Tabletop Game / Villains And Vigilantes

Published by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1979, Villains and Vigilantes was the second superhero RPG ever published (after Champions).

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.

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 recently, with the original designers being awarded ownership of the game, and being able to license the trademark from FGU.

Villains and Vigilantes contains examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: During character creation each character would be given a weakness...but which could 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.
  • Attack Reflector: 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.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: 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.
  • Bad Humor Truck: One of the solo villains in Opponents Unlimited is a killer ice cream man.
  • Bland-Name Product: The rookie heroes in the comic book tie-in have a "U-DRIVE" moving van.
  • Blob Monster: Adventure Devil's Domain. Slime demons are gigantic amoebas with the powers of Force Field and Power Blast.
  • Bull Seeing Red: 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).
  • Canada, Eh?: "Now, put on your toque, grab a brew and jump on the dogsled, we're movin' out."
  • Captain Ersatz: Proditor Capella from Opponents Unlimited is basically an evil version of The Greatest American Hero. Except, unlike Ralph Hinkley, Proditor Capella never lost his instruction book.
  • Character Level: Done differently than most games where the levels are 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.
  • Chess Motifs: Ranks within the Central Headquarters of Espionage for the Secret Service.
  • Circus of Fear: Adventure Terror By Night
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: 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.
  • Combat Tentacles: Adventure Devil's Domain.
  • Combo Platter Powers: 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 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.
  • Darker and Edgier: 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.).
  • Death Is Cheap: 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.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: 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.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: 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).
  • Dig Attack: Adventure Devil's Domain. The Sl'sssk demon's head is made up of 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.
  • Elephants' Graveyard: In the adventure Devil's Domain, the devilope demons have one in the Coral Forest.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Oh boy. Over the years we got CHESS, FISH, GIANT, TOTEM, BAD, VILE, FIST, RING, MEDUSA, SKULK, CRIME...
    • And lately NOCK, CAPER, GALANT, frigging TIC-TAC-TOE...
  • Government Agency of Fiction: C.H.E.S.S.
  • An Ice Person: Characters with ice powers seemed oddly abundant throughout the various sourcebooks.
  • Legion of Doom: The Crushers villain team is supposed to be this to the Crusaders, but only for a few of them say which Crusader they hate.
  • Magnetism Manipulation: The "Magnetic Powers" power allows the user to move metallic objects, including using the object as a weapon.
  • Master of Unlocking: 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).
  • One Super One Powerset: It has specifically advised players not to significantly change their PC hero's powers.
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: Abomination demons in the adventure Devil's Domain.
  • People Jars: Adventure Devil's Domain. In the Science Room the PCs 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.
  • Plant Person: Evergreen of the Crusaders.
  • Power Pincers: Adventure Devil's Domain. The Sl'sssk demon has two huge crab-like pincers that it uses to grasp and crush its prey.
  • Product Placement: A sourcebook for using The DN Agents comic book with the game was published.
  • Rainbow Motif: 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.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Several examples in the adventure Devil's Domain.
  • Remote Yet Vulnerable: While a character is using Astral Projection their body drops into a coma. The body can be attacked while the character is gone.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: Especially prevalent in Jeff Dee's early characters. 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...
  • Tarot Motifs: The Tarot Masters villain team.
  • The Team Wannabe: "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.
  • Weakened by the Light
    • 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.
  • World-Healing Wave: In the adventure "Dawn of the Devil," if the heroes vanquish the Devil, a little 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