Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Villains and Vigilantes - Back in Print!
My most successful and long lasting role playing campaign was played using the Villain and Vigilantes (V&V) rule system. V&V is intimately associated with old friends, favorite characters, and special times in my life. High school afternoons in a friend's basement, rolling up characters with a girl I had a crush on, late nights in college and convoluted storylines and plots which actually tied up at the end. In addition I think it's a terrific game system and ideal for old pro's as well as families and younger players. I am happy to say that Villains and Vigilantes is back in print and ready to entertain a whole new generation of players.
In a game of V&V the players take on the roles of - themselves! With superpowers. Play begins with everyone deciding just how strong, smart, good looking and intelligent they are on a scale on one to eighteen. This requires a bit of give and take as one can imagine. We were able to accept that we were all about average and left things at that. You then allocate super powers by rolling for them randomly on tables. Finally you fill in details regarding each character's powers and you're ready to fight menaces in your own neighborhood, college, or what-not.
V&V is a very old school game in that some people are going to get fewer powers and some powers are just lame. Players who expect to be smashing icebergs and deflecting bullets may be dismayed to get the power of "Enhanced Vision." Players can get several powers but there will absolutely be some with better or more than others. Prospective game masters and parents introducing the game will need to be aware of this factor and plan ahead. I might recommend DC Comics Legion of Superheroes Archives Volume 1 as a great source of adventure featuring characters with less that godlike powers.
V&V offers several terrific features. It has a very simple system for deciding how far you can throw a given object and what sort of damage it does when it strikes home. Everything from satellite dishes to mailboxes is a potential weapon or tool. Fans of superhero comics and movies will recognize the fun to be had in a shopping mall, construction site, or Rose Bowl Parade. This does require a game master to occasionally think in terms of set pieces- areas that are ideal for action packed battles and that are littered with appropriate props. For example, "the street" is a poor set piece. The local airport, with several small planes, a fuel tanker, several towers and piles of luggage, is a great set piece.
The trick of using the real world as the game setting and having players act out themselves is also a great source of fun. It doesn't rule out hidden fortresses below the middle school or alien invaders landing at the local Dunkin' Donuts, but it does ground the game nicely. It also helps the game master who has trouble describing things, since local landmarks are easy to envision.
Finally, the rule system is robust and simple. It is an old school system and will not cover every possible detail your players raise. It may not simulate every superhero encounter perfectly. On the other hand, the rule systems I have encountered that do those things also seem dreary and unreadable. Villains and Vigilantes is neither- it's accessible and fun. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in superhero role playing. Check it out at it's Lulu storefront.