Unique Settings for Superhero RPGs

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is coming out this Friday for us Americans. Yes, I know, the people outside the great US of A got to experience the movie a week in advance; I hope you all burn in hell for that. However, I’m not bitter. While our European brethren (many who have lost wars to us) have been watching this film, I’ve been gorging on all other things super heroic! I’ve watched Daredevil on Netflix, experienced the joys of kicking ass in Champions Online, and I’ve been able to read a ton of superhero RPGs! I’ve gone from Mutants and Masterminds all the way to some newer ideas on superheroic gaming, and let me just say – there are a lot of great games out there. Below you’ll find FOUR superhero RPGs that break the mold from the typical hero setting and do something completely different.


Rotted Capes

Yes, I know. You’ve probably heard me talk about Rotted Capes several times. And you’ve probably heard our games as well. However, it would be a crime to not bring it up as it takes the superhero genre and flips it on its head.

In the setting of Rotted Capes, the world lost the war with the undead. Not only that, but the heroes that once protected the world from villainy have been transformed into undead monsters while still able to use their powers, think, and hunt the rest of humanity. As a B-Lister, you’re one of the few lesser heroes not to be eaten by the hordes of the undead. Now the fate of humanity is up to you.

What I love about Rotted Capes is that it’s really a survival story ready to be played. You can play it ‘superheroic-y’, sure, but the beauty of the game is having these once virtuous symbols become something darker and human. You can’t be the shining beacon of hope when you’re starving and you realize that there are only enough beans in that can to feed one of you. In Rotted Capes, you aren’t trying to be super; you’re trying to remain human.



Do you like history? Do you like superheroes? What’re your thoughts about World War II? Well, if you’re a fan of the era, then do I got a setting for you. Godlike by Dennis Detwiller and Greg Stolze explores the idea of superheroes during this time. While it’s a little sparse on the narrative (sad face!), it does give you a solid set of rules in order to get you ready to take on some Nazi Ubermensch.

While I haven’t gotten too deep into the rules, it’s the same system as Wild Talents, the modern-day sequel to Godlike. It also has some nice artwork – which was what caught my eye when Daniel initially showed it to us. With some really solid writing and a familiar rule set, I’m sure anyone who loves both heroes and war stories will find this a refreshing game to sit down with.


Mutant City Blues

When I was at a con, I happened upon Mutant City Blues quite on accident. I had told myself I wasn’t going to buy any more books, but once I read the back and the introductory story, I knew they had my money.

Mutant City Blues by Pelgrane Press is a game that takes a superhero show and a police procedure show, and then it mashes them together into a fine paste. This is a game that has you playing as cops with mutant abilities solving crimes that involve the mutant populace. The setting has a nice gritty feel to it, really pushing the drama that police shows tend to evoke.

What really sold me about Mutant City Blues isn’t the art (which is good) but the writing. The running narrative through the book along with the setting they penned is enough to grab you by the neck and pull you in. And with the rules being fairly simple to follow (it uses the Gumshoe system with a few twists!), you won’t have a problem reading through this book and remaining interested.


Necessary Evil

What happens when an invading alien race completely wipes out all of Earth’s mightiest of heroes? Well, in order to keep Earth safe, the mightiest villains need to come to the rescue. True, they are only keeping it safe until they can eventually enslave mankind themselves, but beggars can’t be choosers!

Necessary Evil by Pinnacle Entertainment Group uses the Savage World rules in order to let the players be villains who are stepping up to fill the footsteps of heroes. And while there is probably a fair amount of backstabbing and greed still going on, they need to put their difference aside (for the time being) in order to stop invaders! Who knows, maybe being a hero will cause them to reconsider their evil ways and change. That or they’ll simply remember everyone who patted them on the back and thanked them and have them tortured.

While I haven’t gotten too deep into the PDF, I have really enjoyed reading the book. It’s nicely written, seems to be understandable, and I gotta say the cover art is simply sinister! If you like to be bad, then don’t hesitate to pick up this book.

So, did I miss any superhero RPGs with unique settings? Think I was wrong about one I listed? Want to simply call me an amazing human being? Well, you can do all that in the comments!

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About the Author
Billy started out his roots like many roleplayers - D&D. Playing it and then Vampire all through highschool and college, Billy picked it all up again when he made the move from Michigan to New York. Now working in publishing, Billy does what he can to view roleplaying games through a narrative's lens. Does that sound classy as balls? It should.

5 comments on “Unique Settings for Superhero RPGs

  1. Syren says:

    I already played up Greg Stolze this week but I can do it again. Guy does good things, and today I’ll suggest Better Angels.

    Using the One Roll Engine, a bit modified from his variant in A Dirty World, and is about playing as a supervillain with a twist.

    In Better Angels all superpowers are born of being possessed by an Angelic or Demonic being. Who each of them inhabit can be a bit of a crap shoot, and you unfortunately despite being a reasonably good natured person have taken a demon into yourself. You know though that if the demon inhabits someone actually bad they’ll do some serious bad to the world, so you are inclined to keep it and its powers by committing slightly ineffectual acts of villainy in order to sate your demon enough to keep it from trying to find a new host, but nothing actually EVIL. You end up like an honest to god comic book villain, conducting far too elaborate and overdramatic acts that do not require a genius hero to thwart, all in the name of keeping your inner evil at bay.

    To make this more interesting your demon is built by and played by another player, and you get to play someone else’s, you also build what their sin of choice is and the more the player you are hunting feeds it the stronger you become until you become powerful enough to drag them down into hell.

    The end result combines a degree of emotional conflicts, table wide antagonism, and hilarious scenery chewing villainy. If Fandible can get a grip on Godlike I’d love to see them play it, but I suggest it for anyone.

    Also obligatory claim that you are an amazing human being.

  2. Warren says:

    Godsend Agenda is the supers setting that grabbed me.

    Enjoyed the secret history background and that there wasn’t just one assumed team that you belong to. Many factions with very different motivations, any of which could make for some very interesting games.

  3. rpgperik says:

    Take a look at “Extreme Earth”,a gritty supers setting available for a number of systems; the recently Kickstarted “Sleeper RPG”; and the superpowered scifi-noir of “Broken Shield”.

  4. mrm1138 says:

    Someone may have mentioned this on the podcast, but I can’t remember. Anyone who likes the idea of superheroes versus zombies should check out the novel Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines.

    I haven’t had a chance to read it, but Basic Action Games’ Chris Rutkowsky mentioned Marvel’s Avataars: Covenant of the Shield as an example of one of his favorite unconventional supers settings: fantasy. (It’s a three-issue mini-series about the Avengers in Medieval times.) To be honest, one of the reasons I often choose to play magic-users in games like Dragon Age and Skyrim is because it’s kind of like playing a superhero in those worlds.

  5. Sam says:

    I am pumped for Ultron and in general just love superhero’s.

    Rotted Capes… I… I do not like it tried to see the appeal and it just does not work for me personally.

    Necessary Evil is a great setting especially when the party all understand the idea is to play villains that play the anti-hero or could be a hero…which is why MU-D3r Bot did not work and that campaign failed hard… Was a fun 3 sessions though.

    Wild Talents has one of the most crazy and interesting example settings in the book. And I love it because Stalin needed Power Armour and there is a man who turns into a T-Rex to fight crime

    This article was quick and a fun read and reminded me of Necessary Evil which I had all but forgotten at the time

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