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5E How should be a d20 Superheroes?

After reading news or rumours about DC being sold to other company I have been wondering about a WotC version of superheroes TTRPG.

No, I am not interested into Mutants & Masterminds because this is a system freely based in d20 but not really compatible with this. I want to talk about a d20 superheroes whose monsters or characters could be exported to/imported from other D&D lines.

About the setting you haven't to worry. We could use something like the Ravenloft's spin-off "The Masque of the Red Death" but set in fictional world with the look of the pulp age (around 1930's).

The modern technology is a serious challenge for game designers because they are OP, the power balance is broken if you still with the standar D&D rules. A thug with a knife may be dangerous but many times he is only cannon fodder for high-level characters, but the same enemy with a thompson submachine gun is a more serious menace. And this become worse when enemies can use sci-fi tech as exosuits (Call of Duty: Advance Warfare), powered armors (Fallout) or mechas (Titanfall). And if you want to publish a videogame adaptation the playtesting will be even harder to avoid potential abuses by munchkins gamers.

There are some superheroes TTRPGs, even one of them, Champions, was adapted to a MMO what still is working.

D&D has got special rules like hit-points and leveling-up, and I remember no superheroes RPG with these (but Champions Online, but this doesn't try to be realistic, and if your PC is an archer or a martial artist still can face a bulletproof robot.

I have thought about to suggest some new rules:

Health levels. Losing health levels (usually by special attacks, poisons or diseases) would cause (temporaly) penalty like losing Con by life-drainer undead attacks. This should be a rule easy to be understand and allowing faster combats against vampires and other creatures with life-stealer powers.

Leveling up divided into power level and "cognition level". A character or creature with high lelve but zero cognition would be like a kaiju monster, for example Godzilla or King Kong. An example of high power and low cognition would be Superman's child, with superpowers but still going to school to learn. Low power and good cognition would be for example a old erudite who has studied and known lots of things, for example Indiana Jone's father. Other example. A PC after a lot of adventures has learn to pilot an airplane but loses a combat and the reanimation almost fails. The penalty is the power level is nerfed, but the cognition isn't altered. Then he still can pilot airplanes altought this is one of the last things he learn. Other example: in a sci-fi setting like Eclipse Phase or Altered Carbon with mind uploading + digital inmorality a veteran is killed for a combat and his mind and memories loaded into a new "sleeve" or body. The power level could be different but the cognition still is the same.

Why this second rule? For games where the PCs are too powerful, and then the power level shouldn't change but the XPs can be spent for leveling up the cognition.

And my last suggestion is adding two abilities scores: acuity (astutenes + perception) and spirit (courage, faith, hope, karma/luck/fate/guardian angel/divine grace) to allow more stories about investigation or with social interactions.
 

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I think we shouldn't adapt the superpowers into the d20 system but to create a d20 system with superpowers, and later to create characters inspired into others. Do you remember the videogame "Justice: Gods among us"? In the comic Alfred, Batman's buttler could defeat Superman because he has consumed S4P3R, a special "magic potion" by Kryptonian technology.

If we want a a right gameplay then we have to forget the idea PCs from 1st level to be "bulletproof" or bullet-dodger. . It isn't only because DMs can't find the right adversaries but also because some DMs would want to create survival horror stories where PCs are ordinary civilians trying to survive superheroes turned monsters (marvel zombies, black lanters in the darkest night, dceased, Leaving Megalopolis..).

An enemy as "Doomdays" should be a challenge for the PCs with the same level of the Tarrasque, not a nPC you can kill everyday when you play DC Online.

Other opion would be the PCs aren't superheroes but only their summoners, something like the anime Marvel Disk Wars: Avengers.

* Some superheroes today are public domain. This means we are free to create mash-up or reboot, and not only the old-fashion costumes.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
The thug with the machine gun is always going to be an issue. I think you'd have to stat out the gun as something similar to a trap, with it's own XP budget.

But I think the bigger issue is what power level would make sense. I always thought Superman was kind of boring, especially depending on the author. Playing a PC with the godlike powers he sometimes gets would be yawn inducing. Other than the kryptonite McGuffin or magic are there really many ways to challenge him? So to me the PCs would have to be B-lister street level heroes.

Batman only works in the comics because he has plot armor and is "The world's greatest detective". In TV shows like The Flash, the only reason he's threatened is usually because he seems to momentarily forget he's a speedster.
 

DwarfHammer

Explorer
Hulk bulletproof. Thor bulletproof. Iron Man bulletproof. Billy batson captain marvel bullet proof. It’s fair to say that being bulletproof makes interesting characters.
 


The bulleproof characters may be cool in the fiction, but not in a d20 RPG with levels.

I remember that Final Fantasy games where a "level 1" PC can face shooters with only a sword, stopping bullets with this. I neither want bullet-dodgers, al least not without any paranormal trick (for example ki maneuvers)

Surviving a shooter should be rewared as a trap, but we don't know how is the right Challenge Rating.

* Sometimes I imagine a setting as Ravenloft but with 1930's technology (cars, radio, telephone, photography) and still a low life level, like in dictatorships, and with a piece of noirpunk/panzerpunk look. The darklords wouldn't be like monsters from Hammer films but more supervillains from pulp age (mad scientifics, Lovecraftian cults, alien spies, little country dictators..). Then the lord feys give (or awaking within) superpowers to cause conflict between rebels and authority and like this new legends are born.
 
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DwarfHammer

Explorer
The bulleproof characters may be cool in the fiction, but not in a d20 RPG with levels.

I remember that Final Fantasy games where a "level 1" PC can face shooters with only a sword, stopping bullets with this. I neither want bullet-dodgers, al least not without any paranormal trick (for example ki maneuvers)

Surviving a shooter should be rewared as a trap, but we don't know how is the right Challenge Rating.

* Sometimes I imagine a setting as Ravenloft but with 1930's technology (cars, radio, telephone, photography) and still a low life level, like in dictatorships, and with a piece of noirpunk/panzerpunk look. The darklords wouldn't be like monsters from Hammer films but more supervillains from pulp age (mad scientifics, Lovecraftian cults, alien spies, little country dictators..). Then the lord feys give (or awaking within) superpowers to cause conflict between rebels and authority and like this new legends are born.
Now a 1930s setting really intrigues me.
 

J-H

Explorer
Superpowers cover a wide gamut, from the un-powered Batman or barely-powered Green Hornet, all the way up to the Man of Steel himself. It's possible to make them work in a game, but it takes a lot of challenge-balancing and willingness to accept activities that don't translate as fun on the tabletop.

To use Worm as a baseline, for example:
Eidolon can pick almost any 3 powers and use them simultaneously.
Legend can transform into light, move at near-lightspeed, and shoot lasers that turn corners & make things freeze, burn, etc.
Hellhound can make dogs grow into murder-dogs the size of horses, but they have to be trained to be obedient, what to do, etc.
Clockblocker can temporarily (30s-10m) freeze and make invulnerable anything he touches, melee only.
Sidepiece can pull organs and parts of her body out, make them explosive, and throw them at enemies.
Gallant can shoot mildly damaging force blasts that impact your emotions.
Triumph can do some sort of sonic-damage close-range roar.
Nice Guy has no special powers except that he blends into the background so that people ignore him.

The power level there runs from "Always useful" down to "Is relegated to doing search-and-rescue" against high level threats. The enemies run from "mooks who anyone can handle" all the way up to "If you're not high-powered, you need to stay several city blocks away."

You really have to set everyone in your party at similar power levels if you want something that works as well in a game as it does in a novel or movie.
 

plisnithus8

Explorer
Coincidentally, I just created these Eberron NPCs:

The Avengers of Cyre: Owleyes (owlakocra arcane archer), Ironforged (warforged armorer artificer), Dr. Dunamancy (human graviturgist), Æsir (aasimar protector tempest cleric), Fist of the Dragon (dragonmarked sun soul monk), Captain Galifar (elf oath of the crown paladin), Kiss-of-Death (drow assassin), Trolk (troll zealot barbarian). And coming soon: Drider-Man.
Screen Shot 2020-02-28 at 11.59.55 AM.png
 

atanakar

Hero
There was one guy who created a full d20 version for superheroes. It was called the Phoenix Project and was based off d20 Modern. It was very well written. The guy is an English teacher. It used classes as base but also had a point-buy system for powers, gadgets and vehicles.

Sadly the link to his server is down. He was known as Orion or TheRealOrion on forums (Gleemax, Mythweaver).
 

ART!

Adventurer
I think it's really hard to do superheroes in a class-based system. The classes are simultaneously too narrow and too broad for the genre.

I generally agree, but I think the existence of subclasses mitigates this.

I don't think a 5E supers game is the "best" way to do supers, but I'm sure it could work. Sounds like a $#!+ton of work, though.
 

We can create a d20 superpowers but we shouldn't adapt the superheroes, not without a previous nerfing. My idea is to allow a Superman defeating a dragon or a giant but losing the combat is also possible.Do you remember DC vs Mortal Kombat? If you played Superman you could lose the fight. Winning a combat without effort is too boring.

I imagine the setting like a century after of surviving a "War of the World", a failed invasion by the tripods, and the technologic advanced was stopped, and some economic crash after a couple of epidemics. The classis D&D spellcasters are almost forgotten and replaced by "magictek", too expensive for the mass production but very useful for the right place and time (for example to create machines what produce XXI century materials). One of the main antagonists is the deep state, a parallel secret agency, a hidden lobby, ruled by no-humanoids...The lord feys are trying a "teological revoluntion" against the pantheons, the gods who defeated primal titans for the ancient titanomanchy. (this is now our real world but a fictional setting). And then a planar gate is opened, or discovered, to another pos-apocalypse world, more advanced, but also damaged for the last war by the MDWs. Later new planar gates are opened, sometimes the first encounter is hostile, but other times both are peaciful and diplomatic (for example trading salt and exotic species).

There are bulletproof suits, by skin of near exctintion species, and its hunt is illegal. Most of criminals would rather no-lethal weapons because in this world murder victims can come from the death to take reveance. Even the firearms in the battlefield are almost a religious taboo and created more to hurt than to kill (sometimes war gods punished the firearms in the battlefield sending petitioner warrior souls from the Walhalla with bulletproof traits).
 

Tonguez

Legend
The thug with the machine gun is always going to be an issue. I think you'd have to stat out the gun as something similar to a trap, with it's own XP budget.

But I think the bigger issue is what power level would make sense. I always thought Superman was kind of boring, especially depending on the author. Playing a PC with the godlike powers he sometimes gets would be yawn inducing. Other than the kryptonite McGuffin or magic are there really many ways to challenge him? So to me the PCs would have to be B-lister street level heroes.

Batman only works in the comics because he has plot armor and is "The world's greatest detective". In TV shows like The Flash, the only reason he's threatened is usually because he seems to momentarily forget he's a speedster.

I think the Flash does well in protraying that just because he’s physically fast, his mind and perception still need to take time - and thats the exploit opponents can use.

The big issue though is Power levels which somehow need to be divorced from ‘Levelling’.I wonder to if it would be better to keep HP low (1d4 per level maybe) and understand HP as ’Action Effectiveness“ (Hero Points) rather than ‘Hits’. Would this help to recast conflict as being about reducing an opponents ability to Act (Spiderman snagging Winter Soldiers arm with webbing, the Flash being hit with a Cold Ray) rather than actually beating them up. (The death of Superman from Doomsdays Massive Damage attack would be the dramatic exception not a ordinary part of the rules)

The example of Superman v Batman also suggests that combat also needs to be broadened so that Superman can uses his Super Str for attack and defense while Batman uses his Super Wis.

Superman gets a Class build of Brick ( Super Str+Con) with added Flight, Laser beam (eye) ‘Powers’.
Batman has Class build of Genius (Wis/Int/Cha (Detective/Gadgeteer) and Martial Artist with Gadget Feats & Powers.
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I think the Flash does well in protraying that just because he’s physically fast, his mind and perception still need to take time - and thats the exploit opponents can use.

Sometimes. Other times they're sitting there going "wow, too bad I can't stop that bad guy". When it's obvious he could with his super speed. Much like superman it depends on the version. Some versions were seriously overpowered.
download.jpg


The big issue though is Power levels which somehow need to be divorced from ‘Levelling’.I wonder to if it would be better to keep HP low (1d4 per level maybe) and understand HP as ’Action Effectiveness“ (Hero Points) rather than ‘Hits’. Would this help to recast conflict as being about reducing an opponents ability to Act (Spiderman snagging Winter Soldiers arm with webbing, the Flash being hit with a Cold Ray) rather than actually beating them up. (The death of Superman from Doomsdays Massive Damage attack would be the dramatic exception not a ordinary part of the rules)

The example of Superman v Batman also suggests that combat also needs to be broadened so that Superman can uses his Super Str for attack and defense while Batman uses his Super Wis.

Superman gets a Class build of Brick ( Super Str+Con) with added Flight, Laser beam (eye) ‘Powers’.
Batman has Class build of Genius (Wis/Int/Cha (Detective/Gadgeteer) and Martial Artist with Gadget Feats & Powers.


I could see how a super hero game could be built, but if you want to go flat out tier 1 super hero (and yes I'm ignoring the ranking system I'm sure someone has) like Superman then it limits other options for heroes like The Green Arrow.

The problem is that something that will be a significant threat to one hero may not matter to another other than collateral damage. A mini nuke will take out Batman if he can't stop it, it might take the curl out of Superman's hair. Of course it depends on which version as well. Is this the superman that needs to recharge or the one that can extinguish a sun with his super breath?

Or at least that's my take. Lower powered super heroes might work, but I'd leave them at street level heroes like Luke Cage or Daredevil.
 

Krachek

Adventurer
Whit actual rules, to give a feel of super hero I would do that:
Roll stats, but replace the two lower with 18.
give 4 bonus feats.
use standard encounter table.
 

Greg K

Adventurer
Personally, I don't think class/level based games- especially with D&Disms- work for superheroes . However, if you are determined to use d20, there is Blood & Vigilance (from RPGObjects) for d20Modern. The pdf is $6.95 at DrivethruRpg . You might also want to check out Silver Age Sentinels d20 Editon by Guardians of Order, but now sold by White Wolf (the pdf is $7.19). They might give you ideas for 5e..
 
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ART!

Adventurer
There's an argument to made for levels actually being an appropriate - even preferable - thing for a supers game. It's one way to differentiate between more experienced and less experienced characters.

Is Robin the same level as Batman? Heck no. In the Spiderverse setting, is Miles Morales as experienced as Peter Parker. No way.

Basically, it's a practical and fitting way to distinguish the new heroes from veterans, the Teen Titans from the Justice league, sidekicks from mentors, etc.
 

Now I am thinking about something like myth levels or legendary levels. I would work like a monster template, or a template class. This wouldnot use the classic leveling up with standar XPs, but with a different type of XPs reward, let's name this "storytelling points".

For example a campaing in an low-level civilitation. The PC is a warlord with a little army. With his troops defeats enemy squads. Then the rewards for killing hundred of soldiers wouldn't XPs but storytelling points to "buy" improves in the army (for example a healer and a better cook). This storytelling points could be "spent" to "craft" special "legendary item", for example a mystic armour by dragon skin.

If we want a easier gameplay we have to sacrifice the "continuity" and the most powerful characters to be nerfed. This means nobody in the first level could lift a statue to throw it against an enemy. Nobody could be as strong as a giant or a dragon.
 

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