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Superhero System Recommendation - For Tired Players + Streamlined Character Sheets + Great Encounters + Interesting Advancement/Development


Great Sage Equal of Heaven
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I’m going to run a supers game, but on a weeknight slot. Everyone will be tired, and will just want to punch things. So the idea is to have a game with a strong action focus, but also interesting villains and complications and allow for different encounters, including death traps.

The issue is that the group has a mix of player types.

Some are great at improv roleplay, but don’t want to reference anything outside of their character sheet. One player was playing a wizard in D&D but never knew what their spells were or how many they had left to cast for the day as all of that information wasn’t on their sheet and they weren’t sure where to find it in the book. They were ‘managed’ by the other players, but I would like it if they could manage their own character without assistance, even if the sheet has powers like “Superstrength – Roll XYZ”.

Other players love crunch – gadgets, tactics, equipment and building interesting characters in a system. They might get bored if the game play is too simple. I would call these ‘simulationist’ players. They have not enjoyed playing FATE before.

They also like getting XP regularly and buying upgrades/new papers or just leveling up in a class-based system.

As a GM, I want really streamlined NPCs rather than creating them from scratch. It would also be good if I could improvise NPCs on the spot. For example, if it’s a Level 4 or whatever monster, it will have +4 to hit and do 7d6 damage and I can randomly assign powers to like ‘laser blast’ or whatever. I also want something that supports creating interesting encounters. My favourite system to run for ages was D&D4:
  • everything was on the character sheet for players
  • there were interesting encounters you could build around the tactical map
  • you could improv monsters/death traps/challenges on the spot. It would be good if the system has a solid mathematical core so I could make a simple encounter-building spreadsheet to streamline adventure generation, or converting other supers adventures.
I don’t mind if the system is ‘front loaded’ for character building, as long as it is streamlined and interesting in play, maybe with different status effects or combat manoeuvres.

I’ve tried M&M3 but didn’t like how I had to build each NPC separately, and it felt a bit flat during game player. Players felt their characters were static without much opportunity for advancement and some of the power builds got very fiddly. I also haven’t enjoyed playing Savage Worlds.

Any suggestions? We can play almost anything, it just has to be the 'right' sort of thing.

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
Hurm. That's going to be a hard pair of pieces of rope to meet in the middle. Supers! RED perhaps? Its not really simulationist, but its got a little mechanical heft, and once you understand the basics of the system its easy to play right off the sheet.

Old Man Vegan

Registered User
Validated User
All the things you want do not exist in one game (that I've ever heard of). It might help if you prioritize things. Make a cut off with what you can live without and other things that you'll die on a hill for.


a.k.a. Mr. Meat Popcicle
Validated User
An upcoming game called TinySupers powered by Tinyd6 might suit your needs. Very light.

You could use Mutants and Masterminds basic heroes Handbook. It's XP, simulationist, and honestly the most complicated part of that game is character creation, once characters are made it runs super (heh) simply. The players don't need to know anything outside of their character sheets except when to roll the D20.

City of Mists is a PbtA style game, I don't know how you feel about those in regards to simulationist. I don't enjoy PbtA games so I don't know anything about it other than it exists.


Registered User
Validated User

It's out of fashion, I haven't played it myself in years, but you're looking for Champions.

It's tactical, everything is on the character sheet, and players can constantly be upgrading their characters. The thing that might trip you up is creating NPCs. Yes, an experienced GM can just put NPCs together on the fly, but a starting GM might try to create them by following all the steps designed for creating player characters. Honestly, I think you might have made this mistake with M&M, too.

What clinches it for me is that you liked D&D4. I think this will be a great fit for you.

I recommend you start by looking at the Hero System Basic Rulebook. Or, since you're specifically looking at superheros, maybe Champions Complete.


a.k.a. Mr. Meat Popcicle
Validated User
A quick way to do a NPC in Mutants and Masterminds 3e is simply use the PL level of a NPC as all its stats, sort of like how Cypher system uses level as NPC stats. That way you only need to remember one number for a generic NPC.

If the PCs are PL 6 and you need a PL 5 NPC, just make every stat of that NPC = 5. Toughness? 5. Energy blast attack? rank 5 with +5 attack. Defenses +5. Of course this works best for mooks and generic adversaries, and only breaks down a little upon closer scrutiny but is actually in the PC's favor as the NPC could be much better if created as the rules intend. However for one off NPCs or NPCs you didn't intend for the PCs to fight its fine. True villains you'll probably want to invent like a character.

Random Task

Substandard Henchman
Validated User
I ran the latest build for my group as a one shot and we weren't terribly impressed. It does run fast, but there's not that much differentiation in how dangerous mooks are to supers and vice versa and some of the higher tier powers are weirdly unbalanced, some don't seem to make much sense as written and I think they left a bunch of design choices in from Tiny Dungeon or something: when someone gets to 0 stress capacity (hit points), they get 2 rounds of saves, the last at a disadvantage, or they die? Are we suddenly simulating The Punisher or something?

An upcoming game called TinySupers powered by Tinyd6 might suit your needs. Very light.
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a.k.a. Mr. Meat Popcicle
Validated User
I ran the latest build for my group as a one shot and we weren't terribly impressed.
I don't know anything about it, I just know it's coming out and it's pretty light but tends to run more simulation. IIRC in Tinyd6 they use grid combat and such. Which is the only reason I mentioned it.

My go to Supers game is and always has been Mutants and Masterminds. I've never needed anything else. I find the game so versatile that I am running a high magic fantasy campaign with it right now. Not even a Supers genre game. It was the only system I could think of that really portrayed the feeling of high magic a game I could have my player create characters in and say "this is a high magic fantasy world, make a PL 5 character", one of the PCs is an actual four armed, fire bending genie.

I simply limited the trappings of the setting and powers to medieval fantasy with high magic. Devices of the setting are flavored as magical artifacts, as an example a PC recently acquired a summoning crystal that summons a fire fox, which is definitely not a Pokeball™ that summons the Pokémon™ Fennekin™.


Registered User
Validated User
Games workshops original golden heroes might be a good fit. Quick, easy and all everything the character needs is on one sheet.

Powers are simple to use each turn is four phases actions take a number of phases to perform for example a blast takes two phases so you could blast twice in a turn.

You have kill and concuss points attacks do bruising damage the other killing attack will do either one type of damage or a combination of the two.

You can still get copies online if you look about for them

White Wolf

No not THAT White Wolf.
Validated User
Have you looked at Villans & Vigilantes? It sounds like what you are looking for is there. When I read your post I was thinking M&M all the way through until you said. Not M&M 3 ed. Well it does meet most of your criteria. But keep in mind that any game with crunch will be more difficult on spontaneous NPC generation. Usually one does not lead to the other.
However V&V has some good crunch. Characters are loaded upfront. There is some character advancement. It is old school. However I have not played the most recent version. And from what I remember NPC generation was relatively simple.
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