Superheroes seem like a logical choice for a Role Playing Game; after all being a hero is a very common fantasy. However, while there have been superhero rpgs since the early days of that gaming genre, it’s been very hard to get them “right.” The problem is that Tabletop Games and Comic Books have different approaches. Most RPGs tend to be focused on rules and numbers; most comic books play it loose with facts. As a result it’s hard to adapt characters from the comics in a game, or create original ones that don’t feel somehow “off.”
Luckily, this has been addressed over the years, and currently there are some very good games that manage to both capture the spirit of superheroes while also being easy to play. Some of them, sadly, have fallen between the cracks. This is the case with Super Crusaders.
Originally created by writer Lee Walser, the game came out in 2009. It actually has had three editions, and produced several supplemental sourcebooks, including: an official setting (“Knights of St. George”); a Minions & Monsters book; an Equipment Book; a GM Screen; and a martial arts campaign book.
As explained by its creator, the aim was explicitly to recreate the more idealistic superhero themes (as opposed to the more grim-and-gritty ones) and to have a simple character creation and play system. And it succeeds in it these goals! Creating a character is a simple matter of choosing a Class (describing the character’s combat preferences) and choosing 9 powers from a list. There are other details- equipment, power modifications called Bonuses, weaknesses etc.- but they’re all optional. And the math is pretty simple- rolling a six-sided die a number of times, usually no more than four.
There are a couple of flaws, of course. Some powers are limited only to non-player characters. This makes sense for most of them- few players would want to have Self-Destruct, for example. However a few would be necessary for certain characters- you need Auto-Clone for Marvel’s Multiple Man, for example. The book does say the Game Master is free to allow these powers to the players- just to be wary of possible abuse.
The books’ real major weakness is the art, which is made by Walser himself. It is crude at best. Now, it is kind of unfair to judge a game where most of the action is happens in the players’ imaginations by the artwork, yet it cannot be denied it influences sales. Also, the game came out at a time when many other similar games were coming out or already on sale.
I also heard a rumor that some people thought the game had a “religious theme” that they found uncomfortable. After having seen most of the books I can assure you this is not true- at least, not more so than the comics themselves. The author is indeed Christian and even wrote a book about Jesus, but that’s separate from this game. You *do* have the option of giving your characters Holy abilities, but you can find such characters in the comics as well- DC’s The Spectre and Zauriel come to mind. And even in the St. George setting, which does contain some religious heroes, they’re a minority, the vast majority are more typical.
I like Super Crusaders; it’s flaws are few and are easily corrected. I hope that someday it gets the recognition it deserves.
If you are interested, you can check out these books for free (all except the Martial Arts book) at game download stores such as RPGNOW or DRIVETHRURPG.
Recommended for: fans of Super Heroes, simple RPGs, and idealistic themes.