Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Super RPG's - Personal Background Part 1

Since Neccessary Evil is up and running I thought I would talk a little bit about my experience with super RPG's.

I started playing Supers in 1982 with the Champions boxed set and it is my first love when it comes to playing a super hero game. I had read some things about it in the Dragon (the RPG internet back then, such as it was) and when I saw it at Hobbies for Dad and Lad in the mall I got it, for $12 if I recall correctly. It came with the rulebook, a pretty decent adventure, a large hexmap of a typical city street corner, and 6 blue d6's (I still have one of those dice today). We made a lot of characters and beat each other over the head with steel girders and lamp posts for years. I think my version was technically the second edition, but it kind of bled into 3rd edition. In 1990 4th edition was the first "clean" relaunch of the Hero System and I got on board quickly, having a regular group of college game buddies that played a lot of fantasy hero. I ran 2 short campaigns of Champions (and one of Fantasy Hero) in the 1990's but then things went dormant in the 2000's as we focused on 3rd edition D&D. I was planning to run a Champions campaign when we finished the current D&D game this year, but the premature detonation of my group changed those plans. My love of Champions aside, there are other good supers games besides Champions.

I played a lot of Marvel Super Heroes in the 80's - it has tons of great background, a quick system with the color table, and feels like a supers game. I would be happy to run or play it today but a lot of people turn up their noses - maybe they think of it as too "kiddie" but to me it's a great system. I have a ton of stuff for it living in the top of my closet and I may run it for the kids sometime soon.

Villains and Vigilantes was one of the first Supers RPGs (they had some great ads in the 80's Dragon) and I have made characters and played some sessions but we never liked it as much as our other options when it came to these kinds of games. The random character generation was a problem after Champions - it could be fun, but if I wanted random powers we already had Gamma World which was more fun for that kind of thing. I still have the rulebook and I have picked up a few adventures for it but I don't know when I would run it over something else.

DC Heroes was interesting but was not as popular among my friends. We tended to follow the Marvel Universe more anyway, plus they had a regular update column in Dragon for years. DC had a lot of heroes we had never seen and the system was not as intuitive to our teenage minds as Marvel or Champions. So both the setting and the system were trumped by other systems, which meant it got very little time in play. I have picked up 1st, 2nd, and 3rd edition since then, plus some adventures, and I see some of the coolness of the system now, but it still feels like more work to run a session than either of our other primary options.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a cool little game that was technically supers but there weren't a lot of super powers in it (other than Ninjutsu). It was actually fairly gritty and made a good street-level supers game if you wanted to fight in back alleys with knives and baseball bats. We did have fun wit hit when we played it, but it's not really the same kind of game as the rest of these.

Heroes Unlimited was the full-blown Palladium Supers game and it featured the then-OK Palladium system and a bunch of random tables for super powers. You decided your origin, but your stats and powers were rolled randomly and that killed it for us. In the 90's Heroes Unlimited basically became another sourcebook for Rifts among my gaming groups.

A note about Rifts: Rifts gets a lot of grief in some gamer circles because of its over-the-top environment and equipment and classes etc. If you look at it as a post-apocalyptic supers game it makes a lot more sense - giant robots, super-magic, uber-ninjas, big guns, dinosaurs - these are all elements found more commonly in a supers game than a traditional fantasy game. if you try to run it like D&D, it's tough. If you run it like a post-nuclear justice league it should work a lot better.

That was pretty much it for 80's Super RPG's, and the 90's was largely new editions of these same games. I know there was a Basic Roleplaying Supers game but I never saw it on the shelves or in play. Among my friends in the 90's Champions 4th edition was dominant (it's what I ran) and Marvel in 2nd place (what my friend occasionally ran) in between a lot of 2nd edition AD&D, Rifts, some Twilight 2000, and some Megatraveller.

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