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Monday, August 8, 2011

Supers! rpg review

“Supers!” is an rpg by Simon Washbourne of Beyond Belief Games, who also wrote “Barbarians of Lemuria”. It is a rules-lite superhero game. The book is digest-sized (6” x 9”) and 118 pages long. It’s a full-color softcover, and is printed by Cubicle 7. The actual rules are 80 pages; then there are a bunch of heroes and villains in the back. The final 6 pages are all ads for Cubicle 7 and Beyond Belief Games products, which is a horrible waste of paper, in my opinion. The website is at: and the game forums are at: .

 It took maybe an hour and a half to read the rules. The feel of the game is more four-color supers and cartoon supers than gritty, Punisher or Watchmen stuff. 

The game is based on d6 dice pools. Characters are created via point buy, with different point allocations for different areas. Points can be saved up to spend on Powers, if desired. There is an option to just use start with 20D and buy what you want. This seems much easier to me.

Normals are limited to 3D in the various categories. If someone with the Normal limitation gets skills or Resistances higher than 3D, they roll all their dice and keep the 3 highest results.

All characters have four Resistances, which are kind of like hit points: Composure, Fortitude, Reaction, and Will. Each begins at 1D, and you add 5D among them as you wish, with a limit of 3D (mortal max). If any of these Resistances is dropped to 0D during combat, your character can break down crying because they failed, get knocked out, get stuck and immobilized, or maybe just terrified into surrender, depending upon which Resistance hits 0D. It’s an interesting idea.

Next up are Aptitudes. Characters start with 3D they can add in Aptitudes that they want, and automatically have 1D in all Aptitudes. Aptitudes are just broad-based skills. They cover all your standard modern superhero skill areas.

Finally, there are Powers. You have 12D to split up among them. Powers covers everything from Armor to Wizardry. They are intentionally broad-based and open to player and GM interpretation. This chapter also includes Power Complications (ex: Concentration Required) and Power Boosts (ex: Knockdown) that you can use to mold a power into a specific attack or defense. Pretty standard fare for a supers game.

Next up are Ads and Disads (advantages and disadvantages). Ads cover things like Allies and Instant Change; Disads cover stuff like Blind, Normal, and Enemies; both pretty standard supers fare. The one thing I really like about this section is that you can only get an Ad by taking a Disad. Taking Disads does not give you extra points for Powers. I really like this. I’d love to see it incorporated into other games. (There is an option to allow Disads to give points. I don't think I would allow it).

This is followed by a character creation example, which helps make sense of what is going on.

Next up is Playing the Game. This section just explains dice rolls and gives target numbers for unopposed things. It also has info for improving characters, which is that the GM should give the player 1D to add where he wants at various points, like after finishing an adventure.

The following chapter is Fighting. This involves using your powers to beat up the bad guys. I like that you can attack with your Super Speed, as long as you describe something like whirling around a guy and knocking him to the ground. The book specifically says to look for ways to allow powers to work instead of preventing them from working. I like that. 

You hurt the bad guy by rolling your power or fighting aptitude dice against his. For every multiple over his defense roll you do, he takes one damage to one of his Resistances. You can choose what Resistance takes damage, except in circumstance like a Mental attack always hurts Composure or Will; or an insult hurts Composure. It’s pretty straightforward, and should work well. 

Some combat examples are also provided, one vs. mooks and one vs. villains.

The next section is Villain Types. Mooks are easy to beat, as they have a rating equal to the number of mooks, which is used for everything. So 5 mooks have a rating of 5, which they attack and defend with. As they are defeated, their rating goes down. Henchmen are mooks with extra rating dice. Villains are briefly described by point level. Just make a character with the right amount of points and you have your villain.

Next up is Disasters. It provides hazards such as earthquakes and Fires, and lists various powers that could be used to fight them. It’s a pretty bare-bones section, but it should provide some ideas for GMs.

After that is Supersville. It is a very generic city with some plot hooks and some bad guy henchmen statted out. Examples include a supervillain who uses the mayor, a bad guy with a superhero girlfriend, etc. If you have any other supers setting available, you’ll probably just want to use it.

Then there is an adventure. It involves an alternate dimension, heroes getting set up to look like bad guys, and a big fight at the end. Also pretty generic.

The remainder of the book is sample superheroes and supervillains. They cover many of the standard types (power armor, champion, etc). I’d love to have seen this section expanded. It covers all the bases, but I can always use more villains.

The game is designed for a GM who is not afraid of making up rulings on the spot. Many descriptions are just guidelines. If you really need to have lists for everything, you won’t like this game. If you are an experienced GM who can wing it, I think the game will suit you pretty well.

The game would benefit from another editing pass by someone who is not intimately familiar with the rules. Some things are not explained well. The game is still quite good, and I recommend it to those who want to play a superhero game but don’t want to get bogged down in too many rules and rule exceptions.

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