Weighing In on Weapons (and Other Foci)

by Bob Greenwade

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Weighin In on Weapons (and Other Foci)

Practically since Champions first came out, there have been characters whose attacks are basically thrown weapons -- knives, shurikens, and shields, among an occasional variety of other things.

However, the rules for handling these situations have been sparse at best. A couple of the Dark Champions supplements mentions a Range Limited by STR Limitation for ranged attacks, and describes the fact that this limits the range of the attack to how far the character can throw it, but noplace in any of the materials can one find how far that is, even for that specific character.

Even more sparse is a detailed way to determine how laden a heroic-level character is with weapons, armor, and other equipment. If a Fantasy Hero character is subject to Encumbrance rules and thereby limited in how much he can carry, then it would be very helpful to be able to know just how much he's carrying. Unfortunately, only armor is given any treatment of weight in the published rules; not even weapons have weight listings.

For that reason, I'm offering here some rules that can be used to determine the mass of a weapon, or any other Focus for that matter.

Device Mass

In Fourth Edition Champions, there is no practical, viable way to determine the mass of an item. However, in the old Star Hero game by Paula Woods and Sam Bowne (based on the Third Edition Champions rules), there was an extensive table showing what the mass of a given device would be based on its total Active Points. A truncated version of that chart is given below.

The device's Mass is based on its total Active Points. For most devices, this is a simple formula; simply add up the Active Points of all the Powers, and look on the Device Mass Table below. However, objects with Power Frameworks receive special consideration. In each case, this consists of treating the contributions of Active Points in the same way that the Frameworks treat the real costs they handle.

If the device is built as a Multipower, then the Active Points of the Pool become the main source of Active Points. The individual slots also contribute, but at the same reduced rate they get for cost (one-fifth the Active Points for variable slots, one-tenth the Active Points for fixed slots).

If the GM is allowing an Elemental Control to be bought through a Focus (which, by the way, is not recommended outside a Fantasy Hero setting), then the Elemental Control cost contributes itself to the Active Points, but the number of Active Points contributed by each Power in the EC is reduced by the same number of points.

A Variable Power Pool contributes both the Pool itself and the Control Cost toward the Active Points for determination of mass. Remember that, as always, Limitations on the Control Cost are not considered.

0 0.2 kg 1
10 0.4 kg 2
20 0.8 kg 3
30 1.6 kg 4
40 3.2 kg 5
50 6.4 kg 6
60 12.5 kg 7
70 25 kg 8
80 50 kg 9
90 100 kg 10
100 200 kg 11
110 400 kg 12
120 800 kg 13
130 1.6 tons 14
140 3.2 tons 15
150 6.4 tons 16
160 12.5 tons 17
170 25 tons 18
180 50 tons 19
190 100 tons 20
200 200 tons 21

Since it was taken from Star Hero, this table is designed to reflect a science-fiction campaign. It's probably still suitable for a superhero campaign, but a GM in a modern-day campaign (or one in an earlier setting) might want to increase the mass by a level or two.

For every +10 Active Points, the device doubles in size and gains +1 BODY; or, if you want a slightly simpler method, a device increases a thousandfold and gains +10 BODY for every +100 Active Points. Of course, not every device will have a number of Active Points that falls exactly on a multiple of 10; prorate the difference between the two multiples to find the correct mass.

Note that a device isn't necessarily a technological item. Magical items in a Fantasy Hero campaign could also be subjected to these rules, at the GM's discretion. This would mean that staffs are automatically more powerful than wands, and wands are more powerful than rings.

Most weapons would have to deal with special cases, however, especially in a Fantasy Hero or Ninja Hero game where weapons do less relative damage than in Champions. Under the above rules, a sword's weight in a fighter's hand would be determined by its Active Points, so that a 1 d6 HKA bastard sword (with no Advantages or Skill Levels), having 25 Active Points, would weigh 1.2 kg (the halfway mark between 0.8 kg for 20 AP and 1.6 kg for 30 AP; that's a little under three pounds). That seems terribly light for something that's supposed to be too heavy for most people to use with one hand; however, this problem is discussed below.

There is one other thing that should be noted about magical weapons and armor, however, before we move on. The mass of a magical weapon or magical piece of armor should be the greater of the mass that would be brought about by the weapon's natural properties and the enchantment that's on it. In most cases where this rule is used, a weapon or piece of armor should not have an enchantment with more Active Points than it has in its normal attack (On the other hand, many Fantasy Hero and Ninja Hero GMs will want to use these rules only to determine the size of normal weapons, and not have enchantments affect the weight of an item "because it's magic." This is perfectly legitimate; in this case, however, the number of Active Points in an item shouldn't be affected by the size of the weapon.)

New and Altered Power Modifiers

So we have a way to determine the mass of a Power that is bought through a Focus (or, at any rate, a device whether it's represented in game terms as a Focus or some other way). Now let's apply that rule to other parts of the Hero System.


Can Be Thrown

This is a new +¼ Advantage for any non-ranged attack Power, usually Hand-to-Hand Attack or Killing Attack (Hand-to-Hand). With this Advantage, the character can throw the attack. This constitutes a ranged attack which does the full normal damage of the attack. However, the range is limited to the distance that the character can throw the device using the Device Mass Table above, along with the Strength Table on page 173 and the Throwing Table on page 174 of the Hero System Rulebook. If the Power is a HA or HKA, then any applied STR may be used to either increase the damage of the attack or hurl it through the air -- not both (though STR can be divided between the two intents).

Though most examples of this ability in fiction have the character only able to Throw his Power once (such as a shield or a throwable sword), the basic form in game terms allows the character 16 Charges (the same as would be given a character with Recoverable Charges that Cost END for a 0 Modifier, since Recoverable and Costs END cancel each other out in terms of cost). If the character wants fewer Charges than this, it should be given a regular Charges Limitation which applies to the Advantage only. (Thus being able to Throw your shield, which can be done only once, would be a +¼ Advantage with a -2 Limitation applied to it, in addition to any other Limitations on the overall Power). If the character wants more Throwing Charges, then it counts as an extra Advantage to the whole Power; this may only be done with the GM's permission, however. The GM may also permit this Advantage to be taken on Powers without applying the Charges modifier, instead treating it as a normal Power; however, this should require a very logical explanation.

Once all of the Charges are used, the Power cannot be used -- not even hand-to-hand -- until at least one of the Charges are recovered.

If a Power with this Advantage is in a single-weapon Multipower, then the slot should have the -¼ Lockout Limitation, which prevents any other Power from being used once it runs out of Charges. Doing otherwise requires the GM's permission (and a good stretch of logic).


This +¼ Advantage (also taken from Star Hero) reduces the mass of a device. For every level of Miniaturization the device has, its weight is reduced by two levels on the Device Mass Table. This Advantage does not increase the number of Active Points the Power has for purposes of determining mass, nor for END consumption (though it does count for all other purposes).

While this is an obviously good Advantage for characters in science-fiction and espionage campaigns to take on their equipment (representing small items that can be easily concealed -- an especially handy consideration for superspies), Fantasy Hero GMs who want magical items to have mass can use it to help build those obscenely powerful magic rings.

This Advantage is generally only practical in campaigns where all devices (that is, all Foci), or at least all devices of a particular type, are defined as having Mass.



Powered armor bought with this Limitation (described on Sean Patrick Fannon's Champions website) should be calculated normally, and its mass just as though it were using the Focus Limitation.


There are a number of modifications to the Focus Limitations that should, or at least can, be made to accommodate the concept of device mass. Some of these are based not on the description of Focus, but on the Buying Weapons and Armor section on page 204 of the Hero System Rulebook.

Armor Mass: The GM may choose to allow this Limitation to represent all cases of device mass. In this case, a -½ Limitation (half mass), which would put the device at one level up on the chart from normal, instead gives the device mass based on half its Active Points, while the full -1 Limitation gives the full normal mass. A -1 Limitation (double mass), which would normally put the device at one level down on the chart from normal, gives the device mass based on twice its Active Points.

Bulky/Immobile Focus: A Bulky Focus weighs eight times as much as normal (3 steps down the chart); an Immobile Focus weighs eight times as much as that (6 steps down the chart from normal).

DEF/BODY: A Focus' DEF should be computed as it is in the Hero System Rulebook -- one-fifth the Active Points of the largest Power in the Focus, with a minimum of 3. The BODY is computed using the Device Mass Table, with a minimum BODY equal to the number of Powers in the Focus. Powers in a damaged Focus aren't lost until the amount of BODY remaining is less than their number; at that point, they go away at the rate of one per BODY lost, either largest first or chosen randomly (GM's preference).

STR Minimum: A weapon with a STR Minimum based on (Base Points/3) has a mass one level down the table from normal; one with a STR Minimum based on (Active Points/2) has a mass two levels down. Adjustments to STR Min affect the mass accordingly; every 5 STR less needed to use the weapon lightens it by one level, and every 5 STR more needed makes it heavier by one level.

Vehicle/Base Focus: A Vehicular Focus weighs eight times as much as normal (3 steps down the chart); a Base Focus weighs eight times as much as that (6 steps down the chart from normal). On a related note, it's worth pointing out that, while it is possible (at least theoretically) to have a Bulky Vehicular Focus (which would be 6 steps down the chart from normal, and cause the vehicle to operate at DCV when in use), a Base Focus cannot be Bulky nor Immobile, and an Immobile Focus cannot be Vehicular nor Base. This is because a Vehicle Focus cannot be Immobile (it has to move with the vehicle), and a Base Focus is immobile by definition. Of course, as with everything else, this is subject to the GM's judgement.

Range Limited by STR

This Limitation, applied to ranged attacks, is essentially the same as a non-ranged attack with the Can Be Thrown Advantage described above. The primary difference is that the attack is not designed to be used hand-to-hand in the first place; this, in turn, means that any Charges that it has to deal with apply to the entire Power.


What else you do with this is up to you. Some of the specific ideas that do come to mind include:

There are probably other uses that I just haven't thought of as well, and if you can think of some just let me know and I'll add them to the list.

In the meantime, hopefully you'll be able to make good use of these rules.

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This article is © 1997-2000 by Bob Greenwade. E-mail me if you have any comments or questions.