Given the opportunity to start a new superhero campaign I dove into the deep end and ran through a bunch of games I own and checked into a few I did not. Part 1 of this covered the Marvel Superhero options as I do love the old warhorse and there are a lot of options out there built around that chassis.
Beyond that though there are many other games in this genre. I hit most of the big ones in my exploration so I thought I would share some thoughts on each in this post.
- First up, Mutants and Masterminds: In my mind this is the current standard for superhero RPGs and has been for more than a decade. Third edition is thorough and expansive game system with a unified mechanic that is fairly simple to run in play, options for point-build and random character generation, and supplement books to assist with deeper options in almost any area you can think of - powers, gadgets, locations, running a super team, cosmic campaigns, supernatural campaigns, adventures ... pretty much any area of running a game has extra material available if you want it. It's a great game and one I have run multiple times previously.
For this campaign it was a strong contender but I decided to try something new. I will run this again, maybe later this year, but for now I chose "new" over familiar.
- Second, Champions - my first superhero RPG and one that still lives in my head whenever we get to discussing them even 40 years later. It works and works well if you want to have all the details. People fuss about math in this game but once you build your character the math is mostly "do I have enough dice to throw for this attack?" rather than anything particularly complicated. I love it and I have players with some experience with it and the current Champions Complete is the best version of it to be released in years.
Despite this we will only be playing this game once a month and introducing some new players to Hero system when playing on that schedule is just not the best idea in my opinion. I'd love to run it and I will make an effort to do so but it's not the best choice for this campaign
- Next up - ICONS - lord knows I have talked about ICONS enough on this blog over the years. It's a great game with a ton of support that plays fast and is very good at letting your players focus on what they are doing in the game rather than how the rules work. Bits of MSH, bits of FATE, elements of M&M ... all combine to make for a really good game that can handle a wide range.
For this campaign I was very tempted to use ICONS but in the end as mentioned above I decided to try something new. ICONS will be back in the rotation at some point as I have a couple of players that have never tried it but for this one I decided to go in a different direction.
- Savage Worlds - I am running a Deadlands game now and there is a shiny new Super Powers Companion that just came out so it would make some sense to run a Savage Supers campaign now. The new book is solid - these things have really evolved since they were basically the powers chapter of Necessary Evil with some additional material added in. They have gotten further and further away from the standard SW approach of "powers cost ongoing power points" which is fine for wizards and mad scientists but does not work well for superheroes with permanent abilities so it's a welcome change - it's basically a point buy system for powers now. It is not as comprehensive as some of the other games but a lot of that is because it's a supplement to a game system and not a self-contained game in itself. I'll have a separate review of this one soon.
As much as it would make sense to use this option - especially since I was considering a WW2 supers game and I have the Weird War 2 book as well making this really easy to run - I ended up deciding to hold off. My main concern is running two games in Savage Worlds in parallel at different power levels and possibly making one feel "less" than the other. There's also the danger of making them feel too "samey" using the same rules for two different games. I will need something to run after Deadlands and I'd say Savage Supers would be a good fit when that day comes so that's probably where it will come into play.
- Finally I looked at the Sentinel Comics RPG. I had run one of the starter kit adventures a few years ago and it was cool though some of the concepts were tricky coming in cold. I did the Kickstarter and had the rulebook and the GM kit but had not really dived in with an eye towards running it until now. There's a lot of Marvel Heroic (Cortex) in there but it's not just a clone.
For example you're only going to be rolling 3 dice in your pool - a power, a quality, and your status dice which is a new concept that sort of replaces the solo/buddy/team element in MHR. This status is determined by a Green/Yellow/Red system which has two tracks. One is your health - as your character takes damage they begin "Green" then move into Yellow at a certain point and then finally into Red as they take more and more damage. There is also the Scene Tracker which replaces the Doom Pool from MHR with a fixed countdown by round that moves through a G/Y/R sequence to show things escalating automatically - no die manipulation necessary. So your status die is determined by the current "color" (some may progress upward d6-d8-d10, some downward, and some may be steady) and also some of your powers are gated by this as well - the biggest bangs are only available when things turn red, for example.
This is a great concept that really anchors certain tropes into the mechanics. There are a lot of changes like this where things that were somewhat abstract in MHR become more defined and set and I would say more intuitively playable. I'll do a longer review later but there is so much clever stuff in here that I had to give it a go so it will be our system for this next campaign.