19th: Favorite Supers RPG
Ah, supers! Now we’re in my wheelhouse! I think I can claim that I have played, run, or am at least familiar with at least a technical majority of super-hero roleplaying games ever published.
I love super-heroes. I love comic books. These are things you need to know about me.
Now, I’m gonna do it – I’m going to mention Lowell Francis again: his Patreon page provides links to all of his Histories of Roleplaying Genres blog posts. Of interest here, of course, is his History of Superhero RPGs.
My own history with supers rpgs runs something like this:
Villains & Vigilantes. We played this as soon as it came out and loved it. Having played D&D for a couple-few years before V&V was published, being able to play a super-hero in an rpg was terribly exciting. It’s a fun, won my game, with random character generation and cross-reference charts! That’s how nerdy kids in the old days spelled “fun”.
Then Champions came out, and nothing was ever the same again. V&V had a lot in common with D&D and other rpgs of that era, but Champions was a while new ball game. Did I say V&V was nerdy fun? Champions was the game of champion nerds. It’s all about fiddly calculations and squeezing every bit of utility and power out of every fraction of a character creation point. I consider myself pretty smart, but you have to have a certain kind of brain to love and to master Champions.
Don’t get me wrong – I like the game; I just know that my own noodly proclivities will send me down rabbit holes in Champions that I will regret spending so much time on. But it’s a beautiful system; you truly can build anything from the building blocks that are the Hero system.
DC Heroes. I have a real fondness for this game, I think because it seemed like such a relief after the crunchiness of Champions. It felt like a more “mature” approach, somehow: the fiddly bits were pretty easy to grok, it had that wonderful Action Point scale, and I still carry a torch for that 9-grid attribute block.
[Long gap with little supers gaming. Sadface.]
Then Mutants & Masterminds hit! M&M is one of the most robust game systems I have ever had the pleasure to read, play, and run. It is rock solid. Like Champions, you components of the system allow you to build pretty much anything,g but without much of the Hero system’s crunchiness. I knew the game was impressive when I realized that Captain America being able to walk away from a fight with the Hulk actually made sense in M&M and worked mechanically.
M&M captures the pulpy feel of super-hero comics despite it’s crunchier aspects. As I mentioned my RPGaDay2p15 post on sci-phi games, I have considered using M&M for Star Trek, and as a big Star Trek fan that is no small complement from me.
[A couple years gap with no supers gaming. Also sad face.]
I could go on for a while about Smalville, the Dramatic version of the Cortex Plus system. Suffice to say:
- It’s one of the few rpg rules books I own a hard copy of.
- It’s one of the few rpg rules books I have read all or most of.
- Character creation is a collaborative, creative process that produces rich results.
- I dig the core mechanic, which regularly asks you why your character is even in a given scene or encounter.
Those are the supers games that I’ve played or run at length. I’ve been in a few very short games using the Marvel Super Heroes Role-playing Game (aka “FASERIP”) over the years, and liked it okay. I’ve also had a couple of flirtations with Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, also a Cortex Plus game. I’d be happy to play more FASERIP, and I’d love to get in on some face-to-face MHR action.
Worlds in Peril was brought to my attention recently. I’ve skimmed the free odd version of the rules, and it is very narrative, and I mean that in the best possible way. Powers are essential a set of descriptive statements. Over all it seems very promising.
If I had to run a supers game right now…I love M&M but I’d rather not have to run it again… I might try Truth & Justice… I’m not in love with the fiddlier bits in Smallville (I’m working on a hack of it with the help of the Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide)… I’ve been wanting to use Danger Patrol for something, so I think I’d give that a try, but it’s not a supers game, per se.
I guess my vote would have to be for Mutants & Masterminds as my favorite supers rpg. It may be the strongest supers game ever made.