The Free One Page 1930s Superhero RPG You Have Always Wanted
Occasionally, just occasionally, the intertubes turn up something truly wonderful.
Today’s slice of the wonderful pie is Carbon City, which manages to do the seemingly impossible in awesome style. It is a free one page superhero RPG. Set in the 1930s.
This is superheroes versus bootleggers and spies! It is The Shadow. It is corrupt justice, dames and guns! It’s Sam Spade with a mask and cape. Oh my.
I need to lie down now.
Carbon City fits into one single side of paper and includes superhero character generation, rules and advancement in a style and power-level appropriate for the 1930s setting. You won’t be able to re-recreate modern-day Superman with this, but you could (and indeed, should) generate the Superman of the Old Time Radio shows.
Generation is fast and satisfyingly flexible. Characters have four stats – Strength, Dexterity, Intellect & Spirit – and the player allocates 10 points between them with no more than 4 in any one. Skills are derived from those (for example, Stealth is DEX+SPIRIT) with bonuses (or penalty) given if you are Untrained, Trained, Experienced or Mastered in the skill.
From there you choose a Profession (Captain, Magus, Rogue, Scientist and Mutant are given, and it’s easy enough to add more) which modifies your skills, may give Professional Abilities, set your number of Powers and an amount of cash.
The Power list is, in keeping with the era, quite short, but again it’s easy enough to invent more. Cash can either be spent on Superhero Equipment (Energy Pistol, Wrist Radio, etc) or on improving the hero’s attribute, skills, spells and gaining new powers.
Here’s a quick example of a completed character. Meet The Verdict.
The Verdict AKA Mike Connors
STR 3, DEX 4, INT 2, SPIRIT 3
Agility 10, Craft 7, Fighting 4
Knowledge 3, Perception 4, Persuasion 5
Shooting 7, Speed 7, Stealth 10, Toughness 6
Light Armour, spider gloves & boots, gas filter
Twin pistols, burglar’s utility belt
Mike is a Carbon City policeman who is tired of seeing the bad guys get away due to corrupt judges, bent cops and a system that no longer cares. He has resolved to deliver the verdict where justice has failed, and by night he prowls the streets after those who think they have escaped the law. After many hours in the police gym and a trip to the evidence locker to collect a pair of untraceable pistols and other equipment, he is ready. The question is – are the villains?
The Verdict is Batman meets Daredevil. With guns. Oh yes.
I do spot one typo in the rules – and I have queried this in the forum – given that a 10 is an automatic failure, skill checks should be rolled on a 10-sided dice and not a 20-sided. Using d20s makes the chance of success for many skills far too low to be satisfying.
I will let you know the answer.
Craig has confirmed there is a typo. Automatic failure is on a 20, not a 10. The system uses d20s for skill checks to give the characters room to grow. Makes sense to me. So now you know!
In addition, Craig has also posted several one sheet supplements as well: Black Days for Carbon City provides detail and background for Carbon City itself including the various districts and villainous organizations, Masters, Minions & Mooks contains a collection of ‘ordinary’ foes (and their minions) to throw at your heroes, The Mad, the Bad and the Ugly offers nine super-powered villains, and Fame & Notoriety in Carbon City provides optional rules for handling how the public see your heroes’ actions. That’s more than enough fodder to keep a Carbon City game going for months!
I like it, a lot.
Go get it. You won’t regret it. Good stuff!