Monday, October 31, 2022

Some Action-Heroes FAQs


With the release of the ashcan edition of Action-Heroes by Outland Entertainment over at DriveThruRPG there have been a few questions that have floated around the internet and come to my attention, so I thought I would make a post of some of these questions to point people towards. I don't know how frequent these questions have been, but they have been asked about the game.

The ashcan is no longer available for sale now that the Kickstarter has launched.. The ashcan has everything that you need to play a game of Action-Heroes, but it isn't the complete game that will eventually be available on Kickstarter and retail. The final version of the game will also have a series of appendices that outline an alternate magic system for the game, go over some collaborative setting-building rules for groups that want to create their own worlds from scratch, and a series of examples that take you through the process of building powers and special abilities for your characters in the game.

Action-Heroes is something that I have been working on for a long time, and has its origins in a system that I was asked to build for a licensed tabletop RPG that didn't come to fruition, so the rights to the system stayed with me. It is a simplified and streamlined version of one of my earliest professional game designs, and I think it is a design that represents where I am today as both a designer and game player/GM. It uses a simplified ruleset that is augmented by the ruling of the GM, and the needs of the players, that come up during play.

Q: How Do The Mechanics Work?

Action-Heroes uses a simple 3d6 versus a target number game mechanic for all forms of task resolution. The higher that you roll, the better. The dice can be modified by a number of things from skills to special abilities of the characters to situational modifiers to meta currency helpers. Called "Action Points," you can use these meta currency helpers to do anything from help modify a dice roll to editing the current scene in some small way, like putting a flashlight that might not have been in the scene there to help out the characters.

The game is intended to simulate the fictional reality of the fiction of cinematic action heroes, where seemingly impossible things can and do happen on a regular basis. Action-Heroes is a cinematic role-playing game that deals with larger than life characters that can do larger than life things, and the mechanics of the game are designed to support players having their characters doing big, splashy things during play, like their favorite heroes. There are a lot of notes and guidelines for the GM throughout the rules on how they can work with the players to play games that are about big things.

Q: What Do You Mean By Cinematic?

This means that big things should happen in your Action-Heroes games. Your characters are good at what they do, and that means that they should be able to successfully do big damn things a lot of the time. The success or failure of your characters taking down a villain's plot should hinge upon their capabilities as heroes, and not whether or not they can unlock a door. That is fine for other games, but Action-Heroes has been designed to simulate specific kinds of fictional realities. Fictional realities where: characters are able to take enormous loads of damage and keep going, take impossible actions, like driving a car down the side of building, and have some chance of success at it, and have an impact upon the world around them. This "world" around your characters can be as small as their neighborhood, or as large as a planet, and making it a better place should be a motivation for your characters.

Q: Is Action-Heroes A "Traditional" RPG?

Kind of? Action-Heroes is grounded in my 40+ years of playing and running TTRPGs. The foundations of the game are very traditional. It has a point buy character creation system that was inspired by my years of playing games like GURPS, or the big gold book of Chaosium's Basic Role-Playing game. But onto that foundation I built a number of player and character empowerment techniques and mechanics that are inspired by some of the more narratively-based games that I have played over the years. This might not be for everyone, but many of these tools and techniques aren't new to role-playing games, and have a long tradition to them as well. There have been forms of fate point mechanics in RPGs that go back to the 80s, and have been very popular games (like with many licensed super-hero games over the years). Action-Heroes was designed to be the type of role-playing game that I wanted to play, and that I hoped that others would be interested in playing as well.

Q: Is Action-Heroes Rules Light?

Whether or not a game is "rules light" is a pretty subjective opinion. I think that Action-Heroes is simpler and more streamlined than many other RPGs that are currently available on the market. It is definitely "rules lighter." The crunchiest part of the entire system is probably the power creation rules in the character creation section. The power creation rules aren't difficult, or complex, but there is a lot of material in this part of the game, mostly because there has to be a lot of options available to characters in my opinion. But Action-Heroes is not a big game, so I hope that contributes to it being more on the rules light side of things.

Q: Why Safety Tools?

I think that safety tools are one of the best developments in RPGs in the last twenty years. Why are they so important? RPGs are meant to be a social activity, and everyone there at the table is supposed to be there to have fun. One way that problems come up with gaming groups is when one person thinks their fun is more important than that of others in the group. Another problem that can come up with gaming groups is that you never know what kind of content that can come up during a game will cause problems with people in the group. Many times the response to this is "But I only play RPGs with my friends, and I know them." There is always going to be something that you don't know about your friends, and the last thing that you should want to do is upset a friend during a social situation. Everyone has an inner life of which there are aspects that others do not know about, no matter how close you might be.

The idea behind safety tools is to try to preemptively avoid pitfalls that can derails games, and friendships, by setting standards for what is, and what is not, going to come up during play. If you knew that one of the players in the group was horribly afraid of spiders, you would try to avoid using spiders in ways that could make them uncomfortable during play. This is the root of how safety tools work. You try to find out things that people might have before play starts, so you can know to avoid or downplay those things. Safety tools aren't intended to "make your games wimpy," they're intended to make everyone in the group feel welcome at the table.

Q: Can I Punch Nazis In Action-Heroes?

I think that punching Nazis should be the default assumption of any role-playing game.

The word heroes is right there on the tin of the game. The idea is that you are playing characters who are trying to make their world a better place. This entirely should mean that your characters can punch Nazis and other types of fascists in your games. Punching Nazis was good enough for Jack Kirby, which makes it good enough for me.

This list of questions might grow with time, but I think between this post and my previous post about the game, you should have enough to know if Action-Heroes is the right game for you. I know that it isn't going to be for everyone, and that's cool. But in my biased opinion, I think that I put together a pretty fun game that is simple to play, and I hope that other people get enjoyment out of it.