If this is your cup of tea, you might consider a recent discovery; OneDice Supers, a game that delivers all this and more!
In the interest of full disclosure, I got this in trade from the designer (+Talon Waite). We both share a passion for simplicity in gaming and have been having a good time trying each other's stuff out (because we WILL be giving it a whirl).
Back in the day (meaning the 80s), I played Champions (by Hero Games), and while the system had some exciting ideas, like a point buy system for powers and advantage/disadvantage rules meant to tailor abilities and costs, it had certain, uh, bugaboos, probably player error, that affected my gameplay experience...
For one thing, the game was heavy on accounting, and we were certainly up to the challenge! We'd spend a WHOLE WEEK hashing out the perfect character; I mean the optimal build, only to feel the inevitable anti-climax at the table. And our creations were so powerful and meticulously crafted that no one could actually defeat anyone else, and everything fell into a tedious combat scenario culminating in a standoff. We went back to D&D.
It didn't help that our GM was emotionally invested in his own villains; lovingly crafting each one and jumping into combat eager to show off his superior accounting!
This was more than a little frustrating, because the game had so much going for it, including a then-revolutionary provision of players buying EFFECTS and justifying them (SPECIAL effects) however they wished. But somehow, our group overthought things...
Now, many people ADORE Champions, and who am I to argue with anyone's personal preferences? But OneDice Supers inevitably draws comparisons to that most venerable game because, for me, anyway, it incorporates its finest intuitions and expresses them in a smart and decidedly simple (and player-focused) rulebook.
So without further delay, here's my take on OneDice Supers by Talon Waite and the awesome folks at Cakebread & Walton Games:
This is a game about superheroes. Specifically, a game where players can custom-design their own heroes, complete with their own super powers, abilities, and back-story. This is an intriguing prospect even if you don't otherwise enjoy comic books, and OneDice Supers DELIVERS here by trimming out the fat.
Character creation is easy. You get 8 ability points to divide between four abilities; Strong, Clever, Quick, and Power. Each of these relates to specific actions undertaken (i.e., climbing or firing a gun) within the course of a game. Players can choose to be normal (vs. super-powered), however, with minor adjustments and stipulations, meaning this simple, tight little system can actually be used to make awesome pulp-styled heroes as well!
These abilities can be used to calculate a character's Health, Defense, and Movement quickly and easily. For instance, a Super's Health is Strength x 3. Ditto for Defense and Movement, which effectively consolidates several additional calculations into a few simple steps easily completed within minutes.
Players also get 5 points to buy powers (Gifts), drawing from a streamlined, but comprehensive, list. Supers can blast, ensnare, or even steal another's powers, and these can be justified within the narrative (referred to as their Tag), extending the options well beyond the 36 items offered. Some of these, like superior strength, enhance abilities, while others, including blast, deliver heroic powers comparable to our favorite heroes from the comics!
Players can put one or more points (up to 3) into a Gift, each impacting its power and/or effectiveness. Some are passive enhancements, while others require activation rolls per the power's written description, all of which are easy to use.
|The possibilities are literally |
endless, and the emphasis is on role-playing
as much as heroic superhero combat...
Next, players choose one Embellishment, like being filthy rich or having a Batman-esque butler, and a single Flaw, such as being magically cursed or missing a body part, etc. Finally, they get 6 Skill Points to purchase Skills, which is otherwise similar to Gifts and add greatly to the Super's background and persona. There are likewise provisions for establishing the character's secret identity or Cover, and even rules for disposable income and equipment.
Task resolution is similarly easy. You roll one die, add the governing ability/power/skill score and compare the result against a Target Number established by the Game Keeper. There's more, of course, but it largely all comes down to this simple core mechanic, which leaves more time (and energy) for the narrative!
This is a compact ruleset that achieves great things. Gifts are carefully selected to provide ENDLESS possibilities, being universal across the genre and GREATLY expanded by the Tags used to justify them within the narrative. And the absence of complicated mechanics and tedious point accounting eliminates most abuse and results in characters who can actually LOSE instead of the just running on the treadmill of stalemates in an endless looping combat scenario.
Ultimately, this is accomplished by keeping the numbers low, consolidating several function into one, and relying on the player's ability to justify the MANIFESTATION of the powers so central to superheroes in general. At no time does your character feel buried under the weight of an overly busy character sheet!
OneDice Super's 129 pages are cleanly laid out and very nicely illustrated in a way that utterly nails the spirit of the genre and recalls that excited feeling I got when I stumbled upon Champions back in 1983. You see this in the sample characters, each of which is pure and undiluted CONCEPT that shines through its wonderfully uncluttered statistical expression. Heroes at their finest!
There's more, of course, including rules for advancement and a specialized campaign setting, etc. Everything the ambitious player needs to become a hero and fight the forces of evil, and all the creative Game Keeper needs to build an exciting setting.
OneDice Supers is available from One Book Shelf in digital, soft, and hardcover formats. Well worth getting if you love superheroes!