I'm gearing up for my next big RPG campaign and in the process of doing so I've run a number of one-shots with different groups to see which Superhero RPG is my favorite.
Now normally this wouldn't be a big question for me. Seeing as how I've been running Superhero campaigns since 1982 or thereabouts, I've pretty much tried them all. I already know which ones I like and which ones I don't and while I love trying new games I'd rather spend my free time jotting down ideas and doing illustrations instead of worrying about mechanics. Actually that could pretty much be said for every game project I've ever worked on and ever will. Bottom line, Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Edition is my favorite - more on that later.
All that said, there have been quite a lot of new entries into the superhero comic book gaming genre of late and I thought I owed it to my players and myself to at least read through a few and test out ones that caught my fancy. Bet you didn't know I had a fancy.
First off was an old game actually rather than a new one, Golden Heroes. I remembered liking this game but don't recall playing often. It is long out of print but a free download of its 'sequel' Squadron UK can be found on the internet.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with this system that some minor houses rules wouldn't cure, the game feels a bit dated. It is relatively easy and rules lite but I wanted something meatier. Still, we did have fun with it and the plot for that particular one shot was quite good.Next I tried the very disappointing ICONS RPG by Adamant Entertainment, created by none other than Superhero gaming genius Steve Kenson. Steve is to Supers RPGs what Reed Richards is to comic book super science. Because I believe this so strongly, it pains me to say that I just don't like ICONS.
Its fast, simple, rules lite and has many aspects I should love. It is also way too limited. The mechanics are reminiscent of the TSR Marvel Super Heroes game, a game I felt was too childish and not expansive enough when it first came out in 1984 and I was 15. The limited number of ranks, none of the powers really feeling different from each other and the difficulty in determining exactly what should be a stunt and what should be part of the more vague power descriptions makes it fun for a one shot but not well suited to be the system for my next long term campaign.
I also tried BASH, Supers and a few others but nothing really hit that sweet spot held by Mutants & Masterminds. Most of these games are too simple for the Superhero comic book RPG fan whose looking for something a bit deeper in their save-the-universe-from-costumed-criminals experience. Champions, while another favorite of mine, is too complex and for the GM too time consuming (especially if, like me, math is not your forte). M&M falls into that area of near perfect balance that is really rare to come by with any game system.
So its settled right? What's that? Mutants & Mastermind THIRD EDITION?! And an official DC Comics game USING THAT ENGINE?!?
Great Caesar's Ghost.