DC Heroes was a superhero-themed role-playing game by Mayfair Games, using DC Comics' roster of characters, places and events, first published in 1985 to coincide with DC's Massive Multiplayer Crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths campaign. The Second Edition, published in 1989, refined and revamped much of the underlying game mechanics, which remains mostly unchanged to this day; later editions focused mostly upon roster changes and minor rules modifications.
The next important change came when Mayfair sold the rights to the game to upstart company Pulsar Games sometime in The '90s, which continued publishing the game under the title Blood Of Heroes. However, since Pulsar did not also acquire the licensing rights to the DC Universe, Blood of Heroes retained the existing game engine but featured original characters placed within their own superhero world. As it was a product of the Nineties, it should come as little surprise that Blood of Heroes had a Darker and Edgier setting. Finally, Blood of Heroes: Special Edition is the latest revamp of the game, published in 2000; among other tweaks, it includes rules for making sidekicks and villains into Player Characters.
Mechanics:The game's central conceit, aside from the superhero trappings (similar to the earlier game Champions) is that it eschews the classic Class and Level System in favor of a Point Build System (again, similar to Champions) which hinges on the fact that everything — character abilities, powers, skills and even real-world measurements like distance and weight — is measured in Attribute Points, or APs. Since APs are entirely interchangeable, it's easy to gauge a Character's abilities by looking at the numbers; for instance, a Character with a Strength rating of 10 can lift up to 10 APs of weight; with a speed of 4, can travel 4 APs of distance in one combat phase, and so on.
Further, the APs are exponential in nature (hence the name of the underlying engine, Mayfair Exponential Gaming System), meaning that each additional AP doubles the value of the preceding. That is to say, 2 APs is twice as much as 1; but also, 3 is twice as much as 2, 4 is twice as much as 3, 57 is twice as much as 56, etc. This logarithmic scale was devised to provide less-powerful characters a fighting chance against more-powerful ones* .
Future:Pulsar Games was sold in late 2003 and publishing of the game in any form has ceased; however, the new owners continued to promise new material as late as 2007, citing merely the need to iron out ownership issues (it appears that the original license with DC Comics was poorly worded, making it sound as though DC would continue to own any material published not only with its own characters but also with the game engine, in perpetuity). The game and company have been in permanent hiatus since 2009, with no further word on future projects.
Legacy:The game remains unofficially supported on Writeups.org. This site has thousands of character writeups, extensive new rules and clarifications, technical discussion, etc.
This Tabletop Game features these tropes:
- Acrofatic: Implicit; there are absolutely no rules stating that a character's appearance (i.e., physical bearing) has to have any logical connection to his/her abilities, so it is quite easy to create an obese character with a very high agility score or a wafer-thin character who could bench-press André the Giant.
- Action Bomb: Anyone who has the Bomb power modified with the Self Link power.
- All-Accessible Magic: The skill Occultist includes the sub-skill Ritualist, which allows anyone to use a form of magic that is lengthy to cast and demands props and ingredients, as opposed to the superpower-like magic of actual sorcerers. In the game's system, normal human sorcerers like Hellblazer – John Constantine are said to use the sub-skill Ritualist to represent their magic, while flashy superhuman sorcerers like Zatanna and Doctor Fate have one or more actual powers to represent their magic. This might or might not accurately portray how things happen in the comics themselves.
- Anti-True Sight: A Character with the Power of X-Ray Vision is required to select a common substance through which the Power can't see. True Sight itself won't work against "natural" forms of concealment such as costumes or camouflage.
- Attack Reflector: The "Deflect/Reflect" Power.
- Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: The "Insta-Change" Advantage. Downplayed, as the costume change does actually cost the Player a Combat Action; but without it, the Player must spend an entire Combat Phase changing clothes (costing three Actions).
- Class and Level System: Avoided entirely. Upgrading your character is simply a matter of buying more points for his/her abilities.
- Combat Tentacles: Adventure When a Stranger Calls. While in Antarctica the PCs will be attacked by a sluggoth, an eight foot long creature with long poisonous tentacles.
- Critical Existence Failure: Any Gadget or object with the Hardened Defenses advantage cannot be damaged by any attack unless that attack scores enough damage points to completely obliterate the item in a single blow; otherwise, it's a No-Sell.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: In the Superman Sourcebook it's revealed that Lex Luthor has made millions through patents filled under assumed names. However all that money is used for his goal of defeating Superman.
- Devolution Device: The Mutation power in the Mayfair Games version.
- Emotion Eater: It's an actual Power.
- Experience Penalty: Hero Points are the game's version of Experience Points (they can be used to improve the character).
- If a PC initiates Killing Combat (tries to kill an opponent), they lose all Hero Points they normally would receive for the adventure. If they enter Killing Combat only after an opponent initiates Killing Combat with them, they only lose half of the possible Hero Points.
- If a player doesn't roleplay their PC properly (e.g. violating their character's Motivations or displaying sudden personality shifts) then the PC will forfeit the standard Role-Playing Hero Point award.
- Expy: There's a foreign ruler who is a scientific genius, an expert occultist and possesses an empowered armor that he uses to fight and hides his face. And I bet "the Baron" was not the name most of you were thinking.
- Fortune Teller: Adventure When a Stranger Calls. While in Romania, the PCs will meet an old Gypsy fortune teller named Madame Sosostris, who will offer to read their fortunes.
- The Grim Reaper: Death not only resembles it in appearance, but he actually is an ancient killing demon.
- Harmless Freezing: If the Ice Production power is used to encase an opponent in ice, the victim isn't harmed and is fine after getting out. Although there is an optional rule to make it Not So Harmless.
- Having a Blast: A character with the Bomb power could make objects explode.
- Downplayed with the "Sharp Eye" Advantage. It's not a Game-Breaker, but it helps.
- There's also the "Hypersensitive Touch" Power.
- Imperfect Ritual: A character with the Occultist skill can perform Ritual Magic which requires specific Necessary Components to be performed properly. If an Occultist tries to perform a ritual without all of the Necessary Components, the chance to succeed in the ritual is penalized for each missing component. If the Occultist makes their success roll then the ritual works anyway.
- In the Future, We Still Have Roombas: A Clyde is a light-duty robot that is controlled by the equivalent of a home computer. It has automatic systems installed that allow it to act as an average housekeeper (sweeping, dusting, etc.). It has a voice synthesizer with the vocabulary of a twelve year old and the speaking ability of a six year old.
- Intrinsic Vow: The Hypnotism power allows the user to implant suggestions in the target's mind. A suggestion will not be carried out if it is something completely against the target's Motivation or belief. However, a clever hypnotist can get around this restriction by implanting suggestions that circumvent the target's beliefs. For example, if the hypnotist wants Superman to attack Jimmy Olsen, he can first implant a suggestion that Jimmy is actually Darkseid. If this suggestion works, Superman will follow a subsequent suggestion to attack Jimmy because he [Superman] will believe that Jimmy is Darkseid.
- Jet Pack: Has one that can fly at 100 m.p.h.
- Kryptonite Factor: The "Vulnerability" Drawback. Can range from Unobtanium to Weaksauce Weakness.
- Luck Manipulation Mechanic: The "Luck" and "Ultra Luck" Advantages (and the inverse "Unluck" Disadvanatge), as well as the more direct "Probability Control" Power.
- Magnetism Manipulation: Introduced in the 3rd Edition. The Mental power Magnetic Control allowed the Character to create and manipulate magnetic fields. This allowed hurling metal objects at an opponent to cause Physical damage, defending against attacks by metallic objects (swords, bullets, robots etc.), and simply moving metal objects around.
- Make Them Rot: The Cell Rot power, which can cause any living or formerly living substance to decompose. If used on a living creature, it's treated as a normal Physical attack. The Batman villain Clayface III (Preston Payne) had this power.
- My Significance Sense Is Tingling: The cosmic "Awareness" Power.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Death, Demise, Dehumanizer (no, they are not nice guys).
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: "Omni-Power" allows a Character, for a fee, to duplicate any other existing Power, just this once. There's also "Omni-Scholar" (you seem to know everything) and "Omni-Connection" (you seem to know everyone).
- Non-Combat EXP: PCs can receive Hero Points for participating in the adventure, roleplaying well, saving innocent bystanders and subplots.
- No Ontological Inertia: Most Powers' effects will vanish if the caster dies or is incapacitated. Justified by the fact that Powers operate on basically the same principle as spell-casting in other RPGs.
- Point Build System: Taken to its logical extreme; there are no Levels and no Classes. Everything is Points. Everything.
- Quicksand Sucks: Adventure When a Stranger Calls. While traveling through a Central American rain forest, a hero can fall into a pit of quicksand. When the hero sinks beneath the surface of the pit they will drown.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Adventure When a Stranger Calls. When Batman is revealed as being possessed by demons, his eyes will glow red and will flash a wild red while he's fighting.
- Remote, Yet Vulnerable: Any character using the Spirit Travel power.
- Robot Maid: The Clyde in the Mayfair Games editions, a maintenance robot with mediocre housekeeping abilities.
- Seeing Through Another's Eyes: The Eye of the Cat power allows the user to see through the eyes of any animal within range. If there is more than one animal within range, the user decides which animal is affected. The user gains the benefit of any special visual powers the animal has.
- Small Steps Hero: A hero is expected to save civilians even if it means the villain makes a clean getaway.
- Standard Superhero Setting: The DC Universe in the Mayfair Games editions.
- Talking Is a Free Action: Partial; short conversations, combat quips and the like are freely allowed, but if the talking goes on long enough it can cost the Player a combat Action.
- Tracking Device: One piece of equipment characters could buy was a "tracer", a small radio transmitter that sent out a steady signal that could be picked up by a receiver. It had a maximum range of 5 miles.
- Truce Zone: In the Manchester district of Gotham City, the Manchester Viaduct race track was neutral ground for the street gangs of the district.
- True Sight: Another stock power.
- Unconventional Alignment: The system is called "Motivation", and includes over a dozen different alignments for characters. Upholding the Good, Seeking Justice, Responsibility of Power, Thrill of Adventure and Unwanted Power for Heroes. On the Villains' side, we have Mercenary, Nihilist, Power Lust, Psychopath and Thrill Seeker. There are also anti-heroic versions of all these which blur the good/evil lines a bit.
Tropes that only appear in the Blood of Heroes version:
- Captain Ersatz: Anarchy Man for Batman. Also, his semi-antagonistic relationship with a patriotic colleague might recall Batman's feuds with another pseudo-patriotic super.
- Dark Age of Supernames: Demise, Dehumanizer, Darkling, Anarchy Man, Anthrax... (To be fair, a lot of these are villains.)
- Darker and Edgier: Attempts to include the look and feel of the Golden Age, Silver Age and Dark Age of comic books in one package. But mostly the Dark Age.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Clint, one of the sample characters, has a dog that can detect evil.
- '90s Anti-Hero: There are specific rules for playing an Anti-Hero as a Player Character...
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Both the supervillain Lord Bane and his horse, Hell's Mount, have glowing red eyes.
- Trashcan Bonfire: In the sample solo adventure, the first scene is the hero and some street people huddled around a fire in a rusty metal drum.
- Weakened by the Light: Neon Knight and his mount, Knight Mayre, lose all of their super powers in sunlight.