Counter Monkey – The Trouble with Superheroes

The Spoony One | Sep 24 2012 | more notation(s) | 

Hey Cyclops, what do you do this round?

Hey, it’s not a very good episode, but it gets better!

  • Ryan Gilmartin


    the Character advancement tables gargled balls in Mutants and Masterminds. That and the fact that my friend made an unhittable character at base level. It took away all tension.

  • Brian Webber

    I loved the old TSR Marvel game! Only game I ever GM’ed for. Didn’t do a very good job of keeping my players in check though. I allowed one of them to get away with a Power Stunt that literally melted the Juggernaut. Not kidding. Of course, it was my first time as a GM as opposed to a player, AND I was like 12 or 13 at the time.

    Actually,. no that’s still not a good excuse. I let him melt the fucking Juggernaut! What is even the hell?

  • CosmicKirby

    The Poolboy sounds like something from Mystery Men. Actually better then most of the heros in that movie.

    Also, City of Heroes is on the way out at the moment. DC Universe has kind of taken its place.

  • Totem of Low Bap

    Don’t be so hard on yourself.
    Everyone’s allowed to botch a v-log every now and then…

    • Gborr

      It’s fine, but you know what would have been better? Editing. As in, no one says V-logs are supposed to be made in a single long clip. This entire video could have been salvaged by simply having him actually look up shit he wasn’t sure about at the middle of the video and then cutting that segment in post so that we could jump to the relevant point instead of Noah agonizing and repeating himself over and over.
      Still, it was interesting in its own, slightly rambling way, so no harm done. :P

      • Faust

        Yeah, he could have just edited this out, instead of typing over it…even a funny cut scene… while he typed over it… hell anything.

    • Pedro Freitas

      As long he doesnt do it again i’m ok with it.

      • Sylver Solis

        It’s his V-log, can do whatever he wants with it. Who cares what you want or think.

        • Atmos_Duality

          Yeah, it’s his vlog. And he can do whatever he wants with it.
          And he chose to publish it.
          Which means it’s subject to criticism.

        • Pedro Freitas

          I do.

  • David Roop

    The Magic section in the Heroes Unlimited book looked exactly like the Magic the Gathering logo, lol

  • exploda

    I love how Oreo immediately turns her head towards the camera when Spoony says “heightened sense of smell” She’s like damn right!

  • Robert Wolke

    Savage Worlds does have a “Superhero”-Setting called Necessary Evil. Basically all Superheroes died in an Alien Invasion and the Villains have to sort things out in Order to have a world to rule.

    I haven’t played that setting yet, but I really like the system (so far)

  • Arne Maes

    Hahaha Spoony you tease, abrupt cutaway much? :p

  • Scott Muir

    1. When playing a superhero game, you’re never limited to doing just one thing when dealing with a situation. There are often ways of handling the situation without just repetatively using your power over and over again, and even if you do use your power, there are creative ways of using them to enhance their effect. A good set of players should never just be repeating “I shoot it with my eye beams” over and over again.

    2. As far as Marvel Superheroes character creation, we always felt that the “roll up method” was too limited. We turned character creation into more of a social back and forth with the GM. As a GM, I would sit with the player and he would describe to me his idea for a character. I had a list of questions to ask him about his character, many, pulled from various “measuring stick” tables in the Judge’s Handbook. I would translate the character into stats using those tables and moderate and adjust things if I thought that the players character would be too powerful or wouldn’t fit the campaign. This is VERY doable and is very easy to do given those measuring stick charts. This ensured that everyone played a character that they liked.

    A superhero game can have surprising depth to it and should NEVER be repetitive. Each fight should never be the same moves over and over again. That shows lack of imagination on both the players and GM’s part. I ran a Marvel Superheroes campaign for 10 years straight and we never had a fight get handled like Spoony describes.

    • Arne Maes

      Yeah, exactly what I was thinking, an Aquaman-style hero and a psychic character could complement eachother perfectly; in a landlocked battle the psychic character could have an orb of water floating around with ‘Aquaman’ floating around in it .
      Now the plan: the rest of the party needs to trap the villain in this orb and then go on perimeter defense around the orb, ‘Aquaman’ just needs to grab the guy and if he can’t breathe underwater hold him there for a couple of minutes, even if that fails you’ll hurt the guy on your home-surf (pun intended). A lot better than having no powers in every battle not around the ocean.

  • George Turner

    Super heroes themed games are just not my cup of tea, so yeah… For me this episode was okay at best. Better than nothing though!

  • UmmonTL

    Well I’m glad Spoony admitted that he completely shat himself in the middle of that video. :D
    I would love to know if he prepared what he wanted to talk about there and forgot or if he just sits down in front of the camera and starts talking.
    Anyway, with Superheroes or basically any system with inherently unbalanced characters the roleplaying becomes much more important. Cyclops is AFAIK also a tactical leader but if your team just does whatever they want or you can’t convincingly order the others around you won’t be able to play that character. And the GM has to actively include elements in the campaign that play to the various characters strengths. If there is an Aquaman in the party, the Villian has a giant Fishtank in his office wall, a Piranha tank he throws people in or a sprinkler system the heroes can set off. Something that allows the water powers to be used.
    Also I have played a wheelman-style character before in a homebrew system made by a friend where you played modern day mercenaries. What I did was invest a lot of my characters starting value into contacts to an international car & weapon smuggling ring so as long as I could get the cash together I had a car and weapons ready. Also I could pretty much hotwire any vehicle I could get my hands on and knew how to handle explosives. In a normal fight I would just spray and pray or hurl grenades everywhere but in Infiltration missions I would willingly stay behind. Because in 90% of these missions the GM has a trap prepared or someone fucks up and triggers an alarm. And that’s when I run a car loaded with C4 into the place and light it up like a christmas tree. Island base? I strap a motorcycle on my boat, grab a bag of grenades and ride through that base on wings of fire. When in doubt, blow shit up and worry about anything else later.

  • Emil Petrunov

    I guess you could say that your Poolboy was… a watered down version of Aquaman? *puts on sunglasses* YEEEEEEEEEEEEEAH!

  • Vaughan MacDonald

    I find when me and my friends play a game we tend to be absolute assholes to each other. Best example I can give was when our thief botched his lock picking so we used the paladin as a battering ram. I remember this one super hero game we played, just to try it out, where we had a tech guy (A Technomancer I think he was called?? I don’t remember what game this was in) and we needed him to blow open a door but he kept fucking it up. So our strongest team member pulled the pins on all his grenades and threw him against the wall. Messy way to die, but hey, it worked :D

  • Cameron Berko

    Oh man, I loved playing with my old copy of Advanced Marvel Super Heroes, and the Ultimate Powers book. I’d just sit around rolling up random characters, and hoping for an awesome one. My worst hero had to be ‘The Vibrator'; he had really low power Vibration, and Hypersensitive Touch.

  • Jarek Chaddick

    Funny you should mention it.There is a PVP system where you just
    straight become an Iconic character and duke it out with others and DC
    online does actually have a system in place where you can directly copy
    one of their famous super-heroes/villains from the character creation
    screen. You get a very close costume to theirs along with the
    appropriate fighting style and powers ect. So you can roll a Batman
    clone and fight with batman as your main guy. You want to be part of the
    Green Lanterns, boom, green lantern.

    I’ve heard the complaint
    about not being the “Main Man” before and i can see where you’re coming
    from, but as you kind of mention there is no real way to get around it. I
    can only say that this extends into the entire MMO genre as a rule.
    Sure you killed the big bad demon about to destroy the world, but not
    “really”. It seems like every new MMO tries its darnedest to make the
    story more “personal” in lue with “the world revolves around the
    protagonist” view of most solo titles. Even to that end, most mmo’s will
    have notable characters or centralized leaders of playable factions,
    who will generally be an ass kicker of epic proportions that will smash
    your guy. Still, I’m sure you can see that its also the game’s boon.

    “Why not play city of Heroes/other super hero MMO instead?”.

    this is the legit stuff that people have been wanting from the
    beginning. Not only do i get to play an MMO with Superman in it but i
    get to play it with Superman by my side. So for others it’s one of, if
    not the greatest, appeal of the game. I get to save robin and beat up
    Harly at the same time. Helping or taking down all the famous characters
    with your own character. Being apart of the Justice League or Legion of
    Doom has its own quirk.

  • Nash Knight
  • John Knudsvig

    Ah, Marvel Superheroes. I still run that thing. No joke.
    You were a little off.
    Yeah, yeah, I know. You don’t care. :P
    I have ran games using that system that lasted years. But then, I mucked with it a bit.
    First: Character advancement and Karma are two different pools.
    Second: Karma is replenished at a rate of your Psyche statistic every day, and the player is encouraged to use Karma for whatever. Karma is not effected in any way by the actions of the character, accepting actively using it.
    Third: Any rule that makes the game more complex than “I role the dice and check the chart, cross referenced with what is on my sheet” has been outright stripped from the game. The characters fit comfortably on a three by five card.
    Fourth: All characters start with stats that are average human, with an assigned number of “bumps” they can use to move statistics up to the next rank. Usually I put an initial cap of 30 (Remarkable) and am prone to make both Endurance and Psyche START at 30 just to increase character survivability early on.
    Fifth: All characters start with 3 talents. (skills) They can be anything the character wants, though if they pick a “talent” that is actually a profession that would encompass more than one skill (Navy Seal, maybe) than it counts as two of their choices and comes with some background baggage. (The martial arts a-e bullshit in the game rules I have line item vetoed for the sake of keeping things simple for the new players and because they are genuinely not needed. If you want to be a martial arts master, increase your fighting score or whatever stat works for the style you are looking to do, and quit wasting what little ability the game offers to create an interesting background on the obvious munchkin crap.)
    Sixth: I DO NOT USE THE MARVEL UNIVERSE. The quickest way in my experience to kill any game of the supers type is to use an established mythos. If the players know NOTHING they will be more likely to work together, be less likely to waste my time with trivial bullshit, and will be much less likely to try to convince me that their ability should do some ridiculous thing because they saw a comic in which somebody did it. The second quickest way to kill a supers game is to have a world in which super powered characters are so common as to make the characters superflous and therfore their players bitter and frustrated. If there is no Avengers Mansion or the equivalent to go to for help, then by damn they are just gonna have to cowboy up and deal with the shit, aren’t they?
    Seventh: Nobody starts with powers. Sometimes I use the mutant theory, often I use the “There was this strange muck and you all get covered in it” I have used all kinds of explanations, but nobody starts with them. You pick your skills first. You are given a chance to show the rest of the group that:
    A. You are willing to work with them.
    B. While your character might be a douche, YOU are a decent human being.
    C. Your skills matter to you and in what ways you intend to implement them with your background.
    Eighth: When powers time comes, EVERBODY GETS THE SAME NUMBER OF POWERS. Usually two or three. Powers start at predetermined ranks, a number of different ranks equal to the number of powers that the player is getting. The player can assign the ranks as they get powered up. When the time comes for the first power to be assigned, the player rolls three, then LEAVES THE ROOM. His team is then encouraged to decide what he gets saddled with using ANY CRITERIA THEY DESIRE. If the guy rolled Flight, Magnetic Manipulation, and Underwater Breathing and was a cool guy, he will likely get one of the first two. If he is an epic douche face worthy of scorn and hate, he probably gets to be the guy cleaning the golf balls out of the water trap for the rest of his life.
    Ninth: The experience points are spent a little differently. You increase by ranks, not by numbers, and you can increase a stat by paying the amount of experience equal to the new stat. Want to go from 20 to 30? Pay thirty. Exception: Keep track of your intial stats, the first numbers assigned to anything. Because after the first two increases, the price doubles. Continueing the same example, 30 to 40 is 40, but 40 to 50 is 100. As you can imagine, getting 20 points of xp at the end of a session can be a pretty big deal, and I tend to give experience based more on plot and development than I do any other reason.
    Lastly: Power stunts, those nifty tricks like cyclops bouncing his beam off of three surfaces or Magneto flying over a junkyard and assembling a car from scrap in 45 seconds? Those are limited only by your imagination, your current power level, and what I determine is an appropriate amount of points to spend on it for the world you are in. Generally though, unless you are REALLY stretching (Since the Xmen Movies were made I have had to gnash my teeth a dozen times over people that wanted to stunt out tearing the iron out of peoples bodies to kill them…) the cost is 50 XP points.
    I won’t say that this formulae will work for everybody, but it does well for me and has for… Well, a really long time. Like, long enough I don’t even want to say.
    Anyway, I guess I will climb back down off of nerd mountain now.

    • Cameron Berko

      This is almost exactly like how I used to run my MSH stuff, it cuts out so much of the unneeded crap, and helps balance everything out. I especially like your sixth point, that is the main reason I had to start running my own games, because EVERY game I looked for was always set around the X-mansion or forced you to play a Hero already in the system, which I feel ruined a large part of the game, the Character creation, I want to be my own guy, with his own strengths and weaknesses of personality. Also the way you picked out the powers for your players is very interesting.

      • John Knudsvig

        I find that letting the players police each other in this way (power selection) is MUCH easier for me than trying to make grown men and women pretend to be decent human beings for a few hours, rather than tired and frustrated with their jobs, relationships, kids, whatever borderline psychotics that really just want to pick a fight with somebody and blow off some steam. It’s fine if they do that in the game, but I don’t want them doing it to each other. This stops that initially, and allows the players an opportunity to get invested in the game before the gloves come off, as it were. It sounds silly at first, but at this point it is tried and true with many years of playtesting. :)

  • Arthur O’Connor

    I like Mutants and Masterminds. It has a great system for playing balance characters, and near everything can be balanced. It’s just a little easy to break if you give your players too much freedom.

  • Carl Eusebius

    Some people have pointed out that it’s possible to work around the limitations of overspecialisation. That’s true, but I think from what we’ve seen of Spoony so far, he has no lack of creativity when it comes to figuring out how to play a character. It’s more an issue of building your rules such that players have to come up with some pretty creative solutions in order to avoid doing the same thing over and over again right out of the box. Creatively playing your character should be a fun way for experienced players to keep the game fresh, not a requirement to keep the game playable two weeks into the campaign. Newbies especially shouldn’t be saddled with having to come up with interesting ways to play a character by their third gaming session. Not everyone is a creative genius, especially when still learning the damn rules.

  • mobtank

    I agree with D&D (I’m playing Pathfinder) having way more options
    then superhero RPGs, you can even be an urban charismatic barbarian in

    Also, even though the sorcerer might have fewer options then
    the wizard, he can still cast more spells per day and the bloodline
    choices you got in PF are roleplaying gold.
    Just take the aberrant
    bloodline as an example: “There is taint in your blood, one that is
    alien and bizarre. You tend to think in odd ways, approaching problems
    from an angle that most would not expect. Over time, this taint
    manifests itself in your physical form”.
    As you level up your
    anatomy changes more and more untill you become immune to critical hits
    and you can extend your limbs etc, really cool stuff.

    There is even a verdant bloodline (where you are basically half-plant) that makes you develop photosynthesis, the ability to root yourself to the ground and power to manipulate plants, to me this is awsome roleplaying

    PS. I also love dragons being scary badasses in RPGs, this is why I like the Guild WArs 2 dragons a lot.

  • Arthur O’Connor

    Oh! And Heroes Unlimited has Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness!

  • Cthulhu07

    It may not have been the greatest Counter Monkey episode ever, but it was nice to see the show expanding outside the realm of D&D for a change. Here’s hoping there’s an episode of Call of Cthulhu lurking somewhere in the dark….

    • UmmonTL

      Seconding that, a good Call of Cthulhu game is an amazing thing. And there are incredibly great pre-made adventures with so much more detail and story than I have seen for any other game. A friend had a series of books with three adventures each that had a common theme. One book was about carnivals and it was intensely creepy and we played one adventure of the asylum book just after seeing shutter island. Perfect.

  • ace42

    As I said in the last Counter Monkey comments section; I’m currently running a DC Adventures game via Facebook; and it’s working relatively well.

    It uses the Mutants and Masterminds (3rd edition) ruleset, which is incredibly flexible when it comes to making anything you could imagine. The only downsides I have with the mechanics atm is that: The flexibility of the rule system makes it occasionally convoluted and makes character creation a bit of a maths-juggling chore; and the damage system is a bit cumbersome and a handful of the skill-buy mechanics related to damage are described in ambiguous ways.

    But these are problems related to using a mechanical system to describe the entirely organic fictional circumstances described in works of fiction, and thus unavoidable. Fortunately they’re rather minor.

    • doresh

      The damage system is actually pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it. It’s just described a bit confusing because the developers did anything in their power to avoid words like “Damage Points” (which the penalty to Toughness Saves basically ARE, just without a fixed upper limit).

      I think the greatest downside atm are vehicle rules (they could need a bit clarity) and playing any kind of construct/undead (since by raw, they can NEVER power stunt in any way and are absolutely powerless against anything with “Affects Object”, which for some reason completely ignores the PL balance system Oo).

      • ace42

        It’s really thrown me for a loop – keeping track of how much the toughness penalties are stacking (and if they do or don’t), along with what the various debuff states do really confuses me. I guess it’s just lack of familiarity though. Along with stuff like Protection, Impervious Toughness, Penetration, etc etc – argh, they really could’ve explained it better. Also, it’s a real headache trying to keep track of Power Level limits while creating a character and then that character’s sub-powers. Wish there was a free character-creation utility available rather than just the spread-sheet systems which, while impressive, are still a bit counter-intuitive.

        • doresh

          Aren’t ALL toughness penalties stacking Oo ?

          I don’t find all those debuffs any more confusing than in D&D. You’ll eventually get the hang of it, but a cheat sheet is alwas VERY helpful.

          I heard that HeroLab offers a demo version with the M&M rules (if I remember correctly). Might go check it out :D

    • Doleth

      I’d recommend the M&M3e GM screen, it comes with a fairly solid character generator and the screen itself is pretty useful. If you want more freedom when creating character, Hero Lab does offer a trial version for the M&M3e ruleset, the downside being that you can’t save your character so you need to copy the sheet instead of just saving it as pdf or printing or whatever.

  • MFlorian

    That was remarkably pessimistic.

    You have options in any game system; most of which come from not relying entirely on your character’s specialization.

    For example, a thief’s specialization is combat is backstabbing. If you thought of D&D as solely combat, then it would look just a boring if you were playing a fighter (as you stated).

    But superhero games are just like D&D in that while the characters do have defining traits, they are not limited to them.

    What can Cyclops do? Let’s examine that:

    – Cyclops can optic blasts.
    – Cyclops has an instinctive understanding of geometry. He can ricochet those blasts off just about any surface. Several issues of Claremont’s run showed this off including him knocking every pool ball into various pockets while a pack of bar patrons had their backs to him.
    – Cyclops can use martial arts (most of the X-Men are trained in hand-to-hand combat).
    – Cyclops has tactical skills that you could talk a GM into letting you give bonuses to the entire team’s roles (like a Bard).

    And that’s just combat. Outside of a combat role:

    – Cyclops has psionic training (despite not being a telepath himself). When Rogue had absorbed Professor Xavier’s telepathic powers, Cyclops was able to use that training to keep her from losing her mind.
    – Cyclops has a pilot’s license and experience as a sailor.
    – Cyclops has various connections with other hero teams and they’d be much more willing to listen to him because of their history and his role as leader than they would with, say, Nightcrawler or Colossus.

    A superhero game can be limited much in the same way D&D can be limited if the DM and the players are uninspired/inexperienced/etc.

    Did your adventuring party start in a tavern and head off to a dungeon?
    Can be done well as a starting adventure; usually isn’t.

    An experienced GM (I know I’m moving back and forth between terms, sorry) can work with character and player strengths, giving options and possibilities that may not be obvious from the start.

    (For starters, you can have solo adventures with individual players between group sessions. Superhero games have that advantage and are easier to work around everyone’s schedule.)

    And a good GM can keep things interesting:

    “It’s a beautiful Saturday morning. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the sound of construction on the building across the street has put a lie to your vow to sleep in today. While on your way to the corner coffee shop, a strange sight catches your eye in the storefront nearby. All the display televisions in the window& have switched over to the image of a greasy-looking man in a medical coat, grinning maniacally.

    ‘Greetings New York! It is I, Dr. Insano! The fools gave me parole! Can you believe it? You all know the drill, so I’m going to cut to the chase. As I speak, several devices I’ve constructed are surrounding Shea Stadium*; ready to go off at a moment’s notice. Unless I am given 10 million dollars, Vanna White to be my bride* and the revoked driver’s license of the jackass who cut me off last night, I will shrink the New York Mets into the Microverse! FOREVER!!! AHAHAHAHAHAAHAHA!!!’

    As the screens simultaneously go dark, you’re left to stare at your stunned expression reflected in the window. The only thing colder than the chill running down your spine is the reactions of your fellow New Yorkers on the sidewalk next to you.

    ‘Ah, let him! The team stinks this year.'”

    Beats dungeon crawling. =) At least for me.

    • doresh

      +1 on that – maybe except for the tactical skill. Even in D&D, you can’t really do that if you don’t have the right feat or class ability. And in super games, this would probably qualify as a power onto itself Oo

      • MFlorian

        You can’t do that in MSH either, but I’m saying you could make an argument for it.

        • doresh

          I know, but then you might have other players who’ll try to have their super powers do more and more stuff. I know this is basically staple of the genre (like how speedsters can turn invisible or “vibrate” through walls), but there has to be an upper limit of what you’ll allow them to do.

    • Faust

      Agreed. It would be like saying. All this guy does is make snarky comments. How does anyone watch the same thing over and over?

    • Shilag

      Good post, but still those examples aren’t really very inspiring. He did just talk about combat, not out of combat stuff with the Xmen, really. So in combat with Cyclops.. why would you kick a guy’s teeth in when you can blast his face off with lasers? And even if you’re getting creative, ricocheting lasers off walls and shit, when you get down to it… you’re still just shooting your fucking laser.

      • MFlorian

        As opposed to what? Swinging your sword?

      • Malidictus

        Having one power doesn’t mean doing one thing, as there tend to be various ways to use any one power.

    • Adam McDonald

      what this guy said.

  • Mursa ArtDragon

    Actually spoony, I found a good way to solve this (At least in HU the only one we play) is to basically let them pick there powers. the chose the type of her they wanted to be and I left it they had to use the mid level hero powers (Usually 1 major and 2 minor) I also made them have to have at least one weakness, and a defined back story to how they got their powers and why they fight crime. Too me the story is the important thing and it may sound like I’m being to controlling, but I felt that they need their back story or the character wont be very defined on how they act. This also allows me to create their own super villens for them. It seems like micro management is the only way to go though, it turns into me having to ok things before hand. Which i know sound bad and not fun at first, but I was the comics guy out of our group and a lot didn’t know very well how to create an interesting hero outside what they had seen. However one guy came up with something very unique. A hero whose power was to be ignored, He wasn’t noticed by sensors, he never left any trace of him being any where, even meeting people they would mostly forget about him. He wasn’t strong, fast, or any of that just clever and knew how to use this to his advantage. I haven’t really seen this before, if its pout there then my bad. Maybe I didn’t notice the character in any comics ^^

  • Dmitry Didenko

    Cyclops is a good leader and tactician though.
    Noah, have you ever played X-men Legends 2? Because it was great at the part where charatcers with limited abilities – the ones who could shoot shit or stab shit – had some great attacks.

  • Dave Stauber

    Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition, Psyche. I had so many Marvel source books back in the day. I loved this game.

    • doresh

      What a faserip XD

  • Daniel Joseph Haughton

    I never much liked Marvel Superheroes, but that’s just me. For superhero gaming I prefer the most recent iteration of Heroes Unlimited (yes, warts and all) and GURPS Supers.

  • MrZer0

    Hey Cyclops, what do you do this round?
    Job it for a Marvel crossover event

  • silbmaerto

    In response to Spoony’s brief comment about how MMOs make the players play as sidekicks:

    Weren’t they making a Marvel MMO where players choose from established Marvel heroes?

  • Kostantine

    You haven’t had much experience with supers system, have you? Or if you did, it was more superficial. I personally prefer the supers games, but the problem is that in order to properly run a supers game, you need superhero geeks. The focus and the themes won’t work for anyone else, anyway.

    And picking powers based on random rolls is a crappy way to make a chracter in this type of game. Oh sure, this works perfectly for HackMaster (we had a lot of fun roleplaying our sleep-disorder fighter, flatulent mage and color-blind thief) but in supers everyone wants to play a character that approximates his favorite.

    Savage World Supers worked wonders for me, because it’s well-balanced and is based on a point buy system, but the damn thing breaks down when you try taking your campaign to cosmic levels, which forces you to work around it.

    To be honest, I’d love to try playing a supers game with you and just advising you to ‘pick whetever you want as long as it falls in the designated power limit”. I’d love to see what you come up with.

    • doresh

      Random character creation can have weird results in a supers game, but Marvel Super Heroes also released the “Ultimate Powers Book”. Not only did this book have A LOT more powers to choose from, but most powers had a list of related powers you can pick without having to roll, so a single roll for an ice-related power gave you access to all sorts of similar powers.

      • Kostantine

        Yeah, it sounds tidier but here’s the problem: no one’s playing supers so he can roll a random character. You play supers because you wanna make Superman, Batman and the Hulk. I admit it sounds interesting, but I doubt that rolling randomly for powers (even if the rolls stop being so ridiculously random) will give you a long-term character

        • doresh

          I guess it’s more fair to just say “Everyone gets X powers, now go pick ‘em!”

      • Evil Otto

        Thanks, I was trying to remember the name of that book.

  • theryno665

    I’m surprised that Spoony hasn’t touched Mutants and Masterminds. It’s one of my favorite RPGs, mostly due to the fact that I’m not much of a fantasy or sci-fi fan. But M&M can be very convoluted. For a novice gamer like me, the character generation can be a bit much, but if you know your stuff, it can be very easy to make a broken character. And don’t even get me started on Lethal/Non-Lethal Damage. Eventually we just house-ruled our damage as non-lethal because, as heroes, we weren’t intending on killing people (most of us, anyway). Still, M&M is great in that you can make any type of superhero in any type of era.

    For example, my friend was running an M&M game where the players were teenagers with powers in the Marvel universe (no we weren’t fighting Sentinels or whatever off the bat, we mostly just talked to guys like Iron Man as NPCs). I had the bright idea of making my character an emo kid where his mutant power is to make other people depressed (something you can totally do in M&M). I planned that throughout the story, he would mature and be able to harness and control his power but at the start it would just be a pervading aura. I quickly realized that would kinda make me useless in a fight so he ended up being an acrobatic Bullseye-type character that could throw anything with pinpoint accuracy. So that kinda cut down on the whole “I do this over and over” thing that Spoony talks about..

    • Patrick Joannisse

      I GM a Mutants and Mastermind game set in my own setting with teenager super heroes and this is a lot of fun. Forget balance, I have a player with Probability Control through the roof and he simply call for damage. The reason why my game works is because I let go the overpowered side of my game and focus on the roleplay and consequences of their actions. One of my player has Density and in combat he basically weight 27 tons. So I describe how the floor is damaged each time he fights etc. They all have parents issues. One of them has parents who work for a secret organisation who monitor all the mutants in the world. Stuff like that. I think Mutants and Masterminds is balanced with the Hero points and GM-fiat system you can basically throw anything you want a them and if you give them complications and drawbacks it’s even better.

      • sergio Estilarte

        mutants and masterminds is awesome! in fact i use their damage system in my D&D game.

    • doresh

      He mentioned that he’s not very familiar with modern supers, which M&M definitely is.

      And I can also only recommend M&M. It can be quite daunting at first (because of how much choice you have), but the actual rules are easier and more streamlined than 3.5. And since it uses the OGL, you can convert most of your d20 stuff to it :D

    • Joshua D’souza

      But superheroes are sci-fi/fantasy.

    • Nick Burns

      Spoony might enjoy the system, but he probably hasn’t encountered it before. M&M is the system I would probably go with if I played/GMed a supers game, though, since it sounds ridiculously customizable.

  • Dart

    Totally off topic but I’d love to see Spoony’s opinions of D&D Next on Counter Monkey.

  • Mark Richard

    This isn’t an issue with super-hero games, but one with games in
    general. basically, being that options = power. in 3rd ed D&D, the
    most capable fighters usually were decked out with items that mimicked
    wizard capabilities : flight, freedom of movement, miss % chance, “panic
    buttons” like instant or near instant teleportation, etc…

    i’ve seen characters with few innate chosen options, like the fighter
    who can only swing a sword or the stealthy/faceman/non-combat rogue
    who’s stuck in the middle of an open battlefield be good, but that was
    for the most part due to player skill rather then character skill, with
    the occasional lucky roll on his part (or unlucky rolls on the enemies).

    the more versatile the character, the more situations they can
    handle or attempt to at least which means the player stays interested in
    the game. more then a few times i’ve played the big dumb fighter or
    barbarian and been bored out of my gourd because the character had very
    few innate skills beyond “hit with stick”. even the rogue or ranger
    types tend to be focused with the former being either highly skilled
    non-combatants who can on rare occasions spike damage on a target (but
    tend to be too fragile so they don’t risk it) or are a walking cuisinart
    that has little skill in a whole lot of stuff whereas the latter tends
    to be usually either a stealthy bowman or a outdoorsman with twin
    machetes. when outside that scope though, it’s entirely the purview of
    “what random piece of gear did i bring/find” and “how skilled is the
    player”… only very rarely, IMO, can i find with these types of
    characters i can look at the sheet and find an immediate potential
    solution that isn’t my over-specialisation.

    most casters (or
    grab-bag of powers supers) though, in most games really, tend to get the
    fun suite of abilities since “magic” (or it’s equivalent) is so badly
    defined where it’s limits aren’t spelled out (either obviously or less
    so) or is simply defined as “everything that isn’t mundane”. look at the
    divine casters of 3.5… they get access to their entire repetoire of
    spells at every level. not every spell is a winner mind you, but still.
    it allows the cleric to be a pacifistic healer one day, a blaster the
    next and a “horde of minions” necromancer the next… or with some
    tweaking a potentially better fighter then the fighter (at least in raw
    damage output) that sill keeps most of his clerical casting

    or the most outrageous character i ever played and
    immediately retired: Ours. Ours is the french word for bear. he was a
    dwarf druid. i was getting kinda tired of my warlock and wanted to try
    something new for once… well, i did… just once. i retired that dwarf
    because he was simply too powerful and versatile. he was a bear. with a
    pet bear. who summoned smaller bears. and made all bears BIG. and
    flying (as well as the rest of the party). and could fire death lasers.
    most of that was using only the core rulebook for 3.5 too. i took a few
    spells outside of it, but the only one of note was the akin to a
    mass-overland flight with the limitation of being useable outdoors only.

    called it the rather punny Royal Canadian Bear Force. it was a massacre
    as the bears kamikaze’d anything in their way in pairs as i hung back
    and lobbed death lasers and motars from above. it was not pretty. after
    that session, Ours was retired and i went back to the warlock.

    is the character that opened my eyes to things i was aware of in the
    back of my mind but never really thought about it: “win buttons”.
    abilities that simply bypass the conventional methods of dealing with a
    problem and say “you win at this!”. the standard posterboy for this is
    the wand of knock removing the need for the rogue to try to pick locks
    (which is more infuriating since the rather low-level, cheap and
    permanent arcane lock spell means you simply can’t pick the lock at all)
    but other similar things exist: long range teleportation removing the
    need for travel (and a lesser-extent long-lasting and quick flight) and
    precise teleportation forcing the necessity for often-contrived “you
    can’t teleport here fields” just so the Scry-and-Die won’t occur or
    actually make the journey part of the adventure rather then an
    afterthought. long-lasting abilities that allow you to bypass entire
    sections of the dungeons by passing through walls or dirt, etc… all on
    one character if you’re (un)lucky.

    if often find myself having
    to hold back when playing the characters with options because i simply
    don’t want to start punching the “cheat codes” that the book strait up
    gives me. it’s annoying as a player when you use it as it removes most
    challenge and tension, it’s annoying when another player uses them since
    it makes my potential contributions moot and as a DM it means one more
    hoop i have to start taking into consideration when designing

    now, i’m currently playing in a Star Wars Saga game.
    i’m Rorworr, the wookie with the stun bat (technically a force pike for
    all intents and purposes), where even my subdual strikes ends up killing
    people… Rorworr is a beast. i’ll admit to being rather specialized in
    that i’m a swordsman in game of laser guns, but as i admitted: that was
    my choice. most of the time when combat happens my options are: “run at
    enemy and hit with stick”, “throw a stun/ion/frag grenade”, “pray and
    spray”, “smoke bomb and run away on speeder”. usually in that order and i
    very much hope number three never needs to happen… my carbine is more
    for show then something i’m skilled with.

    that or “drive a
    Space-Garbage Truck into it”. few things survive a head-on collision
    with a Space-Garbage Truck (or any other heavy, mobile object). party
    seems to prefer the use of subterfuge so i relish the chances to use

    the rest of the time success at tasks is a mix of player skill, genre savvyness & knowing the DM likes cinematic action.

    a change of pace from my normal slew of casters (which are for the most part, let’s face
    it, the poster-boy supers of the generic fantasy world though a few “wolverines” and “batmen” do stand out) and a genre i’m not very
    used to playing in.

    but it’s something i very much look into when playing or picking up a new system: how much pure “i win” power does the game allow each player to have. i don’t mind some being given to each player… that’s kinda cool that they each can narratively go “i do this” and the game goes “yup, that happens” but when i need to actively go out of my way to no be super capable in virtually all aspects? ugh.

    as for random character generation, let’s just say my mum told me if i can’t say anything polite about something i shouldn’t speak, so i’ll try to keep it brief: i didn’t like it when i started in 2nd ed AD&D and i still don’t like it now. if i’m going to be playing a character and be expected to invest time and effort in the campaign, i want the character to be one i want to play, not one the dice happen to decide.

  • magnusk_98

    Heh, I got some of those books sitting in Paraguay in a cardbox.

  • Ben MacConnell

    I think if there were systems in place to encourage it, I’d recommend having the minor or unusual powers be used in unconventional ways. Of course there’s no way of knowing what those are, so I don’t know how you’d implement it.

    What I mean is that some powers seem really lame, like Heart from Captain Planet. But if you actually stop and think about it, the power could be really awesome. Take for example Color Kid from the Legion of Superheroes. Or rather from the Legion of Substitute Superheroes, the group of guys who weren’t allowed into the main Legion because their powers were too situational or had too many inconvenient limitations or were just of dubious usefulness. Color Kid naturally could change the color of anything he wanted. He could make an apple blue if he wanted.

    At first you think that’s a dumb, useless power. And apparently no writer ever considered it good either considering he was on the Substitute Legion. But then you start to think. The most obvious use for it would be to change the surface of people’s eyes black, rendering them blind. Already you have a guy with effectively unlimited Blind spells. And if you need to blend into an environment, just change yourself and your allies to the background color (or a pattern if you have that fine control over it; be like a Chameleon). Or change the color of an enemy so they stand out more if they’re trying to blend in. Make the surfaces of a well-lit room white so the reflected light blinds people.

    And then I think back to another Substitute Legion member Night Girl, whose superpowers only work in the dark. Just have Color Kid turn the surfaces of lightbulbs opaque, and suddenly the room is dark, and Night Girl can use her powers with impunity. Change the colors of items randomly in a place and watch the enemies freak out in confusion.

    I just came up with a bunch of reasons why Color Kid’s superpower is a freaking awesome one. A lot of the time writers don’t even bother exploring the subtle possibilities of their characters aside from the most obvious use. Have Cyclops ever tried shooting the ground at his feet, using the force of the blast to propel him through the air? Has he used it to dig a trench to stop a speeding vehicle? Use some creativity people!

  • Lina Jones

    Yeah, this is why I tend to prefer heroes with multiple powers, giving them different options. At least with tech heroes, much as I don’t prefer them, they always have the option of making new gadgets. This effect is also why a lot of heroes with only one power invariably end up being martial arts masters whenever its called for, even if the character isn’t often shown practicing martial arts.

  • Jegsimmons

    i hate the main x-men but i tend to like the side and background characters like Domino and Deadpool.
    because not only do they have powers, but they do other shit too.
    that and deadpool is greatest thing out of comics since panels and speech bubbles…..made of yellow…..speaking in yellow…..yellow is his language.

  • paul garratt

    apart from the self deprecation I liked this

    as far as superhero games go I run mutants and masterminds which is nice, mostly my players dick around, with great power comes great ability to avoid the plot.

  • Angel R. Llera Padro

    I had an experience with Champions, well Fuzion rather. Making characters was very liberating, the options were massive and everything was left off to the imagination as far as animation and style. GM’d a game myself and it was a decent experience, it lasted about 3 months.

    Imho, Superhero games are better if you add a sense of intrigue, make them like crime dramas where the character’s actions have heavy consequences so using their powers is not necessarily the first thing they will want to use. Establishing limits is a good idea too, as in ‘is killing allowed?’, is ‘stealing ok?’ etc.

    On the issue of balance, the bad guys are built on the same system so the power level balance out as far as fighting and you can trade points in powers for points in other things like money, influence and knowledge. There’s also non-fighting powers like transportation, resistance and regeneration.

    Everything is based on a power level of the game, if you want a lower power level (Watchmen) you can give the players less points, if you want to higher power level (DC/Marvel) you give them more points.

    There’s 2 defining factors, Origin and Power Source which are rolled randomly, same with the origin story; so you can be a Powered Armor Tony Stark man that just happens to get his armor powers from Magic that were gained from coming into contact with an alien crystal.

    Death is rare as usually you get knocked out and you need to do double that damage to kill people, it does happen when people go all out, but you have the choice to hold back.

    I actually hosted it in a City of Heroes setting, super easy to recreate the characters and villains with Fuzion, I used City of Villains so the heroes were pushed to not use their powers in public without being hunted down and stuff, and filling the city with baddies. Turns out everyone wanted to be a rich boy at first, then I ended up with Magical Tony Stark, Tau Commander, Moon Knight and Conan the Immortal Barbarian; it was odd.

    I don’t think it’s in print anymore, but if you can get a pdf you can get it printed and coiled as I did at my local officemax. I recommend it for a fun night/weekend.

  • Icho Tolot

    All of the old Marvel stuff is online actually.

  • Shaka Zulu

    I dont really like “these” counter monkeys. The ones people like are the STORIES! This is just a “tips for dungeon masters/thoughts on the game” videos.

  • Skolex

    Honestly, when I watch these, I have other tabs open and I more listen to what he’s saying than actually “watching” the video to gain entertainment. I enjoy these videos where you talk about tips and tricks and the ones that are personal stories. Keep up the good work Spoony, I absolutely love Counter Monkey! It’s a great thing to wake up and see a new video posted on Twitter :D

  • Anyone00

    Wouldn’t breathing underwater in a pool cause nasty chemical burn to a character’s lungs/gills due to the chlorine?

  • MechaVelma

    Its not a horrible episode. But you might want to look into getting help in terms of getting prepared and finding your way around these manuals. I recommend those little post-it tabs you can get at office supply stores so you can mark off the pages you want to talk about.

    Also, the main problem with the FASERIP system was that ridiculous feats were often possible. Dragon magazine once wrote an article and a scenario in which (using the FASERIP system) Aunt May kills Galactus with a butter knife. A friend of mine also pointed out that one could kill Thor with a book of matches, by lighting each one and flinging them at Thor while he’s chained up, one at a time (each match does feeble (2) damage and Thor has only 200 hp or something, but eventually you can kill him like that.

    • Kendotuxedo

      I second the prepared tabs idea.

    • doresh

      Aunt May slowly torturing Thor to death. Sounds neat XD !

  • James Mullen

    My favorite Superhero Systems have been a) Biff Bam Pow! (A independent superhero system. Google It! It’s good.) b) Marvel SAGA System, and c) GURPS Supers.

    I really must defend Marvel Saga, because it really was revolutionary and ahead of it’s time (Along with Dragonlance SAGA) when it was released. Having a character’s endurance and how well they performed tied to hand size was brilliant and even more abstract way of handling hit points, and having player controlled narrative was pretty special. I really really liked the system, and have adopted it to one of my games at one point. I wish support for the Saga System among the player bases would have been better.

    Also, what is it with all the people wanting to play the lame X-Men characters? I mean, under TSR’s MSH system, my top three picks for characters are Black Knight, Wolvesbane, and probably Cloak. Not that Cloak is all that interesting power wise, but he’s a really interesting character. There are a lot of really good characters in the universe that are pretty good in depth characters when going to solve mysteries and crisis. I’d almost always rather call upon the Fantastic Four over the X-Men Blue or Yellow teams anyday.

    Overall, it’s been an interesting ramble, even if you haven’t seen many Super RPG games. Look forward to part 2.

  • Joshua William Hastings

    I do like this episode, despite its flaws. I guess the same can be said for Superhero RPGs.

    One of the key things I like discussing is the use of Superheroes of RPGs, and I have a fair few things regarding City of Heroes and DCUO. The games were good, but, story wise, they were lacklustre. I liked them, but I felt the stories could have gotten better.

    One thing is that Superheroes stories are usually about the personal side of super heroism. Sure, there’s combat, but there’s a lot about dealing with morality and being more human than what most would give them credit for. I feel that Superheroes in an RPG are probably more suited for games where the players are very much in character.

  • Tim D. Xavier Spiegler

    I’d rather be Robin than Batman. Fuck Batman, Dick Grayson for life!!!!

  • Josh

    It would be great if you could review those new DC and Marvel books you mentioned Spoony. I’d like to know if it’s worth buying and playing.

  • Malidictus

    I have to disagree with you, Spoony One. Heroes don’t have to be one-dimensional. They can be, if you let them, but they don’t have to be. Even a hero who basically has one power and one power only – say energy manipulation – can still contribute to a situation in other ways via things that might not count as out-and-out super powers, but still help define the character. Say, said energy manipulator may also have a very strong spirit, and thus have the tendency to inspire others, or he may be good at thinking on his feet and thus help come up with loop holes on the fly.

    I just don’t get this coming on the heels of the Bardic Knock. Remember your own description of it – the Bardic Knock is not a super power. It’s not magic or even a “skill,” per se. It’s clever thinking reflecting the personality of the character outside of any combat powers or skill sets or stat bonuses. That’s kind of the point of an RPG – that you develop a real person who’s identifiable by more than just his class or his race. I recall one of your old vlogs chastising people for saying “Dward, go fight that thing!” and encouraging remembering actual character names. That’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

    And I really just have to say I disagree on your desire to play established super heroes in an existing setting. To each his own, obviously, but I’d always rather create something I can call my own than just ape Batman or, worse still, BE Batman. I don’t even LIKE Batman. Sure, the Marvel Super Heroes arcade game was a lot of fun and I did enjoy a lot of the characters (mostly the Juggernaut), but I’d sooner play one I created that takes traits from multiple sources and crowns them with a unique personality than just take someone else’s character for a ride. It’s why I enjoyed City of Heroes so much – because the signature characters are not prominent and leave much room for original creations.

    I tend to like your Counter Monkey episodes for the awesome anecdotes insights into pen and paper RPGs, but this one just seems to go counter to all the others, and not because of the rifling through the book.

  • doresh

    Marvel Super Heroes was never reprinted, but it’s available as a free (and probably legal ^^) download.

    Lol, Oreo’s cute XD !

    And the new DC RPG was probably DC Adventures – aka Mutants & Masterminds with a DC theme. For the full DC cast, you’ll need the 2 volume “Heroes & Villains” book anyways, so it doesn’t matter if you buy DC Adventures and Mutants & Masterminds. I highly recommend it – it’s D&D with supers :D !

    Minuteman? He’s from Freedom Force – and he’s awesome XD !

    Random attribute rolls (especially when rolled in order) can suck, but attribute scores in older editions aren’t quite as important as they are now.

    And are 4e sorcerers really that weird? In 3rd edition, they’re basically wizards, just less flexible in one direction (is largely stuck with a single spell selection; meta-magic sucks a little) and more flexible in the other (more spells per day; doesn’t have to worry about a spellbook; doesn’t need to prepare spells in advance).

    And Hero System got a new edition recently. Now it takes TWO BOOKS: One just for character creation, one with all the other rules. Each one is almost as thick as the single core book of the last edition. Ouch Oo

    The other super rpg you’re talking about might be Superworld or “Villains and Vigilantes”, maybe ICONs if you’re talking about a newer rpg.

  • Evil Otto

    Eh, I thought it was a good ep, Spoony, even though I disagree with you on some of it.

    I played and ran Champions (Hero System) for many years and had a blast. It *is* complicated, but most of that is character creation… it’s required when you have a system that will pretty much let you design any character with any power(s) you like. If you want to do a shapeshifting electricity-powered superstrong ape who can teleport through hell, you can. Or you can specialize and become REALLY good at one thing. Your choice. It was great for creativity. It really does require is a good GM who knows the system and can help the new player out. “So, what do you want your character to do? OK, here’s how to do that.” The book intimidated people, but really it wasn’t any thicker than if you stacked the books required for D&D together. Just like D&D, the player didn’t need all that information.

    Personally, I’ve never had any interest in playing someone else’s character, even when I tried out Marvel Superheroes (which I liked, even though I preferred Champions). I didn’t wanna play Spiderman, I wanted to create my own superhero. If I remember correctly (it’s been a long time), TSR come out with an advanced character creation system for the game that added a lot of flexibility and new powers to the system.

    Looking forward to the next part.

    • Ian Fay

      Champions/Hero is also made about 50 times easier by the character generator program (supported by the company itself)

      It handles all the math and such. And once you get past the chargen, it’s easy to play. You’re either just rolling 3d6 for skill rolls or a handful of d6s for damage/stat rolls.

      It’s $25, and has no DRM (hint hint).

      • Evil Otto

        Cool, thanks. I’ll have to pick that up, especially since it’s so hard to get the current Hero System rulebook.

      • Atmos_Duality

        My friend bought the Hero System Master book; it was over 1200 pages on high grade heavy-semi-gloss paper. It was Blunt-Force Trauma heavy.
        It was “Could audition as a murder weapon in Clue”-heavy.

        But boy was it thorough, and exactly the sort of game you would want to program for.
        (Incidentally, I’m currently wrapped up making Shadowrun 3E characters in my spare time using NSRCG3. WONDERFUL tool for a wonderful game)

      • CheshireBat

        Yes, that’s true. Before the character generation program… my god was creating characters a chore. Forget about introducing new roleplayers to that game; they would quit before even getting halfway through.

        The chargen program has proved really amazing in that regard.

  • Lucas Allen

    The subtitles are pretty funny!

    Honestly, if you would get me to be in a Marvel-related RPG, then I would want to be Spider-Man because at least he has more to do than any member of the X-Men.

  • sbkMulletMan

    The mocking subtitles saved this one from being “bad”. I got a good laugh out of those, and the fact that Oreo was trying to sleep made it even funnier.

    So this was still fun for unexpected reasons, heh.

  • That_guy_from_Faxanadu

    I LOVE the TSR Marvel Super Heroes game! My group never roll characters. Since we´re grown ups, we can just agree which approximate level of powers we are playing. Then we create the characters we really want to play as. Because of that, oddball characters like the Lung Man and the Direct Translator were born. Playing in the well known Marvel universe sets it above the likes of Hero System as well (and Hero System is badly constructed).

    The MSH system shines when it comes down to creative possibilities. You can literally make up any power, give it a rating and then go roleplaying with it! And there is a really helpful suplement for the game too, called “The Ultimate Powers Book”. It´s probably my favourite book for any RPG, because it gives you examples of how nearly 300 different powers would work in the game. I still haven´t come up with a power which couldn´t be created using that book.

    The one negative thing I can say about MSH is that armor is overpowered. A character without Body Armor or Energy Field will end up taking damage all the time, while the armored guy needs villains with super powers or rocket launchers to even get a bruise. Machineguns won´t even make the hero blink.

    The example with Cyclops rings true in a battle too. Since the optic blast is way more powerful than anything else he could do, spamming eyebeams would be his thing. So the advice is… get fun powers instead!

    • draxo

      My group always thought armor was kind of underpowered due to some obscure rule about targetting the armor to disable it or something (I never felt that made sense, armor is designed to be hit and take it. Attacking the character hits the armor on a hit.. argh..)

  • JCVocke

    The guy with Flight and Radar would be an amazing assassin. I mean, he can see where everyone is, and he has absolute maneuverability, hell, he is the only person on the planet who can pull off an air-vent entrance without making a huge racket since he can fly through them without touching them. Throw in hand to hand or firearms skills and bang. Plus hell, you know how Batman is always taking out enemies in sneaky ways, where the guy will be walking and then fly into the air screaming because Batman wired him up? This guy can actually fly, and can’t be surprised. He would be an absolute beast.

    Even the water absorbing guy, I call him “The Walking Tsunami”. He absorbs an Olympic Swimming Pool, finds his target, and un-absorbs, once the target has drowned to death, he re-absorbs and walks out. Instant crown
    control, plus, he would be an amazing team with The Poolboy since he’s a portable lake.

    On a Non-Contrarian note, Ah Heroes Unlimited brings me back.

  • Bryan John Sauriol

    Oh dear god, Scion is awful. Avoid at all costs!

  • GunsmithKitten

    We’ve had a superhero/supervillian game going for over 10 years, and still is fun even though we don’t do it as frequently.

    How we did it was simple, but not easy. We used GURPS and made our own superhero canon setting. It took several fevered nights, and we even hammered out a historical timeline of signifigant events and “issues”, but it was worth it. We got to be the big hitters (though we were by no means untouchable, either our hero or villian group), we got to craft useful characters (GM’s approved all powers of course) the “Robin’s” were strictly NPC’s and got us into all manner of problems along with being help. Our characters were multi-faceted and skilled, even the ones with only one or two powers to their name.

    So yea, we really made it work, but it took a helluva lot of investment.

  • Shauna

    Don’t worry Spoony, I like listening to you anyway :)

  • Marc-André Grondin

    Wow…when you showed some pictures from the second game (Heroes Unlimited I believe), the pictures were the same as in my TMNT RPG game. Mainly the one where you have a progression from an animal to a human to a hybrid.

  • Arthur De Martino

    I’m currently on my fourth Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game, we had some issues and one offs with the system but once we learned to enjoy it, we managed to have a long campaign in it.

    My personal advice is to: Let other people DM. And let other people create other heroes. Rotate the pieces a bit and it will stay fresh, write adventures like (good) cape comics and it will be awesome.

  • Rydel

    I’ve found that GURPS works great for superheros.

    As for the lack of connection with the characters in City of Heroes, I have found that reading the City of Heroes comic helps a lot with that.

  • TerminalSanity

    LOL “Oh no my glasses” Cyclops, I wish I could fully explain my irrational hatred of that X-man. Something about his characterization makes me wish someone would just punch him out every time he opens arrogant, pompous mouth. He essentially has the same personality Superman but with ten times the preachy pretentious pontificating and only a watered down version of Superman’s heat vision to back it up.

    • MFlorian

      That’s because most of the people they’ve handed off the writing of the character, and the X-Men in general, to since Claremont have misunderstood at best and didn’t care at worst.

      I started with “Classic X-Men” as a child (I didn’t know they were reprints for awhile) showing the way the team was from Giant Sized X-Men #1 onward. It’s also where I got my appreciation for the character.

      Arcs like the Proteus Saga show off Cyclops as a competent leader without being the d-bag Whedon wrote him to be. One scene in particular will always stand out in my mind.

      Nightcrawler and Wolverine tried to jump Proteus and ended up getting mind-fucked by his reality warping powers to the point where they were nearly catatonic. Knowing that if he left them that way, they might not recover, Cyclops picked a fight with them.

      It was only after both X-Men were just about to kill him that he called it off; the whole point to get them to focus on something other than their experience and hopefully push it behind them. It worked and Wolverine even remarked that Cyclops could have gotten killed doing what he did.

      Another stand-out moment in the saga is when Wolverine was falling off a cliff. Nobody could catch him and Cyclops shot at him from underneath with his optic blasts in bursts. It slowed his fall so that he would survive the impact, even though getting blasted wasn’t going to feel very pleasant.

      Cyclops under Claremont was mostly about his relationship with Jean (when she was around), but the characterization was so good you didn’t care.

      Try hunting down one of those X-Men Essentials from the time frame I’m talking about. It might change your mind.

      • TerminalSanity

        Like I said my hatred of character is irrational, it goes back way before Whedon was around. If a had to try and explain it in a nutshell its the character spends more time complaining about the pressures of leadership and acting the part of leader than actually leading. Which admittedly could be as you said due to poor writing of the character but its been pretty consistently bad for a long time. Personally for me the character’s most punchable moments was when Cyclops had a late night internal rant about how “of all the X-men he was one who could never forget even for a moment he was a mutant” I seriously wanted Beast to punch him the face for that.

  • Ross Lane

    Ah, man, I had a great time with Heroes Unlimited, myself. My two buddies rolled up, basically Thor and Captain America, respectively. I went completely random. All I had for my powers were heightened sense of taste and holographic memory projection, everyone laughed and laughed. BUT I also rolled random tables for my background, and wound up being an 8′ tall poorly-adapted alien robot designed to mesh with Earth culture (and also jet boots). So by day I was the new star player for the Harlem Globetrotters, but by night I was TASTER’S CHOICE, hero of justice! I wound up single-handedly beating the cyborg T-rex clone invasion while the other two were “shooting it with their beams,” so to speak. Tactics, baby.

  • aaronbourque

    Honestly, any super is only as versatile or as limited as his player’s imagination. Superheroes should never be defined by only their powers. Just as a thief or wizard aren’t limited only by their role, Cyclops has become a master martial artist so he can fight without his eyebeams if he needs to (even blind without his visor), a master strategist (so he can lead the teams), and one of the best pool players in the world (so he knows the best angles to hit an enemy behind cover). Any superhero should be more than their powers. Pigeonholing them into just their powers, even when you’ve got someone like the Martian Manhunter who has more powers in his pinky than you can imagine, is the wrong way to go about it.

    • Faust

      True. Han Solo has no powers compared to Hayden Christianson.

  • Faust

    Spoony, I always watch you. But man, I enjoy DCUO immensely, or did until they screwed with the payment options, and secondly hated the TSR Marvel game. As a DM I simply could not get that thing off the ground. There was so much errata and inconsistency in it. If you got it to work, you’re definitely smarter than I am—and I went to Princeton. And my friend who played in it and looked over the system and just despised it—and he went to M.I.T.

    Hey whenever you say something is terrible, you’re bound to hurt someone’s feelings. I hate the Beatles, so I know this well. However, this response is not a personal attack or “hurt-feelings” so please keep that in mind. I am not a very good writer, and sometimes my tone (coupled with my nerd rage) comes across as overly caustic, when it is not. The reason
    for this response is, I am simply gobsmacked you like TSR Marvel that much. Even the old Batman RGP (Publisher: Mayfair Games [1989] ISBN: 0923763082) was much better than that broken “system” from Marvel.
    Now much of this is from memory, as your review seems to be. It would be unfair to Google the book and type out the problems. Just off the top of my head, the game-designers either knew nothing about Marvel characters or did not care to. Remember the Juggernaut example? In it he is an altered human. Remember how you could have things like fire only effect
    certain things? For instance: Mutants. In the very next example it reads:
    The Juggernaut has kidnapped Aunt May. And a hero (Osprey?) uses his fire that only effects mutants on him. The Juggernaut takes damage (although I don’t see how this is possible as he is not a mutant) and Aunt May does not.

    They obviously did not give squirts of piss about the example, or clearly
    illustrating something to the reader.

    KARMA system a good system!? You’re joking right? I remember it like this. Spider-man is going to save Aunt May she’s strapped to a bomb, he passes a burning building. Sees
    people trapped inside, but cannot stop to save them since he is going to save Aunt May. So he loses Karma. But, it turns out, he saves Aunt May. So he also gets some Karma. Of course, minus the stuff he lost for not helping. That is an incredibly convoluted system. Just
    imagine, “Hey it’s September 11th all over again. You are headed towards the WTC towers, but you see someone jay-walking so deduct some Karma.” I mean, one shouldn’t do that as a GM, but why include it unless you want to be factitious? But maybe they wanted to be, after all they included stats for Death! But how could, you of all people, who quotes George Lucas “no one ever thinks their actions are evil” and “orc babies are good/neutral” subscribe to docking players Karma for missing a date? You do realize that missing a date with your girlfriend could theoretically make you lose all the Karma you have acquired for stopping a global conspiracy.
    Think about that.

    I didn’t understand the attempts and powers. I simply could not grasp it. So I changed it. My friend, the one from M.I.T., read it and was horrified with how the system worked, and liked my idea much better. To use D&D terms, it would be like if your character picked “fireball” as a spell and then couldn’t throw a fireball, until he practiced and eventually got enough lucky rolls to where he could attempt it regularly. That’s something you might see in a video game more than a RPG. And even now, that’s going away. As the Skyrim designers put it, “why do you
    have to keep practicing jumping or running to get good at it?” They realized how boring it was, and rightfully so, abandoned it.

    I get certain role playing games and systems aren’t for everyone. But fuck, this game?! But hey, some men like getting their nuts cracked in a vice. Some men seek out HIV and bugchase. And some play TSR Marvel.

    And didn’t he use the cyclops example before, nearly verbatim. Man, Spoony hates that guy.

  • Chris Det-lef

    Were you trying to think of Spirit of the Century? The pulp comics RPG? PLayed it a few times, really fun system. Our GM ran a campaign with this system that used a world a lot like the Watchmen.

  • Chris Det-lef

    Were you trying to think of Spirit of the Century? The pulp comics RPG? Played it a few times, really fun system. Our GM ran a campaign with this system that used a world a lot like the Watchmen.

  • Al Kusanagi

    The new Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game is really good and solves that whole Cyclops issue pretty well. A character in it has power sets, and then SFX that they can use to enhance/modify those powers. So, yes, Cyclops has one ability, but he has a half dozen ways for him to use it, as well as what they call “power stunts” which let you come up with ways to use the powers on the fly.

  • Sean Hood

    Really I find the best system Spoony for Super Heroing is the Hero
    System using the Champion Verse books that are present to help you. I
    was able to run a very satsfying campaign for my players using that
    system for nearly 8 months. Till we ran into a problem, people loosing
    jobs, had to leave to other cities to get them and other issues like
    that. One early issue is that someones schedule shifted so badly he
    couldn’t join us and I killed his character so he was non too

    In anycase the champions system is very verstile.
    It’s a bit complicated with all it’s rules but it needs to be given you
    can play any damn thing you want. Let me give you an example with my
    party which was all over the board.

    The face of my group was a
    supercalled Infinite, he was a speedster/thief. Well he only really
    stole back the money he would use to bribe people. Hes day job was a PI
    and he would say here’s a 50, can you help us now and then using sleight
    of hand and his super speed steal the same 50 back over and over again
    to get the info he needed. He also stole a special artifact from lock up
    from the Shield of the verse that belonged to a super villan but he
    didn’t know that at the time he just though it was a hero that’s why he
    took up the villans mantle as well. The ring allowed him to duplicate
    into 4 more of himself.

    Another character in the party was called
    Jedi Boy. Basically he was a techie who was so into Star Wars that he
    used his tech knowledge to make himself a jedi! Made himself a
    lightsaber, telekentic wristbands, and tech augments so he could run and
    jump and some suggestive mind control. His Arch Nemsis was The D’Har
    Master who is out to prove Star Trek is vastly superior to your stupid
    Star Wars!

    Another guy was basically the Thing but he was a
    bussiness man who wore Tux’s into battles and smoked Cigars. I also
    helped him so he could not only pick up any big thing around and use it
    as weapon, but to grab the guy in power armor trying to blast him and
    use him as a club against the other guy in power armor. It was

    Then my fourth guy was well basically an alchemist
    from Full Metal Alchemist, he had the whole clap thing going for him, he
    was able to rearrange stuff which sometimes made things hard. It’s like
    giving an early level group in D&D stone shape and telling them to
    go through these obstacles. I had to think outside the box a lot like
    putting them on a ship or a plane since he can’t transmutate too much of
    the material from said plane without putting the group in danger.

    I would say it’s the systems you might have been playing that just made
    it that way. But really you should check out Hero system. Everyone it’s
    my favorite system for anything outside of Fantasy RPG playing though
    you can do a fantasy game with it.

  • Stacy Galler

    As you say, not your best episode, but Dude, it was worth it for the t-shirt. :)

    The truth is out there…waaaaay out there.

  • draxo

    Old time marvel superheroes player/GM here. Have to disagree, i played that same version s you. I really disliked it, it had inherent problems in it whereby what should be a ‘good’ stat (such as Ex or Rm) were really quite poor in play and to really be adept at a stat/power you had to have it at a stupidly high stat such as IN-AM or MN.

    the best old system for superheroes to my group was always DC Heroes 3rd edition

  • Thomas Atchley

    Hey if you use current comics they could always be PHEONIX AVATAR CYCLOPS…now he can use either punch dimension lasers or FIRE BLASTS, whoo, two things!

    But no in seriousness I’m with the other people I’d think like using other skills that the characters canonically have you could apply them within the game. Like Peter Parker is a scientist, so he could make like some sort of specialized item to fight with. Honestly saying that Cyclops just has one thing to do is like saying Captain America has one thing to do.

    “Hey Rogers, what are you doing this turn?”
    “Throwing my shield.”
    “Aight roll to hit.”

    Same logic.

  • David

    I agreed with you 100% on the old TSR Marvel Super Heroes game, until recently.

    I discovered “Mutants and Masterminds”, published by Green Ronin Games, under the D20 Open License.

    IMPORTANT NOTE: the only reason this game falls under the D20 Open License is because it used the skill check mechanic and the basic concept of Feats (called Advantages in M&M 3rd). Aside from that, this is FAR from a normal D20 product.

    No classes. No character levels. Levels exist, but as Power Levels, and these dictate the caps on powers, skills, and stats your characters possess. Power Level also sets the general level of the campaign. A normal Supers games is PL 10. a “teen Supers” game is PL 8 or 9. A street-vigilante supers games, like Punisher or a the Nolan-Batman is PL 6. A Cosmic Supers game would be PL 12 or 14, depending on how mega awesome you want the cosmic gameplay to be.

    The game actually manages to solve the problem of Bricks crushing Agile characters through its Power Level system. It’s actually amazing. Game Balance is easy to maintain. PLs set limits on characters “maximum” potential. Improvements are bought with Power Points. 1 PP for 3 skill points. 1 PP for 1 advantage (aka feat). Powers are bought at PP/per Power Rank. some are cheap (like super strength) others are expensive (like super speed). And the system is all about customization. You know all those little power quirks superheroes can have so one flying brick can be differently from another? Game system totally accounts for that. If its a minor boon it might be a one time point increase. if its a minor penalty or complication it makes the power cheaper.

    All in all, this is one of the best RPGs I’ve ever seen, and its 2nd Edition actually put out books for adapting it to other genres like Mecha-Style anime, and comic-book-esque fantasy. I’ve neer seen a system so open ended and flexible. It remains to this do, one of my all time favorite RPGs. I suggest tracking down a copy of Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition and give it a read.

  • Katrin

    My group played Aberrant for like a year obsessively. I mean like nothing else. And they seemed pretty happy with it. I hardly played it myself because of work and stuff, but maybe a better hero system to look into?

  • Eric Colley

    Wow! Glad to see some fellow Marvel superhero players here! My brother introduced me to that game when I was like 10 and I Still play it when I can now at 33! I have almost every character sheet, judges material and campaign books that ever came out through it’s entire publishing run. I think from 1988-1992 or so. So if anyone is missing some material, or characters (including you Spoony), hit me up and I’ll be glad to scan them in!

    And those complaining it was hard? No way! i learned how to DM it when I was 10. Very quick and easy, if not a little simplistic. But I always recommend this to anyone who is a fan of superhero’s and is checking out starting into RPGs.

  • qalest

    I’ve had good times with Aberrant, a white wolf derived super hero rpg.

    • Adam Barnes

      I didn’t hate it but what bugged me was the 60+ pages of filler between cover and contents page.

  • Valérie Dicaire

    I can’t really speak much about pen & paper superheroe rpgs since I never played any, but as for MMOs, I really like Champions Online. I tried DCUO and hated it – pretty much for the same reasons you brought up – you’re basically someone else’s errand boy and nobody wants that. I also really disliked the character creator in comparison to CO’s or CoH’s which both have an infinte amount of options.

    I think it really boils down to 2 kinds of mindset when it comes to superheroe rpgs: you either want to make your very own fleshed out hero, or play an existing character. I fit into the former group and CO allows me to go balls deep in that respect: you can fine-tune your costume down to the smallest details (you can get even more options by either paying for them of finding them in-game), choose whatever powers you want (if you have a gold sub), create your own nemesis, you can write your character’s origins and story, you can change costume on the fly (to pretend to have a secret identity or to mimic a transformation), and so on! Yes, there’s always a bunch of dimwits who play copycats of Batman, Hulk, Wolverine and so on, but they aren’t the kind of players that stick around in the long run. However, if I’m going to play in a existing universe such as DC then, yes, I would prefer playing its existing characters. DCUO fails on but counts IMO because it doesn’t offer nearly enough to sink your teeth into for the hardcore superhero RPers and doesn’t allow to play exisiting characters, so yeah… Marvel Heroes on the other hand seems to be going in the right direction for the people who would prefer the latter, which I can appreciate sometimes too. Who wouldn’t want to be Iron Man for a day. I play Super Heroe Squad occasionally, it’s a silly game, but it’s fun to punch baddies as Captain America or Spider-Man or whoever! xD

    • Matthew Lane

      Problem with CO is that while its a great program for designing characters for the terminally un-artistic, the actual game play is severly limited. Endless copy pasta locations, repeditive fights against thugs, missions with no story to them & a lack of feeling of achievement.
      As of yet there has not been a single truly satisfactory super hero MMO & i doubt there ever will be. The thing about super heroes is that they are the exception to the norm. Just like Syndrome said in the Incredibles: When every one is amazing, no one is amazing.

  • Xeno426

    Funny, the reason I didn’t like Wizards in 4th ed was because they were basically Sorcerers from previous editions. You *don’t* get to choose your spells each day.

  • Justin Smith

    The new Marvel Heroic seems to address every issue Spoony has with superhero games.

  • HighPriestDre

    I have tried some Marvel rpg or another, but there were a lot of bead counters on my character sheet for various stats and were we only testing the combat system. I do not remember what version it is.

    I played Heroes Unlimited exactly once. The GM mixed HU with After the Bomb and maybe some other stuff. I ended up making a Scottish Highlander Wizard. Super Strength and magic. I don’t think he was immortal, however. Just had a big ass sword. I liked the character, but it was a game that was held at the community college I went to, so it didn’t last.

    I bought Brave New World, but never played a game of it. I like the setting and the wife of the guy who I tested the Marvel game’s combat system with liked it, but they moved out of state before anything came of it.

    I think the only other superhero game I have tried is Mutants and Masterminds 3rd edition. They book doesn’t do a great job of telling you what you need to know to make a character in the best order, making you read almost the whole book before getting started (which I suppose is a good idea, but I like it better when you can open a book and make a character from begining to end as you read). The person who showed me the game claimed it was a d20 game, but that is a lie. It is at best “d20-ish”. I do like that it is a point buy system for chargen.

  • Tristan Pendergrass

    If nothing else the superhero arcs of KODT showed me the possibilities of a supers game.

  • Renegade Red

    If you are a fan of PNP RPGs, and haven’t done so already, go and
    download Open RPG (Traipse Ornery Orc version) which is a free chat
    program that allow you to play RPGs. It’s the program Spoony uses and
    it rocs. Link here:

  • Lustigerpete

    Oh my god, unremarkable but can breathe under water?
    Thats Guybrush Threepwood man :D

    • CheshireBat

      Well, he could hold his breath for ten minutes, at least.

  • Lynn Hansen

    Scion is actually really awesome, though they do stat a lot of the gods and Titans. It doesn’t really feel like a modern ‘supers’ game, though, given all the mythological foundations and references.

    A more purely ‘superhero’ game that looks pretty good is Mutants and Masterminds.

    • HighPriestDre

      I forgot to list both this and Aberrant in my long post the other day.
      With the connection to Godly parentage and the agendas thereof, I don’t really consider Scion a “superhero” game (despite there being demi-god and full god superheroes in comics).
      I don’t technically count Aberrant either (which might be why I forgot to list them), because Aberrant kind of sells itself as a “people who have super powers” game rather than a superhero game, which I consider an important distinction.
      I do like both games, however and I am kicking myself for forgetting to mention them.

  • Justin Alexander

    I remember playing Mutants and Masterminds d20 superheroes for the first time, and our GM wanted to do the sort of “school for newbie super heroes.” So we had a group and we all had to come up with what our superhero concept really -was-. I picked the good ol’ fashioned Silver Age guy, where a high schooler basically inherited the powers of Superman. Flight, invulnerability, super-strength.

    Now, in Mutants and Masterminds your stats aren’t randomly generated at all, you have points based on your power level. I had enough points to give myself all of the above powers and to such degree that I was immune to anything that didn’t hit -as hard as I did-, I hit so hard -I could melt steel-, and I could fly at Mach 1.

    That game didn’t last more than a week because the GM had to invent characters that were basically more insane than our walking nuclear missiles, and it became unfun when the guy who was invulnerable was down nearly every fight from critical damage.

    • draxo

      Sounds like poor DMing. DMs are supposed to create a proper world for the characters to be in, not go anti-player and come up with thigs to smack down the invulnerable guy. That’s not fair for anyone, not the invulnerable guy who is no longer invulnerable and especially not for everyone else in the party who can’t even compete anymore and will just die from a shot. I had a DM like that.. he would always make every enemy at our power level.. only we generalised and made decent concept based characters. He always made everything our level. And focused them since he was a pure metagame min-maxer. Result? Our super powers were no longer super: everyone we encountered with a name was just as super as we were. Only they were min-maxed. Result? just like you: dead games every time we tried playing with him, we eventually just gave up playing games with the guy.

    • Matthew Lane

      Then you &your GM likely did not understand MnM, because thats not how the system works… Even at 1st edition.

  • wiliamsn

    What do you do this round, Cyclops? I target his weapon

    What do you do this round, Cyclops? I use a judo take-down

    What do you do this round, Cyclops? I widen my beam for area effect

    What do you do this round, Cyclops? I ricochet my blast off the wall to bypass his defenses

    What do you do this round, Cyclops? I drop down and shoot up, launching him through the air

    What do you do this round, Cyclops? I shoot him in the foot to trip him

    What do you do this round, Cyclops? I shoot the ceiling above him

    What do you do this round, Cyclops? I rally the team with a speech

    What do you do this round, Cyclops? I pick up the bowling ball and I shoot the bowling ball into his face

    What do you do this round, Cyclops? Nut shot?… Nut shot.

    What do you do this round, Cyclops? I bank-shot the beam off that guy and hit that guy

    What do you do this round, Cyclops? I shoot that steam pipe over there

    What do you do this round, Cyclops? Blind ‘em

    What do you do this round, Cyclops? Punch a hole through the floor

    What do you do this round, Cyclops? Ricochet my beam so it forms a cage of energy around him

    • MFlorian

      You, sir or madam, rock.

  • Joliet Jane

    The RPG books for BESM (Big Eyes Small Mouth) does a pretty good job of giving you building blocks for all kinds of super-powers. It’s based on an anime universe, but you don’t have to love anime to make use of it.

    • MFlorian

      I love BESM. I’ve got so many of those books.

  • Jason Dean Henderson

    Technical question. Does Spoony’s audio quality sound different to anyone else? Its not bad, it just sounds like maybe he’s using a microphone other than the on board mic. When watching on my TV last night he just didn’t seem to sync right with the video. Did anyone else notice something similar?

  • Jonathan Waterstraat

    I’m currently in three PbP games of Mutants and Masterminds, and I’ve never had any of these problems.

    Of course, we never play with randomly generated characters, which seems to be the real problem Spoony is addressing.

  • Tim Edgren

    you mistook sorcerers for warlocks. Warlocks are spellcaster who just use at will eldritch abilities. sorcerers have choice, but less choice and instead of preparing spells they can spontaneously cast like bards.

    • Atmos_Duality

      Warlocks are mechanically boring anyway.
      It’s just an ‘eeeeeeeevillll’ themed wizard who slings an off-element Searing Ray every turn.

      • Kristoffer Nilsson

        That’s not true in any sense at all. Warlocks are not necessarily evil, they just borrow their powers from an entity stronger than themselves. That could be everything from the fairy king to the starspawn from another galaxy or, of course, a demon lord of some kind. I’ve played a gnoll warlock for many years now who is lawful neutral and that works perfectly well with the class and my chosen patron. Now, i don’t know what system you have been playing, but in 4th ed DnD they are great problemsolvers with lots of utility, depending on what patron you choose.

        Only very unimaginative people play warlocks as you describe them : /

        • Atmos_Duality

          Yes, but most players are highly unimaginative (except twinking) and as someone who has DMed D&D for close to a decade now, I have seen the same old shit Warlock repeated over and over again.

          So you will pardon me for not buying into your spiel about “imagination” and “potential”; it’s something that sounds lofty and great on paper, but few players I encounter will actually go there in practice.

          Also, I do not play 4E and cannot comment on them in 4E beyond a guess.
          I would not doubt if Warlocks received expansion in both background lore and mechanics given how popular and overplayed they were in 3.5, and perhaps there they were improved.

          I’m referring to 3.5 Warlocks, where they were by lore, “Demon-Powered Mages”. Mechanically they traded accessibility of spells for a handful of useful tricks they can spam.

          Basically, they were “Super-Sorcerers”. More focused, and infinitely more boring to play since they were fairly limited, but fairly effective on their own because they weren’t as gear-dependent as the physical classes, nor as level-dependent as the other magic-classes.

          (ultimately, a wizard, cleric or sorcerer would become mechanically, potentially far more powerful than any warlock, but that isn’t the point here)

  • CheshireBat

    I don’t really agree with Spoony in this one, aside from the fact that the X-Men tend to have few powers. It’s not so bad for some of the other Marvel characters, though. Or if you want even more variety, I guess DC would offer that.
    Additionally, I have to admit that I cringed at the whole “I WANNA BE BATMAN” thing. Ow. Spoony, for a moment there… you were That Kid. The one you yourself have railed against. The one that wants to play Legolas or Luke Skywalker.

    Anyway, there are indeed plenty of good superhero RPGs out there.

    Marvel RPG (not Marvel Superheroes). The basic idea is that you have power pools, that you can shift around (you’re encouraged to use tokens), spend, save, and whatever. Even Cyclops would have to put some thought into his tactics, because he’s actually one of the characters that could blow his whole power reserve in one big alpha strike… and then what?
    At any rate, I love that game because it’s even faster to learn than Marvel Superheroes, but you still have a lot of flexibility in combat.

    Mutants & Masterminds. Superheroes run via the D20 Modern system. Pretty flexible and very easy to figure out.

    Silver Age Sentinels. Developed from the Tri-Stat (BESM) system, it provided a pretty neat Astro City-esque setting, a fairly modular system that could be made more simple or complex, depending on your preferences, and pretty good balance.

    Aberrant. This one was never that popular, but I always loved it anyhow. It’s pretty dark, falling somewhere between Astro City and The Boys. As it uses the White Wolf system, there were some issues with balance (mostly Mega Strength — not with character generation, as it was point buy), but some player creativity made that more of a challenge than a big problem, although house rules could fix it too.

    DC Heroes gets the job done too (don’t worry, the third edition had around 180 pages, and most of that wasn’t required reading — 3 pages on Batman, in case you wanted him to play a big part in your game). One good thing about it was that it was easy to adjust the power level.

    Hell, there are a ton of good games out there. Marvel Superheroes remains pretty solid, but new players should prepare themselves to fix a LOT of issues with it. There are probably a ton of errata out there, but back before you could look that up online it was damned problematic.

  • likalaruku

    ChaosD1 feels the same way about DCUniverse online. Me? I felt like I’d played it twice before already, so I got bored after 1 day.

  • Bill Hiers

    Re: Not being the guy the Joker bosses around. Hey, I wouldn’t mind being a henchman.

  • Edward Graham Peeler Jr.

    I agree with everything MFlorian says. Very good points. I just have a few cents I want to add to that.

    I had the same reaction to City of Heroes at first, but I’m really glad I played it. The advantage of City Of Heroes is it’s a very balanced system for both creating a character and playing the game, you can basically make whatever character you want whether it be original or pre-established (i.e. you can play Batman), and once you get into the game, it has a very intricate and fun universe within it which has a little bit of everything, super heroes and super villains, science fiction, fantasy, horror, martial arts, military. It has a little pit of everything in that world. You could go to fighting typical gang members to fighting the crazy homeless people known as the Lost who are all being mutated and work for an alien invasion force and then you can go fight the Council who are fascist super soldiers who have turned some of their numbers into werewolves and vampires and then you can go fight a giant octopus. I never 100% know what’s going to happen to my character when I play that game. So I would highly recommend City Of Heroes to you or anyone else reading this.

    DC Universe Online has the advantage of allowing you to adventure in a well established awesome universe. If your a DC Comics fan like myself, you will love it. In fact, what I really like about it is that it is basically the DC Universe I know and love and it has nothing to do with that God awful reboot they’ve been doing in the comics. As far as I’m concerned, the DC Universe we all know and love is alive and well in the game DC Universe online. Fuck the reboot. As for not being able to play Batman, I see tons of people playing Batman all the time in that game, as well as Superman and other established characters. That to me is part of the fun. Naturally there are limits to what the game can be programmed to do, but it does not stop the player from making the character they want. Every time I run into a guy playing that game that is playing an established character like Batman in game I just think “Ah, this mission is so serious Batman has come here personally to help us.” I think most people just roll with it and have fun. Hell, one of my characters in that game is Leon Scott Kennedy from Resident Evil. I named him Leon and put a bunch of xxxxxxxxxxxx after his name and plenty of people do the same thing with established characters like Batman149 or Supermanxxxx32 or something like that. Your limited by your imagination in a game like that.

    DC Universe online has its fair share of problems however. It’s very glitchy. The camera is controlled by the mouse which sucks if you use a laptop like me. Also you can’t set buttons for the camera which is bullshit. And finally PVP is a nightmare. Rival players can stun lock you into oblivion way to easily, essentially juggling you. At first I felt it was very challenging but the problem is there is a glass ceiling. I maxed out a character to level 30, however even at that level I can’t compete with other level 30s who feel as if they are higher level than me even though that’s impossible and on a bad day other players lower level than I can easily woop my ass. So it has some serious problems, but if you can beyond all of that, it is an awesome game and you’ll have a lot of fun with it.

    Yeah, Spoony, your just an ignorant slut. You really are. MFlorian just stated everything wrong with your statement on why super hero games are limited compared to DnD. There is ton of things you can do even with a character that is ultra specialized. Cyclops and Wolverine could do a million things and be ultra versatile in any situation and if you had read X-men you would have known that. But no, you can’t be bothered. What it boils down to Noah is that your never satisfied. I could send 10 Playboy bunnies to your house to suck you off and all you would do is complained about how they’re sucking you off to hard. Your encouragable. See I would take that same character you rolled up, the Pool Boy, and would have had a great game with him. I would have seen that my only advantage is I could breath underwater but I don’t excel at anything else and I would have ran with it. I would see it as a challenge. Just think about it: what if you could breath under water? What could you do with that ability that sets you apart from everyone else? Maybe it’s because you live in a desert, but as a Floridian, to me that would be awesome. If I could breath under water, I could live underwater indefinitely. I could literally billed a house for myself in a coral reef and stay down there as long as I liked amongst the wonders of the sea. A marine biologist could do tremendous work down there observing marine life first hand without any need for scuba equipment or air. Pool Boy would be a tremendous asset to military and industrial divers who need to do decompression dives in order to do underwater construction and repair. Pool boy would be an asset to police, the national guard or the military who could use him to investigate accidents, murders, or acts of sabotage on the ocean, such as investigating a plane crash. Pool Boy could be the worlds greatest Navy seal or assassin being able to stay underwater indefinitely until his target arrives and he can take him by surprise. Pool Boy could even use his power to fake his death appearing to be a dead body floating in a pool to fool a group of criminals. The possibilities are endless. You just need a little imagination.

    In fact, I think I played Pool Boy once. We were playing a zombie apocalypse game and we were using D20 Modern 3.0 and I made a Moreauvian which are people spiced with animal DNA alla The Island of Doctor Moreau. Yeah, I was a guy spiced with dolphin DNA and I looked normal but I could breath underwater and I had dolphin sonar and I leveled the guy up as a soldier. I had a lot of fun with that guy, so yeah.

    But whatever, it’s not your taste. I didn’t think the video was that bad, but I do appreciate the text underneath and it’s always nice to hear your opinion even if it is ill informed. If you play those new Marvel and DC rpgs, by all means give us your 2 cents. Ok, on to video 2.

  • Lars-Erik Utberg

    What an odd take on it. Some of my favourite RPG’s take place in a more modern setting with little or no supernatural powers (at lest on the players part) so every combat situation is usually “I shoot it with my gun”. If you want to boil it down. The problem I see with superheroes is like super human durability in G.U.R.P.S, you have one, maybe two things you are weak against so the GM is forced to include those things to make a fight in it self to be dangerous to that character.

  • Sriseru

    You should check out Mutants & Masterminds, it’s an excellent (IMO) point-buy system designed for superhero games. If I remember correctly, the creator of M&M made it partially because he found the Hero system to be too complex.
    I think you can get a digital copy of the main book for 10 bucks or something.

  • Kitsula Tsulakala

    I’d like to echo a bunch of other people here in saying that it’s all a matter of creativity. The greatest example I like to cite here is (and I can’t believe I’m making this example here – although G1 MLP was done by Marvel) Fizzy from G1 My Little Pony. G1 was very much action/adventure and Fizzy’s sole power was making bubbles. Freaking bubbles. Now the other unicorns had more ‘useful’ powers like telekinesis or OP magic and stuff but Fizzy usually ended up being one of the most effective characters by using her “Useless” power creatively.
    – Moving objects/characters short distances with the bubbles
    – Creating a massive ‘smoke screen’ wall of bubbles so an entire troop of soldiers couldn’t shoot them and cover their escape (while Gusty hit them with a burst of wind to knock the front of the advancing line down).
    – Exciting goop placed in the cracks of a wall to further weaken it and take out the wall.

    and so on.
    Add that to her background of being a former abused slave with magic gem eyes (from the shrapnel of the Jewel Wizard’s exploded throne) and her propensity for self-sacrifice (acting as a diversion by charging into danger so the others could escape) and you easily have a great character with a “useless/boring” power.

  • Ryan Alarie

    One system that I used was Mutants and Masterminds. It has it’s own weirdness (the hit point system is a bunch of saves, with conditions, etc) but it was pretty fun. It has tons of power options, and it does provide different ways of accomplishing the same stuff (so gadgets can be equivalent to powers, etc).

    The thing with stuff like DCUO or that game, the make your own character thing are a bit like a D&D character that has to coexist with Elminster. Or in WoW, no matter how powerful you get, you aren’t the leader of the Horde. You aren’t going to replace the ‘boss’ NPCs for the factions. It’s just that the DC core characters are a bit more iconic.

    Mutants and Masterminds is fun since it’s a very extensive point system. You can spend your points to have great stats and a few simple powers. Or you can have a ton of powers with variations (sort of like a wizard, you can do anything, but only one thing at a time). You can have a ton of gadgets. You can have alternate forms. So, you can pick your level of complexity by either being very good at one thing (we had a crazy teammate who basically was immortal and would regenerate from nothing, and that was most of his points, but he’d come up with crazy ways to kill himself and take out multiple enemies) or have a versatile power set. It was classless, but you could build the equivalent.

    It does seem that, ultimately, it was the random element causing the problem. Having a DM approval but player choice can be problematic in its own ways, but it does reduce the chances of players outright hating the people they are playing. It does require the player come up with a concept and backstory, etc, to motivate them, but that’s basically the case in nearly any RPG.

    • sergio Estilarte

      I love the “no hit point system” is so cimple and also more realistic that the D&D one

    • Jeffery B Eppes

      I like how Mutants and Masterminds solves the problem Spoony mentions in this episode. If you were building Cyclops in that system, you’d give him his basic blast, a cone blast, a ricochet shot, some hand to hand skills, inspiring presence (is that the name? he’d have something like that.) And you have Hero Points to try out situational uses of a power (that you can then buy for regular use later if you liked how that played out that one time) He’d have all his ancillary skills from the comics like piloting, teaching, administration, etc.

      • Matthew Lane

        Yeah. Spoony really needs to pick up Mutants and Masterminds/ DC Adventures 3E… It ficks like 90% of the problems he brought up.

  • Dottoman

    For being a guy who likes to emphasize the “Role Playing” aspect of RPG’s, Spoony doesn’t seem very creative with superheroes. That’s fine, he should probably just stay away from games he’s not interested in.

  • Drew Taylor

    In COH the stand in character was named Statesman, and believe it or not, he has a really cool backstory and character if you actually check it out.

  • J.G. te Molder

    About the MMOs. I don’t really mind not being the big super heroes; I do mind being their flunky and always remaining that way. If I play in the DC universe, or Marvel universe, I want to BREAK those universes. I want to surpass Batman, become stronger than Superman, I want to kick the Joker’s and Lex Luthor’s asses, not their flunkies and then watch a NPC super hero beat up the final villain, etc.

    I suppose there is no such powers in the DC Universe, but then, that’s why I want to have them in the DC Universe; ki/chi based super hero. There’s one in Marvel, Iron Fist, but he remains basically still just human. On the other hand, I know these guys with powers based upon that and they annihilate cities, or even planets; yeah, most notably Dragon Ball Z. I would like to be able to do something new; that is start out as a batman level fighter, and at the end, being able to kick Superman’s ass.

    As a villain, I’m not going to work with other villains, well, maybe the occasional team up, as an equal, but I have no interest in being a henchman, I want to be the actual villain.

    As a hero, I might choose to kill a truly grave threat, and I might have to fight the Justice League because they or the authorities have decided I’m a villain now. I have no interest in remaining a Justice League errand boy no matter how high I level up.

  • RedSquareBear

    Repeat after me: the Palladium system predated RIFTS.

  • Nagneto Lives

    It’s ok spoony, it’s still fun to hear you talk about the stuff you love.

  • Driscol

    Ok so under the video there are 5 ads. One says “best wonder woman” and shows a picture of a cos player dressed as super girl. I don’t care if you don’t read comics, hell I haven’t read comics in years and have never read a superman, supergirl, or wonder woman comic, but some things are supposed to be common fucking knowledge. It’s like having a picture of a batman cosplayer and having the caption “worlds best punisher”

  • Conor Toleson

    I love your commentary! You bomb, but it’s still funny. The Pool Boy idea is kinda true, if you go hard core Heroes Unlimited. You definitely almost always get at least one major power, and one or more minor powers. There’s one option where you get like six minor powers. You can definitely rack up some crap powers. I still like it, though. The random tables are old school, and the idea is you roll up your powers and YOU figure out what the character is, how the powers unify. The characters didn’t get to pick the powers fate bestowed, they just have to deal with it. The game, like all Palladium games, is open to house rules to the point of needing them. So usually you should get a chance to change one power to what you want, or something like that. My favorite game is Mutants & Masterminds, which has the DC license for it’s 3rd edition.

  • Jim Thorpe


  • Leonard Andrew Spencer

    I like how Oreo got excited when you mentioned a heightened sense of smell

  • Fiddlewheel

    you know, with that text halfway through the video, I somewhat expected you to start talking about painful møøse baites.

  • Demonskunk

    I actually really hate MMOs that don’t allow full character creation.

    And concerning character roles, I regularly make my fighters very diplomatic. Who’s a better face man than the valiant knight in shining armor?

    Actually, I tend to usually make very diplomatic characters. I made a Sorcerer who never fought if he didn’t have to (and thanks to some well selected spells, and a ridiculous bluff/diplomacy he almost never did.)

    • Rakkrakk

      Those are the best kinds of characters(and players, for that matter): Wanting to stay out of fights as much as possible. Or at least are subtle and restrained. Damn were the other players surprised when I brought a Halforc fighter who didn’t spew nonsense at them and didn’t run into each fight like a maniac.

      • Demonskunk

        xD I always love playing characters that go against the status quo.

        • Rakkrakk

          In D&D being a hipster is fun, unlike in any other situation. :D

          • Demonskunk

            I’d argue that it’s still fun, you just have to enjoy it ironically B

  • Daoud Barbour

    Good episode, got a bit of nostalgia when you pulled out Heroes Unlimited. I enjoy playing heroes with options so I gravitated towards the Eugenic in Powers Unlimited 2.

  • sprezzatura15

    OH DUDE, you played Marvel Superheroes??? I actually did play in a campaign of that which lasted for a good couple months- it WAS pretty screwed up, but that wasn’t really the game system’s fault, it was mostly because our GM was a horny bugger (and being the only girl player made that a bit awkward, really…) But anywaaaaay… long story short, us players unintentionally made Tony Stark’s life hell in various ways- the guy with electricity powers shut off his suit mid combat, and I got mind controlled by the villain into seducing him, then beheading him… I kid you not. *nervous laugh* Good times?

    Anyway, had to Nostalgia Rant there… I enjoyed your take on the superhero RPG genre:) Also, I was impressed you’d heard of Scion, not everybody has- I had a pretty good long game of that a while ago.

  • TheIncrediblyStrange

    Ugh. Takes 10 minutes to watch 5 minutes of this video. Do not like this new video player. It refuses to preload video. Don’t remember it being anywhere near as bad last time I watched a Counter Monkey.

  • josh martyn

    people were writing entire books in the comments I’m just eating poptarts

  • Airrider

    Thank goodness the new Marvel Heroic Roleplaying system seems to fix a good chunk of this with the dice pool systems. You’re playing the characters, not just their powers, and you even get rewarded for playing in-character and making their strengths and limitations part of your narrative. It’s more of a storytelling game, but it’s a storytelling game that ebbs and flows and rewards creativity and playing like the hero whose shoes you’re stepping into.

    Sometimes, a little TOO much: Colossus actually gets experience bonuses for sacrificing himself in the middle of a fight, and Tony Stark gets experience bonuses for his battles with alcohol. Geez…

  • Adam McDonald

    seems like uneducated assumptions of Cyclops, he’s more than a fighter, he’s a leader; perhaps in a comparison for a game sure. The character’s experiences and personalities are what make them special, not entirely their powers. The downfall of the movies was how the creators only used the heroes’ powers and not their characteristics from the comics.

  • Matthew Lane

    Spoony mate, you need to play a session with Mutants and Masterminds 3E (also sold under the title DC Adventures). Mechanically it fixes a lot of the problems you’ve brought up since its a point buy game, where you not only spend points on powers/effect, but also on how objectively good you are, within a power level limit.

    An because its point buy, you can create any character you want, no randomness necessary.
    The power/effect system is versatile enough to deal with cyclops-ish characters. An its power stunting system actually allows players to pull the whole “superman spins around really fast & tunnels through the ground” moment.

    Heck its now considered more popular then even Champions was in its day: Its THE superhero game, the go to game for comic book superheroics.

  • Matthew Lane

    Um, where is part 2?

    • wizzbang


  • be ee

    there is no video here anymore. :,(

  • Jim Alderman

    Sorry Spoony, but you’re wrong about the Punisher being just a guy who shoots guns. The Punisher is basically a Batman with a hardcore military spec ops background and who will gladly kill any criminals he comes across. But he can and does tangle with both superheroes and supervillains on a regular basis. The reason he stays alive is because he’s incredibly cunning and clever; he KNOWS he can’t win against, say, the Hulk or Wolverine in a fair fight. So…any time he faces someone with powers, he makes damn sure it’s NOT a fair fight (preparation, studies weaknesses and target psychology, etc). If he gets ambushed or surprised, unless he has a backup plan, he flees. But he employs a wide range of tech and weaponry to even the playing field. The main reason he doesn’t fight supervillains much is because anyone the Punisher fights, he kills. As you’ve pointed out many times, comics like to maintain a status quo, so having a hero kill (as opposed to capture and throw in jail) his enemies means that soon enough, he won’t have any reoccuring villains left to fight. So, he’s basically just allowed to kill off minor villains no one really gives a crap about and won’t be missed.

    • CantBanThis

      So…..a guy who shoots guns. As long as no character we have ever heard of is involved.

      • Jim Alderman

        Simplifying the Punisher as a guy who shoots guns is like simplifying Batman as a rich guy with expensive toys. Seriously.

  • Robert Diaz

    Hey Spoony I still run the old Marvel RPG for friends, and we still enjoy it, granted I had to alter it slightly to make it more simple and balanced but it’s the one hero system that worked for us. The thing being is, that some powers trump other powers. Yeah, you can be invulnerable to physical damage, well….screw that, I have mental powers you’re done. So someone who’s just starting still has the potential to take out someone who’s been around for awhile. Admittedly there are power levels that people need to stick to for a balanced game, but it’s fine if the players agree. And don’t forget, in the game you had talents and contacts to use as well. Being creative with the powers is what made the character enjoyable. Power Stunts my friend…power stunts. lol.

    • irrenmann

      The TSR Marvel Super Heroes from the ’80s was a killer system—lightweight, flexible, adaptable and capturing the spirit of comics.

  • kamrom dechu

    The multiverse that all the Palladium games take place in is so wonderfully insane. The goal is to get a party of characters, each from a different dimension, and get them stranded on another dimension none of them are from.

  • Jesse

    The biggest problem with DC universe online is the controls, for me. I made a black-winged angel, which was really cool, flapping wings and all, but the flight controls were just awful without a USB controller.

  • dulles1969

    gah – if you want to run a superhero team as nothing but missions and combat, yeah, it gets old fast. Why even roll dice, you can buy a console game and button-mash to your heart’s content. If on the other hand you want to tell a deeper, more involved story about what it means to be “more than human”… now you’re talking. Maybe the reason most of your superhero campaigns didn’t last is because it lost sight of the people behind the powers?

  • Daniel Tilson

    When either writing, or roleplaying a Super Hero, I like to think about how awkward it might be. Especially for one with super strength or something like that… Having to concentrate in order to NOT break things? It makes for a much more interesting character than the one who runs around going “Hulk smash!” all day.

    No, I’m not saying the Hulk is a bad character. I’m saying that a human character with similar strength is more interesting if they’re trying to be normal except when it’s needed.

  • Barachiel

    If you want a good Superhero system that avoids some of the pitfalls of the older systems, I heartily recommend Mutants & Masterminds by Green Ronin Publishing. Yes, it’s technically a D20 game, but it’s SO far removed from the 3rd Edition of D&D you’d never know it, if not for the fact that … well, you roll a D20.

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