Metahumans Rising is a new superhero RPG from House Dok Productions.
This is an ambitious project, and the goal is to give you an RPG that lets you build an original game world and a system that copes with radically different power levels.
It needs some work, a revision or two on the way to a new edition before I’ll add it to my staple of to-go considerations for a heroes game.
First impressions matter. The initial few pages of Metahumans Rising didn’t sit well with me, and I suspect that tainted everything that followed.
The very first page of contents is a memorial. That’s a nice touch. It’s okay that it looks rushed because maybe it was. Sliding on to the next page messed with my eyes, though, and it took me a minute or two to work out why. The font changes sizes. Ever after that, on each page flick, my brain had to reassure itself that the font hadn’t changed.
Once the font issue made me start to look at the layout I started to struggle with it. Is that section heading supposed to be intended a few spaces? No. I don’t think so, but it happens now and then. House Dok also draw boxes around the text to denote it as their example explainer, but I think the padding and spacing are too tight. It feels cluttered.
What I liked about the opening to Metahumans Rising is the encouragement to think collectively about what type of game you want to play. What’s the tone? What’s off limits? What about building a collective world history together? These are all excellent pre-game considerations.
Character building in Metahumans Rising
Character building makes takes a big chunk of the 198-paged PDF. It’s page 85 page by the time we’re talking rule mechanics, and a sample adventure begins at page 167.
I dislike the example character creation we’re given. You know the type, along with explaining the character generation process, there’s a dialogue walking through how some fictional players thought about and created their superheroes.
Inexplicably, these fictional players create two superheroes each. Is this standard for Metahumans Rising? It’s not mentioned again. Unless multiple characters are an essential part of the game, like Ars Magica, I don’t recommend them and don’t want them. I don’t think House Dok for putting this can of worms into the game. Then the players go ahead and create superheroes of different power levels. Yes, I get it, Hawkeye does not have the same level of Power as Captain Marvel. That’s a film that doesn’t need balance whereas Metahumans Rising is going to be all about game balance.
The actual character generation process is straight forward enough; origin, catalyst, drives and powers. What are you? What can you do and what do you want?
A big strength of Metahumans Rising is that by coping with such a range of powers it could become your one-stop superhero stop.
The system uses points to build characters, and the power level of the game determines the number of points characters are developed with. Mundane games (detectives, etc.) have a recommended 20 advancement points, low powered regional games also get 20 advancement points but with powers, the ‘classic’ national/international threat level games get 30 points worth of characters, high powered ‘global’ games like alien invasions have characters built with 40 points and intergalactic adventures to save planets use heroes made with 45 points.
Spending points get a bit messy, sorry to say. To begin with, a section talks about trees – like the Strength Tree – but I don’t see this referenced again. There seem to be different ways to buy superpowers based on your ability to blag how the power works to the GM.
There’s no big list of powers which I have mixed feelings on. This can work very well, but I don’t think there’s enough support in this edition of the game for you to design your own with any degree of certainty that you’re doing it right.
There is a little list, though, with section headings like ‘Defends Against: (Variable) (Variable)’ One of those variables, I presume, is a thing we defend against. The other means it might be a major defence or a minor one. I think. It’s not explained.
Metahumans Rising system
The core system is 2d6 + 1d6 for the first talent, power and speciality. I’m unsure if that means up to 3d6 can be added (one for talent, one for power, etc).
We’re told that no other characteristics may be added more than once but also that drive can be applied, and background and career talents.
The example suggests the dice are added to an attribute and talent combination. That makes sense to me as you need something like 50 success to do a very challenging task and 70 for a very heroic one.
I struggled as much getting my head around the system as I did the character generation. I sense that there is a better system in there than I was able to tease out. A few rounds of editing and layout improvements, I suspect, will make a big difference.
This is a Kickstarter project. House Drok asked for $4,000 and raised $4, 146. They didn’t have a huge amount of money to work with. A quick check in the comments on the Kickstarter shows people asking whether they would be getting delivery of their game.
I think there was pressure on House Drok to get Metahumans Rising out to backers and I’m glad they did. The publisher, though, needed more time or additional people working on the project. The game feels rushed. The layout hides essential rules. The text isn’t as precise as it needs to be.
While, at its heart, there’s ambition and a truckload of good ideas in Metahumans Rising, the game doesn’t manage to bring them to the surface for me. I believe veteran publisher could make something out of this game, carving off bits and reshaping it.
Who might like Metahumans Rising? I speculate some old school superhero fans might be familiar with the layout and presentation style. I think they’ll struggle less and therefore like the game more. There are also fans of Fractured Kingdom, Dok’s fantasy RPG, and surely if you know the basics of the system from that game, you’ll have a much easier time with Metahumans Rising.
So while this is a pass for me, I certainly feel House Drok Productions are worth keeping an eye on. They’re on the learning curve, and I suspect they’ll climb it.
My copy of Metahumans Rising was provided for review.
This review is part of Superhero Week. Leave a comment below, especially if you’ve played and enjoyed Metahumans Rising and want to help clarify anything I’ve misunderstood. You can also use this teleport link to jump to another Superhero Week post.