Homemade Smallville distinctions

Besides my Over the Edge series, I’m currently running an another campaign using the Smallville system. The setting of the campaign is a homegrown one and it emerged from an impromptu one-shot game I ran at Ropecon two years ago. The Leads – player characters – are a group of supervillains who call themselves The Aristocrats and specialize in high-profile robberies, although the spotlight has been more on the character-driven conflicts and tensions within the team, as befits the system.

Before the start of the campaign I designed a couple of new distinctions to complement those in the Smallville core rulebook. Infamous Villain was quite self-evident, given that the protagonists of the story are villains themselves. Secret Identity also felt necessary to fill a gap in the ready-made distinctions – while the Smallville television series is all about keeping secrets and hiding who you are, in the end it has very little actual juggling between two distinct identities in the classical Peter Parker / Spider-Man sense.

The third distinction, Distrustful, was crafted for one player in particular, who needed a trait to reflect her character’s stand-offish nature. At that moment the Smallville High School Yearbook wasn’t available yet, but when it came out, the Distraught distinction introduced in that volume was deemed a better fit for the character and so Distrustful was subsequently traded out.

Sometime later, when the campaign was already well underway, two of the players who had picked the Genius distinction at the character creation expressed their concern that the second-level trigger of that trait didn’t feel appropriate for their characters. To address this concern, I designed a new version of the distinction’s d8 trigger, using the Boost benefit found in the Watchtower Report.

Unfortunately, while the session count of the campaign is approaching a two-digit number and the role-playing has been intense, these distinctions haven’t really seen that much use in-game. As a result, I really can’t vouch for their usability with any empirical certainty. If you decide to use these distinctions in your own Smallville game, feel free to drop some feedback of how they worked for you in the comments section.

Infamous Villain

Your exploits have earned you a fair amount of infamy and you are widely regarded as a dangerous menace and a public enemy. Roll the Distinction’s die when the fear and enmity you cause in other people would affect the outcome of the situation.

d4: Earn a Plot Point and Give your opposition a d6 when your villainous reputation precedes you.

d8: Add a d6 to Trouble to Reroll a die when you intimidate or awe someone as a villain.

d12: Add a d10 to Trouble to Increase your Afraid or Insecure Stress pool.

Secret Identity

You are known by two different identities which are generally thought to be separate persons. Roll the Distinction’s die when relying on your alter ego would be to your advantage.

d4: Earn a Plot Point and Add d6 to Trouble when protecting your secret identity lands you in a sticky situation.

d8: Add a d10 to Trouble to Reroll a die when you try to mislead someone by pretending you and your alter ego are two different persons.

d12: Spend a Plot Point to escape a Contest or Test without Giving In by changing to your other self.


Whether plagued by past betrayals or just careful to the extreme, you have trouble getting yourself to trust others. Roll the Distinction’s die when resisting manipulation, smooth-talking or outright lies. Compare this Distinction to Willful, which is more about simple stubborness, or Not born yesterday, which represents common sense.

d4: Earn a Plot Point and Add a d6 to Trouble when your distrustful nature puts you at odds with others.

d8: Spend a Plot Point to Reroll a die in a Distrustful roll.

d12: Earn a Plot Point and Increase your opponent’s Insecure or Angry Stress pool against you when faced with betrayal or abuse of trust.

Genius (alternate d8 trigger)

d8: Add d10 to Trouble and Boost your Truth when you seek knowledge heedless of the risks involved.


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