Eclipse and the Hero System

   One recent request was for a comparison of Eclipse Character Points to Hero System Points. Now, the requestor is using the Fifth Edition Hero System, while I mostly use the Fourth Edition (I have mountains of books for it and it works just fine) – but the changes don’t seem very large anyway, so it shouldn’t make much difference. I’ll probably be referring to “Champions” in a lot of places though, since “Hero System” often seems awkward.

   Converting points between systems is always difficult; they are, after all, simulating very different ideas about how the game world works – and their attributes are very different.

   To illustrate that, it’s best to start with the baseline. In d20, the average person will have attributes of about ten – and no bonuses for them. He or she will have 1d4 or 1d6 hit points.

   In Champions/Hero System, the average human being has attributes of ten, including hit points (body).

   Now that is superficially very similar indeed.

   What those numbers actually mean is very different though.

   Lets look at a very straightforward attribute.

   Strength.

   In d20, if a character should somehow have Strength 40, he or she has a near-godlike attribute. If he or she attacks an average person, he or she is virtually guaranteed to connect (barring the automatic 5% chance of a miss on a “1”), and will kill them instantly.

   In Champions, that Strength-40 character is not at all impressive among strong heroes, has only a 50% chance of hitting a normal opponent (presuming that said normal opponent doesn’t – sensibly – abort to a dodge maneuver and reduce that chance to about 25%), and (given average Body damage results on 8d6, which is quite likely) – will require four hits to kill. So, in Champions, Strength is roughly one-sixth to one-tenth as effective as d20 strength for everything except calculating how much weight a character can lift – something that’s almost meaningless in most games, since most weights are arbitrarily assigned by the game master (either “you can’t lift that” or “you can lift that” – albeit possibly only with a mighty effort or a roll).

   Champions strength does add to Physical Defense, Stun, and Recovery – but d20 characters don’t need or use Physical Defense (since almost every d20 attack would count as a Killing Attack in Champions), their Stun and Body both fall under Hit Points (and go up for free), and they don’t need to spend endurance to power their abilities (making Recovery meaningless except for Healing – which also automatically goes up with level in d20). Unlike d20 strength, Champions strength doesn’t add to your chance to connect with an attack.

   In d20 a ten foot fall has a 50% chance of leaving our average human dying. That’s probably a little high – but people quite often die of simply tripping and either hitting their head or breaking something in the real world.

   In Champions/Hero System a fall of 30 meters – about a hundred feet – has a considerably less than 50% chance of leaving a normal human dying. On the average, they’ll take eight body and thirty-three stun – and will be up and walking away in less than a minute. It will take them some time to heal up all the bruising – but it’s just not quite the same is it?

   OK, lets take a different approach. Champions provides some general character categories with a maximum point total for each. Now, in Eclipse, level zero is for kids and other incompetents, level one is a baseline normal, level two is a skilled normal, experts and such will be level three, and pulp heroes and action movie characters will be around level four to five. Around level six, characters can routinely break most normal limits; your starting superheroes come in around this point. Around level eleven, you have legendary heroes. At level sixteen or so you get the classical demigods – and epic levels will cover most classical gods.

   That approach actually produces some fairly straightforward equivalencies.

Champions GeneralCharacter Type MaximumHero Points EquivalentEclipse Level Eclipse Points /Bonus Feat Points
Incompetent Normal 0 -1 to 0 24
Normal 25 1 48 (+6)
Skilled Normal 50 2 72 (+6)
Competent Normal 100 3 96 (+12)
Hero 150 4-5 120-144 (+12)
Superhero 250 6-0 168-224 (+18-24)
High-Powered Super 375+ 11-15 288-384 (+24-36)
Demigodling Unspecified 16-20 408-504 (+36-42)

   Now, those aren’t exactly precise.

  • The Champions total includes permissible disadvantages, because Champions disadvantages are a major part of the character. The Eclipse totals do not include any disadvantages, since Eclipse disadvantages are never worth more than twelve points – and many characters don’t bother with them.
  • The Eclipse totals do not include the Fast Learner ability, or Duties, or Restrictions. Those can add several character points per level, but the amount varies from character to character – which makes general calculations difficult or impossible.
  • Eclipse characters do not have to pay character points for their attribute arrays, or for their (relatively modest) level-based increases, while Champions characters do. On the other hand, Eclipse characters generally cannot take points out of their attribute totals to pay for other things – which is what lets Incompetent Normal characters in Champions have a few skills and talents. That’s one major reason why the relationship shifts from Eclipse offering somewhat more points at the low end to somewhat fewer points at the high end.
  • Eclipse characters get free skill points and hit points with levels, rather than having to buy them. On the other hand, they don’t necessarily get to act more often than anyone else and combat is usually resolved via lethal force rather than by mere unconsciousness or retreat.
  • Eclipse characters can buy gear with money, rather than with character points. That’s normal in Champions at lower power levels, but superheroes and high-powered superheroes normally have to pay points for everything. Eclipse and The Practical Enchanter have some modifiers that can be applied to produce that effect (just as there are ways to build an equipment allowance in Champions), but it’s not the default position.

   Within those restrictions, however, we have a pretty reasonable comparison: Eclipse characters get a few more points early on, and lag slightly later on – but in the prime “Hero and Superhero” range where each game is mostly played (150 to 350 points in most of the Champions games I’ve seen, levels 4-12 in most of the d20 games I’ve seen) – the point totals are pretty similar. By that standard, Eclipse Points and Hero Points are just about equivalent. Champions characters tend to have a modest number of unlimited-use abilities as opposed to fantasy characters who often have many abilities which can only be used a few times a day – but either system can build characters that work in either way.

   Now, there are some practical differences. For example:

  • d20 skills are considerably cheaper to increment. They also – at the very high end (outside of the usual ranges we’re considering) – allow their user’s to accomplish some downright supernatural stunts. The difference is less drastic than it appears though; in both Champions and d20 a great many skill checks are opposing another character’s skills – and so the difference tends to cancel out within the system. If you wanted to duplicate a really high-order d20 skill in Champions, you’d just have to buy some minor associated powers to go with the basic skill – upping the cost again.
  • Champions attributes are considerably cheaper to increase directly. Champions assumes that characters can mutate and otherwise far surpass the human norm without the use of any special powers – unless, of course, the “normal characteristic maxima” rule is in play.
  • Eclipse, like most d20 rules sets, assumes that character attributes are a lot more fixed – in essence, that “normal characteristic maxima” is the default rule. In d20 a character is unlikely to become inherently many times stronger over the course of his or her career. Thus directly increasing characteristics is quite expensive in Eclipse. Of course, d20 attributes don’t mean quite the same thing – and are fairly readily increased with items, through inherent bonuses, by acquiring templates, and in several other ways. In particular, if you’re playing in a superhero setting, the Superheroic Rule from page 161 should be in play – giving each character (Con Mod) free points of Mana to spend each round. That can make it quite easy to boost an attribute or two – as can various forms of Innate Enchantment. For examples of each approach, we have the Iron Raptor (Superheroic Mana) and the Strongman and the Basic “Mutant” Template (Innate Enchantment).

   For an overall comparison?

  • Both Eclipse and the Hero System can produce similar characters on similar numbers of points.
  • Eclipse tends to produce characters with larger numbers of limited-use abilities, while Champions tends to produce characters with smaller numbers of unlimited-use abilities – but those are only tendencies. An individual character can go either way. For some samples for Eclipse, here’s the Wraith (an unlimited-use level one short-range teleporter), Baron Ectar (a supervillain who can blast things with his voice), Timothy and Verendior (a child and his pet monster), Cadmael (an anime-styled Sorcerer with unlimited use of his spells), and – for that matter – the entire Mutants of the Eclipse series.
  • Low-end Eclipse characters tend to be more interesting, complex, and playable than low-end Hero System characters – but that same increase in complexity makes Eclipse characters harder to set up at the high end. While the nice folks over at PCGen are working on getting PCGen to handle Eclipse, that’s not ready yet, and Champions does have several character-generation programs available right now. The sample template and character list is over HERE.
  • Eclipse, and the forthcoming PCGen datasets, are available as freeware, while the Hero System and its primary character generating programs are not. On the other hand, the Hero System is backed by a considerably larger company, and has more supporting material out than I can readily provide – although you can use almost any d20 source material with Eclipse. Eclipse is compatible with the vast majority of d20 rules sets and material after all.

   Overall, if you’re happy with Champions, already own the Hero System books, and aren’t looking for a change, there’s no reason to switch (although I’d encourage you to download the freeware edition and check it out; it costs nothing and should at least provide ideas). After all, I wrote Eclipse, and I continue to play both Eclipse and Champions – albeit leaning heavily towards Eclipse.

   Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion. It will be updated with Eclipse III when that’s done as well

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