Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Planning a New V&V / Mighty Protectors Campaign : System Choice, or Pick your Poison

O.k. now its time to do an analysis to try and figure out which version of Villains & Vigilantes is the right one for me. As I said in my last entry part of me wants to go with the new shiny of Villains & Vigilantes 3.0 : Mighty Protectors, but part of my heart really wants to return to the simplicity of Villains & Vigilantes 2.x.

Choosing Mighty Protectors would mean supporting a "Living" version of the rules. By "Living I mean that it's still being produced and supported by the authors Jeff Dee & Jack Herman through Monkey House Games. Most of the support at his point is products that were promised through the Kickstarter campaign (4 years ago), and those are being released at what seems like a snails pace. Frankly I'm beginning to doubt if we'll see all of the material that was promised as part of the Kickstarter at this point. All that being said I completely understand why, Monkey house Games is a Small Company; I think technically it really just Jack & Jeff (and maybe Manada Jeff's partner) they rely a lot on freelancers for some of the products. For example the upcoming War Heroes title was, I believe written by Brian K. Adams. The art was most likely done but either Jeff and or Tod Allen Smith, and the layout is being done by Jeff. Now this is supposed to be a 300+ page book so that's a lot of work for so few people, and one has to assume that they have day jobs on top of at all this (Lets face it very few individuals can manage to live off producing rpgs on its own)

Choosing Villains & Vigilantes 2.x means that, for the most part, I'd be choosing a "Dead", Well maybe more like "Undead" version of the rules. Due to the settlement it seems like new material may be very sparse in the future. It seems that Fantasy Games Unlimited (the original publisher of the game) can't sell a version of the rules at this point (MHG still sells both the PDF and "dead tree" versions of V&V 2.1), but they have been putting out some interesting source books and adventures right up until 2018. We haven't seem anything new since then. The FGU website does list a product called Mystic Foes in their "coming soon" section, but no release date is listed. Up until this point Monkey House Games has also been supporting V&V 2.1 by making sure that all their Mighty Protectors releases are "dual-stated" for both systems, but I don't know much longer this will continue. I can't see them "dual-stating" War Heroes it's just too much work to write up all the character in both systems (if this is a N.P.C. Heavy source book). 

Seeing as I have 90-100% of everything produced for both system at this point, it does sort of become a moot point. It's not like whichever system I choose the "RPG Police" will come and take all my materials away if either version becomes truly unsupported by either gaming company. 

I freely admit that math and I are not the best of friends, and this may colour my perceptions. Now many superhero systems rely on a "point buy" character creation system. This is done to maintain what is commonly called "character balance". In other words it's so that all the player's character's are on an even playing field when it come to combat effectiveness. In my opinion this balance is completely illusory, and don't even get me started on the social implications of this need to make sure that the other people's characters don't have some sort of advantage over your character. The fact remains that even using a point buy character creation system it is possible to create characters that vary widely in combat effectiveness. Trust me I could easily create a character that would be ineffective in combat but hyper-effective in investigation or some other non-combat role-playing situations. I would still have a blast playing that character. I believe that this type of non-combat character, or as they're often referred to as "sub-optimal builds",  are just as valid a choice as their combat focused brethren, they just take more creativity to play.  So since point build system aren't a guarantee of balance, except on a purely abstract mathematical basis, why bother?

Mighty Protectors uses a "point buy" system, it isn't a "pure" point buy system as it does allow for a high degree of random generation, but it does try to be a "balanced" system. This means that all Stats & Powers are built from points, even if these are determined randomly. This allow for a great deal of customization-ability at the cost of turning character creation into an accounting like exercise. All you have to do is ask my wife and she'll confirm that I have a prejudice against accounting, not that I can't do it, it's just unpleasant...Blech.... 

Villains & Vigilantes 2.x pretty much uses a random / somewhat narrative method for determining Stats & Power. The powers are mostly pre-designed and act as a guideline on how powerful each power should be. This allows powers to be tinkered with on a gut instinct basis. In fact, the game actively encourages the players and game masters to work together to come up with unique power using the other powers as guidelines. This doesn't mean there is no math in Villains & Vigilantes 2.x.  Hell the math used to figure out a character's carrying capacity is infamous for its formula ((S/10)^3+(E/10)) x (W/2), but that calculation only has to be done once per character (in general), and I can easily do that with a calculator. 

Villains & Vigilantes 2.x is an older game and uses a convention of its time, a look up table to determine target numbers for combat. This is a "feature" that particularly bothers my friend  Tim Knight of the Hero Press Blog and he has twisted himself in to pretzel knots trying to avoid, or replace it :). Mighty Protectors  is a newer game and has done away with combat look up table in favor of a much better system involving "to hit" numbers for each attack and a semi-static defense number. I'll admit this is a feature that weighs in Mighty Protectors favor. Another thing that Mighty Protectors does better than its predecessor is the way it handles skills / backgrounds, or rather how it explains their intended use much more clearly.than it was in Villains & Vigilantes 2.0. it's not the granular skill system found in many rpgs, but I think it is very flexible. 

Players wont be hearing "sorry johnny you didn't buy / put points into that particular skill that you absolutely need right now, even though as a (insert occupation here) it would make sense that you would know it, so you can't do it. Now if your a (insert occupation here) and you have a reasonable chance of knowing something about a subject, or how to use a skill, you get to roll on a d20 against the relevant stat save as determined by your game master +3. If you don't have relevant training or knowledge because of your background and it qualifies as "common knowledge" you make a flat roll against your stat save value; otherwise your at a -3. If it requires specialist knowledge, your screwed, unless you have detailed instructions and you roll a 1 (lower is always better in V&V/MP unless its damage)

Then there's matter of "feel". This is a much more intangible quality, and unfortunately nostalgia may heavily color how each game is perceived. If I discount the nostalgia aspect, as I probably should, there isn't much to separate the two games . Villains & Vigilantes 2.x is renowned for the way in which it really emulates the super-heroic genre well, its often been sited among those that have played it, as well as other superhero rpgs, how much it brings the feel of comic book super heroics to the tabletop. I've also heard from V&V players as well as Champions players how MP is a great deal of fun and feels very super-heroic. In some ways the Mighty Protectors rule book goes further than it predecessor in helping generate that standard "4-color" feel. The chapters on the Mighty Protectors Universe feels really good, and it;s a wellspring of inspiration on how to build your own comic book universe; much more so than the pages and pages of legal code included in the V&V 2.x rule books. 

The last thing to consider is system familiarity, I have years upon years of experience creating V&V 2.x characters. In fact I have a binder full of potentially reusable heroes and villains from the old campaigns. So in someways I wouldn't be starting all over from scratch, as far a creating characters goes. But, frankly some of those heroes & villains have worn out their welcome, though overuse (at least in my mind), but that still leaves a lot of them to be exploited. With Mighty Protectors its all gonna have to be built up from the ground floor. That could lead to some really interesting developments and characters ...then there's that old building MP character feels a lot like accounting problem.

There is so much to consider, and  as I said I might, I think I've over complicated it ... again. If any of you have any Insight or feedback that might help please leave a comment. 

Next time I write should have a decision made. (Hopefully)

Thanks for reading

Erik a.k.a. Midnight


  1. Go with the most recent version 3.0 Mighty Protectors. If only because it will be easier to find resource material online to help supplement your campaign. Plus you won't be left with the possibility of anyone complaining about "game balance".

  2. Don't be seduced by the shininess of the new, go with whatever you - and your players - are most comfortable with.

    I wouldn't say we got tied up in knots about getting round the old style wargames results table from V&V2. Way back in the 1980s, our old GM, Steve, simply replaced it with very straight forward "to hit" rolls versus a target's defence score (in the style of modern D&D etc). And that's what I've run with ever since (although I've tweaked it, as is my wont).

    I always find it amusing that games seeking to emulate superhero comics also try to be balanced. Have these people read any comics? Thor and Hawkeye aren't equal, Superman and Blue Beetle aren't equal. The concept of player-character balance is an anathema to the source material. It was never a concern when we were playing V&V2 'back in the day', so not sure why it should be now.

  3. I know this is an old thread, but I currently face a similar question myself... what version did you end up going with? How did it work out for you?

    1. Truth is ... I'm still dithering between the two. At the moment though I'm trying to concentrate on world building, but its slow going due to pesky interference by Real Life(tm) and a distinct lack of motivation.