Friday, November 13, 2015

My Top Supers RPGs

I've been thinking lately about a supers campaign. I've always been a fan of the genre, but I've never gotten more than one or two sessions to work for me as a GM. I believe that, in general, a supers game needs a good amount of prep—maybe more than other games—and that's my weakest point as a Game Master. I'm now taking a long view and really planning a future campaign. That said, because of my interest in the genre, I've read and played a lot of these games. I've narrowed it down to three go-to games. I'll present them here, along with some thoughts on their strengths.

Traditional: Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion (Second Edition)

Honestly I hate the word "traditional" as a descriptor for RPGs because the word feels like implies "right," which is not my intention here. In this case when I think of a traditional supers RPG, I think of Champions. Sure Villains and Vigilantes came first, but I believe Champions is what propelled the format forward. I also believe that Mutants & Masterminds improved on Champions, and that it's from this formula that the Super Powers Companion (henceforth SPC) was formed.

My favorite feature of the SPC was an option in the first edition and rightly made the default assumption in the second edition—static power level. I believe that (and correct me if I'm wrong) the SPC is the first supers system that maintains a constant power level for supers, while still allowing characters to improve in other areas, like skills, Edges, etc. I believe this is the best "happy accident" of the modularity of Savage Worlds, as it feels closest to the comics I grew up with.

Another thing I love about the SPC is a benefit of Savage Worlds, in general, and that's the ability to play with the dials of grittiness and lethality, among many others. And speaking of modularity, the SPC was designed to have cross-compatibilty with the Savage Worlds Science Fiction Companion, opening up two more common comic book tropes to the game, aliens (ex: Guardians of the Galaxy) and futuristic supers stories (ex: Legion of Super Heroes).

Narrative: Prowlers & Paragons

Another term with a lot of baggage in the RPG world, in this case by "narrative," I'm referring to the word's literal definition, rather than the infamous descriptor born out of GNS theory.

Prowlers & Paragons (henceforth P&P) is interesting to me because it's literally more of a conversation and really pulls back from the crunchiness of the aforementioned traditional supers games. It's also a great use of dice outcomes being used to confer narrative control, rather than effects. I'm told there will be a more "in depth" version of P&P released down the road, and it's my hope they tread lightly, being careful not to lose what makes this game so compelling. The only drawback I see with this game is that it's niche in terms of the type of group who will excel at and enjoy playing it.

Honorable Mention: Worlds In Peril

Pick-Up: ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying: The Assembled Edition

You can literally make characters and play a scenario of ICONS in the same sitting, only losing 15-20 minutes of a typical session. Some people chafe at random character generation, but ICONS mitigates this with a series of on-the-fly options that come up during creation. I've built lots of characters, and I've never had a problem coming up with something fun and playable. The powers list for this game is short but can be made more in-depth with the addition of the Great Power supplement. There's also a simple option for a point buy build, if you're into that sort of thing... Honestly I think ICONS is plenty robust for most applications, in addition to being a great pick-up game, I think it would serve as a great compromise between the SPC and P&P.

Honorable Mention: Fate Accelerated Edition, Venture City Stories (for Fate Core)

So tell me about your supers favorites? Do you have just one or do you have different games for different applications like me?