Superhero RPG suggestions?
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  1. #1

    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)



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    Superhero RPG suggestions?

    A member of my group asked me if I knew any good RPGs that involved superheroes. I told her that I didn't but would ask around. So here I am, asking around.

    Some of the specific things she wanted was for a system we could try for free (none of us can afford books unless we save up for them), I assume that means something with an SRD or other similar online resource. She also wanted a system that allows players to be very creative with their superpowers. I'm not sure whether she meant creative in using them, or creative in terms of options available at character creation. I suppose she would probably appreciate both though.

    There wasn't really much else in the way of specifics. Anyways, any suggestions? I may want to join her game if she decides to try running something. Superheroes seems like they'd be a fun type of thing to play.

  2. #2

    Pit Fiend (Lvl 26)

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    I don't know any free supers RPGs, but I'll say this: my 2 faves all time are HERO and Mutants & Masterminds. And since both are established games, you may be able to score an inexpensive used copy.

    M&M is currently on it's 3rd edition, so you may be able to find a used copy of the 1st or 2nd eds at a reasonably affordable price. From what I understand, though, M&M 3rd is a bit of a departure from the 2 previous iterations, so that may not be much help if you're interested in the latest & greatest.

    HERO is much older, and is currently in it's 6th edition. Overall, the HERO system hasn't changed much, so if you can track down a cheap copy of Champions (it's original name) or HERO (it's name from about 4th on), you'll at least get a feel for the game in general. Most of the changes over the editions have been math tweaks.

  3. #3
    My personal favorite super-hero RPG is Truth and Justice. It's based on a very simple and flexible rules system called PDQ. Although PDQ itself is free, the super-powers system that Truth and Justice uses unfortunately isn't, but a PDF version of the system is only 13$.

    As far as creativity, it's great for that. Although the book does provide a good list of basic powers it's designed so that players create their own powers, skills and character traits rather than just pulling from a list. You can also use power stunts to use your Powers in different way (like say someone with the ability to shoot fire from their hands using that same power for flying "rocket jet" style. It's really fun and simple.

    As far as completely free super-hero games, I don't know any unfortunately. At least none designed specifically towards super-heroes.

  4. #4

    Gallant (Lvl 3)

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    I can't really think of any free supers games but you may be able to get some used ones cheap or buy the PDFs on DrivethruRPG.

    As far as which ones to suggest, Mutants & Masterminds is a lot of fun, but so is BASH and is a lot more rules lite. Same with Icons. But my favorite one years ago was Villains & Vigilantes.

  5. #5
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    Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)

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    When I started playing superhero games, the two main contenders for my interest were Champions and Villains and Vigilantes.

    Champions had a system for building characters that could incorporate a lot of subtlety, could model a lot of peculiar and highly specific constructions of powers. I don't think any superhero game has come close to its ability in that regard. I remember seeing a version of Cyclops that put his high-powered energy blast on an endurance battery - producing a very good model for the endurance of Cycops' powers as we learned when the X-Men first encountered Arkon and his solar-energy starved work of Polemachus. Not even the Marvel Super Heroes game simulated that level of Cyclops' power.
    Champions was, however, sometimes a bear to work with. Characters with broad powers, like weather controllers, were extremely expensive to try to build. The power of its ability to specify very particular powers could also get in the way.

    Villains and Vigilantes, on the other hand, was much simpler. By comparison, it was a rules lite superhero game. Powers had a description, did a set range of damage, and you built based on that. Very fast to learn and generate characters by comparison to Champions.
    But you could get some significant disparities in abilities, which could make things tough on a GM. You had to be a bit more careful balancing fights when one character had Thor-like powers and another was Hawkeye. That said, it was one game that really did throw together groups of disparate power levels - a convention in comics if you read enough of the Avengers.

    In the end, we played way more Villains and Vigilantes than Champions. It was way easier to deal with and faster to get going. It was easier to build the types of characters we wanted to play.

    Then along came Mutants and Masterminds. It has a point-construction toolkit of powers like Champions (moreso in 3rd edition than 1st), but I find it a lot easier to buy up a character with broad abilities (like those weather controllers) in M&M than in Champions. When it first debuted, it really felt to me like it split the difference between V&V and Champions quite well - offering a lot of customizability without being quite so Champions-insane about it.
    Mutants and Masterminds also incorporates a non-ablative combat resolution that's kind of cool. In Champions, you whittle away a target's Stun and/or Body scores to take them down. In Villains and Vigilantes, you whittle away Hit Points and Power. But in Mutants and Masterminds, the target of an attack makes a damage save. Blow the save enough and it's a KO, blow it a little and it's a bruise that penalizes further saves. It's kind of cool. It's got a good beat. I can dance to it.
    You also don't buy up disadvantages in Mutants and Masterminds. You list complications and get benefits if and only if the GM actually uses them in the game. I like that a lot.

    I still like Champions and still play it from time to time, but I've found that Mutants and Masterminds fits my desire for a Superhero game better. And with the DC Adventures license, there are a couple of sourcebooks (one out, one coming) that will cover a lot of builds for DC characters. So for players who aren't sure how to stat out a power, there will be LOTS of good examples.

  6. #6

    Superhero (Lvl 15)

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    Yeah, it's not free, but DC Adventures/M&M3e is well worth it. M&M has been my supers game of choice for a long time.

  7. #7
    I'll throw my vote in for ICONS. I really like how it handles the genre.

  8. #8

    Guide (Lvl 11)



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    M&M3.

    Not only is it a fantastic supers game, the DC Adventures book is also useful for providing game write-ups of DC's iconic characters. There are also a tremendous number of fan write-ups at the Atomic Think Tank.

    Why is that important? Because M&M is very customizable and does so without overburdening itself with bloat & crunch. The write-ups were a tremendous tool in helping me learn the game and benchmark the kinds of characters and stories I wanted to use. Even seeing multiple versions of fan-generated M&M3 of say, the X-Men or Avengers, was invaluable -- the differences in the builds often showcased a particular aspect of the character. Net result - a lot less trial-and-error for a new GM.

    Also, it has Hero Lab support which makes character generation fast & easy.

    Finally, it's not just good for Supers. While that's the default framework, it's now my go to system for modern & sci-fi games as well. It can also do fantasy rpg very well, but Pathfinder still holds that spot for me.

  9. #9

    Enchanter (Lvl 12)

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    I'm also a fan of Mutants and Masterminds.

    While the game itself is not free, there is a free quick start guide (DC Adventures = Mutants and Masterminds) and some other free resources here.

  10. #10

    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)



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    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewJHanson View Post
    I'm also a fan of Mutants and Masterminds.

    While the game itself is not free, there is a free quick start guide (DC Adventures = Mutants and Masterminds) and some other free resources here.
    Thanks for the link, I'll pass it on.

    It's too bad that there doesn't look to be any free systems. I would have liked to try one out before buying.

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