A recent thread on RPGnet asks why is there is a bounty of Superhero games.
So why are there so many good systems on the market now when ten years ago the cupboard was bare? I can only attribute it to the fact that superheroes are cool once more and game design has progressed to elevate supers games from the dark ages that they used to inhabit.
I would say that the Superhero genre is probably my favourite, your character stands head and shoulders above the crowd trying to uphold the law and ensure the bad guy ends up in prison.
I briefly mentioned BASH in my top 10 RPG list and that has become my default game for superhero action but there are several other games worth a look.
Despite the criticism of Heroes Unlimited I found it a useful game just to pick up and play. The random character generation can give some unusual characters it does do roughly what it aims to do, give you a quick and dirty method of character creation, plus the book is slightly cheaper than some other titles on the market. The downside is the system uses Palladium’s trusty mechanics which can be a bit confusing and slightly wonky in play.
ICONS Is another game of the later era of supers and is like FATE as it uses aspects to define your hero and there is also a robust selection if powers under the hood or cowl if you preferable I loved the idea of the game it just didn’t seem to work for me. I understand a new edition has been announced.
Capes Cowls and Villains Foul looks interesting but I haven’t had much chance to read through it to form a thorough opinion of it though does have some interesting ideas to mine but its unlikely to usurp BASH as my go-to system.
I hear good things about Supers! Revised but don’t own it.
I was fortunate enough to purchase the new DC Universe game which uses Mutants and Masterminds 3rd edition; the system is solid and handles things well and also has the advantage of coming with the DC Heroes you know and love. So if you ever wanted to know if Superman could defeat the Flash you can figure it out for yourself.
This leaves poor Marvel behind the curve in terms of games. There have been several excellent games in the past but nothing to cash in on the success of the new Marvel Cinematic Universe or the new X-Men film. Yes you could sit down and design the character yourself but having access to a roster of heroes and villains is a time saver for the busy GM. Of course you could always raid the Public Domain Superheroes wiki for ideas and pictures 🙂
Of course there is always Champions / HERO to fall back on which offer plenty of scope for character customisation but my experiences with that game aren’t good ones and I found it hard to get anywhere with it. I suppose because it is a toolbox and you have to craft all your powers and abilities by hand that make it so much work. Perhaps the new streamlined edition will help introduce new players to it, I don’t know.
Finally, Rotted Capes recently appeared on my radar, the premise being that it mashes up superheroes and zombies. While I was initially sceptical of how it may work I am surprised at how well the two genres fuse together and the game also allows for zombified supers. I may have to run this at some point as it has a lot of potential.
ICONS Assembled: http://stevekenson.com/2014/05/05/icons-assembled-whats-different/
BASH Ultimate Edition: http://www.bashrpg.com/
Heroes Unlimited™: http://palladium-store.com/1001/category/Heroes-Unlimited.html
Hero Games: http://www.herogames.com/index.html
Mutants and Masterminds: http://mutantsandmasterminds.com/
Public Domain Super Heroes : http://pdsh.wikia.com/wiki/Public_Domain_Super_Heroes
Capes Cowls and Villains Foul: http://www.spectrum-games.com/capes-cowls-and-villains-foul.html
Rotted Capes: http://paradigmconcepts.com/rotted-capes/
While writing my top ten list I came across some notes I made for a campaign using Cyberpunk 2020 where the player characters were policemen in Night City. The campaign was called Night City Blues and was based upon a pastiche of the various american cop shows which were popular in the UK during the early 90s; I drew a lot of inspiration and even the title from the popular Hill Street Blues. I can’ t remember if I ever did the famous briefing scene in the show but I probably did.
I wasn’t surprised as I read my notes that the same concept would stand the test of time and could easily be run today as a police procedural; I think the setting would also work with the current line up of two players as they can be partners standing shoulder to shoulder and back to back upholding the law.
One of the great things about a cop style game is that it suits a smaller player group, if you have two players then you have the classic buddy cop set-up which is a staple of the genre; whether it be a straight by the book cop paired with a slightly insane guy who plays it fast and loose; or you could have a human partnered with an alien, cyborg, robot, zombie, mutant, anthropomorphic animal sort of thing. The possibilities and combinations are endless.
For this campaign the players were attached to the Special Investigative Division which meant I could give them all sorts of cases to play with and they had the latitude to follow whatever leads they could find. It also meant that they weren’t restricted to just investigating homicide or vice cases, variety is after all the spice of life and I wanted it to be as varied as possible.
The game started to write itself as the teams faced both internal and external conflicts; two of the group who had different ideas to the rest of the team would find them paired up together by the player character with the highest rank as none of the other officers would want anything to do with them. Things came to a head when one of the police officers used his hard earned salary to buy an enhancement to bolster his reputation as a ladies man but forgot to have enough money for recuperative therapy or ask for time off to recover from the surgery. The end result being he got shot and since he was already wounded from all the surgery he went straight back to hospital for a long period of rest.
I gave them an idea of the budget that they would be working with and they spent quite a lot of it on tooling up and it wasn’t until one of the pair of specially adapted patrol cars was destroyed did they suddenly realise they no longer had any money to replace lost transportation; this also meant they started treating what gear they had with more care as they knew it would be difficult to obtain a replacement.
Perhaps I shall dig out the books I used to run the game and have the players once more tread the beat of the famed Night City, the thin blue line protecting the citizens of the area against the horrors of crime and cyberpsychosis; or I could take the ideas and concepts and retool them for a series set in an exotic location. Mars comes to mind, in the Cyberpunk universe the world is slowly being colonised and it has the air of an old west style frontier town or even the moon for a deadlier set-up.
Hmmmm, now there’s an idea, something that We Can Remember It Wholesale 🙂 , and remember lets be careful out there people.
Into the final hours is the next adventure in the Age of Cthulhu series for Call of Cthulhu
I’ve got some of the first two adventures and they’re not bad and for as little as $7 you can have the latest one in pdf.
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June 2014 Blog Carnival – What’s in the hole?
For the month of June Moebius Adventures are hosting the blog carnival and want to know What’s in the hole?
I think that holes are fascinating things; empty voids where something used to be, be it earth or in the case of Pompeii voids where bodies used to be. I always wanted to know how many could fill the Albert Hall?
Currently in my hole is Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, how they got there I don’t know but its a fair bet that magic item the portable hole was probably based upon that animated film featuring the Beatles; an inspiration that resonates into TV today, like the series Fringe where a portable hole making device was used to break into bank vaults.
It is therefore a useful item for people wishing to gain entry to a locked or guarded facility, just slip it onto the wall and in you go! Used in this way they item can allow the players to get away with all sorts of tricks without repercussions, what if there was a darker side to this strange item. What if it displaced the matter somewhere else or perhaps once attached to a wall the enchantment only last for a number of minutes which allows the group in one way before it seals up and drops off the side of the wall it was applied to.
Then you come intro the tricky ground of how would you store it since it is a potentially deadly device and not the sort of thing you slip into your pocket as it would probably adhere to the wall and make all the items spill out over the floor. I guess you could create it to be triggered by a command word as this may make it safer to handle and you wouldn’t worry about it dropping onto the floor and creating a tunnel all the way to the core of the Earth; allowing all sorts of dinosaurs to flee hotly pursued by Doug McClure and Peter Cushing.
You could expand this item yet further with the portal-able hole, consisting of two holes of different colours; say for arguments sake one blue and one orange. To make use of the item you would have to affix both holes to different surfaces before you could create an entrance or exit. Its up to you to determine whether or not the holes obey the laws of gravity but I feel it would break the sense of disbelief if it didn’t.
There are thousands of potential applications for such a simple concept and very often the simplest ideas are often the best.
Have fun and may your dice always roll true.
Iron Atlas: Digital Miniatures System for Roleplaying Games
In my previous post I mentioned about my iPad being my GM Binder and now something else has made me sit up and take notice. There is currently a Kickstarter in the works that promises to allow you to use your tablet to create a virtual battlemat and run encounters.
It certainly looks impressive and you can find a link to the project here: http://kck.st/1hh1Ecd
Thanks to Lester Smith for pointing me in the direction of the project.
A good friend of mine recently clued me in to the fact that the long awaited second edition of Primetime Adventures has been Kickstarted and successfully funded. Primetime Adventures is the role-playing game of television drama and I thought the idea of playing a game within a game to be an interesting one.
The Kickstarter can be found by following this link:
Traveller was the first science fiction game I ever played in and was the second rpg I ever tried. I was so taken with the game that I persuaded my grandmother to purchase me a copy from Games Unlimited, it may have been a second hand unboxed copy but I didn’t care about that. I had at that point several d6 dice which Traveller makes use of so I didn’t have to spend any more money on them.
I was drawn in by the seductive red line running across the page of the black cover of the books. It was later on when I was heavily involved in collecting Traveller did I realise I had the three little black books combined into two books. Early editions of the game came published as individual volumes about A5 size and this gave rise to the term “little black books”. There was a range of supplementary books published in this format that covered all sorts of new material; careers, adventures and even library data which expanded upon the previous books.
As I understand it the rules were written to enable the referee to create their own universe for play, the adventures that were written were set in what would become the default setting of the Third Imperium. In this respect Traveller was probably the first sandbox game I had ever encountered. You could argue that games like D&D were sandboxes as well but they all seemed to revolve around gong to the dungeon and clearing it out 10 foot room by 10 foot room; almost like some sort of medieval SWAT team.
Traveller was also the first game I had encountered that had a life path system which dictated your previous history before you started adventuring; unlike some of the other life path based systems it was entirely possible to die during character creation, so the game had an element of risk to it. Later versions of the system mitigated it to your character being wounded rather than death and you finished your career at that point.
Character creation was just one of the mini-games that the rulebook had; trading was another one and also world creation. The rulebook suggests that you can play them in isolation as a solitaire activity, whether you are trying to found a new trading company by plying the space lanes or exploring strange new worlds. All examples of typical sandbox play that can be found in many typical computer games.
I suppose being a big fan of the BBC Micro computer game Elite was also a big selling point to this game. It is no surprise that most Traveller games are based around the Merchant Prince route; there was even an excellent campaign written called The Traveller Adventure which gave the players control of a ship and a trading route to ply.
By the time I was getting ready to actually referee Traveller a new edition had appeared; MegaTraveller. This new edition compiled the best of the supplementary books and the core rules into an improved system with a new and improved task system at the heart of the games skill resolution mechanic.
MegaTraveller also introduced a new background as well, expanding upon the popular Third Imperium and taking it into a new direction; the emperor had been assassinated and various factions tried to claim the iridium throne for themselves. The setting while interesting didn’t really do anything for me and I continued to run adventures based in the Spinward Marches sector. The rebellion eventually ended with an artificially intelligent virus and was the lead in for the new edition:
Traveller: The New Era was the last edition published by Game Designers Workshop, the company hit hard times and the decision was made to close it. This edition moved away from the familiar 2d6 task resolution system and used the GDW house system which was d20 based. I really liked the idea of the players having a chance to shape the new empires that arose out of the ashes of the virus. The Imperium was still there but 70 years of isolation had profound effects upon the planets. So the advance scout party often had some very old data about the systems to go on and could be surprised at what had happened during the long night.
During my tenure as referee I ran many Traveller games using the various editions I had collected and I would say that until recently MegaTraveller would have to be my personal favourite.
I’m looking to run Traveller again, this time I shall use the Mongoose edition as it has a modern take on the rules but still has the Classic Traveller feel to it. While GURPS Traveller piqued my interest for a bit, it seemed to me to lack the heart and soul of the Classic edition, characters were bought as packages of skills and advantages and gone was the random determination of your prior history. Spaceships were regarded as an advantage so the better your starship was, the worse your character started the game.
As a result of the successful Kickstarter campaign I have a copy of Traveller 5th edition which has traded the little black books for one rather massive hardcover; while an impressive book to hold I find it lacks the simplicity that the Mongoose edition has. Both games had a parallel development and by comparing the two volumes you can see where they inspired each other.
Mongoose have also used their Traveller rules to do other licensed games they publish, the most interesting to me was Babylon 5 and it sort of worked but it was woefully lacking in certain areas.
Mongoose Traveller: http://www.mongoosepublishing.com/rpgs/traveller.html
Far Future Enterprises: http://www.farfuture.net/
Stars Without Number.
I heard good things about this game published by www.sinenomine-pub.com ; it’s a worthy spiritual successor to Traveller and is also set up for sandbox play. So I tracked it down and was suitably impressed by what I found between the covers.
The system is a modern retro-clone of the world’s most popular fantasy game and uses the familiar 3d6 for character generation compared to the 2d6 Traveller required. Where Stars Without Number shines is the support for the game. The basic game is available in two versions; a free edition and a paid for core book with more material stuffed into it. There are other supplements available some of which are free and others don’t cost a great deal.
I was one of the backers for Interface Zero second edition, the Savage Worlds themed Cyberpunk game and the company has been pretty good sending its rewards through to the backers.
Imagine my surprise when I redeemed the discount code for the players guide and nearly flat-lined:
“Discount redeemed. Interface Zero 2.0: Player\’s Guide has been added to your cart at the discounted price of £4,643.51”
If that’s the discounted price, then I’m glad I backed the Kickstarter as I’d hate to see what the full price of the book is!
Interface Zero 2nd edition is available from Gun Metal Games.