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What's your favorite superhero TTRPG and why?


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MidnightBlue

Explorer
Controversial opinion coming here... I don't get why people want to to have Hulk and Hawkeye operating at the same power level. I'm not saying I don't understand why a person or persons would want to play such disparate characters. That I totally get. Even playing them on the same team is fine - it'll just require some good judgement by the GM to make sure everyone gets their time to shine . And some adjustment of expectations by the players; sometimes Hawkeye ain't gonna do squat, and sometimes Hulk is gonna be sitting on his big, dumb, green hands.

Let me give you an example from a game I ran for some friends earlier this year. (Hey! I just remembered - I played some Champions earlier this year! Woohoo!) It was a playtest for a con game (assuming cons ever happen again) and the team is basically the Avengers. We had (similar but legally distinct!) Ironman, Hulk, and Wasp. And Black Widow. Widow was much lower power than the others (yep, even Wasp) but had plenty of utility. The player didn't try going one on one with the enemy bricks, or to out-shoot the enemy power armour dude. But they had a great time. They infiltrated, tracked, found clues, completely circumvented my big set-piece final fight, and occasionally dropped knock out gas on bad guys. Everyone else did their own schtick. Hulk smashed, Wasp flipped between super stealth and zapping, and Ironman flew around zorching people.

What you're describing isn't that different in MHR or other narrative games regarding situations in which a character is useful or not. To use the primary example, even in MHR, Hawkeye isn't going to punch the Abomination to the same effect as the Hulk. For one, the Abomination's armor traits are going to narratively shut that down, likely without a roll even necessary.

But here is where narrative games in general and MHR in particular shine. Hawkeye's player can think of how his character WOULD approach this level and type of threat. He isn't going to punch the guy...that's suicide for him and stepping into Hulk's spotlight. But at the same time, there is no comic that I recall reading that showcases a team-up and then writes one of the characters throwing up their hands saying they can't do anything and sitting in the car while the beatstick handles the challenge. No, Hawkeye's player is going to use that character's traits in creative ways to be equally as effective as his jade teammate, but in the style of his character. As others have mentioned, Hawkeye has trick arrows that can disorient, entangle, and possibly hurt even a bruiser like Abomination. He has training to help keep him out of arms reach of the massive threat. So while he can't go punch for punch with Hulk, again, punching is Hulk's spotlight, Hawkeye does hold his own in the comics against the same threats Hulk faces in his own ways.

Again, this is why I personally love MHR (and City of Mist and Smallville) over many crunchier systems. Quite often crunchier systems are very narrow in what you can do once combat starts. In most crunchy systems you simply have an attack value, a damage value, a defense value, and an amount of hit points. Likely any way you boil down the Hawkeye, Hulk, and Abomination statistics into those categories and have a strict system where it is simply roll to hit, apply defense, and assign damage...Hawkeye is useless and likely dead in this matchup or simply completely ineffectual. For that matter, so is Batman in a Batman, Superman, Darkseid fight...but I've seen Batman win that fight in the comics...not with straight punching, but using his traits in a more thematically appropriate manner.

MHR (and City of Mist and Smallville) don't have those same kinds of restrictions in combat situations as many of the other crunchier systems that I own and have played. When initiative is called, Batman and Hawkeye aren't restricted to the same type of combat actions as Superman and Hulk. In MHR in particular, besides dealing Stress (damage) with an action, a character can attempt to create an Asset (buff) for themselves or others and they can attempt to create Complications (hindrances) to the opposition that can also take them out of a scene just as effectively as punching the character could through damage. So again, Hawkeye and Hulk in MHR are not on the same level when it comes to punching, lifting, or ripping something apart...Hulk wins that contest every time...don't even need to roll for it. But can they both be equally effective in taking on a challenge using their varied methods? Most definitely. The narrative game systems I've come to love have action options built into the game system to allow for those varied methods to have equal weight in the story. It's what allows Batman's intelligence, training, and wonderful toys to effect the story as much as Superman's godlike physique and powers, while still letting both shine in their particular spotlights. In one particular story I'm thinking of, just because Batman extorts Darkseid into releasing Supergirl from his control through intellect and planning, doesn't make it any less cool later in the story when Superman flies Darkseid near the sun and pummels the New God into submission before boom-tubing him to the edge of the universe and imprisoning Darkseid in the Source Wall. Both have their skillsets and both managed to win against the same threat. Same challenge, different mechanical character traits, different mechanical system actions, same outcome...victory.

Over the years I've grown to really appreciate a system that can handle that and give me a true comic book experience. :)
 

Aldarc

Legend
Controversial opinion coming here... I don't get why people want to to have Hulk and Hawkeye operating at the same power level. I'm not saying I don't understand why a person or persons would want to play such disparate characters. That I totally get. Even playing them on the same team is fine - it'll just require some good judgement by the GM to make sure everyone gets their time to shine . And some adjustment of expectations by the players; sometimes Hawkeye ain't gonna do squat, and sometimes Hulk is gonna be sitting on his big, dumb, green hands.
You don't really explain what you don't get about it here.

Why should the GM be the one to make them feel balanced? What you propose feels a little too close to the Oberoni Fallacy.

Let me give you an example from a game I ran for some friends earlier this year. (Hey! I just remembered - I played some Champions earlier this year! Woohoo!) It was a playtest for a con game (assuming cons ever happen again) and the team is basically the Avengers. We had (similar but legally distinct!) Ironman, Hulk, and Wasp. And Black Widow. Widow was much lower power than the others (yep, even Wasp) but had plenty of utility. The player didn't try going one on one with the enemy bricks, or to out-shoot the enemy power armour dude. But they had a great time. They infiltrated, tracked, found clues, completely circumvented my big set-piece final fight, and occasionally dropped knock out gas on bad guys. Everyone else did their own schtick. Hulk smashed, Wasp flipped between super stealth and zapping, and Ironman flew around zorching people.
I'm not really sure what this proves other than you had fun with Champions in a playtest one-shot game at a con.

I've never ran or played in a supers game, but I would like to. What would be the best system, if I'm looking for good character creation options, an exciting combat system (with a bit of strategy) and a bit of crunch? Mind you, I've played D&D 3.5 all my life, so is there a system that fills all those checkboxes and is easy to get into?
Uncontroversial opinion coming here, but based upon what you say here, it sounds like Mutants & Masterminds should do the trick.

Hulk will typically be a d12 effect. Hawkeye will typically be a d10 effect.
Even then, Fate and Cortex often provide a great deal of latitude for narrative power discrepancies through narrative permissions while still maintaining mechanical parity between player characters. What they can each attempt or achieve may be limited by their Aspects (Fate) or Distinctions (Cortex).
 
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MidnightBlue

Explorer
I've never ran or played in a supers game, but I would like to. What would be the best system, if I'm looking for good character creation options, an exciting combat system (with a bit of strategy) and a bit of crunch? Mind you, I've played D&D 3.5 all my life, so is there a system that fills all those checkboxes and is easy to get into?
There are some OGL 3/3.5E systems out there. I've got a few: Silver Age Sentinels D20, Aberrant D20, Adventure! D20, Trinity D20...just to name a few. While the systems aren't my go-to anymore, I still enjoy what those games have to offer within that system. :)

Edit: Yep...forgot about Mutants and Masterminds that Aldarc mentioned above.
 

MidnightBlue

Explorer
Some of us want--or in some cases outright need--more structure than modelling provides.

I get that. There are a million and one gaming systems out there, with more coming everyday, because there are at least a million and two ideas of what would make a cool game. And then you have folks like me that love MANY systems because of what each offers. (My bank account wishes I could find one and be content forever.) :)

Heck, when I first bought the TSR Marvel Superheroes game, which I immediately fell in love with, I couldn't wrap my head around the concept of modelling. "What, I just make the character I want? Okay...I make the one true God...I win, right?" The thought of not having anything to hold back my crunchy system min-max/optimization tendencies was daunting. So I always used the random generation system. (Heh...of course anyone thinking that MHR doesn't have a balanced creation system should take a second look at the MSH-FASERIP random characters...heh they ran the range of "this guy's AWESOME" to "Can I play Aunt May instead?".)

Now circle around to nearly 30-ish years later when Marvel Heroic Roleplaying comes into my life and I have the same three character creations options as my beloved Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP); Modeling, using a pregen/established hero/villain, and random generation. Suddenly modelling just clicked for me. I'm sure part of it was that I'd grown tired of running into road blocks to creating the oddball character concepts that kept coming to me over the decades...roadblocks that could only be bypassed with house-rules and with a lot of GMs that weren't comfortable with house-rules, understandably worried that the wrong answer would break the game.

For the first time that I could recall, having ignored modelling as an option in Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP), I finally had a game where I didn't have to worry about the system keeping me from making the character I wanted. You start with your character concept, talk it over with your GM and group to make sure the concept fits in the game (which you should do in ANY system, in my opinion), then assign traits until that character concept is formed on paper. My only restriction to making the exact character I want to play is my imagination in MHR. That game landed in my hands when I could appreciate it most, and dare say when I needed it in my life.

I think part of the key to being able to get the most out of modelling a character is, besides having a character-idea muse whispering in your ear, understanding that "winning" is helping your table tell a good story where every player gets to have the spotlight at times, and not "beating" the GM and gathering all the glory for yourself. I know that sounds obvious, but the game and character creation systems that many of us were raised on is all about building power/level to an optimum creation. The thought of making a well-rounded character with inherent flaws and limitations wasn't a part of the games I grew up on. It was more about minimizing weaknesses and optimizing effectiveness.

MHR changed that for me in a big way. Though I do still love the random generation option it has for those times when I need to come up with a character, but the muse is sleeping and I need a character concept prompt.

For being able to make exactly the character I want to play right out of the gate...without a need to level-up to someday be the character I wanted to begin with, I can't think of a better system than Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. And especially in the super hero genre where our beloved, long-lasting heroes (and villains) very seldom have significant changes that last much beyond a story arc. Sure, there was that time when Spider-Man grew four extra arms, had a symbiote suit, had organic webshooters, etc., but nothing stuck (pun intended) for long and we were left with our same friendly neighborhood Spider-Man that we've grown to love. But if you DO want a zero-to-hero game or the ability to gain XP and change aspects of your character beyond just a conversation with the GM, MHR offers that too. Best of all worlds in my eyes. But of course not for everyone. :)
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Champions a.k.a. HERO. Simply put, I have yet to come up with a character concept I can’t model in it. There are others I own* for a variety of reasons, but that’s my default.

The next closest would be Mutants & Masterminds (1Ed or 2Ed).


* such as M&M, Godlyke, Aberrant, Brave New World, Silver Age Sentinels, Underground and Heroes Unlimited.
 
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DrunkonDuty

Adventurer
Whelp... what I was trying to get at was that I don't feel the need for Hawkeye and Hulk (or Batman and Supes) to be on par in every situation. Not that they can't both do things. But the things they do won't be the same or necessarily equally effective in a given situation.

When they are operating together I'd hope to see a situation like the one MidnightBlue outlined with Hawkeye trying all sorts of tricks to slow down and harass Abomination. But here's the thing: Hawkeye's player will have to be content with only ever rescuing civilians, harassing Abomination, and maybe setting him up for Hulk's knockout punch. They (the player) will have to adjust their expectations to this role.

The other thing I was trying to get at is the broader implication the different roles have for a campaign . The GM should be careful that both characters get their time to shine because no-one wants to play second fiddle the whole time.

What I wouldn't want to see is Hulk punches for X damage and Hawkeye shoots for the same amount of damage. The only reason I wouldn't be happy with this is because Hawkeye has been set up (narratively) as highly trained but just human; whereas "Hulk is strongest there is." They fill different roles in the narrative.

Hope that clears up my position.
 

DrunkonDuty

Adventurer
It has them kicking arse at about the level you'd expect in the comics or the Marvel movies rather than some sort of attempt to model the real world where the archer would be pretty useless.

Well.............. Probably a tangent that should be broken off as a thread in the media section but the comics do not have Hawkeye and Hulk in the same league. Not even close. They're closer in power to one another in the MCU but still not, you know, close.

Or, wait, did you mean the modelling is close to the respective characters?
 

Well.............. Probably a tangent that should be broken off as a thread in the media section but the comics do not have Hawkeye and Hulk in the same league. Not even close. They're closer in power to one another in the MCU but still not, you know, close.

Or, wait, did you mean the modelling is close to the respective characters?
They aren't close - but they are close enough to meaningfully function on the same team. And close enough that the GM doesn't have to tailor situations so Hawkeye is useful. If you're working on a physics model rather than narrative model base this doesn't really happen.
 

DrunkonDuty

Adventurer
They aren't close - but they are close enough to meaningfully function on the same team. And close enough that the GM doesn't have to tailor situations so Hawkeye is useful. If you're working on a physics model rather than narrative model base this doesn't really happen.

I don't know any narrative(?)* systems. I'll take your word on not needing to tailor specific scenes for specific characters.



*I assume you mean narrative systems, please correct me if I'm wrong.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I've never ran or played in a supers game, but I would like to. What would be the best system, if I'm looking for good character creation options, an exciting combat system (with a bit of strategy) and a bit of crunch? Mind you, I've played D&D 3.5 all my life, so is there a system that fills all those checkboxes and is easy to get into?
Mutants and Masterminds is built on the d20 chassis so if you know 3.5 it will be familiar enough even with the big changes it made for genre (no HP and no Classes)
 

MidnightBlue

Explorer
Whelp... what I was trying to get at was that I don't feel the need for Hawkeye and Hulk (or Batman and Supes) to be on par in every situation. Not that they can't both do things. But the things they do won't be the same or necessarily equally effective in a given situation.

When they are operating together I'd hope to see a situation like the one MidnightBlue outlined with Hawkeye trying all sorts of tricks to slow down and harass Abomination. But here's the thing: Hawkeye's player will have to be content with only ever rescuing civilians, harassing Abomination, and maybe setting him up for Hulk's knockout punch. They (the player) will have to adjust their expectations to this role.

The other thing I was trying to get at is the broader implication the different roles have for a campaign . The GM should be careful that both characters get their time to shine because no-one wants to play second fiddle the whole time.

What I wouldn't want to see is Hulk punches for X damage and Hawkeye shoots for the same amount of damage. The only reason I wouldn't be happy with this is because Hawkeye has been set up (narratively) as highly trained but just human; whereas "Hulk is strongest there is." They fill different roles in the narrative.

Hope that clears up my position.

All good points. Definitely enjoy the system(s) discussion and not at all combative here. :)

To your first point: Agreed, if the situation is super defined, like an arm wrestling contest, then you are definitely going to have folks tooled for that kind of challenge. (That said, don't underestimate the power of psyching out an opponent, or some other clever trick/narrative, to give you an edge.) But just on its face value, if Hawkeye and Hulk are facing off against each other in an arm wrestling match, you don't even roll the dice. Hulk wins. MHR has that baked in just from the narrative of the character concepts. It's easy for the Watcher (as the GM is called) to just make that call..."Hulk wins."

As to your second point, that Hawkeye's player would need to realize in such a major fight that he'd be relegated to support roles, well most narrative games work a little different in those regards than their crunchier sisters. In MHR, for example, you can defeat most challenges by either "stressing out" the target (doing damage to knockout/put down the target) or in "complicating out" the target. In our Hulk & Hawkeye vs. Abomination example, sure, Hawkeye is less likely to be doing major damage to Abomination...though creative narrative on Hawkeye's player's part might change that. (Explosive arrows, dropping a building on Abomination, etc.) However, Hawkeye's player can also get creative in creating complications for the Abomination that could also take him out of the fight. Complications could be a number of things like leading him into a pool of wet cement that acts as quicksand, dropping powerlines on him that act as a taser effect (could also be a narrative for inflicting Stress), or any number of his trick arrows. Maybe Hawkeye or some fast talking, but physically deficient hero tricks the Abomination into giving up or leaving the area. Either way, Hawkeye's player doesn't have to feel like he is playing second fiddle as he is actively helping to eliminate the threat, just in a manner more appropriate to Hawkeye. (I still remember an arrowless Hawkeye and a powerless Ben Grimm taking Klaw and Lizard out of the battle in Marvel's Secret Wars mini-series by convincing them to play patty-cake instead. (I think it was patty cake...) Marvel Heroic is setup right out of the gate to handle just such a wacky situation and allows, no encourages, players to get creative with their character's traits and think outside the box in resolving threats.

One of my most fun moments playing Spider-Man in a Marvel Heroic game...I was facing off against a full-powered Graviton alone. Graviton, a guy that has taken on the entire Avengers team by himself. I won the encounter by talking Graviton down through dice rolls, playing on the villain's insecurities. It was a lot of fun...and yeah, I patted myself on the back for that bit of gameplay. This wasn't house-ruled, this wasn't GM handwaving, it was all through using the systems that MHR provides.

Anyway, I know, get me on a subject I like and I can go on for ages...sorry. :)

The point...the narrative games I really enjoy give you more options to taking on a challenge than simply attack and run away. You can use your character's abilities in any way you can justify. Thinking outside the box is encouraged and is often the way you can win when more straight forward options don't make sense for the situation.

Okay...back to work for me. :)
 
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I get that. There are a million and one gaming systems out there, with more coming everyday, because there are at least a million and two ideas of what would make a cool game. And then you have folks like me that love MANY systems because of what each offers. (My bank account wishes I could find one and be content forever.) :)

Just saying that from where they sit, there's a legitimate reason to say that MHR didn't have a character generation system. I get that they didn't really think anything more was needed, or perhaps appropriate, but as I've noted, if modelling is a "character generation system", its one in every game ever. That's just going to be a problem for some people.

Heck, when I first bought the TSR Marvel Superheroes game, which I immediately fell in love with, I couldn't wrap my head around the concept of modelling. "What, I just make the character I want? Okay...I make the one true God...I win, right?" The thought of not having anything to hold back my crunchy system min-max/optimization tendencies was daunting. So I always used the random generation system. (Heh...of course anyone thinking that MHR doesn't have a balanced creation system should take a second look at the MSH-FASERIP random characters...heh they ran the range of "this guy's AWESOME" to "Can I play Aunt May instead?".)

The people who have that issue generally don't present MSH as a model superhero system either; I don't think random character gen without strong constraints makes a lick of sense in a superhero game anyway, and then there's the issue you mention.

Now circle around to nearly 30-ish years later when Marvel Heroic Roleplaying comes into my life and I have the same three character creations options as my beloved Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP); Modeling, using a pregen/established hero/villain, and random generation. Suddenly modelling just clicked for me. I'm sure part of it was that I'd grown tired of running into road blocks to creating the oddball character concepts that kept coming to me over the decades...roadblocks that could only be bypassed with house-rules and with a lot of GMs that weren't comfortable with house-rules, understandably worried that the wrong answer would break the game.

For the first time that I could recall, having ignored modelling as an option in Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP), I finally had a game where I didn't have to worry about the system keeping me from making the character I wanted. You start with your character concept, talk it over with your GM and group to make sure the concept fits in the game (which you should do in ANY system, in my opinion), then assign traits until that character concept is formed on paper. My only restriction to making the exact character I want to play is my imagination in MHR. That game landed in my hands when I could appreciate it most, and dare say when I needed it in my life.

Well, I'm going to acknowledge here that its harder to build characters out of balance with each other in Cortex than in most games, but I have two caveats on that: 1. Harder is not the same as impossible, and 2. The reason that's the case (the compression of practical range of numbers) isn't an unmixed virtue to everyone.

I think part of the key to being able to get the most out of modelling a character is, besides having a character-idea muse whispering in your ear, understanding that "winning" is helping your table tell a good story where every player gets to have the spotlight at times, and not "beating" the GM and gathering all the glory for yourself. I know that sounds obvious, but the game and character creation systems that many of us were raised on is all about building power/level to an optimum creation. The thought of making a well-rounded character with inherent flaws and limitations wasn't a part of the games I grew up on. It was more about minimizing weaknesses and optimizing effectiveness.

MHR changed that for me in a big way. Though I do still love the random generation option it has for those times when I need to come up with a character, but the muse is sleeping and I need a character concept prompt.

For being able to make exactly the character I want to play right out of the gate...without a need to level-up to someday be the character I wanted to begin with, I can't think of a better system than Marvel Heroic Roleplaying. And especially in the super hero genre where our beloved, long-lasting heroes (and villains) very seldom have significant changes that last much beyond a story arc. Sure, there was that time when Spider-Man grew four extra arms, had a symbiote suit, had organic webshooters, etc., but nothing stuck (pun intended) for long and we were left with our same friendly neighborhood Spider-Man that we've grown to love. But if you DO want a zero-to-hero game or the ability to gain XP and change aspects of your character beyond just a conversation with the GM, MHR offers that too. Best of all worlds in my eyes. But of course not for everyone. :)

Well, assuming that the power level presumed for the campaign allows it--its always possible to have a character concept you fall in low with that just doesn't fit well in the campaign power level, no matter what supers system you're using--supers games in general are good about that, since the only subset of superhero settings that have any significant zero-to-hero progression are the teen/trainee superhero subgenre. Its why on genre grounds its always defensible to have zero-progression, though that doesn't mean its satisfying to people.
 


Well.............. Probably a tangent that should be broken off as a thread in the media section but the comics do not have Hawkeye and Hulk in the same league. Not even close. They're closer in power to one another in the MCU but still not, you know, close.

Or, wait, did you mean the modelling is close to the respective characters?

Speaking only of MHR, which has been the primary discussion focus MidnightBlue has bee mentioning, the mechanics of Cortex tend to compression the practical power differences between characters (though not, IMO, to quite the degree some fans will claim). And its absolutely true that its better than many systems about handling what I think of as the non-physical elements of conflict (to the point its possible to defeat someone purely that way if you're good at it and things go your own way, which is only true in a few other systems, and most of those are far more heavily narrative-focused than Cortex).
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
From what I know of it, its in that liminal space between supers games and urban fantasy.
That's accurate. Having read it I don't think it would take any actual hacking to push more toward straight supers, just some light fluff adjustment. Still a niche version of supers perhaps, but very doable.
 

That's accurate. Having read it I don't think it would take any actual hacking to push more toward straight supers, just some light fluff adjustment. Still a niche version of supers perhaps, but very doable.

That would have been my guess. There are a couple of settings that lean that way, coming in from one end or the other (if you tried to game the Nightside that'd be very much the vibe you'd get).
 


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