My Love/Hate Relationship with V&V 3.0 (Mighty Protectors)

As I said before, the first time I played V&V (2.0) I was thirteen years old. I didn’t understand what made a game system good or bad, difficult or easy—all I knew is whether it was fun or not. V&V was just fun. It ticked a lot of boxes for me—you could play as yourself (stats to be determined by you, your overly critical friends, and the GM), you got a totally random set of super powers, and you got to blast bad guys and send them flying. Many of the Powers were open to interpretation, which was good if your GM was on top of things. A lot of the Powers simply asked you to make something up, which was also good—again, if your GM was helpful and understood balance within their campaign. There were some Powers that were just plain broken, such as: a type of Illusions that allowed you to create a near endless horde of hard-light minions, Teleportation which could potentially allow you to travel several lightyears in an instant, and Gravity Control which could multiply the weight of a target many hundreds of times turning them into jelly. You get the idea. There we no caps, no limits—just your imagination and your GM’s willingness to reign it in, or let it run free destroying all that is good and fair in the world. Despite a solid few years of fun, I stopped playing V&V back in 1989. In high school my friends wanted to distance themselves from gaming and do cool things, like get wasted and drive drunk. Good times? I would always keep my books, but never found another group to play with. Flash forward to 2017 and Mighty Protectors (Villains & Vigilantes 3.0). The game’s original creators, Jeff Dee and Jack Herman, had just won a hard-fought case to get their IP back from Fantasy Games Unlimited head, Scott Bizar. They had been working on V&V 3.0 for about 5 years, and wanted to release it to their fans, but had to get over this last legal hurdle. Hurdle cleared, they launched a Kickstarter for the new book, and I slammed my money down with glee. I followed every update as the game got closer and closer to shipping—watching the Stretch Goals pile on, I would be receiving not only the rulebook, but a few adventures and supplements as well.

I received my copy later that summer—a beautiful hardbound book boasting 150 pages—110 more than its predecessor! I dove in and immediately hit a wall. Stat caps? Damage caps? Character Points? You get…150 CPs for a Standard Level hero…80 for Abilities (no longer Powers), and 70 for BCs (not stats). HELP! Now, it wasn’t and isn’t all bad. You still had the option to base your character on yourself, and once I got my head around the Character Point system, I was brewing up heroes like crazy. The book also boasts a ton of races, backgrounds, origins, and motivations—all meant to add depth and dimension to your hero. There’s a section all about the V&V multiverse: government organizations, superhero groups, powerful cosmic beings, criminal organizations, criminal government organizations—from space! There are vehicle and base creation rules, and vehicle combat rules (I’m still figuring the latter out), rules for inventing new Abilities, Ability Modifiers that allow for a deep level of character customization so your Flame Blast won’t be the same as the other guy’s Flame Bast—ever! The bad: There is a rule about Acquiring Targets that forces you to make a Perception Check any time a target moves, sneaks, becomes invisible, etc. since their last attempt to target it. What?! Combat maneuvers are many, but their mechanics are cumbersome and slow, so most players don’t want to use them. The rules require Task checks to perform specific actions but there’s no Skill system. You get a bonus to any Task check that relates to one of your two Backgrounds (think training or careers), which is hard to determine. What if my Background is business? You must use computers in business, so do I always get a bonus when using computers, or are some computing Tasks too difficult for Captain Business? After you go through the lengthy character creation process, the last thing you want to do is dive into a very granular combat system. They endeavored to make combat resemble what we see in comics books. Big splashy moves that send enemies flying through walls, grapples and throws, diving in front of blasts to defend innocent bystanders—but you must stop, consult the rules, do the math, and then roll. Lastly the technical writing suffered: the book deals in many generalities, lacks a consistent glossary of terms often using several different terms to describe the same thing, and has a sort of shorthand that reveals the lack of an outside editor—one that would have questioned the disparate terminology and lack of specifics.

I come up with at least one new rules question every time I engage with the rules or run a session—which is often these days. Unfortunately, the creators are unresponsive, and their official forum is mostly inactive, having only half a dozen regular posters, myself included. Fortunately, I have a great group of players and a couple of fellow GMs who I bounce ideas off so I can answer these rules questions myself and come up with house rules that don’t bog down the game or detract from it. The very good: Jeff and Jack do understand how to create a campaign setting, and how to run a balanced game, and they share that knowledge with you in this book. Also, this game is a massive sandbox of superpowers. The combinations of Abilities and Ability Modifiers is nearly endless. One of my players asked me if their flying squirrel hero could have “some kind of disorienting sonic chirp” attack. Yes, he can. I have another player that wanted to buff his teammates with songs like a classic D&D bard. Yes! Admittedly, it takes a lot of fooling around with the math, but it’s all addition and subtraction. If you want a superhero roleplaying game that allows for an extreme amount of character customization, this is the game for you. If you recoil at the thought of a very cumbersome combat simulator, this might not be the game for you. That said, you can always skip a lot of those rules, or simplify them, or home-brew your own. I have plans to post a character creation guide, and even some examples of combat and tasks, so stay tuned.

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