In Search of a Supers System

Steve Dubya

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As our current campaign is only intended to last through this year, and with the success of Endgame putting supers to the fore of pop culture, I figure that I'll pitch a supers campaign for our next endeavor.

Problem is, I'm without a system to do so.

Thus far, our group has played D&D 5E exclusively. For the first campaign with the group it was just what was being used, and then for the one after it was a Star Wars campaign that used the same ruleset so I could make use of the Living Force modules.
One of the members of the group is quite knowledgeable about both 5E and Pathfinder, but this individual also seems to be the least open to trying something that might be different.

I'd prefer something that might be a lighter ruleset, and certainly no more complex than 5E - it's way easier to wing things if you don't have specific rules that you're trying to keep track of.

Thus, my search has been been for the following (in no particular order other than specified):

I think that *ideally*, if I could find a supers toolset that could overlay onto the 5E mechanics, that would probably be the easiest sell. Yeah, I get that characters in bog-standard 5E eventually have superhuman capabilities, but that's using a somewhat implied fantasy setting that isn't necessarily going to translate great into the real world - that, and characters aren't really starting off as "super," unless a higher starting level is used.
The biggest issue with this approach is that there aren't really a whole lot of actual options for making it happen. I know that Hypercorps 2099 has a super-system, but that's also baked into its cyberpunk setting from what it sounds; if I could just get the super-parts, that would probably be a contender. I've also checked out Apex, which seems to somehow be both simultaneously too limiting yet also too abstract, and I know of 5th Evolution by Limitless Adventures (just not much about how it's supposed to work).

I've given Mutants & Masterminds a look, and I think the way that it's D20 based could be a helpful selling point. However, as the game editions have progressed, it has diverged from the bog-standard D20 mechanics enough to where I can see confusion arising. That, and I can see character generation being quite challenging, as it would be far more complex than what 80% of the group has been exposed to. I can see modifying templates or going online and getting pre-made characters helping with that quite a bit, but from a rules standpoint there would be a decent amount on me knowing how well a baddie might be with regard to the group's capabilities...and I don't have anywhere near the system knowledge to be confident in saying yay or nay on that.

I've checked out various FASERIP iterations, and I can't wrap my head around how the game is actually supposed to work. I think part of the issue is needing to internalize the various names of power levels to how they might relate to each other, but it just doesn't seem to be clicking.

Icons seems to be an interesting approach, and I like the way it handles making use of various powers for non-standard approaches, but Qualities could be a pain for both myself and the group to try to get used to. I also remember my head hurting for some of the descriptions on how to structure Tests.

Supers! RED seems like an interesting approach, and I like the idea of having the ability of making direct use of Powers for various actions; this one would be a significant change in how we would be playing, however, and I think because of that it could be a tougher sell.

I'm also been toying with the idea of using the Savage Worlds Supers Companion mashed into the Mini Six rules - I LOVE the simplicity of Mini Six, and it and Savage Worlds seem to be just compatible enough to be able to replace the guts of one with another.

Any other thoughts or suggestions? Anything that worked particularly well or catastrophically poorly, and what might have been done that made it that way?
 

Endless Flight

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Welcome to the Pub @Steve Dubya.

The easiest system that I found that was closest to what you are looking for is Mutants & Masterminds 1e, not 2e or 3e. The complexity was ratcheted up with second edition. It’s great but it’s more work. If your players are wanting to stick to d20 that’s the best I think.

Marvel Super Heroes (MSH) is a great system and is simpler than M&M. But it does require some time to learn the game.
 

urbwar

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As I love Supers! RED, that would be my choice. However, you've explained why it would be harder to sell to your group.

So, I know of some OSR-based D20 superhero games you might want to look at:

1) Guardians I own it, but honestly haven't given it a proper read through. I've read of some issues with some of the powers, but that's the only negative thing I've read (other than it being D20 based)

2) Sentinels of Echo City Deluxe Edition I'm more familiar with the earlier edition of this game. Seems fairly solid, though I'm not sure how it might handle something on the high end, as I haven't played/run it

3) Survive This!!! Vigilante City This is a newer game, and is compatible with their other rpgs (like Dark Places & Demogorgons). I've only skimmed my pdf of it, but again, looks fairly solid

As an aside: Since you had some issues with Faserip, you might want to check out G-Core Prime, which is an offshoot that uses just a D10 (and eliminates that chart)
 

Dumarest

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TSR Marvel Super Heroes is free and a classic:


The basic rules, and all the players need to know to play, are in the Battle Book and take all of five minutes to grok, ten minutes if someone is a little on the slow side. The results table is self-explanatory for the most part. And if you want more complexity you can move on to the advanced game.
 

Apparition

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D20 wise, the only one I know of is Mutants & Masterminds, which you already mentioned as being too crunchy. Can't blame you there, it is that. However, there is a basic version of Mutants & Masterminds 3E here. I don't have it, but it supposedly greatly simplifies character creation using a template system.

Honestly, I'd recommend a hard look at Mythic D6 if you like Mini-Six. It's based on the D6 Legends system that the DC Universe RPG of old used, so it's more crunchy than Mini-Six but it definitely handles super-heroes as super adventures are basically it's bread and butter. IIRC, there's a super-hero specific supplement planned for it at some point. @Jerry may be able to help there.
 

Steve Dubya

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Seems fairly solid, though I'm not sure how it might handle something on the high end, as I haven't played/run it
Ooh, yeah, I probably should have been more specific about that as well - sort of supers power level I'm aiming for.

I'd like for the game to be able to have its strengths in the power levels that you might see in the X-Men/MCU films as opposed to the DC stuff, and probably less Thor and more Cap/Wolverine levels of ability.
 

Raleel

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I would also suggest looking up a copy of marvel heroic role playing. It’s not d20, but it is good and has many familiar faces.
 

Picaroon Jack

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Can't blame you there, it is that. However, there is a basic version of Mutants & Masterminds 3E here. I don't have it, but it supposedly greatly simplifies character creation using a template system.
I did not know this existed! Thanks.
 

AsenRG

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The other people here know more about supers than me, so no recommendations...
Why were those jaws falling on the floor, guys:tongue:?

That said, I just wanted to tell you "welcome to the Pub, @Steve Dubya !" Personally, I'm always glad to see all the new and old people:smile:.
But I'm slightly happier to see someone who Does The Research before asking a question:wink:!
 

Ronnie Sanford

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The easiest superhero rule set I have read (Not played yet) is BASH. Its a simulation style game with light to medium crunch. Its also one of the games that are known for their ability to scale from street to cosmic level.
 

robertsconley

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I gave this answer on theRPGSite but since it being discussed here as well.

Might I suggest Champions 2nd, 3rd, or 4th edition?
2nd edition
https://www.rpgnow.com/product/256854/Champions-The-Super-Hero-Role-Playing-Game-2nd-Edition?filters=0_0_10010_0_0

3rd edition
https://www.rpgnow.com/product/256855/Champions-The-Super-Hero-Role-Playing-Game-3rd-Edition?filters=0_0_10010_0_0

4th edition
https://www.rpgnow.com/product/207058/Champions-The-Super-Role-Playing-Game-4th-edition?filters=0_0_10010_0_0

I know Hero System got a rep, but the earlier editions are approachable games in the way that 5th and 6th are not. And Champion can replicate all the powers you see in the MCU in a straight forward way.

Plus the system is setup in a sensible manner where everything you do as a hero is represented on a one for one basis with the mechanics.

And they have a ton of support products. Although if you opt for 2nd or 3rd edition I would go with the Enemies series first.
 

Steve Dubya

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I'll do my usual pimping of AMP it uses a d20 but is not a D&D d20 system.
AMP is another one that I know *of* but not really much *about*. I got the QS and am giving it a read; the QS really seems like it was geared toward someone that already knows how to play the game and just needs the basic rules handy, so I'm trying to piece together exactly how some of the moving parts fit.
The easiest superhero rule set I have read (Not played yet) is BASH. Its a simulation style game with light to medium crunch. Its also one of the games that are known for their ability to scale from street to cosmic level.
BASH is another one that I've previously given a glance, but I should probably take another look at it.
Might I suggest Champions 2nd, 3rd, or 4th edition?

I know Hero System got a rep, but the earlier editions are approachable games in the way that 5th and 6th are not. And Champion can replicate all the powers you see in the MCU in a straight forward way.

Plus the system is setup in a sensible manner where everything you do as a hero is represented on a one for one basis with the mechanics.
I've seen some of the HERO mechanics before in various iterations, and I think that I'd need to actually play the game to see how they worked before I'd feel capable of running it for others.
 

Dumarest

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I've checked out various FASERIP iterations, and I can't wrap my head around how the game is actually supposed to work. I think part of the issue is needing to internalize the various names of power levels to how they might relate to each other, but it just doesn't seem to be clicking.
TSR Marvel Super Heroes is free and a classic:


The basic rules, and all the players need to know to play, are in the Battle Book and take all of five minutes to grok, ten minutes if someone is a little on the slow side. The results table is self-explanatory for the most part. And if you want more complexity you can move on to the advanced game.
Forgot to mention re: "FASERIP"/Marvel Super Heroes: the rank names are nothing but meaningless flavor. If they are hard to remember or grok, you can just use the actual score associated with the rank: Typical = 6, Good = 10, Excellent = 20. There is no need at all to use the adjectives that go with the scores. All anyone needs to do is compare his score with the resolution table, roll %, and see what color result he got and apply it.
 

robertsconley

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I've seen some of the HERO mechanics before in various iterations, and I think that I'd need to actually play the game to see how they worked before I'd feel capable of running it for others.
I would recommend Champion 2nd edition for $5 and pop the map up on Roll20 or a whiteboard program and give it a whirl yourself. There are some premade stuff in the book.

Personally I use 5th edition, but still remember how I learned the system with Champions 2nd edition. While there are tweaks and expansion, the 6 editions of Champion/Hero System operate the same off of the same idea.

It 3d6 equal to or lower than a target number.

Your speed controls how many times you take actions in a turn.
The order in which you take actions is staggered.
You have a straight forward chart of what actions you can take and what their impact on the combat capabilities of the character. There is a modifier for offense (OCV) and defense (DCV).

Damage is divided into Stun (KO) and Body (kill).

You calculate both with the same roll. For normal damage, the dice is read as stun damage, and every 6 is read as 2 body, every 1 zero body, and everything else 1 body.

For killing damage, the dice is read as body damage and you roll one more dice and that acts a multiplier for stun damage.

Armor subtracts from damage.

The main issue is that in later editions they kept expanding the lists. For example the five Martial Art maneuvers below got their own customization system and each real world martial art got it own writeup along with a set of maneuvers. Which is was nice for an experienced player like myself but not so nice for a novice to wade through. Which I why I recommend 2nd or 3rd edition to get your feet wet.

The secret sauce of Champion is it effect based power systems. Powers are defined by what they do, how they manifest is up to you and the player. There are enhancement and limitation that tweak the power to make the work like what in your mind.

For example I pay 5 character pts per 1d6 of damage for a energy blast. I could say it is a laser beam, stream of fire, ice balls, whatever. So say I define it as a stream of fire. I could put a limitation that any cold based defense/armor count 5 times better. The referee decides how much I get for that depending on how frequent I would encounter the limitation. As a result the 40 pts I spent for 8d6 damage could be boosted to 10d6. But god help me if I encounter something with a cold based armor.

With this system no two Champions campaigns are alike. And you could do a bunch crazy things with the limitation and enhancements based on how you envision the setting and where heroes get their powers.

From Champions 3rd Edition
champion_action.jpg
 
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Steve Dubya

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I've seen some of the HERO mechanics before in various iterations, and I think that I'd need to actually play the game to see how they worked before I'd feel capable of running it for others.
I would recommend Champion 2nd edition for $5 and pop the map up on Roll20 or a whiteboard program and give it a whirl yourself. There are some premade stuff in the book.
I should have been more specific - I would likely need to be a player in someone else's game prior to attempting to run this for anyone else.
 

robertsconley

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I should have been more specific - I would likely need to be a player in someone else's game prior to attempting to run this for anyone else.
All I can say is that 2nd and 3rd edition were designed in an era where you couldn't rely on anybody knowing a system outside of one of the Dungeons & Dragons editions. Which I recommend those now that they are available.

What the authors of Champions were good at was relating the game to the comics in their example. Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP) and Villains and Vigilantes were also good at this which why the three are considered classics and not something like Superhero 2044.

The only difference today most people would have the MCU films and other superhero films in mind instead of comics.
 
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Edgewise

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Forgot to mention re: "FASERIP"/Marvel Super Heroes: the rank names are nothing but meaningless flavor.
Aren't the numbers mostly arbitrary, too? Except for things like determining your HP, I thought it was mostly about that big tri-color chart.
 

Endless Flight

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Aren't the numbers mostly arbitrary, too? Except for things like determining your HP, I thought it was mostly about that big tri-color chart.
Higher numbers increase your success rates.
 

Edgewise

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Higher numbers increase your success rates.
Sure, but do you literally use those numeric values for much? I thought it just told you what column to reference on the success chart. For the most part, I got the impression they could just as well be called I, II, III, etc.
 

Trippy

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The Basic Mutants & Masterminds book is a lot simpler and easier to run than the full Deluxe game. Especially in character generation.

It is really tricky though. I don't honestly find Icons that appealing for some reason, and a lot of the smaller supers games just seem a bit too cartoonish for me. Wild Talents is a lot grittier, although again just seems too much. A lot of generic games - Fate, Savage Worlds, Gurps, etc - have supers applications.

I'd be happy to just stick with Champions as a classic game - along with Darren Watt's Golden Age Champions, but Champions Complete is absolutely awful, it has to be said. There is no way a layman could ever understand how to run it. The supplement is really good though. But, in all, I'd probably say the best product is still Mutants & Masterminds, with the Basic book the best for early dabbling.
 

TristramEvans

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Sure, but do you literally use those numeric values for much? I thought it just told you what column to reference on the success chart. For the most part, I got the impression they could just as well be called I, II, III, etc.
Mostly only for the damage inflicted in combat. A little bit in some of the sub-systems like gadgeteering.
 

soltakss

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I always say HeroQuest is the best game I have seen for Supers, but it doesn't sound as though it suits what the OP wants. It's really fgodd for Supers, though.
 

Dumarest

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Sure, but do you literally use those numeric values for much? I thought it just told you what column to reference on the success chart. For the most part, I got the impression they could just as well be called I, II, III, etc.
They determine the amount of damage you inflict or absorb/deflect, mainly.
 

Jetstream

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Honestly, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that M&M isn't really very crunchy at all. I don't like super crunchy games, generally. I bounce off Shadowrun, and I can barely tolerate Exalted's system.

The only thing complicated about Mutants and Masterminds is the character creation system. Once you have that worked out, it's a breeze. You roll a single d20, you compare to charts to determine what effects there are, damage and such are static values, etc.

All you gotta know is
A) How to create a "power" out of effects and
B) How to figure out your Power Level limits.

After a week or so of running it, I stopped writing down NPC stats at all. The Power Level limits make it easy to adlib the NPCs if you understand them and the effects well enough.

And if the character creation is too complicated, start out with the Basic Hero's Handbook. It's got a list based / random character generation system. You select an archetype (Paragon, crimefighter, magician, speedster, etc) and then go through charts (rolling dice if you wanna randomize it) and make a character that way.

The only downside is that I don't think there's an advancement system to speak of in it. But once you've got the system down well enough, it's really not that tricky to do the character creation properly and use the real book.


Those two forums are the biggest M&M communities I'm aware of. Both of them have tons and tons and tons of example character builds you can dissect. It really is a lot less crunchy than people make it out to be.

Oh and the Power Profiles book gives a billion examples of power builds. Ditto Gadget Guides for various equipment builds.

Edit: Correction. The Basic Hero's Handbook does not have dice rolling chargen. i'm getting it mixed up with the GM's Guide character generator... Of course you could probably make a rolling chart for the archetypes in the Basic.
 
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Voros

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If The Avengers are the hook I’d recommend MSH or Marvel Heroic, both are good mid-crunch games. You may also want to look at Masks which is a mid-crunch PbtA game that captures teen superheroes really well if you want that mid-power X-Men feel.
 

Silverlion

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Check my link. It needs more feedback.. it is in my signature. :grin:
 

Trippy

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I actually, really liked the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game when it came out, and found the dice system to be a very interesting approach to the genre. There is a tension about playing in a fixed setting, while the game generally sets up for playing established Marvel characters, at least moreso than getting you design your own (it's not impossible to do so, it's just not emphasised as much). However, the only real downside, for me, was that it went out of print so soon and with so few supplements.
 

Dumarest

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I actually, really liked the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game when it came out, and found the dice system to be a very interesting approach to the genre. There is a tension about playing in a fixed setting, while the game generally sets up for playing established Marvel characters, at least moreso than getting you design your own (it's not impossible to do so, it's just not emphasised as much). However, the only real downside, for me, was that it went out of print so soon and with so few supplements.
I found everyone I tried it with was spending a lot of time out of character trying to justify getting a larger die into play and counting up results, plus the Doom Pool and whatever the good pool was called kept pulling us out of immersion. It was very distracting. Did you find a good solution for those issues?
 

Trippy

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I found everyone I tried it with was spending a lot of time out of character trying to justify getting a larger die into play and counting up results, plus the Doom Pool and whatever the good pool was called kept pulling us out of immersion. It was very distracting. Did you find a good solution for those issues?
I do appreciate these issues, and yes, when we started they did cause the game to slow down to a degree. However, once we played through a couple of sessions, it just clicked and the time taken 'out of character' was reduced significantly, and the roleplaying became accentuated. I think the key is that the players know what they can do with the dice (rather than spending time working out what they could do), while the Doom Pool was largely just a tool for the GM to present opposing rolls to the players. Basically, to play it, you have to unlearn what you have learned from other games, to a degree - but it's worth it if you persevere.
 
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Silverlion

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I found everyone I tried it with was spending a lot of time out of character trying to justify getting a larger die into play and counting up results, plus the Doom Pool and whatever the good pool was called kept pulling us out of immersion. It was very distracting. Did you find a good solution for those issues?

I always had this problem. So I get ya.
 

Dumarest

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I do appreciate these issues, and yes, when we started they did cause the game to slow down to a degree. However, once we played through a couple of sessions, it just clicked and the time taken 'out of character' was reduced significantly, and the roleplaying became accentuated. I think the key is that the players know what they can do with the dice (rather than spending time working out what they could do), while the Doom Pool was largely just a tool for the GM to present opposing rolls to the players. Basically, to pay it, you have to unlearn what you have learned from other games, to a degree - but it's worth it if you persevere.
Thanks, might have to give it another shot when (face-to-face) Boot Hill winds down. Got any tips for coming up with those three "tags" (I forget what the game term was) like "It's Clobberin' Time" and "I'm the Best There is at What I Do"? That's another place we struggled with original PCs.
 

Trippy

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Thanks, might have to give it another shot when (face-to-face) Boot Hill winds down. Got any tips for coming up with those three "tags" (I forget what the game term was) like "It's Clobberin' Time" and "I'm the Best There is at What I Do"? That's another place we struggled with original PCs.
We only used established Marvel characters, I'll have to say. We didn't design our own characters at all, although I acknowledge there are some rules for that.
 

ORtrail

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I'd suggest Supers! Revised, but urbwar has that covered. I will add that we've run several games at RPG events and the players grasp the basics of the system even though none of them had played it before.

My other thought would be for you to try Tiny Supers -and let me know how it plays. :grin:

I just got the PDF, and I'm waiting on my print copy before giving it a complete read. The basic system is you end up rolling 1D6 if you at some disadvantage, 2D6 for a normal skill, and 3D6 if you have some advantage. Any result of 5 or 6 is a success.

Early feedback seems to be that the powers list is pretty basic. The book mostly consists of suggested settings and it shines there.
 

Chris Brady

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I can run M&M 3e 'cold and stupid' as the saying goes. Like most supers, it's front loaded on character creation, but if you can make a D&D character, you can do M&M. In my opinion.
 

urbwar

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I'd suggest Supers! Revised, but urbwar has that covered. I will add that we've run several games at RPG events and the players grasp the basics of the system even though none of them had played it before.

My other thought would be for you to try Tiny Supers -and let me know how it plays. :grin:

I just got the PDF, and I'm waiting on my print copy before giving it a complete read. The basic system is you end up rolling 1D6 if you at some disadvantage, 2D6 for a normal skill, and 3D6 if you have some advantage. Any result of 5 or 6 is a success.

Early feedback seems to be that the powers list is pretty basic. The book mostly consists of suggested settings and it shines there.
Are you stalking me ORtrail, cause I see you almost everwhere I post :tongue:

Welcome to the pub btw!
 

urbwar

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I do appreciate these issues, and yes, when we started they did cause the game to slow down to a degree. However, once we played through a couple of sessions, it just clicked and the time taken 'out of character' was reduced significantly, and the roleplaying became accentuated. I think the key is that the players know what they can do with the dice (rather than spending time working out what they could do), while the Doom Pool was largely just a tool for the GM to present opposing rolls to the players. Basically, to play it, you have to unlearn what you have learned from other games, to a degree - but it's worth it if you persevere.
back in 2016, I played an early demo of the Sentinels of the Multiverse rpg. It played similar to Marvel Heroic, but I don't think you had to constantly justify adding certain dice to your pool. You still had to, but my memory is sketchy on the full details. Plus the game likely changed a bit before it hit kickstarter, so I won't know for sure until I get my copy and compare the two
 

Mankcam

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Well I think you can run almost anything in BRP if you like traditional systems; or in HeroQuest or Fate Core if you like things a bit more loose and evocative of a setting, but that's just me.

However Capes, Cowls, & Villains Fowl is also a pretty good little system tailored for running action-packed Supers.
It's a long way from plugging a Supers system into D&D 5E (as originally requested), but it captures that flavour of Supers quite well.
Simple system, yet very evocative of classic comic book style Supers:

9100

The double-edged sword is that you define your own Traits during character generation, so that can either be a joy for some players, or cause dead-end inertia to those are challeneged by this. The game lives or dies by the description of Traits, for better or worse (reminds me a bit of HeroQuest Keywords and Fate Core Aspects in some ways). However if done well, it can be a great way to really capture the flavour of the characters & setting

You get get both the pdf and print copies thru DrivethruRPG:
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/104477/Capes-Cowls-and-Villains-Foul

Definately worth a look if wanting to play MARVEL Comics-style Supers
 
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