"The Boys meets The Black Company" System Recommendations

Reynard

Legend
I am planning on running a "The Boys meets The Black Company" convention series* in the fall and am trying to decide on system. I thought I would get recommendations from the community, since I am not really married to any system yet.

First, let me define what I mean by "The Boys meets The Black Company": The PCs will be the "mundane" members of a mercenary army in a sword and sorcery fantasy world where "magic" is mostly just super powers. The Champions are powerful knights, wizards and other heroes who ride at the front of the column, defeating enemy Champions in spectacular super powered battles. they are also horrible people, cruel and myopic and narcissistic and just ugly inside. Since the "war is won" the Champions have turned their cruel attentions to one another and the poor schlubs (like the PCs) that plod through the mud and blood to get the real war won. Each character will have a particular reason to hate the Champions, and they will form a conspiracy within the army to eliminate them before the army returns to the Capital (at the behest of the Crown -- who aren't good people either, but at least are not demigods).

I am looking for a system that can model both mundane heroes and super powered ones, and in which there is a definite gulf of power between them. However, with the right items, artifacts, plan and luck, the "mundanes" can actually take out the Champions. But it will cost them, and not everyone is going to make it.

I am currently considering Savage Worlds (SWADE) using the Super Powers Companions layered on top of the Fantasy Companion. SWADE is nice and swingy and can definitely be played gritty. Alternatively, I could use Mutants and Masterminds 3E, and just use different power levels, but I have never run it at low levels so i don't know if the math/system works for the "mundanes". Finally, I could use some version of D&D (I would stat up the Champions as monsters rather than classed NPCs) but that's lower on my list of possibilities.

Thoughts?

*I run multiple slots that are episodic and continuing but not "a story." I Often have people play all slots, as well as people that play just 1, hence the "episodic" nature. I use pre-gens and for games like this with a potential for a high body count, I keep plenty on hand.
 

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hawkeyefan

Legend
It’s hard not to recommend Band of Blades here. It is very much inspired by The Black Company. There are two tiers of PCs, specialists and legionairres (though the difference in capability may not be as significant as what you describe). The game plays out as the legion retreats back to their castle, and have to deal with enemy forces along the way. It’s episodic in that way, and designed to handle troupe style play due to the high lethality.

You’d have to tweak things a bit, but there are other elements in the game that can help with that. You should be able to model like Homelander type beings orwhatever, and then shift to a modern day setting if that’s what you have in mind. The game ticks a lot of your boxes.
 

amethal

Adventurer
I think Fate could do a good job of allowing cunning mundanes to stack advantages enough to take out a superhero, whilst suffering brutal consequences like "shattered leg" in the process. It also allows the mundanes to effectively draw power from their hate by invoking their various "Iron Man killed my brother" aspects.

Not so sure that Fate works well with pre-gens, however, but if their aspects are reasonably generic (so easy to understand) then it could work out okay.
 

Reynard

Legend
It’s hard not to recommend Band of Blades here. It is very much inspired by The Black Company. There are two tiers of PCs, specialists and legionairres (though the difference in capability may not be as significant as what you describe). The game plays out as the legion retreats back to their castle, and have to deal with enemy forces along the way. It’s episodic in that way, and designed to handle troupe style play due to the high lethality.

You’d have to tweak things a bit, but there are other elements in the game that can help with that. You should be able to model like Homelander type beings orwhatever, and then shift to a modern day setting if that’s what you have in mind. The game ticks a lot of your boxes.
I have had my eye on Band of Blades for a while, but probably wouldn't try and run it at a con since Blades in the Dark is not really in my wheel house, game style wise. As has ben made clear in various recent threads, I just don't "get" PbtA or FitD style games well enough to run them.
 

Reynard

Legend
I think Fate could do a good job of allowing cunning mundanes to stack advantages enough to take out a superhero, whilst suffering brutal consequences like "shattered leg" in the process. It also allows the mundanes to effectively draw power from their hate by invoking their various "Iron Man killed my brother" aspects.

Not so sure that Fate works well with pre-gens, however, but if their aspects are reasonably generic (so easy to understand) then it could work out okay.
I love Fate, but for some reason I have had terrible luck with it at cons. I don't know if I am not explaining it well or if casual players have trouble with it or what.
 

amethal

Adventurer
I love Fate, but for some reason I have had terrible luck with it at cons. I don't know if I am not explaining it well or if casual players have trouble with it or what.
It took me a very, very long time to "get" Fate.

I think playing a great deal of D&D 3.x and Pathfinder (and often taking it way too seriously!) was a big handicap for me. Maybe the people who go to cons have the same problem? Or perhaps it's just that pre-gens aren't a good fit for Fate?

I've never been to a convention game, so I don't know how they operate, but is it possible to hand out "homework" in advance?

"The leaders of your army are Spiderman, Iron Man, Wolverine, Doctor Strange and the Human Torch. They are all scum, and you hate each and every one of them, but one in particular has wronged you horribly - although they probably didn't even notice at the time (and they certainly don't remember you). Which one was it, and what did they do to you?"

"After that horrible event, one of the other player characters helped you piece your life back together. [You'll decide which one at the start of the session, if the other player agrees.] What was it they did for you?"
 

Reynard

Legend
It took me a very, very long time to "get" Fate.

I think playing a great deal of D&D 3.x and Pathfinder (and often taking it way too seriously!) was a big handicap for me. Maybe the people who go to cons have the same problem? Or perhaps it's just that pre-gens aren't a good fit for Fate?

I've never been to a convention game, so I don't know how they operate, but is it possible to hand out "homework" in advance?

"The leaders of your army are Spiderman, Iron Man, Wolverine, Doctor Strange and the Human Torch. They are all scum, and you hate each and every one of them, but one in particular has wronged you horribly - although they probably didn't even notice at the time (and they certainly don't remember you). Which one was it, and what did they do to you?"

"After that horrible event, one of the other player characters helped you piece your life back together. [You'll decide which one at the start of the session, if the other player agrees.] What was it they did for you?"
If I was in better practice (I used to run Fate semi-regularly, but not in years) I might be inclined to do a limited version of the fate chargen at the beginning of the session. Theoretically, it should not take much longer than people choosing and then deciphering other pre-gens. But that would require a really tight level of project management I am not comfortable with. ;)
 


timbannock

Adventurer
You seem to like medium crunch games, so would 4e fit the bill, where every super is a solo boss?

Strike! is a great slightly more narrative 4e offshoot that would be excellent for this, as well. The book is organized bafflingly strangely, but it's a great system that can certainly do supers+fantasy well.

If you're at all willing to do something less crunchy and more narrative, but not so far into the Fate or PbtA realms, Cortex would be awesome. It already has game balance solved for your idea, and using the scale die alongside Powers or Abilities would certainly work.

If you want to go old school, FASERIP does a nice job of handling wild power differences. My hack of it, Astonishing Super Heroes, has a few tools for narrowing the power gap with the right tactics and strategies, which seems like a goal of whatever system you would want.
 

Reynard

Legend
You seem to like medium crunch games, so would 4e fit the bill, where every super is a solo boss?

Strike! is a great slightly more narrative 4e offshoot that would be excellent for this, as well. The book is organized bafflingly strangely, but it's a great system that can certainly do supers+fantasy well.

If you're at all willing to do something less crunchy and more narrative, but not so far into the Fate or PbtA realms, Cortex would be awesome. It already has game balance solved for your idea, and using the scale die alongside Powers or Abilities would certainly work.

If you want to go old school, FASERIP does a nice job of handling wild power differences. My hack of it, Astonishing Super Heroes, has a few tools for narrowing the power gap with the right tactics and strategies, which seems like a goal of whatever system you would want.
The problem with 4E is I don't know it well enough to run it smoothly, and it is pretty dense, rule and exception wise. If I were going to do it with D&D, I would honestly either use B/X or 5E, depending on which sort of players I wanted to court.
 



Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The problem with 4E is I don't know it well enough to run it smoothly, and it is pretty dense, rule and exception wise. If I were going to do it with D&D, I would honestly either use B/X or 5E, depending on which sort of players I wanted to court.
??? You're looking for recommendations for a system to do what you want, presumably because the ones you know don't, but you shoot down recommendations because you're not familiar with them? I am confused. I was going to recommend Blades in the Dark straight up, as I think it actually has a better structure than Bands for what you're doing (the score/downtime/entanglements loop fits very nicely, as does the way magnitude and tier works with action resolutions, and you can run scores to get the things needed to offset Supes abilities though higher tier/magnitude equipment and things). But reading your responses, I'm not sure what would constitute a valid suggestion, now!
 

Reynard

Legend
??? You're looking for recommendations for a system to do what you want, presumably because the ones you know don't, but you shoot down recommendations because you're not familiar with them? I am confused.
perhaps I wasn't clear: some things that I am not familiar with will take a lot more than the time I have to get comfortable and familiar with. Rules heavy, or exception heavy, in the case of 4E, is not a game that I think i could use effectively for this purpose in the time I am given. I wasn't aware that in asking for potential options I was signing on to agree to them all.
I was going to recommend Blades in the Dark straight up, as I think it actually has a better structure than Bands for what you're doing (the score/downtime/entanglements loop fits very nicely, as does the way magnitude and tier works with action resolutions, and you can run scores to get the things needed to offset Supes abilities though higher tier/magnitude equipment and things). But reading your responses, I'm not sure what would constitute a valid suggestion, now!
I was pretty clear upthread about FitD not being a good fit for me, given that I have failed to grasp its design intent in multiple threads -- threads, I might add, that you participated in.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
perhaps I wasn't clear: some things that I am not familiar with will take a lot more than the time I have to get comfortable and familiar with. Rules heavy, or exception heavy, in the case of 4E, is not a game that I think i could use effectively for this purpose in the time I am given. I wasn't aware that in asking for potential options I was signing on to agree to them all.
Well, that's fine, but you should indicate what you're accepting rather than the general request. So far, people have offered things in good faith and you've discarded them because they didn't meet your unstated requirements. Maybe state your requirements?
I was pretty clear upthread about FitD not being a good fit for me, given that I have failed to grasp its design intent in multiple threads -- threads, I might add, that you participated in.
Yes, I know, which is why I was going to recommend it but didn't because I saw your response. Then I read more of your responses, and they're all pretty similar. So, maybe, provide the bounds with which you are familiar? If it's D&D 5e and Savage Worlds, I really don't see a way to make this work without heavy GM modification of the systems. Your premise is too far away from what those systems do.
 

Reynard

Legend
Well, that's fine, but you should indicate what you're accepting rather than the general request. So far, people have offered things in good faith and you've discarded them because they didn't meet your unstated requirements. Maybe state your requirements?
I didn't "discard" them, I responded to the suggestion as a way to be polite.

I don't have a list of requirements. This isn't a formal request filled out in triplicate. It's a discussion. Moreover, it is entirely possible that someone else will get something out of a suggestion made here that won't work for me. That's okay -- great even.

It's not necessary to constrain these discussions to just giving and receiving advice.
 

Darth Solo

Explorer
"Normies vs. Capes" really doesn't scale well with most systems. FATE or RISUS maybe? You need a system where highly-experienced NPCs don't easily curbstomp the newb PCs. If you go after that "definite gulf of power" the confrontation of the two groups will end faster than you expect. With the lesser characters demolished. "Truth and Justice" is a more narrative-based supers RPG that might handle it because it's NARRATIVE rather than SIMULATIONIST. Maybe Monster of the Week making the powerful bad guys the monsters? Last ditch effort: Cortex Prime.
 

MattW

Explorer
This may sound a little unusual...
How about Traveller? It's usually a Science Fiction setting, but it has rules for swords, spears, brawling, etcetera (the new Mongoose Traveller even has platemail)
Advantages
1. It's a very simple mechanic (roll 2D6, add or subtract a few numbers, try to score a number set by GM).
2. "Hit points" have a fairly limited range
3. Magic (aka psionics) can be quite powerful but not overwhelming
4. Give your "supers" something like Battledress (aka Powered Armour) and they'll be stronger/faster, able to communicate across vast distances, shoot lightning (lasers) and even fly
 

Reynard

Legend
"Normies vs. Capes" really doesn't scale well with most systems. FATE or RISUS maybe? You need a system where highly-experienced NPCs don't easily curbstomp the newb PCs. If you go after that "definite gulf of power" the confrontation of the two groups will end faster than you expect. With the lesser characters demolished. "Truth and Justice" is a more narrative-based supers RPG that might handle it because it's NARRATIVE rather than SIMULATIONIST. Maybe Monster of the Week making the powerful bad guys the monsters? Last ditch effort: Cortex Prime.
The disparity in power and "curbstomp" ability is a feature in this case, not a bug. The point will be "how can we take this overpowered [bleep] out?" The answer might be deal with a demon, or use his own mythic sword, or put rot grubs in his feast wine. I don't want a system where the PCs have much of a chance in a stand up fight.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Mutants and Masterminds might be a good fit. Lots of room to build supers and theres and fantasy companion.
 

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