How Do You Like Your Super Hero TTRPG Games/Campaigns?

Super Hero TTRPG Preferences

  • Golden Age

    Votes: 10 18.2%
  • Silver Age

    Votes: 13 23.6%
  • Bronze Age

    Votes: 21 38.2%
  • Dark/Iron Age

    Votes: 8 14.5%
  • Modern Age

    Votes: 26 47.3%
  • High Crunch/Complexity

    Votes: 15 27.3%
  • Medium Crunch/Complexity

    Votes: 24 43.6%
  • Light Crunch/Complexity

    Votes: 28 50.9%
  • Narrative System Elements

    Votes: 24 43.6%
  • Aspirational or Optimistic Outlook

    Votes: 25 45.5%
  • Cynical or Dark Outlook

    Votes: 6 10.9%
  • Deconstructionist Themes

    Votes: 8 14.5%
  • Embrace the Genre

    Votes: 34 61.8%
  • Humorous

    Votes: 14 25.5%
  • Serious

    Votes: 16 29.1%
  • Melodramatic

    Votes: 15 27.3%
  • One Shot

    Votes: 13 23.6%
  • Short Campaign

    Votes: 24 43.6%
  • Long Campaign

    Votes: 28 50.9%
  • Singular Power Origins

    Votes: 7 12.7%
  • Broad Power Origins

    Votes: 23 41.8%
  • Supers are celebrities/worshiped

    Votes: 15 27.3%
  • Supers are weapons/controlled

    Votes: 9 16.4%
  • Supers are freaks/hunted

    Votes: 10 18.2%
  • Supers are normal people with powers

    Votes: 24 43.6%
  • Powers are ubiquitous or very common

    Votes: 6 10.9%
  • Powers are rare or uncommon

    Votes: 25 45.5%
  • Embrace comic book terminology and motifs in its design ("panels" or "pages")

    Votes: 10 18.2%
  • Allow different power level characters to be effective on the same team.

    Votes: 26 47.3%
  • Existing/Licensed Comic Book universe

    Votes: 9 16.4%
  • Game Specific Comic Book Universe

    Votes: 6 10.9%
  • Homebrew Comic Book Universe

    Votes: 16 29.1%

teitan

Legend
At one time I preferred Mutants & Masterminds to every other supers game but that was 1e which was a nice blend of CHampions and MSH and the mechanics were innovative. I liked that powers were a mix of Power based and Effects based and that the effects based powers could be used to create the powers based powers. I moved away from it with 2e because I felt like if I wanted that level of detail I could just play Champs while still loving the game. It lost some of the elements of Marvel that I loved but Kenson added in the best bits of MEGS with clearer, more easy to use benchmarks. I liked DC Adventures/3e but getting my group to play such a crunchy character creation system was a no dice situation.

I love Icons though, I didn't at first but as my tastes have changed I find it fast, fun, simple while able to cover a broad swathe of characters without being completely hand wavy. The art style is a bit ehhhh, especially after all that wonderful Ramon Perez art in M&M.

I am also getting that new Marvel RPG. I looked at the reviews already and most of the negative comments seem to be something powers based character creation core books have out of the gate, missing powers requiring you to use others and reskin them to fit your concept. No big deal to me.

As far as play styles for a campaign? For me it is the bronze age Avengers, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Justice League. I really love Starlin's cosmic epics. Also Thanos Quest/Infinity Gauntlet, Operation: Galactic Storm, Byrne's Avengers/West Coast, Gruenwald's Quasar, Michelenie's Spidey, Defalco and Frenz Spidey, Stern/Buscema Avengers, Secret Wars and the Busiek/Perez Avengers and JLA/Avengers being two of my all time favorite superhero runs with the run up to Infinity Gauntlet being a big deal as I was a diehard Captain MAr-vell and Warlock fan. Modern comics? The most modern to influence my playstyle would be Peter David's Captain Marvel. Most games though, let's all be honest, tend to be Savage Dragon :D:D:D
 

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Reynard

Legend
I realized that i totally forgot to ask about licensed versus bespoke versus homebrew settings, so i added some poll options to that end.
 

Dr Magister

Explorer
I like my crunch light, my streets dark and dirty, and my supers ground-level and low-powered. The Netflix Daredevil/Jessica Jones/Luke Cage/Iron First/Defenders series hit my sweet spot.

I don't care about galaxy-spanning threats from beyond the Xth Dimension, give me drug-dealers and people traffickers, and maybe a few super villains who are just mob bosses with a gimmick and/or some gadgetry. Maybe the odd cult or Yakuza-cum-Ninja clan.

I'm currently planning a street-level game using Triumphant! with a home-brew setting very much like Gotham as it is in Batman: Year One. Lots of crooked cops, crime and corruption.
 

TheHand

Adventurer
I realized that i totally forgot to ask about licensed versus bespoke versus homebrew settings, so i added some poll options to that end.
Even though I’ve used licensed engines (Marvel, DC) I realized I’ve never actually played in a licensed setting. I guess it feels like there’s too much established lore and characters to compete with.
On the other hand, I’ve definitely reskinned plenty of existing characters, eg Colossus becoming “The Iron Curtain”, especially in more light hearted one shots.
 

kronovan

Adventurer
I've only ever sat down to tables running fairly standard superheroes - I believe they were what's referred to as 4 color, but not sure of the Supers era and whether that former term is appropriate. Those were all run with Mutants & Masterminds; mostly the with 2nd edition, but some with the 3rd. I liked the rules and the crunch, which I'd consider medium.

I'm looking to adapt a homebrew I brewed for Savage Worlds, which is set in 1933 with a lot of the flavour of the Pulp genre. So the heroes would be low powered supers version of Pulp archetypes like the Paragon, Mesmerist, Man of Mystery and Weird/Mad Scientist. Initially I was looking to use Mutants & Masterminds 3e, but then I bought ICONS Assembled Ediition and some of its companions in a sale. I really like that the 2 companions I bought (ICONS Origins and ICONS Presents) have some solid options for low powered heroes and alternatives for minions (foe and ally) that are better suit the era and power level I'm aiming for. I've concerns that the Qualities feature of ICONS (similar to FATE Aspects) might be a bit too narrative for the group I originally ran my SW pulp adventures for, but on the other hand I figure they'd be right up the alley for the group I've run FATE for.

Being firmly set in the 1930s Pulp genre, I don't know if any of the "Age" categories in the poll would be the correct descriptors. Maybe Modern Age, albeit it's an early time frame for what that term typically represents.
 
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Reynard

Legend
One of these elements I want to talk about more in depth is the relationship between crunch level and narrative mechanics.

A lot of people seem to make a direct association between low crunch and narrative -- and while that may be common, it is not any sort of rule. How detailed, complex or fiddly the mechanics of a game are isn't necessarily related to whether it embraces narrative mechanics. I want to use two supers games to compare and contrast the mixing of the two.

Daring Comics is a Fate based supers role playing game that I like quite a lot despite its flaws. Among those flaws is bolting on a Mutants and Masterminds or Silver Age Sentinels level super-power system on top of Fate. The connection is unwieldy and, IMO, FATE Aspects are already a perfectly good way to emulate super powers. Fate itself can be crunchy or light, and Daring Comics is a little heavier that Fate Core but not so heavy as, say, Dresden. Even so, it holds on to the core central narrative system of Fate despite that crunchiness.

ICONS is similarly a medium crunch game that has a pretty strong narrative core. ICONS, I think, does a much better job of integrating the two into a hybrid crunchy narrative game.

Even more bog standard traditional RPGs often embrace some form of narrative mechanics in the supers genre. Mutants and Masterminds use of hero points as a meta-currency that can grant temporary powers or change scene facts is one example. I think because of many of the tropes prevalent in the genre, there is a strong tendency to give participants (players and GMs) to stay in genre.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Superheroes is one of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite genre. I like rules-light games. Prefer to embrace the genre for what it is, or was before the “dark times.” Chris Claremont’s run on the X-Men is the absolute pinnacle of the genre. Silver or Bronze Age is where it’s at either as the literal setting and time period to play in or the feel to emulate with a modern setting.

I also love Pulp Heroes. If there’s grim and gritty superhero-adjacent stuff happening, it belongs here. The Shadow straight up murdering criminals and Doc Savage lobotomizing criminals.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
That said, I think superhero RPGs might be the toughest genre for RPGs to emulate. Ideally, they'd play fast and reward creativity. But modeling superpowers -- and making the Punisher feel like a viable character next to Thor -- is a hell of a mechanical challenge that tends to involve getting way too fiddly or just throwing out the pretense that every type of superhero will be fun to play, which feels like a failure to me.
That was one of the eye-opening things about Masks: A New Generation. It doesn't try to model the superpowers at all. As long as the player and the GM are on the same page about what they can do, it's all good. A big part of this is that powers are primarily for narrative positioning, and the rest is that each playbook is bringing trouble to the character, it doesn't need "balance" to have equal spotlight time.

To take an instance from a game I'm running, let's suppose there was an innocent about to be crushed by a thrown school bus. Hyperdrive, our Legacy speedster, might zip in and get the person out of the way. Tag, our Delinquent paint/ink telekinetic could spray in a shield dome around them. Aurora, our Nova plasma projector could knock it off course. And Ghost, our Janus shadow-hopping martial artist dancer, could pop in and pop out with them. But behind the scenes all of these are the Defend move, and as long as the narrative use of the power makes sense it could be tried. For example Hyperdrive isn't yet fast enough to run up or down walls (they are teen supers), and if this was happening where she couldn't race to, she wouldn't be able to do that. And if Aurora wanted to burn the bus up mid air instead, that's could end up being the Unleash Your Powers move as it's a big ask and channelling that much plasma could have consequences to the surroundings.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Or the Pulp Heroes era.
Eh. I love Planetary as much as anyone does, but I feel like the Shadow and even the Spirit are closer to superheroes than Doc Savage is. If they're not separate eras, they're a continuum where some of the characters (like Tarzan) don't really work next to full-fledged superheroes, while others definitely do.
 

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