D&D is *FAR* from the only game where everybody sits down at a table, rolls up a character, then has a TPK (Total Party Kill) at the hands of the Game Master 20 minutes later.
There’s also a handful of Superhero-themed RPG that are fun to have a TPK in. And, much like with D&D type games, there are dozens of different systems to use. Some of them focus more on storytelling and creating a fun narrative, some of them focus more on combat and tactics. Some of them try to blend both things…
And, well, when you do that, you end up with something like The Hero System. (If you remember Champions from the 80’s, the Hero System is what Champions evolved into. The last Champions was 4th edition. The current Hero system is 6th edition.)
It’s set up in such a way to be *REALLY* flexible. It’s based on a point system. You get a certain number of points to spend on advantages like “flying” or “super strength” or “super speed” or “weather control” (and a handful of disadvantages that give you additional points can also be purchased like an exceptionally strict code of honor or always broke or a requirement that you spend at least an hour in direct sunlight every day or similar). So, like, a B-lister superhero might get 200 points to spend, an A-lister might get 350.
So it’s really easy to create a flying superhero who can shoot flames from his hands but needs to eat a box of twinkies every day or else he loses her powers. Or a superhero who can transform into a half-woman/half-crocodile who is exceptionally strong, but cannot speak (can make hissing noises, growls, etc, but no English). My favorite hero was a Speedster Martial Artist (who had a bit of a drinking problem).
Pretty much any hero you can imagine from the Marvel or DC universe (or Image, for that matter) can be approximated in the Hero system. So if you’ve always wanted to play, say, The Thing or Elastic Man or The Savage Dragon, you totally would be able to roll that character up in no time at all.
This is all well and good if you’ve got a good table and want to experience the joys of having Iron Fist argue with Storm and Aquaman about where to eat lunch. The problem comes when you get to combat. Sigh. The combat.
The basic idea is that each turn of combat takes about a minute. Each turn is made up of 12 sub-sections called rounds. So a turn will have rounds one, two, three, and so on. Your speed will determine how many and which rounds will allow you to move. The slowest characters will only move on round 12. If you’re a little faster than that, rounds 6 and 12. A little faster than that, rounds 4, 8 and 12. A little faster than that, and you’re moving on rounds 3, 6, 9, and 12. And so on and up until you get to the Barry Allen version of the Flash and you’re moving on all of them.
Which is where the problems happen. Each round takes about 2 minutes per person moving to resolve. So if you’ve got a slow character who moves only on rounds 4, 8, and 12, that means that they’re sitting there twiddling their thumbs for *LOOOOONG* stretches when the speedster martial artist gets to go practically every other round. And goodness help you if you’re playing someone like The Thing. You might get to watch the speedster have three turns before you have your first one.
It’s a lot of fun to play The Thing when he’s arguing with Iron Fist about what to watch on television. A lot less fun to play him when Doctor Doom when steals the remote and now there’s a fight.
So we usually have a great session talking about our character concepts, our character’s backstories, and having the session where everybody is establishing their relationships.
And then we have the first fight.
And then we play something else.
Except we may have found a new Superhero system that does not have this particular pitfall!
But I’ll talk about that next week.
So… what are you playing?
(Picture is HG Wells playing a war game from Illustrated London News (25 January 1913[/efn_note]