Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rolling Heroes

All my previous posting about Captain America a couple of weeks ago has got me thinking about running a Supers game. Actually I've been thinking about it for a while now and thought no better time than to dive back into the colorful world of the super-hero.

Back in the day, other than D&D and Top Secret, Champions 1st ed. became one of our regular RPGs. As soon as it came out I scooped it up as I saw no better combination for me than comic book heroes and role-playing games. At the time we loved the chunky rules and building the heroes and villains. The sessions turned into just full on bash-fests but we loved it - not to mention the cool character sheets with the hero figure lightly sketched in for you to finish up.

Late last year I picked up a copy of the old Champions rule book off the interwebs (mine having disappeared many centuries ago) and enjoyed flipping through the familiar pages. Alas, my old brain is not up for working with such a crunchy style game so I began to search for an alternative.

I was looking for something rules-lite. A game with enough rules to play a wide variety of heroes and villains without getting the feeling you're just changing the surface dressing of powers.

We've been playing a Savage Worlds pulp adventure campaign. Though having played Savage Worlds and have been enjoying our sessions I haven't been blown away with the system. Sure it's pretty easy to get going but I was looking for something else. Savage Worlds have a Super Powers Companion supplement for their basic Explorer rules. So that is a possible option but I'm not sold on it.

Right now, what really appeals to me are two sets of rules that are quite different - Icons by Steven Kenson (published by Adamant Entertainment) and Mystery Men! self published by John Stater.

I haven't completed reading both sets of rules yet but here are my initial impressions thus far...

Icons can be a bit pricey for a pdf but that price sometimes fluctuates. Keep an eye on it, you could get lucky. The print version runs about $30 plus shipping. A bit pricey for a cheap-ass gamer such as myself. Mystery Men! offers a free e-book as well as a print on demand for $7.30 (which I will be picking up on my next Lulu order), much more my cup of tea.

Both are rules-lite and seem to be fast paced and loose games.

I enjoy the layouts for both books with Mystery Men! taking a clean layout sprinkled with golden age heroes and images - a nice touch. Icons has more of a modern, Justice League / Bruce Timm look and feel and is in full color which all fits the mood of the game pretty well. The thing I liked about Icons is the terms used for time in the game; when it's your turn it is called a panel, after everyone completes their turn (panels) that's considered a page. A number of pages make up a chapter etc. all of which sticks with the genre. I love that little detail and would use that concept in any heroes game I run.

The main difference is that Icons sports a random generation character creation while Mystery Men! sports the character build.

Having played Champions, I enjoyed the planned character building process and customizing the hero's powers to fit your vision or copy of an existing hero. Mystery Men! seems to capture that pretty well in a much more simplified format. It also seems to give you options to grow your character over time - a big plus for an ongoing campaign.

I've also always enjoyed the random character creation in your typical FRPG (D&D Traveller, etc), but I've always been a bit apprehensive about that process in a heroes game.

So I'm in the process of character creation in both games. I'll post my results later.

For some insight in rolling up Icon characters you can check out Tower of Zenopus recent post.


  1. I've never been into Supers RPG's buy Mystery Men! has me considering it.

  2. Yeah, the more I've been reading through Mystery Men! the more I like how it's written and where it's going.

  3. I'm going to have to give Mystery Men! a read through. Icons didn't do it for me for some reason. (Neither did BASH for that matter.) Our default game is Supers! by Simon Washbourne.

  4. Thanks Narmer, I saw Supers! a while a go. I'll give it another look.

  5. You know I'd be up for a supers game. I may still run a one-shot of DC Heroes soon. You could borrow it if you want to check out the rules, but I think it suffers from being overly crunchy like Champions with its logrithmic scale.

  6. Corey, check out Mystery Men! - it's a free download. Let me know what you think. I like the character build and the (very) simple rules-lite aspect of the game. My brain can't handle too much crunch!

    We can talk about Icons too but, at the moment, I think it has it's issues.

  7. Icons does have a point-buy option. I haven't tried it, because its kind of fun coming up with a concept to match a random set of powers (or try, anyway).

  8. I haven't played with the Icons point-buy option yet but I plan to check it out.

  9. Finally got a chance to look at this post (thanks for the mention BTW) and one of the things that makes ICONS distinctive for me is the random generation. I like the point buy guidelines as a reference when converting something over from another system but I also like the random thing. For point builds Champs will always have a place but I really like M&M 3E/ DC Adventures, and while they aren't free they are very very good IMO.

  10. One of the players in our group picked up DC Heroes and may run a session of that. I've never played it in the past so it might be a fun experience.