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"Hero" System Combat Suggestions

by Collie Collier
These examples assume you are using the Hero System 4th Edition rules. Unfortunately, as of April 1, 2002, Hero Games no longer sells even the downloadable PDF of this product. We recommend you try to find a copy of the HSR or Champions book on-line at an on-line RPG store, an auction site like eBay, or ask the folks on Realty Fault for help in locating a copy.

  • #400 Champions (1st printing. Hard cover)
  • #451 Champions (2nd printing. Hard cover, w/index, software)
  • #??? Champions (2nd printing. Soft cover)
  • #500 Hero System (1st printing. Soft cover)

This page isn't for GMs -- it's for players. If you're a GM there'll be a page for you soon, I'm sure, but here I'm simply laying out how I handle Hero System so that I can a) play my character intelligently on Reality Fault in particular, and on-line in general, b) not slow down the game for my friends, and c) offer my player friends a simple way to handle what may initially seem like a bewildering amount of information all at once.

Hero System has a 'toolkit' approach to combat: in order to give you as many options as possible as to how your characters will be fighting it allows you to do just about anything within its rules. This means you may suddenly be faced with combat and have no idea what to do next! Should you dodge, block, strike? What are levels and what should you be doing with them? Should you go now, what's a hold, what's going on?!

I use the following simple thumbnail approach to combat. Hopefully it will be of some use to you also. Some of my phrasing may sound 'cute' or simplistic, and in some ways it is -- it's how I handle Hero. If you find a better mnemonic for yourself, use that instead, of course... just handle the system in a way that works for you.

Preparing Before the Game

Think of a combat phase as a two part action with a few limitations on it. Hero was designed so you or your opponent can't strike and flee out of reach (unless you buy that specific maneuver), so the last thing you can do in any action is some sort of attack or defense. You cannot attack and half-move on your action (this would take you out of your opponent's reach), but you can swap the actions around and make it a half-move and attack. You can half-move and dodge. You can full-move (two half-moves).

Two very useful things to know: holding and aborting to a dodge. If you're not sure what to do yet, you can hold your action until later -- but be careful with this! If your next action comes around you'll lose your hold. Use your hold before your next turn, or lose it. Also, you can abort to a dodge, which makes you real hard to hit, loses you your next action, but also gains you an increased DCV for the entire time you're in that dodge.

You can do this any time except when you've already acted in your phase. It's wonderful for showing in character that panicked dodge at the last second! Neat trick to remember -- this works on your opponent too. If he's acted in this phase, he can no longer change to a stronger defense against any attack you make against him!

Preparing Before Combat

The next thing you need to know is the 'magic formula':

(your OCV + 11) - your roll on 3d6 = the highest DCV you can hit

Definitions: your OCV is your 'offensive combat value' and your DCV is your 'defensive combat value.' How these numbers arrived on your sheet isn't important -- either you, Bob, or someone else waved their hands, mumbled some mumbo-jumbo, and there the numbers were. Don't sweat it. Just know where those numbers are on your sheet.

A tip: if you can do it, keep your character sheet open in another window behind your MU* client on-screen, so you can easily see at least your character's dexterity, speed, OCV, and DCV. If you can't do that, write the information down and set it where you can see it next to your computer.

Know what phases you go on! Write down the numbers of the phases if you have to, so that when the GM says "It's phase two, who goes on two?" you know whether or not you go then. That information can be found either on page 139 of the fourth edition Hero System 'Big Blue Book' [BBB] -- or you can inexpensively buy an electronic version of the system book and look it up under the chapter heading "Entering Combat."

If you have any combat levels you have an extra level of flexibility available to you. You can add your levels to either offense or defense. Levels can be confusing, however, if you're not combat-savvy. A good rule of thumb is if you're outnumbered or facing someone who's as good or better than you -- leave your levels in defense!

Finally, if you have someone else on your side you need to decide if you're going to comp(lement) their attack. This is nice to do for several reasons: for each person attacking that makes their coordination roll the person you're attacking loses 1 DCV (down to half his DCV), it allows all the attackers to add their stun together on their attack, and it allows you to emulate things like the Three Musketeers all fighting together in a team. For more information on comp'ing either read "multiple attackers bonus" on page 150 of the BBB, or read this page.

A quick note on why adding stun is nice: if the added-up stun on your attack is greater than the opponent's constitution, he's stunned for one of his actions. This is a Very Good Thing -- it halves his DCV! If you can somehow lower your opponent's DCV he will be easy to hit. Keep in mind that this is not always the correct in character thing to do, like if your character has the 'disad' "Honorable fighter." However, if clever tactics are the hallmark of your character -- gang up on him, knock him unconscious, trip him, somehow blind him temporarily... but do something to lower his DCV. And keep in mind -- opponents can do the same thing to you! Always watch your back.

Okay, back to pre-combat preparations. Do you have armor and if so how much? Write this down on your crib sheet of notes also. If you're going to potentially be in combat with killing attacks and you don't have armor -- stop what you're doing, and get some armor! If you don't have any, the entire damage of the killing attack will be applied to you, regardless of what your PD or ED is. This will make you very dead, very fast. With even just a single point of armor you can take your PD plus your armor off the stun damage, and your armor off the killing damage. This makes a Very Big Difference. Trust me on this one... but if you want more information go to page 160 in the BBB.

The final thing you need to know is: what d6 of damage the weapon you are using does, and if it's killing attack damage or not. Write that down too... and now you're ready to go.

Combat

Okay, you're faced with combat on-line! Here's the first thing you need to do: stay at the screen! Combat takes concentration -- there's no escaping that. Nothing is more frustrating to all concerned to have a player wandering around cluelessly, with no idea of what they should be doing. It slows down the game, and it's damn rude to treat your GM and other players so. Don't be surprised if your character gets either ignored or hurt if you refuse to focus your attention on the game. Keep alert! Know what folks are doing and where things are -- your teamwork will improve which will make your teammates happy with you, and your GM won't have to keep reminding you of stuff, which will make your GM happy too.

Second, figure out what the 'dividing symbol' on your server is, so that you can type more than one line at a time before you hit return. On my machine it's | but set it to whatever is easiest for you. This is going to be important because you're going to make all your dice rolls at once, to help your GM and to save time. Also, always put in an OOC comment line that tells you what each roll is for, or it can get confusing.

Now the actual combat... let's say you're attacked first. Check with the GM -- ask them if the other person seems as competent or as fast as you. This will NOT get you exact answers as to skill comparisons, but a nice GM will give you a sort of general reply that will give you some idea of what your opponent is like.

Things you can do (assuming you've paid the points, of course): you can dodge, block, or ignore the attack. Dodging is pretty much always good -- it raises your DCV. I like dodging -- it's simple, straightforward, and has little to no bad side-effects. Blocking is good and bad -- it stops the incoming blow and lets you go first in the next action, but you have to have that specific maneuver, and if you miss your block roll you may well be hit. Ignoring the blow is a gamble, based on your DCV being higher than your opponent's attack -- e.g. you're guessing that your 'natural' moving around and readiness in combat is good enough that your opponent won't be able to hit you regardless. If your GM lets you know that your opponents seem much less competent than you feel free to try it! Just never count on it.

Now it's your turn. Listen for the GM's cues -- they'll usually call out OOCly what phase they're on. Sing out when it's your phase, and have your DEX ready to tell him if he asks for it -- DEX tells the GM who goes first in each phase. When the GM tells you it's your turn, roll your dice, and good luck! The way I handle it is to go through my decision tree, then just cut and paste.

Good things to know -- you want LOW rolls for: comp'ing, to hit, skill rolls. You want HIGH rolls for: damage, stun multipliers. It's also nice if you have a high OCV, DCV, SPD, and/or DEX, and for your opponents to have lower numbers than you, although that's not something you can really affect much in combat.

The Combat Decision Tree:

A) Do I have levels?

  • Yes: put them on defense.
  • No: next question.

B) Am I comp'ing with anyone?

  • Yes: announce that you're doing so and who with. You and that person both roll 3d6 vs coordination to see if it works. Go to the next question.
  • No: next question.

C) Do I hit?

  • Roll 3d6. Add your OCV + levels + 11, then subtract the 3d6 roll from it and get the result.
  • Tell the GM you hit someone with a DCV of <the result> or less.

D) How much damage do I do?

  • If your weapon is a punch, club, or otherwise does "Normal" damage, go to E)
  • If your weapon is a sword, gun, or otherwise does "Killing" damage, go to F)

E) How do I roll "normal" damage?

F) How do I roll "killing" damage?

  • Find out from the GM how many dice of damage you should be rolling.
  • Use the roll program to roll that many damage classes of killing damage by putting an k ('k' for killing damage) in place of the d (for dice), in your roll, i.e.

    roll 5k

    You and the other players should see something that looks like this:

    (OOC) You roll 5k [1.5d6, +0 STUN MOD] for 24 STUN and 8 BODY

That's it! From there the GM will let you know how things go -- if you hit or not, what the reaction of your opponent is, stuff like that. Don't forget to keep an eye on what other folks are doing, and to plan ahead for what your next attack is. Your fellow players will be grateful if you're ready with your action when it's your turn, regardless of whether you're on-line or in a face-to-face game.

Here's a sample of me doing combat in a game. For reference I'm playing Alex, who has no levels, is holding and then comp'ing with Dimitri, and uses a 3k/1d6 killing attack rapier. Feel free to cut and paste as appropriate, and as you wish, for your character.

What I pasted in:

::is holding to roll it all at once so it comes out with Dimitri's attack.
""first the comp roll:
roll 3d6
""then the attack roll:
roll 3d6
""then the damage roll -- Alex is using her sword so it's a killing attack:
roll 3k

What came out in the game:

(OOC) Alex is holding, then going to roll it all at once so it comes out with Dimitri's attack.
(OOC) Alex says, "first the comp roll:"
(OOC) You roll 3d6 for 11
(OOC) Alex says, "then the attack roll:"
(OOC) You roll 3d6 for 7
(OOC) Alex says, "then the damage roll:"
(OOC) You roll 3k (1d6) for 25 STUN and 5 BODY (Killing)

What I said to the GM for interpretation:

Give your GM the results of your rolls -- don't expect them to do your math for you! They're already running everyone else in the combat, so it's polite to help out as much as you can. For reference: Alex's comp roll was an 11- (she has to roll an eleven or less to succeed). Her OCV was 8 and she had a +1 bonus from the successful comp roll, giving her an effective OCV of 9.

(OOC) Alex says, "Um... so I make my comp roll on the nose, FINALLY!! Whew... so that's a base of 11 plus 8 for my OCV, and one from the comp for 20 total, minus my roll of 7 means I hit a DCV of 13, oooh, GOOD one! Damage is 5 body and 25 stun, WOW! and the stun can be added to Dimitri's if he makes his comp roll too, hopefully. That should knock our bad guy out! ;)"

Okay, that's all I have to say for now. More tactical stuff can wait for a later page -- this is a quick, short list of things I do to make combat easier. Hope it helps, and if you have any questions, please feel free -- to ask Bob! ;-)




Last modified: 2002-Jul-31 20:16:29

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