Heroes Can Wear Masks In Your 5E Games
  • Heroes Can Wear Masks In Your 5E Games


    Role-playing is a unique hobby. Despite thousands of RPGs and millions of players there are few instances where standards for one group are shared by another. Chances are good, that my game only resembles your game; even if we're running the same edition, even if we're using the same module. Though I've said it before and I'll keep saying it, there's countless ways to (RP or) play D&D… But just in case you needed one more, Avalon Games has produced a superhero themed supplement: Heroes Wear Masks, which is skinned for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (most recently), & Pathfinder.


    Notes: The D&D 5E version is the primary focus of this review. With either version of this supplement, it's essential to have the D&D 5th Edition Players Handbook or the Pathfinder Core Rulebook; the main book specific to whichever derivative work you purchased. Neither are stand-alone RPGs.

    With Heroes Wear Masks you get a framework for gaming superhero themed adventures. Along with the theme, character races are replaced with an Origin. Among Origins players have four choices: Human, Enhanced Human, Mutant, or Strange Visitor. Each template provides a basic framework (+1's etc.), a guideline to how many Feats and/or Powers the character will start with.

    From here, players will decide a Class from among six, these being the Acrobat, Brick, Combat Expert, Detective, Energy Manipulator, or Super Human. Each Class offers bonus feats, starting hit points, skills, a detailed system of level advancement, as well as additional boons and modifiers which are common as characters progress. All of it will be familiar, if you've ever played D&D 5E (or Pathfinder).

    The tweaks involved for modifying this from a fantasy style game are minimal, but it doesn't seem to miss anything vital. The skill list gets a bit of a re-work, including a few new skills, for a modern RPG setting. The magic system (spells) is replaced by Powers.

    For implementing Powers, Heroes Wears Masks uses a system called Power Activation Checks, requiring a check to successfully implement the power. Powers are limited in use only by their individual description but can be modified by applying a Template. This is going to be a pretty robust system as far as players and GMs developing unique and interesting powers.

    The PDF digitizing before my screen is 220 pages. Layout is standard double column format. Full color illustrations are plentiful, bright and expressive. The Table of Contents isn't hyperlinked, but provides a serviceable list of major chapter and section headers; also no index. Given the genre I'd have certainly preferred better organization in regards to chapter headers. On the plus side, it comes with a simple but serviceable starter adventure.

    Overall, you should certainly be able to get your "super" on with Heroes Wear Masks. Most of my read through I focused on 5E, but I spent some time comparing and key-wording the Pathfinder version. Beside very few system to system considerations they are indeed essentially mirrors of each other. That's a criticism. With how Powers work and the additional changes that can be made with a Template, I'd guess the super powers will need some refinement. There's some good material in regards to running a superhero themed game, which should be serviceable for just about any system. I haven't play tested this, but balance seems like it might be a bit challenging. And this is one of those RPGs which require playtesting for me to provide a definitive yes or no. The framework has potential. Whether it hits your table I'll leave to you.

    The D&D 5E version is linked above; you can find the Pathfinder version: here

    Disclosure: Heroes Wear Masks was provided free of cost for the purpose of this review. This review uses affiliate links.

    contributed by Jeff Duncan
    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Arilyn's Avatar
      Arilyn -
      I have the Pathfinder version, and unfortunately, it is not very good. Levelled systems are not a good fit for superhero games, as characters change very slowly in comics. Replacing race and class with origin and type feels a little awkward, although doable. To me, rolling to activate powers does not fit the genre, and should be more of an exception than a default.

      Mutants and Masterminds is the only well done super hero game based off of a DnD system, and in that case, the d20 system was taken apart and rebuilt to make it work for the genre.

      There are a lot of really well designed super hero games to choose from. I would avoid Heroes Wear Masks, unless you like to collect supers games or refuse to branch away from 5e.
    1. J.L. Duncan's Avatar
      J.L. Duncan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Arilyn View Post
      I have the Pathfinder version, and unfortunately, it is not very good. Levelled systems are not a good fit for superhero games, as characters change very slowly in comics. Replacing race and class with origin and type feels a little awkward, although doable. To me, rolling to activate powers does not fit the genre, and should be more of an exception than a default.

      Mutants and Masterminds is the only well done super hero game based off of a DnD system, and in that case, the d20 system was taken apart and rebuilt to make it work for the genre.

      There are a lot of really well designed super hero games to choose from. I would avoid Heroes Wear Masks, unless you like to collect supers games or refuse to branch away from 5e.
      Thanks for you thoughts and sharing your experience with the material, Arilyn.
    1. Stacie GmrGrl's Avatar
      Stacie GmrGrl -
      I like Deeds Not Words for a d20 superhero game. Its about 15 years old now, could use an update but its still surprisingly decent after all this time.
    1. dwayne's Avatar
      dwayne -
      Want to do it right check out APEX — Superhero rules for D&D 5th edition from DEM, publishers of Amethyst and Ultramodern 5. This is one of the easy to use systems and very fun in game to use. The system reminds me of movies like Push and Jumper, and would be easy to do a game set in a setting as such too with the book.
    1. Mike Myler's Avatar
      Mike Myler -
      Throwing it out there that I've got a superhero cyberpunk campaign setting called Hypercorps 2099 (made super via the Hyper Score system at the end of both the Pathfinder and 5E versions) with lots of freebies to check out, and then a blog series that uses it to stat up Marvel characters (only PF/5E up to Emma Frost, just PF after her's).
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