Heroes in Fantasy RPG’s

We’ve given a boost to the underdogs and everymen – ways to make them more interesting and add a little more to the game. What about heroes – those lucky bastards with high ability scores (i.e. everyone in the game by the time we get to AD&D 2nd edition). Why should they get anything good?

First, let’s define heroes beyond the ability scores – and maybe explain those ability scores. In ancient Greece, heroes were the issue of gods and goddesses, whether major or minor, and mortals. Hercules and Achilles are a couple famous heroes. These folks have amazing abilities and ridiculous luck because they are kissed by the divine … but it ain’t all wine and roses.

Being a hero in ancient Greece is like being the child of an Asian tiger mom – the expectations are high. Let’s not mince words – life in the mortal realms sucks and eventually, you die. If you’re a demigod, though, you have the wonderful option of joining ma or pa in heaven and living forever. Getting there, though – that’s the trick. Heroes need glory.

How do you earn glory? Through heroic deeds. Not “four adventurers beat up a kobolds and took his 7 cp” types of deeds, but “one hero takes on dragon alone” sort of stuff. For a deed to fetch a hero glory, it has to be at the envelope of his or her abilities and he or she must risk death in achieving it. If it’s about fighting a monster, it needs to have at least as many hit dice as the hero. If fighting a monster with others, the monster has to have at least as many hit dice as the total party. If fighting a group, the hero must do it alone (perhaps with one allowable henchman) and the opponents, collectively, must have as many Hit Dice as he does. If it is some sort of skill challenge, it needs to have a less than 50% chance of success and, as I mentioned before, be deadly. Fighting a dragon or giant, jumping across a precipice, bathing an otyugh, picking a lock that contains a poison needle – all of these things can be heroic.

What do you get for glory? For every 500 XP earned heroically while 1st level (and every 1,000 XP earned while 2nd level and every 1,500 XP earned while 3rd level – you get the idea), the hero earns what we’ll call a Hero Point (stayed up all night thinking of the name – I’m very proud). Hero points measure your progress towards becoming a true hero:

At 6 Hero Points, you achieve a measure of fame that grants you a +2 bonus on reaction checks.

At 12 Hero Points, you acquire a small cult consisting in its entirety of a 1st level cleric or druid (they are restricted to no higher than 3rd level spells, granted by your divine parent) as a henchman. If he or she dies, a new one is attracted when you earn your next Hero Point, still at 1st level.

At 24 Hero Points, you are granted godhood upon your death. In the meantime, your cleric, if they are at least 5th level, may build a small temple in your honor and attract followers.

But there’s another aspect to being a hero – family troubles. Heroes are related to the gods, and the gods are, frankly, a pain in the ass. Heroes suffer the chance of being cursed by their own parents when the rile up the other gods, usually in two ways:

1) Killing another hero (or monster with divine blood)

2) Defiling another god’s temple

Do these things, and mom or dad have to hear about it and deal with it. They do so with a geas or quest, couple with a curse (i.e. bestow curse or whatever spell works in your system). To relieve the curse, one must complete the geas or quest. Gives heroes something to think about while adventuring and gathering up glory, don’t you think.