Heroes & Hardships System Basics

Heroes & Hardships is universal RPG system with a d10 roll & keep dice pool system. One of the best ways to learn about the system is to download the 96-page Quickstart Guide 

But let's go over the base mechanics here so you can get an idea of how the system works.

Dice Pools

Heroes & Hardships uses d10s. That is the only die you will ever need, and you will need several as you make your dice pools. Dice pools are constructed by combining a character's attribute score and skill rank. This number is the total dice you will roll.

After you form your dice pool, you roll all your dice, but only count the number of dice equal to your attribute score. This is your roll's total. Then, you will compare the result to a target number based on the difficulty of the roll or an opposed roll by an NPC or another player.


Jason makes a Skill Check by shooting a gun at a target. His Dexterity Score is 3, and his Guns skill rank is 2. He rolls a total of 5 d10s, but keeps only 3. He rolls a 6, 7, 9, 2, and 1. He keeps the 6 + 7 + 9, which equals 22. Jason was aiming at a target, which the GM determined the difficulty to be Challenging, which at Power Level 1 is a target number of 14. Jason hits the target with 8 Levels of Success.

Exploding Dice

When a player makes a Skill Check, and has at least 1 skill rank in that skill, when they roll a 10 that dice "explodes". Exploding dice means that you reroll the die, and add the second roll to the first. This continues until the dice is not a 10.


Jason makes another Skill Check with his gun skill. This time he rolls a 10, 5, 1, 2, and 9. He has 2 skill ranks, so the 10 he rolled explodes. He rolls another d10 and gets a 7. Therefore, his first die he rolled is a 17. He adds the 17 to the two other highest dice. 17 + 5 + 9. His result is a 31. 


There are a few different kind of modifiers that can be used. 

Benefits - Benefits are usually the most impactful positive modifier a character can have. This could come from abilities, ancestry traits, situational events, etc. Benefits add rolled dice to the pool. They never add kept dice.

Hardships - Hardships are negative modifiers to a roll. Each Hardships is a d10 that explodes which is added to your target number. Hardships are used for Wounds, situational events, flaws, etc.

Pre-Roll Modifiers - Pre-Roll Modifiers are static modifiers, both positive and negative, that are applied to Skill Checks before success is determined. These are used for minor situational events, Injuries, abilities, ancestry traits, etc.

Post-Roll Modifiers - Post-Roll Modifiers are static modifiers, both positive and negative, that are applied to Skill Checks after success is determined. These are typically used to increase or lower Levels of Success. Levels of Success are important for weapon damage, armor reduction, or any other situation where understanding how well or how poorly (Levels of Failure) the roll was.


Jason tries to shoot a camera in an alleyway from cover, so he isn't seen. He aims, which gives him 1 Benefit. But the GM states he is at Medium Range, which gives him 2 Hardships. Jason has the Skilled Ability with Guns, so that gives him a +1 on his Pre-Roll Modifiers. He takes the shot, now rolling 6 dice because of his Benefit. He rolls a 1, 5, 6, 9, 2, and 8. He still only adds 3 dice together to equal his attribute score. His total is 6 + 9 + 8 = 23. He then adds his Pre-Roll Modifier of 1 for a total of 24. This is a Challenging shot for a TN of 14. The GM now rolls the two d10s for the Range Hardships. He rolls a 10 and a 1. He rolls the 10 again, getting a 2. The hardship roll is a total of 13. The GM adds that to the base TN of 14 for a total of 27. Jason's shot is 23, which is lower than the target number, 24 - 27 = -3. He misses with 3 Degrees of Failure. He doesn't bother with any Post-Roll Modifier because he missed.

More Information

Remember, the Quickstart Guide has more details about this process. You can also check out our System Tutorial video 

Roll20.net also has a fully automated character sheet that will roll and calculate the results. Playing with the character sheet can help you get an idea of how things work. Just create a new game and select "Heroes & Hardships" as the character sheet.

We will be releasing more articles like this soon. So stay tuned.