Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Comics Code

The Comics Code is an interesting take on the superhero genre. Its designed to be a low-prep, fast playing game. In this goal it looks like a total success with sensible streamlining of conventional superhero mechanics on powers and fighting. With one tiny exception the mechanics seem to drive the action forward and there are some interesting rules about when a hero can use their superpowers.

Where the game seems to have tackled its objectives less well is the promise to deliver the flip side of superhero comics, the relationships and moral dilemmas that drive most superhero plots. Apart from a small but useful collaborative sub-plot generation system for a scenario most of that responsibility is devolved to the GM.

One of the less attractive mechanics is to have the GM judge whether a character's actions are heroic or not and whether that heroism is exception or not. It would have been far better to have the player declare the character's morality and then have the GM test it. I would also have like to have seen some mechanics for relationships between heroes themselves and their supporting cast.

The rules of the game create an interesting world where characters can have amazing powers but are always vulnerable and the risk of death is real. It feels from the initial read to be at a Daredevil-style level with a few characters that will have amazing and terrifying powers. It also explicitly about teams of heroes, even if those characters are informally collaborating rather than doing it in an organised team. Villains will also be working in structures and hierarchies.

I like the streamlined rules The Comics Code presents and I think with a few additions from other games such as a Wish/Fear system and the better parts of Marvel Superheroes such as the scene economy there is probably a tight, quick playing game to be had here.
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