Pen and Paper: Roleplaying Superheroes
Like any other hobby, roleplaying can take many forms. When it comes to genres, fantasy reigns supreme on the tabletop. Dungeons and Dragons, the grandfather of all roleplaying games, brought elves and dwarves into gaming in such a way that they seem to define the gaming experience.
But, what if I want to play a superhero?
While the fantasy genre may be the one that started it all, it isn’t the only choice out there. Vampires, military, science fiction, samurai, westerns and superheroes are all out there, waiting to be played. Since I love superheroes and comic books, you can bet that I enjoy playing them. In fact, I tend to have more fun playing a superhero than I do a dwarf. And I love playing a dwarf.
There’s plenty of superhero rules available. , Mutants and Masterminds, and ChampionsMarvel Superheroes are just a few options. I’ve tried a few of them and they’re all fun, in unique ways, but the closest I ever came to feeling like I was getting the most out of my game was Marvel Superheroes.
That is, until I met Savage Worlds. You see, Savage Worlds does every genre. All those I listed above, it can handle and excel at, as long as you know how to work the system. The only thing it doesn’t do well is superheroes.
Then, like sweet mana from Heaven, Necessary Evil came into the world. While others might call it a simple expansion of the core rules, Necessary Evil changes the way I play superheroes. It works right alongside the main book which allows it to be just as fast and furious as I could want.
The first real change comes in the form of new Hindrances. These additions are to help you build a superhero with more character. While the core rules have plenty of Hindrances, these are more specific to the genre. All the old ones still work; if you love taking “Outsider” and “Overconfident”, don’t worry. The dozen new ones include Hindrances like “Alien Form” so you can be a true outsider, “Allergy” has you weak to your own form of kryptonite, and characters playing villains can take “Gloater” and put Dr. Doom to shame with their monologing. I once took “Servitor” for a character I named Count Rockula, his major hindrance was that he was the servant of rock and roll. One of my favorite Hindrances is “Terminally Ill”. While it might not seem worth the trouble, from a roleplaying point-of-view, it allows you play a character who knows that the time he has is precious, while allowing for a possible noble death if the cards are right.
New ways to define your character are great, but it’s how a game does superpowers that makes me want to play. If all you ever use Necessary Evil for is a power manual, then you’ve spent your money wisely. The powers in this book work like the powers in the core rules, only they’re more powerful and have tons of modifiers. I’ve yet to think of a superhero I can’t build with this book. Sure, if I wanted a character as powerful as Thanos or the Silver Surfer, it might not work out so well, but anything Avengers of Justice League level works.
You have your “Force Control” if you’re looking to be a Green Lantern, plenty of cheap powers to form a super tracker, and “Matter Control” lets you move the matter of choice. You can build a super speedster or a psychic. You can buy a super base and car and be an undead defender of the night. One of my favorite characters was a mutant who could duplicate himself. While that might not seem like much, every duplicate had the same power as the original and I had “Explode”. In battle, my hero was resupplying boy-bomb. If you really know the system, you can terrorize your game master and play a “Super Sorcerer” which gives you access to every power at a cost. For those who know the rules inside and out, this power can make you a formidable hero.
Modifiers make this system what it is. There are standard powers, such as “Attack, Melee” and “Attack, Ranged” that work exactly as you think, but the modifiers help you define the power. Does your punch burn with the flame of a thousand suns? Well, that’s an “Elemental Trick”. Do you shoot an attack that covers a city block? Take “Area Effect”. All other powers come with them, allowing you to adjust how they work, what they do, and what they cost.
I’m not much for pre-made campaigns, but Necessary Evil comes with a story I wouldn’t mind playing through someday. The concept involves an alien invasion that takes out all superheroes. The only ones left to defend Earth from these invaders are the super villains of the world. It’s an interesting concept and allows the players to let their chaotic side out for a change. I’ve read through the whole adventure and it seems like it stays unique enough to carry players through. I hope to play or run it someday, but you never know what gamers want. If you’re looking for a unique campaign, try it out and let me know what you think.
Whether you’re looking for a campaign to run some evildoers through or you just want a classic four color superhero game, Necessary Evil is the place to look. It gives the most freedom in character creation out of the games I’ve played and lets you set your limits on how powerful you can get. I’ve ran many superhero games with this system and it always works out well. Combat is fun and can send heroes through buildings, the concept of rolls “exploding” and getting raises allows for moments of true super feats, and you can keep the world non-lethal as long as you would like. All in all, the system is pretty super.