Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hideouts & Hoodlums Introduction

The new introduction to Hideouts & Hoodlums. For more, see

HIDEOUTS & HOODLUMS is a fantasy roleplaying game, but not the type of fantasy where sword-wielding barbarians kill hordes of orcs while robed wizards shoot fireballs at dragons. This is the fantasy world of the superhero genre. The genre created by writers like Siegel, Robinson, and Kirby is surprisingly similar to the genre of Burroughs, Tolkein, and Howard. Both are escapist fantasies of, largely, male wish fulfillment.

As I grew up, reading comic books and then taking to DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, I often wished there was a way to combine my two passions. Many game systems have come and gone in the 26 years since I started gaming that attempted to do just that, but none of them greatly resembled D&D. In time, I realized that too many superhero games were obsessed with endless customization, while part of the charm of D&D was its very limitations – its limited archetypes with their preset paths from obscure novices to powerful uber-heroes. And, while I grew up with the comic books of the ‘70s, I also came to realize that an Old School superhero game should seek to capture the feel of Old School superhero comic books as well. In both cases, I have gone as close to the original sources as copyright laws allow.

Stripped to their essentials, the rules for a superhero game are relatively short compared to, as the introduction to the SWORDS &WIZARDRY rules puts it, “the multi-paged rule-libraries required to play most modern roleplaying games”. And yet this game allows one to play a two-fisted tough guy who grows into the world’s best fighter, a tuxedo-clad stage magician who grows into master of the mystic arts, or a superhero who goes from being able to knock down doors to knocking down mountains. Also, to quote the S&W introduction again, “The customizability of a small system is very powerful (it is always easier to add rules than to untangle them away)”. This will also be true of H&H, which will expand through supplements as the Golden Age of comics expanded to incorporate more ideas. New material will not come faster than a locomotive or a speeding bullet, but will hopefully be as exciting as reading about characters who are that fast.

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