Collecting superhero roleplaying gamesis a little less complicated than collecting fantasy RPGs. I mentioned before that I’vecollected comic book inspired games, and I was able to build a collection with the broader superhuman RPG market in mind, instead of focusing on subcategories like most fantasy collections necessarily do.
The history of superhero RPGs is about a decade younger than fantasy gaming, and the genre has never been quite as popular. A few superhero roleplaying games have been popular over the years–most notably the Champions RPG–which has remained in publication for 30 years and has gone through 6 editions. Other superhero roleplaying games of note include:
- Villains & Vigilantes
- Marvel Superheroes
- DC Heroes
- Heroes Unlimited
- Silver Age Sentinels
- Mutants & Masterminds
How to Collect the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game
There have been several Marvel superheroes roleplaying gamespublished over the years, and few tended to have the impact on the market you would expect from a licensed product. This is all the more surprising because one or two of Marvel’s RPG games tended to be innovative in their own way, instead of falling back on tired old ideas like many licensed products in many genres do. In fact, you could say that Marvel Comics RPGs may have been a little too innovative over the years–some gamers love them, but they don’t impact the mass market.
That’s perfect from a collectors perspective, of course. The Marvel Superheroes Adventure Game (Saga Edition) released in 1998 is a prime example. This is one of the rare diceless roleplaying games, replacing dice with a deck of cards. Given the year it was released, the influence of Magic: The Gathering is obvious. The game is considered playable in a beer-and-pretzels kind of way, but in a market where it encouraged people to buy more cards, it got lost in the shuffle (no pun intended–I swear). You’ll see even used copies of this game going for over a hundred dollars.
Collecting the Marvel Super Heroes Boxed Set (TSR)
You might notice a pattern developing here, but the 1984Marvel Superheroes RPG Boxed Set is another collectors favorite. This game used the “FASERIP” system of 7 attributes and the often-confusing method of describing levels with adjectives instead of numbers (having to remember whether “Extraordinary” was better than “Incredible”). One key contribution to superhero gaming was the introduction of the KARMA system, used to reward heroes for playing in a heroic manner. The game lasted from 1984 to 1993 and spawned many supplements, so it’s the most successful Marvel Comics RPG to date. Given its early release, this is a collectible game.
The DC Heroes RPG
The DC Heroes RPG was released in 1985 and used the MayFair Exponential Games System as its mechanic. The MEGS mechanic allowed people to play a character like Superman, who could move planets at the time, alongside a street-level hero like Batman, while still retaining the approximate power levels of each. Given good critical reviews at the time and still retaining a sizable following to this day, DC Heroes is old enough, popular enough, and niche enough to be a good collectors game.
Supplements included writeups of many DC Comics characters, including the Justice League, Teen Titans, and Legion of Superheroes. Because the book was released during publication of the seminalCrisis on Infinite Earths, you also get to compare pre-Crisis to post-Crisis DC character builds.
A second game, Blood of Heroes, was released without the DC universe background. It used the same MEGS system as DC Heroes, and serious collectors will probably want a copy of this one too.
The Golden Heroes RPG
You might think all collectible superhero RPG games involved Marvel and DC, but that’s hardly the case. The 1982Golden HeroesRPG, also known as Squadron UK, is a game that was published in the United Kingdom and illustrated by artists from 2000 AD (best known for Judge Dredd). The game included random character generation, though you had to be able to justify each of your powers in a feasible origin story to keep the powers you rolled up. Comic book tropes were included in the rules. For instance, combat was based on the panels in comics.
The Champions RPG uses Hero Games’ Hero System mechanics, and is compatible with all of the other game settings using the Hero System. While the 4th, 5th, and 6th editions of Champions have been popular enough and recent enough that most aren’t going to be worth collectors’ attention, many of the early edition books are rare these days. So collecting the Champions RPG books is worth considering.
Collecting Comic Book RPGs
These are just a few of the examples of games collectors might be interested in the moment. I suggest you research the various in-print and out-of-print game lines listed above when researching which comic book superhero role-playing games are worth collecting.