Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Kicking the Tires on Villains & Vigilantes 3.0: Mighty Protectors RPG

It’s going to be hard to write this without sounding Like a raving Fanboy, But I’m going to try. Friday night when I got home I checked Facebook and saw that I had a message, when I looked to see who and what it was I discovered that it was from the last person I ever expected to send me a message, Jeff Dee one of the authors of Villains and Vigilantes. He was inviting me to participate in a demo of the soon to be released Villains & Vigilantes 3.0: Mighty Protectors Role Playing Game (Henceforth I will refer to it simply as Might Protectors to more easily differentiate it from its predecessor Villains & Vigilantes Revised) with Tim Knight, a friend and HeroPress blogger from the U.K. on Saturday afternoon.

The game is currently being Kickstarted, and as I write this it has 6 days Left. Its met its funding goals 2-3 days into the 30-day campaign, and has blown through 7 separate stretch goals and is working on reaching the 8th before it ends on Monday September 19th.

Now, for those of you that might not know I have a long history with this game. I began playing it in 1983, and it has formed the basis for the longest running campaign I’ve played in, or run. These campaigns were run by my dear friend P. Michael Hodge, and myself at different times.

Saturday morning rolled around and I was nervous, It’s not every day you get to play the newest iteration of your all-time favorite game with one of its authors. As the appointed hour rolled around I logged in to Skype and waited; it wasn’t long till until the call came in and introductions were made, then to quote Sherlock Holmes “the game was afoot”.

Jeff provide us with blank copies of the character sheet; essentially we were using the prototype of the spreadsheet based character creation tool that is available as an add-on to the Kickstarter Campaign. Then he asked use how we wanted to go about creating our characters, He described that it could be done in essentially 3 ways: completely random, random tweaked with character build points or purely using The character point build system. Already I was impressed with the versatility of the character creation system, and I hadn’t yet rolled a die or spent a point. Random generation systems don’t usually do well when translated and shoe horned into a point buying system, and Random generation systems grafted on to point buying systems, generally feel very restrictive. The fact that Jeff was so confident in the system and that it could do everything that he claimed it could, was heartening, but not surprising, as he has already told us that the system had been extensively play-tested for 5 years.

Tim, and I chose to start with the random system and see where it went from there. I was interested in seeing if the new rules, when used in “random generation mode”, could maintain the feel of the previous edition. So to that end we started by generating the person behind the Hero. 

We chose to be on the side of good but after that we rolled randomly for birthplace, species, culture, age, and sex. Now this is where it got interesting. Sex was determined by 3 separate rolls: gender identity, biological sex, and sexual preference. This is very much in keeping with both trends in modern comic books, and roleplaying games, to be as inclusive as possible. While this kind of mechanic is not absolutely necessary for a role playing game, it does encourage players to think outside of traditional gender/sexual stereotypes. The sex of Tim’s character was determined to be a Hetero-Sexual Cisgender Female, while mine ended up being a Lesbian Cisgender Female. We then moved on to our character’s motivations for being Heroes. Tim’s roll got him the motivation of “Glory Hound”, mine yielded “Need to know”. Next was origin type, the rolls were “science experiment” and “science accident” respectively.

Jeff then had us roll for out areas of background expertise, it was a series of three rolls of which we got to keep the two we though fit the best, or were the most interesting. Tim ended up keeping academia & agriculture, whereas I kept sports and law Enforcement. These backgrounds figure strongly into skills system presented in Mighty Protectors, helping to determine the difficulty of a character preforming a no combat action/skill roll.

We now move on to the basic characteristics, but before we did Jeff asked us what Power Level we wanted the characters to start at; the option he presented us with were Street Level (your typical cape and cowl Rooftop runners), “Normal” (think X-Men), or Cosmic (Jeff said this was the Avenger / Justice league type level). Villains and Vigilantes revised was set at the Normal Level by default, again more interesting options were showing themselves in this new edition of the game . Needless to say Normal was chosen so that we would have a better frame of reference to work from, and of course us old grognards needed to see how this new game stacked up against our old favorite. Based on our decision the initial point level limits were established for the mechanical portions of character creation. 

The Basic Characteristics of Strength (ST), Endurance (EN), Agility ( AG), Intelligence (IN), and Cool (CL) were randomly assigned to stats from a basic array of 18, 16, 14, 12, 10. We also rolled to determine our characters Weight. Since we were using the spreadsheet character creator many of the secondary and calculated statistics were populated at this point and I can’t accurately comment on how they truly interact not having seen the rules. I do have a minor concern that assigning stats off of a standard array will eventually lead to a bit of samey-ness in characters. But, as Jeff pointed out points can easily be shifted and/or redistributed between the stats with little or no penalty, so I may be completely off base here.

Selection of our character’s powers was up next. Jeff explained that powers are split up into 3 “loose” categories offensive, defensive, and miscellaneous/utility. I say “loose” because it’s apparently possible that offensive powers can have defensive aspects, and vise versa, and the miscellaneous/utility powers can sometimes be used in an offensive or defensive manner as well.

Jeff had us roll up 6 powers randomly, 2 from each category. We then were instructed to find the four powers that seemed the most interesting / cohesive, or simply the ones we wanted to keep. Although we were not forced to get rid of any of those powers at any time. He told us to assign those powers 20 points each in the cost column of the sheet as this was the point level that Random powers are assigned at the power level we had chosen earlier. We were also informed that we could roll up to 2 weaknesses. But we did not have to keep them but they would give us points we could use to modify the chosen base powers if desired, or be put in the others we wanted to keep if any.

Jeff helped us modify the chosen powers to fit our developing character concepts, I can’t really get too deep into it because Jeff did most of the heavy lifting here being the guy with the rules and all. But there did not seem to be any issue in making the powers match the way we wanted them to work. The flexibility hinted at here seemed powerful yet not overly complex which really help keep the feel of Villains and Vigilantes alive for me. After that Jeff listed out our character’s attack and defensive options as determined by our powers. All that was left was to give out characters names, and Identities. I have Included our finalized character sheets to show what we eventually ended up with.

We now moved on to a little traditional one on one hero against hero combat, using the old tradition of heroic first meetings turning into slugfests; at least until they, of course, figure out that they are on the same side after all. Jeff used this combat to give us a quick taste of some of the combat options and mechanics. Some of these were familiar from the previous edition, like “Rolling with Damage” that is using your power score to absorb some of damage dealt to your hit points, but at the cost of the energy to run your powers. In Mighty Protectors you can also use your power score to “Push” certain powers in ways that allow more damage or accuracy.

The old cross indexed attack/defense table has been done away with in favor of a calculated “to hit” target number, which in the grand old tradition of V&V is a roll under on a d20 mechanic. This is guaranteed to drive most diehard Dungeons and Dragons players insane, because as opposed to D&D a “1” is a critical roll in Might Protectors. The target to hit number is modified by the opponent’s defensive modifier (physical or mental). So for example, if I have a 14 or less to punch my opponent and they have a -4 physical defense now have to roll lower than 10 to hit on a d20.

The Initiative mechanics have changed from V&V to Mighty Protectors, but people who have super-speed can still act several times in a round, a feature I always loved in V&V. I’m glad to see its still here in a modified form. It allows Speedsters and characters with high reaction speed to feel impressive and deadly.

According to Jeff The old power of Heightened Speed has been broken up into it constituent parts. Super speed, the ability to act and move several times a round, Speed the ability to move faster, and Initiative Bonus allowing one to act before other characters in an imitative sequence. There’s that customizability coming to play in this new addition again. I Love that. 

The fight was quick, but not too quick. If not for a failed save on Tim’s part against my Paralysis Ray/Touch he would have cleaned my clock as I was depleting my power quickly trying to get past his defenses.

Jeff then took a few minutes to Introduce us to the new vehicle design system that they Introduced. Villains & vigilantes never really had much in the way of a vehicle system at all, and seeing as vehicles, and especially advance vehicles have such a long and proud history in the comics (can you say Batmobile, Blackbird, Quinjet) it always seemed like something that was missing in the previous versions of the rules. From what he described the system is very Modular and intuitive. And I look forward to seeing how the full system is described and implemented in Mighty Protectors.

In conclusion, I went into this demo of the Mighty Protectors with Jeff and Tim with a lot nervousness and trepidation. I was afraid that the changes to the system would end up making it feel too different from the Villains & Vigilantes I knew, and that the spirit of the game I loved so much would be lost. After this I can say that Jeff has proved to me that he hasn’t lost sight of what made V&V so much fun, and endearing, and has found a way to bring this classic system into a new Era. Based on this experience I’d say I’ll be very happy with the Might Protectors RPG for years to come.

I want to say thank you to Jeff Dee for taking 3+ hour out of his Saturday to run this for a couple of old time fans, that is just amazing. It was truly amazing opportunity, and I know I had a blast.

If you haven’t Pledged on the kick starter yet, what the heck are you waiting for? 

After all there’s plenty of Villainy out there, and it won’t thwart itself you know!! 

Thanks for reading 

Erik a.k.a Midnight