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Published by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1979, Villains and Vigilantes was the second superhero RPG ever published (after Champions).
The game was somewhat unique (and to some, ludicrous) for its character creation system. Namely, values such as strength, intelligence, health, etc. for player characters were approximated by the GM from those values for the person playing the character. Powers were acquired by rolling dice and consulting a series of tables, sometimes resulting in bizarre combinations.
In 1986 FGU partnered with Eclipse Comics to release a four-issue Villains & Vigilantes mini-series that was largely a retelling of the introductory adventure Crisis at Crusader Citadel (which has the players applying to the Crusaders, the local hero team, but having to stand in for them when the Crusaders go AWOL just before a superhuman crime wave).
The game and many of its adventure modules can be purchased online. FGU has even started selling PDFs of new modules, and ones that were probably written a long time ago but kept in the pipe due to rights issues.
- Bad Humor Truck: One of the solo villains in Opponents Unlimited is a killer ice cream man.
- Bland-Name Product: The rookie heroes in the comic book tie-in have a "U-DRIVE" moving van.
- Bull Seeing Red: In the comic series there's a scene where several of the heroes are being menaced by the super-strong villain known as Bull. The heroine Evergreen uses a variety of plants to attack him, only to be warned that the red blooms on some of them are making Bull angry. She counters that bulls can't see red. The problem is Bull's a mutant human who was born with his powers, not a real bull. He has a criminal record dating back to his childhood, and as he's one of the Crusaders' archenemies they'd probably have that information readily available. Not to mention that he was in fact one of four villains named after animals from the module (Hornet, Vulture and Shrew). Point being that maybe the situation's different if we're not talking about what the old myth talks about.
- Canada, Eh?: "Now, put on your toque, grab a brew and jump on the dogsled, we're movin' out."
- Captain Ersatz: Proditor Capella from Opponents Unlimited is basically an evil version of The Greatest American Hero. Except, unlike Ralph Hinkley, Proditor Capella never lost his instruction book.
- Chess Motifs: Ranks within the Central Headquarters of Espionage for the Secret Service.
- Circus of Fear: Terror By Night
- Cosplay: Two of the adventures include visits to science fiction conventions where people in superhero costumes will hardly be noticed.
- Darker and Edgier: For the Greater Good introduces a team made up exclusively of villains with controversial backgrounds (one's a white supremacist, one's a former porn star, one's a religious extremist, one's a retarded pyromaniac, etc.).
- Death Is Cheap: Since this is based on comic books where death is often only a temporary setback, when a PC dies it's usually only permanent if the player wants it to be. If they come back from the dead they lose all their levels, though. Even lampshaded in the comic.
- Defeat Equals Explosion: In Devil's Domain, when the Player Characters kill any of the Devil's demons, the demons explode in a cloud of noxious brown smoke.
- Devil in Plain Sight: Gee, an embittered, antisocial guy with a name like Charles Malevolent couldn't possibly be a super villain, could he?
- Elephant Graveyard: In Devil's Domain, the devilope demons have one in the Coral Forest.
- Fun with Acronyms: Oh boy. Over the years we got CHESS, FISH, GIANT, TOTEM, BAD, VILE, FIST, RING, MEDUSA, SKULK, CRIME...
- And lately NOCK, CAPER, GALANT, frigging TIC-TAC-TOE...
- Government Agency of Fiction: C.H.E.S.S.
- An Ice Person: Characters with ice powers seemed oddly abundant throughout the various sourcebooks.
- Legion of Doom: The Crushers villain team is supposed to be this to the Crusaders, but only for a few of them say which Crusader they hate.
- Missing Episode: The Most Wanted series went straight from #1 to #3.
- Our Centaurs Are Different: Abomination demons in Devil's Domain.
- Plant Person: Evergreen of the Crusaders.
- Product Placement: A sourcebook for using The DNAgents comic book with the game was published.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Several examples in Devil's Domain.
- Steven Ulysses Perhero: Especially prevalent in Jeff Dee's early characters. For instance, Mirage's real name is Meryl Jordan, Bull is Bill Buckford, Mocker is Robot-MKR, Blizzard is Bob Ballard, Od is Omar Drokman, Leo is Leopold Linus, Samhain is Sam Haine...
- Tarot Motifs: The Tarot Masters villain team.