Review: Catalyst Game Labs – Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game


Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game
Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game is a complete superhero role-playing game set in the Valiant comic book universe, written by Randall N. Bills, Joel Bancroft-Connors, Aaron Cahall, Ken’ Horner, Kevin Killiany, Philip A. Lee, Craig Reed, and Geoff Swift and published by Catalyst Game Labs.
By Aaron T. Huss
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Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game is a superhero role-playing set in the Valiant comic book universe. It’s the second RPG powered by the Cue System, originally seen in Cosmic Patrol, and chooses simplicity over complexity. The core rulebook is a combination of three main items: the Cue System mechanics, the Valiant Universe, and a host of adventures for the RPG. While this is to be expected, one thing that’s missing is an extensive write-up on creating characters. Valiant Universe RPG eschews the typical depth of character creation found in most RPGs and replaces it with pregenerated characters extracted straight from the Valiant universe; this includes a look at how each one is a part of the greater Valiant universe through the organizations they are a part of. Is this a bad thing? Of course it’s not! If you want to play existing comic book characters properly, then why wouldn’t you want them handed to you with the note that “this is what they look like mechanically.” This is then backed by a lot of adventures that mimic the adventures already found in the Valiant universe, but without attempting to recreate the wheel or break the Valiant canon.

Although the Valiant Universe RPG is powered by the same mechanics as Cosmic Patrol, the base mechanics are where the book draws the line. The implementation of the mechanics are tied to the setting with little tweaks here and there, especially when it comes to manifesting super powers. Additionally, the book is not one of simplicity as it’s full color and includes full illustrated depictions of the Valiant universe. All in all, it’s a beautiful book to have!

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with comic books. I’ve been a fan of comic books for three decades, but I’ve never been one for the typical heroic, vanilla superhero. While many always got their hands on Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, and the Avengers, I kept to the sometimes-less-than-moral ones like Son of Satan, Ghost Rider, and Dr. Strange. The Valiant universe, however, is one that I’ve always found interesting as many of the heroes are so atypical. When I was first notified of the Valiant Universe RPG, I was instantly excited!

I also have a bit of a love-hate relationship with superhero RPGs. To me, it’s very difficult to represent a superhero as a stat block without feeling horribly overpowered or that every encounter will feel so repetitious that it quickly becomes boring. The Cue System doesn’t really support those ideas because it’s simplicity really has no means of being overpowered as the dice are limited to d12 at the maximum, and you still stand a chance of failure. Even with super powers being usable, the focus is on the story and how the characters interact with it rather than how quickly they can blow up a building to get the bad guy inside.

When you combine this lack of overpowered ability with the atypical heroes of the Valiant universe, you really have established a beautiful marriage of setting and mechanics that allow the characters to interact with a world where they aren’t unstoppable. The only thing I would have liked to see different is a greater focus on creating characters (mostly because of the super powers), but then you wouldn’t really be playing in the Valiant universe if you created your own superhero.

The Valiant Universe RPG is truly my style of superhero because it’s not over-the-top super and carries that bit of sometimes-less-than-moral characteristics. However, I will admit that I’ve been seeing many more superhero games lately that try to avoid being overpowered and allow you to play these darker characters. It’s not that the Valiant Universe RPG is paving the way, but it sure has created an excellent walkway for other ideas to travel down on their way to publication!

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