from a rules point of view, whereas the previous three chapters were more generalized.
“Genres” has been promoted from being a one and a half page appendix to being two page chapter, which now has additional paragraphs on Impossible Feats and Trick Powers. I’m not sure why these are in a “Genre” Chapter, but they are.
The “Power Creation” rules from The Sidekick Companion make up chapter 15
All in all, the rules section of the book covers 231 pages, up about 25 pages from the original. The next 114 pages presents The
Blood of Heroes universe, with over 100 sample characters. All of the characters, background and, and campaign information has been rewritten for The Blood of Heroes Special
Edition. Imust 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.
These are no longer printed on a dark gray pages, which was a complaint I had with the original edition.
Overall, this still remains my favorite system for Super Hero games. Having all the rules in one book again very nice. The artwork has been trimmed back in this edition, making more room for game information. Much of the remaining artwork has been improved. I found the tables much easier to read in this version, no more dark gray boxes. The price remains more than reasonable for a product of this size. It’s list price is $30.00 US.