Monday, April 12, 2021

here's a neat chart

Villains and Vigilantes was one of the great superhero RPGs from the period before the release of official Marvel and DC games in '84 and '85 respectively. Written by Jack Herman and Jeff Dee and illustrated by the latter, V&V had a lot of good stuff going for it. Unlike it's #1 rival Champions, V&V used both level mechanics and random generation. As a kid I though that made the point-buy based Champions the better game. But nowadays I look back at the period where I played a lot of Champions and wonder what the hell I was thinking spending so much time fiddling with all that math when I could have just rolled up some weirdo and started playing. (The short answer is that I liked the company of the people I played with, which trumps a lot of other considerations for me.)

Anyhoo, you can buy a bunch of V&V at drivethru these days. I think Jeff Dee has continued to revise the system but under different titles. I recall he had out a rulebook called Living Legends ten or fifteen years ago and I think Mighty Protectors is a more recent incarnation of V&V. But I don't know much about either of those. Today I wanted to share a chart from the second edition back in the day. This chart can be used for randomly determining the level of anyone the PCs encounter:

Need to know the level of the supervillains opposing the party? Just throw 4d6 and cross reference with the highest level on the team. This chart could be used in a D&D-type game easily enough to generate NPC parties or things like that.

The rules note that to use this chart for thugs and henchmen divide the result by five and round up. (This could result in a situation where the master villain of the scenario is 1st level but their right hand goon is 2nd, 3rd, or 4th level. That could be a fun dynamic to see play out.) For civilians divide by ten and round up. 

One other weird bit of trivia about V&V: although it would be super easy to begin character generation by throwing 3d6 five times for your PC's Strength, Endurance, Agility, Intelligence, and Charisma, the rules actually come with guidelines on how the GM should rate each of their players in this regard! I.e. the assumption was that you played a version of yourself in this game, only with superpowers. The only other game I know like that from back in the day is Timelords by Greg Porter. (Not to be confused with Time Lord, which was a licensed Doctor Who rpg.) I normally think of Greg Porter as the mind behind the delightfully schlocky Macho Women with Guns line, but he has a load of other rpg credits on top of that.


  1. FWIW, Mighty Protectors is definitely the most current iteration of the V&V game engine, albeit with a new name due to some past disagreements with FGU (who still puts out the occasional new V&V adventure to this day) about who actually owns the name (which stem from the Living Legends era, if not before then). It's pretty good if you liked V&V already, although probably outshone by newer systems like Mutants & Masterminds or Sentinels if you feel nostalgic about the system.

    Greg Porter does have a pretty big body of work, but I feel like once you've written Macho Women With Guns you're probably doomed to be remembered for it no matter what else you do. :)

  2. I can understand choosing a system like Champions because you enjoyed the company of the players, but what was it that led those particular players to that particular game?

    I always wanted to give V&V a try, but never found a copy till I was in my late 30s (round about 2010). I find its approach to many aspects of the genre intriguing, not the least of which is character advancement/development. However, I've still yet to play the thing....

    1. JB, they strongly valued the concept of total control over how their character turned out. Champions/HERO System is certainly the right game for that. I think I'd rather roll dice much of the time.

    2. Back when I was in college we used V&V's character generation system as a drinking game. Roll a completely random set of powers, then try to tell an origin story that would justify the bizarre mess of abilities and weaknesses you usually wound up with. Every time someone called BS you took a drink. Nearly killed some of the less imaginative folks, and of course it got harder the longer you played because you were getting more and more drunk. Don't think I saw anyone manage more than three characters back then.

      Certainly couldn't do that with Champions or Mutants & Masterminds, but I don't think I'd call that a flaw of either. :)

  3. V&V was one of the first RPGs I purchased with my own money (as opposed to playing a friend's copy of a game or getting one as a gift). I split the cost with a buddy. Later he got V&V as a birthday gift and I 'bought him out' on the one we'd purchased. Still have that boxed set to this day.

    V&V was one of two games (the other being FASA's Star Trek) that really helped establish my outlook on RPGs and led to my playing D&D less and less. Aside from Supers and Sci-Fi being my preferred genres, in V&V Armor provided protection against damage - wait WHAT? Yes, that simple difference made me realize at the age of 13 that there were multiple ways to view and achieve how to build game mechanics.

    I had the opposite experience to yours in regards to Champions. I played V&V for two or three years before I had even heard of Champions and when I saw it I thought there was no way I would ever play it. Sooo much Math. My life already had too much Math, my arch-nemesis to this very day. Then in high school, something amazing happened...I was asked to join a massive, long running Champions game as a sort of ringer (being both a popular GM at school and a known Comic Book geek).

    I played for nearly two years without ever seeing my character sheet or knowing the rules and had an absolute Blast! Eventually I was having so much fun I decided to finally, fully learn the game. Every since then, I love to try new Supers games and enjoy a number of them but I always go back to 4th Edition Champions (the Big Blue Book with the George Perez cover). Thing is, I don't want to roll randomly and get an Ice Powered Insect Hero with Stretching. I want to play one of the dozens upon dozens of Superheroes I've made up and continue to make up since I was 6.

    V&V will always have a special place in my heart but Champions is where I live when it comes to Supers.