Follow TV Tropes


Tabletop Game / Heroes Unlimited

Go To

Heroes Unlimited is a superhero Tabletop Role-Playing Game published by Palladium Books and using their Megaversal system. It's set in a world very similar to our own, except that superhuman beings have existed since ancient times and use their powers to fight (or promote) evil. The general feel of the game is somewhat low-key power-wise (particularly compared to Rifts), with most heroes limited to a handful of superpowers that aren't necessarily much more effective than a bullet, though exceptions exist, and an overall feel similar to The Modern Age of Comic Books, with a greater examination of the role that superbeings fit in the world.


The world of Heroes Unlimited is a part of the Palladium Megaverse, so a Crossover with any other world is possible. In addition, Earth is part of a greater galaxy, which receives more detail in Aliens Unlimited and its supplements.

This game provides examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: Mega-Heroes are deliberately given a major weakness to help balance their immense power. These can range from susceptibility to certain elements like fire, vulnerability to magic or even just a simple allergy.
  • A God Am I: One of the many weaknesses a Mega-Hero can be saddled with is a "God Syndrome" which makes them view themselves as a deity. Naturally, such prideful characters feel themselves as being above petty mortals and their laws and generally view normal humans and less powerful supers as inferior beings. They also have a bad habit of underestimating their foes, which can backfire on them spectacularly in certain situations.
  • Advertisement:
  • The Alcatraz: The Gramercy Island sourcebook focuses on a large prison complex of the same name used to house the worse scum and villainy in the world. Naturally, the whole book has a huge focus on criminal gangs and super villains as well as a brief look into the prison lifestyle of the superpowered.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The Compact forbids spacefaring species from fostering radical change such as technology trading (though not necessarily superheroics) on underdeveloped planets like Earth. The breaking of this law created Century Station, and the shock waves from this have yet to die down.
  • Amazon Brigade: Century Station gives us The Valkyries, a small group of powerful female superheroes that operate inside the titular city.
  • Armed Blag: In the "One Dam Thing" adventure, the Gold Falcon's plan is to rob an armored car transporting millions of dollars worth of evidence (in cash and coke) from a recent drug bust while his unwilling accomplice Brainstorm distracts the cops with a flashy attack on Hoover Dam.
  • Advertisement:
  • Ascended Demon: The Heroic Hellion has voluntarily chosen to be good, and this has changed them to appear slightly more human and attractive.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: Evil enchanted weapons can grant their wielders a variety of unpleasant powers like conjuring darkness, making people sick, raising the dead as mindless thralls, and opening portals to realms of unspeakable eldritch horror. Since enchanted weapons will only bestow their powers upon people of a matching alignment, this means that heroic characters will never be able to use these abilities.
  • Badass Normal: A couple of power types. Hardware heroes use technology to fight evil, while Ancient Weapon Masters and most Special Training charactersnote  use their skills. Physical Training characters push the limits of this trope, as while most of their power comes from physical and martial arts training, they take that to the point where their power punch and kick are partly an expression of chi powers.
  • Blackmail: In the "One Dam Thing" adventure, the young college student Jeff Erikson is a mutant with hydrokinetic powers. Jeff tries to keep his powers secret and just wants to live a normal life. Unfortunately, a supervillain witnessed him using his powers to save some friends from a boating accident. That villain is now threatening to expose Jeff's secret unless Jeff puts on a costume and attacks the Hoover Dam.
  • By the Power of Grayskull!: Heroes who wield an Enchanted Weapon must speak the weapon's name aloud to activate it and gain their powers. Similarly, heroes whose powers were Mystically Bestowed upon them must speak a word of power to transform from their normal identity into their superhuman form.
  • Captain Patriotic: There are dozens of examples of both heroes and villains that have motifs based upon their country of origin. Heck, even the cover of the core game book features this.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Physical Training heroes push their strength and agility to levels well beyond what we'd call "the human limit," to the point where their fists can even damage invulnerable beings.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: One side effect of the "Loves the Opposite Sex" weakness (see Distracted by the Sexy below) is that the hero in question will be more sympathetic towards the opposite gender and more inclined to support and believe them over others.
  • The Chosen Many: Many heroes are granted their abilities from various gods or other supernatural beings that have decided to gift them and others like them with powers to aid in their fight against the forces of evil (or good if the entity in question is evil).
  • Competitive Balance: Mutant animals have a pool of Biological Energy (or BIO-E) points which they spend at character creation to give themselves increased size, human features such as bipedalism or the ability to speak, special abilities, and psionic powers. The number of available points is inversely proportional to the size and deadliness of the animal, with small animals like frogs and mice having a ton of BIO-E points while larger animals like tigers and bears have few or no points. The only way a big animal can get more points is by making it smaller. This was an intentional choice by the designers to keep players from gravitating to the biggest, nastiest animals available while ignoring the smaller ones.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Judy of the Fun Bunch gang dresses like a male clown because she believes it makes her look more intimidating and matches the look of her partner.
  • Cyborg: Bionics are an available superpower type. Unlike experiments and mutants, bionic upgrades are a known (if still emerging) technology and available to the public (for a given definition of "available").
  • Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes: Aliens can come from a "twilight world" shrouded in perpetual darkness. Such aliens have evolved to be extremely sensitive to light: they can see incredibly well in the dark, but any light brighter than 100 watts is blinding to them, and they must wear protective eyewear if they wish to fight crime during the day.
  • Deal with the Devil: Power from Servitude pacts, a form of Mystically Bestowed power, happen when a demon lord grants power to a mortal. Sometimes, this is an open agreement to life-long servitude, while other times it's a single favor (which will almost certainly damn the mortal).note invoked
  • Detect Evil: Wizards and magicians can sense the presence of profoundly evil beings, such as evil supernatural entities or supervillains of diabolic alignment. There is also a psionic power which lets you see a creature's general alignment, getting a sense of whether the creature is good or evil.
  • Disposable Superhero Maker: For various reasons, there's no way to mass-produce powered humans, and Super Soldier programs inevitably get only a couple of successful results - and even if they can succeed, such programs are inevitably kept under very tight wraps. Nobody is mass-producing super armies yet.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Heroes with the "Loves the Opposite Sex" weakness will become easily distracted whenever an attractive member of the opposite gender strolls by, ignoring all but the most blatant and unsubtle events going on around them in the process.
  • Elemental Shapeshifting: The various Alter Physical Structure powers let you transform into a being made of an elemental substance like fire or stone.
  • Enigmatic Empowering Entity: One of the main sources of superpowers in this game involves specifically chosen mortals receiving special gifts from mysterious supernatural entities such as gods or demons.
  • Extranormal Prison: Gramercy Island is mainly designed to house several powerful supervillains, though it also contains some "normal" human prisoners as well.
  • Gang of Hats: Many of the villain groups have a common theme or motif that ties them together. The Gramercy Island sourcebook in particular has a massive section dedicated to various unique super villain gangs and their members.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Defied, at least with human genetic engineering. The technology exists as of Powers Unlimited 2, but it's much rarer than bionics, radiation, or chemical experimentation. Mutant animals are a major power category, as it doesn't matter whether they're evolved through chemistry, radiation or genetics.
  • Geometric Magic: Wizards can use circle magic, which—as the name implies—requires them to create and stand in intricate circles to cast spells. This is more expensive and time-consuming than conventional spellcasting, as even the simplest magic circle takes half an hour to create, but it can produce some impressive effects which regular spell magic cannot replicate.
  • Heavyworlder: High-gravity planets are a viable option for an Alien character's homeworld. Characters from such a world are relatively short (they cap out at 5'6"), have innate bonuses to strength and durability, and move much faster than normal while in Earth's lighter gravity.
  • Henshin Hero: Mystically Bestowed heroes and wielders of Enchanted Weapons both undergo a transformation when activating their powers. The transformation is more extreme in the Mystically Bestowed hero's case, as they can go from a child or an invalid to a superhuman with a Heroic Build. The Enchanted Weapon wielder bulks up too, just not to the same extent. In both cases the transformation garbs the hero in a fancy costume as well.
  • Human Aliens: You can easily create a Clark Kent-style alien superhero who looks indistinguishable from ordinary humans.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: Mutants and Experiments can gain their superpowers through exposure to radiation. The "One Dam Thing" adventure spoofs the trope with the Gold Falcon, a former convenience store cashier turned supervillain whose powers stem from standing next to a leaky microwave for hours at a time.
  • Inhumanable Alien Rights: Discussed in a couple of places. Aliens and known superheroes (and supervillains) have human rights, but the law is hopelessly behind the tech when it comes to lab-created mutants and any kind of mutant animal. Whether or not a mutant would be ruled "human" if it made it to court is a moot point when the latter won't happen - the "creature" will be transferred to a corporate black lab without so much as a chance to talk to a lawyer.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: When it comes to ancient weapons, the katana is king. Its damage output is matched only by the largest European broadswords and polearms, and is exceeded only by magical weapons and modern firearms.
  • Magical Accessory: The Magic category lets you create a superhero whose magical powers come from an enchanted object such as a medallion, ring, belt, mask, cape, gloves, and so on. Such an object can either give the wielder superpowers or grant them a fixed number of magic spells.
  • Mecha: The Robotics category includes rules for playing as the non-superpowered pilot of a giant robot. Said robot can be anything from a humanoid Mini-Mecha to an Animal Mecha to a Walking Tank, with the only limitations being the player's imagination and their design budget.
  • Monster Clown: The Fun Bunch gang are a large group of murderous circus themed criminals with several members that base their costume design off of this.
  • Morton's Fork: In Gramercy Island, joining a prison gang is damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't. If you don't join a gang, you have nobody to back you up when someone decides to prey on you, but if you do, you'll probably get shivved by the gang's enemies.
  • Mutants: Superpowered mutants are a valid option for player characters. Human mutants could be born with their powers or could have gained them through exposure to radiation or other substances, though the game makes no distinction between "natural" mutants and mutates. It's also possible to play as a heavily mutated animal in the vein of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Powers Unlimited 2 talks about this as an option for Super Soldier programs due to the secrecy involved. Maybe only one scientist knows the secret sauce, or it's hidden in one file kept under lock and key. If it goes away, the program can't be replicated.
  • Not Quite Flight: Superheroes who possess the Weight Manipulation power can glide by making themselves weightless, while heroes with the Alter Physical Structure: Electricity power can fly by turning into a bolt of lightning and rocketing off in a random direction.
  • Not What I Signed on For: The villain Earthmover is part of a deadly duo with the plant alien Verdant, but isn't aware that Verdant plans to conquer Earth, kill most mammalian life and enslave the rest. When he learns, he's going to become violently angry.
  • Only the Chosen May Wield: Anyone can pick up an Enchanted Weapon and swing it around, but unless the wielder's alignment matches that of the weapon, the weapon will not grant them its mystical powers. So heroic characters cannot use the powers of an evil weapon, and a supervillain cannot use the powers of a good weapon.
  • Our Mages Are Different: The Magic category is quite broad and allows players to create many different types of mystical heroes. You could make a non-magical person whose powers come from possession of an Enchanted Weapon or Enchanted Object, a wizard or illusionist who gained their powers through intense Mystic Study, or a random person who was Mystically Bestowed their powers by some supernatural being.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Evil magic users can reanimate the dead as loyal zombie thralls. Zombies are dim-witted but quite tough, as they possess superhuman strength and cannot be harmed by any weapon that is not holy, magical, or made of silver. And if you manage to kill a zombie, it will reanimate within two days unless you exorcise it or bury its head separately from the rest of its body.
  • Power Armor: Heroes in powered exoskeletons are a viable character option.
  • Power-Up Food: The optional Crazy Hero rules allow you to create a superhero who thinks that they get their powers from eating a specific (usually disgusting) food. The powers aren't actually tied to the food, but the hero's belief that they are is so strong that it functionally makes no difference. The game calls this "Popeye Syndrome" in a nod to the Trope Maker.
  • Powers via Weapon: The Magic category includes rules for playing a superhero whose powers come from an enchanted weapon. While the character has the weapon, they are a powerful Magic Knight with a boatload of mystical abilities at their disposal. Without the weapon, they're just an ordinary person.
  • Prove I Am Not Bluffing: In the "Mall of Terror" adventure, the Crime Masters are threatening to blow up a mall unless the police pay them a ransom of three million dollars. They plan to detonate the bomb even if their ransom demands are met, just prove that they weren't bluffing.
  • Psychic Powers: Psionics make up an entire category of playable heroes. Their psi-powers are fuelled by Inner Strength Points, and run the gamut from obvious choices like Telepathy and telekinesis to more outlandish ones like Biomanipulation and pyrokinesis. Mutants and aliens can be psionic too, but they get fewer powers and Inner Strength Points than "natural" psionics do.
  • Radiation-Immune Mutants: Or rather, Radiation-Immune Aliens. It's possible for an Alien character to have come from an extremely radioactive world. Such aliens are unharmed by all forms of radiation, but are themselves highly radioactive, and must wear a containment suit to protect others from the harmful radiation they give off.
  • Really 700 Years Old: One of the special powers a Mega-Hero can have is drastically slowed aging. (This gives them roughly a dozen extra years for each normal year a regular human has.)
  • Reckless Gun Usage: The Super-Human Observation and Control Knights (SHOCK) use this as part of setting up a Wounded Gazelle Gambit, by firing a "warning shot" within inches of their target to get the latter to think themselves under attack, at which point their target attacks them and is ideally killed "in self-defense." (This only works because their PR has made them largely above the law.)
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Downplayed. Some technology does get out, but truly revolutionary inventions tend to be blocked, either because they're alien tech and there's an Alien Non-Interference Clause, because they can't be easily reproduced, or because a Mega-Corp is strangling development so as not to devalue their own patents.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: "Cruise Mode" speed in Aliens Unlimited travels one light year per hour, and it supposedly can reach Andromeda in eight to twelve years. The actual time taken would be close to 300 years at that speed.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: A lot of the adversaries that PC superheroes have to deal with (such as SHOCK and various Mega-Corp actors in Century Station) are effectively above the law. The PCs are not - and not only that, but their Character Alignment restrains them from just murdering the problem. invoked
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: While you can challenge any kind of threat you want, there's a clear hierarchy and food chain of criminals in the Century Station setting. The hierarchy goes: Street Punks (average gangsters, mostly teenagers, with bats and pistols) -> Color Gangs (paramilitary street gangs identified by distinctive dress, equipped with military-grade weapons and possibly a few low-end superhumans) -> Supervillains (superpowered criminals, working alone or part of a team and occasionally hiring out to bigger fish, and culturally expected to engage in loud and risky "scores") and Syndicates (organized crime a la The Mafia) -> Masterminds (master supervillains who command lesser supervillain groups and enforcers, top of the food chain).
  • Stripperiffic: Many of the female (and some male) hero outfits in this game leave very little to the imagination.
  • Summoning Ritual: Wizards can conduct a ritual to summon an extradimensional creature. This requires them to scribe a magic circle according to exact specifications and energize it with a blood sacrifice, at which point the creature will manifest within a few minutes. If the wizard allows the summoned creature to leave the summoning circle or stay in the mortal world for too long, they will lose control of the creature. Given that such creatures are evil and hateful toward humanity, losing control is not good.
  • Superhero Packing Heat: The Weapons Expert is a Badass Normal superhero whose power is being really good at building, maintaining and using guns.
  • Superpower Lottery: Downplayed, if not fully averted. The game creators purposely limited the power level of characters, to avoid creating an Invincible Hero who can solve any problem with no effort. But players demanded a character type with more power, so the Second Edition rules included the Mega-Hero. They are more powerful than regular superheros, but not to the point of being officially sanctioned Munchkins, and are somewhat balanced by weaknesses other hero types don't have. The book recommends using Mega-Heroes when the whole party agrees to play as them, so that one character doesn't overshadow everyone else.
  • Super Soldier: There's a power type for experimental supersoldiers with powers, and there's also bionically-enhanced soldiers (ranging from Special Operatives with a few implants to full-on cyborgs).
  • The Team Normal: In the "Mall of Terror" adventure, Task Master (no relation to the Marvel Comics character) is a non-superpowered mercenary in a team consisting of himself, a super strong mutant who can shoot various kinds of energy blasts, and a guy who can control darkness. Despite his lack of powers, Task Master's experience, military training, and arsenal of weapons make him the deadliest of the three.
  • Terrorists Without a Cause: In the "Mall of Terror" introductory adventure, a trio of supervillains known as the Crime Masters have taken over a mall. They have taken dozens of people hostage and are threatening to detonate a bomb unless the police pay them a ransom of three million dollars. There is no greater ideology guiding their actions, they just want the money.
  • Touched by Vorlons: The Magic category includes rules for creating a superhero whose powers were granted to them by a supernatural entity. This lets the hero transform from an ordinary person into a superhuman with enhanced physical attributes and a selection of spells and/or superpowers, not unlike Shazam!.
  • Villain Cred: A cultural expectation in Century Station. Supervillains are supposed to engage in big, flashy scores and fight superheroes; those who engage in more Pragmatic Villainy like liquor-store robberies are called "lowballers" and shunned by other villains.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: It's entirely possible for a Mega-Hero to end up with one of these. Bad allergies, anyone?
  • We Need a Distraction: In the "One Dam Thing" adventure, Brainstorm's attack on Hoover Dam is meant to keep the cops busy while his blackmailer, the Gold Falcon, robs an armored car.
  • What a Piece of Junk: In Aliens Unlimited, salvaged or secondhand ships are often modded way beyond specifications, resulting in flying scrap heaps that can outrace naval corvettes. These machines tend to be extremely temperamental without a good mechanic to keep them running, though.
  • Wolverine Claws: Bionic characters can be fitted with all kinds of retractable arm- and finger-blades, including ones based on the Trope Namer.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Averted by the writers in Mutant Underground. Someone who engages in sabotage operations against the corps, freeing mutants and so on is a freedom fighter, while those who are willing to kill scientists and corporate executives are terrorists and bad guys. Palladium's adherence to Black-and-White Morality ensures that "was Magneto right?" is never in question - the answer's a hard no.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: