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The Complete Newcomer's Guide to City of Heroes: Starting Out with Your First Character


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Welcome, at last, to the City of Heroes (or Villains)! In previous guides, I've gone over basic facts about the game, how to create your character, and some of the terminology you'll encounter as you play. If you're following along, you should have just completed the tutorial, and have emerged anew into the city with all its wonders. Let's get you started adventuring, shall we?


First, a couple of caveats. This advice only covers starting out in the City of Heroes or City of Villains factions. Things work a little differently in Going Rogue, which is part of why I suggested you not create your first character over there. By the time you're ready for Going Rogue, you should have a better handle on how things work in general, and have an easier time starting in an environment that isn't as friendly to new players.


Also, this advice is only meant for your first character. Once you get more experienced, with future characters you may want to skip over a lot of it. But to get a good jump on the learning curve, you should start with the basics. Learn to walk before you run, and other clichés like that. Also, I would recommend doing your first few missions solo, so you can move at your own pace and not have someone else dragging you along at their speed—although if a friend invited you to the game, it seems likely they might want to show you the ropes themselves, so you should certainly let them help you out. 


This advice isn't meant to be comprehensive, by the way; I'm not going to cover all of the different tabs in the options menu, or tell you how to do everything. A lot of that stuff, you'll learn better by doing it for yourself. The Homecoming WikiParagonWiki, the in-game /help channel, and the Homecoming Discord server are all good sources of help to go to when you need to know something I'm not covering. I'm just going to give you the very basics, and you can have the joy of discovering other stuff as you go along.


Let's begin.



On arriving in Paragon City or the Rogue Isles, one of the first pop-up windows you get prompts you to set yourself as "Helper" or "Help Me!" Choosing one of those titles will cause a title to appear over your name when other people see it over your head, saying either "Helper" or "Help Me!" and will also color your character name a particular way so it's easier for such folks to recognize. I highly recommend that you set yourself as "Help Me!," at least at first. This tells everyone you meet that you're brand new to the game, and they may be more inclined to offer friendly advice and assistance. Likewise, if you see someone else who has "Helper" over their name, that means they consciously chose to mark themselves as someone newbies could approach with questions, so it won't bother them if you go up and ask them to help you with something. If you made a mistake, or should feel you don't need help anymore, you can change this setting at any time just by pressing "H" to bring up the help screen and picking another option from the drop-down.


This title system is also how people can tag themselves as "roleplayers," meaning that they're more likely to be playing their characters in-character. If that sounds like fun to you, you may want to change to that setting later on. But for now, you should probably stick with "Help Me!" until you learn the ropes.



The next thing you might want to do is change your global chat handle. Your global chat handle, or "global" for short, is a handle people can use to message or email you regardless of which character you're logged into. They can also add you to their global friends list, which will let them see where you're logged in and what character you're playing (if you haven't turned on "hide" to make yourself invisible). Global handles are also used for emailing items or Inf from one character to another.


By default, your global chat handle will be set to the name of your first character, but that may not be what you want to keep it set to. You can change this handle once, by clicking Menu at the top right, then Global Chat Handle (X) about 2/3 of the way down the list of options. After you've changed it, you can come back to this menu option to be reminded of what it is, but if you need to change it again after that you'll need to ask a Game Master for help. So double-check what you typed before you click the submit button.



Now that you've got your help status and global chat handle set, it's time to train up. Go talk to the trainer. In Atlas Park, that will be Ms. Liberty. (There's another trainer, Back Alley Brawler, over near the west end of the zone, but Ms. Liberty is right up the steps from where new characters begin.) In Mercy Island, that will be Arbiter Richard. You can easily locate the trainer on your map (hit "M" to open it and use the slide on the right side to zoom in) by their icon, a white circle with a green silhouette of a person in it.


The tutorial ends by giving you enough XP to reach level 2, so you'll be able to train up immediately and select a new power from the choices given. Every time you level up, you'll go to the nearest trainer and choose more powers, or more Enhancement slots for your existing powers, so you'll be doing this a lot.


Don't worry that you might make the "wrong" choice and somehow "mess up" your character. The choices you make for skills and Enhancement slots aren't permanent. As you continue to play, you'll be given several opportunities per character to "respec"—that is, respecify your power and enhancement choices. If you use up all those chances, you can buy further additional chances pretty inexpensively on the auction house. You can't change your Origin, character archetype, or what primary and secondary power sets you chose, but you will be able to change what powers you picked from those sets when, and how the slots are distributed among them.


In fact, you should probably just accept that you will want to respec your character sooner or later, just because you can't fully understand what all the powers do or how much enhancement you should put into them until you've tried them out. So for right now, just pick whatever power looks good to you and put whatever slots you want to into them. There's no wrong way to make your first character; it's all a learning experience.



The P2W Store has a number of free items that new players may find very helpful. Remember, even though it's called "P2W," that's just a developer in-joke; there are no real monetary costs involved. You can find the P2W by looking for dollar-sign icons on your map; it will be one of those. (In fact, there's also a P2W store in the Outbreak/Breakout tutorials; if you're reading through this guide before you play through the tutorial, you could also go ahead and grab all these things while you're in it.)


I would recommend stopping by the store and picking these free powers up on every character as soon as you make them:

  • The Origin-bonus Blackwand (if your character is Magic, Mutant, or Natural Origin) or the Origin-bonus Nemesis Staff (if your character is Science, Technology, or Natural; Natural Origin can choose which of the two they want to take the bonus on)
  • Two powers out of: Sands of Mu, Ghost-Slaying Axe, or non-Origin-bonus Blackwand/Nemesis Staff
  • Either Jump Pack or Steam Jump
  • Either Beast Run or Ninja Run
  • Whichever Buff Pet best fits your character's concept
  • Inner Inspiration, Secondary Mutation, or Mystic Fortune (I'd recommend Inner Inspiration, as it provides three medium or large Inspirations per use, very handy when starting the game)
  • The five free Prestige Enhancements, which you can slot into your first few attack powers to add a good chunk of damage, recharge rate, and some useful procs (chances for the power to cause some extra effect).

You can come back and get other powers that cost Inf later on, when you actually have some Inf.


I actually wouldn't recommend taking the XP boost options to start, because those options cut down on the amount of Inf you get, and you don't currently have any. Also, you're still learning the game, so perhaps you don't want to level too quickly just yet.



You've just picked up a bunch of extra powers—so you may now be wondering where they are. When you buy a power in the P2W Store, it doesn't automatically add itself to your tray the way your powers do when you train. You're going to have to drag those powers down to your tray—and to do that, you'll want to make some room.


When you start out, you just get one tray of ten power slots, numbered 1 through 0. But when you get more powers, you're going to need more places to put them. At the far right, just above your power tray, you should see a + sign and then a triangle. Click the triangle, and another power tray will appear above your first one. Click it one more time, and you'll get a third tray. (And the triangle reverses, meaning that you can click it again to drop back to one tray.) These trays will all start out with the number "1" on the left end and show the exact same powers, but click the triangle to the right of the "1" and it will change to the number "2". You'll probably want to make the middle tray "2" and the top tray "3". You can have up to 9 trays full of 10 icons each; the same power icon can be in more than one tray, but you can't put one power in the same tray twice.


Next, click "Powers" at the left, just above your first tray slot. That will open your powers window, and along the right side you'll see all those powers you got from the P2W. Drag them one at a time into spaces where you want them on your tray. Note that you can hotkey the powers in your first tray by pressing numbers 1 through 0, and hotkey the powers in your second and third tray by pressing Alt+ or Ctrl+ the number, respectively.


If that's still not enough trays for you, you can add even more. Click the + and you'll see a floating tray appear in the upper left of your screen. Change it to show power tray 4, then drag it to where you want it, and click + again if you want another. You can change the shape of floating trays by right-clicking on them, and choosing one of the options. If you choose Horizontal or Vertical, you can actually bend the tray into an "L" shape by dragging it against the edge of the screen. Play around with these extra trays and see how you want them. By the time you reach level 50, you'll probably have enough powers and macros to fill all 9 possible power trays.


Powers in these floating trays can't be hotkeyed, so if you prefer using keys to clicking, you'll want to put your most-often-used powers in the three basic trays, while moving less-often-used ones to the floaters.



Next, it's time to get your first real mission! Go talk to the contact the tutorial assigned you, and take their first mission. (You can actually talk to any of the beginning contacts, even the ones the tutorial didn't give you, but it's probably best to keep things simple and go with that one.) They'll have a mission for you, which will send you to speak to someone else, defeat enemies, or enter a door elsewhere in the starting zone. If it's very far away, you can use the run and jump powers you got from the P2W store to help you get there more quickly. 


After you complete the mission, you'll need to come back to the contact and talk to them again to take another mission. At some point, probably after another mission or two, they should let you call them from your contact screen after future missions, so you don't have to run all the way back every time. 


The contact will offer you several missions as part of a single arc—a series of related missions that tell a story over the course of running them. When the arc finishes, you'll get an XP bonus and several Reward Merits, and you'll probably level up once or twice during that time as well. Most contacts offer one or two arcs, as well as a few stand-alone missions, all of which are good for earning some more XP.



Not all beginning characters are created equal, and sometimes you can run up against enemies who are too challenging for you, even if they're just the same level as you. Fortunately, there's a way built into the game to fix that—though it's located in an odd place in the game's interface.


On the left side of your screen, in the text entry field under the chat window, there's a round button with a speech balloon in it. Clicking that button brings up a menu. Most of the items in the menu are chat-related options, but at the very bottom is Set Notoriety. Choose that, and another menu opens up, letting you select what level of enemies you'll face, how many members the game should think are on your team, whether you want there to be Boss class enemies when you're soloing, and whether you want to face any Archvillains when soloing.


The level indicator is probably set to +0, meaning that you will face mainly enemies of your own level or one higher. You can change it as low as -1, to make enemies one level lower than or the same level as you, so they'll be easier to hit and won't do as much damage to you. You can also set "Solo Bosses" to "No" and any enemy who would have been a tougher, more challenging Boss type will be a Lieutenant instead. ("Elite Bosses," a special kind of Boss, will still be Elite Bosses, though.) But note that reducing the difficulty also reduces the amount of XP you get from enemies.


The chat options menu seems like a strange place to put mission difficulty settings, but it's a side-effect of some of the changes Homecoming's developers made to make things simpler for the players. In the live version of the game, the only way to change difficulty was by by talking to a Hero Corps analyst (one of the light-and-dark-blue-clad heroes, like the one standing just northeast of City Hall in Atlas) or Fortunata Fateweaver in person. (And you can still change the difficulty settings that way as well, if you like.) But to let players change the difficulty immediately from wherever their characters are, the options had to be added to a menu, and there aren't a whole lot of options menus in the game that can be opened with just one click. The chat options menu was apparently the only one players could quickly open up if they needed to make changes on the spur of the moment.



Here's a useful little trick that the tutorials don't tell you about. City of Heroes will let you set one of your powers up to fire automatically as soon as it recharges. Players will often use it for their fastest-recharging attack, or stick it on healing auras to make sure they heal everyone around them as often as possible, or might put it on Hasten, a Super Speed pool power that makes most of a character's powers recharge faster while it's active. There are plenty of potential uses for it. To use it, just hold down the Control key and click the icon for the power. You'll see a green circle appear around it, meaning that it's been selected for autofire. To cancel autofire, just hit Z.


Autofire can be very handy for making sure you're attacking or buffing as often as you're able. But just remember, any attack power you use it on will go off any time you have a target selected and within range. So if you're trying to sneak through somewhere without attacking any enemies, you might want to turn it off to avoid any unfortunate accidents.


If you like autofire enough, perhaps you might be inspired to name your next character Otto Fire. (Or maybe not. It's probably taken anyway.)



When you reach level 5, you will be given one of these two contacts: Twinshot on the hero side, Dr. Graves on the villain side. These contracts will introduce you to a series of further tutorial arcs (at levels 5, 10, and 15) that will walk you through some additional explanation of the game, so you should definitely do their missions on your first character. You will already know some of the things they go over (how to train up or use transit lines, for example), but on the whole, the repetition doesn't hurt. You probably won't want to do these contacts' arcs on other characters, but they'll help you learn even more about the game by doing. And they're pretty amusingly written, as well.



As you adventure through Atlas Park or Mercy Island, you'll probably see Death from Below (DFB) advertised multiple times on the LFG or Broadcast chat channels. Death from Below is an entry-level trial, available separately for both heroes and villains, in which you face several archvillains and will undoubtedly gain a lot of XP (especially if you have the Double XP booster enabled). It's a pretty common way to jump characters past the very first few levels so they can move on to other zones and start doing higher-level content immediately.


On your first character, I would not recommend jumping into one of these until after you've completed at least the first Twinshot or Dr. Graves arc. While Death From Below is a lot of fun, it can also cause you to outlevel the very entry-level content that will demonstrate to you how to play the game, while the enemies are still relatively weak and don't have many special abilities that make them harder for you to handle. Once you know more about how to play the game, that's not an issue, and you can court Death from Below to your heart's content. (In fact, after you complete the level 5 Twinshot/Dr. Graves arc, doing a DFB at that point would probably level you up enough that you can immediately start the level 10 arc next.) But I would strongly recommend playing out those introductory arcs first.



One other thing you might want to change right away is your character's alignment. There are four basic alignments in City of Heroes/Villains. Hero and Villain are the basic default alignments for starting on the Hero (blue) or Villain (red) side of the game. However, there are also two in-between alignments—Vigilante on the blue side, and Rogue on the red side. Each of these alignments is treated as Hero or Villain in terms of the main content they can do and the badges and Accolades they can get (as well as the sides they fight on in PVP zones), but they also get limited access to the other side's content.


Both Vigilante and Rogue can travel anywhere in both Paragon City and the Rogue Isles. They can join teams doing missions or Task/Strike Forces/Trials on the opposite side (Vigilante can join Villain teams; Rogue can join Hero teams), and can participate in those missions, but they can't speak to most opposing contacts themselves. They can speak to Detective or Broker contacts to get a police radio or newspaper, and they can also start Task Forces, Strike Forces, or Trials from either side.


If all this sounds too complicated to you, feel free to ignore it until later on. There's no reason you have to be anything other than the straight Hero or Villain you start out as. However, once you've learned your way around the game a little, you might want to go ahead and swap to one of those in-between alignments—especially if you start out as a Villain. The blue side has a lot more players than the red side, so if you're a Villain who wants to team up, you may have to go Rogue in order to find other people to team with.


(The Rogue alignment has no connection to the Going Rogue expansion, by the way, and characters who start out in the Praetorian (gold) setting can't change alignment until they leave Praetoria at level 20.)


It used to be that you had to wait until level 20 to change sides, and it was a slow, laborious process involving doing ten Tip missions followed by an alignment mission to change or confirm your alignment. However, Homecoming added a contact called Null the Gull—a seagull who sits on top of a truck on the villain side of the Pocket D dance club. If you can travel safely to Pocket D, you can change your alignment to any of the other three alignments at any time. Some players do this immediately on each new character they make so they have access to that much more content while leveling up.



In a previous guide, I already mentioned The Homecoming WikiParagonWiki, the in-game /help channel, and the Homecoming Discord server as places you could look for more information or help from fellow players about things that aren't clear. (Or look for some player with "Helper" floating over their head.)


But sometimes that kind of help isn't enough. City of Heroes isn't perfect; it does have its share of game-breaking bugs that crop up from time to time. Sometimes an enemy may get stuck in a wall or ceiling so you can't damage it, but you need to defeat it to complete the mission. Or sometimes you just can't find the last objective and are not sure if something's wrong with the mission. If you need actual help with the game, then you'll need to find a Game Master (GM).


The easiest way to do that is to type "/petition (whatever your problem is)" from the chat window. (For example, "/petition Enemy stuck in wall, can't complete mission".) Then select the category and type a brief description of your problem. The petition will immediately be sent to the Game Masters' ticket queue, and if there's a GM currently on duty, they will be pinged to respond to it. (You can also file a ticket into the same system using Homecoming's support webpage, which also permits attaching screenshots and such if you have any that are relevant.)


However, there won't always be a Game Master on duty to answer the petition. To see if there is, you can go to the Discord server I linked above and check the sidebar on the right side of the screen (in the desktop version). There will be categories of GM listed there, including possibly "On-Duty Game Master." If the category does not exist, there aren't any GMs currently on duty. Unfortunately, as a volunteer effort, Homecoming's GM coverage can be a bit spotty—especially late at night, or during business hours on weekdays. If there's no GM on duty, it could be a while before they can respond to your ticket.


If your problem is urgent, you can try messaging or tagging one of the GMs who shows the green dot of being logged into Discord and see if they can help you, but bear in mind that they may not be in any position to help; they might be nowhere near their computer and just logged into Discord from their phone. If worst comes to worst, you have two choices: automatically completing the mission, or resetting the mission and doing it over.



Once every three days, City of Heroes will let you complete a mission automatically—that is, make the contact mark the mission completed without you actually meeting its goals. This can be useful if you're stuck and there's no GM around to help you get past it. All you need to do is call the contact, and choose "Complete the current mission from this contact." You should only use this as a last resort, however, because you won't be able to do it again for another three days.


To reset a mission, so you can go through it again and hope it doesn't get stuck this time, first exit the mission. Then you need to select another mission from your list of missions, from some other contact, and set it as your active mission. (If you're high enough level to get these, a newspaper or radio mission or a tip mission would work, since those are easy to obtain.) When you set the new mission as your active mission, the game will warn you that you're about to abandon all progress on that other mission. Tell it to proceed, then after the new mission is selected, you can select the other mission again and begin it again. Alternately, you can just log out of the game and log back in, and all your progress on the mission will be reset. Also, if you call or visit the contact as if you were autocompleting the mission, there should also be a choice to abandon the mission. This will usually let you call and accept the same mission again.


In addition to resetting stuck missions, this will also let you apply a different Difficulty (Notoriety) level to the mission, if you had the wrong one set before you started it.


To reset a Task Force or Strike Force mission, all members of the team have to log out, wait for two minutes, then log back in. It can be necessary to do this if a Task Force mission begins repeating after a player quits the TF. There's no other real way to get the TF kicked back into gear when that happens.



Congratulations! You've taken your first few steps into a larger world. Though things start off pretty simple, as you continue to level up the game will get increasingly complex, with new systems becoming available to you. Fortunately, many of these new systems include tutorial or introductory missions, or else have guides available elsewhere on the forum—and by the time you need those guides, hopefully the rest of the game will have started making enough sense to you that they'll be easier to follow.


As for where you go from here—why not join a Death from Below trial now that you've finished your first few missions? Or when you get to level 8, see if you can get on a Positron Task Force (if you're a Hero, Vigilante, or Rogue; Villains have to wait for level 15 to do Virgil Tarikoss's Strike Force). Join a team of people doing missions and see how the game works in a group. 


If you need extra Inf to build up your character, check out the techniques I suggest in my guide to making fast money through Enhancement conversion. It takes a bit of work, but it's still possible to make tens of millions of Inf in a relatively short time, even starting from nothing at all. Once you have more cash, you can go and check out those powers that cost big money in the P2W store. You might want to check out the rest of my guides, too.


When you get to King's Row or Port Oakes, speak to the Detective or Broker contact there to get access to the police radio/newspaper random mission system. When it's safe to enter Steel Canyon or Cap au Diable, you should run by that university and speak to the contact who will walk you through a tutorial on how the in-game crafting system works. When you reach level 20, you can start doing Tip Missions for extra merits, or to change your alignment—or you can speak to Null the Gull in Pocket D (the seagull on top of a truck in the red side of the club) to change your alignment at any time. And when you reach level 50, there's the further complexity of the Incarnate system to explore…


When it comes time to respec your character, don't forget to take a screenshot of the way your power trays are arranged. (You can use Windows Key + Shift + S to open the Windows snipping tool to capture the trays, then paste the image into a paint program.) The respec will reset the positions of all your power icons, so you'll want that reminder of how they were originally set up so you can drag them back into place.


Whatever you do, have fun with it! If you get frustrated, it's okay to seek help from other players or GMs. You're doing this to have fun, so it should be fun for you. And if you have any questions these guides didn't answer, or you think I got something wrong, please leave a comment under the relevant guide. If there's a mistake or an omission, I'll be happy to fix it, and I'm sure the discussion will also be useful to future new players who read these threads.


I'll see you in the City of Heroes (or Villains)!

Edited by Robotech_Master
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