Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Change-Up And A Reminiscence

I'm having a blast coming up with ICONS characters, but I know that some of the joy I'm getting from it is the feeling of nostalgia the process inspires in me.  The first superhero game I really played was Villains & Vigilantes.  I'd actually tried Superhero 2044, but as many have noted in the past, there's not much in the way of an actual game in that slim volume, so it was tried and discarded rather quickly.  V&V on the other hand, was one of those watershed moments in the life of this particular geek.

It was December, 1981.  I'd just finished my first semester of college, squandering most of it by playing way too much Call of Cthulhu and Stormbringer.  I'd never been much of a comics reader.  I'd bought a few superhero comics with my allowance when I was younger, but I managed to get through my early teens without that particular mania.  No, my obsession was fantasy gaming and fantasy fiction, not silly people with capes and tights.

Anyway, school was done for the semester and my friend Michael and I went to a traveling exhibit of medieval arms and armour from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Apart from geeking out over some of the finest examples of medieval ironmongery, I'd hoped to run into the SCA, as I'd been trying to track them down for quite some time.  That particular obsession would have to wait a few more years, as we couldn't stick around for their demonstration.  However, on the way home, Mike asked if I'd mind a brief side trip: he'd recently discovered a store that sold comic books; he'd gotten into a couple of titles ("Arion, Lord of Atlantis" is the only one I remember) and wanted to pick up some more.  He casually mentioned they sold RPGs, knowing that would get me to agree.

The shop was ComicQuest.  They were one of the first specialty comics stores in San Antonio.  They were a little shop in a strip mall, crammed with comics, magazines, and yes, gaming stuff.  And right up front was a copy of Villains & Vigilantes (2nd edition, the one pictured above).  I don't know why I picked it up.  I suspect it had a lot to do with the back cover, which just made the whole game look like loads of fun.  Whatever the reason, I bought it.

Two days later, I was back at ComicQuest, buying comics.  The game was awesome and totally captured my imagination, but I had no idea how comic book stories worked. My character ideas were all stupid.  In short, I was at a loss to run this game, so I turned to the source material to figure it out.  That was nearly thirty years ago.  I've never stopped buying and reading comics and I've never stopped playing supers games.

The following summer, I went to my first comics convention, the Houston Comics Fair (it was also one of my first road trips, traveling with the guys from ComicQuest and working their table in exchange for my badge).  The Comics Fair was an amazing show at the time.  It was held the weekend before San Diego Con, so a lot of folks in the industry used it as a warm-up, or a waypoint as they traveled west.  Having a dealer's badge meant I had pretty much unfettered access to the whole show, including the after hours party rooms.  Pretty cool stuff.  But the really standout moment was running into Jack Herman and Jeff Dee, the guys who'd written and illustrated V&V.  Jeff was trying to break into comics, and Jack was basically just hanging out.  They were about my age, and Jack and I spent most of the weekend blathering about comics and games and games and comics.  Good times.

I think I spent the next two weeks of summer vacation holed up in my room rolling up random V&V characters.  I've still got some of them filed away, but they're mostly pretty lousy concepts.  Still, without those memories, my current run of ICONS contributions probably would have lost steam.  To celebrate the game that got me into superheroes, here's a V&V character I just made up this afternoon and named after my best friend in high school.

Name: Bobby Warren
Identity: Bouncer
Side: Good
Sex: Male
Age: 22
Weight: 160 lbs
Level: 1
Experience: 0
Training: Agility

Body Power: Leaping 648" (3,240 feet)
Heightened Strength B (+18)
Heightened Endurance A (+14)

Strength 24
Endurance 27
Agility 12
Intelligence 11
Charisma 14

Basic Hits 4
Hit Mod: 8.84
Hit Points 36
Power 74

Carrying Capacity: 1,322 lbs
Base HtH Damage: 1d10
Healing Rate 3.2
Accuracy Modifier +1
Damage Modifier +1
Detect Hidden 8%
Detect Danger 12%
Reaction From Good/Evil: +1/-1
Movement Rates: 63" Ground, 648" Leaping
Inventing Points: 1.1
Inventing: 33%

Origin and Background:  Bobby Warren discovered his mutant powers on the eve of his fifteenth birthday when training privately for a track meet.  His attempt to beat his personal best at the long jump ended up beating the world record by over half a mile.  Better yet, he was completely unharmed by the landing.  Realizing he had no future as an athlete, he decided to use his powers for good as Bouncer.


  1. By the way -- Cubicle 7 has just published the new version of V&V:

  2. Good plug! I picked it up in PDF when Monkeyhouse released it. I'm really pleased to see it getting some love. Even if the system was rather quirky, V&V put out a great run of adventure modules.

    I just wish the oft announced but never published Elementals sourcebook had seen the light of day.