Sunday, December 20, 2009

Villains, Mutants and Champions!

Okay I accept that is a less than inspired title.

Still, made you look ;)

Well recently I took a break from working on my post-apocalyptic-savage-fantasy setting and let my mind wander into superheroes territory. Now any of you who follow my blog, Earth Alpha, know that I have been reading all kinds of superhero games recently and just not been finding what makes me happy or clicks for what I want.

MSH Classic (FASERIP) - Been running this exclusively since about 1989. So very very tired of it. It lacks the excitement and such. My players know every maneuver, power, etc... Also it is a rather black and white system that is a touch too simple for me.

MSH SAGA - Again, plyed it quite a bit and while I like it, it lacks a certain "WOW" factor that I am seeking. Love the card based resolution, but I lost my cards a long time ago and my my my but they are expensive to replace from the used rpg market.

BASH Ultimate Edition - A very, very good game. The Ultimate Edition nearly won me over. The production value is top shelf and the presentation vastly improved over the basic edition (which I have openly stated I did not like). My only issue is, like FASERIP it is too simple and in itself, one of its primary design philosophies doesn't work for me. It isn't granular enough.

V&V - I love Villains & Vigilantes, I really, really do... but she is old and she shows her age. Though she does have some of the stuff I really like in a supers game. The characters grow in ability not powers. The powers are pretty much predefined. There is room to wiggle. But oh my the system is clunky.

M&M/Champions - I respect the hell out of Mutants & Masterminds and Champions, they are complete games that work very very well. I just can't stand games that fiddly. I hate building my powers (give me a power called Gravity Control and tell me what it does instead of me building a set of effects with the trappings of Gravity control) so those systems never work for me as a player or a gm.

SW/D6 - Both of these have produced some fantastic super power books/supplements, specifically D6 Powers Revised and the Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion. But neither one has really captured me as a system. SW in particular never feels when I read it like it would work for a long term campaign.

DC Heroes/Blood of Heroes - I tried this game back in the day, and while I think the AP system is wonderful in its own way, it just doesn't do it for me. I know that there are legions of fans for it, but not for me.

The Rest - GURPS Supers, Heroes Unlimited, Squadron UK/Golden Heroes, Truth & Justice, Supercrew, etc... most of these are either really awkward games, or just systems I don't really like. Not to disparage though, I think Supercrew and T&J are very innovative games, just lacking the variety of crunch I prefer.

I was beginning to lose hope.

So given that I recently was doing some game design and such, I started looking at the SIEGE style of gaming (Castles & Crusades/StarSIEGE)and that lead me to some places I hadn't thought of yet. I found a thread about "Super SIEGE" on the Troll Lord Games forums that didn't seem to be going anywhere except "Wait for Vigilance" which, while it sounds very interesting, supers by gaslight isn't my cup-of-tea. So I started reading the vast amount of d20 superhero games that came out that weren't M&M.

As a side note, I find it rather sad that once M&M tore up the market most other d20 super-games kind of went to the wayside or were abandoned. A testament to the power of M&M to be sure, but I find M&M offers only one style of superhero gaming in the d20 pool, and that one is closely based on Champions.

As I read along, and reread V&V I started to see that a lot of what V&V is was essentially the first d20 Superhero game. Well after a fashion of course.

So what do I want out of a superhero game?

For starters no bloody point builds. Either random, or pick. Random I am starting to like, because it forces a level of creativity that has long been missing in modern gaming. Pick I like because it helps with concept. A mix or the two, or a random, drop and pick, reroll, something... I don't know.

I am also good with a d20/C&C based system. I used to think levels and classes didn't work for supers, but now I am seeing it in a different light and liking what I see. Classes work (Scrapper, Brick, Blaster, etc...) and if someone has more than one, well that's a dual-class or a multi-class.

I have read and am reading now a glut of d20 based super games that were all seemingly developed before M&M killed the market by its sheer presence, and I find most of them all try to do what I don't like, point builds. They also all use Feats, which normally I am against, but more and more I see myself coming around on.

So I don't know where this will all go, and I am not sure what it will all entail, but I know this... it's gonna be an interesting ride.



  1. That would be 'Victorious!' -- not Vigilance. Though Vigilance would make a good name IMO. Though not likely to be your cup of tea, Victorious is supposed to have a section devoted to playing the game in a modern setting as well. Powers and abilities just wouldn't change all that much when you think about it. Just the level of 'tech' a character has access to. In a few weeks time, I hope to be well into editing the manuscript for the game but feel free to post some of your questions on the BHP forums.

  2. I'm really hard pressed to suggest a game for ya, given your criteria.

    My group used Savage Worlds for a Golden Age supers game and it worked really really well for campaign play. True, you cannot make every power imaginable, but either the Supers Companion or Necessary Evil is very up front with not having every power; some of the game-bending powers like time travel do not make an appearance.

    Saga would make a great pick, but you need cards and I will not give up mine, so sorry..

    Souunds like the D20 version of Silver Age Sentinels would have been a good match: classes and levels, but still some point builds to deal with. I, myself, thought it a fairly slick presentation; and the campaign world is one of my favorites: This can often be found VERY cheaply as well.

    Sad to hear your not liking T&J: That game really is one of my favorites. True, it is a bit touchy-feely in the character building, but it plays extremely well and allows for a real variety of player characters to work equally well together. That was the first campaign I ever ran that the guy with the bow outshone the bricks and the blasters.

    Nuff said; hope you find a game you can enjoy, whatever it is!

  3. The problem is that I prefer games where the powers are predefined and not assembled. Lego Powers as I call them.

    I see the power and versatility of them, but they always become about who can build a better character instead of which character is more interesting.

    T&J just was too "indy" for me I guess, which is okay, just not my cup of tea. As I said about though, I have decided on BASH Ultimate Edition and will just house rule what I want to have differently.

  4. Vigilance would be a great name for a cold-war, McCarthy-ist society where supers walk both sides of the fence of social control and justice.