5th Evolution – Carbide City (RPG)

Tabletop role-playing games continue to grow in popularity, with hipster/influencer/famous folks taking it up and thus rubbing off on their followers. Growth in RPGs of all systems and genres are on an upward trajectory. The default is good old swords and sorcery with blade-wielding armsmen and spellslingers going toe to toe with monsters of all types. Other genres exist out there (horror, western, modern/spy, etc…) but one of the hardest to pin down is a game where the players take on the role of superheroes. My personal favorite system, Champions, does a superb job of letting a player create exactly the hero they want while also keeping the power level between characters fairly balanced. However, Champions is also called an RPG for accountants and its combats are not for the faint of heart. The 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons is the most popular game out there at the moment and folks have tried to adapt that system into all sorts of new genres. Folks over at Limitless Adventures are attempting to fuse 5th Edition rules with superhero stories and characters, calling the new rules 5th Evolution (or 5evo for short.).

Making a role playing game for superheroes is a tough ask. Even the weakest superheroes have some pretty nifty abilities. Limitless Adventures solves that problem by starting all players out at a level roughly equivalent to a 12th level character. This gives everyone some pretty cool powers with which to shine while still allowing room for growth. Rather than having a Class, a character starts as an archetype instead. Examples would be speedster, brick, gadgeteer, etc…) Characters do not gain levels in a 5th Edition style, instead they are allowed to choose an “upgrade” on the Advancement Track every milestone or adventure. These are on the order of Feats in 5th edition and range from a set of default ones available to any character (like healing, speed, proficiencies, more health, etc…) as well as a few options specifically to that character archetype that expand or improve on some of their default powers. This allows characters to grow in abilities without over-increasing raw power such that they have to start fighting the gods themselves in order to find a challenge. The thought process is that many superhero characters tend to operate on a fairly level power level. Along with the Advancement Track, characters have levels in “Resources” and “Public Opinion”, both of which can be increased through upgrades. Resources represent items and other material goods that are available to a character. The higher the level, the more impressive the goods. Particularly interesting stuff will probably require a skill roll. Public Opinion operates similarly, but focuses on contacts and favors – the “human” touch.

Looking over the current 5evo material, it emphasizes examples more than rules crunch. Obviously, the generic 5th Edition rules take care of most everything. However, there are a few rules explanations (how resources, character advancement, etc…) on some of the new ideas and terms in the system. About a 1/3 or 1/4 of the book lists the archetypes, but the majority of the book is page after page of examples. There are examples of low level “minions” of various types, example villains along multiple power levels, and a ew example hero NPCs. Many of the villains are presented within the context of a small encounter, complete with a hook that could be used by the GM to progress the story in new directions. While there isn’t a step by step guide to creating NPCs, the examples do find job of showing rather than telling how to create one.

Yes, it is a superhero game, so where are the superhero comics? The rules are full of the expected 4 color images of heroes and villain profiles along with a smattering of action scenes throughout the book. One item worth mentioning is an introductory “comic” for each book that serves to introduce the world setting of 5evo to new players.

My Thoughts:

There are a few attempts at 5E superheroes out there, some better than others. I appreciate that 5evo meets the power level issue head-on. Trying to make a “level 1” character fit into a superhero mold is quite a stretch. I also approve of gaining new abilities rather than just gaining levels. It keeps the power curve slow but still provides players with the feeling of improvement. While the default upgrades are fine and useful, I would have liked to see more archetype-centric upgrades available. Not necessarily increases in power or damage, but new skills or power flexibility to add to their bag of tricks.

For those interested, Limitless Adventures is holding a Kickstarter to add a second volume to the 5evo superhero line. You can find it at 5th Evolution: Carbide City #2 It is ending soon, so hop on over there to check it out.

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