The game utilizes a stripped pack of French playing cards. In Heroes Die all players control a single character, called the "Actor". The character has three Traits (Attributes) that vary during play, ranging from 0 to 10. The Traits are Ratings, Studio, and Notoriety. Each Trait is associated with a particular suit of cards.
The game is an adaptation of the eponymous novel by Matthew Woodring Stover.