Arc Dream Brings Wild Talents to Superhero RPGs

June 5th, 2009 by Ed Grabianowski
Lightning Bolt to the Face: a useful power, but only in certain situations.

Lightning Bolt to the Face: a useful power, but only in certain situations.

The creators of the highly acclaimed RPG Godlike are taking the superhero genre on a trip through alternate timelines and parallel dimensions, and it all starts here with the core rules. Wild Talents: Essential Edition features all the rules you need to create a wide range of superheroic characters and astonishingly villainous enemies, including the innovative One-Roll Engine. It’s a sleek and expandable role-playing system that can take you from gritty, street-level Power Man and Iron Fist type action to galaxy-spanning cosmic adventure on par with Green Lantern or Silver Surfer.

The roots of Wild Talents reach back to Godlike, a superhero RPG set during World War II. Not only did the game have a great concept, but the authors built a fascinating alternate world around it, garnering many devoted fans. Opening up the system to include more settings resulted in the first edition of Wild Talents, a limited edition whose 1,000 copies were snatched up very quickly. Wild Talents: Essential Edition is a revision of the original, with new art (all by Todd Shearer) and sleeker, clarified rules.

The heart of Wild Talents is ORE, the One-Roll Engine. The game uses only ten-sided dice (up to ten of them – I’ll wait while you head over to Chessex to order some more). Your ability to use a stat, skill or superpower is defined by the size of your dice pool in that category. If you’re a pretty good fighter, you might roll 4d10 in a street battle. If you’re a highly trained martial artist, you might roll 8d10. Any time you try to accomplish something difficult in the game, you roll your dice pool for the relevant ability and look for matching dice. This gives you a two-dimensional measure of success: how many dice did you match, and how high were their numbers? If you rolled 7d10 and came up with three 8s, your success has a height of eight and a “width” of three. This is then interpreted for the specific situation. For example, if you were firing your eye lasers, that roll resulted in a powerful blast (an eight is a pretty high roll) that you got off very quickly (the “width,” or number of matching dice most often corresponds to speed of action).

These dice pools are further modified by hard dice, which always come up 10s – this sounds great until you realize that always punching as hard as you possibly can, for instance, causes some serious problems. There are also Wiggle Dice, which act like wild cards and can be matched to any other die you roll. Wiggle Dice are the most powerful in the game, but I really wish they had a different name. It just doesn’t sound very imposing. “I unleash my ultimate…Wiggle Dice!” Might I suggest, “Flex Dice”?

The rules expand from there to present a lot of powers and skills, plus archetypes, flaws and a chapter full of NPC people and animals. Character building uses a point-buy system, which allows GMs to customize their games to an appropriate power level (if you give your players enough points to buy cosmic planet-destroying powers, don’t make their arch-nemesis a bank robber). There are plenty of add-on and optional rules, making the game exceptionally flexible. You can adapt the basic ORE mechanic and crank up the power levels so that deities battle among the heavens, or ratchet things down and run the game with athletically gifted humans fighting with machine guns and machetes. As a player, the allocation of dice into your various pools lets you create the character that fits perfectly with your vision, whether he’s an uncontrollable brute, a swordswoman with superhuman agility or a mutant still learning to harness his mental powers.

Essential Edition is actually a stripped down version of the game. It’s a soft-cover with black and white images, and some of the “fluff” chapters detailing the world of Wild Talents have been left out. Later this year, Arc Dream will present the full version, a full-color hardback with all kinds of extra chapters about the world, history and characters. You can grab a pdf of Essential Edition at DriveThruRPG for $5, or get a hard copy at Indie Press Revolution for $9.99 (you can get the pdf there too).And here’s the official Arc Dream Publishing website.

In the next few weeks, we’ll have reviews and reviews of sourcebooks that port the Wild Talents rules to some far-flung settings, including Victorian England and the U.S. Civil War.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

5 Responses to “Arc Dream Brings Wild Talents to Superhero RPGs”

  1. Comment by The BullLifter

    Lightning Bolt to the Face: A power always useful in turning (potential) non-combat encounters. (especially those involving Orcs) into a fracas.

    The ORE sounds awesome. I look forward to the reviews.

  2. Comment by ggodo

    FEAR MY WIGGLE DICE! Well, I’m game. more things need to base their dice systems on crazy things. It beats the hell out of D20 for everything.

  3. Comment by ggodo

    Oh, and speaking as hitting as hard as you can, I played some superhero RPG where everything was d6 based and there were two health numbers, Constitution and Vitality. if Vitality hits 0 you’re unconcious, if Constitution hits zero you’re dead. Constitution is generally a two digit number. Vitality is often in the hundreds. My Martial arts Character had an ability to make Vitality hits do Constitution damage. Hitting people for 5 times their health, priceless, and there’s nothing quite like busting through concrete with your feet.

  4. Comment by Myca

    Holy crap Wild Talents is awesome.

    You’re focusing mostly on the mechanics here, which isn’t a mistake, since the One Roll Engine is cool on toast (also check out Monsters & Other Childish Things, and its supplement, The Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor, which is actually cooler than the game itself), but Ken Hite’s chapter on the 4 axes of superhero world design is also stellar, and for my money, justifies the purchase all on its own.

    —Myca

  5. Comment by Simon May

    The same rules set got used for a horror game called Nemesis, which refers to Wiggle Dice as Trump dice. It’s pretty flexible. Variations on it have been used for A Dirty World (a top-class film noir game), Reign (a fantasy game about running a kingdom), and Ben Baugh’s Monsters and Other Childish Things, which is a great little game about kids and their pet monsters. I don’t really know about Reign or Godlike, but A Dirty World and Monsters… in particular are really excellent.

    I have a copy of Wild Talents, but I must admit I have not really looked at it.

    Greg Stolze, by the way, has the reputation among those who know him (not me, really) of being a very nice man.