Heroes of the City 2.0 This game is for personal use only. Playtest report.
The goal is to create a superhero genre game that people can sit down, create a character, and be ready to play in about 15 minutes. The rules should be simple enough to explain the basics in 5-10 minutes. I want it to have quick, non-random, character creation and a detailed powers system (what’s a superhero game without a good powers system?). The aim of the game is to fulfill the need for a quick to learn, episodic, alternate to a D&D game that attracts too many players. In other words, when the D&D game has too many players, the extra players would be able to slip seamlessly into another game. I extensively looked around for a superhero genre game with a ‘pick-up-and-play’ factor and couldn’t find one that met my specific need.
I hit upon the idea of using Dungeon World after holding a character creation workshop where DW playbooks were on the table. Three of the players spontaneously picked up a playbook, started reading, and had a character ready in about 15 minutes. That made a very strong and lasting impression on me. I checked out the other Apocalypse World published systems and hacks that tackled superheroes, but couldn’t quite make them meet my needs. I started to make my own AW hack supers game trying to fulfill my specific needs. My first AW incarnation was bad, and I started looking at other systems again and seeing if I could hack them to my needs. I kept coming back to DW.
Then I hit upon the concept of ‘why reinvent the wheel?’ DW works the way I want it to, so why not directly hack DW into a supers game? Use the same moves, stats, object tags, GM principles, bonds, alignment, etc. and re-skin them as superheroes. I tried version 1.0 out after 10-14 days of copying, pasting, and formatting. It went okay, but there were many questions. How I presented the game, specific ways to handle situations, and how powers worked exactly. I got great feedback from my randomly appearing players and most importantly, we had a good time.
Enter version HotC 2.0. For this version, I hit upon the idea of using powers as moves. “When you use ice control…”, “When you use fire blast…” etc. I was originally thinking each power would be its own move, but was encouraged by members of the DW community to make a Use a Power basic move, instead of a bunch of moves. I created 10-11 powers for each of the five archetypes (with some overlap) over the next fortnight. I rewrote the basic and special moves for clarity and usefulness. I reworked the starting moves to keep the flavor I wanted, but be a little more useful. I read the play test notes repeatedly until I felt better about covering some of the gaps.
Character creation 2.0: I happened to be able to split my playgroup into several different scenarios. Case 1: 7 minutes of basic AW system rules explanation using examples. Players created characters in 15 minutes or less. One player had played DW once, and another had not. Case 2: Two players who had played DW once. No explanation of basic rules and concepts. They grabbed playbooks without prompting and character creation finished in 12 minutes or less. Therefore, I’m very, very happy with that! 🙂
Play test 2.0. The good: powers system worked well, there was little spamming of moves, all the characters felt balanced, I did a better job on the front end rules explanation, characters were created in 15 minutes or less, we found some more holes, we did stupid stuff and made memorable quotes, so everyone had a good time. The opportunities: clarify, clarify, and clarify. Reformat one or two things. Reexamine powers for usefulness of some of the stunts and try to qualify and quantify the powers better in the descriptions. Inspiration system or use needs reworking. KO rules need to be altered. Villains need to be able to counter moves with damage.
Therefore, I’m going to proceed with a version 3.0.