Basic Character Design and System Information
(For new players, as of Apr. 24, 2010.)
We are using the HERO 6th edition rules with some house rules. For those familiar with 5th edition HERO or earlier versions, the main difference of 6th edition is that a lot of point costs have changed.
HERO system is built on a point system that lets you put together an enormous variety of different characters; there is no randomness in the character generation system, so you have complete control over your character's capabilities. One element of HERO philosophy is that there are no ultimate, unstoppable powers. This means that any power without a countermeasure is either going to extremely expensive or impossible to build using HERO system. For instance, it is not possible to build a character who is 100% resistant to fire, but it is possible (and not outrageously expensive) to build one who is *almost* immune to fire. Other than that, you should have enough flexibility to build a character with almost any set of powers you can imagine (points permitting).
You can buy the HERO 6th edition rules from the Hero games website. If you want to get a good idea of how the rules work without going into the full complexity, there is a stripped-down version called the "HERO System Basic Rulebook". Note that not all powers in the game are in HERO Basic Rules, so if you don't know how to build a power you want, definitely ask me.
We will be using basically the standard superheroic power level in the game (400 points, including 75 points of Complications). This means your characters will be capable of easily handling non-superpowered enemies, except perhaps in very large numbers, but still have trouble going face-to-face with world-threatening powers. (Which does not necessarily mean you won't have to deal with any ....) The main campaign restriction on designing your character is that it should fit into the background, and in particular, any power needs a "scientific" explanation. I put "scientific" in quotes because I won't be applying any serious reality-checking to the justification. As an example, it is not sufficient to say that your Warchild character can shoot jets of fire; but you could say, perhaps, that he can heat up his hands to propel superheated bursts of air, or that he has glands which produce a flammable chemical, which bursts into flame when it shoots out.
I advise people who are new to the HERO system to design their characters without focusing too much on the rules. Indeed, you may not want to learn the character creation rules at all, and even if you do learn them, either the full or Basic version, you will almost certainly have some trouble building the more subtle or convoluted powers. Instead, think of what kind of character you want to build -- how they got their powers, why they want to use them, what they can do -- and talk to me, and we will figure out together how to write up a character sheet for you. If you do go to the rules, you can use them for inspiration, to save time, or just to give you an idea of what will be cheap or expensive to build, but I don't think it should be necessary. One critical element of HERO system philosophy is that the powers in the rule book represent game effects; an "Energy Blast" could be a blast of wind, a lightning bolt, a thrown hammer, or almost anything else you can think of that does regular damage at a range. The upshot is that when designing your character, you need to think about what your powers will actually do as well as how they manifest themselves: there are many kinds of fire powers, for instance.
Another important element of HERO character design are Complications. This covers a variety of ground, but basically handles most sorts of weakness or vulnerability your character has. Anything which can interfere with your character's optimal function can be a Complication, and frequently Complications tie into a character's background, so when designing your character, you should think explicitly about his limits. Examples of Complications for Superman would be a secret identity as Clark Kent, a "Dependent NPC" Lois Lane, who he must constantly rescue, a "Hunted" Lex Luthor who is constantly trying to kill him, and a "Susceptibility" to kryptonite, which causes him damage. (Kryptonite also causes him to lose his powers, but that would probably be better bought as a limitation on the powers rather than a Complication.) Superman has many other Complications too, such as Dependent NPCs and Hunteds who show up more rarely (e.g., Jimmy Olson), and Psychological Limitations to fight for truth, justice, and the American way.
Go through the Character Design Checklist to help design your character.