4th to 5th Edition Checklist & Commentary

Last Update June 23, 2003


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 Hero Games Web Site for more information.

The author of this post (Thomas C. Huskey, AKA “TheEmerged”) is in no way affiliated with DOJ, Inc.



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 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.


One piece of terminology I’ll be using I want to make certain the reader understands is “NCM-default campaigns.”  This refers to a campaign in which player characters have Normal Characteristic Maximum by default.  I use this term instead of the more common “Heroic Campaign” as a matter of personal preference, to distinguish between heroic & villainous campaigns, and because “Heroic” often brings with it a connotation of being based on fewer points than a super-heroic campaign.


Any text in italics is commentary by the author.


(1/8/3) – An email link has been added to the bottom of the page.


Revision History

Ø      9/23/2 – Posted in first non-draft form

Ø      10/1/2 – Added information about Movement END Cost Change, link to main page, and cleaned up the formatting a little.  Additional comments added under Megascale & Physical Limitations to clarify where I stand.  Added the all-important link back to the main page.  Corrected a couple of typos.

Ø      10/4/2 – tgaptte over at the HERO boards pointed out the omission of the Haymaker change.  Corrected, under “Rule Changes & Additions.”

Ø      11/5/2 – Cleaned up a couple of grammar mistakes, and clarified my position on the new Time Chart more closely.  Updated the tense of some references to what I “will/won’t” allow in my campaigns to what I “am/not” allowing.  Added a little more information about some of the optional additions to the game.  Finally, updated some references to the general reaction of the HERO playerbase to some of these changes.

Ø      11/6/2 – Derek Hiemforth over at the HERO boards pointed out a change/clarification in relation to Damage Reduction I’d missed.

Ø      11/12/2 – Tom McCarthy pointed out that Aid no longer costs END.

Ø      11/14/2 – mongoose at the HERO boards brought up a couple of things I need to make clearer & easier to find.

Ø      12/4/2 – Realized that I hadn’t mentioned the Lack of Weakness change, and since that required an edit I went ahead and updated some explanations to previous questions I had.  Also created the link to the “hub” page.

Ø      1/9/3 – An email from Geoff Speare prompted me to add some more commentary about the “rule” regarding what powers officially can’t be placed in a power framework (to see what I’m allowing in my own campaigns, check this link out), and to extend the discussion of “fuel charges” option.  Also corrected an annoying grammar error I have been meaning to correct for months J  Finally, I’m bowing to pressure and adding a direct email link (see bottom of page). 

Ø      2/13/3 – Just general housekeeping, cleaned up a few more minor grammar errors that had slipped in.

Ø      3/3/3 – After receiving a third email or bulletin board comment (this one from Daniel Dickson) suggesting I might not understand how Suppress works, I decided to expand that comment so my meaning is 100% clear.  Of particular note, he suggested a better wording for my explanation than “cumulative”.

Ø      3/13/3 – Jason Wedel dropped me an email to let me know that in my fervor to find changes, I had accidentally identified “Increased Range” as a new option when in fact it’s been around for a while.  Took the opportunity to clean up a few other statements while I was at it, including the change in the cost of Mental Awareness and an expanded commentary about the Penetrating advantage.

Ø      4/23/3 – Series of miscellaneous updates, mostly in the area of things I “wanted to play with before judging”.

Ø      6/16/3 – Corrected the glaring omission of Instant Change.

Ø      6/23/3 zornwill over at the HERO boards pointed out an “omission” that came as a surprise to me.  Best I can figure is that I edited it out when I added the information about Mental Damage Reduction.  Jeff Engel also dropped me a message asking me to speak about the Summoning changes – something I’d left off before because it’s not easy to discuss without violating the mandate about “not enough details to allow someone to avoid purchasing Fifth Edition”.


Package Deals

There is no longer a “Package Bonus”

And that’s a good thing, if you ask me.  That never made much sense, even if you counted them toward the disadvantage maximum.


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.

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.



There has been no change to the cost of characteristics, or to the formula used to determine figured characteristics.

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-default 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.


The rules for negative characteristics (from HERO Almanac 1) are now official.

Some experience dictates that these rules are slightly overpowered for NCM-default 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.


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.

Although I’ve played in enough NCM-default campaigns to understand why some would want this (characteristic bonuses from equipment in NCM-default campaigns can get somewhat confusing if you enforce it), I still feel it’s just plain wrong from a logic standpoint (that whole “disadvantages that don’t limit the character” thing) in campaigns where you get disadvantage points for taking NCM.  I’m not allowing 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.

Quick explanation about the name: The “Defender Exploit” draws its name from the Defender character listing in Champions 4th Edition – AKA the “Big Blue Book” or BBB.  The character had Normal Characteristic Maxima, but also bought several attributes above the NCM with his OIF armor as a focus.  Most (if not the vast majority) of GM’s felt this was bogus, and with the exception of High Tech Enemies I’m unaware of this being supported in other supplements.

For the record, the 5th Edition character listing for Defender is Aaron Allston’s Champions doesn’t have Normal Characteristic Maxima.  That means I’ll probably have to think of a more up-to-date name for it J


Time Chart

An alternate time chart mentioned in previous products (HERO Almanac 1 comes to mind) is now the official one.

File this one under “good news”.  The old chart may have been mathematically consistent, but this one is easier to remember and is geared toward normal measures of time.



Several Talents are now considered Skills.  This list includes Cramming, Defense Maneuver, and Fast Draw.

File under “good news”.  It has long been my opinion that the Talents section 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.


Flip side thereof: Find Weakness & Luck are now treated as powers.  Immunity now exists as part of the well-expanded Life Support rules.  There are now some alternate rules to use Luck in different ways.

“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.


Ambidexterity, Lightning Reflexes, and Speed Reading now have a “tiered” cost system.  That is, instead of paying a one-time cost to instantly get full effect, you buy them in stages (you can of course start out with all the stages).

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.


Combat Luck is an interesting way to reflect limited damage resistance in certain genres.

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.


Combat Sense & Danger Sense cost more than before – they are now consistent with the Sense rules.

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.


Double Jointed now costs 4 points instead of 3.

Another one for the “Grandfathering would have been a mistake” file, albeit a rather trivial one.


Eidetic Memory now costs 5 points instead of 10.

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.


Environmental Movement is a new one.

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.



            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 have been cheering.  Yes, I’m perfectly aware that Talents allows 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.  If you’re going to keep them, maybe some of the “one time” skills like Defensive Maneuver, Autofire Skills, Rapid Attack, and Two Weapon Fighting should be moved into this category.  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 of a deal, but it’s still contradictory.



There is no such thing as a General skill – all skills are/can be attached to an ability score now.

Another one for the “good news” file, especially for people who felt it made some skills excessively expensive relative to their usefulness.


The “Analyze Style” skill reflected in Ninja Hero/Ultimate Martial Arts appears in a limited form now – the Analyze Skill.

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.


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” and “Two Weapon Fighting” that works similarly.

I can finally say I’ve used these enough to comment fairly: they’re a good addition.  “Skipover” and “Concentrated” in particular go a long way toward maintaining the balance between Autofire powers and Rapid Attacks/Sweeps.


There is now a difference between the way Combat Skill Levels affect damage dealing between NCM-default and Superheroic campaigns.

The more I experiment with this, the more I like it.  Having said that, I actually want to run an NCM-default campaign before I finalize my opinion here.


Range Skill Levels have been replaced with Penalty Skill Levels.  PSL’s can be applied against OCV penalties but not DCV penalities.

I’m not surprised, the previous method of buying limited CSL’s was clunky.  The more I use them the more I like the new execution.  In particular, some experiments I did with allowing them to counteract DCV penalties quickly explained why the exception was made.


There is now a Power skill to reflect skill with individual powers.

            One of the few good things about GURPS Supers, and something I’m glad HERO picked up.


It is now possible to have Negative Skill Levels as an optional rule.

            Which closes one of the few holes in HERO as a system.


There is now a skill named “Teamwork” which codifies how to determine Coordinated attacks.

Big surprise here: I’ve yet to see a PC sheet that hasn’t had it, and the same is true of most of the NPC sheets I expect to see combat.



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.

            All of which are good.


There now exists a Reputation Perk, to reflect those times when a reputation is a good thing.

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.


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).



Aid now costs 10 points per d6.  When used to restore characteristics/powers below initial scores, it still fades.  In a surprise development, however, Aid no longer costs END to use!

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.  The fact that Aid no longer costs END was quite the surprise, but works better than I expected.  In practice, the majority of the time Aid will be bought with the Costs END disadvantage, resulting in an Aid cost that is actually in keeping with its value (without the ability to permanently heal or restore lost attributes, 10 per d6 was too expensive).


Change Environment has been GREATLY expanded, far beyond the scope of what I can discuss here.

            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.

Of particular note is the option for allowing Change Environment to inflict penalties to perception (PER rolls), Combat Values (OCV, DCV, ECV) and other skill rolls.  This is an especially welcome addition in that it greatly enhances the ability of HERO to do “debuff” style effects.  Under 4th Edition you were stuck with Suppress & Drain, and the resulting powers were usually far more expensive than useful.

            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’m ignoring that little tidbit for my campaigns.


The cost of sense-affecting powers – Darkness, Flash, Images, and Invisibility – is 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.

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 its functionality be based on senses?  This is easily the best example of a time grandfathering would have been a mistake and they did the right thing.


There has also been a change to a common method of dealing with Size/Mass Altering Powers (Growth, Shrinking, & Density Increase), especially in relation to the Always On limitation.

I’ve covered the change, and my opinion thereof, under the “Character Disadvantages” header since that’s really where the change was made.


Damage Reduction has a slight but mentionable change/clarification – the cost to purchase Damage Reduction for Mental Defense is always the Resistant cost.  Actually, a better way to say this is that you can’t purchase non-resistant Damage Reduction (and can’t use that as an excuse for a limitation either).  The official opinion remains that you can’t buy Damage Reduction for Power or Flash Defense, although GM’s that want to allow it are certainly allowed to do it.

I can see the reasoning for this – especially at the 50% non-resistant level, the reduction was far more effective than an equivalent amount of Mental Defense.


One other thing about Damage Reduction: the rules have now been clarified that it doesn’t reduce the “minimum damage” cap created by a power with the Penetrating advantage.

Steve has since said, on the Rules Question boards, that this can be handled by tacking Hardened onto the Damage Reduction – which is the way I’ve done it for years…


Desolidification now has an official disadvantage that can be used to simulate invulnerability to specific things.  However, the +20 Adder to be invulnerable to mental powers has been removed!

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.  In a way I’m glad, as it does eliminate a potential abuse and was more valuable than a mere +20 base points.  Perhaps, however, it should have been given a higher cost instead of eliminating it.


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).

            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 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 it’s 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, but nowhere near what it initially appeared to be.


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. 

While I’m on it, there are some confusing statements in the rules about how much of an action attempting to find someone with a non-targeting sense takes.  The official word from Steve Long is that it’s a Half Phase action.  References to being a Zero Phase action apparently refer to spotting someone with a different targeting sense.


One change to Enhanced Senses that you might not have noticed is that Mental Awareness has increased in cost to 5, from 3.

Well, I didn’t notice it until I was using HeroDesigner myself J  Like they did with the sensory talents, this cost is now based on the same rules for any other sense – they’re based on Detect.


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.

Slight nitpick here (and for Force Wall) – the cost to make the Entangle opaque to senses/sense groups doesn’t follow the changes to other sense-affecting powers in that the cost remains the same whether the sense is targeting or not.  I’ve adopted the cost structure from Darkness for both powers in my campaigns.


Flash now costs 5 points per d6 instead of 10 points per d6. However, it operates by segments instead of phases.

I had heard this was going to be done a while back and have been using it ever since. I can say with some authority, then, when I say 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.


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.

See Entangle, above, for a minor but mentionable nitpick about the cost to make Force Wall opaque.  I wouldn’t be surprised if, in 6th Edition, Force Wall & Entangle get combined into a single power.


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.

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.


HEALING: This 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.

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 J

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!

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.


Instant Change, like Regeneration, is no longer a distinct power – it is now a special case of Transform.

File under “This was important for, what reason?”  I’ll grant that the new cost is closer to the power’s actually usefulness, I guess.


Lack of Weakness has an interesting change.  Not unlike Flash Defense, it now must be purchased by defense category (normal, resistant, MD, and so forth).  What’s more, Resistant Defenses like Armor & Force Field are considered a separate category.

I like this change!  Lack of Weakness has always been far too cheap compared to the price of the power it defends against.  However, I dislike the concept of having Resistant Defenses as a separate category except in cases where the rDEF is purchased with the Focus limitation.  It is also very clearly appropriate in my opinion to require Lack of Weakness to be purchased separately for a Force Wall, although in that case the LoW would apply to all the defenses covered by the wall.


Unsurprisingly, the “Does not provide Mental Awareness” limitation from Steve Long’s HERO Almanac 2 sense article is presented officially.

File under “Clumsy Handling”.  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 it to be bought separately.


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.

For me this is a clarification, for many it will be a change.


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.

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.  I have ended up house ruling the increase in cost for more powerful forms, though, for consistency’s sake if nothing else.


Summoning has had a number of changes to its cost structure – too many to discuss in any kind of detail without violating the mandate about the amount of detail in this article.  Most importantly: the 30-point “overhead” has been eliminated, and the ease/difficulty of controlling the summoned entity is handled via a series of advantages.  There are other specific cases addressed as well, such as summoning a specific person.

Bit of good news, bit of bad news here.  I like the crunchiness of having the controllability keyed to its cost as an advantage, but I’m much less fond of eliminating the 30-point overhead.


In a surprise development, Suppress is now “cumulative” in that it stacks with itself!  This is one of those times where the terminology used differs from person to person, so let me break out some examples to illustrate what I’m talking about.

4TH EDITION: If you had a 4d6 Suppress against PRE, you had to make an attack roll and, if you hit, rolled the result (on average, 14).  You could then pay the END cost each of your phases to maintain this – as long as you paid the END, the victim’s PRE would be reduced by the result.  However, if in the next phase you used that same 4d6 Suppress against the same target, the new result and the previous one didn’t “stack” – the results weren’t cumulative.  This also applied to other Suppresses against the same power/attribute – if another player threw a PRE Suppress on the victim, they didn’t stack – only one result (usually the best) would continue affecting the victim.  As a result, the advantages Autofire and Continuous weren’t very useful to apply to Suppress.

5TH EDITION: Take that same 4d6 Suppress against PRE.  You still have to make an attack roll, still roll the result, and still pay 2 END each phase to maintain that result.  The difference is that next phase, if you make another attack roll against that victim (or someone else with a PRE Suppress does so), the result of the 2nd attack will “stack” with the result of the 1st attack.  This makes Autofire Suppress useful.  Continuous is also a good advantage for Suppress now, as it eliminates the need for successive attack rolls (and therefore, attack actions) to continue piling up damage against a single target.

MY OPINION: Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot?  This one caught me off-guard; I didn’t realize it until I was reading through the HERO 5th Questions board and happened upon it.  The more I think about this one the less I like it – and it moved onto the list of 5 Worst Changes the moment I realized it.  Suppress & Drain have never been well balanced between them; making Suppress cumulative takes away one of the two advantages Drain had (the other being the ability to buy back the return rate).  I’ve officially decided to ignore this change in my campaigns, and of all the house rules I use this is the one I recommend the strongest.


Transform is now Cumulative (stacks with itself) by default.

That sound you hear in the background is a large number of HERO fans singing the Hallelujah chorus J  Unlike the Suppress change (above), making Transform cumulative is 100% called for.  The greatest proof is the fact that I cannot tell you the last time I built a Transform that wasn’t cumulative.




GENERAL: 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.


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.

I’m not going to 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 (especially when combined with Penetrating).  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.


I’m covering Charges under “Disadvantages”, below.


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.

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…


Damage Shield has been “clarified” (Steve Long’s choice of words, not mine) to require the Continuous advantage.

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).

Increasingly, players are either ignoring it outright or adopting a “compromise” version as a +1 Advantage.  Those favoring the compromise solution are fond of using Based On Ego Combat Value as an example of an advantage that gets other advantages for free but “costs” about what it should.  A few players are also making use of a “straight” Damage Shield power, costing 10 pts per d6.


Does Body is now an official HERO Advantage (+1)

For all practical purposes, it was anyway J  I’m continuing to use my longstanding “AVLD at +2 Does Body, NND’s never can” house rule however.  I’ve simply had too many bad experiences with NND’s doing Body damage to allow them.  There’s also a potential abuse with applying this advantage to Dispel I’ve found the need to house rule around.


Several advantages (Reduced END, Continuous, & Persistent) are now covered under a single header – Duration Advantages.  There is also a new member, Inherent.

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.


Hardened is now being listed on page 77 under Defense powers instead of under Advantages.  The relationship between Hardened and a power that has both Armor Piercing & Penetrating has been clarified – one level of hardened will only stop one of the two, and which one it would stop must be defined when the power is built.  This also applies to a power with Indirect, of course.

I never liked the previous ruling that a single level of hardening at +1/4 could protect against +1 of disadvantages.


Invisible Power Effects now has an explanation of how to build a power whose effects aren’t easily noticed.  Like sense-affecting powers its 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.


MEGASCALE: One of the biggest and most welcome changes, megascale allows 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.

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 have chosen to insert a 10m per inch and 100m per inch steps for my campaigns.

Yes, this nitpick is made with the knowledge that it has been stated in the Rules FAQ that you can use the first step to represent smaller “inches”.  This does not change my criticism in the least – to me, that ruling is as obvious as the fact you can make a character that is 30 feet tall instead of 16 meters with 45 points in Growth.

You see, in my opinion the ability to reach Mach 10 should be a little more than a +1/4 advantage on 10” of Flight.  While you could build a power that only reaches Mach 2 with the same structure, there should be more of a difference between them than GM fiat.  I’ll admit this is a clear case of my Rule Geek tendencies taking over – but please note that this isn’t listed on the “worst” list below.  In terms of importance, this one is not much more important than my Talent Nitpick, above.

One additional comment I feel the need to make: “Champions” (the genre book by Aaron Allston) has a clearly abusive usage of Megascale in one of its examples.  Specifically I’m referring to the Mind Control Wave Emitter on Champions page 123, which applies Megascale to an Area Effect One-hex power.  That’s just plain wrong, and something I’m disallowing with prejudice.


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

One of the signs that someone has passed from HERO Journeyman to HERO Expert is whether or not they think Penetrating is worth a +1/2 advantage.  The newer players will quickly determine that most of the time Armor Piercing will result in more damage getting through defenses, and stop there.  More experienced players find out, usually the hard way, that Penetrating allows you to do some pretty screwy things with “high active cost but low base cost” powers by allowing a small number of dice to get damage through defenses.  Penetrating, more than anything, was the reason I adopted a policy of not allowing more than +2 in cumulative advantages.  Since my recent decision to drop this policy and instead requiring what I call a Darn Good Reason™ for Penetrating, I haven’t had the same problems.


There is a new category of advantages called “Range advantages”.  It includes the No Range Modifier advantage, the +1/4 “Increased Range” advantage (which I mistakenly believed was new), and a new +1/2 “Line of Sight” advantage.

Oddly enough, “Ranged” itself is listed separately despite obviously fitting under the same header.


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)

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.




At first glance Ablative has been eliminated.  This isn’t the case, though: Ablative has 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. 

This is a rare misfire in layout in my opinion. The –1/2 version of Ablative might not limit the defensive powers enough to justify that value.  Additionally, it still “works” the old way – which is to say, it doesn’t really function as well as I’d like.


The rules for Charges have been greatly expanded/clarified, including a new option called “Boosted”. 

Charges has always been one of the squirrelly areas of Champions, the new examples clean them up. 


There is also an important new option for Charges – Fuel Charges.  These are effectively Continuing Charges that don’t have to be used all at once, and have great potential for use with vehicles and equipment in NCM-default campaigns.

Some people are arguing that Fuel Charges are an abuse waiting to happen – I disagree.  Most importantly, according to Steve Long the entire charge is burnt up if the power is dispelled.  I’ll grant that many GM’s and players aren’t familiar with Dispel, but it serves as a wonderful counter to many “abusive” powers & constructs.

Secondly, there appears to be no small confusion about figuring the cost of a Fuel Charge – in fact, there has been several errata listed for the fuel charge discussion because FREd itself gets it wrong a couple of times.  It reduces the value of the Continuing Charges limitation by –1/4; if it was a –1/2 limitation, it’s now a –1/4 limitation.  So a Fuel Charge that lasts 1 minute (-1) ends up as a –3/4 limitation.

Having said that, there’s something a little odd on page 183 – a “1 minute” fuel charge actually lasts longer than that.  Each phase of use in a fuel charge costs 1 second of use.  In practice that means that a fuel charge will actually last 2-3 times longer than it’s listed – if you’re using the official rules anyway.  According to Steve Long this was done to be consistent with the fact that you don’t pay END by the segment; which is odd, because this has always been true for Continuing charges.  I plan to ignore this one, as 1 minute of fuel should be 1 minute of fuel.

Finally, a word to the “just make them buy END Reserves” crowd: that’s forcing a character to pay points to purchase a limitation.  There are times when the mechanics of END Reserves can be tweaked a little to achieve wonderful effects.  Just my opinion, but there are times when END Reserve is just an expensive limitation too – and those times, it should function as a limitation and that’s where Fuel Charges work.  I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it: use the mechanic that works.


Costs END and Increased END are now under the Endurance Limitation header.

Having “Costs END” under Limited Power was always clunky.


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

Unfortunately, the value of this limitation at higher time levels is still whacked relative to how much it actually limits the power.  Granted that the diminishing returns on higher disadvantage levels keeps this from becoming too much of a problem.


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


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.

Range Limited By Strength is an especially nice addition for NCM-default campaigns.


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.

If the “Five Best” list below were a Top 10 instead, this would have clocked in at #6 easily.  RSR is one of if not the biggest tool at a GM’s disposal in NCM-default campaigns, and these rules go a long way toward codifying some of the previous gray areas.


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


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.

Also like RSR, this would have made a Top 10 list of best things to happen in 5th Edition.


Power Frameworks


A common house rule, that negative Adjustment Powers affect all powers in an Elemental Control equally, is now official. 

And boy, am I glad the inverse of the Adjustment Power rule is explicitly stated as not being true, given the room for abuse there!


There’s also an interesting guideline given for what powers cannot be placed in an Elemental Control: any power that doesn’t cost END by default can’t be placed in a power framework without GM permission.  The long-standing prohibition about “Special” Powers (see the list FREd page 86) not being valid in any Power Framework without GM permission is also listed – alongside an example of a time GM’s should give that permission.

Some guideline – it’s already been violated in HERO System 5th Edition products and is listed in such an awkward spot that you’ll probably miss it if someone doesn’t point it out.  Previous versions of this list have mentioned this fact, but I’ve gotten enough emails about it that I decided to list it separately.  Personally, I feel the existing system is too simplistic – consider that under the official rules as listed you can put Armor in a multipower but can’t put Mental Defense in a VPP.  Here’s an example of what I’ve done for my campaigns – scroll down to the part about Power Frameworks.


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.

One note though, the rule stating that any Characteristic placed in a multipower or VPP automatically has the “Doesn’t affect figured” limitation at no reduction in cost is listed under Characteristics in the Power section, not in the Power Framework section.


There is also a statement about the nature of Limited Power limitations and VPP.

Having said that, the statement is much more vague than I personally care for.


Character Disadvantages


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


Berserk is now treated as a +10 adder to the Enraged Disadvantage.

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.


Watched is now treated as a –10 adder to Hunted.

Like Berserk/Enraged above, this execution is significantly cleaner than the previous method of halving the disadvantages value.


Interestingly, having permanently altered size or density is now covered under Physical Limitations.

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).

Additional note – many players have problems with this change.  I’m not one of them.  From where I type, it looks like this change was made with the problems of Shrinking more than those of Growth or Density Increase.  I don’t think anybody in their right mind thinks that my dog Buster should have to pay 53 points when he’s a puppy, about half of which he’ll have to “buy off” as he gets older.

I for one will probably continue to use Always On with Growth/Shrinking/Density Increase whenever I think it appropriate, and use Physical Limitation whenever I think it is more appropriate.  Use the mechanic that works!


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

It’s turning out to be an especially nice tool in fantasy-style campaigns with a great deal of racial diversity.  It’s also, in my opinion, a much more accurate mechanic for handling “Unfamiliar with Earth Culture” since most of the problems that creates are social ones.  While others would make the argument it is Physical because you couldn’t even be mind controlled into doing something, I’m afraid that argument doesn’t wash.  If Menton commands an alien to “destroy that target” and points out a target, it doesn’t matter if the alien knows the target is called a truck instead of a lorry.


Sample Characters


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.

The examples we have are great – now all we need are more J


Rule Changes & Additions


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.

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. The most notable exception is that separate slots in an Elemental Control cannot be used together in this way. 

UPDATE: Having had a little more time to play with this, I have to say it works better than I was expecting.  In particular, it greatly increases the value of variable slots in multipowers.  Combined with the changes to the Flash power, I’m finding that the Sense rules are playing a larger role than ever.


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.

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.


There are a number of “new” optional combat maneuvers like Blazing Away 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.

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-default level) to more easily reflect fiction.  So I’ll try it and see before I comment too thoroughly.


Two of the other new combat options may have more of an effect than GM’s would expect: Hip Shot and Hurry.  Hip Shot allows a +1 Dexterity for the purposes of when the character acts in the phase for a small penalty.  Hurry has a steeper penalty, but adds +1d6 to Dexterity for initiative purposes only.

In practice, Hurry often means HERO now has an every-phase initiative roll.  I suspect this will be problematic at the NCM-default level, since everyone tends toward more similar DEX and SPD scores.  For people who felt a standardized system wasn’t unpredictable enough, this is a good thing.  It’s quickly becoming another delay in combat for the rest of us.


Finally, there’s a subtle change that has sneaked under most player’s radar – END cost for movement no longer operates under an exception to the rules.  That is, instead of paying 1 END per 5” moved, you now pay 1 END per 10 Active Points just like you do every other power.

Well, it snuck under my radar anyway.  It’s a completely understandable change too – except you still have that nagging issue that Swimming’s END cost is out of proportion to reality (I’ll be continuing my “automatic x5 END” rule for NCM-default campaigns).  Setting the exception aside, the change corrects the issues involved with the way advantages and adders didn’t properly affect the END cost of movement powers.  Figure Megascale into the picture and it just gets crazier.


Haymaker has been altered as well.  Instead of adding +50% to the damage, it now adds a straight +4 damage classes.  It is finally defined as being a maneuver of its own (not cumulative with other martial art maneuvers – you can’t Haymaker a Martial Strike, for example).  There is also a subtle but welcome clarification: it can be done to any attack, not just punches.

Haymaker adding +50% works well in NCM-default campaigns and restricted to melee damage attacks, but quickly gets out of whack when doing 14d6 punches.  Dropping it to +4DC isn’t a bad idea on its own; figure in the fact that this will work with ANY attack (including ranged Energy Blasts, Drains, and such) and it’s necessary to maintain balance.  You can also argue that the “new” functionality counterbalances the reduction in its power.


NOTE: The remainder of this article is 100% commentary.



Ø      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.

Ø      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.

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

Ø      Megascale eliminates a lot of clunkiness for movement powers.

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



Ø      Suppress being cumulative by default.  Granted that part of this one was the “gotcha” – unlike some of the other items on this list, I wasn’t expecting it.  There have always been balance problems when comparing this power to Drain; making Suppress cumulative by default takes away one of the advantages Drain had – and Suppress had the upper hand to begin with, at least in my experience.

Ø      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-default 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.  While I don’t think raising the cost of Strength to 2 (or even 1.5) is the answer – personally I think the problem could best be mitigated by reducing the influence of Strength on figured attributes – I think doing nothing was the greater of available mistakes.

Ø      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.

Ø      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 and target the same hex).

Ø      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.



Ø      The expansion of the Requires a Skill Roll options.  RSR is a major – perhaps the major utility in NCM-default campaigns.  These additions go a long way toward clearing up some of the gray areas that existed previously, and give the GM a lot of tools to work with.

Ø      The expansion of the Side Effect options.  A lot of what I said about RSR goes for Side Effect as well. 

Ø      The numerous changes made in the name of making things work more like the way they do in heroic fiction.  Duplication is probably the best example of this, although this applies to Sweep & Rapid Fire as well.

Ø      The elimination of the 3-point & 8-point disadvantages!  A great example of the NUMEROUS cases where the rules were made cleaner, clearer, and more internally consistent.  Oh, and it makes the math prettier too…

Ø      The people behind HERO Games, DOJ, Inc.  I really can’t make this point clear enough – DOJ is an example of how a gaming company should operate.  I want DOJ to know how much this long-time HERO Gamer appreciates what they’ve done, what they’re doing, and the way they’re doing it – even when I disagree with them.



Ø      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.

Ø      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.

Ø      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.

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

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



Ø      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-default campaigns to understand the rule shenanigans behind 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 in campaigns where NCM isn’t the default.  In NCM-default campaigns, it’s no big deal.

Ø      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 & the later printings of the BBB. 

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

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

Ø      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.



Return to the HERO System Hub


Return to the Main Page


Email Link for the Author