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Many years ago, someone shared the following anecdote about a superhero RPG system. (I've paraphrased considerably since I don't remember the exact text.)

Attempts to do weird things to a character, like polymorph them or glue them to a building or send them to the Dream Realms, are modeled using damage. Your turn-into-a-frog power might deal 'frog damage', and if a character takes more frog damage than their current hit points, they get turned into a frog. The rationale is that using a debilitating effect on a character should be approximately as difficult as defeating them.

We've had some questions recently about "called shots" in D&D contexts, and the existing called-shot systems don't seem very good, so I was thinking it would be interesting to understand more about how this superhero RPG system worked.

What system was this?

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That may be heavily paraphrased from the Hero System

HERO System, 5th Edition on The Cost of Transform, in part, says

The HERO System bases the cost of Transform on the cost of Ranged Killing Attack [e.g. many bullets and deadly lasers that can easily kill unprotected characters]. The logic is that if a character does enough damage to kill someone or destroy something, he might as well Transform it into something else. Even when a Transform creates something more useful than a dead opponent (such as an opponent who's the character's slave), usually other factors balance out this seeming usfulness (such as the chance the slave-opponent will recover from the Transform somehow and attack the character in a murderous rage). (154)

One example of the Transform power is the Man into Frog Spell (152).


Note: Link is to the revised edition (2019) but the quotation is from the original edition (2002) that I own. A description similar to the above might appear in an earlier (or later!) edition of the game, the Hero System's Transform power itself dating back to, I think, the late 1980s.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How does Transform work in this system? Does it deal "transformation damage" of some sort? Or is it just a saving throw much like in D&D systems? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Jun 18 '20 at 23:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DanB There's a characteristic called BODY (that's 10 but can be increased) that measures how much damage a character can suffer before they're dying, and a character that suffers twice their BODY (i.e. reaches negative their BODY) dies. Transform damage is rolled, and if the amount is twice the the target's BODY the target is transformed. However, unlike normal damage, by default a character's Transform damage is noncumulative: it's not tracked, and Transform damage must double the target's BODY all at once to have any effect. Power advantages can change how Transform works significantly. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 19 '20 at 1:44

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