Rules [Fifth Draft]

The goal of Grim Heroic is to tell the stories about how Heroes (and sometimes Villains) change the world. To measure this Players and the Game Master record the Hard Truths of the World – all the grim and dark things that make the world a worse place. In order to change the Hard Truths, Characters must sacrifice their own Passions – the things the character cares deeply about.

Except it’s not as easy as saying, “I’ll give up Lois Lane to stop the Joker for ever.” (Ala Injustice: Gods Among Us.) The Game Master and Players will work together to tell stories about how the characters find themselves in the situation where they are able to sacrifice their Passions to save the World. During this maneuvering part of the story the players will roll dice, using various statistics and numbers on their character sheet, to determine the outcome of their character’s actions. All the while on the lookout for those moments when the character can change the world.

Creating a Heroic Character

Name: Your character’s real name.

Alias: What you’re character is known as by the media.

Theme: Once per game you can “Hit your theme music!”, while your Theme Song plays all your dice explode (roll an additional die for every natural 6 rolled.)

Traits: Traits are what actions your character can take. Traits are Rated from 1 to 6 and are divided into three broad groups; Physical, Intellectual, and Social. Traits can never be less than 1 or greater than 6.

During Character Creation players select one Trait to start at 6, a second to start at 5, and a third to start to start at 4.

Rating: Traits have a Rating that determines the minimum die size that can be spent to activate the Trait. The lower the Rating the better the Trait.

Beliefs: Beliefs are why your character takes action. Beliefs are Ranked from 1 to 5 and have three elements; Name, Description, and Rank.

During Character Creation players have 5 Ranks to spend on Beliefs.

Name: The Name of the Belief is shorthand for referring to the Belief at the table.

Description: The Description elaborates on what it is the Character believes and helps to determine when a Belief can be used.

Rank: The Rank is the number of d6 dice added to the pool before rolling.

History: History is how your character takes action. Histories are Ranked from 1 to 5 and have three elements; Name, Description, and Rank.  

During Character Creation players have 5 Ranks to spend on Histories.

Name: The Name of the History is shorthand for referring to the History at the table.

Description: The Description elaborates on the Character’s past and helps to determine when a History can be used.

Rank: The Rank is the number of d6 dice added to the pool before rolling.

Powers: Powers are all the uncommon abilities that the character has. Powers have three elements; Name, Shutdown, and Effect.

During Character Creation characters start five points to spend on Power Costs.

Name: The Name of the Power is how you refer to the Power at the table.

Shutdown: The Shutdown is the action that must be taken in order to stop the character from using the Power and has a Cost.

Cost: When the Shutdown Cost is paid using either a Die or spending a number of Conviction points equal to the Shutdown Cost, that power can not be used for the rest of the Scene.

Effect: The effects the Power can have on a scene when the Trigger Cost, either a Die or Conviction, is spent to activate the power.

Conviction: Conviction is what drives a character. Conviction has four elements; Starting, Current, Limit, and Maximum.

During Character Creation characters start with 5 Starting Conviction, zero Current Conviction, zero Conviction Limit, and a Maximum Conviction of 15.

Starting: The Starting Conviction is a number of Conviction points the character generates at the start of a game session.

Current: The Current Conviction is their current number of Conviction points a character has access to.

Limit: The Conviction Limit is how many Conviction points the Character can spend per Scene. The Limit is equal to Conviction Maximum minus total Condition (Short Term and Long Term) Limits. If your Conviction Limit is ever zero then the Character can’t spend Conviction or Dice.

Maximum: The Maximum Conviction is how many Conviction points a character can store at any one time. The Maximum Conviction is equal to the total of all three Trait Ratings.

Conditions: Conditions are all the things that complicate a Character. There are two types of Conditions; Short Term, and Long Term.

During Character Creation characters do not have any Conditions.

Short-Term Conditions: Short-Term Conditions are easier to recover from; Characters can spend a number of Conviction points equal to the ST Condition to remove it, a number of Conviction points less than the ST Condition to reduce it a number of points equal to Conviction spend, spend a Die equal to the ST Condition to remove it, or spend a Die less than the ST Condition to reduce it a number of points equal to Die spent.

Long-Term Conditions: Long-Term Conditions are harder to recover from; Characters can spend a number of Conviction points equal to the ST Condition to reduce it by one,or spend a Die equal to the ST Condition to reduce it by one.

Both types have two elements; Name, and Limit.

Name: The Name of the Condition is how you refer to the Condition at the table.

Limit: The Limit is the number subtracted from the Conviction Maximum to determine the Conviction Limit. If a character’s Condition Limit is ever greater than their Conviction Maximum the Character can’t spend Conviction points or Dice.

Agency: Agency is the ability to effect the narrative, either by ending a scene early or removing Hard Truths without burning Passions. There are two types of Agency; Scene and Story.

During Character Creation character do not start with any Agency.

Scene: Scene Agency points are earned by spending dice and creating Hard Truths. Scene Agency points are accumulated until one character has twice as many Scene Agency points as any other character in the scene.

Story: Story Agency points are accumulated by finishing scenes (one point per scene finished) and can be spent one-for-one to remove Hard Truths, teach your Protégé, or improve your headquarters.

Passions: Passions are the things a character truly cares about, the things they would do anything in their power to protect. As long as a Passion is Active on a Character’s sheet it is impervious to destruction or removal, however that doesn’t mean the Passion can not be threatened or endangered. Passions without a Size are considered Inactive, but are left on the Character Sheet for record keeping. Character start with 5 Passions but will acquire 10 more, up to 15 total, during gameplay. Passion Sizes are preassigned, every character has the following Sizes available for Passions: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, & 5.

During Character Creation character starts with Passions of the following sizes; 1, 1, 2, 2, 3.

Name: The name of the thing your character wants to preserve in the world. This is written as a tangible noun – any person, place, or thing a character can directly interact with. Passions are not vague constructs or ideas.

Size: A number between 1 and 5 representing how important the thing is to the character. The bigger the Size the more the character is unwilling to part with their Passion.

Hard Truths: Hard Truths are the things in the world making it a worse place. They are all the bad stuff the Character want to see fixed. As long as a Hard Truth is in the World it is impervious to destruction or removal, but it can be hindered or restrained. Players must create at least 5 Hard Truths at character creation, which are added to the master list of the World’s Hard Truths.

During Character Creation the player create the following Sizes of Hard Truths; 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5.

Name: The name of the thing your character wants to see removed from the world. This is written as a tangible noun – any person, place, or thing a character can directly interact with. Hard Truths care not vague constructs or ideas.

Size: A number between 1 and 5 representing how ingrained the Truth is in the world. The bigger the Size the harder it is to remove from the World.

Scenes

There are two types of Scenes in Grim Heroic; Narrative and Dramatic. Narrative scenes are paced by the players and game master while Dramatic scenes are paced by the dice. During either type of scene Character can spend Current Conviction to accomplish various things.

Spend Conviction:

  • = ST Complication to Heal the ST Complication
  • = ½ ST Complication to Heal another Character’s ST Complication
  • Any to Create a ST Complication for another Character
  • Any to Use a Power
  • Any to Remove Henchmen
  • = Current Trait Rank x2 to Permanently decrease a Trait’s Rank by 1
  • = The Next Trait Rank to Permanently increase a Trait’s Rank by 1

Narrative: Narrative scenes are free-form role-playing and discussion driving by the players and Game Master. The Game Master describes the scene, acts for any non-player characters, and moderates disagreements. The Players describe their characters actions, speak as their characters, and ask the Game Master for clarifications.

Should conflict arise the Game Master should attempt to resolve the conflict in the following order:

  1. Agreement: All players involved agree on the outcome.
  2. Conviction: Whichever player spends more Conviction wins.
  3. Dice Pool: Whichever player would have the bigger die pool.
  4. Dice Pool + Conviction: Players can Conviction to increase their dice pool by 1 point per point of Conviction spent.
  5. The Game Master: The Game Master decides the best direction for the story, including turning a Narrative Scene into a Dramatic scene.

After resolving a disagreement Story Agency is rewarded for:

  1. Agreement: 1 Point for all involved.
  2. Conviction: 1 Point for whoever spends the most Conviction.
  3. Dice Pool: 1 Point for whoever has the bigger Pool.
  4. Dice Pool + Conviction: 1 Point to whoever Spends the Most Conviction.
  5. Game Master: 0 Points.

Dramatic: To start a Dramatic scene the players and Game Master should determine what all of the Goals for the various character in the scene would be. The Goals are not accomplished during the scene, but upon it’s completion. The dice do not determine if the Goals are accomplished, instead they help pace the scene. Once the Goals are established every character involved rolls their Dice Pool. Each character may take one action per die in their pool starting with the character with the most dice in their pool. Dice can be spent to take a number of actions

Spend Dice:

  • Trait to Take a successful action that requires that Trait and
    • 1) Earn Conviction equal to one plus the difference between the Trait and Result.
    • 2) Give Conviction equal to one plus the difference between the Trait and Result to all Characters of your choosing in the scene.
  • ≥ ST Complication to Heal the ST Complication
  • ≥ ½ ST Complication to Heal another Character’s ST Complication
  • > LT Complication to Reduce LT Complication by 1
  • Any to Create a ST Complication for another Character
  • Any to Add Result to Scene Agency
  • Any to Use a Power
  • Any to Remove the Result in Henchmen

Dramatic scenes continue until everyone has spent all their dice. Characters then compare the amount of Scene Agency points accumulated.

If one character has twice as many Scene Agency points as any other character in the scene their player determines how the scene ends and which Goals are met.

If no characters have twice as many Scene Agency points then the character with the highest Scene Agency can determine if the scene ends, and which Goals are met, or if the scene continues, dice are rolled again and Scene Agency points are kept.

Changing the World

Before a Hero can Change the World they must progress the story to a point where change is achievable for them. Removing a powerful Villain takes more than just crossing off a Passion or spending Story Agency points and it magically happening. The players must tell the story of how they work to undermine the Villain and position themselves to the point where toppling the threat is achievable. When removing Hard Truths the player is expected to explain how, in the fiction of the world, the character eliminates the Hard Truth and if they removed a Passion to do so how their Passion is eliminated. If anyone at the table (other players or the Game Master) objects to the player’s narration, they are not allowed to spend their Story Agency points or sacrifice their Passion.

When players Sacrifice their Passions or spend Story Agency to remove the Hard Truths of the World the sacrificed Passion or total Story Agency points must be equal to or greater than the Hard Truth being removed. If a Player sacrificed a Passion it is crossed off their character sheet. The Passion can not return to the character’s Passion list and the Size can never hold another Passion.

Sacrificed Passions are narratively removed form the character by either being killed, destroyed, or abandoned. If the Passion was an object it is destroyed, lost, or not available to the character ever again. If the Passion was a location it is destroyed, taken by an enemy, or no longer safe for the character. If the Passion was a person they are dead, missing, or now hate the character. Alternatively, the character can no longer care about the Passion anymore. Perhaps they believe the person or place has changed too much, or the object is no longer precious to them.

When determining the fate of a Passion the player must consider if it’s a Passion for another player’s character. If any other player character has a Passion for the same thing, the ending must not be final for the character as well. IE: If two characters have Passion for a third character, the third character can not be killed until one one character has it on their Passion list. However character one can sacrifice character three in a way the character three can still be a part of character two’s life.

Changing the Character

Characters can gain new Passions during play by spending Story Agency points. If they want to select something as a new Passion they choose any open Size to put the new Passion into and spend that many Story Agency points. Players can also create new new Hard Truths by choosing what Size of Hard Truth they want based on how much impact they want this new Hard Truth to have on the World. In return they earn a number of Scene Agency points equal the Size.

Characters can gain a new Passion or create a new Hard Truth whenever:

  • They first encounter something that could be a new Passion or Hard Truth.
  • They roll dice against something that could be a new Passion or Hard Truth.
  • They take a Condition from something that could be a new Passion or Hard Truth.

Whenever a Player sacrifices a Passion:

  • The Passion is crossed off the Character Sheet. The Passion Size can never be used again. If the Character has no Passion Sizes left, they must either die or retire permanently.
  • Pick One:
    • Gain a number of Ranks to spend on either Histories or Beliefs equal to the crossed off Passion Size. Sizes are spent at a 1:1 ratio. IE: Going from Rank 2 History to Rank 4 History costs 2 Sizes.
    • Create a new Power with a Shutdown cost Equal to the crossed off Passion Size.
    • Increase their Starting Conviction by a number of points equal to the crossed off Passion Size.

Whenever a Hard Truth is removed from the World:

  • The Hard Truth is crossed off the World List.
  • Every character can shift a Passion one Size, either up or down, as long as they have an open space for it. (Exception: If there are no available Passions at a Size then shifts can skip that Size. Example: IF a character has no Size 2 slots left they can promote a Passion from Size 1 to 3. But only if there are no possible options for Size 2) If a Passion is Size 1 it can be moved to Inactive Passions..
  • They reduce their Long-Term Conditions by a number of points equal to the crossed off Hart Truth Size.

Powers

To use a power a character must spend either Conviction or a rolled die. This total is called the Trigger Cost. Some powers have one effect that grows in scope the higher the Trigger Cost, while others change their effects when the Trigger Cost changes.

Boost

Reroll a number of dice equal to ½ the Trigger Cost (Round Up.)

Heal, Minor

Remove another character’s Short-Term Conditions equal to the Trigger Cost.

Heal, Major

Reduce another character’s Long-Term Condition by the Trigger Cost.

Hurt, Minor

Inflict a Short-Term Condition with a Limit equal to the Trigger Cost.

Hurt, Major

Inflict a Long-Term Condition with a Limit equal to the Trigger Cost.

Incapacitate

Prevent another character from taking any actions for a number of hours equal to the Trigger Cost.

Invulnerability

Ignore an inflicted Short-Term or Long-Term Condition equal to the Trigger Cost.

Inspire

For a number of times equal to the Trigger Cost, when someone else spends a die to take a successful Action and gives the Conviction earned to others the number of Conviction given is doubled.

Sight

Define a number of details about an object equal to the Trigger Cost.

Speedster

You may immediately spend a number of extra dice equal to the Trigger Cost.

Stealth

Become undetectable for a number of hours equal to the Trigger Cost.

Travel

Arrive at a scene previously not a part of that is within 2,000 miles per Trigger Cost. (Note: 6 points allows travel for 12,000 miles which is literally half-way around the world.)

One Hundred Powers

4th Wall AwarenessCryokinesisInspirationalPossessionSuper Senses
AbsorptionDatakinesisIntangibilityPrecognitionSuper Speed
Access\OcclusionDensity ControlInvisibilityPrehensilitySuper Strength
AdaptationDisintegrationInvulnerabilityProjectionSuper Vision
Additional LimbsDivinationLeechPyrokinesisSuperhuman Sense
AerokinesisDual MindLuckQuintekinesisSwimming
AlchemyDuplicationMagnetismReality WarpingSynesthesia
ArmorElasticityMartial ArtsRegenerationTechnopathy
AtmokinesisElectrokinesisMatter IngestionShadow WalkTelekinesis
AudiokinesisEvocationMentokinesisShapeshiftingTelepathy
AuraFear InducementMimicrySize ShiftingTeleportation
BlastFlightMorphingSorceryTerrakinesis
BotanokinesisForce FieldMuscle MemorySubatokinesisThiriokinesis
CamouflageGenekinesisNecromancySummoningTime Travel
ChronokinesisGravitokinesisOmnipresenceSuper AgilityTransformation
ClairvoyanceHealingOmniscienceSuper AwarenessTransmute
CloakingHydrokinesisOneirokinesisSuper DurabilityTunneling
CombustionIllusionPherokinesisSuper FlexibilityUmbrakinesis
ComprehensionImprisonmentPhotokinesisSuper IntelligenceVolukinesis
ConstructsIncapacitationPoisonSuper ReflexesWallcrawling

Protégés

No hero lives forever and they much, inevitably, pass the torch.

Soooon.

Headquarters

Every hero has a place (or places) they call home, I want the players to help design and defend the places the Heroes work from.

Also soooon.

Creating (or recreating) Worlds

Game Master’s are strongly encouraged to use the Hard Truths of the World their players create to define the world their game takes place in. However, since the Hard Truths often literally define the movers and shakers in the World it’s important to discuss with the players what kind of World they are interacting with.

Grim Heroic is able to reproduce Worlds from comic books, movies, television, or video games with little effort. If your group isn’t interested in creating something from scratch or exploring the pre-built worlds presented below this is a strong option. If you’re looking to reproduce an existing world start by having your players list the people, places, and organizations that they think are “bad” within that setting.

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