was the first superhero role playing game
. It was published by Lou Zocchi
in 1977. It was written by Donald Saxman. The game was published as a 8 1/2" x 11" 36 page softcover book.
Author Saxman was a 22-year-old student at Indiana University
at the time. He used to play D&D
with a dungeon master
named Mike Ford who would run weird fantasy campaigns with superheros 'n' junk. Using that inspiration, he created Superhero 44
. He self-published it and sold about 200 copies through an ad in Strategy & Tactics
magazine. Gamescience's Lou Zochhi ordered the game, liked it, and licensed it under the name Superhero 2044
As the name implies, the game was set in 2044. The game's back plot was a six-day nuclear war created a number of mutants with super powers. Many of these mutants took to help fight crime in a world besot
by post-nuclear war
anarchy. (Wouldn't you fight crime if you had three eyes and gills? Not liked you'd be so busy with the ladies.
) However, an extreme right-wing political party had seized power and clamped down on these superheros, painting them as self serving vigilantes. In the year 2044, superheros dared not show their true side, lest they find themselves quietly packed off to some future Camp X-ray
in sunny Cuba
Players could play superheroes in one of three categories. 1) "Uniques" were mutants with super powers. 2) "Toolmasters" had super powers via technological means 3) "Ubermensch
" were normal humans who trained themselves to the peak of human performance.
After character creation the, ummm, fun began. Technically a roll playing game, the roll playing was somewhat minimal. What players did was fill out a log
sheet, scheduling his superhero's activity in six-hour blocks. When does the character rest? When does the character devote time to training or research? When does the character devote time to his cover job as a cub reporter
or whiny pimple-faced high school kid? When does the character devote time to court appearances in lawsuits stemming from collateral damage
caused by crime fighting battles (I'm not making this up, btw
)? More importantly, when does the character fight crime? This all important six-hour block was referred to as "going on patrol". (God in heaven, if my brother claimed he was down in the basement "going on patrol" I'd never have my girlfriends over.
) When a character went on patrol, the game referee rolled dice to determine random encounters and their outcomes. In many ways the game was as appealing as spending a Saturday night working on Microsoft Project
and occasionally throwing 3D6.
Although Superhero 2044
's combat and character development borrowed a lot from D&D, the scheduling method of game play was borrowed from a quasi-role playing game called En Garde!
. En Garde!
was a role playing game set during the French Renaissance (I'm not making that up either, btw
) and released by Game Designer's Workshop
) in 1975.
sold well initially at cons, being the only game in town, but it was soon eclipsed by more role-playing oriented games like Villains and Vigilantes
. All told, Superhero 2044
sold about 10,000 copies.
One of the problems with Superhero 2044
besides a lack of wider role playing potential, was the game actually lacked super powers. Huh?
Yeah. The book encouraged game masters to design their own but left it at that. The author was afraid the comic book companies might sue if they noticed highly familiar powers like "Human Spider Web Casting", "Super X-ray Vision", "Aquamannerisms", and "Power Word Morph into Bill Bixby
After Superhero 2044
Saxman created another post-nuclear war RPG
called Ruinwar 90
-- a plot line so nice he used and sold it twice to Lou Zocchi
. Gamescience was going to market the game as Nuclear Survivors
, but killed project in the late stages of development.