Hero Ranks and using them against players in post-apocalyptic Yellow Dawn

GM advice for keeping dangerous characters in check

photos of fighting in Ukraine look post-apocalyptic - fighter with handgun from imgur dot com user magnacookies

Dangerous characters can disrupt GM plans – image fighting in Ukraine – magnacookies

Character development in Yellow Dawn is focused around two areas:

One, more immediate, is the acquisition of experience points by making successful skill checks.  These experience points accumulate quickly and can be spent on increasing skills or buying perks.

Two, the second focus of character development, called Hero Rank, is much slower  to evolve. An increase in Hero Rank is governed by luck (of the dice) and influenced by bonus points awarded to individual players, by the GM, for being particularly clever, amazing or entertaining during a session.

Example: at the end of any significant session a player has a chance to increase the Hero Rank of their character, if they can score 10+ on 2d6.  One player made a personal sacrifice during the session in order to be true to the nature of their character – for this the GM rewards the player with a +1 bonus to their Rank Roll.  In other words, at the end of the session the player only needs to roll 9+ to go up one Rank.  Additional or more generous rewards could reduce the target score even further.

The Primary Rulebook for Yellow Dawn details the raft of benefits that comes with an increase in Hero Rank. Ultimately, characters become tougher, smarter, more skilled-up, capable of delivering more damage and withstanding more punishment.  The GMs role within the game is not to kill the player characters – but it certainly should be about giving characters (and their players) a sense of peril, danger, drama and excitement.  Give the characters a lovely stick and then beat them up with it – they will adore you for it, whilst cursing your name.

photos of fighting in Ukraine look post-apocalyptic - masked men throws petrol bomb from imgur dot com user magnacookies

image fighting in Ukraine – magnacookies

Some GMs will dutifully craft their bad guy NPCs, give them a story arc based on answering the following questions: what do I want? Why do I want it? What will I do (and not do) to get it?  The GM will give the NPC Hero Bonuses, a list of equipment, weapons and armour.  The NPC will have an Occupation Rank (for the role they are performing), and this helps govern the level of their skills – using the NPC Potential table.

Other GMs will simply not have the time to do this for all NPCs and certainly not for random groups of thugs, angry mobs or other opponents that can crop up in a character’s face.

At this point:

  • the GM makes a decision on the RANK for these NPCs, probably something low… (3 is a local rep; 5 represents a city-wide rep; 7 is country-wide, 10+ is international)
  • rolls 3d6, adds the score to the Rank and checks the NPC potential table (page 248) for a rough and ready guide to skill levels and key STATS.
  • giving  the GM a ballpark level of competence for these NPCs.

As player characters become tougher, and more effective, there is a risk that these quickly generated NPCs become too easy to defeat.

The Hero Rank of a character should not be thought of as the same as character level in D&D.  You shouldn’t start throwing high rank NPCs at characters just because the character has lived long enough to gain heroic status.

It isn’t realistic to have RANK 10 thugs materialising out of a street brawl.  Rank 10 indicates somebody with a global reputation. Not encountered often or to be inserted into any game lightly.

Quick Rule of Thumb

What I do is use the Player Character’s Hero Rank against them.  Giving NPCs more toughness against specific characters in a group.

Divide any character’s Hero Rank by 5 and use that against them on the following dice rolls made by NPCs

  • Skill rolls, including To-Hit rolls in combat
  • Damage location rolls, adjusting accuracy of hits to strike Head  / Torso
  • SHOCK and DEATH Saves
  • Any opposed STAT check on 1d20
  • Initiative rolls
  • Extra HPs for the NPC


  • Never use this on damage dice!

<Magic Users>

  • NPC Magic Users will have a level of magical protection against physical damage equal to the opponents (player character) Hero Rank. Just reduce all damage to NPC from a physical attack by a player character. However, this protection should not always be available (the particular charm or enchantment runs out of energy, has limited use, etc).  Any time it is used roll 1d20. On a ‘1’ there magic user has run out of this special ability and will have to start burning their own POW and using specific operations to protect themselves. In other words, start using the core rules.


Yellow Dawn – The Age of Hastur, first published in 2007, is an RPG written by British Science Fiction & Dark Fantasy author David J Rodger – it blends the Cthulhu Mythos and cyberpunk genres in a post-apocalyptic setting. It also has three novels set within it: Dog Eat Dog, The Black Lake and The Social Club.


CREDIT: Featured Hero Image used to demonstrate post-apocalyptic vibe – Tom Hardy is Mad Max in Fury Road – Warner Bros – All Rights Reserved


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