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DC Heroes RPG – New Rules – Rules clarifications

Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game


This is a technical article for the DC Heroes RPG.

  • This is a compilations of list discussions about different ways to adjudicate or conceptualize certain game elements.
  • These addendums and clarifications are not official and are only provided as potentially useful house rules or explanations of particular game mechanics.
  • The following items are not necessarily directly quoted — often times they are compilations of ideas across multiple posts and also sometimes reworded for clarity and completeness.
  • This is why the original person who made the suggestion is referred to herein as the commenter rather than simply the author.


Phoenix Wright pointing over a white background

Artist — Skilled Use Only

Commenter: Jay Myers

Some players may wonder why Artist is Skilled Use only since anyone can perform most of the tasks listed therein — even an untrained person can make a sketch, for example.

A possible rationale is that Artist represents a sufficient level of talent and/or trained ability to potentially gain a positive audience reaction. Anyone can try to sing a song, but not everyone can carry a tune well enough to possibly impress listeners.

Simply put, the lack of the Artist Skill does not imply a complete inability to carry out an action, simply an inability to do so in an artistically appreciable way.

Character Creation Paradigm

Commenter: Eric Langendorff

There are two paradigms involved in designing a character for DCH/BoH: the character’s paradigm, and the game’s.

The character’s paradigm can involve just about anything, and the character and other characters in his or her universe can describe them in just about any way (Example: “I can’t become visible without extreme effort.”).

The game’s paradigm, on the other hand, is centered on the abilities of a typical human being as described in the rulebook, with variations from those abilities being described as special Advantages, Powers, or other stats even if they are natural or innate to the character.

When actually making the character sheet, it is the game’s paradigm that dominates. It doesn’t matter what the character says, believes, or feels the power is, all that matters is what the ability does, even if this conflicts with the character’s own point of view.

This is often cited as the difference between a lower-case power and an upper-case Power. The former is the power from the character’s perspective, and the latter is the actual Power or Powers from the rulebook required to achieve the effects produced by the character’s described power.

The difference between game and character paradigm explains why various normal abilities of living beings are treated as Powers, such as insects having Shrinking. Such traits can be clarified by the list-created Form Function Bonus (called Innate in some writeups), which denotes a Power that is not a super-ability per se but rather an innate natural trait of that character.

Character Interaction: Persuasion Addendum

Commenters: Sean MacDonald & Roy Cowan

The difficulty of Persuasion attempts should not just reflect the target’s opinion of the would-be persuader but also his opinion on the topic at hand.

Accordingly, GMs may wish to apply two Attitude modifiers for Persuasion attempts twice, one based on the attitude toward the person making the attempt, the second based on the idea or action being proposed.

To avoid potential abuse, the combination of the modifiers should still be capped at the highest or lowest possible points for a single modifer (-2 or +7).

Charisma — Skilled Use Only?

Commenter: John Colagioia

Though all Character Interaction Maneuvers can be used by any character, the Charisma Skill notes all 3 Subskills as being Skilled Use only. While this seems to be a discrepancy, in all likelihood the Skilled Use provision in this case is meant to prevent Unskilled Use of Charisma to substitute for AV *and* EV of Character Interactions.

For example, this prevents a character with INF 10 and AUR 02 from using Charisma (Persuasion) Unskilled to substitute his 10 APs of INF for the EV while taking the -2CS Unskilled Penalty.

Column Shifts versus Row Shifts

Commenter: Roy Cowan
Helper(s): Eric Langendorff

For those curious about why Column Shifts should be used instead of Row Shifts (i.e. shifting of OV/RV rather than AV/EV on the Action and Result Charts for Maneuvers, Scholars, etc.):

The effects of Column Shifts versus and equivalent Row Shifts on the Action Table are the same. However, for the Result Table a Row Shift often yields a different number of RAPs than the equivalent Column Shift would have.

For example, take an EV 10 vs. an RV 8. Reducing the RV by one column changes the RAPs from 3 to 4. An “equivalent” Row Shift moving the EV up one row changes the RAPs from 3 to 6.

Row Shifts as modifiers also raise potential problems when you get Column Shift over to the A category. If you use the original EV value (as you would for RV when applying RAPs after Column Shifts), you get a irregular leap or drop in RAPs depending on the direction of the row shifts.

If you use a modified EV value you may get arguments about what the new EV value should be. For example: a 14 EV gets a Row Shift from the 13-15 row to the 11-12 row. Does it now count as an 11 or a 12? This particular case can be adjudicated by making it the highest value when dropping “down” and the lowest when moving “up”.

For example, an EV 14 dropping down to the 11-12 row would be considered an EV 12, while being raised to the 16-18 column would make it an EV 16.

Given the above factors, it is usually best to avoid Row Shifts on the Result Table.

Continuum Control Benefits

Commenters: John Colagioia & Chris Cottingham

What differentiates Continuum Control from a simple “bundle” Power (a Power that simply mimics several other Powers) or from purchasing all of the applicable Powers separately is that all of the mimicked abilities can be combined into a single Dice Action.

In other words, it allows the simultaneous use of abilities that would otherwise have to be activated separately, probably over several phases. This is stated in the Power description, but deserves emphasis because it is a fairly unique distinguishing ability.

Defensive Power Stacking

Commenter: Ray Winninger
Helper(s): KalEl el Vigilante, Mike Winkler

“When I wrote the 2nd Edition rules (which are essentially the same as the 3rd Edition rules) my intent was that multiple powers that *add* their APs to AV, EV, OV or RV don’t “stack.”

In other words, a character with APs of both Force Field and Force Shield can add only one of those powers to his RV, not both. That’s certainly the way I’d run it if I was GMing. If we had seen this problem crop up frequently in playtesting I would have written it into the rules. Additive powers are already a little dicey – allowing multiple adds runs too much risk of abuse.”

Mr. Winninger added that he would apply the same rule to multiple characters stacking their Powers. For example, if a character projected Force Field to protect another character with Skin Armor, the other character would use the higher of the applicable Powers rather than both.

As a more forgiving alternative suggested by KalEl and Mike Winkler, the GM can mitigate abuse by adding the highest applicable Power normally and then adding the others using AP math.

For example, a character with BODY 10, Flame Immunity: 08, Force Field (Self Only): 05, and Skin Armor: 07 might have an RV of 18 versus a punch (BODY 10 + Skin Armor: 07 + 1 AP for Force Field), an RV of 15 versus most energy attacks (BODY 10 + Force Field: 05) and an RV of 19 versus heat-based attacks (BODY 10 + Flame Immunity: 08 + 1 AP for Force Field).

Detective (Law) Subskill and Legal Knowledge

Commenter: Roy Cowan

The Law Subskill of Detective is specifically stated to be acting as a criminal trial lawyer. Because of this narrow focus, legal knowledge outside of that limited context is better represented by an Expertise or Scholar in the appropriate legal field.

For law enforcement officers, Detective (Police Procedure) can be extended to cover their job-specific knowledge of legal issues — how to conduct a legitimate search, what criminal charges might cover a particular crime, and so forth.

Law enforcement officers might also have an Expertise relating to legal matters in a specific area if their career has been focused on it — an FBI agent who has specialized in investigating corporate crime might have an Expertise in Financial Law, for example.

Fire Hazards

Commenter: Sébastien Andrivet

Superheroes sometimes encounter large fires, whether they’re sweeping in to save innocents in a burning building or battling an arsonist supervillain. Common dangers of these blazes include :

  • Smoke inhalation. The whole zone will be saturated with the equivalent of a Chemical Attack, with an AP rating ranging from 01 AP to 08 APs depending on conditions ; if a person’s DEX is reduced to 0, the effects becomes Poison Touch with the same APs. Smoke inhalation is the most common cause of death in fires.
    Note that crawling face close the floor is a bad idea – that’s where heavier than air gases are, and unsurprisingly, they are poisonous. It’s best to ambulate on all four and breathe at that level.
  • Lack of visibility. Most of the time, the action will be considered to occur in darkness (BOH:SE p151). The conditions in a building on fire are highly disorienting, and the GM may occasionally require Difficult INT/INT rolls to orient yourself under such conditions. Professional firemen reduce this difficulty by one step (or two if they have a Scholar in their profession).
  • Weakened buildings. Risks include crashing through a weakened floor, or having burning parts of the superstructure fall on you (the later being typically an AV 08/EV 06 attack ; getting free is a Difficult or Strenuous STR/STR roll).
  • Sheer heat. Coming close to a raging fire is enough for Flame Project attack, tested against BODY/BODY. Intensity is usually 01 or 02 APs, as it can make a normal person pass out pretty fast. Being directly exposed to fire will have an AV/EV ranging from 03/03 (small fire) to 08/08 (raging inferno) (BOH:SE p151). Chemical fires may reach an even greater AV/EV, typically 10/10.
  • Having your own clothes or costume catch fire is usually a 03/03 attack against BODY/BODY – but it increases by one every Phase, to a maximum of 06/06. Dropping to the floor and rolling, or having somebody smother or spray you with foam, always works in a single Phase in fiction.

Flight OV

Commenters: Sébastien Andrivet, Roy Cowan & Dr. Peter S Piispanen

For two or more objects using Flight along the same rough vector, the GM may wish to subtract the pursuer’s Flight APs from the pursued’s Flight score before calculating OV substitution (with a minimum result of 0).

This prevents oddities such as one supersonic jet pursuing another at the same speed suddenly needing to beat an OV of 11 to hit even though they are both in relatively static positions (or in more extreme cases, two FTL  ships suddenly needing to beat an OV of 30 or more under similar circumstances), which does not seem to fit the source material in most such cases.

Gadgetry: Power Armor Use Addendum

Author: Dr. Peter S Piispanen
Helpers: Roy Cowan, Mike Davis, Jobe, Eric Langendorff, Jay Myers, Frank Murdock, ygormorais

  • While wearing a battlesuit, the user can choose the higher of either their normal DEX, the armor’s /DEX/ (if applicable), or substitution of their Vehicles (Power Armor) Subskill for DEX while operating a battlesuit. The in-armor Initiative of the character should be calculated using the score chosen for DEX.
  • The Power Armor  subskill is a new subskill of the Vehicles Skill and can be used Unskilled. The Power Armor Subskill or may not be part of the standard Vehicles Skill package depending on the Genre used; if it is standard than the full Vehicles Skill Factor Cost is increased by 1.
  • Putting on never-before-used power armor results in the standard Unfamiliarity penalty for a period as assigned by the GM. Also, the user will not automatically know all of the abilities of an unfamiliar battlesuit unless instructed about them; roll Gadgetry (Identify Gadget) to find each Power. Completing this latter process with all systems should be considered sufficient to eliminate the Unfamiliarity Penalty as well.
  • A character with an applicable Scholar (such as Battlesuit Mechanics) can familiarize themselves with new systems much more quickly, automatically recognizing all of the suit’s Powers and needing only a single Identify Gadget Check against the lowest AP value of the armor to negate the Unfamiliarity Penalty.
  • The above rules assumes relatively similar technologies to those that the character is already familiar with. Alien armors or other battlesuits with more esoteric origins may result in additional penalties to operate or understand at the GM’s discretion.
  • Unlike other Vehicle Subskills, the Power Armor Subskill cannot be used as the AV for the armor’s weapons. Instead, the Weaponry (Exotic) Skill or Weaponry (Power Armor) Specialization is used for all offensive purposes (AV) unless a built-in targeting system exists. On-board targeting computers are handled by giving the built-in offensive Powers their own AV value (+1 FC) or by using a built-in Accuracy skill.
  • Some armors may have an built-in Thief (Security Systems) Skill, which serves as the armor’s APs of security against tampering, remote manipulation, etc. New users without proper authorization codes or similar measures may have to defeat such systems before using the armor.
  • Armors using limited power supplies are best handled by giving them a higher R# value, with a note that a failed R# means that the armor is out of power and needs to be recharged, not repaired. Certain armors may have removable power sources, in which case the armor has a Misc. Drawback that the R# value is increased to a certain number if the power supply is removed. Such a power source is written up as a separate gadget and can have separate abilities from the armor.

Killing Combat Addendum

Commenters: German Anton, James Beggs, KalEl el Vigilante, Peter S Piispanen, Pufnstuff & Nick Yankovec

In many superheroic settings, the use of Killing Combat in heroic Genres is characterized not only in moral terms — use of Killing Combat may be considered unheroic — but also in practical terms. In the latter sense, use of Bashing Combat is characterized as holding back and use of Killing Combat may be considered as part of a desperate effort to defeat a particularly tough foe.

This is not reflected very well in the current rules, where the amount of damage and means to resist it are the same regardless of whether the attack is Bashing or Killing. The only differences between Bashing and Killing Damage under the current rules are that:

  1. Killing Combat can reduce a character below 0 current BODY, which is largely irrelevant to the issue of defeating an opponent since reducing them to 0 is sufficient to render them unconscious. Furthermore, particularly tough opponents with Invulnerability effectively get an immediate free Recovery Check when they fall below 0 BODY, making them *more* difficult to knock out with Killing Damage than Bashing Damage.
  2. Recovery Checks require more time to pass for Killing Damage, but there is still usually a lengthy interval between Checks even for Bashing Damage.

This also connects to the moral issue. Part of the reason it is considered more heroic in some Genres not to use Killing Combat is that it required more restraint to do so and thus made it more difficult to subdue opponents. Confronting a very durable foe also raises the question of whether or not it would be necessary to resort to lethal tactics (Killing Combat) to stop them.

Making Killing Combat more damaging both explains the perceived difference in effectiveness between Bashing and Killing Combat and adds more direct weight to the moral resistance to employing it by adding a practical temptation to do so.

Two basic options have been advanced for addressing this issue:

  1. Use of Killing Combat reduces the opponent’s OV/RV by 1 CS or just the RV by 1 to 2 CSs. This is conceptually similar to existing Drawbacks such as Attack Vulnerability and Limitations such as Non-Lethal (which, in addition to limiting a Power to only using Bashing Damage only, also raises opponents’ RV by 1 CS).
  2. LDD versus Killing Damage is more expensive than versus Bashing Damage. The Genre Rules can be a useful guide — LDD versus Killing Damage might cost as much as LDD in a more restrictive Genre. For example, LDD in Action Genres normally costs 1 HP per RAP removed, so with this option LDD versus Killing Damage would cost 3 HPs per RAP as in the Mock-Real Genre.

Another more circumspect approach would be use of an Overkill rule in which Bashing Damage in excess of 2x the opponent’s BODY are inflicted as Killing Damage.

For example, a character scores 10 RAPs of Bashing Damage against an opponent with BODY 03. The first 6 RAPs are applied as Bashing Damage, with the first 3 RAPs knocking the opponent out by reducing him to 0 Current BODY and the other having no further effect since Bashing Damage cannot reduce a current BODY score below 0.

However, after those first 6 RAPs (the opponent’s BODY x2) the remaining 4 RAPs are applied as Killing Damage. This reduces the opponent to -4 current BODY and kills him unless measures such as Invulnerability or Desperation Recovery save him.

This indirectly reinforces the difference between Bashing and Killing Combat because characters not wishing to inflict Killing Damage will thus hold back, using lower EVs, not spending as much HPs on damage, limiting their doubles rolls, and so forth. Those using Killing Combat will not be holding back in such a manner and thus can use all of the above to their full effect.

A related modification suitable for more gritty genres is to allow Killing Damage to cause blood loss even if current BODY has not yet been reduced to 0.

Military Science (Demolitions) Addendum

Commenters: Roy Cowan & KalEl el Vigilante

The rules for using the Demolition Subskill are somewhat vague and also make it difficult for characters with reasonable skill levels to achieve typical demolition results. An expert with 5 to 6 APs of Demolitions would be hard pressed to damage even a small building while spending considerable HPs, for example.

A simple fix for this is to apply some of the rules used for Gadget construction to Demolition as well:

  • While the base time for setting a Demolition remains four minutes (6 APs), the demolitionist subtracts 1 AP from his AV for each AP of time subtracted and adds 1 AP to AV for each AP of time added.
  • Demolitions can be used for a check similar to Scientist (Analysis), limited only to detecting weak spots as described in that Subskill. The Analysis Subskill could also be used as normal for the same effect.
  • Using blueprints provides the same Bonus to Demolition attempts as it does to constructing Gadgets (see the Drawing Plans Subskill of Scientist for details).
  • Use of action modifiers might be allowed. If the demolitionist has an excellent idea of the target’s weak points (high AV or lowered OV) but is lacking in sufficient explosive material (low EV or high RV), he might be allowed to Go For Broke as a representation of highly efficient explosive placement.
    If the situation is reversed, with little knowledge of weak points (low AV or high OV) but a great deal of explosive (high EV or low RV), the demolitionist might be allowed the equivalent of a Flailing Maneuver, planting explosive material all over the place in hopes of hitting a weak spot by chance — the classic “P for Plenty” formula.
  • Defusing an explosive can be treated as an Opposed Check with the defuser’s Demolitions Subskill as AV/EV versus the bombmaker’s Demolitions Subskill as OV/RV.
    For mass-produced or standard designs, an appropriate OV/RV can be selected from the Universal Modifier Table, with a standard mine or explosive trap being Difficult or Challenging and a modern military nuclear device with elaborate safeguards falling under Extreme, Pushing the Limit, or even Herculean.
  • The time modifiers suggested above for setting demolition devices may also be applied to defusing them. To create even more dramatic tension, the RAPs of a partial success (that is, RAPs less than the full RV) may equal the number of Phases left until the bomb explodes, representing tropes such as failed defusing efforts speeding up the countdown.
  • Though Demolitions is normally not usable Unskilled, GMs in heroic Genres might allow characters the classic 50/50 chance to cut the red or blue wire (or one of the two green/yellow/whatever wires).

Omni-Power/Sorcery – Mimicking Bonuses

Commenter: Sean MacDonald

Bonuses can be applied to Powers created by Omni-Power or Sorcery at a cost of 3 active APs per 1 FC of the Bonus. For example, a character with Omni-Power: 10 duplicating an Energy Blast with an FC 1 Bonus would have to spend 3 of his APs on the Bonus, leaving 7 APs remaining for Energy Blast.

Bonuses are suggested to be this expensive because they can add considerable effectiveness to an ability. Allowing the spending a single AP to get Area of Effect or only 2 APs to get Usable on Others and Area of Effect can quickly get abusive.

This is also why allowing Limitations to be taken using the same guidelines is not suggested. It would be too easy to take Limitations that would have no effect in the current circumstances as an easy means to generate additional APs.

Power Loss explanations

Commenter: Eric Langendorff

For those who have trouble with how Power Loss is priced, here’s something I’ve found helpful: it’s easier to think of Power Loss’ refund as being based not on the final APs of the Power, but rather on the number of APs lost.

For example: a Power that drops from 12 APs to 4 APs has lost 8 APs, and Power Loss therefore pays back the cost of an 8 AP Power. But at what Factor Cost?

To determine this, take the affected Power’s Factor Cost and, if the Power Loss Condition is Rare, subtract 2; otherwise, leave it alone. (If this results in a modified Factor Cost of 1 or less, see below.) The Power Loss Factor Cost is then half (round down) the modified Factor Cost of the Power it affects.

*If the modified Factor Cost of the Power is 1 or 0, Power Loss pays HPs equal to the APs of the Power; if the modified Factor Cost of the Power is -1, Power Loss pays HPs equal to half (round down) the APs of the Power.

Occasionally, the question has arisen as to how to price Power Loss if the Condition is the default case. In other words, what if, instead of a Power that fails to work under certain circumstances, you want a power that only works under certain circumstances?

Viewed as above, it’s pretty easy: add 2 to the FC of the target Power to obtain the modified FC.

Strength of Human Characters Addendum

Commenters: Numerous — the subject has been raised on the list on several occasions

A flaw commonly noted with the STR scores in relation to the weight AP benchmarks is that lifting strength of human characters scales up much more quickly than it should. Two common fixes include:

  1. Divide the base weight in the AP Benchmarks by 2 so that 0 APs of weight equals 25 lbs. This would move each current benchmark up by 1 AP; For example, the weight and examples currently used for 4 APs weight would now be used at 5 APs weight.
  2. Human characters subtract 1 AP from their STR for lifting purposes. Thus, a STR 04 human can only lift 3 APs without Pushing.

Another approach would be to limit human characters to lower STR ranges appropriate for their lifting power. However, this has generally not been done for two reasons.

First, it would compress the range of APs in human characters even further in the Attribute that already has the most limited range.

Second and more importantly for most players, it would require adjustment of many pre-existing scores of characters with human strength.

The above fixes are usually much more convenient, assuming that the gaming group in question is concerned about this issue in the first place; Many are not, especially since the need to know precisely how much weight a human character can lift may not arise very often in normal play.

Weapons Theorem Rules

Authors: Dr Peter S Piispanen & John Colagioia
Helper(s): Roy Cowan

  • Melee weapons either have Claws, Claws Being, or EV depending on the type of damage.
  • Ranged weapons either have EV, Projectile Weapons or any other ranged offensive Power as appropriate.
  • Weapons with Claws, Projectile Weapons, or other Powers use the Power’s APs as EV.
  • Melee Weapons with their own EV have the Bonus that any APs of EV above 2 can be added to the user’s STR or Martial Artist EV using normal math (not AP math) when those values are substituted for the weapon’s EV. This adds +1FC to the cost of EV.
  • The EV Bonus add-on to STR/Martial Artist has a maximum possible combined EV of the weapon’s BODY+1 APs. If used at this level the weapon will break immediately unless it has the Hardened Defenses Advantage.
  • With Hardened Defenses, the maximum possible combined EV is BODY+2 APs, which will immediately break the weapon. Use of an EV at BODY+1 APs will result in damage to the weapons as per the Result Table (using combined EV versus the weapon’s BODY), with the weapon remaining operations until at a Current Body condition of 0 or less.
  • Weapons used for Blocking will take damage if the incoming EV exceeds the Body of the blocking object. The blocking weapon is then broken immediately unless it possesses Hardened Defenses in which case it takes damage as per the Result Table.
  • A melee weapon may have a higher EV than its BODY although this would be very rare. If such a weapon’s EV is further increased by use of STR/Martial Artist as above it will immediately break. Furthermore, the STR/Martial Artist score must be within 3 APs of the weapon’s base EV or it will not add at all; if it is within 3 APs it will add in the using AP math, not normal math.
  • Though thrown weapons are not covered by the above rules, the above melee weapons rules can also be extended to thrown weapons at the GM’s choice. Optional rules for bows can be found on WORG.

Example 1: A sword with BODY: 08 and EV: 04 is swung by a person with STR: 03. The sword’s EV will be: STR + (base EV-2) = 3 + (4-2) = 5 APs. Thus the Big Guy attacks with 5 APs of EV due to his higher-than-normal STR.

Example 2: As above, but with STR: 07. The maximum possible EV would be (7+ (4-2)) 9 APs. If he chose to use the full EV of 9 APs it would break the Sword since it does not have Hardened Defenses, but any EV up to the Body of the Sword (8 in this case) is usable without damaging it.

Example 3: A character with STR: 12 uses the above sword. With full STR, he still only has an EV of 9 (BODY+1 of Sword) and the weapon is destroyed in the process.

Example 4: A character with STR: 12 picks up the legendary spear (EV: 5, BODY: 20). He can utilize the highest possible combined EV of 15 without any damage to the spear.

Example 5: A person with STR: 03 uses a Molecular-Strand Garrote (Body: 01, EV: 50). He decides not to use his higher-than-normal STR and instead rely on the weapon’s base EV alone. If he had decided to use his full STR he would have destroyed the weapon in the process (EV: 50 vs BODY: 01 on the Result Table) and would have gotten no EV increase since his STR is well below the 3 AP cut-off noted under paragraph 8 above.

Compiled, formatted, edited, etc. by Roy Cowan

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