Amazing Heroes is a great, simplified ruleset, superhero RPG that's easy to learn and fun to play. Ideal for kids and beginner RPGers it works around and encourages narrative and the ruleset means it can be played easily in an hour. It also works brilliantly for experienced RPGers, perhaps trying out superhero genre, who just want a quick game of something.
I backed this on Kickstarter on the basis that I wanted to encourage a game that could help younger players into RPG. I am glad I did. It's brilliant and the book makes it easy to follow and pick up. There is a comment in the book likening this game to a typical superhero TV show. Campaigns are seasons with say 10 sessions being episodes in that. I like this analogy and it works really well throughout this game.
Here's some of my particular highlights.
It is well written, gets to the point and well illustrated. It explains the concepts well, separates the GM from the player well and is a quick read, allowing you to get up and playing quickly. I got the PDF as part of my kickstarter reward and bought the hard cover afterwards. The PDF is great but the hardcover is excellent.
The simple-but-flexible ruleset means character creation is quick and accommodating. No pages and pages of powers for you to roll and hope you can get. Simply chat it over with your GM. You don't get "points" to spend, more that you have an agreed number of powers and get to adding more value to one over the others. An example of one such conversation I (GM) had with a player:
P: "I'd want my characters superpower to be speed"
GM: "Okay, how did they get that speed?"
P: "Enhancements, I thought they would be a motorcycle racer who got injured and now had cybernetics which give them speed"
GM: "Cool, so this speed is getting-somewhere-fast rather than dodging-bullets?"
P: "Yeah but that probably means they'd need some kind of armour I guess"
GM: "OK so, for such a new superhero, it's better to be superfast or invulnerable but not both. Choose which is more important to you: protection or speed and let's assign the higher dice to that one"
End result (after similar conversations about personality etc.): character created in 15 mins. Player is happy with their character as they're not so weak as to be ineffective and I have one who is not all-conquering with no weaknesses (so I don't have to invent Kryptonite) but can grow and learn with the player.
The other thing I like is that personality traits and body types matter. So if a character is "determined", that gets a dice assignment and can be used some scenarios where not giving up is more important than just being strong or fast.
A lot of RPGs include this but this game has it as its focal point. As such it is designed, and great, for shorter session (1 hour rather than half a day). That means you have to get right into it and are discouraged from having lots of time wandering around poking things to see if they do anything.
Additionally rolls are pretty much kept to action only. So a player will roll when they want to do something: jump a gap, dodge an inbound cement block, break down a door, and not when they need to observe something. That means that if their character would probably spot a man crouching in a corner, they don't need to roll for that. This keeps the narrative moving. I suspect this is an attempt to hold the interest of the target audience here - kids - but it works really well for newer players and those who want to "just get on with it".
The GM has a lot of flexibility in this game. With great power comes ... etc. but the GM doesn't really roll dice at all and I like that. Many times I've played RPGs and found the need for dice rolls helpful as it stops the "GM vs players" undercurrents but equally there are many times when I've found it restrictive. I'll confess I tend to GM in a way that is quite flexible and fluid anyway. I think you have to. If the characters go in the back door when you were expecting them to go in the front, you need to adapt your ambush so it comes another way. In this game I have enjoyed a greater freedom as a GM. A good example is combat. There are no initiative rolls, so as a GM you just say "The guy on the left runs at you and tries to sweep your legs, what do you do?" and the player would roll to see if their jump works. Combat is helped in this way in that there are no hit points or similar. Baddies are either easy, normal or hard to beat and that rating relates directly to the player's roll target. Player characters have consequences if they miss a roll target. Tired, dazed etc. and these can escalate which affects the actual roll result. As an example, I had one character who wasn't able to dodge an inbound attack and got "dazed". Then they missed blocking the second attack and got "very dazed" which left them with a -1 on their dice rolls. Eventually you get a hurt condition at which point the GM might suggest you stop banging your naked head against that guy's brick-wall of a chest as it's not working.
The book has two full campaigns to use and a host of pre-made villains and heroes. There are also a host of plot ideas, called Adventure Hooks, which are not much more than a one sentence plot outline followed by a twist. I used one of these for my first two sessions and it was an excellent starting point.
These are twists, like an ambush or an escape that the GM applies to the session. You get a fixed number of these (based on the number of players) so you have to make them good but it really helps in a superhero context to have these. In the analogy of a TV series or a movie these would be the moments where you might meet the big boss early on but not have the heroes actually fight them. Again it feed directly into the narrative aspect.
Single character play
Whilst all RPGs benefit from interaction between a few players, they don't all work when there's just a GM and one player. This game does. Superhero media started as a single hero rather than a team. Superman and Spiderman works just as well as X-Men and Avengers. This game allows for the kind of scenario where you have one hero rather than a team and it works as well in that as with five heroes and one GM.
Things to improve
Not many really. There are a lot of things that it could be said this game makes less challenging: no dice rolls for the GM, character definition has a fairly low depth (to start with), no power definitions to speak of. I think all of these are what makes this game good at what it does. Whilst you could say tighter controls on combat could make the game more challenging I think they would take the game away from its concept. If you want finer control and a certain limit on what powers you can have; there are games with those. This game does have that but leaves it in the hands of the GM/player discussion. Some players are as comfortable with that and may benefit from the guidance that a tighter ruleset gives but, for me, this game moves that into the hands of the GM so, if your GM has enough experience, the limits are still there.
One thing I felt was missing from the book was more local maps, specific locations you tend to get in a superhero story like a bank or a secret lab or similar. I used some of these in my sessions and was happy to make maps myself, I just think had there been some example ones for Storm City buildings it might help newer GMs and players.
This is a first rate, exciting RPG that is easy and fun to play. It focuses on the narrative rather than the mechanics and is, in the context of its aim, better for it. I think it will serve as a great introduction to anyone who has not played RPGs before or is new to the superhero genre. As said, it is also great for experienced RPGers who just want a quick game (if they can deal with the reduction in dice rolls). The sample heroes, villains and adventures in the book are excellent.
RPG (mostly DnD to be fair) has appeared in numerous TV shows and movies and in every case the players are engaging in narrative and just getting on with it. It looks fin and part of that is because the characters in the show,movie are experienced players and partly it's because a scene where they are not doing that isn't as good in front of the camera. This game is for the people who've seen those shows and wanted to play RPG in that way. It's for people who've seen superhero TV shows and want to role play that in a game.
[5 of 5 Stars!]