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Head and Lungs
Balancing health and werewolves
February 23rd, 2016 
werepenguin
Don't Rest Your Head (Evil Hat, 2006)
A small indie game by Fred Hicks, a horror story that could be Dark City meets Alice in Wonderland (and lots of other inspiration I don't know but am really tempted to track down). Your worries and stress overwhelm you to the point where you... awaken. Now you are awake you cannot afford to sleep again or you will leave you open to the Nightmares of the Mad City.
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Execution - 7
Ideas - 6
Not bad for 87 pages!
werepenguin
Broken Gears (Cambridge University Roleplaying Society, 2005)

If the blurb is to be believed, the bulk of Broken Gears was written in 24 hours (by members of CURS). This is impressive. So is the book. (It's also free. http://www.r-hansen.com/broken/)

I'm not really a fan of Steampunk; all the other settings I've read seem to be horribly artificial in order to produce the suped up world and characters the authors wanted. They have never felt cohesive.

Broken Gears starts with the history of the world, rewriting history from 1940 to 2052 (and backhistory) in a wholistic and realistic way that makes good use known history to produce an anachronistic future. Large grokkable nations form in a coherent manner that lends to all the sorts of stories you would want to tell.

Setting

Mechanical technology and electricity are not founded on physics as we know it but by "chaids", spirits of technology. Technological achievements remain the same but the knowledge behind them is obviously quite difference. In 1944, Bletchley Park creates Colossus to solve the problems of the war. Once started, it creates superior radio-controlled war machines to win... but then never stops, leading to the War of Broken Gears.

In the aftermath, radio and electricity are forbidden. With the world in ruins and communication difficult, four nations dominate (the British empire, the United States, Russia/China and the independent Australia). I should add that this is a vast oversimplification, since these empires are definitely not cookie cutters and come with political histories that put everything into context.

The technology that's left is guns, large guns and massive guns. Giant war machines. And a thriving industry in innovative technology.

System

The basic system is a single page, although particular elements have their own section. There are five stats and 20 skills + any others you want to include. It is a simple roll under Stat+Skill-penalty (using a d12) with a minor but nice twist on critical successes.

This isn't a system you will take away but it's simple enough to just get on with. Combat is inevitable, but vehicular combat is encouraged (partly since healing is often tricky).

The Heroes

Most PC groups will be from a particular faction tackling internal or external challenges, e.g. working for British Secret Service or the Australian mercenaries. There are however options, especially in the US or the Buffer nations, for being ragtag groups facing a joint threat. The power level is low but can be increased through technology depending on the whims of the ST and players.

The Villains

Many villains will be Other Factions or random bad guys; human enemies with human motivations. However, there are also powerful chaids determined to wreck the world - or those trying to summon demons of the same power level as Colossus.

The Look

Home produced, with some stock photos run through a filter. They may not reach the quantity or "fantasy" level of other Steampunk games but they fit the humanly anachronistic feel of the game.

The Good

Have I mentioned there is a rich history here?

The Bad

While the stat choices are good, the skill list is fairly poor and awkward. While I have my doubts about a flat system, I couldn't really say more without testing.
The bigger problem is that it lacks pizzazz. What they have created is a pseudo-realistic setting, which is great, but people don't turn to steampunk for that. Two things that would help would be a more exuberent system (Adventure!, FATE or another pulp system would be fine) and some examples of exuberent technology (other than vehicles) which players may come up against or acquire.

The Ugly

The game leaves a lot to the imagination, but that is true of lots of similar games.

Execution: 6
Ideas: 7
werepenguin
I got into Aberrant via Adventure! and I have a soft spot for it, but it always left me a little unsatisfied about the lack of customisation. As such I have taken a look at superhero RPGs when I've had the chance. These are the best of what I have. I discounted Icons since it didn't bring anything new, had random character creation and had lists of powers which all worked differently but without sufficient rules. I discounted Mutants and Masterminds largely because I don't have a copy but what I've seen appears to be a less elegant version of Wild Talents.

Part 1: Book by book reviews

Aberrant (White Wolf WW8500, 1999)

Aberrant was the first "superhero" game I read and it did a good job of showing me options for them other than the classic tropes.

Setting

Aberrant was set six years in the future of when it was written, after the meta-human novas were exposed and alternatively adored and villified by the rest of the world. The core book gives glimpses of the factions and conspiracies that the rest of the gameline fleshed out and there are a lot. Unlike World of Darkness, the factions don't indicate splats (or character classes). Yay.

The setting is very rich and there is lots of game space to choose from but the game is quite dependent on it. Like L5R, the system and setting are interwoven.

System

The Trinity universe system is very similar to the World of Darkness systems - roll your dice pool (typically skill/power+attribute) of d10 against a fixed target number of 7. The more successes (sux) you roll, the better. Layered on top of this (bought with "Nova points") are Mega-Attributes and Powers that novas can take.

Any mega-attribute takes an aberrant above his baseline equivalent (e.g. Someone with Dex 2, Mega-dex 1 is considered substantially better than someone with Dex 5), although mechanically it is about twice as good as a normal attribute; but you also get a free enhancement which can add the equivalent of another dot. Novas can also buy large numbers of normal attributes, skills and backgrounds with their Nova points.

There are a good selection of powers and it follows the historic pattern of giving you a static list to choose from. Each power has a full write-up including how it is used. There are a few gripes.

a) Some powers become extraordinarily expensive to buy. You can spend half the quantum (round up) for a purchase, gaining a point of taint and that does help (especially as the first three points have little immediate effect). It does make some concepts poor to start with.

b) Each power is tied to one (or sometimes two) attributes. This tends to pull you in certain directions (so if you're playing a scientist, you might be drawn to Mental Blast because it also uses Intelligence). It also means you it is often more cost-effective to buy extra dots of mega-attributes than of powers, especially if they share an attribute.

c) It is very hard to modify the powers. There are Extras you can take but they tend to be fairly clunky (and expensive); and the Player's Guide has smaller modifications you can make but the system is quite fragile. It's partly because not all powers are handled the same.

Heroes and Villains

Aberrant more than almost any superhero game makes all factions valid. The Aeon Society/Project Utopia has people doing good/bad for the right reasons and deeper programs which are probably amoral but may or may not be for the right reasons. Aberrants accept all sorts in the name of resistance. The Teragen avow that Novas are above the rest of humanity and wish to maximise the potential of fellow Novas; but are they just following a cult of personality? The Directive stands to protect the national interests against Project Utopia and the Teragen.

Of course there are mercenary groups, popular icons, wrestlers and just individuals out there if you want to get away from the main conspiracies.

Aberrant has a very colourful world.

The Look

The first third of the books is full colour, consisting of different layouts representative of different media (memos, gossip, TV, newpaper, transcripts etc). The artwork itself is good but nothing you're going to scream about. However the layout is pretty spot on and encourages STs to replicate it for their game. The rules section (the rest) is full of pretty decent line- and monochrome art. The superheroes are rarely portrayed as typical four-colour heroes - many novas seem at least a little grotesque (and often much more).

The Good

It's a rich, colourful world with rich, reasonably balanced superhero rules.

The Bad

The powers are pretty rigid and draw you towards certain synergies which may or may not be what you wanted.

The Ugly

It's hard to take the system and use it elsewhere. The limitations (e.g. no rules for gadgets or superscience) and assumptions (taint and Quantum) are very specific to Aberrant and stop it being a good generic superhero game.

There are issues with the White Wolf systems, but that's often a matter of personal taste. Similarly, the use of Mega-attributes with Powers (and the maths behind it) is going to suit some not others.


Supers (Zenith Comics/Hazard Stds, 2012)

If you want a streamlined superhero game, this is one to consider.

Setting

Er... Supersville. Yeah. Some thought went into giving some plot ideas based around a generic city and indeed reminding the reader to include natural disasters in the mix; it's just not particularly rich. There are some sample generic superheroes and antagonists.

System

The system doesn't have much to it either but there's enough crunch to make you feel like you can define your character.

Resistance: You have four resistances which act as both defence and physical/mental/social health.
Aptitutes: Broad skill sets. You automatically get 1 in each but only have three points to add. Any Aptitude over 3 becomes a specialisation.
Powers: You have far more points, by default, to spend on Powers than anything else. All the powers are incredibly broad and then you limit them with complications as needed. E.g. There is no "blast" but you can take Fire Control and get a +2 levels for making it "blast-only". (Almost) all powers can be used to attack, defend and do other stuff but you can only use each one once per turn making min-maxing risky.

The rules do make some powers work certain ways but mostly they are kept nice and simple. Combat itself is straightforward - it's attack vs defence and damage is equal to the number of times the former beats the latter (so a low, reliable defence can give you time to win).

Heroes and Villains

The assumption is that you are a playing a four-colour superhero game where heroes are good and villains are bad and you don't need to know much beyond that. However, there's nothing to force that upon you. The mechanics are subtle enough to let you take it quite a few directions, even taking A Dirty World as inspiration.

The look

Supers may get overlooked because the artwork is pretty simple and cartoony, just a few heroes and villains which are repeated from the sample characters at the end.

The good

A simple system with just enough complexity to colour your powers to fit your concept. Easily adaptable to most typical settings.

The bad

I haven't actually found anything bad, as you can see by the ease by which the sample characters below were created. You could argue that there aren't enough rules to cover some interactions between powers but if you are going for a rules-light system that's only to be expected.

The ugly

The main point of contention is that there is essentially no setting. However, of all the genres, I think a superhero game doesn't really need a setting. Most players will understand the concepts and the ST just needs to show his antagonists.


The Comics Code (Golden Age Heroics, 2014)

If Supers makes everything black and white, The Comics Code sets out to focus on the murky grey inbetween.

Setting

There is not even the pretence of a setting.

Heroes and Villains

The Comics Code sets out to differentiate between a hero and villain but uses mechanics to show the hero slipping away into a villainous mindset both internally and in the public eye. The true fight of the hero is not their opponents but the loss of heroism and status. If you fall too far, you stop being playable in the heroic world of the Comics Code.

Systems

There are only three stats you choose: attack, defence and general. You can use the same effect for each (e.g. ice powers) or different ones (e.g. lightning, winds, erotic dancing). What the powers are is potentially only  flavour, although presumably it does indicate what's possible and what isn't. What's more restrictive is that you can't use your attack and defence powers outside combat without risking status. Nor are there options for world-changing powers (e.g. calling the weather) or non-violent attacks (e.g. mind control).

However the systems for gaining and losing status and heroism look fairly well thought out.

The look

Some nice line art, mainly of the example characters in different poses. It's not going to be winning any awards, but at least it's better than Supers!

The good

It's a simple system that allows for most characters. It lets you explore the fall from grace if you wish to.

The Bad

It took me a while to realise but I think they have dramatically oversimplified the powers. In doing so they narrowed the useful character- and game- concepts so much that the importance of combat is increased. This seems unfortunate in a game that revolves around the fall from grace.

Additionally, where Supers lets you define your powers and then restrict which functions each can be used for, The Comics Code restricts your functions and you have to define your powers around them.

The Ugly

While you can use any standard superhero setting, the game forces you to tell its story. That makes it good for stories about losing heroism, poor for doing Cool Things and a bit meh for doing other things. The ways to gain and lose Heroism and Status are so long they go over the page each time. It makes sense but it would have been really hand to make it exactly a page each.


Wild Talents Second edition (Cubicle 7, 2010)

Another submission by Greg Stolze (from whom I have already reviewed A Dirty World) and it's enough to make me look out for his other games.

Setting

Wild Talents is largely settingless, i.e. it is intended for you to use in whichever setting you choose and it has the tools for this. I tend to view this as a good thing for the genre.

That said, there are two large setting elements offered. One is a sample setting, an "overview" of the Godlike world rethought for Wild Talents. It is 100 pages long and goes into sixty years of history of "talents" and their involvements in world affairs. It does in fact rewrite history and has a lot of content. I will confess I found its overly detailed date-by-date approch quite dry, comparable to reading the Silmarillion. It doesn't stand up well compared to the multimedia approach of Aberrant. That said, it is very thorough and incorporates an epic world so it shouldn't be dismissed just because it's hard to get into.

Much more unusual is the 40 page "Building Superheroic Histories" chapter which divides itself between historial inertia (red), the inertia of worldview to Talents (gold), mystical/alien quotient (blue) and moral clarity (black). What's interesting to me is how other games work these in e.g. The Comics Code is high gold, medium black but doesn't care about the rest; Supers is high blue and black but doesn't care about the rest; Aberrant sets all colours at low deliberately. This is one of those sections that explains in words what most readers will probably be aware of but not have necessary focussed on; and gives a structure to thinking which few will have.

It follows this up with help choosing numbers of Talents and various setting concepts that STs can build on (e.g. a Talented World War II and beyond).

Heroes and Villains

As per the building histories comments, Wild Talents gives room for every point on the scale so the nature of the protagonists and antagonists is completely up in the air. The Godlike scenario doesn't seem to end with any obvious place for Talents other than in a fight against aliens.

System

Character creation is somewhat complicated and requires substantial maths. It's a point buy system but the book doesn't give any guidelines over how those points should be divided between human Stats and Abilities vs Hyperstats and powers. Creating the powers is quite well documented but equally quite complicated. You have to understand how the system works then build a power from Qualities, Capacities, Extras and Flaws; and while in some games Extras and Flaws are optional and used sparingly, here they are a necessary (often in large numbers). Because of this it's fairly easy to overcost or undercost Powers and I would suggest that power creation is handled by/with the ST so the cost balance is about even. The player can still choose which dots they want.

Wild Talents uses the "One roll engine" complete with "Hard dice" (always a 10) and "Wiggle dice" (you choose after you roll the rest). I still need to test it but it appears to have a suitable curve for success and is pretty easy to grok once you have tried it a few times. Moreover, all the hard work is in character creation. Once you know how your power works you normally don't need to worry too much about the details you spent so long sorting out. In fact the only two things you need to track mechanically are Health and Willpower.

The Look

The layout of Wild Talents, while similar to other books, just appears to work well (good choice of fonts, the borders etc). It is full colour and mostly computer drawn/finished with lots of lens flare. It seems to give it a "realistic" edge for quite unreal scenes.

The Good

The system is efficient, adaptable and easy to use once characters have been created and, as long as *somebody* understands character creation, you should end up with the character you want.

Moreover the worldbuilding chapter is second to none and is well worth reading for anybody running superheroes with any system.

Finally, it just feels nice to read (mostly).

The Bad

Character creation is, without doubt, a bit of a headache. I still prefer it to buying equipment in Shadowrun but you will need a handy geek.

The Ugly

The world presented was too dry for my tastes, despite (or perhaps because of) the detail given.


Part 2: Sample characters

To illustrate the differences between the games I built four different characters in four different systems (albeit I have hand-waived the less involved parts in some cases). Hopefully they show the strengths and weaknesses of the systems.

1. Buzzbee

Buzzbee likes nothing more than hanging with her friends discussing fashion. Hence when it comes to combat, she tends to just hang about in the air shooting things. Powers are based around force beams (which send a ripple through the air) in an offensive (and sometimes defensive) capability while she hovers, only moving out of the way if she really needs to. She also is superhumanly attractive which she uses to get what she wants.

a) Aberrant (30 Nova points)

This is a pretty straightforward superhero for Aberrant:
Social/Physical/Mental
Flight 1 (3)
Nova Blast (Bashing; up to 15)
Mega-Charisma 1 with the Seductive enhancement (3pts)

The difficulty comes with her defence. The nearest fit is Forcefield. There is a stat called Quantum which increases a variety of different power-related options, and some powers have a minimum quantum level. Forcefield would require Quantum 2 (5 extra points, 3 if tainted). Then Forcefield 1 (3).

To help Nova Blast and Flight and the overall concept, I would take Mega-Dexterity 1 + Enhanced Movement (3); and similarly, Mega-Stamina enhances Forcefield more than taking points would, and gives more toughness so take Mega-Stamina 1 + Regeneration (to keep her perfect body; 3 pts).

Not worrying about boosting other skills, since she's not particularly focussed, that means she can take Nova Blast 4 (12).

The only problem with this build is that there is no wave effect on the blast. To give Nova Blast an area effect requires a non-standard boost which would cost 5 per dot. Another alternative is to only have it when Buzzbee Maxes her power, but she would only have two dice; and would need two successes. Maybe the best option is to use multiple action rules if you want to hit multiples, and leave the rest to flavour.

Note also that there is an alternative build which uses Gravity Control, which is one of Aberrant's "Do All The Things" level 3 abilities. Three ranks of this (15 pts) gives a blast, shield and flight as standard abilities, and can develop other techniques that can be used for more. It requires Quantum 4 (another 15 points), but this does give more options when Maxing out. To get the Mega-Appearance, some of these would have to be tainted - taking 3 taint saves 6 points.

b) Supers

Flight 3. Complications: movement only (-2)
Energy Control - Gravity 5. Complications: +1 for attack, -1 otherwise; Split attack +1; Knockdown +1

Composure 3
Fortitude 5
Reaction 2
Will 2

Presence 3 (6 - persuasion)
Performance 2
The split attack, although they would both be small attacks, can be used to represent the wave of energy hitting another character (or Mooks).

c) The Comics Code

There are a lot of subtleties of Buzzbee you just can't capture in The Comics Code, but actually it's one of the best for handling the force ripples she generates. It only comes into play when she rolls a double, when it will be either good or bad which is about right.

Attack: Force bolt. 3x5=15
Defence: Flight. 2x4=8
General: Inhumanly attractive. 1x6=6
Health: 6
Status: 5
Heroism: 5
Special effect: Wave of force.

d) Wild Talents

Stats: +3hd in charm (24pts), otherwise normal (focus on Charm and coordination)
Skills: Normal
Powers: Flight, Force beam
Flight is straightforward, since Buzzbee can't use it for attack or defence.
Useful quality (flight) (speed): 2
8 points gives 2 hard dice which will normally be sufficient.
Force beam is also fairly straightforward, although not as simple Flight.
Attack quality (range): 2, Daze +1, Limited damage (shock) -1, Spray* +1 = 3
Defend quality (self): 2, Obvious -1 = 1
Total = 4

The obvious quality is because of the ripple that follows the beam; everything nearby is shaken. *Spray is more tricky, but is the nearest representation of the main ripple that can cause chaos in its wake.

Because it needs to reliably be able to do two actions, we'll take two wd, giving us:
8d +2wd = 64pts


2. Leafman


Leafman really likes his trees and plants. A lot. He loves playing with them and growing new things and sometimes making lots of money by selling them. If he gets angry though, he will grow plants REALLY BIG which attack you.

a) Aberrant (30 Nova Points)

Aberrant has what would appear to be a great ability called Animal/Plant Mastery but actually it just lets you talk to plants and weak animation of whatever foliage is already present. There is no way, as printed, to grow plants in special ways. There is no way to make this creature has requested. So...

Let's change his powerful ability to turning into a giant, angry tree. That's actually straightforward:
Mental/Social/Physical
Bodymorph - Tree 5 (15 points),

containing Sizeshift - Growth 4 (free, part of Bodymorph)

and also some Body Modification - Spines and Tendril (again, free)

Plant Mastery 1 (3 points)

Quantum 3 (6 points, if tainted; required for Bodymorph)

Mega-perception 2 with Analytic Taste enhancement (6)

b) Supers

The risk of a list of powers is that it doesn't have what you want and yet here is exactly what we were after. I wanted to give him 9 points, but the cap is 5 before complications so I need to complicate it somewhat.

Plant powers - 5 (Balanced complications: +1 attack, -1 rest; +4 Area Effect)

And we'll give him some defence as well, some bark skin:

Armour - 3

Composure 3

Fortitude 3

Reaction 1

Will 2

Survival 2

Presence 3

c) The Comics Code

I've min-maxed Leafman because he does feel like someone who could slip into villainy. In The Comics Code that gives him low starting Status and Heroism - although after that it has no immediate consequences.

Attack: plant attack! 5x6=30

Defence: Bark skin. 1x2=2

General: Plant mastery. 3x4=12

Health: 6

Status: 3

Heroism: 3

Special effect: Plants shoot up in unexpected places.

d) Wild Talents

Stats and skills: nothing exceptional

Powers: fun with plants! Armour

Attack Quality (plants grow and destroy things) (range):

2, Attack Levels +6, Delayed effect -2, Go last -1, Horrifying -1, Obvious -1, Radius 160m +8, Scattered Damage -1, Slow -2, Uncontrollable -2 = 6pt

Useful Quality (talks to plants): Dud = 1pt

Useful Quality (grow plants): 2, Delayed effect -2, Permanent +4, Radius +2, Slow -2, Touch only -2 = 2pt

Total 9pts

Effect: Leafman can grow plants in new and interesting ways, then talk to them. He can also get very angry and, if successful, grow huge plants that do at least 8 damage to everything in a 160m radius. It takes time (Delayed effect, Slow) and hits in random places (Scattered damage, Uncontrollable).

The wooden treebark form is a variant on light armour that only lasts for a scene.

Defends quality (light armour) (self): 2, Armoured Defence -2, Duration +2 = 2

5 dots is about right for 10 points, with 10 points of Fun with Plants! He doesn't have any wiggle or hard dice since he's somewhat random.

3. Dr Gates


Dr Gates is a Physicist who studied string theory and through genius managed to find a way to open portals through space. As a hero, she mainly acts as transport and scientist, but her love is to find new things to do with space. He knows an unusual martial art, largely because of its novelty.

a) Aberrant (30 Nova Points)

This is again fairly straightforward for Aberrant, if you assume that Dr Gates manage to trigger her own eruption. If you want her to do superscience, you're out of luck since there are no superscience rules. Mega-intelligence does allow you to do develop technology super-humanly, but there are no particular rules of how it might work.

Mental/physical/social

Warp 1 (5)

Quantum 3 (required; 10)

Note that you roll Perception + Warp for normal transport, but with one success you can go 2000km, or 20000 with 2; this seems plenty. In combat, you can use Dexterity + Warp. It's not cost effective to get more than one dot unless you want to travel to other planets.

For her science, you have two choices depending on how super you want Dr Gates. You can just use nova points to give her 5 dots in all the relevant normal stats (giving her 10 dice combat, science and technology pools and 10 Willpower). Alternatively, you can push her more into superscience by giving her Mega-Intelligence (up to 4, at 3 nova points each) and the Scientific Prodigy enchancement. You could also give her Mega-Perception (w/ High-End Electromagnetic Scan) or Mega-Dexterity (w/ Fast Tasks; I envisage this as using mini-Warps to do everything from one place).

b) Supers

Teleport 5 allows transport to the next state/country (or can be used as an attack/defence). Complications: +1 for creating a portal, -1 for using a gadget.
Super Brain 5
Super Science 4
Composure 1
Fortitude 2
Reaction 3
Will 3

Fighting 2
(Academia 3, +2 Physics, from Super Brain)
(Technology 3, +2 Electronics, from Super Brain)
I note that Super Brain seems a little unbalanced since Aptitudes like Technology are the same cost as Powers. If you're going to take Technology, why not take Super Brain instead? Similarly, as written you could just take 1 point of Super Science and the rest as Super Brain with the same effect. Just a small point though. (Update: I'm fairly certain Super Brain is meant to cost 2, but it's not stated.)

c) The Comics Code

The Comics Code penalises heroes using attack/defence powers outside of combat which is a really sticky problem for Dr Gates. However the rest fits pretty well. I've used the special effect here to add some plot.

Attack: Warp away. 1x4=4
Defence: Warp away. 2x6=12
General: Scientific genius. 3x5=15

Health: 6
Status: 4
Heroism: 5
Special effect: A separate gate opens to a mysterious place.

d) Wild Talents

Skills: focussed on science, otherwise normal
Stats: focussed on mind, otherwise normal
Power: teleport

Teleport is one of the sample abilities which costs 6 (two per quality). We need to mix it up a little. E.g. all capacities here are Range, it needs to affect an area and it has a duration. In reality, the area affected is small and is both a benefit and a drawback so we probably can ignore that.

Useful quality (portal) (range): 2, Booster (Speed) +4, Duration +2, Power Capacity (Speed) +2, Willpower bid -1, Willpower investment -1 = 8
Defends quality (portal away) (range): 2, Power Capacity (Range) +2, Willpower bid = 3
Total: 11 points per dice.

Effect: Dr Gates can create portals that last for up to a scene and can travel 700 miles away (this distance is what dramatically increased the cost). This can be done in combat but is risky and range has to be offset with distance. It can also be used as an all-purpose defence agains herself and allies in combat.

Since this is Dr Gates's main ability, she should take as many points as she can; the minor flaws seem appropriate and let her take 5d + 1wd (99 points0. As expected, it's not great in combat but it works and is balanced by willpower flaws. Note that we have no points left for hypermind.


4. Control Monkey


Some aliens landed near a farmer, who now finds himself turning into a powerful ape* when feeling threatened. They also left behind a mind control gun. While one of the pellets is embedded in a target, Control Monkey controls its actions (although only at a crude level).
* I realise apes and monkeys are different creatures but Control Ape isn't so catchy.

a) Aberrant (30 Nova points)

The good news is that the "change to super-monkey" is straight-forward in Aberrant. Taking a high level of Domancy lets you hide and turn off all your abilities.
But then we come across Aberrant's limitations. No technology; and the mind control (Domination) requires Concentration to use. It also really shows up another weakness: all powers are based on an attribute. The effectiveness of your power depends almost as much on that attribute as the power. In this case it's Manipulation and I think high manipulation would change the concept completely.
Alternatives to Domination are Disorient (also uses Manipulation), Hypnotic Gaze (Mega-Manipulation enhancement) and Hypnosis (requires intelligence). The latter is pretty appropriate - you don't get full control, but with four successes the target can do something easy for you; and it can last for 5 days without concentration. However, it still requires intelligence to use and is resisted by willpower. You could make this power with all of 8 points, leaving the rest for physical traits, including mega-strength/dex/stamina.

You could change the concept to make Control Monkey intelligent, but I don't think Aberrant can make the original concept.

b) Supers

Mind Control in Supers is pretty much what we need. It doesn't require anything outside itself, it just lets you direct the target with thought (albeit once Will is 0). Shape change doesn't actually help much except in Supers it lets you heal between forms.
Mind Control 7. Complications: Balanced complications - +1 for full control, -1 for rest; -1 gadget
Super Strength 3 - Complications: Only while in Monkey form (-1)
Shape Change 4 - Complications: One shape (-2), Uncontrolled (-1)

Composure 1
Fortitude 4
Reaction 5
Will 2
Athleticism 3
Survival 2

c) The Comics Code

In The Comics Code, Mind Control only falls under General powers (attacks are always physical). General powers have almost no indication of usage, so we have no idea how long mind control is meant to work. The closest we have is the Difficult Level table, but that is almost all ST fiat. As such, this is an awkward fit for The Comics Code.

Attack: Monkey swing 1x3=3
Defence: Bark skin. 2x6=12
General: Mind control. 4x5=20

Health: 6
Status: 4
Heroism: 4

Special effect: A possessed character starts developing simian characteristics.

d) Wild Talents

Source: unknown, Permissions: Prime Specimen and One Power (Mind Control)

Skills: Control Monkey has normal skills.
Stats: Control Monkey gets lots of Hyperbody and some Hypercoordination in Monkey form.
Powers: Mind Control using a unique alien device, shapeshift to monkey form

Mind control: The mind control listed costs 2 per dice, but is only for one round and doesn't let you give verbal commands. However, that is fairly easy to work around.
Quality: Useful (Mind control)
Useful capacities: Range
Endless (+3), Focus (-1), -Irreplaceable (-2), -Durable (+1) If/then: Requires shooting with the gun first (-1)
Quality: Useful (Mental commands)
Duration +2, If/Then: Mental commands only (-1), If/Then: Only if Mind Control is active (-1)

Total: 4/dice. It's a powerful effect, so let's take 9 dice and a wiggle dice to make it 52.

Effect: Once you have shot a target with the gun, you can mind control them (opposed by Stability). Once control is established, the target only acts on your mental commands (sent separately).
Generic shapechanging is listed in the powers, while a case of specific shapechanging is listed for one of the sample characters. They contradict each other somewhat - the former uses successes from shapechanging (using Variable Effect) to gain dice or abilities, while the latter just lists shapechanging as its own effect, stacks extra effects on that and then lists stat bonuses seperately. Since the first option cost between 24 and 40 points just to change to one other form reliably (a given, I think we can agree) I am going with the second option.

Useful (change form): 2, Endless (+3), Loopy (-1) Self only (-3) = 1

"Loopy" covers the loss of mind that comes with the shapechange. We can take 10 dice (or 5 hard dice) in this to be confident of changing forms almost every time.
The example puts the cost of conditional hyperstats as 4, only in Monkey form (-2). The ST would have to decide if monkey form merits -1 or -2, but considering the Loopy flaw let's go with -2. We have more than enough points to take all the stats we need, so let's take:
Body: 3d +1wd
Coordination: 4d +2wd
Total: 38
Effect: Control Monkey can turn into a super-strong and dexterous urang-utan at will, a creature not too sensible but hard to take down.

Part 3: Summary

Aberrant is pretty good at what it does but it's limitations should be recognised. I have to be slightly careful on scoring because I am only reviewing the core book not the whole line. It nevertheless scores highly because it has an ambient background; and because it has such a detailed list of powers and enhancements.
Execution: 8 - Covers everything you would expect and more
Ideas: 8 - You have plots for a chronicle or two without too much thought

Supers is the game I would turn to if I wanted a rules-light superhero game since it has enough depth without overcomplicating it.
Execution: 8
Ideas: 4

The Comics Code I just think defeats itself by simplifying the wrong way. Good effort though.

Execution: 5 - has enough good material not to be bad
Ideas: 5 - It will influence aspects of your chronicle

Wild Talents has a lot going for it both as its own game and as inspiration for others. If you have one or more people happy to help with character creation then the rest should be straightforward. As such it's my crunchy superhero game of choice.
Execution: 8
Ideas: 9 - You have plots for 4-5 chronicles without effort.
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