Jeremiah McCoy

Geek For Hire

Tag: blog

5 Things Superhero RPG’s Should Have, in my own biased opinion

I have been thinking alot about Superhero RPG’s lately. I am a fan of them and I have been since the TSR Marvel Super Heroes Role Playing Game came out in the 80’s. I went on to run multiple games in multiple systems, but Champions certainly got most of my time. 


I love comics…let me restate that…I LOVE COMICS!


I read a whole bunch of comics. I have been reading them pretty much since I learned how to read. Most of them were superhero stories, so enjoying superhero RPG;s ties into that. I fell off playing the superhero RPG’s about a decade ago. Over time as the design sensibilities of RPG’s  moved on, but a lot of the superhero games did not follow those changes. There have been a couple of major games developed since I stopped running them, so maybe they caught up.

I recently started watching Calisto6 rpg streams. It is a superhero game set in a cyberpunk future, using the Cypher system, and involving the players from the Star Trek RPG stream, Shields of Tomorrow. They are doing a good job with the games and it has refreshed my desire to make a good superhero RPG of my own.


With that in mind, here are some design guidelines I would use and look for in a superhero RPG.


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Honor Among Thieves

Honor Among Thieves

They say there is no honor among thieves.  That is probably true, but there are rules. There are societies, crews and of course guilds. I have written up a few guilds and there are plenty of others to draw on, but it can be hard for some folks to figure out how to use them.

The easiest use of course is adversaries. They steal the PC’s stuff and the PC’s have to get it back.  Either that, or they beat the PC’s to the loot. That is fine but is not always the most compelling answer. Many players are into the whole idea of playing criminals. There is something to the appeal of crime stories. There is a reason why we keep seeing heist films getting made. Gangster flicks are iconic and Robin Hood is an enduring legend. Criminal societies make good stories.

The problem is, not everyone knows how to translate that kind of story to table top. If you will permit, I will offer some advice on that point.

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The Plan 2018 Edition

So….new year.  Last year was not great on so may levels. It was a bad year.  It gets no biscuit. Now we begin a new year with a new plan.  The plans may go off the rails, but you got to start somewhere. A plan is not a resolution. A plan is structure of activities and goals.  Here is my plan for 2018.

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Rules For Spell Books (Or how I learned to relax and hang out in libraries)

I think I have established I love spell books.  The spell book is an integral part of the wizardry motif.  The book, the object, is a needed part of what wizards do in D&D. The current rules do require you to record your spells, but I do think it could be even more emphasized.

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Spell Books of Infamy


I love spell books.  I did a video about them and everything.  They are fascinating elements to magic in fantasy.  Wizards are supposed to be wise. They got that way because of what they learned. None of that is cutting deals with powers, thank you very much.  I am looking at you Warlocks. Books are where you store that knowledge.

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More Scifi fifth edition, with more background

First post of the new year, and it isn’t a resolutions post?  What silliness is this? Nope, I am going to post another in my series on doing a scifi game in 5e. The first post can be found here.


Where was I? Ah, Backgrounds.


Backgrounds are awesome. It is one of the most interesting aspects to 5th editions is the idea of backgrounds. It adds more depth than just class and race. It adds variety to characters, flavor, and themes. Things like it had existed before, of course. In 2nd edition, there were the kits, which sort of tied to a background, and also added some subclass like features.

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SciFi 5th edition experiment part 3 fun with Aliens

A few things.  First, you can find my earlier posts on this Science Fiction 5e thread here, and here.

Second, let me know if you like these.  I will keep writing them if people are getting anything out of them.

Third, sorry it took a day or two longer to get this out.  Writing races is not as exciting and writing classes. I also had some other issues going on, but real life is like that some times. I did briefly consider doing my own artwork for these, but remembered I am not a great artist.


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Science Fiction Game in 5th edition part 2 The Problems of Setting

So, I started out with the notion of making a 5th edition Scifi game. This was spurred by the idea of exploring what you can do with the 5th edition system framework.  All fun and games, until you realize how much work it can be.  Oh well, we continue the madness.

The problems with setting

The question of game design is one of experience.  What stories are the players going to have here? What experiences do you want them to have?  The original role-playing games, proto-D&D and its ilk, were extensions of war games.  They were changed because the players wanted a different experience from what they were finding in the wargames. The rules grew out of that desire for a new experience.

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Why WordPress?

Why WordPress?

Because I am lazy.

Not really, but it sounded funny. Let me explain.WordPress_logo.svg

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Marvel Super Heroes RPG

I am a fan of superhero RPG’s. I have since the first Marvel Superheroes RPG came out. I have played, or run, most of them, and I buy and read almost all of them. I learned to love comics at an early age and the combination of comic book superheroes and gaming is my heroin.

So, of course, I bought the new Marvel Superhero Game. It is a game written by some really quality people, and I am a big marvel comics fan. While I am a big Hero system fan, I am always looking for new systems to run a superhero game in.

The system as it stands has a lot going for it. It uses cortex plus as a base. You have variable die types based on how skilled you are. Yes, you roll a small handful of dice, but not as many as some games and I like rolling a handful anyway. The doom pool as the opposing currency against the pc’s plot dice is a wonderful addition. Overall the system encourages you to role play, to change up how your character does things and keeps things dynamic.


There is a problem. There really isn’t a way to make your own hero. There is a system in place, that is intended to be used to recreate a character which exists in the comics. The system could be used to make the character of your creation, but the guidance available there is sparse at best. The overall conclusion is they would really prefer you play an existing character.

This mystifies me a bit. One of the core experiences in any RPG is making your own character. I would love to play in the marvel universe, to fight sentinels or doctor doom. I would love to have characters run into Spiderman and Captain America. I would not want to be Spiderman or Captain America. There are some who would want to play them, and it is good that you allow for that, but I would think that is the exception, and not the rule in the gaming market. I would be satisfied if they would even announce an advanced version or a supplement or the like to help you make characters, but that does not appear to be the case. The lack or formal system for character creation is not an oversight. The little system they do have amounts to “wing it” within a certain loose set of parameters.

Ironically, one of the most memorable portion of the Marvel Superheroes RPG that TSR put out, was the character creation system. It was random, and in no way balanced, but it was always memorable, especially if you used the Ultimate Powers book.

The actual game play portion of the system is nice. It doesn’t blow me away, but it is solid. There is a strong influence of narrative style games. They do a good job of systemizing the sort of tweaks good GM’s would do anyway, but sometimes not evenly. Unfortunately, I find it hard to picture it a game that my players would want to play. The lack of full character creation rules is daunting. In no way is playing an existing hero compelling to me, and I imagine my players will feel the same. It is just hard to invest in a character you are not creating. Spiderman is never going to be an extension of me, or my creativity, so I will be less invested in him as a player. As a reader, I love him, and the only time I want to play him is in a video game, which is very much a different experience. Given that problem, I have hard time recommending the new Marvel Superhero RPG as a good superhero game. It could have been an awesome one based on the mechanics they do have, but without a good character creation system, it feels very incomplete. Perhaps future books will do a better job of giving more guidance on making your own adventures and heroes. It is not for a lack of skill on the designers part or a lack of inventive systems.

Worry not though, if you wish to have your good system, and even a token effort to make the characters of your own, then my friend Stephen Cheney, has kit bashed a point based character creation system which can be found here. That bit of rules mod might make a real difference. Despite my concerns about the lack of strong character creation in the system, I will be asking around to see if anyone wants to give the game a shot. There is enough there that I am still interested in where they are going. I just don’t think this is a point they should stop at.

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