Day 19 – Favorite Supers RPG
Another tough one, if only because I haven’t played that many Supers games. I like the idea of them, but it’s a genre I’d rather play than run, and I’d wager it’s the least-popular RPG genre out there despite the insane number of supers game systems. It just never seems like anyone ever runs them, and the ones I’ve been in (and the few I’ve run) were hit or miss—either lots of fun beer-and-pretzels gaming, or a good example of the adage that the average game has trouble understanding the supers mindset.
Even the list of “pure” Supers games in my library is pretty small. I have Silver Age Sentinels, which I like the idea of but have never played (if I’m going to go point-buy crunchy, I’d go with this one over GURPS or Hero because, well, I own it); I have a copy of Worlds in Peril that I haven’t had time to do more than skim; Marvel Heroic Roleplaying was the game of good ideas and missed opportunities, where despite critical acclaim it died a miserable death as its sales didn’t support the cost of Marvel licensing. I love the idea of running Aberrant, but I found its mechanics somewhat problematic; I tried to “fix” it by hacking in a lot of Scion’s rules and design, but then again, we see how that ended up when our Scion game was cancelled due to how awful and unbalanced some of its mechanics are.ab
That pretty much leaves me with ICONS and Marvel Superheroes (the FASERIP system). I’d have to go with one of them, and I’m not really sure I care which one—I love both of them because of their pickup-game nature, random character generation and fast-and-loose flow. ICONS is a bit more nuanced and modern in its mechanics—and its fluff, as having a decent intelligence score doesn’t reference “knowledge of most ’80s electronics”—but Marvel FASERIP had a certain charm that ICONS tried to capture. Marvel’s lunacies were also endearing features: the weird color-coded success chart, the encyclopedic lists of powers, stats for every single Marvel character (whether they needed it or not)… it perfectly captured the bronze/silver age mystique.
I’d probably lean towards ICONS: Assembled Edition, which I still need to buy, as running the original ICONS turned into an exercise of on-the-fly house-ruling, due to the lack of rules for improving powers and gaining experience. (It also had some terrible balance, where one guy ended up with Armor 3 and another got the weird Astral Form one that lets you fall unconscious and enter the dream realm.) Also, FASERIP has some supplements (the Powers one, for a start) that are pretty pricey—not prohibitively expensive, just enough to deter me from collecting it.