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  1. Hey guys I just found this kickstarter for an Iron Age setting that is being adapted for M&M and other super hero game systems. There is only 7 left on it though so if it interests you then you better jump on quick ,, https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jaerdaph/extreme-earth-a-dystopian-superhero-campaign-setti ,, ,,
  2. ,, Gadget Guides: Magic, Traps, & Alien Tech Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6(5) pages • $1.29 • full color PDF Catching up on the last couple of guides and one I missed from a bit back with some quick fire thoughts. Plus some of my rambling thoughts on the product line as a whole as things start to wind down. ,, Magic Gadget Guide: Magic discusses some potential descriptors for magic equipment. It also notes that only in cultures with a high degree of magic “industrialization” should magic items be equipment. A number of sample magic items are described, some of which don’t remotely fall into the definition of equipment and are really more like removable powers and artifacts. ,, Generally the product is well written and the examples are interesting and present a number of alternative types of magic items to expand upon. Likewise the sidebar discussing magic artifacts offers suggestions and advice for using items of game breaking power as focal points for your game. ,, Traps Gadget Guide: Traps fills in some of the blanks on how to operate traps within villainous lairs, secret headquarters, and the like. Sidebars detail using character’s weaknesses within traps as well as having traps and circumstances turn back on the villains. The mechanical suggestions for traps, as well as the non-mechanical suggestions for deal with springing traps on players, are potentially invaluable. ,, Alien Tech Gadget Guide: Alien tech likewise covers a great many items that might not be viable as equipment in a given campaign. With items like teleporters, camouflage fields, and mind readers there are as many items that really don’t fall into the realm of equipment as there are items that do like blasters and vehicles. The sidebars on Unfamiliar Technology and Alien Advancements both provide useful suggestions for helping to integrate technology advanced beyond human ken into your games. ,, Closing Thoughts ,, As the Gadget Guide product line begins to wind down (as of this writing there are only two or three left to be published) it seems clear to me that perhaps this line might have been better suited as a “year two” extension of the Power Profiles series. Some of the best of these guides have dealt with subjects more akin to descriptors than lists of equipment, and in many cases the scope of the Guide’s content are not appropriate for equipment for characters within most campaigns. Magic and Alien tech both seem to fall into this category, while Traps almost exist in a region that is outside of both, being primarily of use as aspects of Headquarters, and not discrete equipment of their own. ,, None of this detracts from the quality or utility of the lion’s share of the gadget guides in general, and these specifically. Alien tech would be very helpful for a character looking to play a foreigner to Earth, while Magic expands on the materials already presented within the Power Profile of the same name, while offering some useful discussion on Artifacts, and descriptors of its own. Similarly Traps feels like it probably should have been included in the Gamemaster’s Guide had it been written when that book saw print, as almost any GM will find something of use for their campaign; player’s on the other hand may find it entirely optional. ,, Ratings: Alien Tech – 80%, high utility to a certain subset of games and players, with some sidebars that offer value to all Traps – 90%, indispensable for GMs, entirely optional for players. Magic – 85% - a good follow up to the Magic Power Profile, dealing with the non-spell/power side of magic. ,,
  3. ,, ,, Gadget Guide: Spy-Tech Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6(5) pages • $1.29 • full color PDF "What appears to be an ordinary gentleman's wristwatch conceals a fifty watt laser, a powerful electromagnet, one once of high explosive, a tracking device, three lock picks, one hundred feet of high tensile carbon fiber rappelling line ..." What's in it? All kinds of stuff. This is definitely a guide containing gadgets. From swing lines to lock picks to biometric spoofers, Gadget Guide: Spy-Tech contains the tools of the trade for spies, thieves, secret agents, and the like. The Guide is broken into six major sections discussing: Hidden & Concealed Tech, Infiltration, Surveillance, Concealment & Stealth, Disguise, and Forgery. Two sidebars covering Burglary Skills and Infiltration Challenges round out the product. With the exception of the first section on hidden and concealed devices each major section has one or more examples of items used within its purview. The discussion length varies from section to section, with little given to some, but a great deal (relatively) given to Forgery and Infiltration (especially when one considers the sidebars). Example gadgets run the gamut from, obvious items like swing lines and cameras to clever twists on common gear like bugging equipment and disguises. Nothing stands out as missing, but there are likewise no stand out "that is cool" gadgets either (at least not from my view). Still this Guide provides a welcome resource for certain hero types and will no-doubt be indispensable for GMs wishing to use M&M for espionage and spy themed games rather than the usual straight up superhero fare. Closing Thoughts Gadget Guide: Spy-Tech is generally good, but not great. It covers all its bases well and ensures that players and GMs planning to use stealth, infiltration, and surveillance techniques (among others) in their games will have access to a ready-made pool of items to use, or to inspire. Capable discussion and writing makes this a solid purchase, but the lack of any real stand out items or rules expansions may drive down the utility of the product for some. Rating: 85% - Thorough coverage of the subject without any stand out misses, but neither any stand out hits.
  4. ,, Gadget Guide: Biotech Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6(5) pages • $1.29 • full color PDF "Behold ladies and gentlemen, I have engineered the perfect minion - bred for strength, intelligence, and, above all, loyalty ..." What's in it? Much like the past couple of these products (nanotech & cybertech) Gadget Guide: Biotech really isn't a guide to gadgets of any kind. You could call it a power profile after a fashion, but I think at this point that Biotech has completed the metamorphosis that the began in Nanotech and Cybertech. Biotech could perhaps best be considered a Descriptor Guide (oh!, perhaps Descriptor Download). Aside from a single example of a living/biotech vehicle, a single power write up, and two new modifiers the product stays away from mechanics of any kind. Instead we get detailed discussion of Descriptors and what I could call major power "categories" ranging from Biochemicals to Living Technology. Each of these gets a few or more paragraphs covering the nature of the topic, the possible uses, as well as some examples (mostly textural only). The product references a handful of Gadget Guide and Power Profile products (meaning you don't get a lot of repeated ground, which I think is a wise directional choice for this guide), and likewise references several sections of the core rules for additional examples or explanations. Closing Thoughts Gadget Guide: Biotech should probably not be a gadget guide, but one might suppose that I am arguing semantics. The important thing is that regardless of its applicability as a "gadget guide" it is most certainly a useful extension of the rules in much the same way that many of the Power Profiles were. Though it comes a year later and has a different structure it is similar to that line in spirit and theme. In that capacity it does its job admirably. Rating: 90% - A worthy line extension containing both new rules add-ons and well written and thematic discourse on the chosen subject.
  5. Gadget Guide: Installations Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6(5) pages • $1.29 • full color PDF "Welcome to my lair ..." What's in it? It doesn't call itself Gadget Guide: Headquarters, and I understand why, as it explicitly covers only non-mobiles structures, bases, facilities, etc., but that is a minor quibble, and everything here can, and will, be useful for HQs. Discussion of the effects of power levels on HQ (pardon, Installation) traits, installations shared between PCs (or NPCs), and the implicit features and environmental effects of these facilities is all included. Moving deeper into the product we get detailed discussion of various features and powers that an installation could have, including modifiers applied to other features and powers like having remote hanger bays, or an isolated laboratory. A handful of example features are provided that are either new or expanded from the core rules. Personnel are also covered, discussing what base workers should and shouldn't be able to do, and the scope of their own usefulness. Closing Thoughts ,, Gadget Guide: Installations finally steps back into the realm of equipment and gadgets. Headquarters, lairs, secret bases, and remote monasteries are all integral to the genre, and this product does a great job of expanding upon the system in the core rules. While lite on specific options it gives the players and GMs the tools needed to create their own. If there is any fault it is the lack of new examples in addition to those in the Hero's Handbook. I'd call this a very good buy for GMs and any player who wants to expand on the options they already have. ,, Rating: 90% - A worthwhile addition to the product line, and a helpful expansion on the core rules. ,, Note: I'll attach a picture and link once I get out from under the firewall that prevents me from accessing the GR store.
  6. ,, ,, Gadget Guide: Nanotech Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 7(6) pages • $1.29 • full color PDF [insert flavor comment here] What's in it? Two words: Power Profile. Oh sure, maybe in a sci-fi game this kind of stuff could be equipment, but in a setting advanced enough for nanotech to be equipment what would constitute a power? That said, much like cybertech before it this does not diminish the profile, err, Guide. The product starts out detailing some possible descriptors to use with nanotech before details how nanotechnology is particularly appropriate for inventing. Nanofabrication is the next major section, which hits closest to current real-world potential for the technology. Nano-construction, repair, and reshaping are covered by effects like Create and Transform. In addition to the base effects there are several suggestions for limits, flaws, and extras that could be applied to the powers to separately to the character. Personal Nano comes next, being uses for nanotech on, or in, a character's person. Ranging from suits of active nanotech to body-ware that flows through the character's bloodstream, or even invades their entire being, Personal Nano provide protective effects to the bearer. The most extreme example being a character who is a construct made entirely of active nanites. ,, Nano-Weapons come next with an initial discussion on delivery systems before diving into various attack methods. From mono-filament weaponry to nano-dissemblers this lays out several attack forms. A sidebar about rogue nanotechnology and a section on nano-sensors close out the guide. Closing Thoughts Gadget Guide: Nanotech tackles a difficult topic, one capable of justifying an very wide array of power effects, and gives you the tools needed to implement it. The product is very strong in theme and suggests a number of power effects across a range of categories. This product is once again closer to a Power Profile in terms of scope and use, but still serves as a strong addition the the M&M Product line. Rating: 85% - Strong in theme, nanotech provides a great deal of advice for using micromachines if your games.
  7. ,, ,, Gadget Guide: Cybertech ,, Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 7(6) pages • $1.29 • full color PDF ,, Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster. ,, What's in it? ,, Let me be blunt: this is not a Gadget Guide. Oh, it looks like a Gadget Guide, and it is coming out amidst that run of products, but this is most surely a Power Profile. That’s not to say that this is a bad thing, just that fairly early on it states that the fact that Cybertech is generally part of the character’s body and cannot be easily removed makes those items not equipment, or even removable powers, but instead a descriptor of traditional power effects. Ergo what follows is not equipment, but Powers under a specific descriptor. Power Profile: Cybertech Powers perhaps. ,, The Guide (if you want to call it that) starts out, as mentioned, by getting into Cybertech as a descriptor, and details on what constitutes cybertech, as well as options for variants on the theme. After that it gets into Cyberlimbs and details some common Features that can be found in cyberlimbs of various sizes, from hands to a complete leg. This accounts for roughly a page, and as with most discussion of Features it is always nice to see about what a point can buy you. ,, After Cyberlimbs we get into Bodyware. Bodyware covers everything in the torso of the cyborg, from armor and organ upgrades, to various enhancements. Among all of this is an interesting form of Summon called Semi-Autonomous Weapon. I don’t think I have encountered this specific concept before, but the idea is that implanted into the character is a weapon system that can function on its own. This could be a small weapon turret, an additional limb, or even a concealed mode of attack that activates on its own (much like a Reaction effect). I think this is an interesting play on the Summon effect and could easily be used for both hidden weapons (as in this instance), or in more obvious systems (think Warmachine’s shoulder gun). ,, The next section discusses Headware including cyber- eyes, ears, hair (yes, hair!), and various brain upgrades or interface systems. Skill Software seems like it could (depending on the genre and style of a game) be over powered, but it does present a viable use for Variable to allow a character to download skills as needed. ,, The final section discusses Cybertech Complications and includes a sidebar called Tech Support dealing with damage to Cybertech systems during the game. There are seven complications ranging from stalwarts like Power Loss or Weakness, to theme specific complications like Cortex Bombs and Cyberpsychosis. The latter two would be especially useful in re-creating the cyberpunk genre, but might not fit in theme with most Supers games. ,, All of this sounds pretty good, and Gadget Guide: Cybertech is pretty good. It puts some new twists on Cybertech, covers all the standard bases well, and delivers a thematically rich product. So where's the poop? Well, this isn't the first time that we've seen "limited to one arm" as a full flaw on a power, but if anywhere I would have expected to see what that really means it would be here. If you have higher strength in one arm does that one arm have the ability to lift to that full amount? If so where is the downside limit, and what value is having the same strength on both arms? ,, Closing Thoughts Gadget Guide: Cybertech is good. It's really quite good, and for groups looking to recreate games in the cyberpunk genre it probably steps up from good to great. It's not without a couple of minor flaws, but those flaws hardly exist in a vacuum that fails to make up for them. In general I would say that if you want to play a cyberpunk type game, or plan to play a bionic hero this is well worth the price of admission. Rating: 90% - A fairly solid Power Profile … err, Gadget Guide. Stronger still for use in cyberpunk genres. ,,
  8. ,, Power Profiles ,, Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 224 pages • $39.95 (hardcopy) • $20 (pdf) • full color PDF "What we have here is a rare opportunity for me to cut loose and show you just how powerful I really am." What's in it? For starters, the collected Power Profiles pdf series from 2012, but also some new material in the form of a half dozen "By Design" essays, an index (which will be extremely useful), and some revisions and additions. As I have already reviewed the individual Profiles in great depth as they were released last year (find a list here, or use the tags on this site), I will not be going into such detail about them again. The new material is why you're probably here, and certainly why I am. The first question is likely one of quantity: jut how much new material is there? There are eleven pages of the aforementioned "By Design" essays, a page long introduction, a six page index, and a couple pages of credits and table of contents. If you already bought in to the series as they came out you will be getting perhaps 5-10% new material depending on your personal criteria. You'll also be getting the benefit of updates t fix the errata in the individual Profiles. So how is the new material? The index is exhaustive, which also means it is thorough, and will aid players and GMs in locating specific powers. The real meat though is in the new By Design essays. The six essays cover the following topics: Boosting Powers Powers Beyond (dealing with Power Level X and the like) Point-Accounting: Threat or Menace? Shifting Powers Plot-Stopping Powers Power Complications Boosting Powers and Shifting Powers are useful for both players and GMs. The former has suggestions and discussion about how to deal with boost theme concepts within the confines of the PL system. The latter discusses ways to support a shifting character at the table to ensure a smooth game play experience for all involved. The Point-Accounting essay may also prove useful for both players and GMs. It deals with the problems that can accompany a point-based system, and how to approach the idea of "build efficiency". In addition to dealing with ways to ensure that one player doesn't dominate the game, or conversely get sidelined to ensure that the others don't, it suggests ways to move away from strict point buy for characters. The remaining essays are more focused on the GM dealing with issues that may impact a game from their side of the table. Powers Beyond deals with ways to scale powers for antagonists, and even entire play groups. PL X is discussed in detail, which will be extremely useful for certain types of games. A "PL O" (that's the letter O not a zero) is optioned as well for scaling players up to god level without the heavy lifting of adjusting character sheets. The Plot-Stopping Powers discussion will likely be the most referenced by GMs. It deals with typical problem powers, either situational effects, such as a character with mind control using said power to strip away a game's mysteries by reading a villain's mind, or a healer saving the life of an NPC who is meant to die. The Power Complications essay looks at the boundary line between a power Flaw and a Complication, and suggests possible uses for Flaws as temporary Complications. Closing Thoughts As reviewed previously the Power Profile series is largely good, some are truly great, and a few are slightly disappointing. As a collection, combined with the additional materials here the Power Profiles series excels and truly becomes a whole who's sum is greater than its parts. Between the detailed power breakdowns, expansion of the core rules, and game play discussion and advice, there are unlikely to be players or GMs who will not find this product of extreme value. Those who bought into the series in its micro-payment form will be glad to hear that Green Ronin is currently offering the PDF at a discount. For those who did not this book will become a valued addition to the Hero's Handbook either in digital or hardbound format. Rating: 100% - I was a strong advocate for the Power Profiles series, and this collection may as well be titled Hero's Handbook Part 2. It's indispensable for both players and GMs in my opinion.
  9. ,, Gadget Guide: Guns Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6(5) pages • $1.29 • full color PDF I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk? What's in it? Guns, obviously. The first two pages are given over to brief descriptions of various types and classes of firearms and non-firearm guns (e.g. paintball guns, etc.). This information is a slight expansion on the exceedingly brief equipment section of the Hero's Handbook, but is largely light or completely lacking in game relevant information. Ammunition and Accessories fill out the next two and a half pages. I suspect that this will get some use simply as it helps to lay down details on game effects for things like scopes, silencers, and the like. Generally though I suspect that most players would not find it difficult to puzzle out what effects or extras to use for much of these items. An entire page is given to a weapon stat table, which is only about 50% new material and actually repeats most of the game information of the Ammunition and Accessories sections. This proves fairly disappointing, as I think one, or the other, would have been acceptable, but repeating the Handbook's gun stats and then adding line items for the prior sections' seems like an attempt to fill volume. Two sidebars round out the Guide. The first covers making your character bulletproof via use of the Impervious extra and the Immunity effect. The second discusses Track Shots and Gun Powers. Suggesting various Advantages that are appropriate for use, as well as citing the Talent Powers Power Profile. Both of these sidebars are helpful to some degree, though mostly geared toward newer players. Closing Thoughts The best parts of Gadget Guide: Guns are the sidebars. Much of the remainder of the document is basic introduction level information. While I am sure that this might prove useful to some who are unfamiliar with firearms a great deal of it will be of limited or no use to many readers. The sidebars on Trick Shooting and how to make a character bullet proof are nice, but cannot redeem the Guide. Rating: 35% - Unfortunately Gadget Guide: Guns fails to hit the mark.
  10. ,, Gadget Guide: Heavy Weapons ,, Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6(5) pages • $1.29 • full color PDF *Whump! ... KA-BOOOM!* What's in it? In a word: lots. Gadget Guide: Heavy Weapons brings the goods, expanding on the core rules and detailing ways to simulate the really big guns. Starting out with about a page of rules for targeting heavy weapons and the effects of hitting or missing. Multi-attack gets some expansion, with GM options for adding penalties to especially wide arc fire. The Indirect extra gets a little love to describe how indirect fire weapons, like artillery weapons, function. Generally this is a useful expansion on the rules, and the clarification for direct hits with partial ranks of Area (as seen on the Rocket Launcher in the Hero's Handbook) will likely make some people very happy. Next Heavy Weapons are broken down into five broad categories: Machineguns, Artillery, Missiles, Nuclear Weapons, ans Super-Science Weapons. Of these Missiles and Nuclear Weapons get the majority of the text. Missiles get broken into four sub-sections on Guidance, Warheads, Defeating Missiles, and Torpedoes. These sections are largely discussion, as often descriptor based as not, though the section on Defeating Missiles does provide rules support on suggested difficulties or modifiers to apply. As one might expect the section on Nuclear Weapons focuses primarily on the blast effects and how to model them, complete with suggested power effects and ranks. Three side bars help to fill out the Guide. The first discusses area effects and scatter, allowing for a more "realistic' (as heinous as I find that word often becomes in a game designed for Supers) by allowing the GM to institute attack checks on indirect fire area of effect attacks. The amount of scatter becomes dependent on how much the attack roll misses the target number. The second sidebar discusses the Penetrating extra on heavy weapons and how in most cases save anti-tank weapons it is simply not needed. The third sidebar brings planet busting weapons and effects into the game. This sidebar had been featured on Steve Kenson's own blog in the past, but it's inclusion here is welcome detailing just how powerful an effect would need to be to do damage on a planetary scale. Closing Thoughts Gadget Guide: Heavy Weapons is definitely one of the better Gadget Guides. Easily worth the price of admission if you intend to use large scale "conventional weaponry" in your game, or if you have a character who uses powers that mimic these kinds of weapons. The discussion and rules support here is top notch greatly expanding the limited offerings of the Hero's Handbook. Rating: 95% - Easily worth the investment, especially if you want to blow stuff up.
  11. ,, ,, Gadget Guides: Mecha & Vehicles Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • Mecha 7(6) pages • Vehicles 8(7) pages • $1.29 • full color PDF I've said before that I feel that these kinds of products do their best when they don't just regurgitate what we already have and know, but add, expand, and clarify on rules to show players and GMs new ways to use them. In this regard vehicles, and mecha more specifically, are a perfect opportunity for the Gadget Guides. Vehicles of all types are only briefly detailed in the Hero's Handbook. This is generally not an issue because vehicles in comics and super heroic genres tend to be transportation and little more. I say tend, because there are those who do use vehicles: Batman has a garage full of them, and Japanese manga often features robot vehicles commonly known as mecha, for instance. In game terms vehicles present a number of avenues of play, from car chases and aerial dogfights, to mecha on monster smack-downs. [As an aside, Green Ronin certainly hit the sweet spot by giving us Mecha the same week that Pacific Rim opens.] So what do these Guides do to make the M&M rules more friendly toward all manner of vehicular mayhem? Both products open with discussion of vehicles and how they interact with power levels within a game. From there both discuss abilities, environmental compatibility, and movement modes. The discussion and advice here is solid. Dealing with the variable power levels needed for mecha games, to clarifying how various movement types might function and what form they might take. The discussion of extra effort and fatigue as it applies to vehicles is an especially welcome point of clarification. While this could have been puzzled out, it is welcome to have this set in stone. Likewise the expansion of Features and piloting rules helps to codify areas that were thin in the core material. Diving into powers and how they can be applied to both mecha and vehicles is probably the briefest and weakest section. Brevity is welcome, as at this point most players have ample understanding of how to implement power effects. Likewise that understanding makes this section of each Guide perhaps the least needed, though both are well composed. The additional discussion of modifiers for vehicles (including summonable vehicles, and transforming mecha) do help to expand on the basic powers and power extras however, and are a strong point in both Guides. Both Guides end with roughly a page of examples. The eight example vehicles are a good cross section of vehicle types, though perhaps an example with an exotic movement effect (like time or dimension travel) would have been nice to see. The mecha Guide only provides three examples, and while they get the point across an example of transforming mecha and combining mecha would really have been ideal as these are more complex and may not be as easily understood. Closing Thoughts Overall, taken individually, these are both excellent examples of the Gadget Guide line. Both expand on the existing Third Edition rules to add functionality that was limited or absent in the core rules. The addition and clarification of existing rules, especially piloting rolls and the use of "fatigue" for extra effort, is especially helpful. Both are excellent additions to the Mutants & Masterminds product stable, and well worth the price of entry. The only real drawback here is found when you take the two Guides together. There is a good chunk of shared and/or similar material between the two products, and one cannot help but think that these could have easily become a single product in the twelve page range for a slightly higher price point. Still, though, the aim of each Guide is slightly different and while they do reference each other, each could stand on their own and satisfy a buyer looking for a specific material. Ratings: Nearly perfect expansions on the core rules to encompass vehicles of all types. Mecha - 90% Vehicles - 95%
  12. ,, Gadget Guide: Energy Weapons Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6(5) pages • $1.29 • full color PDF Pew! Pew pew pew! What's in it? So you want to build a blaster, eh? This Guide isn't going to give you any fancy new effect extras, nor will it show you how to use something in new and different way. What it will do is give you four pages of descriptors, with suggestions on possible effects other than damage when appropriate. More than just covering the basic descriptors of fire, ice, electricity, etc, this dives deeper and looks at variations on those descriptors. Ice versus Freezing, Flame versus Plasma, Force vs Gravity, and more. A short sidebar details the idea of energy weapons as equipment instead of removable powers/devices. It's valuable to note that in some games these items might be as common as a blaster in a Star Wars game, or as rare and unique as a Taser in a 70's era crime game (the Taser was invented between 1969 and 1974). The former is most surely equipment, while the latter would likely be a device, but ultimately the Gamemaster is recommended to use their own judgement for the good of their game. The final page the Guide is a discussion of energy weapon "configurations", e.g. weapon classes, pistols, rifles, gauntlets, swords, and more. What makes this especially valuable is that beyond simply describing the various configurations it also suggests an acceptable effect range for each ranged weapon style. An energy pistol with a rank range of 4 to 6 differs from a rifle configuration with ranks between 8 and 10 for instance. Melee weapon damage ranges are left out however, which is an issue in my mind, but each also gains suggested modifiers based on the style of the weapon. A short list of generic modifiers for all of these weapons is also included. Closing Thoughts Gadget Guide: Energy Weapons doesn't bring us any new, expanded, or revised game mechanics, but it does bring five solid pages of discussion on the topic. Diving deeply into the descriptors of various types of energy weapons as well as the various forms those weapons can take, this Guide provides the tools needed to build a wide variety of energy weapons. It's strength in this regard is the quality of the descriptor discussions, and weapons configurations. If this Guide has a weakness it is its lack of new or expanded rules content, but as it stands that weakness is a minor one buoyed by the strength of the remainder of the product. Rating: 85% - A good guide to energy weapons in various forms and types.
  13. ,, Gadget Guides: Archaic Weapons & Asian Weapons ,, Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6(5) pages • $1.29 • full color PDF ,, In my previous reviews of the first two Gadget Guides I mentioned how a lot of the material feels like it should have been in the core rule book. That isn’t as much the case with these two Guides. Granted some of the weapon features from the Archaic Weapons guide (the better of the two IMO) is handy, and maybe even useful for what it is a “guide”, but the unfortunate truth is that there is rather sparse value for the price to be had here. The Archaic Weapons guide covers all pre-modern weapons. From swords and clubs to bows and arrows. The guide breaks these weapons down to their most basic, giving quick descriptions of basic weapon types (for those of you who had no idea what a spear or a sword was). The list of weapon qualities is somewhat useful, mostly for the features that aren’t simple Advantages from the original rules. In general though the six pages are largely wasted. A page long table that largely re-prints weapon stats from the core book. A page of the aforementioned descriptions of weapon types. Unfortunately as disappointing as the Archaic Weapon guide is the Asian weapon guide is largely the same. I’ll grant that there may be some subset of gamer who has no idea what a Kukri is, or what climbing claws are, but much of this guide is once again given over to basic description of weapon types. Between the general internet in general, and Wikipedia specifically, there is no reason why somebody unfamiliar with a Kusari-Gama (which is not in this product) should not be able to find out what it is. Back twenty odd years ago when Palladium Books put out their own weapons guides (which at least had the advantage of being exhaustive and providing pictures for nearly every weapon they listed) there was no internet; but nowadays if you don’t know what a Yuri looks like you can find out with a Google search faster than you could load and read this guide. What is left is a page long table of Asian weapons and their game effects. Useful, perhaps, to benchmark stats, and for those too lazy or untrained in the system to build their own, but hardly worth the price of admission. The first few paragraphs discussing hidden/concealed weapons, and Paired Weapons, is perhaps useful, but again, too little for the value. Closing Thoughts I think that this could, and indeed should, have been a single product combining all non-firearm weaponry. The weapon trait tables aren’t un-useful, but their value alone cannot carry these guides. Likewise the weapon traits can be helpful, and I think a combined product might have been a better buy for the price of a single guide. Comparing these against even the worst of the Power Profiles finds them lacking in content and value. Ratings: Archaic Weapons - 35% - limited utility in the form of some useful weapon traits and features Asian Weapons - 20% - extremely limited usefulness, mostly as benchmarks
  14. ,, Gadget Guide: Armor Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 7(6) pages • $1.29 • full color PDF I decided to take a break from weapons, and so I am skipping the firearm trio of guides in favor of Armor. I’m glad I did, because this guide provides a great deal of useful advice. In fact, Gadget Guide: Armor almost reads like a Power Profile, which is fairly high praise in my mind. This guide opens with a discussion of the basic defensive effects, how they relate to armor, and rough limits of ranks for normal equipment versus removable powers. I would have liked to have seen a little more discussion around why Deflect as a free action can break the game (because I have dealt with this in the past), but its inclusion at all was appreciated. The remainder of the guide is given to discussion of the various archaic, modern, and futuristic armor types, with suggested game effects, such as Protection ranks. Likewise description and discussion of major types of shields and protective gear (such as gas masks, and environmental suits) are given space. Thankfully these descriptions are light on readily available information and heavier on game usage. The real strength in the guide, as was often the case in the Power Profiles series, are the little peeks into the workings of the system. Suggesting that the Unreliable flaw might be a good way to model armors that cover only part of the body for instance, or noting that traditional defenses like Will or Parry can be upgraded with extras like Impervious or Redirect. Closing Thoughts Gadget Guide: Armor is a step in the right direction for this series. Providing both a good depth with the chosen topic, but also giving suggestions and hints about ways to use the game’s rules in new or less common ways. Rating: 95% - An overall very useful product that achieves the level of utility we saw with the Power Profile series.
  15. ,, Gadget Guide: Utility Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6(5) pages • $1.29 • full color PDF "I've got just the thing, right here ..." What's in it? The venerable utility belt is the focus of the second gadget guide. In five pages this details both rules options for utility belts, as well as samples of common utility belt items, from weapons to tools and equipment. The product is split into six sections, laying out the basics of utility items and belts, and contains two sidebars. The first two sections discuss the utility array, how it works within the game as well as the option for "wide arrays" similar to Dynamic Alternate Effects, and the use of Features within an Utility array. The Wide Array option is a nice one for "crime fighter" type characters, and the argument could easily be made for its inclusion in a Batman write-up. The section discussing Features is something that truly helps to solidify the design principles behind Features. After a year's worth of Power Profiles, each with a handful of features, this will go a great distance to allow players to make their own. The remaining four sections of the product are broken into offensive, defensive, movement and general utilities. Unlike the equipment section of the Hero's Handbook the much of equipment/utility items here are presented with a variable cost in points per rank instead of fixed costs. For a great deal of the equipment this allows for far greater variety and variability, and for many items suggested maximum ranks are provided. The variety of items here is on par with the Hero's Handbook, and some items are essentially repeated from that book, but this does make the guide comprehensive, Closing Thoughts Gadget Guide: Utility is a good rebound effort after the less than ideal Robot entry. The expansion on the basic Utility Array and Feature rules combined with the additional commentary about how certain pieces of equipment function (like the often argued over Cutting Torch) add to the value of the product. The rather comprehensive list of utility items in various categories also makes this a potential go to product to augment the equipment section of the Hero's Handbook. Rating: 90% - A much stronger effort than the prior product, with good rules expansion and support, and a comprehensive take on the classic utility belt. ,,
  16. ,, ,, Due Vigilance #3: Sixgun Vitals: Published By Vigilance Press • 28 pages • $8.66 • full color PDF Claimer: As a reviewer I do my best to maintain objectivity with regards to the products I review. For rules supplements this is usually easy. For character folios and genre sourcebooks that objectivity can sometimes slip away in the face of a particular theme or genre that you either love or hate. Why do I mention this? Because, I freakin' love cyborgs! Who are Sixgun? Sixgun is a group of mercenaries that you can drop into your game setting to run amok. Outfitted with high tech cybernetics, high end weaponry, and in one case cutting edge genetic modification, Sixgun are a ready to work for whomever will pay the bills, often with little in the way of reservations or compunctions about the job's specifics. Not shockingly Sixgun has six members. Camo - The group's lone woman and infiltration specialist. Her bionics make her the ideal "face" of the group. Deadeye - Outfitted with incredibly advanced cybernetic eyes and a powerful rifle Deadeye is the group's over-watch and their sniper. Echelon (stylized as 3chelon) - The group's recon and hacking specialist. His cybernetically controlled network of drones provides the group with scouting and additional surprise firepower. Headcase - The "full conversion cyborg" of the group. Headcase is a full on sociopath who's brain is all that is left of his human body. Marauder - The group's leader, and both the glue that keeps the team together and the oil that keeps them moving. Spot - The genetic chimera of the group, a beast built from the best predators on earth and then wired into the group with the same cybernetic communications implants that the others have. As in prior Due Vigilance products each character is given a full workup; background, personality, artwork, and fully detailed character sheets. In addition we get both written group dynamics and, returning from the first in the series, a relationship map which allows for the reader to quickly ascertain how each character sees the others in the group. A page of tactics, group history, and a sidebar on how to use mercenary groups round out the first eighteen pages. ,, Character write-ups are interesting and well written, with thought given to character's backgrounds and how those influence their role within the group. The character sheets are generally clearly laid out and are very diverse within the group, again giving each member a clear role that their build backs up. ,, Extra Ammo In addition to the above there is a history of OPS, the company that built Sixgun and now hunts them, a sidebar on how mercenary groups work in the real world, a handful of plot seeds, three additional NPCs, and standees for use at your table. ,, The history of OPS, combined with Sixgun's own history, gives a good idea of the company. They become yet another antagonist group for the GM to use,and could easily be a recurring element in a campaign. The extra NPCs are supporting players, providing Sixgun's primary employer reference (a.k.a. Mr Johnson), their chief repairs specialist, and an outsourced transportation specialist. A clever GM could easily build multiple sessions worth of material around Sixgun, their supporting players, and OPS, generating an entire campaign around bringing down OPS and bringing Sixgun to justice. Alternately Sixgun could easily provide additional firepower for a less powerful "mastermind" style villain to use against the heroes. ,, Art & Layout As is quickly becoming evident Vigilance Press really cares about the presentation of their products. The layout is as clean and accessible as it has been in prior products. Meanwhile, the artwork is top notch, easily looking as good, or better, as anything coming out of the major publishers. As before, this artwork is used on the standees as well, ensuring that if you use them they will really stand out attractively on your table. ,, Closing Thoughts For the price Sixgun is easily the match for prior Due Vigilance products and stands out very well compared against Green Ronin's Threat Reports from two years ago. The quality of the artwork, writing, and the thoughtful nature of the product's extras provide a very usable product. This is easily one of the better character folios I have read. ,, Rating: 100% - Maybe I'm not at my most objective here, but this is the Due Vigilance product I think I'd use before any other thus far. ,, Author's note: A review copy of the product was provided to me by Vigilance Press for the purposes of this review.
  17. ,, ,, Gadget Guide: Robots Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 7(6) pages • $1.29 • full color PDF "Kiss my shiny metal ass!" The start of 2013 brings a new supplemental product line from Green Ronin to support Mutants and Masterminds Third Edition. After last year's Power Profiles series (to which the Gadget Guides will be compared thoroughly) there was a great deal of expectation for the announced Gadget Guides. Power Profiles was a generally strong series that at times touched on true "must buy" greatness; would the Gadget Guides be able to do the same? What's in it? The first Guide is seven pages in total; six of content and one for credits and licences. There's a half page splash of artwork, much like that in the Power Profiles, as well as an inset of the same on the front page. Layout, headers, borders, and the like are up to Green Ronin's usual high standard. Section headings are Robot Design, Basic Capabilities, Abilities, Skills, Advantages, Powers, Complications, Robot Creation, and Sample Robots. These sections run from a single paragraph for some to a page or more for others, providing some level of insight into common purchases for robots as well as discussion on how specific aspects will impact a robot. In this way this Guide reads somewhat like a sort of Power Profile, instead of building powers it builds robot minions. Unfortunately that is also its greatest weakness. In delving deeply into the fundamental tasks to needed to create a robot the Guide ends up reading like material that was left out of the Hero's Handbook (where we only got two pages) instead of being additional, and presumably advanced, material worth shelling out additional funds for. The final page, which contains five sample robots ranging from PL 4 to PL 9 is useful, and I could have done with another page or two like it, providing ready made robots of various design. Ultimately the quality of the writing itself isn't worthy of harsh condemnation, indeed it is generally good, but its value as a micropayment product two years out from the initial release of this edition of the game is unfortunately limited. This makes it difficult to justify as a product for most of the game's player-base. Closing Thoughts Aside from the page of sample 'bots there is limited use in this product for players and GMs who are familiar with the M&M system. Players who are not familiar with Robots, or those very new to the system mechanics might find some degree of useful information within, but there is little to love for what is likely to be the core audience. Unfortunately the content really feels like it should have been in the Hero's Handbook when the new edition was launched two years ago, which only serves to lower its perceived quality. Rating: 40% - Unfortunately much of the product feels like material that should have been in the Hero's Handbook, and the section of pre-made/read-to-use Robots is too short. ,,
  18. Due Vigilance #2: Black Chapter Vitals: Published By Vigilance Press • 34 pages • $10.99 • full color PDF Last year I reviewed the first product in the Due Vigilance line The Oktobermen. Within that was mention of a organization dedicated to sequestering dangerous magics known as the Library. Well Black Chapter picks up on that and provides a high level overview of the Library and then dives deep for a character portfolio of Black Chapter, the Library's top "wet works" team. These guys are the ones who go after the worst of the worst, the most dangerous of the dangerous. After the cover and credits we jump right into a brief history of the Library and the Special Collections branch. This covers three pages plus two more to stat out the director of Special Collections. The text here is good providing a well planned out high level overview of the organization while leaving plenty of room for GM interpretation to fit the Library into their games. I found this especially useful as it will allow a person to place the group into their game as they see fit without needing to make wholesale edits. In the case of RPG setting expansions like this less can often be more. After this we get directly into the core of the book: Black Chapter. We get two pages that run down through the group's dynamics and tactics (as well as sub-groups that are commonly deployed for specific mission types), followed by eight members of Black Chapter (or maybe seven members and one provisional member). Each character is given two pages including a portrait, background write-up, and a fully rendered character build. Those characters include: Cabaellero - a young man guided by Fate and wielding a mystic sword Elizabeth Tower - a woman who has a score to settle with the Oktobermen's Bookbinder Lockleann Sheeramanneth - the spirit of a dragon locked within the body of a (possibly?) brain dead young woman Mirka - an enlightened yeti armed with mastery of martial arts Sister Hyde - an alchemist with a dark side Talespinner - the resident mage, who's powers are all tied into books Weaver - a disciple of an Arachne worshiping cult on loan to the Library as a "consultant" of sorts The Mad Monk - a former member of the library who is now an inmate and a weapon of last resort That's fourteen full pages and eight fully detailed and usable characters all with art (nine if you count the write up of Special Collections direction Oracle Sphinx). Generally the artwork is on the good to great side, though I did feel that Weaver's simple bodysuit clashed with the more "layered" and complex wardrobe of the other characters. Their write ups all present thoughtful and thematically strong power sets often with a number of interestingly built powers. The last eight pages are given over to four pages of story hooks and second tier characters, two pages of standees for use at your table (if that's your thing), and then the OGL and a back cover. Closing Thoughts With strong artwork, solid writing, and well designed and executed characters Black Chapter is a very solid mini-expansion if you are looking to deepen the supernatural and magical communities of your game's setting. The premise is well wrought and even if (like myself) you find that the character's are too high a PL for your own use (without modification) the Library and its plots and sub-groups will serve well as a launch-pad for more PL-appropriate allies, or foils, for your characters. Rating: 90% - A solid third party offering for games featuring a more supernatural bent. Author's note: A review copy of the product was provided to me by Vigilance Press for the purposes of this review.
  19. Power Profiles #39: Dream Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF Mr. Sandman, dream me a dream ... Descriptors, Countering & Features Five descriptors going in quite some depth with regards to the sleeping state, dreaming, and the like. The Dream Dimension descriptor's discussion is quite lengthy and goes a long way to help define what such a dimension may be like in game. The four Features provided are far more useful than most and could almost be considered extras to apply to dream powers, such is their utility. Offensive Powers Four powers. The descriptive portions of these is given more space than usual, providing detail on how the power would be used, or detail on how it works. Dream Trap provides and interesting control to ensure that other dream based powers will have a target. Likewise Sleep Deprivation and Nightmare Blast are steeped into the themes of the product. Defensive Powers Four powers. Fitting with the themes of the profile these powers are focused on defense from dreams, and dream effects. Meanwhile Dream Immunity and Sleepless are inexpensive enough to be fitting additions to characters who are not human or not alive (constructs) to show them as being even further separated from humanity. Movement Powers Three powers. Dream Travel and Dream Projection allow the user ways to dive into the dreams of others, after which they will have the ability to make use of their other abilities. These can make good use of the extensive discussion of the Dream Dimension from earlier as well. Utility Powers Six powers mostly focused on control of dreams or allowing those in the real world to perceive and communicate into the dream. Dream Mastery utilizes the Variable effect, which is usually worth a warning to GMs about the power of it, but this also shows a rare case where the Variable is truly the best effect for the job as described. Complications Eight complications close out the profile. Accident poses an interesting situation for players and GMs where they can potentially wreak havoc within the dream world on a scope and scale truly beyond what is usual for most powers or themes. Power Loss and Secret both link strongly to the theme of being powerful while in "the dream" but lacking much of that, or all of it, when in the waking world. Closing Thoughts Dream Powers is one of the better profiles in the series. Control of dreams, and the effects therein are not always easy to develop either conceptually or mechanically, but the effects and powers here do and admirable job. The relatively low number of powers allows each to get a little more room to be discussed as well as allowing the opening discussions to grow longer than typical. Overall the profile is strong with good ties to the theme and a great deal of useful suggestions for how powers should work. Recommended all around. Rating: 95% - A very strong outing that avoids feeling similar to prior profiles and details a less common power to great effect.
  20. Power Profiles #38: Darkness Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF Descriptors, Countering & Features Three descriptors, countering, and three features. The Shadow Puppets feature is an amusing power aspect, and combined with the Shadow Boxing combat power later could create a useful combo. The discussion of the mystic aspects of the descriptors is useful to provide linkage to other power theme as also discussed later in the Other Darkness Powers section. Offensive Powers Seven powers. As usual Affliction and Damage effects predominate, though other effects are present. Shadow Shroud presents one of the least conceptually difficult versions of a concealment attack, though the Obscure effect option from the Sensory powers profile may still suit some players and GMs over this method. Defensive Powers Five powers. The usual suspects are present here as well, with Protection and Immunity effects. The Immunity effects for darkness and light are priced differently, which I believe is likely an error, but may well be intentional, though no explanation is provided. Movement Powers Six movement powers are provided. Shadow Walk allows the user to travel between shadows with the ease of moving between rooms. Shadow Projection isn't precisely a movement power, but does allow ao darkness or shadow based power a means of "scouting", Utility Powers Eight powers. All eight are built off a different effect making this section more diverse than some. Summon Shadows provides a summonable minion(s), while powers like Shadow Form and Healing Darkness make a themed character gain more power from the darkness to which they have an affinity. Complications Nine complications close out the profile and help to round out characters. Complications like Reputation and Prejudice queue off off the thematic aspects of darkness from a psychological aspect. Likewise Weakness and Power Loss are often linked to the physical side of darkness as an opposite to light. Closing Thoughts Darkness Powers does well to cover the theme presented. The powers presented within are largely very diverse with only a few similar effects. There is a slight issue with the defensive immunity powers which, but this may well be a simple error. Overall the profile does an adequate to good job without expanding upon the rule system. Useful for experienced players and recommended for those new to the system. Rating: 80% - A diverse collection of powers and effects that does its theme credit and will be useful to new and some experienced players.
  21. Power Profiles #37: Magnetic Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF Descriptors, Countering & Features Two descriptors and discussion of countering adequately cover the power theme. The addition of a small bullet list of common metal items and their mass ranks was a nice aspect. Four Features are also provided. Offensive Powers Seven powers featuring mostly damage and affliction effects. The powers are all flavorful examples but the similarity between some, like Magnetic Blast and Railgun, may diminish the overall depth of utility for some. Defensive Powers Three powers. The effects here are going to be familiar, matching many of the prior Power Profiles, and covering the basics without any real standouts. Movement Powers Four powers. Magnetic Flight and Magnetic Levitation provide two significantly different effects that both tie strongly to the theme. Magnoport is an interesting effect when combined with the later Magnetic Form power. Utility Powers Eleven powers and twelve effects. This is the largest section of the product with a good amount of space given to powers like Degauss, Ferrokinesis, and Shape Metal. Magnetic Encoding and Reading are two powers that link the magnetic theme to technological powers. Other Powers and Complications Links to tech powers as well as other powers related to electro-magnetic phenomenon are discussed. Seven complications are also laid out with extra space given over to Weakness. Accident gets a short paragraph, but could easily be expanded to include much wider range of unwanted side effects for those with a more realistic preference. Closing Thoughts Magnetic Powers hews closely to theme, providing a number of flavorful and useful effects. The addition of sample metal items with their mass ranks provides a little extra utility for gamemasters. Unfortunately the similarity between some of the powers, as well as the similarity to other power profiles with "energy" and "object manipulation" themes may potentially reduce the utility of the product to those who have been buying many, or all, of the Power Profiles. Useful for new players and may be useful for intermediate players. Strictly optional for experienced superheroes. Rating: 75% - Adequately covers the theme, but feels a little same-y compared to other "energy" theme Power Profiles.
  22. After reading the Supernatural book I got to thinking about secret societies and the like, I guess today's date must have been on my mind seeing as I came up with this: November 5th 1605. Every man woman and child in Britain knows what happened that day ... or do they? Guy Fawkes was not the conspirator that history claims him to be. The Gunpowder Plot had nothing to do with Gunpowder, and its goal was not the death of the king ... the truth is far stranger. This is the truth: In the early hours of November 5th, 1605 in the basements and tunnels below the Houses of Parliament a cabal of worshipers, The Cult of Kar'Kradas, sought to enact a dark ritual that would allow their dark lord to claim and possess the King and thus bring tyranny and darkness to the land. In the dark of the night, Guy Fawkes and twelve others clashed with the followers of Kar'Kradas beneath the House of Lords. Fawkes and two others alone survived the encounter to be taken into custody of the King's men. In secret the truth was revealed and a plan enacted. A ritual was carried out, binding the identities of Fawkes and the other two men to criminals awaiting execution. Those men were executed for a plot to destroy the King by gunpowder, those men were claimed by Death in place of Fawkes and his men, who were now outside of the reach of death; immortal. The king charged Fawkes with the protection of the crown and the empire from threats foreign and internal that originated from sources beyond the realms of men. Thus was the His Majesty's Order of the Fox created. A play on words to hide the truth in plain sight and ensure that Empire had a bulwark against the dark powers beyond the ken of mortal men.
  23. Power Profiles #36: Death Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF The grave is no bar to my call ... Descriptors, Countering & Features Four descriptors, countering, three features, and a discussion on death and dying as conditions. The discussion of the descriptors and countering as very well laid out, and longer than we have seen in some of the more recent profiles. These do the profile credit. The discussion of death and dying as conditions leads to the use of Dying as a third degree failure condition for afflictions which colors this profile and really plays against my personal tastes with regards to game balance. It feels like the notion that death is seldom permanent is being used as an excuse to make death easy to accomplish, especially by allowing it as a third tier condition. In games were GMs allow Dying to replace Incapacitated as a result of damage checks this may feel a little more fitting however. Offensive Powers Eight powers with Afflictions making up six of them, and three of those six having Dying as the third degree condition. The powers fit the theme well, with a mixture of effects that disable and potentially kill. The Soulfire power is priced incorrectly I believe. The effect uses the Alternate Resistance extra at a cost of +0 per rank, but a similar effect build in the Mental Powers Profile priced the extra at the +1 point per rank. Reading the extra's rules didn't help as they are rather open to interpretation. Hopefully this will be fixed if it is an error (as I believe it to be). Defensive Powers Four powers here, ranging from Immortality to Blood Healing. While none of the builds are particularly original, the powers do hew closely to the theme and avoid repetition. The mention of potentially tying Blood Healing to an offensive power as a source is a nice one, and I wish an extra effect build had been shown as an example since these kinds of interrelated powers are sometimes more tricky than one might expect. Do you limit the effect once to if the offensive effect has a result or not, and them limit it again to a number of degrees equal to its effect? Does linking healing to an offensive effect automatically require that the offensive power successfully damage the target for healing to work? I think these kinds of questions are not always obvious, especially to people new to the system. (For the record I would say, that if your intent is to have the healing work only if you damage the target would be a limit on the healing effect in addition to being linked to the offensive effect.) Movement Powers Two effects. Valkyrie's Ride posits an interesting alternate version to the Accurate extra for Teleport. I like the implication behind it (as well as the stated built in limit that you must know the target), but I am not sure how many other uses I could find for this take on the effect. Utility Powers Six powers. Necromancy in its traditional form makes an appearance here, with an impressive per rank cost to summon a high number of low powered minions. Some will potentially overlook the usefulness of such creatures but never underestimate the power of hordes of minions using teamwork to boost their individual combat capability; the end result can be an impressive ability to take down foes much more powerful than they are through sheer numbers. Ghost Form is also an interesting power as it presents a sort of alternate form where the character is effectively "dead" (via a lack of Stamina) while in use. Complications Nine complications. Prejudice and Weakness get the most space devoted to them. As one would expect there is much discussion on the side-effects of death based powers and how they interact with the living world around the character and with the death adverse citizens of the world. Closing Thoughts Death Powers is well queued off of the primary theme, with powers that cover the multitude of death related aspects. Some minor rules discussion and alternatives are provided, but are also weigh against a possible inconsistency between effect builds in prior power profiles. The strength of the material carries it well however, making the product a good bet for most players. Rating: 85% - Strong on theme, with some good discussion, this profile is weighed down with a few rules issues that will hopefully be corrected.
  24. Supernatural Handbook Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 152 pages • $15.00 (full color PDF ) • $29.95 (hardcopy pre-order) Elder Signs and Profane Sigils, or, Cover and Interior Artwork Art is a highly subjective matter, and I can’t draw much better now than I could when I was in kindergarten, so readers really ought to take these comments with a grain of salt and at face value as my personal opinion. The cover artwork, depicting a three-person team fighting with something tentacle-y in what appears to be an ancient temple really does a good job of setting expectations. The three heroes (one assumes) cover a range from heroic monster, to sorcerer/wizard, to an apparently normal man-of-action type. The style is clearly reminiscent of comics, and the title font helps to accentuate the horror themes within the book. Turning to the interior artwork, for me, was a mixed bag. Part of that was due to the mixture of styles; some of the interior artwork is in the style of comics, while others are more digital renders, or possibly photo-shopped photography stock (like I said I know nothing of making art), and still others look to be something like watercolor. While all of the styles serve the themes of the book and highlight the greater genre of horror storytelling, they are so vastly different that I found them somewhat jarring in contrast to each other. Thankfully I also found that the artwork seemed to be consistent within a given chapter and never where two style evident on facing pages. Personal taste aside I would say that the artwork works by a good measure more than it fails, but taste is a subjective thing, and your mileage may vary. The Chunky Meaty Flesh of the Thing, or, What’s Inside The book is broken out into five chapters and an introduction. The first chapter covers setting elements and setting up a horror game. The second details player options, discusses player/character roles, and the like. The third, and longest, is the GM advice chapter, giving heaps of help to GMs wishing to run a horror game. The fourth chapter is the GMs toolkit, with sample monster archetypes, suggestions on building terrible things, and the like. Chapter five details A.R.C.A.D.E., the American Research Center for the Arcane Defense of Earth, a sample organization that can be used in an already established setting or used as the starting kernel of a new setting by a GM. That Creepy Feeling, or, The Introduction We start out with a piece of short fiction that sets the tone for the book by telling the story of a frightened young boy beginning his fight against the darkness. From there we get a pair of caveats that clarify what the book’s goal is and what horror will mean in the context of the book. A brief rundown of each chapter is then provided before we step into chapter one. The Z-War, The Darkest Jungles, and the Cursed House, or, Chapter 1: A World of Horror Chapter one starts off with another short vignette before diving into a discussion of horror as a genre versus horror as a tone used in other genres. A game or story can be science fiction in genre by horrific in tone (example: Alien), or horrific as a genre and yet comedic in tone (ex. Shaun of the Dead). This is an important distinction to be made, and helps to inform the rest of the chapter. Following this discussion is a breakdown of different styles of series that players and gamemaster may partake in, from monster of the week to post-human tales. Each breakdown quickly details the general meaning of the series and then suggests possible elements to use and how to work those into three different ranges of power levels. The write ups here do a good job of informing the reader of subtle differences between series types (arguably sub-genres or sub-tones), like the difference between Post-Apocalypse and Post-Human, for example. Closing the chapter are break-outs of various time periods in which to set a horror game, and how to use the elements of those times in determining the horror elements of the story. These time periods range from the far past during the Crusades and before, to the near and far future. Ages are broken down broadly with categories like the Mythic Age and the Pulp Age, and then further broken into specific eras within those ages like the Inquisition or the Weird West, each with a short list of potential elements for use as story seeds. While none of the eras get more than a paragraph or two and each age is only given a few more beyond that this section goes a long way to help a GM establish the beginnings of a series setting. At a scant fourteen pages long this chapter is packed full of crucial information for gamemasters. That information is delivered in densely packed prose that more than adequately sets a GM on the path toward starting a campaign. Were more space available example setting and campaign kernels would have been and ideal use, but with the information provided their absence is a minor complaint. Ain’t no Rest for the Wicked, or, Chapter 2: The Player’s Guide to the Supernatural This chapter is broken out into five major sections. The first section (and part of the chapter introduction) discusses the player (instead of the character). Specifically there is discussion on the duties of the player within a horror game, how to make the game work, and how to avoid derailing it. I think this is some pertinent and useful advice as establishing the horror mood and maintaining it are as much part of the player’s tasks as the Gamemaster’s. The remainder provides ways to engage the players more fully, by way of allowing them to take limited control over the game through interrupts and external investigation. These options will not work for every game, nor every player or GM, but the do expand on the arsenal of options for a play group to utilize. The next three sections detail character options, from advice to GMs regarding Power Levels and ability benchmarks, to suggestions for new or expanded Complications and and equipment. Seven archetypes are provided, two at PL 12, two at PL 10, and one each at PLs 6, 8, and 9. While the provided archetypes cover a gamut of options I would have liked to see a little more representation from all three of the series power tiers. A few extra archetypes at the PL 6-8 range would have helped here to fill in the gaps. Following the archetypes are a series of minor “racial” templates for common monsters that can be applied to create reformed creatures as characters. The final section of the chapter goes into deep detail on the investigation process. This information is provided as a player aide as much as a gamemaster aide, in order to help facilitate player engagement and role playing and avoid situations where the GM leads the group through the investigation rather than the players taking control (a.k.a. being on rails, or railroading). Overall the chapter works well and aside from wanting a few more low PL templates it very effectively covers all the options, responsibilities, and character choices players will need. Your World the Nightmare, or, Chapter 3: Mastering Your Fears Let me say this upfront: the chapter is a beast. Not only is it the longest chapter by page count, but it is by far the densest chapter texturally. This isn’t a sit down and read through it in one sitting kind of chapter; and that is a good thing. The chapter is broken into a whopping ten major sections but really it breaks down into three major topics: what horror is, how to create horror in your games, and tools to create the setting and background for your games. The discussion of horror, its themes, its flavors, and how to integrate these into your games is the first part of the chapter. The information here is incredibly useful. These are not just the tools of horror, but of all drama. After reading this part of the chapter the reader will be able to see the building blocks of horror, from the allegories at the heart of Frankenstein, to the sociological implications of the better zombie films and novels. The next few sections discuss provide the tools to use your new found knowledge. Discussion of how to use descriptions and the lack thereof to enhance the experience. Use of precise touches of horror over the blunt applications; the hints of the xenomorph in Alien, versus the gross out splatter of slasher and exploitation/torture horror for example. The section on advanced techniques, including the use of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, sends the reader deeper into the mindset of the antagonists and protagonists. The difference in needs of a monster like zombie versus a monster like a serial killer helps to deepen the understanding of what makes each tick, and how to use those to drive a story. Likewise, knowing the difference between the victims of each antagonist helps the gamemaster to understand how to target the horror at the characters effectively. The final portion of the chapter discusses the methods and tools to create antagonists, be they pantheons of god like power, secret organizations and cabals, alien mythos that threaten the world, or disasters that change the world itself, making it the antagonist as much as nay creature or group. These sections ask good questions, and pose excellent options, covering the subjects at hand in great detail and providing a clear framework from which the GM can build up their antagonists for a game. Things That Go Bump, or, Chapter 4: Misadventures in Horror Where Chapter 3 is the blueprints for a horror game, this chapter is the parts and the tools to bring those blueprints to fruition. The chapter is broken into four parts. The first is a series of pre-built packages from which GMs can create quick monsters. These are useful, requiring only a limited amount of quick math to cobble a functional critter from. The only real miss here is a lack of some kind of random roll table to allow a GM to build such monsters without needing to make their own choices. Monster archetypes follow in the second section. These are greater monsters, while those created using the prior section are useful to serve as minions or perhaps secondary creatures those in this section are meant to be used as the primary foe in a game. Eight archetypes are provided with PLs from 10 to 15. The last two sections are made up of some sample newspaper clippings and four pre-made mini-adventures (one or more sessions worth). The clippings are a nice way to present story ideas and hook, both to the gamemaster and for GMs to use to give to players. The four mini-adventures provide are well written with plenty for information to guide a GM along while leaving the pacing and specifics open for interpretation, which I find to be a good balance for pre-generated adventure material. “The Ones Who Bump Back,” or, Chapter 5: ARCADE The American Research Center for the Arcane Defense of Earth is detailed over the course of seven pages. Here we gain insight into the workings of the organization, from the spell that ensures their secrecy, to the people who run the group from its hidden New Orleans base of operations. We also get a write up of Leroy Dutch whom we first met way back at the start of the book’s introduction. The ARCADE write-up provides a lot of potential to gamemasters looking to incorporate a bit (or a bunch) of the supernatural into their games. Characters could be working for ARCADE, or could be completely ignorant of the organization due to the effects of ARCADE’s memory controlling spell. Closing Thoughts This book bills itself as a book of the supernatural, and that is true if one considers the meaning of supernatural as one that includes all things that are beyond or outside the scope of nature. That said the book is not just about otherworldly horrors and dark spirits. This book is just as useful for science fiction games as it is for games of demons and boogeymen, and the means of developing and inciting “horror” are as capable of inciting drama for other tones and genres as they are horror in the traditional sense. The incredibly information dense third chapter is far and away one of the best GMs resources that I have seen. The techniques, discussion of themes, and the like can be applied to a wide variety of genres and tones above and beyond the horror and supernatural that the book is written around. Personal issues with the artwork, and some minor quibbles about the lack of low-power templates and options aside this book is one of the best resources for any genre. Don’t let the implication of “horror” color your thinking, the tools and advice in the book can easily open the doors to drama in any form, be it horrific, in the traditional/common sense or in the more personal dramatic sense. Rating: 95% - The Supernatural Handbook is highly recommended, with a great deal of useful information that would not be out of place in a college literature course. The game specific information is also highly useful with templates and sample groups to help kickstart a GMs next game.
  25. Power Profiles: #32 – Time Powers & #35 – Dimension Powers Vitals: Published By Green Ronin • 6 pages • $0.99 • full color PDF (each) Time And Relative Dimensions In Space … Descriptors, Countering & Features Time: Three descriptors plus countering. Two Features both of which would be potentially important standard options for a campaign set around time travel. The real meat here is the half page dedicated to discussion on “Temporal Tampering”. Four different options are presented for how easy, or difficult, it is to travel back and change history/the time stream. While these aren’t really player/character options they are important for a GM dealing with a time traveling character (PC or NPC) and far more so if the campaign as a whole will deal with time travel. Dimensional: Dimension gets a great deal of space (get it?!) devoted to it, specifically to discuss the options of multiple dimensions within a game setting, how different spatial dimensions may affect powers, and the like. Countering is shown to be potentially highly varied, with dimensional powers possibly able to tap into other realms to counter nearly any other effect depending on the user’s specific build. Three features focus on adapting to different dimensions (in the setting sense). A few paragraphs are also given over to discussing how the Dimensional extra impacts the use of powers. Offensive Powers Time: Three powers. Time Freeze and Age Manipulation are well known and used powers, Temporal Ambush, however, presents and interesting way of dealing out damage as a temporal character without resorting to “time blasts” and the like. I appreciate that this power was given space over a more standard blast effect. Dimensional: Three powers. Dimensional Cascade provides a variety of of offensive options based on the ability to link other dimensions to the user’s. Dimension Blade presents a clever use of Subtle on a close combat weapon. Defensive Powers Time: Three powers. Temporal Sidestep is going to be the most discussed of the three both by way of build and by way of effect. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a Reaction extra attached to a movement effect in this series and the build is similar to prior implementations. While one can hardly decry a power whose entry cost is in the vicinity of forty power points (or more) the nigh invulnerability it creates will rub some people the wrong way. Dimensional: Three powers. Dimensional Shunt is the stand out power here with an interesting take on Deflect that could potentially create a great deal of ill will toward the character depending on how the Deflected effects interact with their destination dimension. Movement Powers Time: Three powers covering five effect builds. Time Portal and Time Travel do exactly what you would expect given the theme of the profile. Temporal Shift upends expectations somewhat however. The base effect is that of a Teleport (by stopping time to move), while the second and third effects allow the character to not only move himself but various amounts of his surroundings, allowing a player to stop time to pull an innocent from out in front of a speeding car, or move his friends out of the way of an explosion. My only beef is that these effects would seem to be gaining the advantage of the Selective Extra without paying for it and instead also getting a price break for the Limit to “things you can physically move”. I think here the Selective extra needs to be applied which would cancel the point savings from the limitation. Dimensional: Three powers, all based on the Movement (Dimensional) effect. The primary difference between powers is the execution and the flavor of how they function. Dimension Walk appears to be unclearly, or incorrectly, costed in its higher forms. Hopefully this can be corrected and an updated file can be provided. Utility powers Time: Nine powers, five of which are Senses effects. The Reply sense presents an interesting Feature idea, but I would have liked a little bit more mechanical “oomph” behind it. Time Stop seems to be a similar power to the Temporal Shift power under movement, though this is less limited but the confines of needing combat strong mechanics. Dimensional: Ten powers. This is probably the most impressive part of the profile after the first section. Powers like Dimensional Pocket, Dimensional Grab, and Four-Dimensional Form provide clever uses of Features and effects to create unique powers. The other effects all provide a range of useful abilities that adhere to the theme strongly and present a great deal of options to expand the role of a dimensional character beyond movement effects. Complications Time: Five complications are squeezed in at the end of the profile, covering three quarters of a page. Quirk, Responsibility, and Secret get the most attention. These three all work well within the confines of a game dealing with time travel, or even just a lone character displaced in time. Dimensional: Six complications close out the profile. Accident can pose potentially game changing twists for the characters, while Responsibility and Secret could form the basis of a dimensional agent or the like. Closing Thoughts Time: Time Powers is one of the best of the series. With clever effects builds and a great deal of useful advice for players and GMs there is little more that could be asked for. The only blemishes are the potential issues with Temporal Sidestep’s powerful effect and, at least in my opinion, the lack of the Selective extra on the higher level Temporal Shift effects. Those two issues don’t diminish the remaining strong points of the product however and I feel strongly that there are few who would not find something useful in this product for any games and characters dealing with time travel. Dimensional: Dimension Powers is a good profile. While it isn’t as strong as others it does provide a good deal of clever options and useful advice. The opening section and Utility powers help balance against the somewhat short offerings from other sections. A minor costing error on one power also tarnishes the finished product. Still, this profile is more gold than pyrite, and is recommended for all but seasoned dimensional travelers. Rating Time: 95% - Just shy of perfect. This profile brings enough to the table to please players of all experience levels. Dimensional: 85%- A very good profile, that provides a good number of options. Some errors
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