Superhero stories are at their most interesting when talking about conflicts that aren’t easily knocked down with super-strength or a utility belt of gadgets. The most memorable superheroes across every continuity are those who are both relatable and who must struggle to earn their victories. As our readers have seen with Seamus’s High Impact Heroics Adventure Log, there are newer supers games like Masks which do a great job of emphasizing the human aspects of the superheroic. Cut from a similar cloth is Heroes All, a new game by Brandon Sichling. Heroes All is built around the core conflicts that make or break a superheroic character. By pairing the creation of an antagonist with the player’s protagonist, Heroes All creates an immediate conflict for every player right out of the gate.
With both the cultural monolith that is Avengers: Endgame finally upon us, and D&D having sunk it’s claws into my soul after a long absence (I’m trapped in two campaigns at the moment), I felt the urge to play some tabletop super-powered RPGs. Or at the very least, flip through my old books and reminisce about old characters and stories. The RPG I go back to for this fix every time, without fail, is Aberrant, a game that’s out of print and lost in the shuffle. I’ve been wanting to write about it for awhile now because it’s an under appreciated gem in White Wolf’s crown, and I don’t want it to be forgotten.
The gameplay was fun, flexible, and the lore was way ahead of the curve in its depth of world building. I actually think it’s more relevant today in 2019, than when it was released back in 1999. At least a few other people do too, as Onyx Path Publishing is working on a second edition. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What I really want to talk about is the setting.
A Rolls-Royce Phantom peels around a corner, stray dollar bills from the sacks in the back fluttering out the open windows, as a pair of police cars howl in pursuit. A man in the rear seat leans out and chatters a string of bullets from his tommy gun at the coppers, but his shots go wide and the gun jams. Cursing, he leans back in to try and fix his weapon, yelling at the woman riding shotgun to handle it. She leans out her own window, raises a hand . . .and a beam of cold energy shoots out of it, creating an ice slick right in front of one of the police cars. The vehicle swerves, skids, and slams into a street lamp, but the second pursuit vehicle gets around it and draws closer. Suddenly, there’s a flash of energy from behind the windshield of the crashed car as one of its occupants steps through a dimensional gate and appears perched on the hood of the Phantom, shotgun in hand, demanding the gangsters pull over in the name of the law. It’s the 1920s. Alcohol is Prohibited, crime pays very well, the law does what it can. And, of course, there are superpowers. This is the BAMFsie-award-winning roleplaying game CAPERS from NerdBurger Games!
Marvel has S.H.I.E.L.D., DC has A.R.G.U.S., and Masks: A New Generation has A.E.G.I.S., the Advanced Expert Group for Intervention and Security. In Halcyon City and beyond, while superheroes are wearing flashy colors and punching their enemies through buildings it’s the agents of A.E.G.I.S. who fill in the gaps, clean up the messes, nip nascent threats in the bud, and keep an eye on everything in the name of protecting everyone. A.E.G.I.S. has always been a factor for the New Generation to consider, but we can now learn the Secrets of A.E.G.I.S. in the second Masks supplement from Magpie Games!
I’m on the lookout for games you can play with kids. Yes, my own is still measuring his age in weeks, and the nature of this sort of thing means that he’ll probably end up a football player or something and hew to the associated stereotype of not wanting anything to do with geeky things, but still. The instinct is there. Got to plan ahead. I thus found it very good fortune to find a game meant just for that landing in my To Be Reviewed inbox. Today The Independents are taking a look at a game built specifically with parents and their children in mind, a superhero world not quite our own, with Power Outage by Bebarce El-Tayib!
There’s a mad scientist robbing a bank with a swarm of psychically controlled bees. Turns out that your best friend wants to be something more, but thinks your teammate is competition. The Red Dragon’s dad is calling and complaining about him not ‘upholding our legacy’, while Spitfire can’t go outside out of costume without being hunted by nefarious forces or endangering her family. The Lawman just called you in to A.E.G.I.S. HQ to lecture you about the property damage the team caused last night. Did we mention that there’s a AP Calculus test on Monday? Life as a superhero is always a messy affair, but doubly so when you’re a teenager and everyone has ideas about what you should be doing. This is Masks: A New Generation!