I really like Amazing Heroes! and I want to begin this review with grumpy old git reasons why.
Firstly, the game avoids leaning on the phrase “family-friendly” because kids and families are not synonymous. Instead, Amazing Heroes! is an all-age appropriate RPG. Well, I wouldn’t give it to a paper eating toddler, but once I trusted a young person with a book, I’d be happy for them to turn the pages of Amazing Heroes! in terms of the content they discover.
Secondly, young people who don’t want to be treated as children but only just starting out on life and their tabletop RPG experience can be handed a copy of Amazing Heroes! without feeling as if they’ve been given dumbed down and condescending content. I imagine, I mean, it’s hard to step with much emotional intelligence into their shoes, but that’s my honest bet.
Thirdly, it’s a straightforward and effective superheroes game!
Amazing Heroes! system
The whole system is summarised in half a page. That summary appears on page 5. Amazing Heroes! is a 128-page book, which means we need to tackle the question of “what’s in all the other pages?”. It turns out there’s a great answer to that.
Imagine a concept for your character and pick an Occupation. Amazing Heroes! does not go in for lists and tables. You can pick whatever occupation you want because if you can imagine a way to make it relevant to a dice role later, you can use it. Sewer pirate? Go for it! Street cleaner? You, too. Politician? Oh, if you insist.
Then pick a word to describe your Body attribute and another for your Personality. Therefore, you could be Strong and Shy, or Chubby and Charismatic, and well on your way to becoming a superhero.
Lastly, pick a Superpower from your imagination and start to assign dice. Your character concept doesn’t get a dice, but your Occupation, Body, Personality and Superpower do.
Starting off characters get 1d6, 1d6, 1d8 and 1d10 to assign in any order to those four attributes. These characters are also superheroes who are just starting off, so a Superpower with many uses will begin with the character being confident in just one, but can learn and develop more with experience. Other characters might develop whole new powers; super strength and flight.
Having said Amazing Heroes! doesn’t condescending content, I will also note that it doesn’t assume you know anything about RPGs, so the book takes the time to explain gamer lingo and what these dice are.
Here’s the game engine; the person running the game will suggest a dice roll is necessary if the superhero is trying something that might not work. Players have the dice assigned to the attribute that seems to fit the challenge best to roll equal or higher to the difficulty. That difficulty can be 3, 4 or 5.
Yes, that means experienced superheroes will succeed most times. Isn’t that appropriate?
There is a little more to the system, such as a lovely use of advantage and disadvantage, but I don’t want to give the whole game away in a review, so I won’t detail it here.
What else is in the book?
Chapter one ends on page 23. The majority of that chapter is around handling action and “how to be a hero at the table”.
That last section talks openly and sagely about good player behaviour. It would not be unwelcome in other tabletop RPGs.
Chapter two is about running the game (or running the show to use Amazing Heroes! terminology). There is more space and word count spent in Amazing Heroes! on how to run a good, safe and perhaps even educational game than there is on anything else.
Two thumbs up. I recently raved about Black Armada’s Last Fleet for having a helpful section for GMs, and it still stands out as a rarity. Not because other games don’t try, but because it’s hard advice to give.
But Amazing Heroes! success is not Last Fleet’s success. Last Fleet is mature and adult; I wish it was the first experience for many tabletop gamers, but it is unlikely to be so, especially for the GM. Amazing Heroes! is wearing other responsibilities and could well be someone’s first game. Amazing Heroes! might even be the first touchpoint for a parent coming to tabletop RPGs and having a go at running a game.
The next time a non-gaming friend suggests they’ve a young person wanting to try the hobby and have been asked to run a game, you can safely and wisely suggest Amazing Heroes! to them. The digital download is only $11.95 and it feels like a rock-solid safe investment.
The second half of the book is split into two with chapters three and four. The first introduces the setting of Storm City and the second half sets out two adventures for it, complete with story hooks and NPCs.
Amazing Heroes! look and feel
I’m lucky enough to have a hardback copy of Amazing Heroes! from the printers Lightning Source. That’s the company that works with DriveThruRPG on print-and-demand titles.
It feels sturdy, the paper quality is good, and the ink crystal clear. No complaints.
I think my only criticism of Amazing Heroes! is that it seems to lack art direction. There’s no shortage of images, but they’re a mix of styles, themes and atmosphere. The cover art seems to make a point of emphasising this, presenting the multitude in a collage.
At worse, the art edges a little towards young adult and away from child. However, I think the benefits of that particular are worth it. It’s the hard that will convince a young adult or teen who might flick through the book before being persuaded to give it a try that they’re not being handed something for playschool.
Even in the height of a busy game, even with a busy table and little prep time, I’m sure you won’t get lost within the book should you need to flick through it to reference help or a rule. It uses a large but not childish font and writes in small neat paragraphs.
I don’t have kids, but if I did (and no, this is not a babysitting offer), then I would absolutely respond to the requests to join in the tabletop gaming life by starting them out on Amazing Heroes!
Here’s a curveball for you; I think I might even use the system for adults too. I believe the Occupation, Body, Personality and Superpower + Dice Assignment is absolutely perfect for people who haven’t tried RPGs before. It introduces enough character gen and then gameplay strategy to bring those exciting elements of tabletop RPGs to life and yet avoids intimidating character sheets and games that take a whole week to start.
Disclaimer. My copy of Amazing Heroes! was provided by Martin Lloyd for free to review. I would have made the mistake of not buying it and having a copy otherwise.
This superheroes tabletop RPG review is part of Superhero Week, and you can use this teleport link to randomly hop to another superhero article.