Fantasy Games Unlimited – Jack Herman & Jeff Dee
Villains and Vigilantes, originally published in 1979 by Fantasy Games Unlimited, holds the distinction of being the first superhero role-playing game to gain significant levels of popularity. Co-created by Jeff Dee and Jack Herman–with Dee providing the artwork–V&V paved the way for later games like Superworld and Champions. Villains and Vigilantes released a second edition in 1982 with significant revisions to the rules, although the game‘s unique random power generation system stayed intact. V&V went out of print in 1987, but it was revived in 2010 thanks to a publishing company formed by the co-creators of the game.
The process for creating powers in Villains and Vigilantes is much different than other superhero role-playing games. First off, the game suggests that players use themselves as the template for their hero’s secret identity. Take a long, hard look at yourself and determine what your ratings would be in the following five characteristics: Strength, Agility, Endurance, Intelligence and Charisma.
You then roll 1D6+2 to determine the number of powers you’ll receive. Then determine the source of your powers, with choices ranging from magic to devices. Next, you roll randomly for a weakness and choose one of your random powers to get rid of. You can also drop your weakness at this point, but that requires getting rid of two random powers.
As players get deeper into the process, they’ll find themselves checking lots of tables and performing some convoluted mathematical equations. While this can be frustrating for some, those who soldier on will find themselves possessing an entirely unique superhero.
A number of Villains and Vigilantes scenarios have been published over the years, but the three most notable are Crisis at Crusader Citadel, Death Duel with the Destroyers, and The Island of Dr. Apocalypse. Crisis at Crusader Citadel was the introductory scenario for V&V, with the players being cast in the role of fledgling heroes looking for membership with the superteam known as The Crusaders. It was included in the boxed set of the game.
Death Duel with the Destroyers and The Island of Dr. Apocalypse were both written and illustrated by Bill Willingham, who later won multiple Eisner Awards for his long-running comic-book series Fables. In fact, a number of the characters included in these two V&V scenarios (such as Rat Man) were later featured in Willingham’s celebrated Elementals series from Comico.
Other early adventures for Villains and Vigilantes include the following:
- Sands of Time
- From the Deeps of Space
- The Centerville Incident
- Into the Sub Realm
- To Tackle the Totem
- Dawn of DNA
- The Pentacle Plot
- The Secret in the Swamp
- Search for the Sensei
- For the Greater Good
- Alone into the Night
Villains and Vigilantes Character Generator
A character generator exists to allow players to quickly and easily create a RPG character. There’s no bookkeeping required, as all the numbers are displayed right on the screen. In the case of superior character generators, a change to any skill, stat or power will be immediately reflected throughout the sheet.
I searched online for a character generator for Villains and Vigilantes, but I had no luck finding one. I did, however, read where a few players mentioned using the generator for Champions Online.
Villains and Vigilantes Reborn – Monkey House Games
In 2010, Monkey House Games began publishing new products for Villains and Vigilantes. Monkey House Games was formed by Jeff Dee and Jack Herman, the co-creators of the original game. As of this writing, the following items are available:
Villains & Vigilantes Core Rulebook – Considered V&V 2.1, this release of the game updates and revises the 1982 version. Co-creator Jeff Dee provides new illustrations, and the 56-page book includes all the elements that made Villains and Vigilantes such a hit.
Intercrime: Hostile Takeover – A 32-page introductory adventure for the Villains and Vigilantes role-playing game. Meant for a team of 4 to 6 beginning characters, this adventure calls on heroes to face the menace of a powerful crime syndicate known as Intercrime.
In Broad Daylight – When a famous fashion model goes missing, it’s up to the heroes to find out what happened. An 88-page adventure book that also includes stats for The Indestructibles, a super team featured on early covers of V&V products.
Living Legends RPG – Created by Jeff Dee, this 158-page rulebook is a sequel (of sorts) to V&V. Random character generation is still available, or players can choose to allocate points in order to build their superheroes. Over 80 powers are made available to players, with all-new interior art provided by Jeff Dee.
Ancient Evil – Intended for 4 to 6 intermediate heroes, this V&V adventure revolves around an ancient evil that is about to be roused from its eternal slumber. The 68-page supplement contains an encounter table, stats for over a dozen bad guys, and new rules for fighting in zero gravity and water. Can also be used with the Living Legends RPG.
Villains and Vigilantes on PDF
Thanks to the Internet, gamers can now order PDF versions of their favorite role-playing titles, allowing them to save the information to a PC or laptop and retrieve at their convenience. This applies to a multitude of V&V products, including the latest version from Monkey House Games and earlier editions from the 1970s and 1980s.
Your best bet for PDF versions of Villains and Vigilantes is DriveThru RPG, the largest source for downloadable role-playing games. The most recent rulebook sells for $7.50 as a PDF, while numerous adventures carry an average cost of $4 each. Those looking for a bargain can also choose the combo pack, which includes the core rules and five individual scenarios at a deep discount.
When it comes to old school superhero role-playing, few systems can match Villains and Vigilantes. There’s no points-based system like with so many other games, and powers are rolled at random instead of being cherry-picked. This may not appeal to power gamers, but those who came up during the early days of Dungeons and Dragons will enjoy a nice rush of nostalgia. And while it took 23 years to accomplish, the game once again has new material being released.