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.
As is often the case, I was inspired by a friend’s work. My pal Greg over on his blog wrote up a barbarian build for the Urban Arcana Unearthed Arcana article….. Wow, that a repetitive sounding sentence. That phrase almost counts as alliteration. That should totally be a comic book phrase. I should find that as the title of a book in Dr. Strange’s library.
Anyway, where was I?
Anyway, his build was for a city tied barbarian pulling on the spirit of a neighborhood. It felt very Luke Cage adjacent. When I commented such, he admitted he was inspired by that Netflix show. I hardily approve of that inspiration. I am a huge comic book nerd and I am contractually obligated to at least try out all comic book shows. Luke Cage is excellent and talks not only about his being a superhero but how he is connected to Harlem. If you have not watched that show, you should go do that now. I am willing to wait. While you are at it, watch the rest of the Netflix Marvel shows, even Iron Fist.
We will check back here in about a week.
Oh good, you came back. It was good, right?
Anyway, given that inspiration I decided I would do my own modern-day character build inspired by those shows. With that in mind, I present you the Vigilante. While not precisely any one superhero, you can see a few different ones inspiring it.
Vigilante Rogue Archetype.
The vigilante is someone who can no longer stand by and let the powerful make victims of us all. Perhaps it was a tragedy in the Vigilante’s past, the loss of a parent or lover, that made them step beyond what the law can do? Maybe they are people who have the power and feel the responsibility to do more? Whatever the cause, the Vigilante patrols the night using their skills bringing justice to those who believe themselves beyond its reach.
You gain proficiency with the disguise kit and the tinkerers’ kit.
The Take Down:
Starting at 3rd level, you can declare you are taking down a target. If they have not taken an action or you are hidden, you have advantage on your first attack. If you succeed, the target makes a constitution save (DC is 8+ your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier) or be rendered unconscious for 1 minute. This effect can only be used on humanoid or human like targets. It does not work on the undead. You still get the advantage on rolls, however.
At Home in the Shadows:
Starting at 9th level, you gain advantage on all stealth checks made in the dark. You also make perception checks without penalty in even total darkness.
At the 13th level, you begin making your own devices to fight crime. These devices use charges, and you have 8+ your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier charges per long rest.
Flashbang: This takes a standard action and produces single blast of light and sound within 60ft of you. The people in a 20 ft radius must make a wisdom save (DC is 8+ your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier) or be subject to the blinded condition for one turn. Does not affect constructs. Charges Cost: 3
Grapnel: You fire a line which is used to move you across the city. Takes a standard move action but moves you up to 60ft, including vertically. You must have a stable stop point at the end, though it can be used as a reaction to falling. Charges Cost: 1
Door Opener: Standard action to use. You can place on any door or wall and it does 10d6 to the target, and will usually cause the door to open even if it survives the blast. It does not do so quietly, and makes a loud boom that could heard by anyone near. It cannot be used on moving or living targets. Charges: 2
Stunners: You can hit a target up to 30ft away with a successful ranged attack role. If you do, that target is stunned for one round. Charges Cost: 1
Tracers: You make a ranged attack. If you succeed, the target is tagged without their knowledge, with a tracer you can follow up to ten miles away. Charges Cost: 1
Smoke: You can generate an area obscured by black smoke within 60ft and fills the area of a 20ft radius. This obscures line of sight for anyone except you. Charges Cost: 2
Swinging into Action:
Starting at the 17th level, your movement is your weapon. In a fight, you are able to pick a point on the battlefield within 60ft of you and, as long as there is a clear line of sight to it, you can reach it without tests or incurring opportunity attacks. As a free action per move, you may make a stealth check to hide, even if it is in plane sight.
Notes: This was written to be compatible with a modern Urban Arcana setting but there is no reason it can’t work in other settings. This would work in Eberron and even Forgotten Realms or Tal Dorei with a touch of flavor tweaking.
It is that time again. Time for another round-up of comic book shows..
Let’s start with Gotham. It still feels like the show is rushing along too fast. We have full on supervillains all over the place. The Riddler is exposed, complete with his signature question mark, and promptly arrested. He may not be sporting the outfit, but his basic motif is there. Same with the Penguin, who goes back to his villainous ways. Dinner with Cobblepot is the reality show no one is asking for. If anything, he is more brutal than ever. This would be great if Batman existed yet, but at this point it all feels rushed.
Supergirl was a bit overstuffed this week. Too many balls in the air. They offhandedly introduced Maxima, and then moved on. Myriad is on line, Non(the low rent Zod) shows up, people are thrown off buildings to get the classics superhero choice moment, Indigo shows up(presumably to vamp), and there is the cliffhanger ending. The show definitely didn’t take time to let things breathe. Maxwell Lord shows up and make choices that they laid little foundation for. The show has been a mix of wonderful, and ham handed all season. All of that said, I still enjoyed the season finale.
Agents of Shield was fine. This is a transitional episode through most of it. The episode did not seem to be set for much action, but giving us insight to various character backgrounds. Malik’s a bad guy, but like most bad guys, he doesn’t see himself that way. We are given a bit of bait and switch on how the episode was going for him. The new Hive/Grant Ward bad guy is bad at villainy. He has the whole cruelty thing down, but he has overestimated the value of fear. Some things trump fear. Also, fear can lead to irrational panic. He is way too arrogant. The cliffhanger ending does not look like it will end well for our heroes. Next episode should be interesting. We get our full on Secret Warriors group rolling. Not quite avengers assemble, but it should still be fun.
Lucifer was largely a crap episode until the last 15 minutes. I am so bored by the mystery solving aspects of this show. The bits I do like are the parts where it gets weird and supernatural. After a few solid episodes, this one was merely okay. I didn’t hate it, but I couldn’t find anything interesting to say about it.
Legends of Tomorrow was a fun western romp. Hanging out in 1877 in disguise goes about as well as you might expect.
Staring down an evil cowboy….Check.
A bunch of modern city kids knowing how ride a horse….Check?
Discussion of impact on history trumped by doing the correct thing….Check?…Sort of.
Jonah Freaking Hex!!!!!….Check!
I am a little sad we didn’t get more of the classic DC Western Heroes, and there were a few bits I wish had been better, but it was a fun episode.
iZombie is one of my favorite shows ever. The two part finale delivered on the promise of the season. The various people have had arcs. The bad guys are really terrible. They brought poor Rob Thomas into this. They saved they full on zombie apocalypse for the end. High body count and jokes galore. They maintain a sense of humor without losing the stakes. That is the genius of this show. It is a fun and humourous show, but still manages to maintain the darkness. There is an innate reality to the motivations of the characters, and the humor that is there is largely incidental. There are of course a range of in jokes, as well. The whole Rob Thomas thing is there because the head of the show is also naled Rob Thomas.
The next season looks like it will be interesting. The finale clears out one problem, and sets up the problems of next season. No spoilers, but it is a nice reveal at the end.
Next week is the return of Arrow and Flash. I look forward to seeing how they round out the season on both shows.
It has been a few weeks since I last did one of these, so I may run a bit longer than some of my previous round ups. Why so long between postings? Well, Daredevil dropped, and Batman V Superman, plus I had some health issues. It was hard to keep up. Also, I didn’t want to talk about Daredevil till I watched the whole run.
Let’s start with the ones I watch all the time.
Lucifer was a solid episode. The story around the divine elements were the focus and the murder mystery was the background mystery this time. I sort of saw through the overall plot in last episode, but the execution was well done, so I don’t mind the telegraphing.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are back. It was a solid if not a really inspired episode. I would like it to shake things up and make interesting choices. Instead, it seems to be drifting on the formula it has. Not a bad formula, but I am not as excited by it.
Gotham was okay. Didn’t blow me away, and it had some nice bits, but it did feel like some wasted opportunities.Hugo Strange is shaping up nicely into a scenery-chewing bad guy. It is nice seeing Bruce getting an edge to him, but he is still a bit off.
Legends of Tomorrow was one of the best episodes they have had. It felt a lot tighter. The 50’s was an interesting choice, because it is the first time where they were showing not only people dressing differently, but actually living in a different world view. They dealt with some of the suckier parts of going back in our country’s past, but not just doing a morality play. They were complications and realities of the era the story is set in, but the story wasn’t about those problems.
I need to catch up on my Surpergirl. I am a few weeks behind on that one.