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.