We live in an age when superheroes have finally emerged fully-formed from their comic book roots to capture the imaginations of mainstream audiences. They're featured in television shows and movies—live-action and animated, in novels, short stories, and sketch comedy, and on gaming platforms and table-top games.

Superheroes speak to the best in us. Their stories are a modern mythology where high action and morality take center-stage. These stories may be over-the-top and filled with camp, grim and gritty tales of the depravity of mankind, mind-bending treks into worlds beyond, thinly veiled analogies of complex social issues, or even a deeper look at the reasons behind the tropes of the genre.

The Super-Fantasy role-playing game is about group storytelling in the worlds of superheroes. It's about imagining the dark laboratory of the Mind-Mage as you're surrounded by his mentally-controlled minions, hearing his laughter from the shadows as he sweeps into the room. It's about planning the defense of Earth when the alien hordes come swarming from the sky. It's about deciding whether to save the reporter who won't stop making you look bad or stop the bad-guy from escaping with the Mona Lisa. This game will let you create and explore superheroes, supervillains, and the worlds they fight over.

The point of Super-Fantasy isn't to win or lose, but to tell a story. And the story begins with role-playing.

In the Super-Fantasy game, each player creates a character (or hero) and these characters team-up to fight evil. They might solve crimes, stop would-be world conquerors, explore uncharted dimensions, discover lost civilizations, or repel an invasion from Atlantis. The heroes will think their way out of death-traps, battle villains and monsters, and discover scientific wonders, fabled magical relics, and other treasures.

A group of heroes who work together toward common goals is called a team. A team may consist of like-minded heroes who share a base and work together to rid the world of evil, or they might be an elite military unit only brought in as a last resort. They could be a group of friends and rivals who all received their gifts from the same incident. They could be students at a school where they learn to control their powers for the safety of other and the good of the world. All a team needs to be a team is a reason to work together. And maybe a cool name and a logo.

One player isn't part of the team. He takes control of everything else—the events, locations, and the other characters that populate the world. The game master (GM) guides the story and administers the rules. The GM sets the scene and the players decide that the heroes will do. The GM creates the world, the plot, and the challenges for the heroes, who decide what their characters do to give the story direction and magnitude.

Drake (the game master or GM): After getting a distress call from the mayor detailing a hostage situation downtown, the group of you fly, either on your own or in the Raging Condor. As you approach the Gothic National Bank you see the street-level facade of the skyscraper is cracked, like it withstood some blast from within. A thin cloud of smoke and dust settles on a dozen squad cars, a SWAT van, a few ambulances. The police brace themselves behind barricades, among them your friend Lt. Leonard, and a large crowd corded back behind yellow tape. All eyes turn skyward as you arrive.
Tony (playing Red Sabre): I'm watching the crowd. If this was a bank robbery, they might have accomplices.
Alisa (playing Doctor Legend): Do the police look worried? Is anyone wounded?
Jeff (playing Sealord): Once we land, I'm gonna go talk to the lieutenant and see what's up.

Now we come to the place where the role-playing meets the game. Unlike the game of make-believe we all played as kids, Super-Fantasy gives a structure to the stories to help resolve success or failure. The players roll dice and add or subtract a number called a modifier to determine if an attack hits a target, if an argument is persuasive, or if some other important task is accomplished. Your character can try to do anything, but the dice and modifiers make some outcomes more likely than others.

Drake (the GM): Okay, Red Sabre? You drop down from the Condor, inside the police line. You see about fifty people crowding toward the tape. They look scared and worried.
Tony (playing Red Sabre): Well, they probably should be. Does anyone look out of place or suspicious?
Drake: Make a Wisdom check.
Tony: Does my Perception skill apply?
Drake: Sure.
Tony (rolling a d20): I rolled a 3, plus 4 for my Perception, so 7.
Drake: Ouch. Yeah, no one really stands out. Doctor Legend? You see two people on stretchers, one being loaded into an ambulance, and half a dozen other sitting up and being tended by paramedics. No one seems to be in urgent need of medical attention. Make a Wisdom check.
Alisa (playing Doctor Legend): For the police? Can I use my Insight skill?
Drake: Absolutely.
Alisa (rolling a d20): I rolled a 14, plus 5 for my Insight. 19!
Drake: Awesome. Well, you notice that most of the police look worried, and a few rookies are freaking out. One young, tall, red-headed officer is visibly trembling. Sealord? You're walking toward the Lieutenant as he's coming to meet you.
Jeff (playing Sealord): "Rough morning Lieutenant?"
Drake: He sighs and shakes his head. "Rough day. We had a bank full of employees and customers who just… swarmed the vaults." He pulls off his hat and wipes his sweaty brow.
Alisa: Am I close enough to hear that?
Drake: Yeah, you're not too far away.
Alisa: "Was it mind-control? Was everyone inside effected?"
Drake: "I guess that would make sense. But a few people inside managed to resist or escape somehow. We got a 911 call about thirty minutes ago from a woman inside, but whenever we get close, security guards come out behind walls of people and opened fire. The security guards made it back inside, and there's still a dozen other people unaccounted for."

The scene continues with the players stating the actions that their characters will take and the GM determining and informing them of the outcome.

Will the heroes try to sneak into the bank through the sewer access? Will they enter from the skyscraper from above? Will they try to communicate with the mind-controlled robbers and negotiate the hostages' release? Will they pound their way through the front door in a full-frontal assault?

Whatever the players decide, it's the GM's job to determine and narrate the results of the heroes' actions, for good or ill. The choices of the players can drive the story in directions the GM couldn't anticipate. And that flexibility is the beauty of the game. The story can go anywhere.

And it doesn't have to end. When the heroes solve The Missing Head they can begin Wheels of Fortune. In fact, there are a few comic book tropes that can help the GM layer these story-arcs in ways that keep the players hooked. But we'll cover those in the Adventure Structure section.

A group of story-arcs linked by the same set of characters or team is called a title. This is synonymous with comic book titles. It usually coincides with the name of the team or one of the heroes.

When your group gets together to play a specific title, that's called a session or an issue. Every issue the GM and players tell a story or, more often, a part of one.

Every foiled robbery, completed mission, and death-trap averted not only unfolds the story, but it also unlocks new depths and abilities for the heroes. But as the heroes earn levels and become more powerful, the challenges increase as well.

Want to know more about role-playing games?
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License