Outland Entertainment is pleased to announce that our latest tabletop role playing game, Action-Heroes, is now on Kickstarter! Designed by Outland's own Christopher Helton and featuring art by Lee Oaks, Action-Heroes brings pulp action adventure to your home tables.
Chris shared some behind-the-scenes process notes with us about how Action-Heroes came to be. Check out his story, then hop over to the Kickstarter and check out the game.
Bringing Action to the Tabletop
by Christopher Helton
The road to launching the Kickstarter for the Action-Heroes RPG started a few years back. After a project I started never got going, I was left with the bare bones of a game system that had no home. I would work on those bones from time to time, fleshing out the system, just in case I had a need for a set of rules (as a game designer you never know when that will happen). I would work on the game, then put it away to work on paying projects. At this point, the system didn’t have a name attached to it.
A couple of years later, not long before the beginning of the pandemic, I started running a version of the game for people at conventions. I was doing more traveling and attending conventions as a part of the ConTessa organization, and I needed games that I could run. This was the point where I named the game Action-Heroes, because more people will play a game at a convention if it has a name than they will if you call it “that unnamed game I am playtesting.”
The name Action-Heroes is an homage to Charlton Comics, a publisher from Connecticut that went out of business decades ago. They did a wide variety of comics, but leaned mostly into the science fiction and horror genres. The editors at Charlton received a huge opportunity when artist Steve Ditko left Marvel and was looking for work. In addition to his horror and SF work, they had him revamp a couple of superhero titles they had previously published. He tackled them with typical Ditko zeal, and created a new character for them as well. When the editors at Charlton went to market these titles by Ditko, as well as a couple of other action-oriented books, they couldn’t use the term “superhero” so they instead called their action line of characters the “Action-Heroes.” That name always stuck with me, because it was simple and to the point. Now, I had a game to go with the name.
Feedback from the players at conventions caused me to rethink some of what I was doing with the game. Even though I did very simple events used to make sure that the mechanics of the game worked effectively, they didn’t feel action hero enough for me, or for some of the people in the games. I went back and wrote up a lot of guidance, both for players and game masters, on how to run these kinds of action-oriented, larger than life types of characters and stories. One of the important premises of the game was that the action and story of the game was supposed to be centered upon the player characters in the group. This meant working up advice on creating these kinds of stories for roleplaying games.
Too many roleplaying games leave new game masters, and new groups, hanging, because the games expect that people will know what to do when it comes to developing an adventure for characters, or turning those adventures into a longer campaign or story, or even how to create an engaging world for your RPG campaigns. Writing all of this took more effort than the mechanics of the game, honestly, because it meant codifying all of the things that I have learned in 40+ years of playing tabletop role-playing games, and putting it into a format that would be understandable, even to people without a lot of experience in gaming. Working with friends, and other game designers, for feedback, I came up with a combination of guidance and advice that is both new-user friendly and contains things that would even be useful for experienced GMs and players.
With the mechanics, you get a game that has been simplified and streamlined. Using feedback I received over the years, I cut out as much unnecessary mechanically as possible, while still allowing for characters that are robust and don’t look like duplicates of each other. One playtester referred to Action-Heroes as “rules-medium pulp-style action gaming,” and I think that is an accurate description. The game uses six-sided dice for everything, and task resolution is done by rolling three dice, modifying it with things like Skills or Abilities and comparing the result to a target number that the game master determines. Characters are created with Attributes (the base description of their innate mental and physical prowess), Skills (things that the characters can learn through training or experience), and Abilities (special perks and advantages, and even super powers beyond mortal ken), using a pool of character points that are determined by the rough power level that the group wants their campaign to have. The default assumption are “street level” characters, which covers many of the characters from pulp fiction, espionage stories, or most action movies. The assumption of Action-Heroes is that the characters are larger than life, competent, and ready for action, allowing them to stand between the world and most of the dangerous plans of the villains of your games.
Lastly, but not least important, characters are supposed to live up to that last part of the game’s title and be heroes. Action-Heroes characters stand for a better world, and act against hate in all of its forms, because they know that they have the ability to be a force for change. Character Motivations reward players when their characters act in heroic ways, and when they work for truth, justice, and a better world for those without the power to make change.
It has been a long road getting Action-Heroes to this point, but that road has led to a role-playing game that is fun to play, lets people play larger than life figures who want to change the world, and who can be a positive force within their game’s world.
Visit the the Kickstarter page to back this project!