Early superhero RPG Villains & Vigilantes flies again

Maybe some allusion to “dead” superheroes always coming back to life is in order here, but I’ll just jump to the point: Slashdot reports:

Jeff Dee and Jack Herman, the creators of the old-school super-hero roleplaying game Villains & Vigilantes, have won a copyright and trademark lawsuit over the game’s publisher Scott Bizar of Fantasy Games Unlimited. Magistrate Judge Mark E. Aspey of the U.S. District Court of Arizona ruled that Jeff Dee and Jack Herman own the rights to the game based on the 1979 contract they reached with Bizar. The court also found that Bizar never had the right to sell derivative products or ebook PDF editions, which are a big deal to tabletop publishers these days.

More details here.

Now, I don’t pretend to report on the gaming industry, of which I am no professional part. I mention this story for reasons of personal interest:

  • Vilians & Vigilantes was one of my early RPG experiences. I made up characters aplenty, blasted lots of baddies, and even ran a V&V session at a small gaming convention.
  • Jeff Dee happens to figure into one of the few commentaries I’ve made about the gaming industry, Game rules aren’t protected by law. I suppose these items caught my ear because I’ve always been a fan of Jeff’s comic and gaming artwork, and these days enjoy his past appearances on The Atheist Experience podcast (he’s the feistiest and ranting-est of the rotating hosts) and ongoing hosting of The Non Prophets.
  • There are plenty of free V&V-related downloads – characters, mini-adventures, design aids, battlemap counters, and more – on the sites of past publisher Fantasy Games Unlimited and new home Monkey House Games. The superhero content can be used for V&V or reworked for other systems; the counters could be useful in nearly any game. Have at ’em!

To be honest, V&V is not a game I love as a system. D&D-like levels in a superhero game? A weird power-vs-defense table to figure TH rolls? The game has some good stuff (I like the Encounters & Occurrences generator, and of course I like the artwork!), and I appreciate the charms of some “old-school” mechanics, but overall, I prefer the many advances game systems have made since. (GURPS, ya spoil me.)

Still, I maintain a nostalgic fondness for V&V. Cheers to Jeff Dee and Jack Herman on recovering their creation! I look forward to seeing what they do with it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.