Hero Wars – Game System Synopsis (2000)

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Hero Wars

Roleplaying in Glorantha

Game System Synopsis

This section contains all the essential rules to play Hero Wars.

All Contents are Copyright © 2000 by Issaries, Inc.
No reproduction of this document is allowed without explicit written permission, except for limited personal use.


An Ability is any skill, magic, item or other feature that is written on the character sheet. The name is a word or phrase that indicates the kinds of actions the character can attempt with it. Each Ability has a Target Number. Target Numbers range from 1 to 20. The higher the target number, the better the Hero’s Ability. The target number is also called the Ability Rating.

Default Target Number

When a hero has no ability to use in a particular situation, not even a skill affected by the Improvisational Modifier (see below) the target number is 6 if it is a ability anyone could be expected to have (Climb, Jump), or 0 if the ability is exotic or requires special knowledge (Read Kralori Dragon Runes).


Heroes attain a mastery when an ability is greater than 20. A mastery in a skill is indicated by the Mastery Rune (w) following the target number. Thus an ability of 21 is expressed as 1w; an ability of 30 is 10w. Multiple masteries are possible, and are indicated by a number following the mastery rune; thus 8w2 indicates a total skill equivalent of 48.

Canceling Masteries

When characters with an unequal number of masteries oppose each other, eliminate the same number of masteries from each opponent to find their actual chances. Example: a 5w2 character is fighting a 7w3 person, then the result is resolved as 5 against 7w.

Special Case

When both characters have the same number of masteries, the masteries are cancelled. Both characters roll as if they had no masteries, with the following exception: When both fail, treat this the same as if they had both succeeded. The lower roll is considered to be the winner.

Die Rolling and Degree of Success

Results are found by rolling a twenty-sided die. Generally, it is better to roll low than high. A roll of 1 is a Critical Success unless the Target Number is 1, in which case it is a Success. A roll of 20 is a Fumble unless the target number is 20, in which case it is a Failure. A roll equal to or lower than the target number of an ability is a Success, and a roll over the target number is a Failure.


A bump changes the result of the die roll. A bump up changes the die roll to a more favorable result. Multiple bumps can affect the die roll. A Bump Up makes the die roll one degree better: Fumble becomes failure, failure becomes success, etc. Critical successes cannot be bumped up.


Modifiers are ALWAYS applied to the ability rating, never to the die roll. A positive modifier is called a Bonus. A negative modifier is called a Handicap.

Common Modifiers

Improvisation -1 to -20 (-5 default)
Multiple Defense -3 per extra attacker
Multiple Attack -3 per extra defender

Dropping below Mastery

Modifiers may drop a target number below a mastery level. Example: a 2w Ability with a -5 modifier becomes an 17 Ability.

Augmentation *

Augmentation is a target number bonus from magic or mundane abilities. Augmentation success is determined by a simple contest. The feat is opposed by the desired bonus, according to this table:

Augmentation Resistance Chart

Desired Bonus Desired Edge Resistance
+1 +2 5
+2 +4 10
+3 +6 15
Each Additional +1 Each Additional +2 +5

Augmentation Results Chart

Complete or Major Victory Target gains double bonus
Minor or Marginal Victory Target gains bonus
Narrator Decides or Tie No effect
Marginal or Minor Defeat Target gains penalty
Complete or Major Defeat Target gains double penalty


Default resistance is 14 if no higher resistance is applicable. Physical magic can be resisted by magic or by appropriate physical abilities. Mental magic can be resisted by magic or appropriate mental abilities.


An edge is a situational modifier, whether from magic, possession, or other abilities. An edge is a number added to the stake when your opponent must forfeit or transfer APs.

Action Points (APs)

Total Starting APs

The total starting APs of a character are equal to his target number plus 20 APs per mastery plus modifiers.

Desperation Stakes

A hero or pivotal narrator character may bid more APs than he currently has, up to his total starting APs.

Trading Wounds for APs

The winner of an exchange may convert 7 APs worth of a transfer or forfeit into a wound. The loser keeps the 7 APs, but suffers a -1 wound. You may not inflict multiple wounds from a single result.

Lending APs

You can transfer your APs to another character on your side if you have an appropriate skill or magic. Roll on the Simple Contest chart. The target number is equal to lender’s ability; the resistance is the number of APs being loaned.

AP Loan Chart

Complete or Major Victory Target gains loaned APs
Minor or Marginal Victory Target gains Loaned APs
Lender loses loaned APs
Narrator Decides, Tie No change
Marginal or Minor Defeat Lender loses loaned APs
Complete or Major Defeat Both Lose loaned APs


A handicap is a situational modifier, much like an edge, which is subtracted from the stake when your opponent must forfeit or transfer APs.


Most activities are automatically successful. Walking, talking, climbing around, and other ordinary activities that are easily within the capability of the characters just happen when the player says they do. Any action that might fail needs a Contest.

Test Type When to Use How it Works
Automatic Success For any task which no self-respecting hero would ever fail at. Hero succeeds.
Ability Test For a straight-forward task with no opposition. Hero rolls equal to or under his ability score to succeed.
Simple Contest For a straight-forward task with opposition. Hero succeeds if he rolls under his ability score and better than his opponent.
Group Simple Contest For a straight-forward task with opposition performed by a group of heroes. One side succeeds if a modified success beats their opponents’.
Extended Contest For a dramatically-important task with opposition. Hero succeeds if he reduces his opponent’s Action Points to zero or less.
Group Extended Contest For a dramatically-important task with opposition, with multiple participants on at least one side of the contest. One side succeeds if they reduce all opponents to zero Action Points or less.

Consequences Chart

Degree of Defeat Combat Result Modifier to subsequent rolls
Marginal Dazed 0
Minor Hurt -1
Major Injured -50% of Ability
Complete Dying No Actions Allowed

Bumping with Masteries

Each un-cancelled mastery raises the Degree of Success of a roll by one level.

Bumping with Hero Points

A player may spend 1 hero point to bump the result of one of his rolls by one degree of success. Only 1 hero point may be spent on one roll, and the player may only bump his own roll, not another player’s or opponent’s.

Ability Test

An ability test is rolled against a single ability, which may be modified by augmentation, modifiers or other factors. Ability tests can be used to see if an ally is available, a fact is remembered, or otherwise un-resisted tests.

Roll Result Degree of Success
Critical Success Complete Victory
Success Minor Victory
Failure Minor Defeat
Fumble Complete Defeat

Simple Contest

Simple Contest Results Table
Critical Success Success Failure Fumble
Critical Success Narrator determines results Minor Victory Major Victory Complete Victory
Success Minor Defeat Low Roller has Marginal victory. Tie is no effect Minor Victory Major Victory
Failure Major Defeat Minor Defeat Both suffer Marginal defeat; Mastery Special Minor Victory
Fumble Complete Defeat Major Defeat Minor Defeat Both suffer Complete Defeat

Extended & Group Extended Contests

Extended Contest Results Chart
Critical Success Success Failure Fumble
Critical Success Narrator determines results Loser Transfers 1x Loser Transfers 2x Loser Transfers 3x
Success Loser Transfers 1x High Roll forfeits 1x otherwise, tie is 0x Loser forfeits 2x Loser forfeits 3x
Failure Loser Transfers 2x Loser forfeits 2x Both forfeit 1x; Mastery Special Winner forfeits 1x; Loser forfeits 2x
Fumble Loser Transfers 3x Loser forfeits 3x Winner forfeits 1x; Loser forfeits 2x Both forfeit 2x

Ordinary Contest Heroic Contest Degree of Defeat
0 to -10 APs 0 to -1/2x Starting APs Marginal
-11 to -20 APs Less than -1/2x Starting APs Minor
-21 to -30 APs Less than -1x Starting APs Major
-31 or more APs Less than -2x Starting APs Complete

Parting Shots

You may make one parting shot after your opponent has been reduced below 0 APs.

Final Action

If you fall to 0 APs or less in a 1 on 1 Extended contest you are defeated and may take no further action.

If you fall below 0 AP in a Group Extended Contest, you may still be able to perform a final act. However, you must first have a round free from attention by the opposition. Make a Ability test of a relevant ability such as Tough or Ignore Pain, modified by and modifiers from the Consequence chart.

Final Action Results Chart

Critical Success Take action with no penalties from wounds
Success Take action with wound modifiers
Failure No action possible
Fumble Drop to next level of Combat Result

You may only attempt one Final action every time you fall to 0 APs or less. If the final action results in the character regaining positive APs, he may rejoin the contest.

Combat Results

Characters may become wounded during a fight (through the Trading Wounds for APs rule, for example) without ever dropping below 0 APs, or may be wounded but come back into the fight through a Final Action (see below). A character can win the contest even though he has more “wounds” than his opponent.

In terms of the effects of injury and illness on the story lines, there are really only four types of hurt: the character is either hurt, injured, dying, or dead. A character can be hurt because he is ill, or (more likely in an adventure story) he has been wounded in combat or misadventure.


This is the state of health to aspire to; nothing is wrong with your character.


The character is conscious and aware of his surroundings but is exhausted, befuddled or in shock and cannot resist efforts to capture him, tie him up, or otherwise manhandle him. This situation is temporary, and needs not be healed by anything more than AP loans during a contest, or simply resting for a few minutes after the contest is over.


Each time a character becomes hurt, he suffers a -1 penalty on all action rolls. These penalties are cumulative if the character gets hurt a number of times. The penalty resets to zero at the end of each episode, or when the character is successfully treated by a healer.


An injured character is badly maimed or suffers from a debilitating disease. He may act with a -50% modifier. Injured characters require magical healing or several episodes spent resting.


Dying characters are unconscious and unable to act. They will die unless they are quickly treated by a magical healer. Death is generally up to the Narrator to determine.


A dead character is dead, and under most circumstances is out of the game.


There are basically three types of healing in the game: First aid, which can treat hurts; Major healing, which is magical in nature and can treat injuries and near death, and Time.

First Aid and Minor Magical Healing

First aid and other healing abilities can remove the penalties for one or more Hurts in a single action. This is resolved as an Ability test. The Target number is the ability, modified -1 for each Hurt being cured. The Patient may attempt to augment the healer’s First Aid with his “Tough”, “Resilient” or similar abilities.

Major Healing

Major healing can reduce all modifiers due to injury, illness, or malign influences, but is restricted to devotees of specific deities, saints or spirits. Using a major healing ability to eliminate hurts can be handled as first aid. Healing injuries and near-death requires a contest against the following resistance:

Wound Resistance
Injury 20
Dying 10w

In the case of poison, illness or malign influences, the resistance is the strength of the opposing force. Special feats, spells or spirits are required to cure these types of ill-health, basic heal wounds magic does not affect them. Some healing deities may have affinities that can be used improvisationally.

Healing over time

Wounds heal at a rate of a Hurt level per day if the character is allowed to rest. The narrator may modify this to account for character’s actions (hiking on a wounded leg instead of resting in bed), environment (cold & wet or dry heat), or other factors. Dying characters will rarely get better on their own, usually they will succumb to their wounds.



Talents are magical abilities which are a part of a character. They do not need to be cast or summoned, but act in every way as an ordinary skill. Talents can be granted by deities, obtained by integrating a spirit, or acquired naturally through birth.


Divine Aid
Available to any theist. Use the “Worship Pantheon” ability as the chance to get Divine Aid.

Available to initiates and devotees. Initiates may use affinity magic with improvisational modifiers.

Feats are usually only available to Devotees of the god. Feats are rolled at the target number of the affinity to which it belongs.


A spirit may be forced into a fetish. If the user of the fetish is the one who captured the spirit, he may use the spirit a number of times per day equal to the degree of victory in the Spirit Combat:

Fetish Use

Degree of Victory Uses
Marginal 1-use
Minor Once per day
Major Three times per day
Complete Integration

If the user did not capture the spirit himself, the spirit is one-use.

Skill Spirit
A skill spirit grants the user a single skill at a target number equal to the spirit’s might. If the user already has a similar skill, the spirit’s might is added to his target number.

Passion Spirit
A passion spirit grants a bonus equal to 1/10th the might of the spirit to all activities covered by the spirit’s passion.

Integrated spirit
An integrated spirit grants the user a talent.


Grimoires are collections of Sorcerous spells. Each grimoire has it’s own Read Grimoire skill.

Spells must be cast using a Talisman. Spells are cast using the magician’s Read Grimoire ability.


A mystic’s Physical ability, Mental ability and Virtue ability must be within 10 points of each other for the mystic to use Counters or Strikes.

Counters are defensive mystic powers. They cannot be used offensively.

When a strike is used, the target number of the strike is applied as an edge to the winner of the exchange. If the opponent is driven to 0 APs or less by a strike, a special effect is often applied. If the user of the strike loses the exchange, he loses points of the ability according to the degree of defeat:

Degree of Defeat Ability Loss
Marginal -1
Minor -2
Major -4
Complete -8

Hero Points

Hero Points are the currency of Hero Wars. They are assigned by the narrator at the start of a game and upon finishing an adventure. Hero Points are used to raise a hero’s abilities or to Bump a result

Gaining Hero Points

  1. At the start of each session, each hero gets 1 hero point.
  2. At the end of each session, each hero gets 1-5 hero points.
  3. At the end of a long, multi-session, or difficult adventure, a narrator may choose to give the heroes 1-5 additional hero points.
  4. At the end of each session, the narrator may choose to give certain heroes 1-3 additional hero points.

Using Hero Points

Hero points have these uses in the game:
  1. During game play they may be used to Bump any action roll by your hero.
  2. To add, cement or increase character abilities between game sessions.

Character Development Costs

Improvement Related to session Unrelated
Improve ability by +1 1 2
Improve ability by +2 3 6
Improve ability by +3 6 12
Improve ability by +4 10 20
Improve an affinity or tradition knowledge by +1 3 6
Improve a grimoire by +1 5 10
Learn a new mundane ability at 12 1 2
Learn a new affinity, tradition or mystic power at 12 3 6
Learn a new grimoire and one spell at 12 5 10
Learn a new feat 1 2
Learn a new spell or blessing 2 4
Learn a new weapon or fighting technique, or a subset of an ability at the current ability rating 1 2
Capture a spirit in a fetish 1 2
Integrate a spirit 2 4
Gain new supporting character 1 2
Replace lost followers 0
Cement benefit 1
Gain a new flaw 0
Buy down a flaw by -1 1 2
Buy down a flaw by -2 3 6
Remove a flaw at 12 1 2

Latest revision: 10 Mar 2000, new

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