This week, instead of looking at Mythras, we look at the latest core rulebook to emerge from The Design Mechanism.
Enter a world of four colour Spandex action, where brightly-clad warriors for justice chase sneering bad guys across rooftops, and fight pitched battles in the grimy streets; where larger-than-life people stride through life like Colossi and dare to call themselves heroes.
Put on your costume, take to the streets and rooftops, and stand beneath the silver light of the Moon, looking down upon the city, lord of all you survey. Welcome to Destined.
Four Colour Fun
Destined celebrates the four-colour comics which first appeared almost a century ago in the United States, which brought thrilling adventure and heroism to the jaded people of the United States of America. The 1930s were a time of desperation and despair. America had its Stock Market Crash, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl driving people away from their rural environments into the increasingly-crowded cities. The Great Experiment which was Prohibition had utterly failed - and worse, it had created an underclass of organised crime which enforced its own law with fists and knives and Thompson submachine guns.
America was suffering from internal intolerance and racism, and living in denial of the wounds it had inflicted upon itself since the turn of the 20th century; but in Europe, an even greater wound was still sore and bleeding, as it began to settle from the convulsions of four brutal years between 1914 and 1918, combined with a virulent strain of influenza which had killed more people than The Great War.
The world had suffered insanity, and people wondered whether anything would ever go back to normal.
And then people like Bob Kane and Bill Finger, and Siegel and Schuster, brought sunshine into people's lives. Sunshine, and adventure, and hope.
And now, almost a hundred years on, as the successors of the original comic book authors pick up the stylus and the keyboard and script new stories of those original heroes, and actors portray them in increasingly-spectacular tentpole movies, the battles of superheroes are set to be enacted around the gaming table.
Time To Be The Hero
So, Destined. From the front cover, which depicts two superheroes about to join in pitched battle on some city rooftop, the book makes it plain and crystal clear what to expect. Daring fights, deeds of derring do, and daredevils duking it out against double dealing and dastardly, er, deviltry.
I hope I haven't run out of Ds for the rest of this blog post.
Written by Mike Larrimore and Brian Pivik, Destined is the spiritual successor to the late Steve Perrin's Superworld. Indeed, Steve Perrin had been working on a revival of Superworld when he passed. Destined first arrived on The Design Mechanism's new web store on Easter Sunday, 2022. It arrived on DriveThruRPG on 2022-04-23. The Core Rulebook is available in Print On Demand and PDF formats.
The description on the TDM website asks Who are you destined to be?
From the description on the site:-
If you were given fantastic powers, who would you be? Would you try to save the world - or conquer it? Would you promote peace and justice, or foster fear and demand blind obedience? Would you strive to be the world’s greatest hero or its most infamous villain?
Destined is a game of super-powered role playing. You take on the roles of individuals with amazing abilities and try to find your place in a world inspired by comic books and other superheroic media. Using an extensive array of superpowers you create whatever hero you can imagine, and take to the mean streets to mete out justice using your trusty 1d100 and a well stocked utility belt.
Based on the acclaimed Mythras rules, Destined is an easy to learn and action-packed game system. Destined gives you all the rules you need to create the superhero stories you want to tell. From four colored tales of spandex and capes, to gritty stories of real world crime, Destined allows you to play as whatever superhero (or villain) you want to be.
Destined is a complete roleplaying game. All you need are some friends, dice, and your imagination...
Saviours and Scoundrels
There is plenty for Players and Gamesmasters between the covers of this book. I know everybody has their favourite section - a lot of the readers are likely to turn to the Powers and Combat sections - so here is what you can expect.
First up is the Introduction, which has the sections What Makes a Superhero?, How the Game Works, Overview of the Contents, Game Conventions, and Anatomy of a Hero. All of this is just a preamble, but take a look through it - the authors and artists capture the spirit of the source material:-
As useful as powers would be during our normal day, the true appeal would be swooping in and stopping a crime or saving the day, soaring down from the sky, cape fluttering in the wind, as the city cheers and celebrates our heroism.
Therein lies the appeal of Destined - the opportunity to play someone who comes in and saves the day.
The main sections of the rest of the book cover Hero Creation, Skills, Powers, Tools Of The Trade (gadgets), Combat, Spot Rules (challenges and Perils), The Life Of A Hero (what your characters do in and out of their costumes), Creating Your Comic (the Gamesmaster's section), Welcome To Gemelos City (the main setting for the book, though you are under no obligation to set your game there - it's designed to be flexible enough that you can set it anywhere on Earth, even in our real world), and finally The Righteous and The Irredeemable (the major heroes, villains, and other players in Gemelos City).
How To Build A Hero
In comic books and other superhero media, there are brave and bold men and women who use their special gifts, their unique skills, and their courage to do battle with the worst of the worst.
Character creation goes through a sequence familiar to Mythras players - Power Level (Street, Epic, or Paragon); Hero Concept; Origin; Characteristics; Attributes; Standard Skills; Culture; Career; Bonus Skill Points; Powers; Allotments and Gear; and Final Details, such as friends and family, rivals and enemies, events pertaining to their Origin, and the things that drive your heroes.
Power level determines what kinds of adventures your characters have, whether they are at the level of something like The Question, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Agent May, Fitz / Simmons, Nite Owl, or Rorschach; Epic level, such as Spider-Man, Batman, Quake, Ghost Rider, Iron Man and so on; or Paragon level, the level of Storm, Colossus, Loki, Magneto and Squirrel Girl.
Your Hero Concept could be drawn from any of the comics. Or you could create one of your own. The setting assumes that the superheroes of your setting grew up with a different lot of comics, or no comics at all. You could even be the first costumed heroes of your world, or there could have been a long-standing tradition of costumed heroics dating back many decades. The Gemelos City setting mentions an early 1800s hero, The Coachman.
The default Gemelos City setting assumes that the powered heroes, the Doctor Manhattans of the world (Epic and Paragon) began emerging "fifteen years ago," and although it states that Destined takes place in the modern day (meaning that the Godstrand gene began Awakening in 2007, as of 2022), there are alternative settings available paralleling the Great Ages of comics, from its Golden and Silver Ages, to its Bronze Age where the tone began to get a little darker (the eras of Zenith, Watchmen, Transmetropolitan, and The Invisibles), to its Iron Age (epitomised by The Punisher) as well as the Modern Age, which takes elements from all the previous Ages).
Once you get to the Powers section, you'll see that there is a rather interesting mechanic.
The biggest concern about supers games like Superworld was that heroes would run out of gas in mid flight halfway between skyscrapers, or somehow underestimate the drain on their internal energies through extensive use of their powers, and suddenly they'd find themselve as weak and helpless as the baseline mortals they had been trying to protect.
In Destined, your Heroes do not need to roll to activate their powers. You do not need to spend Power Points, either.
There is a section on Automatic Successes. It's more or less the same kind of section you have in Mythras but it warrants looking at. A recent book which came out at the same time, DoubleZero by Lightspress Media, pointed out that your character can go through an entire adventure without rolling a single die. Destined is a game where such things are possible, even feasible - your hero will never end up watching their power beams fizzle and sputter just because they rolled a 98 on their activation check for example.
Destined powers have Boosts, which extend the range, scope, or impact of these Powers. On their own, a Blast can take out a well-armed opponent, but adding Power Points to that Blast can do more, such as a Salvo which takes down multiple opponents simultaneously. The form the Blast takes is up to you. If you want eye beams or intense cold, radiation, fire, or ultrasonic waves, the stats are the same.
There are Hero Templates to help you to design your character's concept, should you want your superhero to be a genius, a bruiser, an agile weaponsmith, an intimidating detective who works at night, or a Champion who stands on rooftops with the Sun behind them to reassure the citizens that All Will Be Well ...
Origins are a big feature, and Destined has plenty of options for background events, Connections, and so on. It's not just about the hero's Origin story, but those of the people around them. Who knows about their secret identity? Who needs to be kept quiet about the Hero's double life?
There is a quick cheat sheet on page 50 to allow you to get through the process of Hero generation very rapidly, followed by the Skills Pyramids (which have become a common theme of Mythras character generation).
• Where did the hero grow up?
• Where is their family now? Are they still close and in contact?
• Where did the hero go to school?
• What brought them into the Career they trained for?
• Are they still involved in it?
• How exactly did they get their powers?
• Did they make any enemies along the way? Do those people still have it out for the hero?
• Are they involved with any important Organizations or groups?
Background Events Tables
Destined has multiple background events tables, most of which are tied to some sort of Origin or another. These Origins include Created (your Hero is a Construct like Vision), Experimentation (Captain America, Wolverine), Inherent (Zenith, Wonder Woman), Mutation (The X-Men), Mystical (Doctor Strange, The Invisibles, John Constantine, Zatanna), Technology (Iron Man, Batman, Green Arrow, Hawkeye), Training (Iron Man, Batman, Green Arrow, Hawkeye), and one extra-large table for general background events not tied to any particular Origin.
Scary People ... And Then There Are The Villains
There is so much to go through in this core rulebook. A novice gamer might find it a little daunting to go through, but rest assured - Destined is easy to read, and has a nifty guide to help you to go through the process of creating a character, assigning their Allotments (the gadgets and other resources they'll need for the adventure), Connections, Passions, and other details (such as secret identities).
Gamesmasters are not left short, either. Organisations allow a Gamesmaster to create groups ranging from concerned citizens against costumed vigilantism, to police units, to specialised response units developed by the likes of Gemelos City to take down masks. Gamemasters are taken through the different Ages of comics, highlighting the main features of each era (Silver Age's black and white morality, the Iron Age's unnecessary brutality and Nineties ironic edgelordiness), and Gamesmasters are given a long look at such topics as duality (what the person's life is like without the mask, versus with the mask), how to create the atmosphere of your hero comic, movie, TV show and so on, how to run games (such as moving the spotlight around, putting fun first and rules second, collaboration with the Players to build your world), and so on.
Towards the back of the book, the main setting is introduced. Gemelos City, a setting I fell in love with. A fictional West Coast version of Gotham or Metropolis, this gleaming city is a kind of hybrid between LA, San Fran and a huge helping of San Diego. The Twin City is split in two by The Divide, a river which forms a boundary layer between the rich Crown to the North, and the Ossuary and Brigadier Bay to the South where all the gang crime and poverty is. The major features of both halves are listed, from City Hall to Asphodel Park. History, important people, cops, celebs ... this book has it all.
Destined also has villains.
There is a definite theme to the villains. It is not for nothing that they all seem to come out of the books of Greek mythology. It ties in with a metaplot theme in Destined that the old Gods and Monsters are coming back in some form or another. Back then, the mighty heroes wore togas and loin cloths. Nowadays, it's form fitting Spandex and combat vests with lots of pockets. Either way, the Heroes are cut from the same Olympian cloth as their Classical ancestors, as if the stage were being set for Gods and Mortals to fight, with the Demigods and Monsters being the pawns in a renewed Manichaean chess match.
There are so many different superhero roleplaying games out there on the market. Ascendant and Aberrant are two very bright lights - with Aberrant making a comeback after a period of absence. Not to mention Mutants & Masterminds, Superworld and City of Mists and all the others.
Both Ascendant and Aberrant begin with long intros, showcasing how the heroes began. Presented in comic book style, they're really just fluff pieces. In contrast, Destined rolls up its sleeves and goes right into the process of making the game about the Players. The villains and monsters are there for the Gamesmaster to drop in if they haven't got an idea of which villain is pulling off that bank heist. As Gamesmaster, you can create all of your own Rogues' Gallery, and make them the major players in your Gemelos City, or whatever other crime-riddled conurbation you happen to set your stories in.
And you don't have to play superheroes, either.
Going Off Script
Destined is designed to allow your characters to run heroes. It doesn't matter if they don't wear Spandex.
There's enough information in the core rulebook to allow your characters to play even as normal people - cops, first responders, firefighters, journalists, ordinary vigilantes ... even "Real Life Superheroes" armed with nothing more than a video camera and 100,000 Twitter followers.
The book is designed to allow your characters to be anyone and anything they like. To tell the stories you like, whether it be superagents who now work for a special Major Crimes police task force, or a time travelling alien who stole his or her time machine, which looks bigger on the inside.
This has just been a first read of Destined. Mike and Brian have poured an enormous amount of detail into this book, and it is designed to be the only book you'll need to play. You can bring in the Mythras Core Rulebook, but all of the main rules are listed here in Destined so even if you only had this one book with you, you could run the game. There is enough setting material, furthermore, to ensure that you can never run out of stories to run in Gemelos City, at the very least.
If you've not played a superhero game before, I recommend Destined to be your first. If you've played superhero games in the past, I'd recommend Destined to be your next. This is a game which focuses on the heroes, not the powers: on the adventure, not just the combat; and on the heroic fight for justice, not just random battle scenes.
Time to take a stand. What's your catchphrase?
Edited by Alex Greene