Sunday, May 10, 2015
After Magic World and Future*World, the last 'rulesbook' for Worlds of Wonder was Superworld, intended for superhero role-playing. In 1983, the year after the publication of Worlds of Wonder, a Superworld boxed set was released with a larger page count than all of Worlds of Wonder. It enjoyed a modicum of success, even rating fifth on Lawrence Schick's Heroic Worlds' “Top Five Comic-Book Superhero Systems” (winning out over such games as Villains & Vigilantes and Heroes Unlimited). Chaosium published A Companion to Superworld supplement and a couple of adventures but, after 1984, no Superworld material was produced. Nowadays, “Super World” is a mere setting in Basic RolePlaying; occupying thirty pages – including super power descriptions – in the rule book. However, the 1983 Superworld (i.e., second edition) and its attendant publications are available electronically at RPGNow or Chaosium.com.
Evidently, designer Steve Perrin felt Superworld was too similar to Champions. Of course, any superhero role-playing game using point allocation is going to be similar to Champions, but how much is too similar? Well, both Chaosium-produced adventures were compatible with Champions and the Superworld Companion featured rules suitable for both games as well as a conversion process between the two. Not only were the systems similar in execution, but Superworld supplements were also marketed as Champions supplements. Ultimately, Superworld was an attempt by Perrin to adapt a fantasy role-playing game system to a superhero system but Champions was designed as a superhero system first and foremost. While Superworld was a good game, it trod the trail blazed by Champions. Are you going to play with the cool kid or the cool kid's little brother? One wonders what Perrin would have designed if he had not been familiar with Champions.
In Champions, a player builds a character based on a concept. Although Superworld encouraged “superhero design from concept rather than haphazard allocation of hero points,” the described method of character generation relied upon randomly determined characteristic scores. In Worlds of Wonder, players rolled 3d6 for each Superworld characteristic (adding 3 when the result was less than 11). In 'regular' Superworld, players rolled 2d6+6 for each characteristic (optionally rerolling the lowest characteristic until the combined characteristic scores equal at least 91). In either Superworld, each character was allowed a number of 'hero points' equal to the total of that character's rolled characteristics. So, a character with high characteristics obtained a larger number of hero points than a character with relatively low characteristics; poor rolling hurt two ways. Hero points could be used to purchase super powers, increase skills, and improve characteristic scores. With the fourth edition of Basic RolePlaying, characters can be generated exclusively with point allocation, but now they are called 'character points' and not 'hero points'.
The 'costs' of characteristics have changed through the various iterations of Superworld (as detailed in the graphic below). Intelligence and Power have always cost three hero/character points per point of characteristic; likewise, Constitution has been consistently available on a one-to-one basis. In (2E) Superworld, one hero/character point could be used to add 3 to Strength or Size. Appearance (originally Charisma) declined in value over the years, once as expensive as Power and now purchased at a mere one-to-one rate. Contrariwise, Dexterity increased in value. Also, in (2E) Superworld, there were “purchase restrictions” imposed on the amount by which characteristics could be increased. For instance, Intelligence could not be increased by more than one-third of the original, rolled score.
While Champions has the characteristics of Physical Defence and Energy Defence, the Worlds of Wonder version of Superworld offered three forms of 'Armor': Kinetic (“Blows, falls, sonic attacks, heat, and cold attacks”), Electromagnetic (“All magnetism and electrical attacks, such as lightning”), and Radiation (“Light, hard radiation, and gravity attacks”). In the second edition of Superworld, 'Electromagnetic' became 'Electric' (“...the interaction of electrons and describes lightning bolts and bio-electric energy”) and the definitions changed for 'Kinetic' (“...anything from the impact of a fist to the vibrations of a sonic blast.” ) and 'Radiation' (“...the atomic-level disruption caused by electromagnetic waves, Radiant heat, X-rays, and lasers...”). In fourth edition Basic RolePlaying, separate 'Armor' is required for each of eleven types of energy: Cold, Darkness, Electric, Gravity, Heat, Kinetic, Light, Magnetic, Radiation, Sound, and Wind.
Aside from super powers, BRP-4E describes four other 'classes' of powers: Magic, Mutations, Psychic Abilities, and Sorcery. Some former 'super powers' are now considered to be 'psychic abilities' and are acquired in a different fashion. As a result, there are only thirty-three 'super powers' in Basic RolePlaying (which is slightly more than the number of powers in Worlds of Wonder Superworld).