I have to admit, I haven’t played a Supers RPG in a very long time. I’ve picked up some of the more current ones to read, like Champions and Mutants & Masterminds, and I’ve enjoyed them. But without getting to play them I can’t really call them my favourites.
No, my favourite is actually a tie between two much older Supers box-sets (ask your parents): TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes, and Villains & Vigilantes from Fantasy Games Unlimited. I loved them both because they were easy to play, didn’t require a lot of fuss to get started, and were hours of fun. And we played them both in true, episodic comic book fashion, so there was no agonizing over campaign arcs or long-running plots. Often, we used them as a break in our more extensive D&D campaigns, just for a change of pace.
Why is it a tie? While each being equally fun to play, each also had something the other lacked. Marvel Super Heroes came with a metric buttload of pre-made heroes from the Marvel Universe, which made it easy to just pick-up and play. But making your own characters, while technically possible, was not the greatest. Once you started “making the sausage yourself” it became quite obvious that powers were not balanced between each other. As well, if you were an avid comic reader, there were few surprises since all of the published material was based on or featured Marvel comic villains and plots.
Conversely, Villains & Vigilantes had a comparatively robust character generation system, and indeed we would often spend whole evenings just generating superheroes (which came in handy later, given our character mortality rates). And because V&V wasn’t working off of any known comic book properties, we could be genuinely surprised by the villains. But there wasn’t as much support for V&V, so more often than not we played a hybrid of the two games using V&V characters and mechanics in Marvel Super Heroes adventures.
Both systems have since had reboots. Marvel Super Heroes was most recently published by Margaret Weis Productions, though no longer in print. And Villains & Vigilantes is now being published by Monkey House Games, run by the game’s creators, Jeff Dee and Jack Herman. Seems to be some legal wrangling going on over copyright, but it looks like it is mostly resolved at this point.
So what’s your favourite Supers RPG? Let’s discuss!