Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Monkey House Games to Publish New Edition of Villains and Vigilantes




Villains and Vigilantes was the first superhero role playing game I ever purchased, and it was entirely due to the advertisements that Fantasy Games Unlimited placed in Dragon Magazine



I cut my role playing teeth in the rpg hobby with the Moldvay/Cook edition of Dungeons and Dragons which featured a large number of illustrations by Jeff Dee.  While Dee's D&D illustrations where "comic book-ish," they fired my imagination and were one of the key reasons I enjoyed the Moldvay/Cook D&D books.  They made D&D look "fun."

The Villains and Vigilantes advertisements in Dragon Magazine also featured art by Jeff Dee.  Art that portrayed dynamic superheroes with names like "Shatterman" and "Magnetor."  Like the illustrations in the Moldvay/Cook D&D books, Dee's advertisement superheroic images evoked a sense of fun.  I bought the game, read the rules, and proceeded to make several dozen characters using V&V's easy to use character creation system.  For someone who was familiar with D&D's character generation mechanics, V&V was an easy transition.  I'll admit that I did do one thing different than the "recommended" primary method of character generation.  Instead of making characters that were alter-egos of myself, and thus had statistics reflective of what I believed were "my own" statistics at the age of 12, I rolled 3d6 for each attribute just like I had in D&D (it should be noted that this is an alternate generation method discussed in the V&V rulebook as well). 

The actual powers possessed by the hero are determined randomly, which I have always thought was a wonderful strength for this particular game.  Many superhero rpgs have character "construction" systems where the player comes up with a concept and then spends points to manufacture the character.  This can be wonderful, except when the player has "writer's block."  The wonderful thing about random power generation is that it spurs creativity even when you have writer's block.  You can ask yourself, "just how do these powers fit together?"  Next thing you know, you've got a concept and back story.  It isn't always the most "balanced" system, but it is an entertaining and simple one.

It was a few years before I was actually able to play in a V&V game, but when I finally played the game I discovered just how fun the system was.  It didn't hurt that Robert June, the GM for the game, was a masterful game master and had a wonderful feel for cinematic narration.  His portrayal of villains is unforgettable.

For years Villains and Vigilantes has been available, but out of print.  You could purchase existing material, from the original publisher, but there were no new products coming down the pipeline.

That changed this week.  Jeff Dee and Jack Herman, the creators of the V&V game, announced this week that V&V was "back in the hands of its creators" and would be available in a new edition starting this weekend.  The new edition will be released for sale on Sunday the 27th of June in a pdf version on RPGNow from Monkey House Games.  A print on demand version should be available shortly after the pdf goes on sale.

The new edition will be a slight update of the second edition of the game and will not be a major overhaul of the system.  Any massive reworking of the game will come at a future date, if at all.  My hopes are that Jeff and Jack will refrain from too much massive tinkering, Jeff Dee has his Living Legends game if he wants to experiment with significantly different mechanics for superhero role playing.  V&V does need some fine tuning, but it should keep to its core strengths.

1) Random Character Generation
2) Quick Combat Rooted in Old School Table Based Mechanics
3) A Level Based System where the improvements are gradual
4) Lighthearted fun

I cannot wait for the new edition, and if they keep to the core principles I'll be a customer for years to come.
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