Thursday, June 28, 2018

Make Mine V&V !!!

I’ve have had V&V 3.0 / Might Protectors since its initial early Kickstarter releases, I’ve wanted to Love it … but like my friend Tim Knight of HeroPress I find the change to a point buy system has definitely dampened my enthusiasm. so I was starting to spin back into the Eternal Quest for a SHRPG. But Tim’s recent post made me start reconsidering my old love Villains & Vigilantes 2.X. Then I ran in to this piece I wrote perhaps 8-10 years ago on another site when I was asked why I Love V&V so much.  Funny thing is I find its still truly expresses my feeling on the V&V versus other SHRPG’s

Villains &Vigilantes was the third RPG I ever played, the first being AD&D 1st edition, then Gamma World 1st Edition, and then Villains & Vigilantes 2nd. This being said it has a HUGE nostalgia factor for me, but despite what some may think this is not a case of rose coloured glasses. I realize that Villains & Vigilantes has it flaws and peculiarities; all of which I have come to terms with over the years.

We played V&V for 10 solid years, and then sporadically after that for another 10 years, and I've run several successful campaigns with my original gaming group as well as another group while I was still in Sherbrooke (Quebec, Canada) cut off from the rest of my original gaming group here in Montreal. For many years I served as P.Michael’s our primary GM’s sounding board and occasional GM's Assistant due to my comprehensive internalization of the core rules, at least until P.Michael began to heavily drift the V&V rules in a way that I had a difficult time grasping.

About 15 years ago I became unsatisfied with V&V, that or I was overcome by the initial stages of the gamer’s A.D.D that I'm starting to recover from just now, and I began a 15 year search for a suitable heir for to V&V. In the intervening years I have investigated a wide variety of Superhero RPGs. Hell my shelves groan more under the weight of the books that comprise that genre than any other. All of these systems were subconsciously held up to V&V as the golden standard, and of course all of them failed.

They failed for a number of reasons, but not because any of them were intrinsically Inferior to V&V, but because none of them approach the genre, and for that matter role-playing, from the same perspective as V&V in my opinion. It was that perspective that shaped my expectations about how a Superhero RPG should work. It also jived very well with my perception of how things worked, and what I like about the source material. The thing is, Villain & Vigilantes doesn't give a rats ass about game balance, and neither do I. (mind you I posted they on the Monkey House Games forums a while back and Jeff Dee took exception to that particular assertion, never the less I stand by it)

I have no patience for players who sit there and moan, bitch and whine that their character isn't as powerful as players X's character, and use that as an excuse to be disruptive during the session, and or using the power discrepancy as an excuse for throwing their hands in the air and pout until either they are bumped up to meet, or exceed, everybody else's power level or everybody else is brought down to their level (funny how nobody ever complains when there more powerful that everybody else Eh). Every other game (with the exception perhaps of the old Marvel Super Heroes Advanced Set by TSR) it predicated on placating these immature malcontents via "Game Balance", while in my opinion V&V approached the game with the attitude of "your all supposed to be mature Individuals, and yes fate can be a bitch, deal with it, make the best of a shitty situation". But, here's the trick, that's the kinda thing comic book characters have to deal with all the time.

Maybe I've been spoiled, but I've had the benefit and pleasure of associating with a lot of "mature" role players in my groups. That’s not to say that we haven't had our share of power gamers and munchkins, but overall, the players that have been involved in the supers campaigns I've played in have been fairly mature and level headed, and more interested in having fun, and telling a story, than one-upmanship, or any other form of competition with their fellow players. So, I've never really understood systems that enforce an artificial "Game Balance". I’d rather just tell player X to grow up already. (Truth is I'd love to be that blunt but, I rarely am.)

(My gratitude for such wonderful sessions goes out to P.Michael Hodge, John Moret, Russell Sangster, David Sangster, Peter Roffey, Jeremy Kidd, Mark Taylor, Francois Verpaelst, David Glenn, Gordon Evans, Lucien Soulban, and Luc Millette)

Another aspect of V&V that I find suits me to a tee is the random character creation. No other game, with the exception of Marvel Super Heroes, allowed, neigh encouraged the that the hand of fate determine the heroes lot in super heroic life like V&V. In the comic books heroes rarely get to pick and choose their powers, rather the power are thrusts up on them, and they again must learn how to best use them to uphold and further, the common good; Yet, the system was not averse to players approaching the GM and discussing a concept with them and working in conjunction to flesh it out.

A very important reason why V&V appeals to me more than any other Super Hero RPG is because it isn't a point buy system. I can't stand, no I loath, the accounting required in point cost balancing. It' not that I'm adverse to math ( but lord knows I have my difficulties) Heck you should see V&V's formula for deriving carrying capacity. (((str/10)^3)+(End/10))*(weight/2) this I have no problem with, but I have never liked the balance sheet / general ledger methods of character creation, at least not for supers (Champions, Mutants & Masterminds, Etc. I’m looking at you.)

Last but not least is my familiarity with the rules, I can run Villains & Vigilantes in my sleep!! I no longer wish to be challenged by a system. I'm quickly losing the interest in learning complete rules systems. As a player I'm really starting to appreciate the wisdom of my old Pantheon member Mark Taylor when he said "just tell me what to roll". When I run a genre as near and dear to my heart as supers I don't want to argue over rules, and sweat the mechanics I want to concentrate on the story, and the action.

By today’s standard V&V is perhaps showing its age, yet Mutants & Masterminds, the undisputed top-dog in the Superhero RPG field, has had it's author cite Villains & Vigilantes as one of it's primary sources of inspiration. It is often recognized on as a underappreciated classic of the Genre. So I join a small a somewhat vocal minority that is willing to say "Damn it this is a Cool game despite it age and flaws" because I whole heartedly believe the Cool / Fun factor of the rules far outweighs its flaws.

So Make Mine V&V!! ( and get off my lawn with you new-fangled games you young whipper snappers !! :) )

- Midnight


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Dead Games Society Villains & Vigilantes Retrospective With Jeff Dee — DGS EPISODE #44

Dead Games Society Villains & Vigilantes Retrospective With Jeff Dee — DGS EPISODE #44

A very nice interview with Jeff Dee of Monkey House Games on the Dead Games Society Podcast. It's all about V&V's past and it future as Mighty Protectors RPG.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

On Writing Premiere Issues For your SHRPG Group


Writing adventures for Superhero Role Playing Games pose unique challenges for GM's. It is especially tricky when writing an adventure for the "Premiere issue" of New Campaign, and the player character haven't yet even been created.

This is kind of the challenge I'm facing right now, Seeing as I don't want a long delay between character creation and actual play. This is because in my experience I've found that too long of a delay between these two events will most assuredly kill the initial enthusiasm that is extremely beneficial to start of a fledgling campaign. I have to start writing the Initial adventure pretty much right now.

I think I've picked a potentials group of adversaries, now I need a interesting situation, a motivation for the villains, and a location for it to happen. I once read, I think it was in the Original DC Heroes RPG by Ray Winninger, that a GM should create a time line for her villain’s plans, that is how and when would the various stages of the villain’s plan go off if the players never get involved. That sounds like very sound advice to me. Of course, the villains will have to modify their plans as the player become involved, they’re not just going to throw their hands up, and give up at the first sign of player / hero involvement, they do want to accomplish their end goal after all, otherwise why even bother starting the whole enterprise to begin with.

Another hugely important, in my opinion, piece of advice I’ve heard is: Come up with problems for the players /characters to face, not solutions; solving them is the players / heroes job. Coming up with potential solutions, is a complete waste of time tends to make you not see the players devised solutions for the works of genius that they very well could be. Even if every solution they come up with is lame, and couldn’t possibly work let them try and be fair about the adjudication of the attempt. I guarantee that it will lead to gaming stories that will be retold for years.

Welll to quote W. Pooh Esq. “Think, think, think … oh bother” 

Any, and all, comments and suggestions are welcome

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Pleasant Sunday Making Characters

Logan and I are rolling up a Mighty Protectors Character. Great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. He rolled up a Pakistani national, with emotion control, non-corporeal, telekinesis, regeneration, with prejudice and nemesis. His motivation is dystopian

Needless to say he's a super villain n.p.c :)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Villains & Vigilantes 3.0: Mighty Protectors is in the House


Well the Guys behind Monkey House Game (Jeff Dee & Jack Herman) Have finally given the kickstarter Backers a pre-release copy (No art  & no Mighty Protectors Universe background chapters) of  the new Villains & Vigilantes 3.0 rules.

You haven't been able to wipe the smile off my face since I downloaded them Friday, Thank you Jeff and Jack!

I'm really Liking what I'm reading!! There are some Significant changes to the Mechanics ( all for the better I'd say, patched a lot of "Holes" in the old rule set) but despite that is still feels very Much Like V&V.

I'm slowly working on a character to try out the Character Creation rules and I'm finding it very customizable, and even though the powers are more clearly defined, it still fell easy to create anything you might need even if its not already in there.

I'm really happy that they decided to release this Preview Copy, I wasn't too happy about possibly waiting till Summer to receive the hardcopies. What can't I say I'm an impatient kinda guy. Never been too good with delayed gratification.

I bought in big to the Kick Starter 2 Hardcovers 3 Softcovers all the Extras ( and as many in print as possible, some just weren't available in a Print versions)

But I'd like take this for a spin soonish!!

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!!