First put out by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1979, Villains and Vigilantes was the first complete superhero RPG ever published (after Superhero 2044, a science fiction game with some superhero elements).

The game was somewhat unique (and to some, ludicrous) for its character creation system. Namely, values such as strength, intelligence, health, etc. for player characters were approximated by the GM from those values in the person playing the character. Powers were acquired by rolling dice and consulting a series of tables, sometimes resulting in bizarre combinations.

A revised second edition was released in 1982.

In 1986 FGU partnered with Eclipse Comics to release a four-issue Villains & Vigilantes mini-series that was largely a retelling of the introductory adventure ''Crisis at Crusader Citadel'' (which has the players applying to the Crusaders, the local hero team, but having to stand in for them when the Crusaders go AWOL just before a superhuman crime wave).

After a ''long'' hiatus, in 2010 Fantasy Games Unlimited began releasing new material for the game. A legal battle between Fantasy Games Unlimited and the original designers over the trademark ended with the original designers being awarded ownership of the game, and being able to license the trademark from FGU.

Over August-September 2016, the original designers ran [[https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jeffdee/villains-and-vigilantestm-30-the-mighty-protectors a Kickstarter for a third edition]].

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!!''Villains and Vigilantes'' contains examples of:

* AbandonedWarehouse: Used in a great many of the adventures (such as "Crisis at Crusader Citadel" and "Organized Crimes"), they provide the perfect place for a skirmish with supervillains.
* AchillesHeel: During character creation each character is given a weakness... which can be removed by surrendering one of their powers.
* {{Animesque}}: Several of the more recent releases deal with Japanese villains and anti-villain agencies, and appropriately take their cues from both a story and artistic standpoint from anime shows.
* AttackReflector: Adventure ''Devil's Domain''. In the Scarlet Sphere (the home of the Devil) the Prison Room is made of Brytrithium, which will cause any attack made against it to rebound on the attacker.
* AwesomeButImpractical: Blastin' Butch from ''Opponents Unlimited'' loves to use his energy blast attack because it's so cool, even though it costs eight times the amount of energy per shot vs the standard power from the rulebook for the same amount of damage. The description of the power even makes note of this and how he frequently exhausts himself unnecessarily from overrelying on it.
* BadHumorTruck: One of the solo villains in ''Opponents Unlimited'' is a killer ice cream man.
* BigBad: Many of the main villains of adventures qualify; examples of [[BigBad/TabletopGames genre-specific baddies]] are Doctor Apocalypse (from "Death Duel with the Destroyers" and "The Island of Doctor Apocalypse"), the Purple Mask ("To Tackle the TOTEM"), and the Organizer ("Organized Crimes").
* BlandNameProduct: The rookie heroes in the comic book tie-in have a "U-DRIVE" moving van.
* BlobMonster: Adventure ''Devil's Domain''. Slime demons are gigantic amoebas with the powers of Force Field and Power Blast.
* BullSeeingRed: In the comic series there's a scene where several of the heroes are being menaced by the super-strong villain known as Bull. The heroine Evergreen uses a variety of plants to attack him, only to be warned that the red blooms on some of them are making Bull angry. She counters that bulls can't see red. The problem is Bull's a mutant '''human''' who was born with his powers, not a real bull. He has a criminal record dating back to his childhood, and as he's one of the Crusaders' archenemies they'd probably have that information readily available. Not to mention that he was in fact one of a full third of the Crushers' roster named after animals from the module (Hornet, Vulture and Shrew being the others). Point being that maybe the situation's different if we're not talking about what the old myth talks about (And for the record, the comic was written by the same people who worked on the original adventure booklet).
* CanadaEh: "Now, put on your toque, grab a brew and jump on the dogsled, we're movin' out."
* CaptainErsatz: Proditor Capella from Opponents Unlimited is basically an evil version of ''Series/TheGreatestAmericanHero''. Except, unlike Ralph Hinkley, Proditor Capella never lost his instruction book.
* CharacterLevel: Done differently than most games, with the levels set up around reflecting how experienced characters are rather than unlocking large bonuses. That is, a 1st-level character will find it harder to hit a 10th-level character than he will when he's built a few levels of his own. There are some minor stat bonuses to be had, but that's it.
* ChessMotifs: Ranks within the Central Headquarters of Espionage for the Secret Service.
* CircusOfFear: Especially the adventure ''Terror By Night'', but also in "Organized Crimes".
* ClapYourHandsIfYouBelieve: Adventure ''Terror By Night'' has a vampire among its prominent characters and addresses things like repelling them with crosses. The object itself would be meaningless...unless the person wielding it is doing so out of a genuine belief the power of God will protect them from creatures of evil.
* CombatTentacles: Adventure ''Devil's Domain''.
** The Sl'sssk demon's head is made up of eight long squid-like tentacles. The demon hides underground and [[DigAttack sticks its tentacles up through the soil to grab creatures on the surface and pull them below]].
** The Pit Fiend has six tentacles that can each do 15-78 HitPoints of damage to any creature hit.
* ComboPlatterPowers: The "official" way to roll up a character for the game was to pick a table of powers (like general powers, magic/psionic powers, magic/psionic ''items'', and skills), and then roll percentile dice to determine what powers your character had. This could result in some strange combinations, which can also be seen in some of the characters, like Mace from ''Crisis at Crusader Citadel.'' As his name implies he wields a tricked out mace, but for some reason also has a superhuman sense of smell despite not having a background suggesting that physically he's anything more than an everyday thug.
* {{Cosplay}}: Two of the adventures include visits to science fiction conventions where people in superhero costumes will hardly be noticed.
* DarkerAndEdgier: ''For the Greater Good'' introduces a team made up exclusively of villains with controversial backgrounds (one's a white supremacist, one's a former porn star, one's a religious extremist, one's a retarded pyromaniac, etc.).
* DeathIsCheap: Since this is based on comic books where death is often only a temporary setback, when a PC dies it's usually only permanent if the player wants it to be. Even lampshaded in the comic miniseries. There are penalties to doing this, though, mainly in that a character who comes back loses all their levels.
* DefeatEqualsExplosion: In the adventure ''Devil's Domain'', when the Player Characters kill any of the Devil's demons, the demons explode in a cloud of noxious brown smoke.
* DevilInPlainSight: Gee, an embittered, antisocial guy with a name like Charles Malevolent couldn't possibly be a super villain, could he? (Not a spoiler, since the authorities are pretty sure he's up to something already and the adventure begins with the hero investigating his house at their request).
* DigAttack: Adventure Devil's Domain. The Sl'sssk demon's head is made up of [[CombatTentacles eight long squid-like tentacles]]. The demon hides underground and sticks its tentacles up through the soil to grab creatures on the surface and pull them below.
* ElephantGraveyard: In the adventure ''Devil's Domain'', the devilope demons have one in the Coral Forest.
* FunWithAcronyms: Oh boy. Over the years we got CHESS, FISH, GIANT, ASA, TOTEM, BAD, VILE, FIST, RING, MEDUSA, SKULK, CRIME...
** And lately NOCK, CAPER, GALANT, and TIC-TAC-TOE...
* GovernmentAgencyOfFiction: C.H.E.S.S.
* AnIcePerson: Characters with ice powers seem oddly abundant throughout the various sourcebooks.
* LegionOfDoom: The Crushers villain team is supposed to be this to the Crusaders, but only for a few of them does it say which Crusader they hate.
* MagnetismManipulation: The "Magnetic Powers" power allows the user to move metallic objects, including using the object as a weapon.
* MasterOfUnlocking: The villain Pillager from "Escape from the Microverse" has a magic sword that can be used to unlock any "ordinary" lock or barrier (although it doesn't explain any further, leaving whether a high-tech computerized lock in a superteam's base counts as "ordinary" up to the individual GM as opposed to a seal placed by a wizard, for example).
* {{Ninja}}: These shadow warriors serve as adversaries in modules "Search for the Sensei", "Enter the Dragon's Claw: Honor", and "[=ClockWorks=]". In addition, Intercrime's Assassins are very similar.
* OneSuperOnePowerset: It has specifically advised players not to significantly change their PC hero's powers.
* OurCentaursAreDifferent: Abomination demons in the adventure ''Devil's Domain''.
* PeopleJars: Adventure ''Devil's Domain''. In the Science Room the {{PC}}s will discover grisly looking mutant babies growing in glass vats. The Devil plans to use these mutant demonic monsters as his servants when they attain their full growth.
* PlantPerson: Evergreen of the Crusaders.
* PowerPincers: Adventure ''Devil's Domain''. The Sl'sssk demon has two huge crab-like pincers that it uses to grasp and crush its prey.
* ThePrankster: There is a supervillain by this name in the book "Opponent's Unlimited".
* ProductPlacement: A sourcebook for using [=''The DNAgents''=] comic book with the game was published.
* RainbowMotif: Adventure ''Assassin''. The ASA (American Security Agency) has a rank structure based on the color spectrum. It includes violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red, in order of increasing rank. The book ''Villains Unleashed'' gives a color-motif villain team.
* RedEyesTakeWarning: Several examples in the adventure ''Devil's Domain''.
* RemoteYetVulnerable: While a character is using Astral Projection their body drops into a coma. The body can be attacked while the character is gone.
* StevenUlyssesPerhero: Especially prevalent in the early characters of Jeff Dee and Jack Herman. For instance, Mirage's real name is Meryl Jordan, Bull is Bill Buckford, Mocker is Robot-MKR, Blizzard is Bob Ballard, Od is Omar Drokman, Leo is Leopold Linus, Samhain is Sam Haine...
* StrangerBehindTheMask: With secret identities being common in the superhero genre, there are many cases of this. One notable example is the villain known as the Garrote from the adventure "Alone into the Night".
* TarotMotifs: The Tarot Masters villain team from ''Opponents Unlimited'' and expanded on in ''The Pentacle Plot''.
* TheTeamWannabe: "Super Crooks and Criminals" has Wonder Boy, a teenager with some marginally powerful gizmos who's there to try to become a PC's sidekick.
* WeakenedByTheLight
** Adventure ''Organized Crimes''. The supervillainess Black Empress takes double damage from light-based attacks.
** Adventure ''Devil's Domain''. The Pit Fiend takes triple normal damage from light based attacks, can be blinded by any light-producing attack on a special hit, and a blinding flash attack only requires one hit to blind it.
* WhyDontYouJustShootHim: Deconstructed lightly in an episode of the comic series. The villains have captured the heroes and hit them with a coma-inducing vapor. New member Manstar asks why they don't just kill the heroes, and veteran member Mace explains that when a superhero dies they usually just come back with a vengeance, and they're actually saving themselves a bigger headache later. Lightly, because in the final issue the heroes are left to die when the building's set to explode. Which is an overwrought way of killing them, though, so it might still be in-bounds. The logic isn't explored, though.
* WorldHealingWave: [[spoiler: In the adventure "Dawn of the Devil," if the heroes vanquish the Devil, a primordial being they've made friends with along the way does this to Earth, undoing all the damage and raising everyone killed in the Devil's attack]]
* WreathedInFlames: Many instances of characters whose body is on fire exist, where they have the "flame on" version of Flame Powers. Examples include Laserfire (of the Crusaders) and Diablo (from "Pentacle Plot").
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