Sunday, June 28, 2020

Review: Tiny Supers

"Four or five moments - that's all it takes to become a hero. Everyone thinks it's a full-time job. Wake up a hero. Brush your teeth a hero. Go to work a hero. Not true. Over a lifetime there are only four or five moments that really matter. Moments when you're offered a choice to make a sacrifice, conquer a flaw, save a friend - spare an enemy. In these moments everything else falls away..."

I have enjoyed my various experiences with the Tiny D6 system from Gallant Knight Games and when I saw they were doing a kickstarter for Tiny Supers I was really excited and I followed along all of the hype it got (and I really hope it holds up to the hype). I was unable to participate in the kickstarter but Gallant Knight Games recently provided me with a PDF for this review but I did pick up the physical book and I will be using the physical book for this review.

Presentation: The book itself is full color hardback in an A5 format with single column pages. It is well organized with a table of contents and easy to read yet setting appropriate fonts. What really stands out to me is the art. It feel like it goes beyond capturing the feel of the super hero genre because it creates a mood if super heroes were real in our modern times. The art style is a mix of something you would find in a class four color comic book and more modern cartoon styles.One of my favorite things about the organization of this book (and all Tiny books for that matter) is the resolution rules are in the front of the book before you get into anything else.

Character Creation: This process is straight forward and gives you different power level options to choose for your desired campaign level.
  1. Select an Archetype: These include Paragon, Defenders, Striker, Gadgeteer, Expert, Controller, and Mastermind. These provide an overall style of hero and decide the characters starting stress in addition to providing a trait. 
  2. Power Traits: Select three power traits from the list a normal trait can be substituted for a power trait. The power options are Armored, Blast, Elemental Control, Energy Control, Flight, Force Field, Gravitics, Healing, Immunity, Invisibility, Mind Reading, Phasing, Regeneration, Shapeshifting, Snare, Summoning, Super Movement, Super Senses, Super Speed, Super Strength, Telekinesis, and Teleport. The normal traits are Acrobat, Alchemist, Armor Master, Barfighter, Beastspeaker, Berserker, Brawler, Charismatic, Cleave, Dark-Fighter, Detective, Diehard, Educated, Eidetic Memory, Familiar. Fleet of Foot, Healer, Insightful, Lucky, Marksman, Martial Artist, Nimble Fingers, Opportunist, Perceptive, Quick Shot, Resolute, Shield Breaker, Sneaky, Spell-Reader, Spell Touched, Strong, Survivalist, Tough, Tracker, Trapmaster, Vigilant, and Wealthy. 
  3. Select a Power Origin: This is basically where does the characters powers come from. Some of the suggestions given are Alien, Dimensional, Enhanced (Super Soldier), Inventor, Magical, Mutant, and Technological (Cyborg, etc.).
  4. Weakness: Each character must have a weakness. The players work with the GM to come up with something. I really like how open ended this is. 
  5. Select a Weapon Group to be Proficient With: The categories are Light Melee, Heavy Melee, and Ranged. 
  6. Select Belief: This can be anything that your character deeply believes in. It should be a sentence or two long and will help bring the character to life. 
The power options outside of the standard character creation process are street level (where everyone can only start with one power trait and the other two traits must be normal traits), Super Team! (where everyone starts with 5 power traits that can be substituted for normal traits), or cosmic (where everyone starts with 8 power traits and these can be substitute for normal traits).

Resolution: This resolves around making tests the require a 2d6 roll and the test is successful if any of the dice come up a 5 or 6. Some powers, traits, and gaming fiction can give the player advantage to the roll which means 3d6 are rolled. Certain situations can also lead to disadvantage on the roll which means 1d6 is rolled. In a situation where advantage and disadvantage happens at the same the disadvantage mechanics prevail unless magic or some type of super science is involved (then the advantage mechanics win because Super Heroes!). Tests can be considered normal tests, an obstacle test, or a save test. The resolution is the same but the story that triggers the test is different.

Crunch: With a title like Tiny Supers the crunch is light and I will split it into super powers, traits, combat, advancement, and everything else. 
  • Super Powers: Each of the listed powers gave three tiers. It costs one point trait point for each tier. The tiers either build off of each other or makes the base power more effective. The list of powers covers all of the bases and it is explained and reinforced that the player can decide how these powers manifest. So, for example if a character has Armored they could just be really tough, have scales, their body could be made out of metal, or it could even be described as luck. This type of agency exists for all powers which really opens the options and gives each character the ability to be unique even they have the same power. 
  • Traits: These give the character some type of boon such as advantage in certain situations, a new skill set, or even some background ability such as being Wealthy. They are bought on a 1 for 1 system and have no tiers. Traits also have a movie quote attached to he description which gives them a lot of flavor and for those familiar with other Tiny d6 games, a lot of these traits can be found in the other games.
  • Combat: Combat is broken down to the following steps:
  1.  Initiative: Each participant rolls 2d6 and adds them together. The turn order becomes highest to lowest. If there is a tie between an enemy and a super the super always goes first. If there is a tie between supers, the players re-roll until the tie is broken to see who goes first on the original initiative. 
  2. Actions: Each character has two two actions during their initiative turn. These are usually made up of being able to move and attack. Though a character can move twice or attack twice. There are also two special actions the character can do. The first one is Focus that changes the success rate for the next attack to 4, 5, or 6 (the focus action remains in effect until the character attacks or the combat ends). The second special action is Evade which allows allows the character to passively dodge incoming attacks. Until the beginning of your next turn, you can test 1d6 when successfully hit by an enemy - if the test is successful the attack is dodged. 
  3. Resolving Damage: Each successful attack deals a 1 point of stress unless modified by a power or trait, story circumstances, or if the character is using a heavy weapon (which deals a base of 2 stress).  
  4. Death: If a character reaches zero stress they are knocked unconscious and get two chances to make a test to stabilize (each time their initiative comes up) - if they are successful they stabilize ans gain 1 Stress. If they fail, if another character cannot help them, of if they are attacked again while unconscious the character dies.
  5. Option Rule - Range Bands: There is an optional rule that includes the use of range bands which are (and the actions that can be taken to and for each range band) Close (Light Melee, Heavy Melee, Magic), Near (Heavy Melee, Ranged, Magic), and Far (Ranged, Magic). Close roughly translates as within 5ft, Near roughly translates as 10-15ft, and Far is everything else. During combat the enemies remain stationary and the heroes move around them most of the time. It takes a move action to shift between each range band. 
  • Experience/Advancement: Tiny Supers provides two different options for advancement. The first advancement is the minimalist advancement and characters gain a new trait every 3 sessions but cannot have more then 7 traits. If a trait would be gained after a character has the maximum of 7, the player can switch out a non archetype trait for new one. The second advancement track is where the GM passes out about 1-4 experience points a session ans these experience points be spent to permanently increase the characters Stress Capacity by 1 (6xp), a new proficient or mastered weapon (8xp), or a new trait (10xp).
  • Everything Else: Well, all other actions that could trigger a test are resolved by role playing and said role playing could cause advantage or disadvantage (or some traits may cause advantage). 

Final Thoughts: When all is said is done we have a supers RPG that clocks in at a total page count of 260. 4 pages for introduction and legal stuff, 14 pages for core rules, 23 pages for super creation, 169 pages about the Gallantverse (the included setting), 44 pages of micro settings, and a page for the character sheet. 

I find that minimalist/rules light gaming finds one of its best fit in the supers genre. Anyone who has spent any time watching super movies or reading comics sees how creative the heroes can be in using their powers and solving various problems. Tiny d6 really allows for great player agency so they can be as creative or loony as possible (as the flavor of the campaign allows). 

Tiny Supers with its large built it setting or its 8 micro settings provide a lot of fluff to get any campaign going and they all can be mined for all kinds of home brew shenanigans. This game provides a group with everything they need to run a epic campaign or can allow easy one shots/short campaigns. 

The micro settings are one of the my favorite aspects about Tiny Supers (and the tiny games in general) but what really stands out is how the powers are tiered. This allows variation (on top of how the players can decide how the power works/looks/feels like) for characters that have the same powers. I also really like how the game built in balance so characters that are built to be hard to damage/indestructible can be damaged. This is done by the Powerful Blows Trait that only strikers have which states that the damage they deal cannot be reduced. This includes the use of the Armored power.

Where I think the powers section falls short is that there are no rules for disadvantage aspects of powers. Outside of fluff there are no mechanics to support characters or needs to transform to access their powers, need to suit up, or require various items. These are a common trope and can be a large disadvantage. Tiny Supers being rules light, this is easy to rectify by saying any power with these types of drawbacks give the player an additional trait point to use. Regardless of this, I think it is something that should have been included. 

Another common trope that is missing is any type of system support for hide outs or super vehicles outside of the gadgeteer power trait. Once again, this can be easily hand waved and is something that can play a minor role but due to the commonality of the trope, I feel like it should have been included as well. 

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