Thursday, December 4, 2014

[Review] Stuper Powers!: The First-Class Game Of Third-Rate Heroes

I have a soft spot in my heart for superhero RPGs. My first real RPG was Villains and Vigilantes, and I'm no stranger to FASERIP. But my favorite superheroes are the ones who aren't exactly "super," per se. You see, I'm a huge fan of the "D list" superheroes -- those characters who have weak, useless, embarrassing powers, but who somehow manage to save the day in spite of their abilities. I'm sure everyone's seen the movie Mystery Men, which has a great cross-section of super-incompetents. And in the comics world, you have joke teams like the Legion of Substitute Heroes, Hitman's Section 8, and the classic Inferior Five.

Which brings me to one of my FAVORITE superhero RPGs: Stuper Powers!

Stuper Powers! tags itself as "The First-Class Game of Third-Rate Heroes." These are not the superheroes you call when there's trouble. These are the heroes you call when you have no one else you can summon -- and I mean NO ONE ELSE. You see, the heroes in Stuper Powers! have powers and abilities that are far less useful than The A-Listers. You might be able to "Give Wedgies Mentally," "Entangle With Armpit Hair," or the ever-popular "Turn Things Plaid." Face it, you're gonna have a tough time bringing down Doctor Dredd and his minions with your ability to "Glow In The Dark."

Stuper Powers! obviously doesn't take itself or the genre seriously, and that's half the fun! Although presented as a bit of a one-night-joke RPG, there is a lot of fun replayability in this game. Case-in-point: I ran a Stuper Powers! game at a convention for three players who randomly rolled their powers. We had Patty Cake with his ability to "Bake a Pound Cake in 30 Seconds"; Deja View who could "See 2 Seconds Into The Future"; and The Unit with his "Pogo Penis". (Yes, that's the power and, yes, it's exactly what it sounds like.) These three "heroes" formed S.U.C.K. Squadron (Superheroes United Crushing Krime) and they stumbled into a scenario where the town was going to be blown up unless they acted. And in spite of these lousy, useless, nearly-obscene abilities, the players defeated the Big Bad, won the game, and laughed their asses off in the process. And that's what Stuper Powers is all about, Charlie Brown.

Admittedly, Stuper Power's "gimmick" are the bizarre powers and the creative ways the players use them during the game. But what of the system? Well...there really isn't one. Players don't have ability scores or skill sets or anything like that. According to the rules, all contests and checks should be done in one of two ways: flip a coin for a 50-50 chance to succeed/fail, or defeat the "Big Mac Daddy" (the GM) in a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. That's it. Now, when I play Stuper Powers, I prefer a little more, so I've house-ruled to let my players use 1d4. All checks are on a scale of 1=sure thing, 2=average, 3=hard, 4=damn hard, 5=impossible. Roll the number or higher to succeed. And I offer situational bonuses of +1 or -1 depending on the event. (Hitting someone at point-blank range is a 1, but if the player is blinded by "Adhesive Snot", there's a -1 penalty. So a 1 is not always a Sure Thing, and I have seen players make "Impossible" checks.)

Something else I do when I play Stuper Powers is that the world around the players is no joke. Although the game offers similar bizarre villains and crimes to foil, I find the game is a LOT more fun when everything is deadly serious and straight -- except for the PCs. When the stakes are high and Doombringer The Unstoppable is about to destroy the town, nothing is funnier than having Kid Dorito appear on the scene with his ability to start a "Nacho Downpour." And seeing Xxyrkkk, Destroyer of Worlds, KO'ed by a pair of "Concussive Breasts" is a show-stopper.

Stuper Powers! is great beer-and-pretzels RPG for folks who'd like to try something a bit less "super" in their superhero games. Stuper Powers! is available in two editions: the original 32-page comic-book-like version from Unstoppable Productions, and an updated 112-page "deluxe" version by Wingnut Games. The original has 48 stuper powers, whereas the deluxe version has 100 stuper powers (three contributed by Yours Truly) as well as four adventures, a map of Knee Jerk City (the home-city of the players), LARP rules (seriously), an Instaventures Creator, and tables-tables-tables. Either version gives you plenty of bang for your buck. (But the deluxe version is admittedly much, much "bangier".)

I have had a TON of fun with this game over the years,and wanted to sing its praises. But it gets better...

Noble Knight apparently has a bunch of the original editions of Stuper Powers available for 1 cent. Yup, one penny will get you a near-mint copy of the original D-List superhero game. That's a crazy good deal! Grab them now while they still have 'em! Or, if you'd like a PDF of the deluxe version for your eReader or tablet, you can buy it directly from Wingnut Games via Gumroad for a minimum $2.00 PWYW. Again, crazy good deal. Still not sure? How about you download the Stuper Powers Quick Start Rules for free and check it out for yourself? Finally, if you want to truly support the game and its creators, Stuper Powers Deluxe is available in print for $16.95 from Wingnut Games.

All this talk about Stuper Powers! has me fired up to schedule a game or two at some conventions next year. In 2015, Bufferin-Man ("Induce Slight Headache"); Glass Jaw ("Bloody Nose Power"); and Scoutmaster Jim ("Summon Cub Scouts") will fight the forces of evil! (Cue Smash Mouth's "All Star")


  1. Wow, Tim. I thought I was the only one who remembered this game. I had the 1st edition but never played it.

  2. I dunno... Two second precognition seems like a nearly first-rate power to me. You could make pretty good money at the Vegas craps tables with judicious use of that, not to mention how hard you'd be to hit in a fight.

    1. Except 2 seconds doesn't usually give the player any time to actually REACT to the scene they've witnessed.