Indie Heroes, Continued

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Game Concepts

Rather than go over more of the random ideas floating around in my head, I thought I’d take a little time to hash out some of the concepts I wrote about in my last post.

Universal Subsystem

Expanding on the idea that Indie Heroes can be attached to any Supers RPG, Indie Heroes is a new subsystem of rules designed specifically to help facilitate the Indie Heroes story concept. These rules don’t include character creation, powers, etc.

As a new subsystem, it’s probably easier to use these with a lightweight rule system rather than something like Champions, because it’s going to be more to keep track of.

Doing Jobs and Getting Paid

Many Supers RPGs don’t bother with keeping track of individual character wealth. If they do at all, it’s usually to make wealth a power for a character like Bruce Wayne or Tony Stark. These types of characters may have difficulty fitting into the Indie  Hero mold, because the assumption is that heroes need to do work to earn an income.  A character who wanted to take this type of approach might go with something like “Previously Wealthy” and start the game with lots of gadgets. For whatever reason, they fell on tough times and now they’re in need of getting paid to perform upkeep on their gadgets and to keep the rent paid.

If your game of choice doesn’t track individual character wealth, how do you add in a system that doesn’t require detailed, nit-picky wealth management?

Part-Time Gods 2nd Edition has an interesting mechanic that lets you keep track of money and free time. Each is a resource, but you aren’t forced to track every last dollar or every l ast hour. These systems are abstracted to keep them simple. Free Time might be spent travelling between zones of your city, for example. It may cost 2 Free Time to travel across the whole city. If you have a power that lets you move quickly, that movement may not be an issue.

Psi-punk uses a Wealth system that takes advantage of the Fudge Trait Ladder. Individual wealth can be noted as “Abysmal,” “Great,” or even “Phenomenal.” To track purchases of certain items, there are some simple numeric values assigned to each trait level so  you can spend money on expensive items.

This approach works fairly well with most Supers systems, I think.  It treats Wealth like a character trait. You could eventually work your way up to being Filthy Rich, but the system would allow characters to start at the bottom and go up or down based on their income and the needs of the story.

For more about Psi-punk’s Wealth system, check out the Psi-punk SRD.


Doing Jobs

Now that we have a simple bolt-on wealth management system, we can work out how to find work.

As we mentioned in our previous post, it wouldn’t be very heroic to save someone’s life and then bill them for the effort. I could see everyday citizens having Hero Insurance, similar to Health Insurance. Indie Heroes could work out contracts with individual insurance agencies and bill them for In Network or Out of Network coverage. I could see a political campaign to fight for the rights of everyday people who don’t get to control whether their savior is In Network.

Perhaps the parallels to the United States healthcare system are too close for comfort though. We don’t want to get too political in our escapism, after all. Or maybe we do. I guess that’s up to you and your group.

Separate from a hero insurance system, there are other ways to monetize heroic deeds. We’ll talk more about HeroTube and social media later. For now, let’s look at non-emergency situations in which people can hire heroes for odd jobs.

Supr is a Hero Hailing app which connects heroes to people in need. Users enter their job details and heroes bid on the job. The client reviews applications, checks over the heroes’ star ratings, and considers the amount of the bid.

The GM rolls 1d6 + Heroe’s Star Rating – Bid Amount and compares to the difficulty of the job. If the result exceeds the job difficulty, it is awarded to the hero / hero’s team.

For example, OutOfDuck777 needs a hero to locate his lost mallard. The hero who applies is a Speedster and intends to dash around the city looking for the duck as fast as he can. His rating is 4 stars and he bids a Poor (-2) amount of Wealth. That means he’s willing to do the job for a Poor amount of money.

The GM rolls 3 + 4 – -2, for a total of 9. The job is difficulty is 6, so the job is awarded to the hero. After the hero completes the job, they’ll be paid Poor [2] Wealth for his efforts.

Getting Paid

Supr doesn’t pay out immediately. Like similar freelancing apps, they send payments one per month, or every fourth Time Unit. GMs and players can keep track of how much is in their account and add the total to the hero’s Wealth whenever they get paid.

Supr charges the client to post jobs, so they don’t take a cut directly from the hero. However, if the hero wishes to get an out of cycle payment, they charge 1 Wealth. For example, if the hero is desperate for money and wants to cash out early, they can spend 1 Wealth from their account to receive the funds right away.


HeroTube is the premier website for watching videos of heroes in action. Because it is so popular, it can be difficult to stand out in the crowd. However, working your way up the ranks of popularity can yield some really great payouts, so it’s often worth it to put forth the effort.

Virtually everyone has a camera thanks to ubiquitous smartphone adoption, so it’s easy for a hero to film their exploits. Smartphone footage is some of the most low-budget and difficult to watch though, so as heroes improve their Wealth it is often worthwhile to invest in better camera and microphone equipment.

GoHero is a great option for action-oriented videos on a prosumer budget. Heroes who make it really big may be able to hire a sidekick to follow them around with even better equipment.

Obviously, it’s going to cost the hero a certain amount of Wealth to buy these upgrades. They have to weigh the cost of improved equipment with their ability to meet their other financial needs, such as paying rent and buying food.

Subscribers and Income

I’m going to use the Psi-punk Trait Ladder from now on to describe various levels of growth and achievement. It’s a handy way to convey information and can be fairly easily ported into other systems with little to no conversion. That trait ladder is:

-3 Abysmal

-2 Poor

-1 Mediocre

+0 Fair

+1 Good

+2 Great

+3 Superb

+4  Wonderful

+5 Phenomenal

+6 Extraordinary

+7 Astonishing


Every new hero starts their HeroTube channel at a level of Abysmal (-3). They essentially have no subscribers and no ability to monetize their channel. After posting a few videos, they move up to Poor (-2). After that, they need to put forth some effort to grow their subs.

Smartphone footage is only good enough to carry a hero through Mediocre (-1). To have even a hope of breaking into the Fair (+0) range, they need a GoHero or other, better quality option. GoHero can help a channel reach Great (+2) at best.

Figuring out a way to get dedicated footage is important for growth. Hiring a sidekick or dedicating a team member to filming the action can help growh the channel up to Wonderful (+4). After that, heroes nee to invest in professional-level editing to add special effects and such. To reach Extraordinary (+6) or Astonishing (+7 levels, a hero needs to have a professional editor and some well-developed scripts, collaborations, etc.

HeroTube pays content creators based on their channel’s level, which is an abstract way to look at their subscriber and Like counts. Each month, or every four Time Units, the service pays creators. Unlike with Supr, there is no way to get an early payout.

The payout is equal to Channel Level -3 per month. For example, a Fair (+0) channel receives Abysmal [1] Wealth per month. An Astonishing (+7)  channel receives Wonderful ]64] Wealth per month. Teams of heroes may need to split that Wealth. Channels at Mediocre (=1) and below aren’t able to monetize and therefore don’t receive any monthly payout from HeroTube.

Affiliate Links and Sponsors

Heroes can earn additional income by setting up affiliate links and sponsors.

Affiliate Links can be added to any channel, but the payout usually isn’t great unless the channel has a lot of subscribers. In real-world terms, the conversion rate is only about 1% so it takes a lot of subs to really make a difference. I haven’t worked out a good algorithm for determining the income level for this yet.

Sponsors require at least a Channel Level of Great (+2). They’re not willing to work with you unless you’ve already established yourself as a Somebody. Some Sponsors reward you with better gear, some reward you with miscellaneous hero tools, and some pay you cash. In return, they may want you to wear their clothes, give a shout-out on your channel, and occasionally do a sponsored advertisement or review.

It’s important to get the right sponsor for your hero type. A dark hero wouldn’t want a sponsor who insists that they wear branded clothing because it really doesn’t fit the hero’s style. Subs are fickle and will leave a channel if they think the hero is selling out too much.

Arch Nemesis

Heroes who have been around for a while and earned enough notoriety may attract an Arch Nemesis. This recurring NPC  is typically a villain who constantly tries to make that hero’s life miserable. There are some advantages and disadvantages to having an Arch Nemesis.

When your nemesis strikes, you’re usually the first hero people call for help. They know you’ve defeated the villain several times in the past, and they look to you for defeating them again.

It is not a good look to be unavailable when you’re called to defeat your nemesis. If you’re in the middle of a rescue when your nemesis strikes, you’d better figure out a way to solve both crimes at once or you’re in for some serious criticism. If you abandon a Supr job to go after your nemesis, you risk getting a lower Star Rating from your client. If you rush the job, the same is true. If you’re rescuing someone for any other reason and you’re not able to respond to the call, or if you fail to respond entirely, your reputation can take a serious beating. Worse, whoever does step up to stop your nemesis stands to have an extra boost to their own rep.

It’s usually good for you if your nemesis breaks out of jail and commits a crime. That gives you an opportunity to stop them again. Each time you defeat your nemesis, you gain a little extra fame. That can translate to more subs for your HeroTube channel, more calls to action, etc.

Sometimes, a nemesis decides to reform. That isn’t in your best interest, because it means you just lost your nemesis and your best source of reputation. A few folks may appreciate your ability to stop the spread of the villain’s crime for good, but most people prefer the drama and tension of a good fight. Of course, as a hero, you can never let on that you’re trying to actively avoid helping a villain change their evil ways.

Other Thoughts

I like how this is shaping up so far. It’s a silly way to treat super heroes,  but I could totally see myself playing in a campaign that emphasizes these things.

There are a few holes that would still need to be filled in. I don’t have a good mathematical solution yet to balance things like Affiliate Links, and I’d probably need to work up some charts for Sponsors as well. It seems like there needs to be a Reputation system in place, both for the Arch Nemesis and the concept of being called to help just because you’re well-known.

I also didn’t really flesh out the Time Unit thing, but I could see something similar to Part-Time Gods 2e, like I mentioned before. Heroes need to have time to manage their own relationships, to edit their HeroTube videos, etc. The system also needs a way to keep track of time for things like payment dates, rent due dates, etc.

“Oh crap, rent is due in a week. I really need to get a few extra gigs so I can make my payment on time.”


What do you think? After reading a bit more, do you think this idea has any merit? Or is it just a silly concept better left in the dust bin?




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