Mighty Protectors Villains and Vigilantes™ 3.0
Authors: Jack Herman and Jeff Dee
Illustrator: Jeff Dee
Published by: Monkey House Games
Page Count: 166
What makes a superhero game great? Is it the awesome superpowers characters’ display? Could it be the over the top fist flying action-packed combats? The outrageous outfits, secret identities, and characterizations? Or is it the feeling of dealing justice in your own special way? To me, it’s all of it and that’s the feeling I get from Mighty Protectors Villains and Vigilantes™ 3.0.
Mighty Protectors is a superhero role-playing game that emulates comic book and movie style heroes. Players take on the rolls of superheroes dolling out their form of justice and protecting the innocent. Mighty Protectors is the third incarnation of the roleplaying game Villians and Vigilantes. Mighty Protectors is for players who are comfortable with crunchy rule sets and enjoy customizing their characters.
Back in 2017 when Mighty Protectors Villains and Vigilantes™ 3.0 was officially released to the public I got the chance to sit down and play at a table run by Jeff Dee. Having played other superhero RPGs before, mostly using Hero Systems Champions 4th edition, I was really curious to see how Mighty Protectors would differ. I found some definite differences, but it wasn’t until I started reading through the rules afterward did I see the true difference and similarities with all of them.
When playing superhero games, players should come to a consensus on the morals that their characters will reflex. Lots of superheroes follow codes of conduct. The “Being a Superhero” section of the rule book helps the gamemaster and players find the moral tone of the game. This section lays out the key element behind what makes a superhero different from normal people, moral values, justice, liberty, mercy, and loyalty. Not all superheroes need to have all those elements to the extreme but players and gamemaster can use this section to help guide their character’s moral compasses.
Character creation in Mighty Protectors uses a Point Buy system. Players spend character points (CP) on their character’s physical and mental characteristics, abilities, and weaknesses. The amount of CP a player gets to build with derives from the power level of the gamemaster’s campaign. The higher the power level the more points players have to spend.
There are three power levels for a gamemaster to choose from, low, standard, and high. Low power level games feature street-level style heroes whose abilities are normal to above normal. Characters at this level are vigilantes, fighting street crime when law enforcement fails to protect its citizens. Campaigns at lower levels are grittier due to the greater recovery rate of injuries and the increased chance of death. Standard power level games are your traditional city protector superheroes. Characters with superpowers protect their domains from arch-villains and criminal masterminds. They don’t concern themselves with the street-level crime. High power level games play to the extreme of superheroes. Heroes at this level protect globally if not the universe itself. Characters at this level don’t engage with the mundane human world. Instead, they fight for humanity; maintaining balance throughout the universe.
With the power level defined by the gamemaster, the players’ first action in character generation is to create a character concept. To aid players who might be struggling to come up with a concept may choose or roll on charts that will give them their character’s birthplace, species, culture, age, and gender. Each table has a range of choices. The gender section is respectful to modern concepts of identity without delving too deep into gender subsections. Once completed, players move on to allocating the points the gamemaster handed out.
The first section to receive points is Basic Characteristics (BC). Basic Characteristics consist of Strength, Endurance, Agility, Intelligence, and Cool. These are straight forward and recognizable in most role-playing games; Cool being the least common. Players can choose to divided points where they want or randomly distribution based off a chart. The points allocated for each characteristic in both methods cannot go past the base amount set by the chart for the power level of that campaign.
Once the players have their BC set for each attribute, those attribute numbers are then cross-referenced on the “Basic Characteristics Table” which gives the corresponding values for Carrying Capacity, Base Hand-to-hand Damage, Saves related to specific attributes, Initiative Dice Pool, Hit Points, and Healing Rate. Players then fill in Secondary Characteristics based off their BC scores. The Secondary Characteristics include Power, the amount of energy the character can produce, Defense, a character’s physical and mental defenses, Move, movement rate, and Inventing points. Players continue by finding their character’s weight by rolling dice or choosing the proper range from a chart that corresponds to their gender and relative size of their characters. Weight is then used to calculate a character’s mass. Character backgrounds and their motivations follow next by rolling randomly on charts. A player may roll on these charts a couple of times and choose two of the results. Wealth is then calculated and a character starting Luck established before moving on to defining a character’s superpower origins.
Next is understanding how characters acquired their superpowers. This helps players later define how their powers manifest themselves and in what form. A superpower may derive from innate ability, a device, skill, or from magical or mystical origins. Players roll twice on a chart and choose one of the results to see where their superpower originate from. The options range from natural or unnatural origins to accidents, experiments, or rigorously training. Each origin is thoroughly described and features a suggested manifestation.
Abilities (superpowers) are randomly selected by a die roll from a list. Players roll for two offensive, defensive, and miscellaneous abilities; rolling again for duplicates. Because every superhero is not perfect players roll twice again for their character’s weaknesses. Weaknesses help balance out the superhuman abilities but also aids in the character creations process. Weaknesses have negative CP values which in turn return points to the player’s pool to spend. Players can spend up to -20 points on their weakness. With the base abilities and weaknesses mapped out, players may then set out to further define these by looking at their character’s development so far and applying character points to their abilities and faults; spending their remaining CP, keeping to the limits defined in the rules.
The abilities take up a large part of the rule book, but that’s what makes superhero games great. The list of abilities are thoroughly described with each having their own level of complexity; some need thought while others are easy to grasp. The amount of CP spent or augmentation from linking BC defines the effects and severity of the abilities. A player may further customize their characters by purchasing Ability Modifiers for their abilities. These modifiers further enhance or restrict the character’s ability, increase the cost or cut CP needed to buy. It’s at this stage where players can get out of hand with min/maxing so a gamemaster must keep an eye out and be ready to restrict certain changes when players are out of step with their character’s concept. (See Cindy’s article Beyond the Dice: Breaking the Rules! for advice.)
A character’s abilities function in three ways, continual, persistent, and voluntary. Continual means that the ability is always on and can’t turn off. A persistent ability may turn on or off at the character discretion as long as the character remains conscious. Voluntary is like persistent but the ability will turn off if the character goes unconscious. Activating an ability might need the draining of a character’s Power. The amount of Power required comes from the Power Rating of the ability being used. Characters may store Power in the form of charges in cases were abilities use ammunition.
Finishing Up Your Character
Character creation finishes up with backstories, names, costumes, True Identities, and deciding their legal status. Characters may choose one of the three legal statuses. The first one is holding a Superheros license. A Superheros license allows the heroes to freely use their superpowers and conduct crime-fighting with the same rights as law enforcement. The second is a security clearance from a government agency. The third status is Wanted. Wanted is the status of villains, but a player’s character may choose that status. If taken, characters should have a criminal or a shady past in their backstories. Taking the wanted status could impede a character, make them less trustworthy to others or hunted by law enforcement and other superheroes.
The rule book presents a brief history of the origins of the Superhero License. Congress passed the Superheroism Accommodation Act which legally sanctioned superheroes the right act as a law enforcement entity with the right to protect one’s anonymity. Before this act, the fears of communism in the 1950s pressured superheroes to unmask themselves, causing severe repercussions from their enemies.
Having a superhero license allows the characters a certain amount of protection, but with the local government agencies interpreting the act as they see fit. Superheroes have the right to remain anonymous in name and appearance. It’s illegal to unmask a superhero without their consent if they hold a license. As law enforcement officers, superheroes are free from persecution and granted immunity for certain acts while engaging in a crime-fighting activity. This isn’t an invitation for the superhero to do what they want. Superheroes are still required to respect the laws of the land but can get away with minor infractions and bend more serious ones in the name of justice. Superheros get granted access to the Department of Superhero Affairs (DSA) data bank which hold information collected by law enforcement agencies around the world. They contain records on mundane criminals to supervillains. Lastly, if licensed, a superhero may gain monetarily from their crime-fighting actions. This can come in the form of a salary from a corporation to a reward for the capture of a fugitive.
There are two avenues characters can take to acquiring a superhero license. Acquiring a letter of recommendation from a reputable source, such as another licensed superhero/group or law enforcement agency is one way. Alternatively, a superhero may enroll in a class led by law enforcement that when finished will supply them with certification. This process takes longer, weeks if not months to complete, and is more academic than hands on. Once a superhero has the required material the application may then be submitted to the DSA for rejection or approval.
Save and Task Rolls
Our first bit of game mechanics begins with Saving and Task Rolls, which are both resolved in the same way. Players use a D20 against their character Save number associated with the proper attribute. A result below or equal to signifies a success. Attributes like Endurance, Agility, Intelligence, Cool, or Luck are for Save checks, while Task checks use Agility, Intelligence, Cool unless listed otherwise. Rolling a one on a D20 is a success and a chance for a crit. If a crit occurs, another D20 gets rolled. As long as it’s successful the result is now a critical success. The opposite is true, roll a 20 on a D20 and it’s a failure. Roll immediately again and if the result is a failure, the result is a fumble. When a crit or fumble occurs a rollable chart determines the effects of the crit or fumble.
Save and Task numbers can change to make them more difficult or easier to meet. An unmodified number represents a task being conducted under normal conditions. A save or Task number may move in either direction based on a character’s background. If the character has a background in the task it gains them a bonus. If they don’t have a background that pertains to the task or it requires training or specialized knowledge to complete a character receives a disadvantage to their roll. Difficulty numbers for a task range from +10 for could do it blindfolded to -10 for an impossible feat. There are a lot of factors that can modify a roll. A character using their none dominate hand can cause a -3 to a Task. Being physically restrained or partial impaired or if another opponent is working against them characters may face a penalty modification to their dice rolls. Distance is also a reason for modifying a roll. The effectiveness of ability may diminish as it gets further from the source. Four-inches from the source gains no penalty, but penalties increase as the distance gets further. Lastly, the amount of time spent on a task may adjust the difficulty modifier. There is no shortage of changes a gamemaster may use to make a task harder or easier to complete.
There are many kinds of Task in Mighty Protectors that have their own specific rules, like influencing an NPC, identifying magic or high-tech equipment, and inventing new equipment or temporary attaining a new ability. If a character was to intimidate an NPC, the difficulty modifiers applied would not follow the system outlined above. Instead, it has its own section and chart to rule on. Tasks like identifying magical items and high-tech parts use the process outlined above while also incorporating a special chart.
The gamemaster may call upon the players at any time to make a Luck roll. The Luck roll helps the gamemaster introduce elements into the story that may not have been planned but give the player characters a helping hand if their luck is on their side. The gamemaster can also use Luck rolls to see if something unpleasant happens to a character. Luck rolls are for the gamemaster only to use or call for.
Putting The Action Into Action Heroes
The first item in any combat is the initiative roll. Every round a character’s initiative in the combat round derives from a pool of dice based on the character’s Cool Score. The dice used and how many for the initiative will vary from character to character. Using the Basic Characteristic Table back in character creation players located their dice pools and record it on their character sheets. A character initiative dice pools range anywhere between d2-1 for the lowest Cool score to 3d10+2d12 for the most extreme Cool score. Once the players have their initiative, modified by any abilities, the character with the highest result acts first.
The only instance where the highest result doesn’t go first is when a character chooses to “save” their turn for another round. If a character does not use their action within the round, they may save it to use in a later round at any point within the combat. A saved turn can interrupt someone else’s turn. A character can only save one round at any given time.
There are two phases in a turn that characters may act on, movement and action phases. Characters can use them in any order but cannot be split up, mixed, or individually saved for another turn. However, characters can delay them within the same phase to allow an opponent to come into range to take action. Depending on the rules for determining ties on initiatives, a character’s held action could take place before the opponents in that same phase.
To track movement within the game, the rules suggest the use of miniature figures on a standard one-inch square or hex map with each space representing 5 feet. When tracking vehicles, it’s suggested that a hex map be used. The scale of each hex changes based on the slowest acceleration movement rate on the first turn of any vehicle involved. Players will realize that using a hex map over one that uses squares work better when dealing with vehicle’s turn radii.
Movement in Mighty Protectors covers many types of moves from leaping, to swimming, to vehicle movement. The rules to adjudicate are common to most systems but there is one rule that stands out, Zones of Control. An active character, one that is not held or incapacitated lords over an area of one-inch squares around them. Any opposing character that attempts to pass through a space lorded over by a character could be blocked by the player character on a successful check.
Action enacted by the characters whether they’re offensive or defensive use the Save and Task roll as outlined above with added modifiers. A special bonus is given to each character of plus three to their rolls when rolling to hit. Attacks can come in many forms, hand-to-hand, weapon melee, ranged, and even mental. Something of note, Mighty Protectors provides good rules on grappling. It allows a character to take hold of an opponent and the opponent a chance to break free or counter. The rules simulate grappling very well.
In combat, the characters can enact several special maneuvers that can enhance their chances of success or direct their blows to key areas. Aiming shots to select appendages or areas not covered by armor, disarming or disabling gear are just a couple of options the characters have at their disposal.
When attacking there are several types of damage the characters can inflict and be protected from. Kinetic, Energy, Biochemical, Entropy, Psychic are all types of damage. With the proper defensive ability, each one is defendable. Abilities like Invulnerability, Absorption, or Adaptation, can either cut the amount of damage the character takes or completely protects them.
If characters don’t have the correct defense they may still be able to shrug off part or all the damage by “Rolling with Damage”. When a character can see an attack coming at them and they have the freedom of movement, they can in a sense roll with a punch to lessen the damage or negate it. The damage taken is then diverted from loss of hit point to loss of Power.
Characters hit with non-kinetic attacks sustain knockback. Knockback damage can send a character back several feet depending on the force of the hit. A character’s mass will cut the amount of knockback. A character is always knocked back in a straight line leading to a possible collision with those behind them. An attacker may line up their attack so this can occur. If they crash into a person or object behind them they sustain damage based on the distance they traveled to the point of collision. Lastly, any character suffering from knockback could end up prone.
But you have to wonder how much damage an energy blast or a flying superhero at breakneck speeds will cause to a stationary object upon impact? Mighty Protectors provides a section on understanding just that as well as applying physics to other situations like effects from the environment on characters, falling, catching fire, and getting pushed. The type of material affected and its Structure Rating (SR) determines the damage it takes. Several charts help with referring to various types of construction materials. When the damage exceeds the SR of the material the gamemaster moves to a different chart to see how wide and deep the hole is and what size creature profile a character must assume to pass through it.
Life & Death
Once a character has sustained a loss of over >50% of their current hit points in a single attack they slip into unconsciousness. Once they reach zero, a character becomes incapacitated. Any damage that exceeds the current amount of hit points transfers over to Power loss. If both hit points and power are fully depleted, the character is dead. If the character becomes unconscious, another character may revive them on their turn. That character must use one of their actions and a successful d20 roll will bring back an unconscious character. An incapacitated character must heal to at least one hit point before coming conscious.
Characters heal per their healing rate naturally. One point per rate of healing a day with rest or more if someone is successful in their medical ability roll. Power is healed first before any hit points return. Having abilities like healing or regeneration can accelerate the healing process.
Living In A Superhero World
To the everyday citizen having the added protection of superheroes partnered with local law enforcement is mostly welcomed. But at some point, an energy beam is going to come in contact with a wall and cause structural damage. To protect citizens properties, mostly business owners may buy Superhero insurance. Since a licensed superhero essentially has immunity in a court of law for criminal acts they are also immune to civil lawsuits. Any destruction of property brought upon by a superhero while engaging in the act of crime-fighting is forgiven within the court system and the property owner is responsible for the costs of repairs. Only in rare cases will a superhero would be held responsible for their actions.
For The Gamemasters Eyes Only
To aid gamemasters a detailed world of The Mighty Protectors setting is available to them. The Mighty Protectors setting consists of 85 entries of helpful allies, harmful foes, strange locations, organizations, cults, alien civilizations, and the like for the gamemaster to use. Each listing has a brief description of each which a gamemaster may develop further if they wish.
For gamemasters who wish to create their own world, Mighty Protectors offers some helpful advice as well as tools for building your own adventures. A series of rollable seed generator charts will help a gamemaster having trouble getting started. The charts go through four steps from “What’s going on” to “Final Details”. Monkey House Games also publishes adventures which are available for sale online in PDF and print.
The last part of the gamemaster section gives advice on game balance, handing out experience, rewards for the characters, dealing with mundane costs, wealth, replacing slain characters, and guidance on converting Villains and Vigilantes 2.1 characters over to Mighty Protectors.
There are several elements in this publication that really stand out to me. Jeff Dee’s wonderful black and white illustrations and the comic strips of the characters in the world of The Mighty Protectors further enhance the reader’s experience. Another is its numbered multi-level heading style for its content. Each section and subsection in the table of contents and on the pages going forth feature a numbered multi-level heading making referring to sections easy and quick. It’s a system we usually see in war and miniature game booklets or military documents.
Visually the only negative aspect that I came across was the typeface used for the body copy. Futura is a time-tested typeface and works well in print, but since I only had a PDF to read I found Futura’s rounded letter forms on digital formats difficult to read. One had to adjust within a slim window of magnification for the body copy to read as well as it would on the printed page.
A unique aspect about Mighty Protectors is players may build characters that are essentially themselves. Pulling in their strength and weaknesses into their characters while enhancing or gaining abilities that they wished they had, replicating a superhero from a comic, film, or their own imaginations. Some superhero games I’ve played follow similar steps in character creation using a point buy system like Champions. Others like Mighty Protectors add elements of randomness to what super abilities the character receives, like in ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying RPG. Though, Mighty Protectors provides more help in developing a character’s history and origin than the other superhero systems I’ve played.
Mighty Protectors uses totally different game mechanics than the other superhero RPG I’ve played in. Though I really love rolling a handful of six-sided dice in Champions, Mighty Protectors has a quicker dice resolution mechanic that doesn’t need a calculator to figure out the end results. On the flip side, I can see a gamemaster getting bogged down running through all the extra modifiers that could be applied in Mighty Protectors’ Task and Save rolls.
When it comes to action in Superhero games there are certain action tropes to look out for. While the other systems I’ve played didn’t use all the tropes that Mighty Protectors does, there was a handful that I’ve seen in other games. For instance, rolling with damage is also used in Champions, but the Zones of Control is something I haven’t seen before.
Mighty Protectors Villains and Vigilantes™ 3.0 is a super roleplaying game to add your collection. Its character creation process provides very detailed and in-depth characters with unique and custom abilities. Its’ game mechanics, may seem excessive in terms of modifiers, runs smoothly and at a faster pace than some superheroes games on the market. There is a lot of great information for a gamemaster to get started and keep them running. Overall I think if you like RPGs like Champions but are looking for less math behind the screen, or want more versatility in character creation than Marvel Super Heroes, then Mighty Protectors Villains and Vigilantes™ 3.0 is the superhero RPG for you.