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  1. Power Profiles #13: Illusion Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF Descriptors, Countering & Features ... and more! Before we even get to the Descriptors section there is a discussion of the Illusion effect and how many effects with the illusion descriptors may not use the Illusion effect. There is also mention that with Insight skill ranks being limited by PL in a different way from Power Effect PL limits that GMs may want to adjudicate some house rules to compensate. Four descriptors cover the major forms of illusion, from the purely mental, to the entirely "real" holographic type effects that can be seen by machines. Countering discusses how illusion can counter illusion, and how real effects may reveal the false nature of an illusion effect (e.g. real water failing to put out a fake fire). A handful of features also display the more minor effects of illusory powers. But wait, there's even more! A sidebar is presented that discusses how to run Illusions as a type of Affliction instead of the normal Illusion effect rules. A two paragraph discussion on how realism of an illusion will help to make them more believable (in character) is followed by another about how characters overcome illusions. Lastly two new/expanded Extras are presented. The first allows for especially convincing Illusions while the second provides a devastating flexibility for Afflictions. Offensive Powers Four offensive powers, none of which use the Illusion base effect. Illusory damage provides and interesting mechanical hack for damaging effects that are illusion based. It's an interesting choice, and an interesting mechanic that allows the victim to realize that "it was all an illusion" to recover from the accrued damage. Defensive Powers Surprisingly there is no Enhanced Defenses effect within the three Defensive powers here. It's a good surprise though, as the Hidden Cover and Illusory Double powers are easily the bread and butter here with the former being a very clever effect. Movement Powers Obviously this section is short, and in this case short means one single power. Illusory Projection works much in the way that Astral Projection (from the Mental Powers profile) does, and a wise GM would be cautious in allowing a player to purchase it and use it to remain out of harm's way by projecting themselves into battle while their body remains safe and sound at home. Utility Powers, Other Illusion Powers, and Complications Five effects including the Illusion power, broken down and detailed with almost a half page all on its own. The other Utility Powers are all interesting in their own right expanding the abilities of illusion. Suggestions are also made to consider powers from the Mental Powers, Light Powers, and even Sonic Powers Profiles. Six Complications are detailed briefly, on half a page, the earlier sections having run generously long. Closing Thoughts After the Magic Powers Profile, I was extremely pleased to see the profile return not only to the established form, but also to step up and provide another example of a perfect product. There is something for all level of Mutants and Masterminds user in this profile with example powers share page space with optional rules and new Extras to expand on the core rules. I'm sure that I could find some nits to pick if I really wanted to, but after a thorough read I through there was nothing that sat poorly for me, and nothing that failed to deliver. Rating: 100%, There is something for everybody in this profile. Discussion of power mechanics as well as new Extras helps to elevate this product above and beyond the beginner or average user and make it one of the small handful of "must have" profiles.
  2. Power Profiles #12: Magic Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 12 pages • $1.99 • full color PDF Well, I honestly can say that this review surprised me. Unfortunately I can't say that that surprise was a good one. For eleven products we had a consistent format that broke down the profile with discrete sections to detail the various aspects of the power in question. The magic profile does away with this format almost entirely, with only the Complications section remaining. Instead this double sized Profile fills its pages with twenty greater magic beings, gods and angels, demons and unspeakable evils, all of whom come with a small selection of powers within their domain and theme. Unfortunately that means that the usual opening salvo of descriptors and features is gone, and sorely missed, in my opinion. Likewise, because effects are linked with the being or power that magicians can call on to gain it any semblance of organization as we have grown used to is gone. Finding Offensive, Defensive, or Movement powers amid the pages of this profile is difficult without knowing the source of those powers. The setting details for the twenty mystic beings are all culled from the second edition Book of Magic, and while some players will find this new, older players will have seen it before, reducing its value to them. Getting down to brass tacks however, this book does contain over eighty (80!) spells and their effects. The "fluff" information for the various entities is nicely presented and can be useful to make magic have a more unique personality, especially in the case of a magic heavy supers game. Had these fluff/setting aspects of this profile been added as an additional section to the normal power profile format the spells could have been made to reference back to the appropriate section while maintaining a stronger layout and organization. Two sidebars are presented as part of the profile, the first discussing the use of power stunts and improvised spells, including a suggestion to allow the occasional stunt spell to be used without the normal penalty for extra effort and instead have the entity called upon for the magic require a service of the character at a later time. I found this idea especially interesting as it could provide free story ideas to the GM. The second sidebar discusses creating and using your own entities, or entities outside of those presented. This is a useful inclusion as it should encourage players and GMs alike to think beyond the details already created and to look to other sources for inspiration. Closing Thoughts Unfortunately this product fails to earn its marks as a Power Profile. Despite being double the length it suffers from a non-intuitive organization, the lack of discussion for Descriptors and Features (an aspect of these products I have come to love), and reuse of setting information that many long time player will have seen before. Despite that, it is not all bad. There are numerous useful effects here, especially for new players. Likewise the setting information from second edition's Book of Magic will be useful and new to newer players. Two sidebars also provide useful suggestions for magic games to expand on, or add to, the information presented inside. Rating: 65%, This profile will be good for new players, and does provide some nice "game fluff", but vets will be confounded by the lack of new things and the many repeat powers, as well as the re-use of setting fluff from the second edition Book of Magic.
  3. Power Profiles #11: Luck Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF Descriptors, Countering & Features Three descriptors, countering, a sidebar optional rule and three features fill out this section. The descriptors lay a foundation on various permutations of luck with overt luck on one side and subtle luck via extreme skill on the other. The optional rule expands on the standard Luck Advantage allowing ranks to perform functions beyond the current standard re-roll, emulating other aspects of Hero Points. I like this rule, as it expands on the limited Luck Advantage without being overpowering as it had been in the prior edition of the game. The features are all interesting, providing good ideas on how to further develop a luck based character. Offensive Powers Five powers covering just about one page. Catastrophe is a luck based damage effect designed to twist fate in the favor of the character and cause harm to his/her enemies from a variety of "accidental" sources. Find Weakness and Lucky Shot show us two effects that are built primarily off of the idea of "naked extras", that is, extras not attached to a specific base effect; it's a nice thing to add to our tool kits as players and GMs. Jinx covers the general "bad luck curse" is a way that will alleviate the need for a luck based character to spend all of their Luck and Hero Points forcing negative re-rolls on the opposition. Overall these are all solidly built powers that show some effects that are not obvious and expend on current build methods. The only issue is that the description for Catastrophe mentions a Dodge roll for half damage that is not supported by the effect and extras of that power's build. Defensive Powers Five powers with 6 effects covering three quarters of a page. Of the five the two real winners here are Lucky Escape which, as discussed, is something that can even be given all NPC villains as part of the superhero genre. The other is Fortunate Failure, which is an interesting use of the Nullify base effect as a personal catch all counter for incoming effects. Movement Powers The two effects here are short, covering only a quarter page. Perfect Timing is a feature, and relies heavily on the GM and the creativity of the player to determine just how it will come into play. This power is a rare example where the description and effect just aren't quite enough, an example would have been nice. Utility Powers Five effects covering about three-quarters of a page. These fill in the spaces, with an obligatory mention of the Luck Advantage, and a pair of luck oriented sensory effects. The Reality Control power, which is a luck descriptor based Variable effect, has the same potential for abuse that more Variable effect based powers have. Any GM would be well advised to require a good description and/or explanation of how the effects take shape to avoid balance issues. Complications Seven Complications fill out the final section of the profile. The Accident, Fame, and Power Loss complications provide the most interesting story options in my mind, with Accident and Power Loss potentially lending themselves to larger story arcs for the GM to mine for ideas. Closing Thoughts Overall this profile ranks well. There are a few spots where examples would be very useful and an error with the Catastrophe power description do bring this down. The introduction of the Expanded Luck rule option is a nice one for GMs and players alike, as are the introduction of Enhanced Extras; expanding on the core rules is always welcome. Rating: 85%, While a cut above in many areas, minor errors and a need for examples in a couple of spots may limit some of this profile's utility.
  4. Power Profiles #10: Earth Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF Descriptors, Countering & Features Earth, stone, and ground. I find the detail of mass ranks for a given volume rank of material to be useful, especially where Earth moving and shaping effects are based on mass. Countering here points out the obvious counters, as well as the less obvious (like Earth as an elemental opposite of Air). Six features round out the section; you probably won't gawk at any of them, but each are, in their own way, staples of the Earth powered hero across any number of genres. Offensive Powers Eight powers including the night omnipresent "blast" equivalent. There are some real winners in here. The Chasm power is something that I'll probably use now that I don't need to do the heavy lifting of figuring out just how to build it. Three different effects, all linked, provides a complicated build, but it's an impressive power that will wow at the table. Likewise Earthquake is, if not nearly as complicated, a power that will really show off what the system can do, and make an impression during play. Defensive Powers Four power with five effects. The Rooting power will no doubt be considered a godsend by many who have been missing the immovable effect from second edition. That the effect itself is so simple does not detract from its utility, though one assumes it is still bound by PL limits (no mention is made) and that each rank confers a +1 for the checks described (again, no mention is made). Still the effect is a welcome one, and further offers unseen depth the system can handle. Movement Powers Five powers ranging from simple tunneling, to riding flying rocks. The standout power is Earth Wave which immediately conjures up how the same effect could be used for a certain well known comic character's ice slide movement power. Utility Powers Eleven powers make this section the largest, covering more than a page on its own. The basic techniques of moving and shaping earth are here, as are the ability to summon golem like creatures of earth & stone. Multiple earth based "forms" are also presented, although none are truly an "alternate form" in the traditional sense. Complications Seven complications cover the last page of the product. Accident, power loss, and weakness all get the most time, with the accident complication tying in directly with many of the powers that the earth user employs. Closing Thoughts There are a number of standout powers to be found in this Profile, and a great deal of time was spent on the utility aspects of earth control. This profile will benefit new players the most, though even experienced users of the system will find some effects of use as well. Rating: 90% - Some solid power effects elevate this above the average offering
  5. Power Profiles #9: Speed Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF Descriptors, Countering & Features Two descriptors, speed and light-speed, are given a slightly longer discussion than usual before we receive a quarter page talk about Speed Hazards. Specifically this talks about the comic book tradition of ignoring most of the deleterious effects and impossible logic behind superspeed. It's a nice couple of paragraphs that expands on the Speed Complications later on. Countering with speed is short, as Speed powers don't tend to have a lot of natural counters. Four Features round out the section. Offensive Powers Seven powers and a Side Bar! In this case the side bar advocates the use of speedy stunts in an array format. While most experienced players will find this old hat, I think newer players will be helped by it since it's not an obvious candidate for an array if you are new to the concept. As for the powers themselves we get a couple of different afflictions, a few different damaging effects, and, perhaps most interesting, we get an area effect disarm ability. This is nothing new to comics, disarming a dozen or more mooks within the blink of an eye is pretty standard, but its nice to see how it can be done within the rules and logic of the system. Defensive Powers Five powers and six effects. From simply moving fast enough to avoid being hit at all, to being immune to certain descriptors, and even the ability to become intangible. The powers here are nicely diverse, covering a wide range of potential effects and builds. The standout is probably Untouchable, which is an expensive power, but well worth it's cost if you can afford it. My only surprise and/or disappointment in this area is the complete lack of mention of the Evasion Advantage. It seems a natural choice here, probably as an add-on to the Fast Defense power. Movement Powers Nine powers and eleven effects. Much like the defensive powers before it this section is diverse, and really does a good job covering all aspects of a speedster beyond simply "running real fast." Everything from simple stunts of speed like running on water (sidebar: The Incredibles really made that one shine) and running up walls, to running faster than time itself (complete with a humorous pop culture reference), and an effect that proves that no matter how fast you flap your arms you will never fly. Utility Powers Six powers that fall into the "we couldn't fit them elsewhere" category. The meat of this section falls into the discussion on Quickness. Obligatory mentions of staple effects like enhanced initiative and regeneration (via super fast metabolism) are here as well. I can hardly fault the brevity of this section after the surfeit of goodness that we got with Defensive and Movement powers, but it is worth noting that those familiar with speed power may not find anything new here. Complications Seven complications are here. This section could have been a full page if the Speed Hazards discussion from earlier had been placed here instead, and as it is the Accident complication does reference back to that section. Power Loss and Disability both get the meat of the content, but I find that the Weakness and Addiction complications were the more useful reads, brief though they may have been. I think these are areas of potential that don't always see exploration by players, and that's a shame because they can add a good deal of character depth during the quieter moments of a game. Closing Thoughts Speed Powers really delivers. There's a lot here that new players, and those who are "new" to playing a speedster will find very useful, and so it earns its place among the other products of the line right there. The plethora of second tier movement and defensive effects that are given is a welcome surprise though, giving speedsters more options that just outrunning their enemies and any attacks, and allowing players to inject an amount of uniqueness that I felt was missing from the Speedster archetype. Minor though they may be my only real issue was the lack of a mention of Evasion as a Speedster Advantage, and the fact that I didn't see anything in the Utility section that surprising and new, but I could easily be nitpicking as well, I think most will find this a very worth $1 purchase. Rating: 95% - Speed Powers hits the ground running, and never really slows down, a few minor omissions barely diminish the overall quality and utility of the product.
  6. Power Profiles #8: Water Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF Descriptors, Countering & Features Four descriptors, some of which are more like descriptors for the aftereffects of water powers, a brief discussion on countering, four features, and a two paragraph discussion of being wet. I realize the last sounds kinda silly, but it's actually a rather useful discussion, because water, even as a passive non-power substance, can impact characters in a lot of ways that other descriptors we have seen thus far cannot. Offensive Powers Seven powers ranging from distracting squirt gun techniques to full on blasts. The Tsunami power is the most interesting, but also the most confusing. The effect's build uses multiple ranks of the Area extra to interesting effect but also appears to be costed incorrectly however. The Drown power is another than surprised me. Give how deadly such an effect could be I was caught off guard to find it built up as an Affliction. It's not wrong per se, but I was not expecting it to be built as such. Defensive Powers Six powers that truly run a wide gamut of possibilities. Present of course is the near constant presence of Protection, but also a Create based effect, regeneration, and even immunities. The section is short, but does present a notable diversity. Movement Powers Four powers, and yes, one is swimming. The Dolphin Leap power is probably the most unconventional. Another short section, covering only one third of a page. Utility Powers Nine powers and eleven effects covering just about a page and a third. This is in my opinion the best section of the product, with the Offensive Powers and Complications sections coming in behind it at second and third (or maybe third and secon), and the rest falling well behind that. By far the standouts here are the lengthy discussions on powers like Marine Mastery, Water Creatures, Water Form, and others. Water Form is notable for being the first time an alternate form has shown up in these Power Profiles. Technically we had an electrical form in last week's but that was a very simple Insubstantial effect with no add-ons nor the activation flaw. The Water Form power is a more fully built "true" alternate form, with multiple powers joined under an Activation flaw to truly transform the capabilities of the user. Complications One full page with seven entries. Of particular quality is the discussion on the Power Loss complication, and how not having access to water for effects that are limited to water should not grant a Hero Point under most situations, they have already received the benefit of a reduced cost, no double dipping allowed. The Accident discussion is also particularly relevant as, much like fire users, water users need to be more careful than most, lest their effects run wild and cause significant collateral damage. Closing Thoughts Water Profiles flirts with excellence, and in some spots achieves it, but a couple of sections are somewhat short and the Tsunami power is either home to an error, or could have benefited from a little bit more explanation on the interaction of the Extras and Flaws. Still, if this becomes a sign post for the average level of quality for the Power Profiles one can hardly complain of the content to cost ratio, even with a few minor missteps. If you play an aquatic hero you'll still want to consider this a must have, but those who don't will not suffer from passing it up either. Rating: 80%, stand out sections help to balance out some weaker ones, but the overall falls below some of the more recent excellence in the product line Addendum After posting a question about the Tsunami's cost on the Atomic Think Tank, and since posting this review initially author Steve Kenson has replied that the cost is in error and will be fixed as soon as the production staff can get to it. Customer service and post-release support is always a good thing to see, and Green Ronin continues to listen to the voice of their customers and fix the few mistakes that make it into their products.
  7. Secondaries #1, & #2: PSI Files Vitals: Published by Rhinotaur • 3 pages each • $0.99 each • B&W PDF The Secondaries are a a series of short PDFs that propose to provide not a single super powered NPC, but rather a handful of low powered, secondary NPCs (hence the name). These are fairly no frill products designed, art free, with compact stat blocks and backgrounds and game use that run roughly 1/3 of a page, with the stat block each NPC is roughly a half page. The intended use is to provide GMs with second string and backup NPCs that are more than just a generic collection of stats without personality. Each character is presented with a background to distinguish themselves from the stock template and make for a more unique and memorable character Secondaries #1 Three characters are provided here: Aunt June, Jenn Marie, and Butch all at PL 2 and filling the roles of elderly relative, attractive young woman, and athletic teen respectively. Secondaries #2: PSI Files The three characters here are intended to provide depth to the PSI Files: Grey Ops product also from Rhinotaur. Each of the characters here, Dr. Terra White, Derrick Chase, and Colonel Philip Prowess, is elaborated on in greater detail here than in the Grey Ops product. Closing Thoughts The idea behind the Secondaries line is an interesting one, and while I didn't see a strong need for it based on the first product, the second showed the promise of the idea as implemented. By expanding on second string NPCs from the Grey Ops product the Secondaries provided additional information for those GMs who desired additional detail, while allowing the publisher to maintain the focus of that product on the Grey Ops team. In this way the Secondaries proves a useful addition without also diluting the core intent of the primary product. The idea here has merit, and I would like to see more of it covering other NPC types, especially characters within the Law Enforcement community, underworld characters, and other NPCs that player characters would use in-game as contacts, informants, or have interactions with, during the course of a game. Personally, as a GM, I would find more use from those forms of NPCs rather than character specific ones, which I prefer to see players work up on their own to better dovetail into their character;s background. Rating: 75% - a good idea that would benefit by focusing on more GM used NPCs rather than character background NPCs Author's note: Review copies of these products were provided to me by the gentlemen at Rhinotaur for the purposes of this review.
  8. Power Profiles #7: Electrical Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF Descriptors, Countering & Features Three descriptors cover aspects of situations and effects that can impact play for an electrical character. Note of how to deal with electricity effects around conductive materials and electronic equipment and devices is also included which may prove helpful for a GM with a shockingly creative player. Countering covers the use of insulators to protect, or other related effects to disrupt electrical powers. Six features and a sidebar giving bechmarks for various voltage levels (car battery up through lightning strikes) add utility. Offensive Powers Six powers and a total of nine effects more than adequately cover the bases. Even an obvious effect like lightning is given not one but three suggestions for effects. Non-lethal effects also share the stage including an EMP write-up that was rather different from what I expected, but also elegant in execution. Defensive Powers Three powers but a total of six effects. The absorption effect offers a suggested extra that is new, and rather clever though a player or group of players could take advantage of it with careful play. The electrical immunity discussion is useful and dovetails nicely with the absorption effect as well. Movement Powers Three powers here including the lightning based teleport I had expected to see last week in the Weather Powers product. There are some interesting suggestions for limits are made here especially in regards to dependence on modern technology & infrastructure. Utility Powers Seven powers that cover a pretty wide swath of effects from generation of light to the summoning of lightning creatures. None of these stand out as having especially unique builds but all are solid additions to the arsenal of powers for an electrical hero. Of the lot, Electrical Shaping has the least obvious effect construction, and is worth taking a look at for similar effects using other energy types as well (e.g. fire, or lasers, etc). Other Powers & Complications Electricity, being related to magnetism and other electromagnetic effects, yield the possibility of magnetic, light-based, and even radiation-based power effects at extreme levels. Suggestions are also made on how to utilize Tech, Mental, and Weather powers as tie ins depending on your concept. Complications covers six common complications. The best here are the discussions on Disabilities and the Weakness/Power Loss combo. As usual the discussions are well thought out, though some may find more, or less, use than others. Closing Thoughts In the past few weeks the profiles product line has come into its own, falling into a pattern of consistent quality coupled with a high degree of both immediate usefulness as well as providing insights into the design intents of the system. Electrical Powers continues this trend; this is a solid product that uses the basic tools of the system in creative ways while once again suggesting unconventional ways to create effects that can be applied not just to the titular effect but to effects of a similar nature. Rating: 90%, Another solid entry in an increasingly "must have" product line.
  9. Hero Happy Hour Super Shots Vitals: Published by Rhinotaur • 4 pages each • $0.99 each (currently $3.96 for a bundle of 7) • color and B&W PDF The Super Shots product line details a series of characters from the Rhinotaur comic Hero Happy Hour, which is something I have not read ... yet. I say that because after taking a look at these seven characters and knowing that I was also sent the omnibus edition of the first five comics, I really do want to check out the comic, I probably would even if it weren't sitting for free in my DriveThruRPG account. But enough about a comic I'm not here to review (yet) and have not read (also yet), let's talk about the characters. Each Super Shot is a single character, their background, details on their skills and powers, and a couple paragraphs about how they fit into the Hideout Bar & Grill, which is a bar catering to supers within the comic. There's also a brief adventure hook. All seven characters follow that basic format with only minor variation. Each Super shot has two pieces of artwork; a full color full body shot on the first page, and a small B&W headshot. The art style is stylized, and a little chunky/blocky, but I think it works as well as any other for conveying the look and poise of the characters. The roughly half page size color shot is really the only color in the product outside of company identifiers and the like, but that's fine too; I'd rather not have full color borders and layout if it means that a small press can keep costs down, and at 99¢ a pop nobody can complain they don't get what they paid for. The profiles and descriptions work well as written and in some cases got a good laugh out of my by way of clever wording/phrasing. Making a product entertaining to read is as important as making it useful in my book, so the occasional chuckle is welcome. The stat-blocks for the characters, all in Mutants and Masterminds Third Edition, are generally laid out cleanly. There were a couple of instances where an Array was losing a grappling contest to some of the other powers, but nothing I couldn't get over once I figured out where one ended and the other began. #1 - Guardian, PL 14 One part Superman and one part Green Lantern. Police officer finds a dying alien and gains the powers of a paragon, super strength, flight, and a duty to patrol for super criminals and aliens. I loved the adventure hook with this guy, a loopy nod to the more innocent days of comics involving a "slightly evil" alternate twin. #2 - Phantom Dread, PL 14 A super villain with magic and a cape with darkness powers. Dread is a staple villain, apparently willing to throw down with any hero, or perhaps unfortunate enough to have to deal with all heroes, I guess that depends on how you look at it. He is fairly flexible in use, and downright powerful considering the main oomph of his powers comes from a magical variable effect. By the time I got to the end of his adventure hook I knew that this product line and setting were as much about the humor as the super heroics. #3 - Eradicator, PL 10 He doesn't sound like a hero does he? Well he's an anti-hero/vigilante really. He's also the one who made me chuckle the most. Eradicator an un-powered guy with an attitude, weapons, and a willingness to use both to give villains what they deserve. He's a little like Casey Jones from TMNT in that respect. #4 - Krimson Klaw, PL 9 What do you get when a punk gets his hands on an advanced piece of military power armor hardware? A punk with an advance military power armor suit. Klaw reads like the joke villain he's meant to be (at least I hope he was meant to be a joke). His armor's Klaw is still a dangerous weapon, but he's just not his own villain, being a pawn of the bigger fish (like Phantom Dread). #5 & #6 - Night Ranger, PL 12 & Scout, PL 8 An inventor with a tragic past and a desire for revenge, by way of justice. Night Ranger has all the usual crime fighter toys, and a crime fighter's problem sidekick as well. The Night Ranger's sidekick, Scout, is the kind of sidekick who needs a kick. An early life that was a bit rough, and a lack of real responsibility, mark him as a bit of a foil for his mentor. #7 - Trouble, PL 10 Trouble is hard to put a finger on. She's an amnesiac with impressive combat skills and no powers. She's a villain, but it seems that is as much a factor of being a "wild child" type and less that of the world dominating, city destroying, monomaniacal type. She's a martial artist type with a penchant for improvised weapons, and impressive physical abilities, including a nicely wrought healing trance. Closing Thoughts On their own each character has enough going on to well justify the price of admission, especially, I would imagine, if you were already a reader of the Hero Happy Hour comic. As stand alone NPCs to drop into your campaign they work, though in such a situation I would actually recommend the bundle for $3.96 as there is a great deal of cross reference between the characters with regards to their backgrounds. Plus $4 for 7 is a great deal no matter how you shake it. Plus they give me a hint at what to expect from the comic, which looks to be rather fun. I'll review that soon. That said these aren't perfect either. I mentioned that I had some trouble with the formatting of arrays not being clear, its a minor issue, but it's there. There are also a fair number of typos and spelling errors. Not an egregious number, but enough to catch my eye. Again, not a deal breaker by any means, at least not for me. The art style may not appeal to everybody, but honestly art is subjective, and I don't ding points unless it fails to convey the subject. The artwork here is stylized, but it works. Luckily you can get a taste for it from the preview pages on DriveThruRPG so if art is enough to steer you away from something look before you leap. Rating: 85%, These are solid characters running across a number of PLs and backed up with some humorous writing. Spelling and formatting issues are present, but not cripplingly so. Art snobs should look before they buy. Author's note: Review copies of these products were provided to me by the gentlemen at Rhinotaur for the purposes of this review.
  10. Power Profiles #6: Weather Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF By now you should either be familiar with the basic layout of the Power Profiles series (if you aren't please go here, or here to read my earlier reviews of the first two Power Profiles) so I'll dispense with the usual description and right into what was good and what was less so. Descriptors and Features Descriptors, Countering, and Features covers a full page right out of the gate. There's some good advice here in terms of how Weather Powers often imply other power effects, and can often counter effects of many different descriptors depending on the specific powers the character has. Features has six suggestions ranging from amusing (always remaining dry, and comfortable regardless of the weather), to using weather to backup your intimidation (or other social skills as appropriate) uses, gaining a circumstance bonus. Offensive Powers Eight powers including the nigh ubiquitous lightning bolt to less frequently seen and more clever powers like "Exposure". The real meat here is in the subtle little things slipped into some of the effects. There's an affliction here (ok there's a LOT of affliction here; it's a veritable Affliction showcase) that is Overcome by Damage, that is a character physically breaks out of the effect by breaking out of the effect. It's a brilliant little addition to the stable of awesome that is Affliction. Additionally the Wind Blast power finally puts into official writing how offensive "knock-back" attacks built on Move Object work. It's a common sense approach and one that most people had assumed, but its nice to see it in an official source. Defensive Powers Four powers with six example effects covering Fog, Immunity to Weather, and even defensive use of wind to protect. I wish a little more time had been spent discussion how concealment attacks work, but mostly because like the aforementioned Move Object knock-about effects there have been more questions than not about it. Movement Powers Two powers and a quarter of a page. There's nothing of particular note here unfortunately. A lightning based Teleport effect would have been an interesting addition here for instance. Utility Powers Three powers here including Weather Control that has a discussion that pushes past a quarter page on its own. Weather Control provides a rather different take than I would have expected. I won't go into detail but where I expected to see the Variable Descriptors extra I didn't; I suppose that since all of the potential environmental effects still fall into the "weather" descriptor they wanted something a little different. Their approach here is also more robust, functioning almost like a mini-variable effect. It's elegant in its simplicity. Complications The standouts here are Accidents, Power Loss, and Weakness. Accident especially seems like a complication that will depend on the tone of a game series, with games of a more 4-color tone being much more forgiving. Power loss discusses the effects of "artificial atmospheres" like those found within large buildings, space stations, and undersea domes, as well as the lack of weather in space (most of the time). Weaknesses discuss the idea of characters who are tied to their environment, and could lose more than just their weather control abilities when cut off from it. There's good stuff here, and another four complications are mentioned as well. Weather Arrays, Other Weather Powers, and Weather Challenges To fill out the product there is half a page covering the use of arrays (often dynamic), challenges, and other possible powers. The mention of other powers that aren't covered by this Profile that could fit are Air Powers, Electrical Powers, Ice Powers, and Water Powers, all of which are to be featured as upcoming Power Profiles. Green Ronin kinda feels like they are reaching into my wallet here, but I really can't complain if the quality of the Profiles remains where it has been lately. The discussion of Challenges is especially useful as it reminds potential GMs that sometimes it's not going to be good for a story for the players to be able to counter an event or effect with a single use of a power. It suggests that the encounter become a challenge with contested rolls to see either how long it takes to counter the effect, or to see who gains the upper hand (when its two Weather Controllers competing). I imagine a group of heroes facing a raging wild fire. The weather controller could just whip up some rain and they be done with it, but that would remove the ability for the other PCs to participate and also be anticlimactic. By making such an encounter one where the weather controller needs to gain a number of contested successes over the wild fire itself with each roll taking rounds, minutes, or even hours, the GM can heighten the drama and allow other PCs to throw their efforts into the encounter. Closing Thoughts Weather Powers is another very strong product. Not only for providing some very useful ideas and discussion about weather control, but also providing answers for a known rules "issue" as well as suggesting uses for Extras and resistances that may not be obvious to the average gamer. The product's sole weakness is the somewhat lacking Movement Powers section. If you play a weather controller you can probably do worse with $0.99 today. Rating: 90% - A solid Profile. I only wish a little more could have been done with the Movement powers.
  11. Power Profiles #5: Tech Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF By now you should either be familiar with the basic layout of the Power Profiles series (if you aren't please go here, or here to read my earlier reviews of the first two Power Profiles) so I'll dispense with the usual description and right into what was good and what was less so. Descriptors and Features We kick off with a good 2/3 page on descriptors for tech based powers. *sound of scratching record* Wait, no, I should back up. Power Profiles: Tech Powers, encompasses powers that control and interface with technology. There is some discussion herein about technologically based powers but the product wisely points the reader to look at Power Profile #2: Armor Powers, if what you really want is guns, rockets, and laser beams. OK, then, sorry about that. Descriptors for tech are fairly broad, with suggestions like “Computer”, “super science”, and “machine” in addition to the exceedingly broad “technology”. GMs will need to exercise their own judgement based on their taste and campaign if something like “technology” is simply too broad, it’s definitely a matter of taste and your campaign, but I would be hesitant to allow something as broad as “technology” in a high-tech science fiction styled game. Countering is discussed briefly, and mentions that with control over the myriad of technology in the world today it might well be easy to figure out a way to counter powers of many, many, other descriptors in addition to those that share your own. Countering a fire by activating a building’s fire suppression systems, for example. Features suggest little utility powers like being a universal remote (handy for watching your favorite team at the local pub), or having a “built-in” minor technological function. Offensive Powers Four powers are given here, each being different in terms of effects used and effects gained. These power control technology in some respect; as a result they may provide a somewhat less than reliable mode of attacking the super villain of the day. Of the four Animate Machines is easily the most utile power and the one requiring the greatest amount of preparation ahead of time as it functions off the Summon effect (as it did in second edition). Defensive Powers Two powers, both of which are built off the Immunity effect, deal with the character being, in some way, part (or entirely) machine. This section points you to the Armor Powers profile for things like armor, force fields, and the like, which I feel is a nice way of say “look we don’t want to waste your time and money by repeating ourselves”. Honestly I’m glad to see this; respect for your customers is always appreciated. Unfortunately this section also has a sentence that was overlooked by editing and grammar police. Hopefully they’ll fix it and make an updated file available. Movement Powers Three powers in this section; two of which involve digitizing your character a-la Tron and moving around via the vast networks in our modern age. The third involves using tech at your disposal to build (albeit in a mere moment) a “ride” of sorts. Again, if you are looking for things like built in rockets, or a personal pan-dimensional teleporter, you should check out the Armor profile instead. Utility Powers The real meat of this product; containing 8 powers, and more than a full page this is where we get all the odds and ends powers that make the tech guys fun to play but don’t really fall into the other categories. The best of them is probably Technomorph, which is basically a Variable effect that works in the same way as the title character from the Generator Rex cartoon, allowing the PC to transform his body parts into technological items at will. It’s expensive, but it should be, and the implicit descriptor restriction of “Technology” is an important balancing factor. Complications The Complications offered are fairly standard fare but do receive good suggestions on how to tailor their effects to a tech character. Closing Thoughts Tech Powers dives into a type of powers that is probably best exemplified by words like cybermancy, technokinesis, and the like. Control over machines, their functions, and their use is convered in depth while allowing the Armor Power profile published a few weeks prior to deal with the overt uses of technology. If you intend to make a character who interfaces with computers and other tech and bends them to their will this will prove indispensable. Rating: 95%, a solid entry
  12. Power Profiles #4: Summoning Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF By now you should either be familiar with the basic layout of the Power Profiles series (if you aren't please go here, or here to read my earlier reviews of the first two Power Profiles) so I'll dispense with the usual description and right into what was good and what was less so. Descriptors, Features, and New Modifiers! Yes, that's right, new modifiers! Two of them in fact, an Extra and a Flaw. Responsive makes it easier for your character to command his faithful legions of underlings while Self-Powered acts as a bridge between the Summon effect and the Minion Advantage. Without going into detail it should suffice to say that both add useful new dimension to the core effect. Descriptors covers a lot of ground from cross dimensionally summoned minions to necromantically created undead to technological robots and the like. There's also a small section discussion how to deal with large groups of the same kind of minion (e.g. 10 identical skeletons). The goal is to speed up play without also making the extra bodies just count as extra bodies. It works, I've used methods similar to those discussed in the past and it keeps things reasonable without assuring that with enough peon level minions you will still score a few critical hits by rolling each attack on its own. Such play is both unfun for all but the summoner and slows the pace down. Features is rather short, but then Summoning isn't a power set that tends to lend itself to a lot of itty bitty merits. The monitor feature is nice, allowing the PC to know how all his little guys are doing with but a thought (and implying that doing so is not otherwise automatic). Meanwhile the Servants Feature is a clever implementation of the old saying "many hands make short work". Offensive Powers The effects here pretty much cover the big variations of the summoning theme. You get an animate object power, a "construct" power for things like a minion made of fire or shadow, a duplication effect, among others. These range in cost from 3 pp per rank to a whopping 14 pp per rank, and really offer a good set of guidelines for potential players and GMs to see how summon effects ought to look. That said there's also nothing here that jumps out as a "why didn't I think of that" either. Defensive Powers Why have minions if you can't sacrifice them to save your own butt? I don't know either. That's what we get here though. It's a short section, with only 2 entries, one of which is a discussion of the merit of the Sacrifice extra added to your base Summon effect. Depending on your descriptors this could be a very villainous addition indeed. The second is called "Decoys" and makes use of the advice given in the "Minions as Descriptors" sidebar from the rule book. I approve. Movement Powers Summon Car! I'm already thinking that my next super high tech hero needs to have a summon vehicle effect with a removable "device", think the lightcycles from Tron. Yes indeed summon vehicle is an option, as is the similar Summon Steed (phantom horses and the like). The winner of this section though is the teleport based Castling power, which, if you play Chess, is probably already apparent based solely on the name. I love it, it's the kind of clever combat maneuvering power that isn't immediately obvious during char gen, but is almost immediately received as "cool." Utility Powers The kitchen sink of Summons covers three effects all of which are things which I have seen people ask how to do. Anatomic Separation, Gestalts, and Empowerments. All are based on the Summon effect and are given their due course, covering a little more than half a page between the three. The use of Limit and Side Effect flaws are especially interesting as they lead the player into new territory with regards to other "problem powers". Complications Nearly a full page here (99% of one) and this one actually jumps out as being done a little better than some of the prior Complication sections. Minions as potential relationship complications. Minions as a weakness (what happens to the hero when he can't call for aid as usual?), and how minions might effect one's reputation, among others, are detailed here. I especially enjoyed the brief discussion of the "reverse minion" that is the very powerful Summon controlled by the very mortal and normal summoner. It's not something you see very often, but it holds a lot of potential. Closing Thoughts Summoning Powers made me take a serious look at an effect that I often avoid, and not just as a Player but as a GM. It provides some sound advice for both in terms of how to build and play with effects without sending the game off the rails, while simultaneously providing some seriously clever new uses for the power and for other powers using the "Minions as Descriptors" method. If you have a Summoner in your group, or want to play as one, this one is a worthy purchase for only a buck. Rating: 95%, This is one that floats up into the cream of the crop.
  13. Power Profiles #3: Mental Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF I'll keep this review short and sweet since I've already gone into some depth breaking down the structure and contents of these products. The third in the Power Profiles series (review of #1 here, and #2 here) follows the same format already established by its predecessors. What this entry does that those two didn't however is what elevates this particular product, and more importantly shows the true potential of the entire series. So what does Mental Powers do that the Fire and Armor entries didn't? It goes above and beyond what one could do with the book alone without a great deal of experience and willingness to fumble with house rules. From minor GM suggestions like a sidebar on lasting mental effects, to major add-ons like a handful of new limits or limits with greater detail on how to use them this profile not only adds depth with regards to its designated subject, but breadth as well. The Features and Powers all go into the same depth that the prior installments have with standouts being the write ups for Possession, Mind Switch, as well as many of the Utility Powers. Even those powers we've seen before are given the expected quality description, and many show additional layers of cleverness in their builds that becomes evident with time. Good examples is the use of the Side Effect built into the Astral Projection Power. Side Effect isn't a new flaw, but its use here shows a new angle on the flaw, one that isn't intuitive but that opens up a plethora of potential new uses for it. Closing Thoughts: Mental Powers takes the promise of the Profiles line and makes it real. Providing not only a discussion of the effects and powers that fall into the chosen descriptor, but also expanding on rules in both major and minor ways, and adding to the greater Mutants and Masterminds tool set to allow players to build any kind of character they can imagine. Where the first two Profiles were nice to have, and even useful, this is the first entry in the series that feels like a necessary purchase, one that will add to the game no matter what your experience level with the game. Rating: 100%, The third outing in the Power Profiles series finally takes all of the potential of this series and lets it shine.
  14. Devilish Duos #2: Strange Attractors Vitals: Published By Vigilance Press • 18 pages • $4.99 (currently on sale for $2.99 thru Feb. 10 2012) • full color PDF The second product in the Devilish Duos product line comes out taking a swing at Valentine's Day with 18 pages of romance-themed content. The product greets the reader with a stellar cover by Denise Jones and colored by James Dawsey. If you saw this on a bookshelf at your FLGS you'd know what it was about even without reading the title. As customary the artwork is reprinted on the second page without the titles and branding. The credits page has an "Obligatory Introduction About Romance, Sex, and Squid-Men…" which had me laughing, and readies the reader for what's to come; all with tongue planted in cheek. Going into the meat of the book things start out with a discussion about romance and comics; a history lesson, and a reminder that though it may get overlooked romance is a part of even superhero comics. Segueing from history into a lite discussion of the way that super powers dovetail into romance introduces the reader to the four "C"s of superpowers and romance. The rules section takes up a massive seven pages. Starting with a discussion on Advantages, both those in the core rule set, as well as some new ones, it moves on to talk about Features and Skills, before getting into a rules system. The system is fairly low impact, calling for rolls only at major milestones (first impressions, dates, and eventually break ups) while also encouraging role-play not only to help set the stage and tone of the romance but also as a means for the GM to provide bonuses or penalties based on that same role-playing. Extensive examples are provided and are both entertainingly engaging, and very well written to showcase the rules, as well as the various ways that powers, Advantages, and skills interact within the system they have created. Lastly, but not least, are the Devilish Duo themselves; Amp and Rail are a pair of super powered characters who used to be an item, but have recently taken a trip to Splitsville. While not villains as such they are both deep in the throes of post-breakup recovery. Three adventure/plot hooks are provided, and show how each character can be used, either as a foil for PC-NPC romance, or as a potential thorn in the side of the other NPC. A third character is given a brief write-up as well, as part of one of the hooks. The characters are interesting, with believable backgrounds, and Amp in particular has a very interesting and original power-set. Closing Thoughts: With two complete characters (plus a 3rd with stats but limited background), 7 pages of optional rules, and a page of discussion, Strange Attractors is jam packed with content. Everything within is written to a high standard, and the rules and discussion present a well put together way to add some mechanical crunch to the soft and squishy side of love. I've never once wanted rulesy crunch in my RPed romances, but the rules presented here all service the story while still giving "roll-players" something to chew on. There's nothing to be found in these 18 pages that doesn't work on one level or another. I can't even find a nit to pick. Rating: 100% - Vigilance Press really knocked it out the park with this one. At the current sale price of $3 this product is a steal when compared to Green Ronin's own Threat Report and Power Profiles lines.
  15. Power Profiles #2: Armor Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF Armor Powers. In this case armor one wears, not armor as in protective powers. High tech power armor, cybernetic armor, magical suits, and more. As before this profile is broken down into a discussion of all kinds of powers one might find on armored suits including sections discussing Descriptors, Features, Offensive Powers, Defensive Powers, Movement Powers, Utility Powers, and Complications. ​As before a single half page piece of artwork adorns the front page of the product, and the remainder of the pages are artwork free, but cleanly laid out and easy to read. What this product has that last week's did not is a sidebar presenting a handful of optional rules (in this case for the Impervious extra), and a discussion of the Removable extra. These are the high points of the product, the former providing some legitimacy for a handful of house rules for Impervious (who's changes from the second edition have proven controversial), and the latter nicely elaborating on Removable's place both in game terms and in descriptive terms, as well as when to use it, and not to use it. The Descriptors section offers some good advice to help define the armor, and how it works, be it magical or technological, nanotechnology, or clockwork. Features gives a few examples of simple one point feature ideas like hidden compartments and the ability to project a holographic display (useful for tactical maps, and information displays, but not a full Illusion). Getting into the various power sections is where the product begins to break down in my mind. There are some good descriptions of the standard options for many of the power effects one associates with armored suits. What disappoints are the many repeat powers seen previously in the Battle-suit archetype as well as the GM Kit. For player without the latter this will provide more utility than for those who do. The discussion of the powers are still relevant, and well written, and there is the addition of the idea of "mental shielding" as a power to protect the pilot from attacks against the mind. The final section is a discussion of Complications that can apply to the user of an Armor suit. This section breaks out and details many of the genre's staple complications well, providing a little extra information to help players decide which may apply to their characters. My initial reaction to this product was disappointment. I felt that there were too many repeated powers presented, with too few new ones, and none that offered a deeper insight into the depth of the game's mechanics. After stepping back from it and then completely rereading the product I feel that those issues are still present, but are leavened somewhat by the features that are new and do stand up well. Namely the aforementioned discussions on the Removable and Impervious extras, as well as the general quality of the writing. I also find that while Magical armors are discussed in the Descriptors section, they pose a missed opportunity within the product. There is little display of powers and effects for magical armors; weapons, defenses, and other powers are discussed thoroughly, but almost exclusively in terms of Technological descriptors and not Magical. I think that expounding on magic swords, mystical ranged attacks (how to describe a missile type attack for instance with magical descriptors instead of tech.), and how the various Utility and Movement effects would interface with Magic as a descriptor. Closing Thoughts: My primary concern coming out of Fire Powers was that I felt it had been a soft pitch and I wanted to see a more challenging power type; after Armor Powers I still have that desire. I feel like the product focused a little too much on Technological armors, and missed out on diving into other descriptors like magic. Additionally there were too few new effects and effects with unconventional builds. Despite all of this the quality of the writing that is there is good, and the discussion on two of the game's Extras is insightful and useful even for seasoned players. Rating: 70%, The second outing in the Power Profiles series stumbles a little, but still provides useful tips and tools.
  16. Power Profiles #1: Fire Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF In 2011 Green Ronin started weekly digital publishing with the Threat Reports. In 2012 they are moving to a new weekly product in the Power Profiles series. This series will explore specific types of power based on descriptors. The first in this series is Fire Powers. At 6 pages long (5 of content and 1 for licences and credits) the Power Profile breaks down into a discussion of all kinds of Fire Based Powers. The product is broken into sections discussing Fire Descriptors, Fire Features, Offensive Powers, Defensive Powers, Movement Powers, Utility Powers, and Fire Complications. ​A single half page piece of artwork adorns the front page of the product, and the remainder of the pages are artwork free, but cleanly laid out and easy to read. The first section talks to fire as a descriptor and what impact that will have on the game in terms of potential side effects and complications during play. The Features section discusses minor boons and effects that often accompany flame powers, such as the ability to light a small flame like a lighter, or visual effects, and other ancillary uses that don't utilize a specific mechanical effect. The four sections discussing powers provide a small discussion of various powers, and then show you and example of how to build such powers from the game's core effects. The Complications section goes into detail discussing common complications that characters with fire powers tend to have. The product shines in the powers section, showing a variety of buildable effects, some of which are fairly standard while others prove surprisingly elegant in design for difficult powers (the build for Pyrokinesis stands out in my mind). The product does a good job of spreading the love around and showing that a descriptor like fire need not encompass only damaging powers. New gamers, and players new to the Mutants and Mastermind system will no doubt find the product useful for character generation (though not nearly as good as the superior http://www.rpgpost.com/topic/12736-mutants-masterminds-3e-gm-kit-review/]GM Kit). Closing Thoughts: Fire is a power type that has been done quite thoroughly in comics and games prior to this. As such its a bit of a softball first product. At the same time Power Profiles: Fire Powers does go into depth strongly, and thoroughly covers the subject. If the series is able to move forward and do as well with power types that are far less common and more unique this series should become a fine addition to Green Ronin's product stable. Rating: 90%, A strong first outing but the real strength of the product series won't be known until it starts to tackle powers that are far less common and more difficult to discuss.
  17. Devilish Duos #1: Smoke & Mirrors Vitals: Published By Vigilance Press • 10 pages • $1.99 • full color PDF Devilish Duos, as one might expect, provides a pair of villains who work together. In this case the supernatural pair of Smoke, the ghost of a murdered woman, and Mirrors, a woman who long ago made a dark pact with evil entities from beyond our world. Similar to the Threat Report products from Green Ronin the meat of the product are the two villainous characters. Smoke is a ghost, wronged in life, and murdered, she was unable to move beyond after death and instead has become a restless spirit who kills to ease the pain of her soul. Her powers revolve around her ghostly condition and manipulation of the powers of fire and smoke that ended her life. Her partner, both in mayhem and in love, is Mirrors. Mirrors made a pact with dark gods that granted her powers of invisibility and stealth. In return she kills to make sacrifices to those same dark gods. Both characters are given full background and personality write-ups, as well as complete stat blocks for Mutants and Masterminds Third Edition. In addition there are character standees, a page worth of adventure hooks, a sidebar about using the pair with the Oktobermen, and some nice full color artwork. Closing Thoughts: For $2 you get a pair of supernatural characters, suitable for any darker superheroes game, or modern or gothic horror. The product dovetails nicely with the Oktobermen, being the same genre and approximate power level, and would make a nice add-on for that team in a game (or even possibly villainous rivals). Rating: 90% - Easily on par with the Threat Reports from Green Ronin.
  18. Due Vigilance #1: The Oktobermen Vitals: Published By Vigilance Press • 22 pages • $7.99 • full color PDF The Oktobermen are a supernatural villain group that contains a half-man-half-demon, two women, a child, and a member who falls firmly into the “Other: [please explain]” category. The Oktobermen are presented as a sort of magical A-Team; available for hire if you have the right price and can find them. Let’s be clear, however, that these guys have no heart of gold, at best one of them may have a heart of slightly less than black, but the truth is that these are villains out for power and the means to get more. The first thing you see, of course, is the cover which depicts the group. The cover art is repeated again within without the text. It’s good cover art, and without even going further you know that this isn’t a group of happy-go-lucky heroes that you would want entertaining your children. Particularly effective are the skull with a pentagram on its forehead and glowing eyes, and the one-eyed teddy bear hanging from a noose with its mouth stitched shut. People say not to judge a book by its cover, but I knew that this wasn’t going to be cuddly fun. The title page gives us a second group shot of the Oktobermen. This time it’s a composite image of all their portraits from later in the book, it’s notable because it’s the only place that “Mr. Bear”, the minion of one of the members, is depicted other than the cover. I loved the look of the deranged bear costume with the autopsy style “Y” stitching on its torso. The meat of the product starts on the third page with the group's background detailing their history, the team’s dynamic, brief breakdowns of the members, and their common tactics. This includes one of the nicest surprises I’ve found inside a product like this to date in the form of a “relationship chart.” The Relationship Chart is a nice one-page info-graphic showing each member, with lines connecting them to each other accompanied by brief phrases explaining how they view the other members. White Wolf uses a similar concept in their products to show how different clans of vampires, tribes of werewolves, and the like see each other, but they have never done it as well as it is done here. Each member is shown and you can quickly see where the lines of fear, respect, lust, and other emotions are drawn, and all on one page. It’s a really nice addition that I hope Vigilance Press continues to use in future products. Moving on from there are the full write-ups of the six Oktobermen. Each gets a written background, personality, and a description of their powers and abilities. This is in addition to a character portrait and full stats for M&M 3e. A few also have sidebars relevant to their use in game by the GM. Characters range from PL 9 to 12 with a variety of abilities all supernaturally themed. A quick rundown follows: Bookbinder – A bombshell sorceress who uses book based magic to edit reality and capture enemies within the stories of her books. The Floating Skull – A floating skull (duh!) inhabited by the spirit of the necromancer who called it home in life. A master of curse magic. Hexenwulf – A psychopath who uses an enchanted wolf’s pelt to become a werewolf. One of the team’s front line fighters. L’Enfant Terrible – A child of pure evil. This boy ain’t right. He is accompanied by Mr. Bear his sidekick in a bear costume. Sister Sanguine – A fey empowered woman who uses blood magic. She’s a sociopath who does what she wants when she wants. Springheel Jack – A half-demon born in the 19th century. He is the leader of the group, and is using them to try and become a full blood demon. Each of the characters is given an interesting background, but the standouts to me are Bookbinder and Sister Sanguine, with Springheel Jack coming in a close third. The two female members of the group are given write-ups that deviate further from the stock standard than the others and are more interesting for it. Looking at the builds of each of the characters there are many instances of unique or non-standard powers. Notably there are two different attack powers built on the Movement effect that are quite different, and a use of a Variable effect in a way that didn’t make me cringe. Even those with less unconventional builds see diverse use of Extras, Flaws, and effects to create a flavorful set of abilities and powers that will help bring the character to life in game. Lastly there is a page with four possible story/adventure hooks and two more usable minor characters. This is followed at the end of the product by a page of printable full color standees. I’m not a player who uses grids and maps, but it is a nice touch to see them providing those tools to those who are. The Good: The cover artwork goes a long way to set the tone of the product before you even open it. The interior artwork works as well. The concept of the product is well thought out and well executed with strong write-ups, interesting motivations, and an especially well-done section discussing and showing how these six misanthropes get along (or not). The product is also strengthened by some unique and non-conventional effect and power builds that really set these characters apart from the standard archetypes. The Bad: The formatting of the characters’ powers could have been done better. It was difficult to tell which powers were Alternate Effects of other powers on some characters. Furthermore some of the independent effects that were gathered under the banner of a single power name were not clear; indenting all associated effects would have been nice. The Ugly: Unfortunately there are typos. This is par for the course in most RPG products, no matter the size of the company putting them out. Par for the course, but still a negative on the product; this could have used one more set of eyes for a careful re-read. Also, two of the characters didn’t have their PLs listed next to their names. This isn’t a big deal, as it is not much effort to calculate based on defense and offense, but it’s a miss that should have been caught as the headers are pretty pronounced and separate from the remaining text. Closing Thoughts: For $8 you get six characters who work as a dysfunctional team of evil mystical mercenaries. There’s some nice artwork, some great writing, and relatively few negative points to drag them down. If you are looking to add some dark supernatural aspects to a game this is a good start, with possible uses as recurring long term foes, and even the potential for Jack and his team to become a series’ “big bad”. When the biggest complaint about a product is a handful or typographical and formatting errors you know you have a good product on your hands. Rating: 95% - Aside from some typos, and slightly imperfect formatting, this is a product that really meets the expectations of its price tag. Update: Vigilence Press has updated the Oktobermen PDF correcting the spelling and grammar issues as well are reformatting the stat blocks to be more easily readable & better organized. You gotta hand it to a company that acknowledges mistakes in their product and seeks to correct them. Author's note: A review copy of the product was provided to me by the gentlemen at Vigilance Press for the purposes of this review.
  19. Mutants and Masterminds Third Edition: Gamemaster's Guide Released just a spare few days ago the new (but not all-new) Gamemaster's Guide for the Third Edition of Mutants and Masterminds provides more than 200 pages of archetypes, minions, optional rules, and advice for experienced and inexperienced GM's alike. I picked up the PDF for $17.50, but a preorder of the dead-tree version will run you $32.95. As usual for Green Ronin, if you pre-order through them, or through one of the many FLGS that participate in the "pre-order plus" program you when you pre-order the dead-tree copy you get an offer at time of purchase for the PDF at an additional cost of $5. The book is full color, 222 pages, broken into 6 Chapters and one Appendix (and this one you won't want to leave at the hospital). This is a snapshot review, I haven't completely devoured this book yet, but I wanted to get my thoughts out while still fresh. The Good: There's a lot of solidly useful stuff in here. The Appendix stands out as something that I would have paid good money for as its own entity, even at a mere 20 pages long. It gives you nine statted and mapped villainous lairs. The maps are especially nice, full page and full color with a square grid for ease of use. The Options chapter is a mixed bag (as these things tend to be) but presents a number of alternate rules for things like Reputation/Renown, Wealth, the much asked for Knockback, and others. Even if you never use a single one in game just reading through them is nice and often gives you ideas and advice on how to handle such things in your game in your own way. The highlight for me is the tiny 2 paragraph long section on Hero Point Tradeoffs; basically a method of allowing players to call down complications on themselves for Hero Points on demand. The Archetypes chapter provides 19 major villain archetypes, each with a fully statted write-up, suggestions for use, theme ideas, and suggestions for roleplay. Also included are 12 pages of minion archetypes ranging from low power zombies, to giant robots. Notably useful are the 22 animal write-ups for animal controllers, summoners, familiars, and low power games (like sword and sorcery genres). The Adversaries chapter offers role-play advice as well as conceptual and planning help. A discussion on the types of villains, their tactics, role-play elements, and even villain team-ups are all present. A lot of this will be more useful to new GM's more than those with years under their belt, but its a well put together chapter that gets deeper into the villain as a concept aside from the rules. Lastly the art. Green Ronin has, in my experience, always done a good job sourcing art. This book proves no exception with numerous full color pictures scattered throughout. Each villain archetype gets a large picture, and the ancillary art is all good. Various styles are also present, from flat, almost watercolor paintings, to more comic book inspired styles. The Bad: For better or worse there are some typos; generally less than I have seen in similar products, and hopefully to be corrected before this goes to the printer (GR is known to use errata found early on by fans to do last minute corrections before print). The Setting chapter contained a number of references to second edition terms no longer used. This is probably the result of copy-paste errors, and again, will hopefully be corrected prior to seeing print, but it is a bit distracting and will likely confuse newer players and GM's. The Options chapter, while nice, was a little lite, being only fifteen pages long. I'd have liked to have seen more here, not so much because I can't do my own rules mods, but because I like to see how the designers and developers mod their own games. The Ugly: There is an entire chapter on Challenges, running ten pages in length, that I feel really should have been included in the core rules. These aren't options, or even things that will only see play in a handful of games. Most GM's are going to want to know the effects of being buried under rubble, fighting underwater or other odd environs, how to use weather effects like precipitation, fog, and wind, and how to run traps. The chapter, despite its brevity, is well written, but it really should have been well written a year ago and included with the basic rules for the game. Closing Thoughts: I'm giving this a solid rating at this point. That may increase or decrease as I get a chance to more thoroughly review the entire product. Mostly I'm docking points for certain chapters being shorter than I would have preferred, some minor copy/paste errors and typos, and the fact that there's a chapter included here that should have been part of the core rule book. What is here is nearly all useful, and would likely be even more so to a new GM. The artwork and production values are all high and up to Green Ronin's usual standard. The good far outweighs the bad despite a few minor complaints. Rating: 85%
  20. Pandemic: On The Brink (expansion) Publisher: Z-Man Games MSRP: $29.99 Pandemic: On The Brink is an expansion for the original Pandemic that adds new roles, new events, and three challenges to the game to add additional levels of difficulty. [end_news_blurb] Theme: Continuing the theme of the base set On The Brink features new roles like the Containment Specialist, Epidemiologist, Field Specialist, and others, adds three challenge modes to play with, the Virulent Strain, the Mutation, and the Bio-terrorist, and adds a handful of event cards for the player deck. The added roles and challenge modes are all solid additions to the game both mechanically and thematically, with the Virulent Strain challenge being my stand-out favorite. The Bits: New role cards, epidemic cards, and event cards are all of the same good to high quality of the base set, though I have heard that some people with 1st edition prints of the base game had slightly smaller cards. Z-Man Games did offer to exchange those older cards for new ones however at no cost save shipping, so good on them. New pawns are provided for all of the roles including the original game's roles, and are smaller, making crowding on the board less of an issue. There is a nice preprinted pad for use with the Bio-terrorist challenge (more on that later), and 6 clear plastic petri dishes are provided to store all of the loose bits from this game and the base set, a nice touch, especially with the labels saying "infectious substance". New Disease cubes in purple are also provided for use with the mutation and Bio-terrorist challenges. Gameplay: The Roles: The new roles are all solid additions to the game providing unique abilities that really shine and can make a good game play impact. The most powerful in my opinion is the Archivist who has a hand size of 8 and can pull location cards from the Player Deck Discard if he is at the city shown. All of the new roles are useful however. The Events: New event cards are provided, a few are only so-so, but a couple are really stand out, like Remote Treatment (remove 2 Disease Cubes from anywhere on the board) and Commercial Air Ban (which reduces the Infection Rate to 1 for 1 full round, very useful during the late game). In general they are all at least a little useful and none are too powerful. Challenge Mode - The Virulent Strain: Hold on to your hats because there's a new influenza out there. The Virulent Strain is determined from one of the four diseases based on how many cubes are on the board. Each Virulent Strain Epidemic Card has an addition effect on the bottom that applies to the Virulent Strain only. Some are one time effects, adding more cubes to the board, or removing cubes from the Strain's supply. Others are Continuous Effects and can really impact play. Complex Molecular Structure requires you to have 1 more card than normal to create a Cure for instance (6 cards!). Depending on the Epidemic Cards in your deck (you get 8 and only typically need 4-6) the Virulent Strain can make the game a little more difficult, or a lot. It is fun though, and satisfying as heck to be able to Eradicate. Challenge Mode - Mutation: Three event cards for the Player Deck and two Infection Deck cards combine with the Purple Disease Cubes for this challenge which introduces a new disease. Whenever the Mutation Event or Infection cards come up Purple Disease Cubes are put into play and follow their own subset of rules for infections. The challenge comes from the fact that there are only 12 Purple Disease Cubes in the supply meaning that you have to be more vigilant about Treatment. Curing the purple disease is a matter of discarding any 5 Location cards (they need not be all the same color) while at a Research Station. There is a caveat though, at least one of the discarded Location Cards needs to depict a city that currently has at least 1 Purple Disease Cube. On its own the Mutation adds a slight challenge to the game but combined with the Virulent Strain a relatively easy to complete game with 5 Epidemics can become a very real challenge. Challenge Mode - Bio-Terrorist: The last of the Challenges requires at least 3 players and pits one of them against the other two. By taking up the Bio-terrorist Role that player becomes an agent of disease running about the board in secret and sowing the Purple Disease on their turn. I've only played this one time since roughly 80% of my play is with 2 players, but the one time it proved an interesting twist to the game, with the Bio-terrorist keeping track of his actions in secret on the pad provided while the players kept their cards hidden and tried to deal with both the regular diseases and the purple cubes sown by their hidden enemy. Replayability: Even without the Challenges the added roles add a great degree of replay value by adding more combinations and unique abilities to the game. With the Challenge modes the game doesn't change so much as adds additional layers of complexity. Everything here is good and I have yet to get sick of the Virulent Strain or Mutation, and am eager for the chance to try the Bio-terrorist again. Rating: 95% - again, I cannot find fault with anything here with the notable exception of a couple of rules glitches when using the Mutation Challenge that were easily sorted out online.
  21. Extremely Creepy Comic Creatures #1: The Creature of the Deep Evoking the feel of Tales From the Crypt and similar horror comics anthologies the first of a series of supplements from Stark City Games. The product is creatured under the "Super Powered by M&M" product licencing in the same vein as Green Ronin's weekly Threat Report series. Costing $3 (though the cover claims $2) and available at RPGnow.com the product weights in at 9 pages (7 without the licence information), in full color, and includes history, full statistics for use, plot hooks, and printable standee miniatures to use on the table (for those of you who use maps on tables during play). [end_news_blurb] The Look: The cover of the Extremely Creepy Comic Creatures #1 is clearly designed to evoke thoughts of the old Tales From the Crypt horror comics and similar products from the 50's. The company's logo in the upper left, the large, ragged font, the inset "Featuring: The Coffin Creep" image and text all go a long way toward meeting this goal. A nice touch in this age of digital production and distribution though was that thought was given to render the color of the artwork in the style of the older newsprint comics. This was a nice touch and made the cover come together to generate the "creature feature" feel well. This style is continued within, making the art have a uniform look and feel. The notable exception appears to the the creature's full body portrait on one page, and the character standees, which are rendered in a more modern digital paint look with smooth colors. Also included are a background/environment standee, nine creature standees, and a damsel in distress victim standee. All are rendered nicely and if you use miniatures at the table I can see this being a nice touch, no need to rummage about for an appropriate model(s). If I had to find a fault with the artwork it would likely be the reuse of the cover artwork inside, and the lack of a dynamic image of the creature in combat or menacing a damsel in distress. This is a pretty minor complaint however, and one that could be made about this product's chief competition as well. Content: Art is a nice thing, but a character folio needs to have good copy as well. In this case the insides are broken into five sections: Background, Motivation/Goals, Powers & Tactics, Rumors & Stories, and the creature's stats written for use with Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition. There is also a splash page introduction featuring the "Coffin Creep" which again goes a long way to establishing the feel of an old creature feature comic book. The character sections are succinct, providing a one or two paragraphs each which is more than enough to give GMs a sense of the creature's past and origins, it's personal motivation, how the GM should best use the creature, and some seed ideas. The writing here is clear and concise and the ideas for use provided in the "Rumors & Stories" section range from PL 6 to PL 10, and use the creature as a main foe and as a potential henchmen/henchmonster. The creature's stats are provided and the names of the powers are, happily, thematically tied to the creature. "Cold, Scaly Flesh" speaks so much more to the character than the base effect of protection. The complications given as solid and tie back to the prior sections well, showing a tied together design. If I had to quibble here I would question the choice of Intellect 0 when an earlier description implied a lack of human intellect, but that would be a quibble indeed. At the end is a closeout page featuring the Coffin Creep; once again tying the whole thing together. Comparison to GR Threat Reports: Invariably this will get compared to Green Ronin's Threat Report series. For a third the price Green Ronin puts out a character a week with a similar structure (background, motivations, build, etc.). So how does Extremely Creepy Comic Creatures #1 stack up in comparison? In the author's opinion it does a pretty solid job. The overall look and design tie the product to the chosen theme more strongly than most Threat Reports do, the quality of the writing is equal to those products, and the addition of standees will likely stand out for some GMs. I especially liked that the plot hooks were spread across different PL levels and genres providing easy options to use this NPC in a multitude of games and formats. Closing Thoughts: The Creature From the Deep comes out swinging with a high quality product that promises a product line with a strong thematic presence that should set it apart from the standard fare of superheroic licensed supplements "Superpowered by M&M". Minor quibbles about art, an aspect of the Creatures stats, and (potentially) price are by no means deal breaking. Combined with the likelihood that this series of products will fill a thematic hole that is often overlooked in superheroic gaming, and in Mutants & Mastermind in general, and I suspect few will have much reason to complain. Rating: 90%, $3 may be a bit steep compared to Green Ronin's $0.99 weekly Threat Report's, but there are extras (the standees, and splash art) to help counter the extra cost as well as a broader usability to the product. Author's note: A review copy of the product was provided to me by the gentlemen at Stark City Games for the purposes of this review.
  22. This review covers Chapter 2 of 6. For my prior review of Chapters 0 and 1, go HERE. I'll be as spoiler free as possible since I may end up using this myself and others may get their own opportunity to play. Emerald City Knights is an adventure path, a series of interconnected adventures, published online in PDF format by Green Ronin in support of Mutants and Masterminds Third Edition and the forthcoming Emerald City setting book. Chapter 0: The Silver Storm was released for free back in January, and Chapter 1: Life in the Aftermath was released in late March. Chapter 2 was released back in May but for various reasons I haven't had the time for a proper review until now. [end_news_blurb] Two Steps Forward True to expectations there is a strong commitment to the layout, design, artwork, and general look of the product. The font is easily readable, being presented without annoying script fonts and generally overlaid on bare white or very washed out background. The artwork is generally top notch as well with a great deal of new work. The only repeats/reused art I saw were the character portraits for some of the characters. As a step forward they also included a handful of simple top-down maps for use with the three major combat scenes in the chapter. This is definitely a nice add-on, and something sorely missed from the first two. Content-wise this is a 27 page PDF which is about the same size as Chapters 0 and 1 combined (providing further evidence that those two may have originally been written as a single product). Five scenes are presented with the first being a direct pick-up from the cliffhanger ending of Chapter 1. While I found the first scene to be interesting, and it may well prove to have clues to the larger meta-plot when I ran it with my small tabletop group they couldn't have chosen an action more contrary to that which the scene was predicated upon. I strongly suggest that anybody running this as a GM be prepared, it may not play out like the author apparently expected. Scene 2 is a role playing heavy scene that suffers from having NPCs for the GM to use who are simply not fleshed out as thoroughly as they ought to be to be able to interact with the PCs. This was irritating for a couple of them, and downright frustrating for the last because this NPC got no new material in this chapter despite having his write-up copy/pasted. Scene 3 likewise offers role playing but is presented is easier on the GM as the focus is very heavily on the PCs with the NPCs there mostly to ask questions and provide answers in return. While I felt that the NPCs here were adequately presented I felt that the organization A.E.G.I.S. really should have been fleshed out more. Not everybody will have an in depth knowledge of the group from the 2nd Edition of the game Freedom City setting and it was irritating that I couldn't even find a spelled out definition of the AEGIS acronym in the text ((American Elite Government Intervention Service, by the way). Scenes 4 & 5 are both heavy on the combat, light on the role playing. Not that this is a bad thing. Both scenes are well assembled and the villain team from Scene 4 is very interesting, I hope they are fleshed out more in the future. An Epilogue wraps up the chapter providing some hints about how GMs can continue during the wait for the next chapter. One Step to the Side Like the chess piece of the knight Emerald City Knights seems to move a little forward and a little to the side. Thankfully there is no backslide here. The production quality has remained, the absence of maps is addressed, and in general the product is very polished. On the good side the work is largely well written, the layout is clean, and the artwork is very good. On the negative side aside the general lack of depth for the provided NPCs and NPC groups are detrimental to the product. While I could possibly already own the Freedom City materials to supplement my knowledge of certain NPCs and AEGIS, I feel that with a new edition the assumption should be there that new players and GMs may be at the table and may not have all this. Third edition stats for beloved characters from Freedom City are a nice selling point for long time fans, but players new to the game and/or setting probably deserve more detailed write-ups to be able to use them properly. Likewise the crucial assumption of player behavior for the first scene is a possible stumbling point as particularly different player actions can potentially derail the entire scene. The biggest flaw of the product however is carried over from the first two segments: there are no answers given. There is clearly an intricate and developed meta-plot that ties much of the events of these stories together but aside from hints both obscure and overt there is no space reserved to talk to the GM about this plan. It really hampers the GM when they need to be flexible enough to accommodate their players but have to do so without knowing if a certain event, action, or bit of information needs to be relayed for the larger story's sake or is dispensable. Similarly some of the secrets within the events that are given may, or may not, be intended for the PCs to know. Without guidance given a GM has to choose and hope for the best, giving as much information as he or she has when a player rolls an Investigation check of 40 (Forty! That actually happened in my little TT group) for instance. Closing Thoughts: The quality of Emerald City Knights remains high. The events and stories are interesting, the writing well executed, and the art and layout attractive without sacrificing readability. The down side is a product that doesn't answer even a fraction of the questions from the prior chapters, let alone those raised within itself. Likewise there is a stumble in using and providing NPCs and organizations from previous Freedom City universe books without adequately detailing them within the product. Not all players of M&M used Freedom City in 2nd Edition and not all players of 3rd Edition are going to have even been players of 2nd Ed. Once again this feels too much like a part of something larger (a complete ECK saga) and also it fumbles at being usable by itself as a stand alone product (almost requiring 2nd Edition's Freedom City for use). Rating: 80%, Strong production design and well crafted scenarios are brought down by a lack of background data and answers/progress within the meta-plot.
  23. Mutants & Masterminds 3e GM Kit Review The folks over at Green Ronin are charging ahead with their flagship game's newest edition. Since late December there has been the release of the M&M Third Edition Hero's Handbook (physical units shipping as I type this), the inception of the Threat Reports (a weekly NPC villain PDF release), and discussion of an adventure series called Emerald City Knights (a PDF product coming soon). Green Ronin just yesterday put out preorders and PDF copies of their newest product, the Third Edition GM's Kit. [end_news_blurb] The GM Kit contains two products; a GM Screen and a Quick "Random" Character Generation Booklet. This was a hard sell for me. I do some 90% of my gaming online via Play-by-Post games, and the other 10% is generally not at a table in the traditional format. As often than not I am sitting across a living room from somebody, rolling dice on a coffee table or even the floor. As a result the GM Screen is not a tool for hiding rolls and sheets in a good 5% of my game playing. Why then would I buy one? Two reasons jump to mind. The first is that during those 5% of games I do like having something and this product is pretty nice. It's a 3-panel landscape format screen, which means its low enough to actually see over, but still does its job of hiding sheets and rolls from players. The material is hardbound, basically the same as a hardcover gaming book, which means it'll survive travel and use. The outside image is pretty nice too. Basically it promises to be a quality product. I can't speak more until I have my copy in hand, but it promises much. The second reason is that I no longer have the near photographic memory for gaming related miscellanea that I used to. Rules, tables, and charts that I could have once memorized and called up in my head now need to be referenced and looked at. The PDF copy has the interior tabs, and so I was able to look at the layout and content of the screen. They managed to get just about everything I would ever need to reference on the three pages of the screen except for the powers and equipment themselves. Even if I'm sitting in a Lay-z-Boy and don't need a screen for privacy I expect that it will cut down on book references by a significant factor. That's a win in my book. The second part of the kit is a booklet, 48 pages long, containing a "random" character generation system. I put quotes around "random" because it's not truly random, you won't end up with a battle-suit wearing druid who can talk to aliens and travel through dimensions and then have to struggle to put together a background for that mess. Instead it was designed to build 20 different achetypes ranging from the aforementioned Battle-suit, to Mystics, Paragons, Speedsters, and Martial artits, among others. You can go from a blank sheet to a balanced PL 10 character in a handful of rolls and perhaps an hour's worth of time transcribing from the book. Each of the 20 archetypes is further broken down into 2 or 3 subtypes which determine starting Abilities/Attributes. Additional tables break down Skills, Feats/Advantages, and Powers, with powers often broken down further into offensive & defensive focus. Just for the Battle-suit archetype alone there are 3 subsets of abilities (based on background suggestions), 60 variations of Advantages/Feats, 9 different skill packages, over 1500 offensive power combos, and 5 different movement types. That's a lot of variation for 1 archetype. Further each player is encouraged to change the suggested descriptors to suit their particular concept. All of this requires a total of 10 rolls of a d20, or if you and your GM prefer and agree you can cherry pick what you want, or even roll some and choose others. The best part is that 90% of the math is done for you. Occasionally you may need to stack skill ranks from different packages and you will need to factor your attributes and skills into your final attacks and defenses, but in general the process can be reduced from an hours (or even days) long process into and hour, and even less if you are cutting and pasting from the PDF to a word processor. I was able to produce a balanced Martial Artist in less than 30 minutes. I can see this getting a lot of use with players who want jump into the action without a lot of the work of chargen. The physical product is priced at $19.95, the PDF version at $10. If you play a decent amount of M&M 3e the PDF version is worth it for certain. I can't speak to the value of the physical product just yet but the digital is worth what I paid without a shadow of a doubt, not only for helping new (and old) players produce quick PCs but also to help me build NPCs and Villains with a minimum of effort.
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