Defining an RPG Hero (Episode 92)

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By Eran Aviram. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

How do you define a “hero” in your game?

In episode 50 - Who is an adventurer we discussed Who is an adventurer, but we didn’t talk about what is a hero.

The word “hero” have several different definitions

  • Heroes - famous individuals

  • Heroes - individuals doing the right thing

  • Heroes - the individuals winning the conflict

  • Heroes - the individuals that are doing cool awesome stuff, “an X-movie hero”

  • Heroes - the individuals who are the Protagonists of the narrative

Why does the definition of a hero matter?

Like any definition, it matters if it allows us to see our game in a new way that is beneficial in some way.

For a GM - this definition helps us to shape the call to action that will have the best effect on the characters.

For the players - it helps us as players to decide what it is that our characters are doing. And what sort of arc to expect for them, going forward

Are our characters on the path for glory? If so they will favor actions that promote fame and high profile. If they are about doing the right thing - they will prefer to go against the biggest injustice.

Does this link to player motivation?

Yes, consider “Why we play”.

A party is usually a mixed bag

There is nothing saying that a game can’t be comprised of different “hero” type characters, Let us consider “The Witcher” for a moment, Gerald is a hero in the sense that he does what he believes to be right. Yennefer is a hero in the sense of being a protagonist.

This is not a problem by itself, different characters have different aspirations and therefore will undergo different story arcs.

Campaign types

Different hero definitions affect the type of campaign you are playing.

Being a hero (intrinsically) vs. becoming a hero

Starting out as destined for greatness (wild die, fate points).

Becoming a hero through play.

Where does it end?

For people whose definition of a hero is doing the right thing or fighting injustice, the quest never ends, it is a lifelong struggle.

But for people whose definition of being a hero is fame and fortune - there can be a very satisfying ending to the story: conquering the kingdom, defeating the dragon, ascending into godhood, you know, the usuals.

Uri believes this is a profound statement on the quintessential nature of your character. Will I, as a player, let my character have the possibility of a happy ever after? Or just the option of a good night rest know they did the right before the next struggle?

Summary (14:08)

The definition of “a hero” is a fluid one. But it can have long-standing consequences on your campaign as a GM or on your character as a player. And while there is no doubt that you can ignore this episode and continue playing and nothing will change. Your game will still be awesome. But we believe that by making a conscious decision in defining what is a hero you can create the experience you want to have in your game in a better way.


Taking the load off (15:00)


Email us at show@dwarfcast.net with questions, topic suggestions, and comments, and check out our Facebook group.

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Intro and outro based on On the Shoulders of Dwarves by the Cliches Duo. On the Shoulders of Dwarves is shared under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International.

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