I've said before how the Marvel (FASERIP) RPG was my go to super-hero system for years, so much so that it nearly ruined percentile systems for me -- I probably passed on a lot of good games over the years simply because I was so sick of rolling percentile dice. These days I don't care so much, whatever works.
The other two super-hero systems that I like are DC Heroes (Mayfair Games) and Heroes Unlimited by Palladium. Notice a trend? All three are old-school games. I would love to encounter a modern super-hero game that I liked, but I haven't (Mutants and Masterminds isn't bad, so I suppose an honorable mention...) Most modern super-hero games seem to be "story-based"-- not my cup of tea. Some of the games do look like nice products, so I'll give them credit for that.
The last Marvel game (Marvel Heroic) was terrible, not trying to offend anyone, it just was. It's flaws? 1. Being forced to not only play Marvel characters, but, Marvel stories as well. Stories, I might add, that you've probably already read. 2. No robust character creation rules, though I think something half-assed was added later. People ALWAYS want to create there own characters. The Marvel (or DC) universe should simply be a guideline, a sample setting, something you can use or not use. 3. Typical story-game nonsense made it possible for Dare-Devil types to even have a chance to defeat Thor types. This reminds me of the "every one gets a trophy" nonsense. Sorry, Dare-Devil, you can't beat Thor, I don't care how well you describe it. I understand, they're trying to recreate those clever little comic-book moments where Ant-Man and the Wasp defeat the Absorbing Man and Titania, but......no. Roll some dice, the story will tell itself. 4. The dice-step system using only d4 - d12 is extremely limiting, they should have at least included the d20 to give the game more depth, but that still only leaves a 5 or 6 rank difference between normal folks and godlike beings. I'm sure it can be done... And to be fair, there is (subjective) dice-pooling involved.....which, I'm never a fan of dice-pool systems where you inevitably spend too much time making the case to include certain dice in your pool and then spend time "interpreting" your roll.
Anyway, that's just a little rant, if you disagree with any of it, that's cool. To each their own. I always say, play the games you love and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
What this post is really about, is this:
More specifically, those dice.
I've designed several complete super-hero role-playing systems. Or rather, I've designed my own system and redesigned it several times over. For whatever reason super-hero games, up until recently, were my favorite to design. Probably because no system out there truly satisfied what I wanted in a super-hero game.
Yet I keep coming back to FASERIP. Those seven abilities (Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition, Psyche) perfectly describe super-heroes. Add up the first 4 for Health, the next 3 for Karma. Perfect. I used to think the Talent system was lame and we craved more "skills," but now I don't. The Talent system makes sense. The Powers could have been better explained, and the character creation system could be better tweaked to include more detailed "archetypes," but should remain random. There are ways to create randomly rolled characters without it being nonsensical.
Here's what bugs me about FASERIP: No matter who you're fighting, your chance to hit remains the same. Aunt May, who probably has Feeble (2) or Poor (4), Fighting, has the same chance to hit Captain America as she does a hapless child (not that Aunt May would ever attempt either.) The system doesn't take into account the combat prowess of your opponent (unless they actively try to dodge, which rarely happened because it costs your turn.) One thing that was beautiful about Mayfair's DC Heroes, is that your fighting ability (Dexterity) was directly cross-referenced with your opponents score to determine your chance to hit -- the height of logic. But, you had to consult charts, and that can be a pain. FASERIP has this chart flaw too. Charts were big in the 80's.
Right, those dice...
I've often pondered how to play FASERIP without using percentile dice and/or charts, or at least only one chart, and include a way to make the opponent's power-level relevant when you attack/manipulate. Zak Smith came up with an idea on his blog (I can't seem to find the exact post.)
It involved assigning a number (ranging somewhere between 7-ish and 18-ish, like a D&D saving throw) to the FASERIP ranks and rolling 3d20 to hit that number. One hit is a green success, two is a yellow, and three is a red, so you still need the small results chart atop the Universal Table. Example, lets say Amazing (50) would be target number 8, you would need to roll at least one 8 on 3d20 to hit. Pretty cool idea.
Fast forward to my recent purchase of Dungeon Crawl Classics and the special dice needed to play that game. I was toying around with these dice to see just how well they roll and they're not bad, though some will keep rolling forever unless they hit a barrier. I was thinking, why don't the games out there with dice-step systems (such as Savage Worlds) use these dice to improve or broaden their systems? Does Goodman Games own these dice? I doubt it.
My mind quickly went to FASERIP, maybe because Zak Smith had made another post where he talked about designing a super-hero system using a d4 - d20 dice step system. As a fan, I'm sure it will be good. But I find myself thinking, why not use the extra dice?
Well, the answer's simple, you never want to force players to buy "funky" dice to play your game. And OSR types (myself included) are plenty content with the dice we already have. Still, it's too good an idea to ignore, so how about this?
Shift X d30
Don't worry about ranks above Shift X as they almost never enter the game anyway. You could simply treat them as d30 with Advantage.
When you attack someone, it's an opposed roll, Fighting vs. Fighting, Agility vs. Agility, Psyche vs. Psyche, or a Power vs. any of these, there are multiple possibilities. If you beat their roll it's a green success, if you beat their roll by 5 it's a yellow success, if you beat their roll by 10 it's a red success. You obviously still need the effects part of the Universal Table, but that's just a quick glance, no biggy.
Damage could be a dice roll or a static number (static number would be better I think.)
Talents improve your rank by 1 or 2 as normal.
Higher level, Thor types would be prone to wilder results when they fight thus resulting in people getting "slammed" all over the city. Regular humans would rarely "slam" anyone. Perfect.
Feat rolls would be made against the GM's roll for the feat. Example, jumping across roof-tops might be an Excellent level feat, so you roll Agility vs. the GM rolling a d10. Certain feats might be automatic if they're below your level, unless your attempt is under duress.
Spending Karma equals to die type you're upgrading to, e.g., you have Incredible d14 and want to upgrade to Monstrous d20 would cost you 20 Karma, and you can never upgrade more than 2 steps.
I've run some samples based on some FASERIP characters, and this all translates very well.
I almost feel like writing up a rule-set, but beyond what I just did, there's not much more to it. I might however, write up a new random character creation system for FASERIP, but that's for another time...
Meanwhile, I'm working on another OSR Dungeon and will be posting a preview soon.