Over the weekend, Erik, of Midnight's Lair, and I were treated to a three-hour demo of the new iteration of Villains & Vigilantes - currently being Kickstarted as Villains & Vigilantes 3.0: Mighty Protectors - by the game's co-creator Jeff Dee.
Via Skype, and using Google docs for our form-fillable character-sheets, Jeff took us through character creation before we staged a comic book-style "heroes meet each other and fight before realising they're on the same side" duel.
Check out my character sheet, at the top of this article, for Jumbay, the bored CEO of a large agrochemicals company, who has used her wealth to turn herself into a superhero just for the heck of it. She wants to be the Caribbean equivalent of Batman or Black Panther, but has a way to go yet.
Erik's character, Freeze Frame, is down below.
Whereas before, when random rolling a power you played it "as written" or houseruled something with your gamesmaster if you had an idea of how to tweak it, now there are rules for modifying powers and giving yourself various options.
Randomisation still plays a large part in the system. If you want it to. Or you can use the random elements simply for inspiration.
The Mighty Protectors has a very modular feel to it, allowing players and gamesmasters to pick-and-choose the elements they are comfortable with using at their table.
A streamlining of the rules means gone are some of the clunkier maths elements (such as the iconic 'carrying capacity' calculation and the hit point formula) and Dungeons & Dragons-throwbacks like the combat table (combat rolls are now, essentially, a d20 roll under your 'to hit' score, modified by your targets defence) and keeping track of every dollar your character earns (there's now a 'wealth mechanic').
There's still maths involved in character creation, although if you use one of the official character character sheets the spreadsheet will do all that for you (modern technology, eh?).
However, as far as I could tell, all the heavy-lifting is front-loaded so that - once you have your character in hand - playing the game (based on the mock combat Erik and I had) runs fast and smooth.
Even in this quick demo, we were introduced to a number of very clever and innovative new rules, from the vehicle construction system that Jeff is rightfully proud of, to various different uses of a character's "power points" (from "pushing" your abilities to "rolling with" saves), the use of "mass dice" to resist knockback, gadget creation, character motivation, and so on.
All of these little touches were elegant and very intuitive; several times I caught myself thinking "how come we didn't come up with this as a houserule back in the day?"
When it comes to old V&V, I've recently been categorising its complexity as almost a mid-point between the simplicity of Icons and the heavy crunch of Champions or Mutants & Masterminds, but leaning towards Icons.
For me, Mighty Protectors has now shifted that slightly towards Mutants & Masterminds, but the added levels of complexity serve to add mechanical depth and detail to characters, without overloading them with unnecessary stats that require constant rule book consultation during a game.
While I believe ninety-nine per cent of the rules are set in stone by now, some are still in flux, so Erik and I weren't able to see a copy of the rules. But then again, at this pre-publication stage, I don't think it's really my place to be sharing too many specifics about the rules' updates anyway.
However, this is definitely a game for the 21st Century, bringing modern tastes and sensibilities (honed over decades of working on this classic system) to Villains & Vigilantes' campaigns, while retaining the game's classic old school feel.
I hope that I can be as eloquent as Jeff when it comes to talking the Tuesday Knights through the process of character construction, but all being well (this is a superhero game after all) I should only have to do that once!
And yes, as you can probably imagine, for two life-long V&V fans like Erik and myself getting to game with Jeff was akin to playing Dungeons & Dragons with Gary Gygax or Dave Arneson. So we were very honoured and flattered that he would go out of his way to offer us this peek behind the curtain, and take the time to demo Mighty Protectors for us.
The Kickstarter for Villains & Vigilantes 3.0: Mighty Protectors is into its final week, so if you want to get onboard you'd better hurry.