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A commentary and journal site for the author. Topics will include Christian issues, gaming, comics, cartoons, news, and anything else I feel like talking about at the moment. Send comments to stranger894@yahoo.com

 

Friday, September 06, 2002

 
HERO SYSTEM 4th to 5th Edition Checklist & Commentary
Tentative Draft, MRU 9/6/2

LEGAL STUFF

HERO SYSTEM Fifth Edition (The Ultimate Gamer's Toolkit) is a trademark of DOJ, Inc. All rights reserved.
The HERO SystemTM ® is DOJ, Inc.'s trademark for its roleplaying system. See www.herogames.com for more information.
The author of this post (the person behind the website) is in no way affiliated with DOJ, Inc.

GENERAL STATEMENT

There are a large number of clarifications, codifications, and such throughout the rules. There’s no way I could discuss them all without a> becoming even more insane and b> having to quote so much from the book as to violate one of HERO’s policies. As such I’ll be concentrating on the things that have a major effect, are especially interesting, will require characters to change character sheets – and, in a very few cases, things that bother me too much to keep silent about.

Please note that anything following the COMMENT header is commentary by me. I will be trying to italicize these sections as well -- emphasis on "trying" given my still-developing html skills.

Package Deals

POINT: There is no longer a “Package Bonus”
COMMENT: And that’s a good thing, if you ask me. That never made much sense, even if you counted them toward the disadvantage maximum.

POINT: The system originally used in Fantasy HERO for changing the Characteristic Maxima for racial packages wasn’t made official – and all indications are that they won’t be used at all.
COMMENT: I’m torn on this one myself. I’ve long had this one filed as “there’s gotta be a better way to do this”, but the system was functional if flawed.

Characteristics

POINT: There has been no change to the cost of characteristics, or to the formula used to determine figured characteristics.
COMMENT: And that’s a bad thing – the reasons for this decision is obvious (grandfathering old characters and avoiding disputes) but that doesn’t make it the right decision. One of the problems you run into in NCM-level campaigns is the imbalance created by the formulas for figured attributes, as it relates to the costs for Strength & Constitution.
* The math works like this: 10 points of Strength works out to 11 points worth of figured attributes (2 pips of PD, 2 pips of REC, and 5 pips of Stun for 2+4+5 points); 20 points worth of Constitution (10 pips) works out to 21 points worth of figured attributes (2 pips of ED, 2 pips of REC, 20 pips of END, and 5 pip of Stun for 2+4+10+5 points). Figure rounding into that equation and it gets even more out of whack.
* As a result, there is a strong desire to buy up Strength & Constitution even for characters for which it isn’t appropriate – like wizards in a fantasy campaign. Yes, the GM certainly has the power to veto that sort of thing; I however am from the camp that says the veto power of a GM shouldn’t be an excuse for maintaining a flaw in the rules.


POINT: The rules for negative characteristics (from HERO Almanac 1) are now official.
COMMENT: Some experience dictates that these rules are slightly overpowered for NCM-level campaigns and that the “shift” can seem too sudden. Of course without this you get the arguments about adjustment powers being too expensive for what they deliver… A welcome addition.

POINT: “The Defender Exploit” is now actually part of the rules. That is, characteristics bought as a Power (usually with a limitation) are not affected by NCM limitation.
COMMENT: Although I’ve played in enough NCM campaigns to understand why some would want this (characteristic bonuses from equipment in NCM-campaigns can get somewhat confusing if you enforce it), I’m still filing it under “Bad enough that I probably won’t allow this in my campaigns”. The main “argument” in favor of it seems to be “Hey if you don’t like it, disallow it” excuse. As such this takes a place of dishonor on the short list of misfires in 5th Edition.

Time Chart

POINT: An alternate time chart mentioned in previous products (HERO Almanac 1 comes to mind) is now the official one.
COMMENT: File this one under “good news”. The old chart was too herky-jerky.

Talents

POINT: Several Talents are now considered Skills. This list includes Cramming, Defense Maneuver, and Fast Draw
COMMENT: File under “good news”. It has long been my opinion that Talents was a holdover from the early days of the HERO system, when GM’s wanted a clear-cut way to say “You can’t have this in my campaign.” I’m a little surprised by Defensive Maneuver, though, which I expected to be under Martial Arts. That said I like the new stacking mechanic it uses.

POINT: The flip side thereof being, Find Weakness & Luck are now treated as powers. Immunity now exists as part of the well-expanded Life Support rules.
COMMENT: “Good news”, especially in Immunity’s case. It’s long been obvious that Immunity was redundant with Life Support, and its cost wasn’t balanced therewith.

POINT: Ambidexterity, Lightning Reflexes, and Speed Reading now have a “tiered” cost system.
COMMENT: A good call, in each case this allows for a range of effects instead of absolutes – something very good for NCM campaigns. However, see my “Talent Nitpick” below.

POINT: Combat Luck is an interesting way to reflect limited damage resistance in certain genres.
COMMENT: This is one that some people are having trouble with. My own experience is that I often ended up doing things like this myself, so I don’t care too much one way or the other.

POINT: Combat Sense & Danger Sense cost more than before – and are now consistent with the Sense rules.
COMMENT: This is a good example of a time when grandfathering would have been a mistake, and something I’m glad to see changed. If only they’d been this courageous about other things… However, see the “Talent Nitpick” below.

POINT: Double Jointed now costs 4 points instead of 3.
COMMENT: Another one for the “When grandfathering would have been a mistake” file, albeit a rather trivial one.

POINT: Eidetic Memory now costs 5 points instead of 10.
COMMENT: Yet another one for the “Grandfathering would have been a mistake” file. EM was always too expensive for what it really did in a campaign.

POINT: Environmental Movement is a new talent.
COMMENT: Mild ball-dropping note here: there are no specifics of how to figure the cost in the description, although the numerous examples in the sidebar fill the void.

TALENT NITPICK
* I’ve always found the Talent section to be more than a little redundant. Had 5th Edition eliminated them by splitting them into powers & skills I’d be cheering. Yes, I’m perfectly aware that Talents allow a GM to add pre-made powers into the campaign. Yes, this variant is a leap ahead of 4th edition in consistency.
* Still, I find Talents to be the proverbial “sore thumb” in a system that is otherwise VERY internally consistent. It’s not unlike being in a self-serve restaurant/buffet that has wait-staff that get $2.13 an hour because they’re expected to earn tips – it may not be that big a deal, but it’s still contradictory.


Skills

POINT: There is no such thing as a General skill – all skills are/can be attached to an ability score now.
COMMENT: Another one for the “good news” file, especially for people who felt it made some skills excessively expensive relative to their usefulness.

POINT: The “Analyze Style” skill reflected in Ninja Hero/Ultimate Martial Arts appears in a limited form now – the Analyze Skill.
COMMENT: File under “unexpected but good”. Many people fond of Analyze Style in low-powered campaigns felt that making it a 3/1 skill was too cheap; having it official as a 3/2 skill corrects that.

POINT: There is now a type of Combat Skill Level called “Autofire Skills”. Instead of acting against the penalties, however, they modify the penalties directly. There are also skills called “Rapid Attack”, “Teamwork”, and “Two Weapon Fighting” that works similarly.
COMMENT: File under “I want to play with these before I say too much”, although on the surface I love the premise behind them. Also see further comments under “Rule Changes/Additions” below.

POINT: There is now a difference between the way Combat Skill Levels affect damage dealing between Heroic and Superheroic campaigns.
COMMENT: Another one for the “I want to play with this…” file.

POINT: Range Skill Levels have been replaced with Penalty Skill Levels.
COMMENT: I’m not surprised, the previous method of buying limited CSL’s was clunky.

POINT: There is now a Power skill to reflect skill with individual powers.
COMMENT: One of the few good things about GURPS Supers, and something I’m glad HERO picked up.

POINT: It is now possible to have Negative Skill Levels as an optional rule.
COMMENT: This closes one of the few holes in HERO as a system.

Perks

POINT: A number of the perks seem to have been designed with a more modern or sci-fi campaign in mind. The rules for Contacts have been expanded and clarified. Contrary to one report, the limitation regarding Followers/Bases/Vehicles and the main character’s point value has been maintained.
COMMENT: All of which are good.

POINT: There now exists a Reputation Perk, to reflect those times when a reputation is a good thing.
COMMENT: I have mixed opinions on this one, actually. In my GURPS experience people tended to take counterbalancing reputations – one can argue that every reputation has good and bad reputations. At least in HERO they don't have the same value (Reputation as a perk is much cheaper).

COMMENT: An interesting but subtle note: the Deep Cover perk allows a good way to distinguish between “soft” secret identities (for example, Kyle Raynor’s “secret” that he’s Green Lantern) and “hard” ones (like Batman’s).

Powers

POINT: Aid now costs 10 points per d6. When used to restore characteristics/powers below initial scores, it still fades.
COMMENT: At first that one qualified as “Huh?” Then I saw the reason – with Healing actually taking the role of restoring attributes/powers, this keeps Aid from counteracting a Drain with an extended duration too cheaply.

POINT: Change Environment has been GREATLY expanded, far beyond the scope of what I can discuss here.
COMMENT: Take me literally – it went from 3 paragraphs & an example in 4th Edition to taking up 2 whole pages in 5th Edition. Change Environment has finally taken its rightful place alongside Mind Control, Transform, Mental Illusions, and Summoning as a “Hole Plugging Tool”; that is, the powers you use to replicate very odd effects. This expansion/clarification is easily one of the best things about 5th Edition.
* I do have a gripe though (come on, this is me talking here) – the explicit prohibition against using it to create light. Sorry, Charlie, but that violates the whole “Don’t get too worked up trying to figure out the “right” way to do something” rule later in the book, so forgive me if I’ll be ignoring that little tidbit.


POINT: The cost of sense-affecting powers – Darkness, Flash, Images, and Invisibility – are now partially dependent on whether the senses affected is targeting or not. This also applies to Shape Shift now, which for all practical purposes is a sense-affecting power (although it’s still listed as Body-Affecting if you must be technical). What’s more, they now operate by Sense Group by default.
COMMENT: While not the most important change, this one is one of the most welcome in terms of balance. Affecting a whole group by default makes more sense, and eliminates a munchkin trick. Even without the other changes to Flash, this alone would have almost brought it into balance.
* I’m especially impressed by the change to Shape Shift, in effect making it a special case of Images. This power never did anything except fool people’s senses anyway, why shouldn’t it’s functionality be based on senses? This is easily the greatest example of a time where the right thing was done when grandfathering would have been a mistake.


POINT: Desolidification now has an official disadvantage that can be used to simulate invulnerability to specific things. However, there is no longer any mention of the +20 Adder to be invulnerable to mental powers!
COMMENT: For those who think the lack of invulnerability was a hole in the rules – and I’m not one of them – this plugs it. The removal of the “immune to mental powers” +20 adder is quite a shock and caught me off-guard. I’ve done some research and it turns out other people have noticed this, so it must not be a simple case of bad editing (there are other errata listed for that page, for example). In a way I’m glad, as it does eliminate a potential abuse and was more valuable than a mere +20 base points.

POINT: Duplication has a new limitation – the duplicate also can’t differ that much from the original form without an advantage. It has a number of changes to make it consistent with Followers/Bases/Vehicles. The biggest is that there is no longer a maximum cap on the power of the duplicates; close behind this is the dramatic simplification & reduction in cost for multiple forms (they now cost 5 points for x2 forms).
* COMMENT: There’s a lot to discuss here so let’s get started. Duplication was always one of those powers that didn’t work as well in HERO as it did in the comics – the “x2 forms for +5 points” goes a long, long way towards correcting that right off the bat. Getting rid of the old maximum value limitation is understandable – it was almost always involved some of HERO’s trickiest math.
* On the surface the new costing structure – by which the duplicates can be worth more than the base form – looks ripe for abuse. Until you sit down and do the math, and discover the teensy ruling that mitigates it, that is. Because having a duplicate with more points is by nature different from the original (page 102, column B, paragraph 1), doing this DOUBLES the cost of duplication with a +1 advantage. While this brings Duplication back to its original cost structure if you’re below your maximum, it means that in practical terms you’re going to be spending 2 points per point over the base form.
* Let’s use the example of a 350-point character that wants to create multiple 400-point duplicates. You start off with 70 points for 350, then add 50 points to bring it to 400. So before we get passed our first duplicate you’re staring down 120 points. Double that twice for +10 points and you’re looking at 130. But once you start figuring in advantages, that goes straight to 260 points – leaving the base form with all of 90 points, less than the average Heroic character.
* It’s still a mild abuse, however, but nowhere near what it initially appeared to be.


POINT: Unsurprisingly, the Enhanced Senses section was greatly expanded with obvious carryover from Steve Long’s sense-related article in HERO Almanac 2. Detect in particular gets a much expanded treatment from any previous one I’m aware of.
COMMENT: Speaking as a big fan of that article, this is a good thing. The expansion of Detect is especially welcome; the previous rules were a little vague.

POINT: Entangle has been changed to make a common house rule official (allowing the purchase of +1d6 or +1 DEF for 5 points, although DEF/Body bought this way cannot more than double the base). The examples listed, especially in the way of advantages & limitations, clarify a number of areas long overdue for it.

POINT: Flash now costs 5 points per d6 instead of 10 points per d6. However, it operates by segments instead of phases.
COMMENT: I had heard this was going to be done a while back and have been using it ever since. It works quite well. It's true that it hoses high-SPD characters -- of course, one can easily make the argument that such a "check" on high-SPD was needed.

POINT: Force Wall, like Change Environment, is a good example of a case where the rules were explained in much more detail – going from a few paragraphs in 4th to two full pages in 5th.

POINT: Hand Attack has been changed to be more consistent with the price of Strength. It now costs 5 points per d6 (like Energy Blast) but has No Range as a mandatory limitation.
COMMENT: The rules geek in me is glad they did something, but I'm not 100% behind the change they made. If HKA & RKA have the same cost, why should Ranged Normal Damage and Hand Normal Damage have different costs? The answer of course is related to that whole Strength issue, although I'll be the first to say I don't think raising the cost of Strength to 2 points per pip is the way to go about fixing this.

POINT: Healing is is a new power that represents a combination of Regeneration and the former ability of Aid to heal damage & permanently restore lost character points due to adjustment powers.
* COMMENT: Before I go any further, let me say that while this sounds like a good idea, in practice it seems to have led to a great deal of confusion & dithering. Perhaps Regeneration should have been left on its own. Back to the facts first...

POINT (cont): First, it has the “new” 10 pt per d6 cost ala Aid. The shocker however is that it is now limited in how many points it can restore as per Aid – but unlike Aid you are explicitly forbid to increase this in any way!
* COMMENT: I understand the reason for putting a healing cap in place, really I do. I’ve run enough fantasy-style HERO campaigns to understand the issue unlimited healing creates. However I have a problem with this rule. The first is the whole “You can’t do something” thing – I think we all know this just screams “…without the appropriate advantage or adder” to any long-term HERO buff. The flexibility of the rules is one of HERO’s strengths, such a prohibition just seems outside the spirit of the rules.
* As for the “teamwork” issue, by which the cap applies to everyone healing that character, I have no problem with this one. Truthfully I’ve long used a variant of this with Aid so this is more of a clarification than a change for me anyway.
Second, Regeneration now exists as an “option” that involves starting with Healing and adding a standard set of advantages & drawbacks. It actually ends up a little cheaper than it did before (8pts per BODY instead of 10).
* What’s most interesting about this situation is that it paves the way for having Regeneration that restores things other than just BODY damage – Stun, for example.


POINT: the “Does not provide Mental Awareness” limitation from Steve Long’s HERO Almanac 2 sense article is presented officially.
COMMENT: File this one as "Unsuprising yet disappointing." The fact that Mental Awareness was given for free is something that’s long bothered me. I plan to go back to my traditional method of requiring the 3 points to buy separately.

POINT: Missile Deflection is affected by a clarification/change to the rules for Aborting an action. Basically you can’t abort to an action if you’ve done something in that phase – even if that’s a “carryover” Block/Deflection.
COMMENT: For me this is a clarification, for many it will be a change.

POINT: Multiform has many of the same changes as Duplication (see above). There is one major difference however – it does not have the change in cost when a form exceeds the value of the base form, nor an increase in cost due to mandatory advantages when that happens. However, any damage taken in one form is now carried over between other forms as well.
COMMENT: From where I sit this looks like a mistake. The part about transferring damage is a balancing factor, but I’ll have to try this out to see if it’s enough of one. There’s a good chance I’ll end up house ruling the increase in cost for more powerful forms, though, for consistency’s sake if nothing else.

POINT: Transform is now Cumulative by default.
COMMENT: That sound you hear in the background is a large number of long-time HERO fans singing the Hallelujah chorus.

Advantages

POINT: Many advantages now have “limited” versions that smaller advantages instead of Partially Limited. For example, if the original is +1/2 the limited form is +1/4. This includes Affects Desolid, AVLD, Autofire, BoECV, Double Knockback, NND, and Sticky.
COMMENT: This is a welcome addition! There has always been a shortage of good +1/4 advantages in HERO.

POINT: Autofire has a new +1/4 option to have 2-3 shots instead of 5. While you still double the number of shots, it’s a +1/2 advantage instead of a +1/4 advantage (firing 10 shots would now be a +1 advantage, firing 20 would now be a +1½). “Not versus Normal Defense or normal CV roll” mechanic is now a straight +1 instead of doubling the Autofire advantage.
COMMENT: I’m to going lie about it, I’m disappointed that the doubling of shots is still part of the system. While the increase for doubling from +1/4 to +1/2 makes it more expensive, it does little to correct some of the craziness that can result. Making the “Not versus Normal” thing a straight +1 is a welcome simplification, though, and I have to give them credit for spelling out pretty explicitly in the power descriptions whether or not it applies.

POINT: Cumulative can now be applied to other powers (such as Mind Control). However, it has an upper limit mechanic like Aid/Healing; you can double the limit with an additional +1/4 advantage.
COMMENT: Without a cap of some sort, cumulative mental powers can get out of hand in a hurry. I’m not sure +1/4 is enough of a cost increase to raise the cap, though…

POINT: Damage Shield has been “clarified” (Steve Long’s choice of words, not mine) to require the Continuous advantage.
COMMENT: File this under “I want to play with it” – with the “but I don’t like what I see” specification. This is easily the least popular change in 5th – and rhetoric aside, this is a change for most people and is not reflected in any previous product I can find (Ninja Hero & UMA 4th Edition being two noticeable examples).

POINT: Does Body is now an official HERO Advantage (+1)
COMMENT: For all practical purposes, it was anyway. I’ll probably continue to use my longstanding “AVLD at +2 Does Body, NND’s never can” house rule though.

POINT: Several advantages (Reduced END, Continuous, & Persistent) are now covered under a single header – Duration Advantages. There is also a new member, Inherent.
COMMENT: Jury’s still out, but Inherent might be too cheap for what it does. Then again, you have to pay a heck of a lot just to qualify for it.

POINT: Invisible Power Effects now has an explanation of how to build a power whose effects aren’t easily noticed. Like sense-affecting powers it’s cost is determined by whether or not the sense groups affected are targeting or not – although making a power fully invisible is still a +1 advantage.

POINT: Megascale is one of the biggest and most welcome changes, allowing characters to change what an “inch” is when dealing with the rules. This has the biggest effect on movement powers, almost single-handedly eliminating one of the clunkiest aspects of HERO.
COMMENT: One nitpick though, the first jump is WAY too big – going from an “inch” being 2 meters to being a full kilometer! The rest of the scale follows a straight x10 mechanic. I for one will probably be inserting a 100m step, and possibly a 10m step as well.

POINT: Penetrating is now listed with a “Yield” sign...
COMMENT: ...as it always should have been.

POINT: There is a new category of advantages called “Range advantages”. It includes the No Range Modifier advantage, a new +1/4 “Increased Range” advantage, and a new +1/2 “Line of Sight” advantage.
COMMENT: Oddly enough, “Ranged” itself is listed separately despite obviously fitting under the same header.

POINT: The bad news for Trigger is that there is a particularly troubling example listed (page 175, column A) that figures into the problems related to Damage Shield. The good news is there are now set rules regarding misfires (it reduces the Trigger advantage by ¼)
COMMENT: The most telling thing to me is that the “whenever the character is touched” trigger is directly disallowed, yet one of the 5 examples (3 in sidebar, 2 in text) examples uses a trigger called “Whenever I need it.” Forgive my rule-lawyering, but from where I sit this example is giving the character Delayed Effect for free.

Disadvantages

POINT: At first glance Ablative has been eliminated. This isn’t the case, though: it’s been moved to page 77 in the description of power types. It now has two versions, the old one (drops if Stun or Body exceeds) for –1, and a new “only if Body exceeds” version for –1/2.
COMMENT: This is a rare misfire in layout in my opinion. The –1/2 version might not limit the defensive powers enough to justify that value. Additionally, it still “works” the old way – which is to say, it don’t really function as well as I’d like.

POINT: The rules for Charges have been greatly expanded/clarified, including a new option called “Boosted”
COMMENT: Charges has always been one of the squirrelly areas of Champions, the new examples clean them up.

POINT: Costs END and Increased END are now under the Endurance Limitation header.
COMMENT: Having “Costs END” under Limited Power was always clunky.

POINT: Extra Time has now been modified, especially as it applies to powers that take a Turn or “Extra Segment” (AKA operate like a Haymaker).

POINT: Only in Heroic Identity is still listed separately from the Focus limitation, but has a listed specification that the two shouldn’t be taken together.

POINT: There is now a category for Ranged Limitations. It includes No Range & Reduced by Range, as well new entries Limited By Range Modifier (for LOS powers), Limited Range, and Range Limited by Strength.
COMMENT: Range Limited By Strength is an especially nice addition for NCM-level campaigns.

POINT: Requires a Skill Roll (RSR) has several new options & explanations, such as how to handle powers that require more than one skill roll (!), varying degrees of Luck, RSR without active point deductions or stiffer active point deductions, and much more.
COMMENT: If the “Five Best” list below were a Top 10 instead, this would have clocked in at #6 easily. RSR has a big effect in NCM-level campaigns, and these rules go a long way toward codifying some gray areas.

POINT: Restrainable now exists as a separate limitation; as such it is expanded upon & clarified nicely.

POINT: Side Effect, like RSR (see above) has been expanded to explain a number of changes players might want to make to the way it functions.
COMMENT: Also like RSR, this would have made a Top 10 list of best things to happen in 5th Edition.

Power Frameworks

POINT: A common house rule, that negative Adjustment Powers affect all powers in an Elemental Control equally, is now official.
COMMENT: And boy am I glad the reverse is explicitly stated as not being true, given the room for abuse there.

POINT: There is an explicit explanation given on how to handle Charges in relation to multipowers, as well as focus limitations & other ways to lose powers.

POINT: There is also a statement about the nature of Limited Power limitations and VPP.
COMMENT: The statement is much vaguer than I personally care for.

Character Disadvantages

POINT: Normal Characteristic Maximum is now treated as a subset of the Age disadvantage.

POINT: Berserk is now treated as a +10 adder to the Enraged Disadvantage.
COMMENT: Which is a lot cleaner than the previous method of halving the value of Berserk to get Enraged. That said, +10 might be too much of an adder.

POINT: Watched is now treated as a –10 adder to Hunted.
COMMENT: Like Berserk/Enraged above, this execution is significantly cleaner than the previous method of halving the disadvantages value. Can you say "No more 8-point disadvantage?" I know I sure can...

POINT: Interestingly, having permanently altered size or density is now covered under Physical Limitations.
COMMENT: Note that if you do it this way you get the “bad” parts but not the good parts – you still have to pay points (ie buy Growth/Density Increase/Shrinking, or Skill Levels) to get the benefits. Odd side note: they still use the example of “Unfamiliar with Earth Culture”, which in my opinion is a poor example of a physical limitation (that would be Social or Psychological in my opinion).

POINT: There is new Social Limitation category, which includes the previous Secret & Public Identity disadvantages.
COMMENT: This a welcome addition. In particular, it’s a good way to handle certain things that used to require Reputation.

Sample Characters

COMMENT: Generally better in quality, but still not nearly enough of them. I especially like that Normal people now have attributes around 8 instead of 10.

Rule Changes & Additions

POINT: The single biggest change/clarification in 5th Edition takes place on page 234 – the long-and-angrily-debated answer to the Linked Issue. In brief, you can use as many attack powers as you have available but you can only make one attack roll. Note that there are a number of rulings on whether or not powers are actually available and what constitutes a single attack roll.
COMMENT: Why isn’t this one mentioned on any of the lists below? Because I’m not convinced it’s the right answer any more than I’m convinced it’s the wrong answer. Further, the list of exceptions is much more stringent than you may expect – as such I suspect it won’t come into play as often as I had originally feared. At the end of the day, this is so big of a change for me that I want to play with it much more extensively before I make any kind of judgment.

POINT: There is a change/clarification in the way Block/Deflection work across multiple segments. Short version is that the clarification enforces the “one action per segment” rule, which makes Block/Deflect slightly less viable for low-DEX characters if you weren’t doing it this way before.
COMMENT: As I mentioned earlier this is more of a clarification for me; it never made sense to me that a character could begin a segment blocking/deflecting from a previous phase and then attack. I suspect that this will make Block/Deflect less desirable in the campaigns with GM’s who played the other way.

POINT: There are a number of “new” optional combat maneuvers like Blazing Away, Hip Shot, Hurry, and Rapid Fire. There’s also a change/clarification regarding the Sweep maneuver, allowing it to be used to make multiple blows against a single target.
* COMMENT: I’ll confess to experiencing a cartoon-style boggle the first time I saw this. “What’s the point in having an Autofire advantage if you’re doing it this way?” I thought. Then, not unlike my experience with Duplication (see above), I discovered the part about Rapid Fire & Sweep now being considered Full Phase actions unless you take the Rapid Attack skills. I also noted the suggestion that GM’s only allow 2-3 attacks per turn. I also noted that Rapid Fire had the ½ DCV effect Sweep did.
* Let’s be honest: characters in fiction engage in multiple attacks per phase far more easily & effectively than they have been able to in HERO. I’m still not convinced this is balanced – I’ll definitely be enforcing a 3-shot limit per turn at first – but I can see that this was done to allow HERO (especially at the NCM level) to more easily reflect fiction.. So I’ll try it and see before I comment too thoroughly.


THE REMAINDER OF THIS POST IS 100% COMMENTARY

FIVE BEST THINGS ABOUT FIFTH

* The widespread clarifications, codifications, and reorganizations. There are numerous cases of powers that used to have 3-5 paragraphs now taking two full pages. Especially welcome in my opinion are the special mention in the power descriptions of how powers interact with advantages and disadvantages, such as whether or not the power requires the +1 Advantage when used with Autofire.

* The enhancement of Change Environment deserves separate mention from the above – as stated earlier, 5th Edition grants Change Environment its rightful place amongst “How Do I…” standbys like Mind Control & Transform.

* The improvement to Sense-related and Sense-affecting powers, making them more logical, coherent, and balanced.

* Megascale eliminates a lot of clunkiness for movement powers.

* Usable On Others. One of the best yet least known things to come out of Hero Almanac 1.

FIVE WORST THINGS ABOUT FIFTH

* The Defender Exploit being made official. True, we’re only talking about 20 disadvantage points a true HERO expert would just be taking somewhere else. True, I’ve played in enough NCM-level campaigns to understand why this decision was made. Nonetheless I find this to violate the “limitations which aren’t limiting” principle, which outweighs the reasons in favor of it.

* The priority given to Grandfathering attribute costs & formulas. I understand the reasoning and the “decision from on high” nature thereof – really, I can. I’ll also admit that unless you’ve played a large number of NCM-level campaigns you probably won’t see the problem. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, and/or won’t need to be fixed someday. Personally, I don’t think I could have put my name on a rules revision of HERO without correcting this.

* The changes to Multiform. I have mixed feelings about exactly how messed up this is, but it wasn’t a good idea. Note that I’m not including the changes to Duplication here, as I feel the new duplication rules are closer to the way Duplication works in fiction and aren’t as abusive as they first appear.

* Damage Shield requiring Continuous. Grr. Hiss. Gnashing of teeth. Wailing of fanboys. I find the explanations given for this change – and I’m sorry Mr. Long, but given the history of previous products this IS a change – far less than satisfying and well below the standard of evidence I expect. Consider the “smoke grenades” example listed under the Trigger advantage on page 175 for example – how is this not an example of a power with Trigger getting Delayed Effect or Continuous for free? (I actually have another problem with this example, in that technically all four grenades should trigger at once).

* Autofire still doubling the number of shots, even though it’s a +1/2 advantage instead of +1/4. Yes, clarifications were made to work around some of the sillier examples (Force Wall & Entangle probably being the silliest), but that’s hardly an excuse.

FIVE MENTIONABLES ABOUT FIFTH

* The bland cover just increases the similarity between these rules and a textbook. That’s a good thing from where I’m sitting, making it more “work safe” among other things.

* The wide variety of genres reflected in the artwork and examples is a welcome thing. One of the most annoying things I’ve run into when trying to get people into HERO is the complaint that “It looks… superheroey” to quote one particular case. While it can be argued there’s still a super-hero emphasis, it’s much less intense than previous editions.

* The elimination of the “Immune to Mental Powers” +20 adder for Desolidification. I’m still debating how I feel about this one; truth is I rarely used it myself.

* The history overview in the back was a nice touch too.

* Sidebars! They’re distracting at first, but once you get over that the examples they give are just a notch away from priceless.

FIVE MORE GOOD THINGS ABOUT FIFTH added 9/6/2

* The expansion of the Requires a Skill Roll limitation. RSR is a major utility in NCM-level campaigns, and these additions go a long way in clearing up some of the gray areas.

* The expansion of the Side Effect limitation. See the above comments about RSR.

* The numerous changes made in the name of making things work the way the do in fiction. Duplication is probably the best example of this, although this applies to Sweep & Rapid Fire too.

* The elimination of the 3 & 8 point disadvantages! A great example of the NUMEROUS cases where the rules have been made cleaner, clearer, and more internally consistent.

* The people behind it. I really should have made this one clear earlier (which is one reason I call this a tentative draft), but I want the people from DOJ, Inc to know how much this long-time HERO gamer appreciates what they're doing -- even when I disagree with them.

FIVE PET PEEVES IN FIFTH

* Artwork, page 357. Okay I’ve seen (a lot) worse in gaming materials before, but that wasn’t a particularly good choice. If you HAD to have something like this, couldn’t you have found a picture that still looked like a human being? A Barbie doll would tell her to eat something! Update: um, apparently this is based Greg Smith's wife? For the record everything in the pet peeve section is said with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

* Of all the pictures from old materials reused, they failed to use one of the all-time best HERO graphics – the one of Seeker looking up Damage Resistance in the rules from Almanac 1.

* Speaking of which, there’s an obvious shortage of Australian ninjas getting beat up in the book.

* While Age & NCM now share a category, it should have been renamed “Characteristic Disadvantages” (ala the Duration Advantages, Range Limitations, etc.).

* Two-Weapon Fighting. Great, now I’ll have to deal with all the dark-elf ranger wannabes in HERO too. Seriously, I understand why this addition was made thematically, it’s just something of a pet peeve of mine.

/me crosses his fingers and hopes the formatting works this time. If at eighth you don't succeed... and how the heck did I forget to list the Flash changes, or the HA fix?



Thursday, September 05, 2002

 
WAR: What's it good for?

Glad you asked!

EDIT: Oh man, this article is GOOD. Check this quote.

"The antiwar forces on the left, meanwhile, see virtually every military exercise since World War II as morally suspect or vividly corrupt. In Korea, a terrible war in every respect, America fought to liberate a nation from Communism. The Left, unleashing through I. F. Stone a torrent of lies, distortions, and outright Soviet propaganda about American conduct, deemed the war illegitimate. And yet, as a second and third generation of North Koreans learns to eat grass and make soup of old shoes to survive — while South Korean children spend their allowances on ski trips and handheld electronics — can an honest person dispute that that war was an unalloyed boon to the South Koreans? Can anyone fault a North Korean for fantasizing about a past that never was, in which MacArthur's troops liberated the entire peninsula?

Indeed — as a purely moral argument, leaving aside the legitimate arguments about what was and was not possible — how can anyone disagree that an all-out war on Stalin's Soviet Union wouldn't have been preferable to the Cold War? In a nation which has declared time and again that death is preferable to tyranny ("Give me liberty or give me death," "Live free or die," "Millions for defense, not one penny for tribute!" etc., etc.), how is it possible to argue that leaving whole generations of entire societies imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain was an instance of taking the high road? Indeed, the trillions of dollars Americans sacrificed for the sake of the Cold War cost lives too."

 
There's ranting, and then there's RANTING

Linkage!



Tuesday, September 03, 2002

 
Nice article about what could happen in Iraq

Linkage!

Personally, I suspect it's matter of when not if something like this will happen. The principle of economic war -- covered later in the article -- and the "lesser" Arab states choosing to assist the US now that the larger states are bowing out hold water.

 
I suspect this isn't a permalin but...

...I'll sort it out later.

 
This is one reason I wanted to start a Blog

Linkage!

I saw both Spiderman & SW2: Clone Wars (yes it's a pet peeve, but I refuse to call that movie by the official name) on the weekend they came out. While leaving the theatre with 2 friends after Clone Wars, I remarked...

"Clone Wars was a lot better than Phantom Menace and even Jedi -- but Spiderman is the better film and will make more money."

I realize the figures at that link only reflect domestic figures, but it's good to be right about something good every once in a while. Now if I'd had a blog at the time, I could prove it :)





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