I don’t buy games so I don’t review them but.....
I recently bought Amazing Heroes by Martin Lloyd.
TLDR: Superlight Superhero Role-playing rules growing out of a ruleset simple enough for young children to understand. Includes a massive amount of supporting material following a successful Kickstarter. Almost bloated. Good value for money as just about everything can be ported into other games if these super-simple rules don't suit.
The reason I bought it was because a while ago I had reason to buy his first game - Amazing Tales. Though it didn’t meet my immediate needs, I found that book to be an absolute delight. Though it was basically advice and instructions on how to “gamify” bed-time stories with young children - and I will definitely be using it if and when I have grand-children - it was also a love story between a father and his daughter. I loved it. So Martin became one of the handful of designers I actively watch and support.
As a “designer” myself I am also interested in that moment where - having written their first game - people discover that they have other ideas popping into their heads and discover they can actually repeat the process.
So I backed Amazing Heroes on Kickstarter. Refreshingly there was one pledge level. you get a .pdf for €10 and it comes with a voucher to order the POD copy at cost. The PDF has just dropped.
And here are my first thoughts:
I’ve long argued that “micro games” like Lasers and Feelings would benefit from being expanded into proper rule books with more advice, explanation and examples. That’s what Amazing Heroes is.
You could fit the actual rules on a single sheet of paper. They’re basically the same as the Amazing Tales rules. Roll a dice, beat a number. Describe the success or consequence and say “What do you do now?”
(Of course there is more than this to the rules, but that’s the basic thrust.)
But this is backed up by pages of explanation, advice and examples. Not just on how to play the game but covering wider issues - how to run the game with children, session zero, safety rules, how to be good player/referee, different levels, styles and tones of games etc etc. Martin’s sensibilities seem to align very closely to my own - which was pleasing.
This is all very good.
The layout is very clean. Two columns white on black text with non-character illustrations as rectangles usually covering full/half pages. Character pictures are presented with no background. All very easy on the eye. Nothing too clever or fussy.
The Kickstarter was incredibly successful, so for no more cost for the pdf you also get:
⁃ ⁃ ⁃ A setting - Storm City. For some reason this reminds me strongly of the setting from the old Superhero 2044 game - and I mean that as a compliment. I always rated that setting for the massive amount of story hooks it gave in minimum space. Storm City does the same. “Tell someone you live in Storm City and they’ll ask you how you feel about the Volcano. But only because they don’t know about The Portal. Or the Meteors. Or what’s happening down on the docks.....”
- Threats. (From the Lab. From the Stars. From the Abyss. From Below.) Each with their own associated Villains.
⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ ⁃ Pre-generated Heroes. This section starts with (sensible) advice with regard to deciding up front how Superheroes fit into the wider world. Is it world which thinks it doesn’t have ANY Super-types or one where they are common? The four pre-gens seem an amiable enough bunch and are presented in their “end of season” forms - after receiving several upgrades.
- Several plot hooks and two adventures. I’ve only started reading the first adventure but it seems very serviceable - starting with giant monsters and moving on from there.
(Of course, this will have an effect upon the POD cost, but that’s only reasonable.)
All of this massive amount of material is written to tie in together, with the Threats and Factions from earlier in the book re-appearing in the adventures and plot hooks.
It seems to me that, because the rules are so super-lite, pretty much all of this additional material is easily ported into whatever #SHRPG is your personal fancy, so this book is well worth a look if you need anything and don’t have the time to work up your own. I could easily use Storm City as a basis for some future games and probably will.
If, like me, you’re coming from some previous experience with #SHRPGs, all of this is serviceable, rather than innovative. There are some nice/funny bits scattered about (there is a security camera gag early on in the first adventure that made me laugh) but I haven't found anything life changing yet.
And the very success of the Kickstarter has turned this into a bit of a Frankenstein product. The text is a continuation/development of the Amazing Tales rules but the artwork generally shows as darker more dystopian style of Superhero tale. The hint lies in a line in the introduction where it cites the kind of adventures that could be played. Every example is from a streaming TV series. This is backed up by the adventure hooks which clearly come from someone who would love to write a Netflix series (or several) and probably could. So though the text states that the rules could be used to play a range of Superhero styles and tones - and they’re lightweight they probably could - that’s clearly where the heart of the game lies. The rules on character development reflect this with each mini-campaign being described as a “season” and enough experience points being given to reflect the characters’ development across those episodes. In fact one of the minor issues I have is that the pre-generated characters are presented in their "end of season" forms rather than as newbies. I'm not sure which would be better for the example adventures.
Also, the sheer weight of bonus material almost overwhelms a sweet and simple little game. The pre-generated Heroes, I don’t expect Martin to do this, but it would be interesting to see a separate rules pamphlet of the basic game.
Remember, I don’t need another Superhero game - so am I glad I bought it?
I'm unlikely to run it using the rules given. I've only ever run a "play unsafe/build on the consequences" kind of game once, and I'm not comfortable with them. It would be fascinating to play this with a referee who knows what they're doing.
However, it's interesting to see how other people self-publish their games and I'll almost certainly at least some of the bonus world material in my games at some point.
Well worth a few Euros and I will be ordering the print version - in hardback if it's on offer.