Indie Supers

edited April 2013 in Story Games
What would people recommend for a superhero RPG system with an indie sensibility?

Don't Rest Your Head seems to be an option, but is a little setting specific for my purpose here (I'm thinking of running a Rule 63 DC game, a bit inspired by the Ame-Comi Girls comics). I'm currently considering Icons. I still have a lot of love for Golden Heroes. Maybe Smallville has the right mix in terms of drama versus action. But maybe systems with big lists of powers aren't even needed?

I could use Mortal Coil and it's make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach. Apocalypse World is a sort of option, but I think that would require a lot of work to hack. What else is there? Heroquest?

I'd love to hear what people think.


  • The indie supers games that I'm aware of are:

    - Capes
    - With Great Power
    - Powers for Good

    But I'm sure I'm missing a few.
  • There's also Jared's DarkPages for a darker supers game, but I'm not sure where that's at.
  • I was wondering something like this a year or so ago - here's the thread, which I've just updated after a weak game of superhero Sorcerer.
  • Oh - and Brendan Conway hacked DRYH for superheroes, playtested it once, said it didn't quite work, but also said that maybe he overdid the hacking and simply reskinning it would have turned out better.
  • Thanks for that; interesting thread.

    I was going more for 4color heroics in this game anyway (I would like to try an Invisibles/dark supers game at some point, but this is me more picking up on my groups' interests than my own). I can't imagine Sorcerer would work in my case; from what I've read of Sorcerer it is what it is, and most attempts to hack it end up breaking it.

    Capes is quite interesting, and might be an easier sell for some of my group who don't seem that keen on GM'd games after getting into RPGs via Fiasco.

    I agree with you that Smallville is a hard sell because of what it's based on! Hopefully, we'll all be able to start calling it Cortex Plus Drama now which will be a bit less off-putting.
  • edited April 2013
    Hey James, I have a game in development that you might dig. Within My Clutches is very much a 4-color sensibility, and has a number of attributes that often go with "indie" (turns, rotating GMing, etc.), but you play the bad guys, not the heroes. I don't have a pretty version to offer yet, but I do have full playtest materials. If you're interested, just shoot me an email, bobsurface at ye gmail.

    Have you played Smallville? If you're looking for supers play that emphasizes the interpersonal drama, I've found that it does that well. I don't remember any "big lists of power" gripes, but I've only played at cons with pre-gens, so perhaps I'm missing something.

    I've never heard of Golden Heroes! Could you hook me up with a link or description? Thanks!
  • Golden Heroes is a 1980s British superhero game, which I grew up on. It is now Squadron UK. Trad as fuck.

    James, yeah, I don't know. Capes is a funny beast. Mortal Coil is lovely, but very freeform, and it doesn't sound quite right for what you want.

    I'd go for Smallville, honestly, as a solid system and a good compromise between indie and Golden Heroes.
  • Thanks for the offer David; is it a one off or multi session game? If it's the former I'd be happy to give it a try - if it's the latter, it might have to wait in my queue. :)

    Smallville certainly doesn't have the "big list" problems associated with a lot of supers games; but it does have a list. I was merely contrasting it with games which have no list at all. But yes, unless someone suddenly comes up with some amazing new system I haven't heard of before, I suspect this is the one to go with. Would want to streamline the character generation process though; I borrowed the generation process for another game last year and found it to be rather problematic - you ended up telling your characters' stories before you'd even started.

    Golden Heroes "trad as fuck"? I'm not so sure. It introduced lots of elements we hadn't seen before, not least of all reality bending hero points. The campaign points system as well gave the players an unprecedented amount of authorial control and encouraged people to roleplay rather than just minimax. I'm not suggesting it is some undiscovered masterpiece, but it has some nice innovations.

    Also, and just in passing, it's worth noting that the current edition of Squadron UK is, as far as I'm aware, somewhat different to Golden Heroes. Games Workshop's lawyers started menacing Simon Burley so he withdrew the original edition and tweaked it. I haven't got the new edition to compare. Hopefully the changes are just cosmetic.
  • There's also Threshold: Tragic Superheroes. It looks interesting and I've always wanted to give it a session or two but haven't been able to so far!
  • Oh crap, I forgot Clinton R. Nixon's The Face of Angels, which is more like Heroes (TV show), Rising Stars, Chronicle (film), Push (film), etc.
  • With Great Power deserves more than a passing mention. Also Hearts & Souls by Tim is neat, in that the rulebook itself is a comic about how to play the game. Capes is rad as fuck.
  • Oh, and John Wick has a dark supers game, Wicked Heroes.
  • edited April 2013
    Just Heroes is an Apocalypse World hack; looks neat.

    My impression of With Great Power was that it could be very rewarding once the group fully got used to how it works, but there's a bit of a learning curve, and it's important to have smooth practices for keeping track of everything. I had a not-great con experience, but I believe @Andy had some excellent times with it.

    @UserClone, yet more games I was unaware of! My supers gaming was largely old stuff, Marvel FASERIP, Hero System, GURPS Supers, TMNT, etc. Have you played Wicked Heroes, Hearts & Souls, or Supercrew? I need to see that instructional comic! (I'm working on one for Within My Clutches.)

    James, WMC is in fact designed for one-shots. Email me and I'll hook you up!
  • Just Heroes is an Apocalypse World hack; looks neat.
    I'm still working on that hack: there have been a lot of changes to the basic model, like stats are now back in and there is at least one additional basic move... but yeah, when it's done, I'm hoping it'll be just the sort of indie supers game the OP is looking for.

  • I did have an awesome time of WGP, for like 4-6 months IIRC. The main thing was that we put a lot of play between the cards. I know folks who pushed on the engine really hard, hoping that roleplaying would follow the card-mechanics; but it really was the other way around for us: We roleplayed, and when we finally got to the engine, it pushed our roleplaying further.

  • Don't worry - I have Smallville. In fact, it's one of the two games that tipped me off that there were more interesting things going on than my hitherto limited knowledge of trad RPGs suggested (the other was Starblazer Adventures/FATE).

    The only problem I have with it to be honest is the character creation process which I feel puts the cart in front of the horse by forcing the players to come up with all their backstory in advance. When I tried this a few months ago (or rather, an adapted process for another game), I found it sort of exhausted the characters' potential by telling their stories before the game had got started. Currently wondering how to streamline this (the new Cortex Plus Drama book provides an alternative but I'm not entirely happy with that either). Currently pondering tweaks...
  • edited April 2013
    Smallville, Smallville, Smallville (assuming you can find it, but since people are recommending With Great Power I guess that's not too much a reach).
  • No, I unfortunately have not had any chance to play ANY of those games. Largely this is a scheduling issue, as I am currently working 2nd shift, so the group I have that would maybe be willing to play them plays on Friday nights, which doesn't work for me. I plan to swap to first soon though!

    Supercrew definitely has covers, as does every book I have purchased from Lulu (of which there have been several), so no worries there. Also, I think it's a fun little game, and probably worth getting in print even if you'll only play it once.

    That said, I think WGP is a straight-up better game, and it also has a couple pages of comics as examples.

    I read through Wicked Heroes in only maybe fifteen/twenty minutes, as it's a short game. Definitely not for the system crunch-type folks at all, as there is little strategy involved, and it's more moral choices et al.

    I will get back to you on Hearts and Souls and Capes, as I haven't read them in a while, and don't want to conflate them, though I remember Capes better, but I read it more recently for what that's worth.

    Keep these coming, kids! I am reading through all the Supers games I can as research for my AW/LB hack, Superheroes Are Gay.
  • Marvel Heroic Roleplaying uses its own brand of Cortex Plus, great for the four-color stuff and very robust.
  • This is a weird one, but I just remembered that I hacked Hollowpoint, inspired by Avengers: I call it Avengerpoint.

    It hasn't been playtested yet, but the idea is to play a team of highly competent SHIELD Agents and superheroes. You need Hollowpoint to use it, though.
  • I still think In a Wicked Age would handle supers best. But you'd have to use a good set of Oracles.
  • Even in the depths of the 90s, superheroes still stayed On A Team, which makes IAWA not a great fit for a multiplayer game. But it WOULD be great for the Punisher.
  • Allo, I'm the writer of Hearts & Souls, what would you like to know about it? I think Smallville is inspired (More so than Marvel Heroic, which I hear good things of, but Marvel to me is VERY soap opera, like Smallville's mechanics encourage.)

    Supercrew is a nifty little game, very basic, and the whole "rules" system are explained via the comic. There is also the GenreDiversions supplement Bold & Brave (review here: )

  • I am interested to know how the new edition will be distinct.
  • Even in the depths of the 90s, superheroes still stayed On A Team, which makes IAWA not a great fit for a multiplayer game. But it WOULD be great for the Punisher.
    GREAT POINT. I must rethink my notions.
  • I am interested to know how the new edition will be distinct.
    Are you asking me about H&S2E? It will be better explained, a few rules tweaks, adding in some optional scales (Low, Planetary) which I tend to encourage being used to allow a bit more detail for character. Better setting material. Making ranks a bit more useful and stress a bit more likely. Using Banter instead of monologues for rerolls, and Monologues for BIG rerolls/taking on much more powerful foes. Adding in Triumphant Moments (holding off stress to do ONE final act, then suffering it all at once.)

    The default elements remain the same, but with a bit more flow elements. I've got a playtest version (sans PC generation/random roll system being complete) ready for people to poke holes in if you'd like to see it.
  • (disclaimer: I have translated and participated to the publication of the french version of Supercrew) ;-)

    4-colors, easy (really easy) and fast rules, unexpensive (6-12$ as ebook/print on
    typical session is 1.5-2h: a threat-a fight- a twist- a final showdown
    you play yourself, with super-powers

    for samples :


    in case you read french, you'll find free scenarios and goodies at

  • edited April 2013
    Capes is phenomenal, a great four-color feel. It's just not very learnable from the book. Link up with someone who loves it and learn it that way.

    I really feel like the world is waiting for the definitive Fate-based supers game.
  • Yeah, I really love Capes. But, I'd agree tha it's very hard to learn from the published book. Not sure if the quickstart rules were clearer?
  • Actually, the flash animated example on the muse of fire website is the easiest way I've found to learn it, barring an actual human teaching you.

    Tim, thanks. Banter is a great idea, and I'm glad to see more ranks and that your monologues aren't gone, but instead even more important. Very cool.
  • I really feel like the world is waiting for the definitive Fate-based supers game.
    How would that differ from Icons (presumably less random)?
  • I think Strange FATE fills this, doesn't it? I've not read it, but I played an excellent Avengers game of it last year - the scale rules really made sense (you get to use d6s instead of some of your fudge dice if your scale is higher than your opponents).
  • I misread the thread title as Indian Supers, and was hoping for a game based on Krrish...
  • I'm more of a Rogan Gosh fan myself. :)
  • I don't like superheroes. But I have written a game about people with superpowers. Superpowers that are bad for you, and then everything turns into misery tourism.

    The Phenomenon
    The Phenomenon is a game about people with super powers. It is not a game about superheroes, superheroes wear tights, are good guys and their stories usually have a happy ending. The Phenomenon is a game about people with super powers, ordinary people who suddenly gain the power to do the impossible. But the power corrupts them and their story turns into a race against the clock, will they be able to do that which is important before they are consumed by the corruption?

    You can download The Phenomenon for free from the small games page on my blog.
  • edited May 2013
    Supers! is a cool little game.

    Icons is a mashup of classic FASERIP Marvel and FATE. The upcoming Great Power supplement will even sport a FATE Core compatibility section.
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