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MORTAL ENGINES (December 22, 2018)

Saturday, 26 May 2018

#RPG Returning To My Roots By A Very Roundabout Route...


Erik was right. Truth & Justice didn't quite scratch my superhero gaming itch as I'd hoped, but it did get me thinking more about what I was after from a roleplaying game.

And I kept coming back to the supers system I grew up playing: second edition Villains & Vigilantes.

It was the system that birthed HeroPress, gave me the Acrobatic Flea, and that (thanks to Steve's tireless gamesmastering) we had the most fun with back in the day.

When we could devote hours, if not days and weeks, to gaming... and the real life demands of adulting were as distant and fictional for us as the very superheroic adventures we were playing.

That's when it struck me that I shouldn't be hunting for some 'holy grail' that suited all my needs, but, instead, be looking for ways to adapt a game I know and love to our current style of gaming.

These days my current circle of gaming friends (aka The Tuesday Knights) don't have the hours to dedicate to gaming that we had when we were teens.

Instead, we meet for just three hours, once a month, to get our game on.

So, everything that can slow a game down needs to go... or be adapted.

Looking back, second edition Villains & Vigilantes, by Jack Herman and Jeff Dee, was as close to the perfect superhero roleplaying system as you could get.

Where it scores above pretty much all other games - especially those that rely on point-build systems - is that if you are emulating comics (and now TV and movies) not all superheroes are created equal.

V&V was upfront about this and admitted that it didn't care. It was all about the roleplaying - not about balancing spreadsheets.

And I loved it for that.

However, the main problem I've always had with V&V was its reliance on a combat table. Even when I was playing Dungeons & Dragons as a kid I had an issue with combat tables.

They're a throwback to the hobby's more sedate wargames' roots, best suited for games that are all about the combat, measuring distances with tape measures, and moving blocks of miniatures around a terrain-covered table.

I know this will be regarded as heretical by a lot of hardcore, old school V&V fans who feel the "power versus power" detail of the table is the beating heart of the system.

Personally, I prefer a simple formula (e.g. dice roll plus attack skill to beat defence skill) for fast and furious fight scenes, that don't require frequent flicking through rule books to decide if an attack has landed.

Sure, by equalising all the powers in this manner, I'll lose some of the refinement and elegance that fans perceive in the old system, but the game will move faster... and time is the Tuesday Knights' enemy.

This means the first change I'd make would be to reduce combat resolution to a formula, rather than relying on a table.

Secondly, taking a lead from Mutants & Masterminds, I'd eliminate the Dungeons & Dragons-style "level progression".

I'd still use "levels" - as they're important for combat and powers - but in a very set, static way (as I understand M&M to be): so, off the top of my head, Joe Q Public would be level one, goons - level two, trained police/soldiers - level four, street-level heroes - level five, standard superheroes - level seven, veteran heroes - level 12, cosmic superheroes - level 18 etc

Not only do I think this is a very simple, yet structured, approach to differentiating power levels of superheroes, it gets rid of the slow-crawl of level progression.

Again, this is fine when you've got the time to dedicate to a campaign, but with the limited hours the Tuesday Knights' schedule allows for gaming we don't want to be fighting bank robbers and mobsters for several years before the characters are tough enough to face an actual supervillain.

And that's the only two major changes I'd make to second edition for a Tuesday Knights' campaign (except probably throw in a few houserules from back in the day, such as 'killing damage', which we adapted from Champions).

Now, you may be asking yourself, why doesn't he just use a more modern iteration of Villains & Vigilantes?

For me - and this is purely personal taste and how I see them working with our current gaming set-up, not a general criticism on the games - the third edition of Villains & Vigilantes (aka The Mighty Protectors) has veered too far into the crunch-heavy aspects of Mutants & Masterminds/Champions/Silver Age Sentinels, and what little I know about the new edition that Fantasy Games Unlimited is working on suggests it's leaning more towards roleplaying's Dungeons & Dragons roots.

When in doubt, always return to first principles... and the foundation of my superhero gaming life has always been the second edition of Villains & Vigilantes.

Why keep looking when what you wanted was on your shelf the whole time?

Barking Alien's Adam Dickstein recently said the following of his own campaign 'breakthrough' that says how I'm feeling now (but in a far more poetic way than I ever could):
"It's like I've discovered a door in a house I've lived in for many years that I've never seen before. Upon opening this door, I see an entirely new floor, with dozens and dozens of rooms that seem familiar though I've clearly never visited them. I can not wait to investigate further!"

2 comments:

  1. Love V&V and it too was the supers game of my youth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I try not to have regrets, but every so often I kick myself for straying away from V&V in pursuit of a - possibly - non-existent 'holy grail' of gaming.

      It should have dawned on me that we got the most fun from this system, and therefore there was clearly something in it ;)

      Delete

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MORTAL ENGINES (December 22)