Who doesn’t love superheroes? Other than supervillains, that is. Can’t think of someone? Well that’s because supers are awesome. I’ll get to the point, I’m talking about Heroes Unlimited. The original was released in 1984 and since then hasn’t really had any different “editions” like other games, such as D&D. Sure, they released a couple of revisions but the last revision was released in 1998. Almost two decades ago. While I love all RPGs, Heroes Unlimited holds a special place in my heart, as it’s the first superhero based RPG I ever played. It’s right up there with D&D. That being said, not everything is perfect. More importantly, this article lets me break out some of my more marvelous superhero puns.
I was hoping I wouldn’t end up starting this like a teenager, but let’s face it; it’s freaking WICKED when you’re flying around shooting fire out of your hands at some jerk who wants to destroy the world or whatever. The feeling of almost being a celebrity while costumed in public is pretty snazzy too. While at the same time, you’re also a regular person! Yeah yeah, I know what you’re thinking: That's pretty much every… episode of Hannah Montana. But she doesn’t stop supervillains so, that's where the parallel stops, thankfully. Things like SDC (Structural Damage Capacity(Think badass healthbar(I love brackets,))) Flight and the minor powers really enhance the experience and just make you feel like… well, a super hero.
Really though, this is just my personal tip of the hat to everyone involved in that. It’s a great work of art and an enjoyable game that I think will live on, and as I mentioned before, it holds a very special place in my heart.
There are a lot, and I mean a lot of combinations to make in Heroes Unlimited. Not to mention there's three different books on even more super powers. Three! All of’em are 96 pages and add another 200 some powers to the already copious amounts of powers that came in the core book. You’ve got different categories for heroes such as Alien, Experiment, and Mutants (glad I’m not owned by Disney.)
You can be anything. There’s so many ways to create a character, the variety blows most other games I’ve seen out of the water. Between stats, background, education, powers, categories for heros and personal flares, there's a cornucopia of options. Don’t even get me started on the little things they threw in such as insanity and phobias.
Ever wanted to fight with the Fantastic Four? How about the X-Men? Avengers? Justice League? Teen Titans? Well, with a little planning and work on the GM’s part, it's relatively easy to play in the worlds of these famous groups. Even play these characters if you’re ballsy enough to desecrate the good names of these characters, you monster. Aside from my personal quarrels with my friend and his insistence to play *ahem* Wuce Brayne/Ratman and ruin the name of you-know-who, it’s a good flexing of those role-playing muscles to put yourself in the boots of these famous (and sometimes infamous) characters.
The game isn’t reliant on these previously made worlds, though. With some imagination and some hardcore math, you can create your own worlds for your new or reused characters to run rampant in. Crafting a powerful enemy, a sidekick or even a different group of heros can be just as thrilling as it is time consuming. As with all tabletop games the intricacy is up to you.
Let me just start by saying this point is more of a personal experience thing but, in my eyes, it has become a key part of every hero (or anti hero) I've played. As you level up, your powers grow as does everything else about your character (obviously), however the process of said growth is up for interpretation. I find this beautiful. Many of the characters I’ve played have grown in power and personality through many interesting processes. Occasional doses of (plot placed) radioactive waste, electrical charging and even just “supposedly” exponential power growth due to the “incident” and it's very nature. This makes every single character an ocean of possibility.
However not everything is sunshine and roses, and the sky has it’s hawks as well as it’s doves...
Holy crap-oli Batman, does this game have the crunch factor. For some, maybe that’s a good thing but when you’re even slightly unprepared, it slows down combat a lot. I mean a lot. Like throw in an extra hour at least. There’s so many different factors and ways to go about things it gets confusing. The pure math of it all is simply super. I had mentioned that the variety of this game was one of it's biggest beauties, but sometimes it’s a gargantuan pain in the ass.
Sitting around for 20 minutes while someone tries to remember what the maximum SDC is and what sort of fancy counter they have is not only time-consuming, but brutal. The simple fact that there’s so many “math manholes” to fall into is proof that I should probably go back to the third grade.
Every game has monsters and bad guys. It’d be hard to find a game that doesn’t have some sort of enemy character or class. Typically, these have stat blocks with basic outlines and a little bit of backstory to lessen the load on the GM. In this case, everything has to be whipped up by the GM. Even “beings of extraordinary power” such as demons and dragons don’t have official stats that I could find. There’s a very rough outline for a few things. They mention that Dragons would have supernatural strength (one of the major powers) as opposed to superhuman strength. Other than that, you have to make your own assumptions. Yet again one of the platforms most impressive feats is a curse as well as a blessing to the average player?
3). Time consuming
Obviously with all this variety of character customization it’s going to take some time to pump out one of these bad boys. The amount of time it takes to make and really perfect the character you want is simply long. With other platforms you can make a developed character in about 2 hours. My first character in heroes unlimited took me 2 days. Worse yet, I couldn’t find and official character sheet for this stuff. From a GM’s perspective, it’s even worse. You have to pump out supervillains with memorability behind them, along with a plot based around the characters, other heroes, big places along with storylines. Then comes mapping, taking into account flight, assorted powers, making puzzles appropriate for everything and everyone. Really, the nature of this game is far too… difficult. There’s a lot to do.
As with all things, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about playing this game. If you want short, quick jolts of fun, this is not for you. If you’re ready to sit down, get invested and forget how many days ago you last showered as the pizza boxes and chinese food containers begin to block out the light, then this is your heaven.
Jarod Lalonde is a young role-player and writer whose passion for both lead him here. He’s often
sarcastic and has a +5 to insult. Dungeons and Dragons is his favorite platform. Although he’s not quite sure if it’s Call of Cthulhu whispering to him in the small hours of the night, or just persistent flashbacks to the Far Realm.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.