Prepping for a Superhero Game

Currently prepping for an OSR driven Superhero game for my home group using Villains and Vigilantes 2.1e as a chance to really do something different.

What I am doing:

Currently, I’m hashing out the first adventure where the Heroes will clash with a Time Warping Villain seeking to return the Dinosaurs to the world. Weird Silver Age adventure to throw my players head first into a Supers game.

The larger game world is based off of an Earth where the Marvel, DC and MHA Universes are laid overtop of one another due to a Crisis Style event. Heroes like Superman, Steve Rodgers and Allmight could theoretically get a coffee with one another in Gotham (if I wanted to screw with my players like that). The world is certainly Silver Age in style, but with smattering of other Comic Ages to respect other types of heroes that can appear both on the NPC and PC side.

My Question(s):

For those who have either ran V&V or any other OSR Superhero centric rulesets, what are some things to look out for and consider? I know Superhero are out of the norm for traditional OSR rulesets, so it’s in it’s own corner so to speak and with V&V has the option to randomly generate what powers each Hero has access too, so I know that can generate some weirdness between individual players.

Is there any advice that would be good to know given the different style that Supers bring? I’m partially going in blind despite me knowing what I want to do since there can always be a mismatch somewhere.

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Dude no joke several years back I did a Marvel/DC/MHA crossover game as well! I used FASERIP though.

I can’t speak for V&V. In my play report/review for FASERIP (another OSR-esque Supers game based on the old Marvel RPG from the 80’s) I discuss not being especially satisfied with FASERIP, but the things I didn’t love were more specific to FASERIP than stuff that would show up in any other Supers game, and also I think if I had run it as a campaign rather than one-shot I would eventually have developed a deeper understanding.

To my mind, the big thing is to either constrain the degree of variability in power levels, like only street-level characters vs. having Superman, Hawkeye, and Invisible Girl on one team (Toru Hagakure not Susan Storm), or better, designing the scenario so that different power levels don’t matter.

The latter is what I hear less often, but I think is more important. if you write the scenario like D&D, you’re doing it wrong frankly, but that can still work if all the characters are of the same power level. Designing a good Supers scenario is less about the direct threats they face and more about the scale and consequences.

If you do have Superman, Hawkeye, and Toru Hagakure on the same team, maybe you have a hostage situation. Superman can take hits, protect people, super-fast, etc.; but maybe you need an Invisible Girl on the inside or a guy with a bow and arrow ready to snipe the gun out of the villain’s hand.

It’s not about “can they succeed”, it’s about putting them in impossible situations. Of course, they’ll succeed at the task in front of them, they’re superheroes. Can they do it without collateral? What are the costs? What if they have to choose between A and B, knowing the losses for the actions they don’t take?

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Interesting and fair points all around. Funny we are on the same wavelength on the basis of our super worlds.

The big thing V&V that makes it different from say FASERIP or M&M is that it’s basically B/X D&D with Supers (albeit stripped back and rebuilt to reflect the Comics from the B/X era). So DNA wise, its similar to but fairly different in how it pans out (from what I can tell).

Power Level wise, I’m having the players basically start out as street level heroes helping to defend the City of Charlotte, NC. Large enough to attract low level villain’s and organizations while having a couple of NPC heroes around, but not so big that if a Villain pulls something, suddenly half of the Avengers are coming down on their NYC Warehouse.

As the game goes on, the PC will level and gain more strength that way. I haven’t considered the exact power levels that PCs have with respect to NPCs (ie, A newly minted PC vs. say Superman or Allmight). V&V has a leveling system that encourages similarly leveled characters to square off against one another.

Scale and Consequences is something to consider. In the first adventure I have planned, I charted out the consequences/events that occur in the aftermath of their first fight (pictured below) alongside their future fights. As a note, the Sonic Defender mentioned is meant to be the group’s mentor for their first handful of adventures.

Consequences of Encounter 1

Consequences of Encounter 3

I have these written in broad strokes since particular actions in each fight can soften or harden the blow of these consequences. I.E. The PCs could choose to go ham in the middle of the city against the villains, but end up destroying several city blocks versus playing it safe and pushing the Villains into an abandoned area before going all the way with their powers. One would have them shunned by the Public while the other option has them gain respect amongst certain heroes (and villains).

Thank you for your comment, it has given me a fair bit to think on.

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V&V sounds interesting. It’s been on my radar for a long time but for whatever reason, I never checked it out. I’m not sure if it would be my preferred supers game, at this point I’d probably just do an ItO hack or something along those lines, but it seems worth checking out. I had read another more modern OSR Supers game at one point and was not impressed, but that one seemed more so in the vein of 2e (I don’t remember if that was actually the case, but certainly how it “felt”).

It’s not super common afaik to do a Supers game where they power up significantly over time, but there’s no reason why you can’t do that. I think of that as more of a Shonen or general anime/manga thing than a western-style Superhero thing per se, but that doesn’t really matter. And doing it this way is perhaps advantageous for a TTRPG since it gives the players extrinsic motivation (if you believe that’s a good thing which I know some people do not) and also allows you to change things up over time.

These encounters look good to me! I will say though, I think in the case of Encounter 1, the consequences for failing/being defeated could be a little more specific. I’m not saying they have to be more dire, but as presented here it feels more like a strike or a “warning”, which is fine since it’s a first encounter, but I think there can be consequences for failing that are not punishments per se, and are in themselves interesting.

Maybe part of failing means that some innocent bystander gets hurt or killed, and they or a loved one now holds a grudge. Maybe it inadvertently draws the attention of someone else, like a rival hero or rival team, who seek to capitalize on your PCs’ team’s failure. Stuff like that.

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That’s fair, I haven’t taken a too deep of a dive on other hero systems out there outside of Mutants and Masterminds and V&V has just enough bite in its mechanics to allow me to be flexible but have some boundaries to work within. I’m partial to making a Supers Hack using the Black Hack as a basis myself.

From my understanding, from comic to comic, supers often stay close to the same power level they started off with (sans a new super learning their powers). Shonen on the other hand feels like they have an exponentially increasing curve or a curve that has some compounding factor driving it forward they follow with their power ups. Though I noticed MHA is an outlier in that department since there seems to be a steady increase for everyone rather than hard jumps for people.

The consequences is something I thought about once I read your comment, this first adventure (and the couple occurring after) is gonna provide a lot of fodder for the future. I’ll have to mill on what other consequences could occur for the event happening in the first place as well alongside the PCs reacting.

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I just had a random idea after reading a volume of MHA and MHA: Vigilantes. It’s just a kernel of an idea, will mull it over, but it’s for a character / power: “All for Naught”.

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You have my interest and I want to see if this kernel can be nurtured into a larger idea. All for Naught sounds like a nullification kind of Quirk on the surface, but I don’t want to make any assumptions.

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Still percolating but on-face that idea occurred to me as well, but I think it should have a similar kind of weight to it as All for One and One for All. If it were to be a negation power, I’d want to figure out the MHA-style twist or clever touch that makes it something special compared to the various other negation powers that already exist in MHA

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Alrighty, might it be a kind of Quirk that basically turns off a person’s Quirk (or shuts it off for a time), but as a result the User begins to wither away so to speak. A little grey hair forms on their head, their skin wrinkles, aging begins to catch up with them more than a normal individual would experience? Not sure if that drives it towards more of an MHA twist or not.

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That might be reasonable in terms of some of the second-order effects of the powers, but I still think there’s something missing. Like, with All for One and One for All, there’s a sense of lineage. In the case of AfO, he’s absorbing all of these powers of generations, whereas OfA, the powers are being refined and combined and amplified over those generations, but across many individuals.

All for Naught needs to have a similar weight. Maybe the ~20% (and ever-shrinking) percentage of the population who don’t have quirks, actually what’s happening is that their quirks are being banked or blocked or nullified by All for Naught? Like, it’s actually some quirk dimension or negation dimension. Again, this idea is still half-baked.

All for Naught shouldn’t just wipe out quirks or even wipe out life; it should wipe out history and future. In a practical sense, maybe that means that people affected by AfN lose their vigor, their Plus Ultra, their ability to meaningfully impact events. Maybe it means they’re forgotten by history, wiped out, or history itself alters. Maybe they can’t pass on their quirk and their children are always quirkless.

I’m less concerned about the particulars of how AfN works per se, despite that last paragraph- I think once the underlying theme is established, the nature of the quirk will be more immediately apparent. Still just thinking over what exactly that theme should be, but something in the area of legacy and worldly impact, I think.

Another take, not mutually exclusive, is that AfO and OfA are kind of like the epitome of supervillain and superhero respectively, so AfN needs to represent something else. They could be the rejection of the dichotomy, a “neutral” position (imo that’s too obvious though), or they could represent a different kind of archetype altogether (the civilian, the “real” heroes/villains, the writer/artist/creator/historian who influences our perceptions of superhero and supervillain, etc.)

I feel like AfN would work fairly well as a balancing Quirk to the extremes seen in AfO and OfA. I agree AfN should be a neutral type to the main ones.

Part of me things AfN ought to be something that is collectively affecting or a Quirk that acts as a direct “Hey, you two cool it, you are getting to poweful.” ZAP “Both of you are back to your power level 20 years ago. please stop leveling my favorite restaurant.” kind of Quirk.

Another part of me likes your idea of it being a Reality-Warping Quirk where it makes very minor tweaks, but collectively over a long period, it’s VERY apparent what had (or hadn’t) occurred.

Since its a three way crossover with MHA, Marvel and DC. Something I have thought about is the way powers are structured in the world since there are basically three schools of thought (really 2 but each world handles them differently).

For Quirks, part of me is thinking to treat them like Wizards in D&D. This being a Quirk user often required to exercise and train their abilities and powers to reach their potential. In addition, they generally speacilize in a handful of things based off their Quirk. An example would be Shoto or Bakugo.

In another category will exist the Supers or Naturals, Individuals who are more or less sorcerers in D&D terms. They have instant access and control of their powers (relatively speaking) in comparison to Quirk Users. They don’t need to do as much training, but they also have access to a wider range of powers and abilities. An example would be Superman or Batman.

In a similar stroke, Vigilantes and Non-Powered types of folk would be the Martial type classes (particularly Fighters and Rogues). This being that they either don’t have the training that Quirk-Users or Naturals have, or don’t have powers at all and have to constantly punch above their weight or plan as extensively as they can. An example would be Robin or Cyborg (though the latter would be a super but his backstory from the 2003 Teen Titans indicates a more grounded story).

What do you think of this? Good way to internalize this in the world or should I expand or retract the categories?

Hmm… I have not yet read V&V so I can only go off of what you’ve provided and how you’ve described it up to this point. Personally, I would forego trying to map powers or archetypes to D&D-style classes altogether, but that may not be feasible given how V&V is structured, or may simply not be your preference.

I also don’t know if I would make a meaningful distinction between Quirks and other kinds of Superpowers necessarily, or if I did, I don’t think it would be one-to-one like that. But it also depends on how distinct you want to keep each “setting”, even if they’re all in a shared universe. If anything, I would probably lump Quirks and Mutants together and maybe even just arbitrarily (or actually probably not so arbitrarily…) make certain DC characters Mutants as well.

Like, does it really make sense to apply your definition of Quirk to All Might or Endeavor? And on the flipside, wouldn’t it be more interesting to apply the analysis that MHA puts into Quirks onto characters like Green Lantern or Cyclops?

Again, maybe this is a personal preference, but I think if we are assuming this is a shared universe which is how I interpreted your original post although I could be misremembering, as opposed to a multiverse, it would be in my opinion much more interesting to play with that rather than play against that. For instance, is this a world like MHA, where it’s basically a near-future where Mutants actually are now the dominant “species”, or is this more like the Marvel Universe? I don’t think you can have MHA Quirks and X-men Mutants in the same universe and not address this, or at least it doesn’t really make sense to me to do so without any other kind of alteration. Yes, I know that there are other kinds of superpowered people in the Marvel Universe and I am more so forgiving (but not perfectly forgiving) of that within that context because superpowers that are idiosyncratic vs. systematic (a new species replacing humanity) is inherently less existentially threatening from the perspective of normal humans. I would be very surprised if the creator of MHA whose name is escaping me at the moment was not cognizant of the concept of Marvel’s X-Men / Mutants when they created MHA, and was not designing the world at least in part as a response to Marvel.

That being said, if it’s a personal preference that you want them to maintain their distinctions even if it stretches “believability”, comics have never exactly tried to be realistic anyway so I don’t think principally there’s anything wrong with that if your players are on board with that, but if I’m being honest, I would personally find that dissatisfying, but again, that’s just me.

Also on a related note, if you are not aware, there actually is an MHA spinoff Manga called MHA: Vigilantes which I would recommend (may already have done so in this thread lol).

Random aside, I was reading this cracked article on the history of horror comics, and they reference a Dracula comic from the 60’s by Dell Comics (DC, if you will :upside_down_face:), and they dunk on it, but actually, you could imagine a modern version of it that looks a little bit more like Batman or Black Panther, and I think that’s actually not a terrible idea. I mean it’s kind of campy to turn Dracula into a more modern-style superhero, but no campier than anything else. I might play with that idea at some point.


And their version of The Wolfman sounds actually rad, like if you mixed Wolverine and James Bond.

I hope this has fallen into the public domain but even if it hasn’t since the underlying properties like Dracula are public domain (I’m pretty sure anyway…), one could recreate something conceptually similar.

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I make these comparisons mainly for my players since their main experience is 5e and I want to make some things translatable enough to understand. Additionally, I want to develop broader categories to help account for the different Power systems that can pop up even within the Universe they come from.

Would Quirks and Mutants be within the same category, more than likely, but at the time of my thought I hadn’t taken the time to account for the Mutants of the X-Men (and my thought was very spur of the moment). But at the same time, the way Heroes like Superman (who have a whole slew of powers due to nearly a century of writing), there ought to be a loose line put down to say that heroes like Superman and All-Might ought to be treated slightly different.

This is a personal preference, but also someone in my group is gonna ask a question related to this and likely partially blindside me smack in the middle of a session when I would want to be focus on running the game and making sure the session is rolling smoothly. So part of this is just me wanting to have something ready but also general basis to try and get a line of logic that hopefully works.

Epic. Campy Characters are always a welcome addition to Supers. Heck, Batman went through a campy phase in the 60s as well as an animated series (Brave and the Bold) that is looked upon fairly highly.

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The brave and the bold cartoon from maybe ten or so years ago is also very good!

Edit: misread your last message; ya I’m not huge necessarily on the actual silver age Batman / Brave and Bold, but I can say that the show was very good.

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The Silver Age is very interesting to look at. I think Brave and the Bold have captured the feeling of the Era pretty well, but also do it’s own thing.

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