Villains and Vigilantes

Villains and Vigilantes (abbreviated as V&V) is a superhero-themed role-playing game which competed primarily with Champions and Superworld in the early to mid-1980s.

Villains and Vigilantes

Revised Edition Cover
Designer(s) Jeff Dee, Jack Herman
Publisher(s) Monkey House Games
Publication date 1979 (1st Edition), 1982 (Revised Edition), 2010 (2.1 Edition)
Genre(s) Superhero fiction
System(s) Custom


Villains and Vigilantes was the first role-playing game designed by Jack Herman and Jeff Dee and featuring illustrations by Dee. Fantasy Games Unlimited published the first edition of Villains and Vigilantes in 1979. The second edition of Villains and Vigilantes was published in 1982 with significant rule revisions. In 2010, Monkey House Games published a new edition of the game [1] although the lawsuit filed in U.S. Federal court, Arizona District, (Case no. 2:2011-cv-02036) asserts that Monkey House Games had no legal right to do so. That lawsuit has since been resolved and a settlement agreed upon.[2]


Characters in Villains and Vigilantes reflects the unique nature of the rules. Instead of playing a completely fictional character, players are encouraged to start the character-creation process with a version of themselves (presumably as the superhero's "secret identity.") V&V then uses random die rolls for the origins of superpowers (i.e., mutant, space alien, etc.) number and type, sometimes resulting in odd combinations. A further quirk of the system is that while players advanced in levels and hit points, superpowers did not, lending a different feel to characters at low, middle and high power levels.[3]

Another notable feature of the system is its approach to combat: a table outlines the effectiveness of the attacker's superpower (for example, an energy blast) against all of the defender's powers, reflecting the interplay of attack and defense powers.

Publication history

The first edition was created by Jeff Dee and Jack Herman and published by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1979.[4] This book was followed by an adventure published in 1981, "Break In at Three Kilometer Island",[5] and a pair of adventures in 1982 designed specifically to be playable with the original ruleset,[6][7] but to begin to introduce players to the revised second edition which was published later the same year. These two adventures are particularly notable for being authored by Bill Willingham, most recently famous as the creator of the Fables comic book series. Willingham's adventures also used characters that would later appear in his Comico comic book series, Elementals.

The second edition of Villains & Vigilantes, created by the same authorship team and also published by Fantasy Games Unlimited, was released in 1982 in two formats, both as a single rulebook[8] and in a box set format that contained the revised rulebook, GM's screen, dice and character sheets.[9] These were followed by a line of adventure module and rule supplements published through the 80's until the final supplement published in 1987, "For the Greater Good".[10]

In 2004 Fantasy Games Unlimited began republishing the original V&V rules and supplements as a series of electronic supplements via the DriveThruRPG online store, continuing to add supplements until nearly the entire back catalog is now available.[11]

In 2010, the original creators of the game released a new revised version, version 2.1, published through Monkey House Games.[12] This has caused some ongoing legal disputes over the years that have followed. That same year, Fantasy Games Unlimited began releasing new supplements for 2nd Edition Villains and Vigilantes,[13][14] for the first time since 1987, while Monkey House Games continued to release supplements of its own.[15][16] Both companies continue to sell their products, pending resolution of the rights dispute. As of April 20, 2016 a resolution has been agreed upon. [17]


Crisis at Crusader Citadel is an introductory adventure published in 1982 by Fantasy Games Unlimited and written and illustrated by Dee and Herman. The scenario begins with the players controlling neophyte superheroes, based on themselves, who are looking to apply for membership in the established super-hero team called the Crusaders. During the adventure, the player-heroes have to stop a crime wave being carried out by the Crusaders' opposite numbers, a villain team called the Crushers.[18]

Four years after the adventure booklet was published, the setting of the first adventure was used as the basis of a Villains and Vigilantes comic book mini-series by Dee and Herman published by Eclipse Comics. Each issue included character sheets for new heroes and villains and updated material for the existing ones for use with the game.

Two early adventures for the game by Bill Willingham, Death Duel with the Destroyers and The Island of Dr. Apocalypse, used characters that would later appear in his Comico comic book series, Elementals. Similarly, a Villains and Vigilantes character, The Dark, later appeared in a series of comic books by the independent publisher Continüm Comics.[19]

The game's creators are involved in a legal dispute with Fantasy Games Unlimited since 2011. They claim that Fantasy Games Unlimited, Inc. ceased to exist in 1991, and that their contract specified that in such an event the contracted publication rights would revert to them, and that therefore the current Fantasy Games Unlimited (which they claim is a separate legal entity, although with the same owner) has no right to sell V&V material.[20] A court case filed in U.S. Federal court, Arizona district (REFERENCE: case no. 2:2011-cv-02036) supports the claim by Fantasy Games Unlimited that the owner properly followed procedure to continue with the obligations of the New York business entity in continued operations as the Arizona entity. The case also asserts further that at the time of its dissolution in New York, FGU was current on all obligations with that state and in good standing which then devolved into the entity currently operating simply as Fantasy Games Unlimited.

A judgment given on July 11, 2012, on the first two counts of case no. 2:2011-cv-02036 in U.S. Federal court, Arizona district ruled in favor siding with Scott Bizar resulting in Jeff Dee and Jack Herman being found guilty of defamation and unfair business practice causing unspecified damages to the plaintiff. More judgments on other counts were still pending as of that date. The judgment ordered (not withstanding any other punitive measures to be determined for damages on all counts) the defendants within 30 days to post conspicuously in every place on the internet a retraction/corrective measure where their false statements have been posted.

In January 2013, the U.S. District Court of Arizona found[21] that Jeff Dee and Jack Herman own all copyrights to Villains and Vigilantes, including the previously contracted to Fantasy Games Unlimited. Additionally the court found that Fantasy Games Unlimited had been using Dee's and Herman's (the game creators') copyrighted material without permission by selling merchandise like T-shirts, comic books, and video games. Finally, court found that Fantasy Games Unlimited had legally abandoned its trademark rights to the title "Villains and Vigilantes" due to disuse.

On February 19, Scott Bizar filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
  3. "Clashing on the Plain of Imagination". Philadelphia Inquirer. June 7, 1985. p. F40.
  4. Dee, Jeff; Herman, Jack (1979). Villains & Vigilantes. Fantasy Games Unlimited.
  5. Kraft, Rudy (1981). Break In at Three Kilometer Island. Fantasy Games Unlimited.
  6. Willingham, Bill (1982). Death Duel with the Destroyers. Fantasy Games Unlimited.
  7. Willingham, Bill (1982). The Island of Doctor Apocalypse. Fantasy Games Unlimited.
  8. Dee, Jeff; Herman, Jack (1982). Villains & Vigilantes (2nd edition). Fantasy Games Unlimited.
  9. "Villains & Vigilantes (Boxed Set)". RPGGeek. 14 June 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  10. O'Hare, Jeff (1987). For the Greater Good. Fantasy Games Unlimited.
  11. "Villains & Vigilantes". Drivethru RPG. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  12. Dee, Jeff; Herman, Jack (2010). Villains & Vigilantes (Version 2.1). Monkey House Games.
  13. Satter, James (2010). Enter the Gene Pool. Fantasy Games Unlimited.
  14. Woodrum, David (2010). Citizen Report. Fantasy Games Unlimited.
  15. Dee, 'Manda (2010). Wheels within Wheels. Monkey House Games.
  16. Herman, Jack (2010). In Broad Daylight. Monkey House Games.
  18. Prescott, David (November 23, 1984). "Playing Roles, Playing Games". Chicago Tribune. p. N2.
  19. Naftali, Joseph. "The New Continüm," The Dark vol. 1, #1 (Continüm Comics, November 1990).
  20. "Villains & Vigilantes Creators Sue Game's Publisher". 4 August 2011. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  21. "Case 2:11-cv-02036-MEA Document 73 Filed 01/22/13" (PDF). Retrieved 24 July 2016.
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