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What's your favorite superhero TTRPG and why?

There's a lot of urban fantasy that's essentially just supers doing Shakespeare in the park.

To a degree, but it tends to stand out when a very high percentage of characters in the setting are sort of one-offs, and not treated as though being one-offs is unusual (there's a huge amount of Special Snowflakes as urban fantasy protagonists, but they're pretty much acknowledged as such).
 

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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
I was really just indexing urban fantasy that trends toward the upper echelons of the power matrix. This isn't even a thing that's specific to a given IP. The Dresden Files, just to pick an example, doesn't really start off like that, but once you get to the most recent handful of books describing the characters as supers becomes a lot more reasonable. That's not to say that I'd file those books under 'Superhero' instead of Urban Fantasy, but rather that RPG systems that are 'Supers' become far more appropriate to model those characters, and that the perils and challenges faced by those characters tend to be much more in keeping with what you'd expect from a superhero narrative.
 


MidnightBlue

Explorer
I'll still consider City of Mist as dipping its toe in the waters of the supers genre since the creators presented it that way, but it definitely is a different flavor of supers than your four color or other more common varieties. Urban fantasy is also a good descriptor.

The game is awesome, by the way. I love the noir flavor and drawing on myths and major cultural icons, even pop culture.

I had a blast making a group of pregens built on the "myths" of the classic Universal Movie Monsters Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, Wolfman, The Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Invisible Man. I've always meant to go back and add a rift of Bride of Frankenstein and Phantom of the Opera to complete the originals.

Another game I enjoy and appreciate for its narrative systems.
 

ART!

Hero
That's a tough call, because I've played a lot of them, and although there's a few that I played a lot of at one time or another, nothing has stuck to the point of currently being a go-to game for supers.

That said, I think Truth & Justice would be my pick for favorite. It has a nice balance of narrative and more traditional/old-school mechanics.

Villains & Vigilantes had a nice loose, original D&D quality to it. Considering it was basically the first supers rpg, it's a pretty amazing game.

I played a lot of Champions in the '80s and '90s, and it's an incredibly robust game, butit's not my cup of tea now.

Mutants & Masterminds is equally robust, and it's the supers game I would recommend to anyone familiar with d20 OGL games, but again it doesn't suit my tastes now.

Icons, Supers, and BASH all have their strengths, too.

Masks is brilliant, but there's a narrative bent to it that I find oddly constraining.
 

Controversial opinion coming here... I don't get why people want to to have Hulk and Hawkeye operating at the same power level.

Poor Hulk and Thor constantly belittled in discussions of superhero RPGs and comparative ability!

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.

Kidding aside, I don’t think they’re as different as you say. I mean, from a brute strength or raw power angle, sure, Hulk’s basically the apex.

But Unearthly or Class 100 Strength aside…the two characters are both shown to be effective in the comics. They just go about it in different ways.

So any game that is going to expect two characters like these to coexist should likely be designed to do so. Or at the very least, designed not to inhibit it or to screw one player over.

So if the system boils down to opposing maths and not much else, then that may be problematic. But if the system is more flexible then it should work like it does in the comics.

To give some specific examples (because I feel I must), in the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon, Hawkeye defeats the Hulk by threatening him. The Hulk laughs….and anger gone, he turns back into Banner and Hawkeye takes him into custody.

In Solo Avengers issue 12, Hawkeye does indeed defeat the Abomination. Ultimately he takes him down using an adamantium tipped arrow that releases an incredible electrical charge (designed with the intention of destroying Ultron if he ever showed up again).

And in West Coast Avengers Annual 2, Hawkeye takes out She-Hulk in a one on one battle. Basically, he keeps her at a distance, manages to knock her into water, uses some explosives to keep her from surfacing, then when she does, he hits her with a KO gas arrow just as she’s gulping air….and it knocks her out long enough for him to claim victory.

He’s pulled off all kinds of crazy things over the years. Not to the absurd level of Batman….but to me, how a game handles this kind of stuff is a huge indicator if I’ll enjoy it or not.

It’s one area where MSH from TSR kind of falters, which is a shame because otherwise that game would be nearly flawless. I’ve only played Marvel Heroic a handful of times, but it seemed less of an issue.
 


Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
Highly random question, but still related to the OP:

Has anyone here actually played Underground?

I really loved its transgressive tone and setting when it came out, the mix of powers and guns (meaning not modeling guns as powers) and even the way it shamelessly ripped off the Marshall Law comic. But even as a dumb teen I looked at the system and knew enough to stay away from it.

I think Dennis Detwiller mentioned in a podcast interview that there were some very tentative discussions with the creator about rebooting it, but that real-world political stuff made that kind of satire sort of impossible. It really was a product of the 90s, and imo probably couldn't survive an update intact.

But anyway, I'm mostly curious if anyone managed to either play it as written, or was inspired to use the setting for another system. Or was Underground yet another interesting, but read-only game?
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
He’s pulled off all kinds of crazy things over the years. Not to the absurd level of Batman….but to me, how a game handles this kind of stuff is a huge indicator if I’ll enjoy it or not.

It’s one area where MSH from TSR kind of falters, which is a shame because otherwise that game would be nearly flawless. I’ve only played Marvel Heroic a handful of times, but it seemed less of an issue.
There are other crunchy systems, like Champions and Mutants and Masterminds, that can handle this with a variable power of some sort. Those would, in fact, be reasonable ways to handle a power that's as variable as Hawkeye's (or Batman's) special arrows/gadgets, particularly since they often seem to pull out just the right one for a situation.
Of course, even then, there's no guarantee of it working depending on the dice rolling - a contrast with a narrative system that determines if you succeed by the die roll first and then backfill in the explanation why.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Highly random question, but still related to the OP:

Has anyone here actually played Underground?

I really loved its transgressive tone and setting when it came out, the mix of powers and guns (meaning not modeling guns as powers) and even the way it shamelessly ripped off the Marshall Law comic. But even as a dumb teen I looked at the system and knew enough to stay away from it.

I think Dennis Detwiller mentioned in a podcast interview that there were some very tentative discussions with the creator about rebooting it, but that real-world political stuff made that kind of satire sort of impossible. It really was a product of the 90s, and imo probably couldn't survive an update intact.

But anyway, I'm mostly curious if anyone managed to either play it as written, or was inspired to use the setting for another system. Or was Underground yet another interesting, but read-only game?
Never got a chance to. Very few of the groups I’ve belonged to have expressed an interest in Supers gaming,
 

pemerton

Legend
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...)
I don't know that one. I remember Storm, without her powers due to having been "nullified" by Forge, defeating Cyclops to regain leadership of the X-Men. As @hawkeyefan posted also, for me a satisfactory supers game has to be able to capture these sorts of events.
 


DrunkonDuty

Adventurer
Poor Hulk and Thor constantly belittled in discussions of superhero RPGs and comparative ability!



Kidding aside, I don’t think they’re as different as you say. I mean, from a brute strength or raw power angle, sure, Hulk’s basically the apex.

But Unearthly or Class 100 Strength aside…the two characters are both shown to be effective in the comics. They just go about it in different ways.

So any game that is going to expect two characters like these to coexist should likely be designed to do so. Or at the very least, designed not to inhibit it or to screw one player over.

So if the system boils down to opposing maths and not much else, then that may be problematic. But if the system is more flexible then it should work like it does in the comics.

To give some specific examples (because I feel I must), in the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon, Hawkeye defeats the Hulk by threatening him. The Hulk laughs….and anger gone, he turns back into Banner and Hawkeye takes him into custody.

In Solo Avengers issue 12, Hawkeye does indeed defeat the Abomination. Ultimately he takes him down using an adamantium tipped arrow that releases an incredible electrical charge (designed with the intention of destroying Ultron if he ever showed up again).

And in West Coast Avengers Annual 2, Hawkeye takes out She-Hulk in a one on one battle. Basically, he keeps her at a distance, manages to knock her into water, uses some explosives to keep her from surfacing, then when she does, he hits her with a KO gas arrow just as she’s gulping air….and it knocks her out long enough for him to claim victory.

He’s pulled off all kinds of crazy things over the years. Not to the absurd level of Batman….but to me, how a game handles this kind of stuff is a huge indicator if I’ll enjoy it or not.

It’s one area where MSH from TSR kind of falters, which is a shame because otherwise that game would be nearly flawless. I’ve only played Marvel Heroic a handful of times, but it seemed less of an issue.

I agree on all points.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
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.
You quoted MidnightBlue here and I strongly recommend you reread their posts. That is not the only reason or even the primary reason the characters balance out.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
That said, I think Truth & Justice would be my pick for favorite. It has a nice balance of narrative and more traditional/old-school mechanics.
Cool, one I haven't heard of! (That's genuine.) Can you give us an elevator pitch about it? And what makes it a stand out for you?
 

You quoted MidnightBlue here and I strongly recommend you reread their posts. That is not the only reason or even the primary reason the characters balance out.

Except I don't see anything special about Cortex in producing the others he references. As he notes, characters should be built to concept in all games. That doesn't mean someone can't build to concept and still build something that's too limelight stealing. Its pretty trivial to build to both if you lean in that direction, and Cortex isn't immune to that.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Except I don't see anything special about Cortex in producing the others he references. As he notes, characters should be built to concept in all games. That doesn't mean someone can't build to concept and still build something that's too limelight stealing. Its pretty trivial to build to both if you lean in that direction, and Cortex isn't immune to that.
Modelling what not what he went on about, at eloquent length, in multiple posts, about why MHR does well covering different power characters and how they work in the comics - and MHR. Please, actually reread his posts about that.
 

coyote6

Adventurer
My favorite is still Mutants & Masterminds (specifically, 2nd edition). As to why I love it, I think Kenson & co. hit the perfect spot for me (given that I spent time in high school geometry class writing up Champions characters from memory).

(I kind of want an M&M edition that's based on 5e - more saving throw types, advantage & disadvantage, etc.)
 

Champions was my #1 hands down favorite. But frankly it was because I was in some really superlative campaigns of it, and the first superhero sysem I ran. Started with 2nd ed, all the softcovers, but the BBB (Big Blue Book, a/k/a 3rd) was my favorite edition. I've heard good things about FREd (Fifth Revised Edition).
Big Blue was Champions 4th, not third.

Champions 4th to HSR 5th was mostly more concrete examples and all the FAQ elements being added, while removing some of the Champions-specific setting material.
HSR 5 to 5th REd aka FREd, mostly corrections to the examples.

HSR 5 to 6 was making all the figured atts no longer figured. It was an attempt to expand the fanbase. Most of my friends who play hero refused to even look at 6th, and continue to use 3rd, 4th, or 5REd.
 

Modelling what not what he went on about, at eloquent length, in multiple posts, about why MHR does well covering different power characters and how they work in the comics - and MHR. Please, actually reread his posts about that.

I read them. I've also run MHR, and I don't think its as good at that as proponents paint it as. It can come across like that because it actually has a functional system for combat-by-other-means, but that doesn't mean the characters are really able to compete with others of different power levels; it just means that there are ways to take advantage of weak areas in otherwise strong characters--but if that's the criterion, the old Mayfair DCH did that one.

So I'm pretty much disagreeing with the premise, and that's why I didn't reference it.
 

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