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Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 2 (ICONS)
by andrew b. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/24/2013 15:36:42
I gave a negative review of this series. I have come to regret this choice the more I reviewed this product. I now feel I should update my conclusions and try to be a more informative reviewer for my readers and not vent my financial venom into the RPGNow community.

I will list my negative conclusions, all of which one might have immediately upon purchasing the product and after an initial review. My reactions were this. Too expensive. I write it out into two paticular paragraphs which I will now repost.


"I have to say I was highly disappointed by this product. I have been really craving new Icons products, and this does fit that bill... but is highly expensive for what you end up getting. Each of these products are about 50 to 70 pages and they charge top dollar for everything you get. Each installment covers about ten archetypes... tells some general things about it... comic world examples... aspects... and 1 character example. For this they charge 8 to 10 dollars each. That means for the complete set of 40 archetypes and characters covered over lets say 240 pages you are going to play $34."

"Now compared to some text heavy systems like D&D and Hero, this really isnt a lot. If you compare this to the Icons Villianomicon, my golden standard on this line which is sold for just $10 dollars and covers 51 characters, you see why this is so painful in comparison. Not to mention that all of the Field Guides (and Villianomicon as well, unfortunately) do not use any of the new and wonderfully utilitarian rules used introduced in Great Powers."


Now this may have felt right when I wrote it then... unbudgeted money is hard to come by sometimes. ICONS is a wonderful rules light RPG and many of its products seem to have a lower price tag. This means that... for me... everything in the ICONS series that I have an interest in, I own. Try saying that with one of the big boy systems. Can't do it. All those huge volumes of books with dense blocks of game statistics to chew through right in the middle of combat or an intense roleplaying scene. Not ICONS... which fits the storyteller's hands like silk gloves... minimalistic and smoothe and airey even.This is why this product kind of dinged me kind of hard.

Now I have read of the books, and the more I do the more I have come to enjoy this product. At the time, I just wanted ICONS stuff. Give me scenarios, characters, vehicles, base aspects. I wanted all of that... like a sugar addict in a brightly lit mall candy store. This book is a little light on this aspect, and yet so much more.

As it lists in its description, the author, a bonafide doctor of the subject of superheroes, lists different archetypes all comic book characters fall into. He offers a traditional explanation and suggests where to draw inspiration for aspects and even important tips on the archetype mentioned. Each one has a prim example rolled up so you see what an Animal Hero would look like up against a Woman Warrior. Also the author sneaks in his own world around the book. He offers a glossary of terms and some new powers, etc. So I would consider this work more of a guide to an outlined superhero rpg setting. The academics are fun considering how candy coated ICONS can get sometimes. Someone new to this system could purchase these books and then attach an interesting scenaro or two... and have a very functinal world outlined with very broad strokes painting a very unique, yet faithful setting. This aspect of these books took me a bit to discover.

So changing my conclusions before. This book has a lot to offer and is unique in the ICONS series. I highly recommend it and continue to find reading it pleasurable and useful. The cost was kind of steep for me but with all things considered I am glad I aquired it and believe you will too.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 2 (ICONS)
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Due Vigilance- SixGun
by Marc P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/05/2013 19:41:58
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 OPC, 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 OPC, 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 OPC, generating an entire campaign around bringing down OPC 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.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Due Vigilance- SixGun
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Due Vigilance- SixGun
by Jae C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/02/2013 05:52:32
This is a company that clearly loves it products and respects its customers - for the price you get an excellent pdf of super-powered mercenaries, well designed yet flexible enough that you use them them in any capacity including as the Marauders or the A-Team - all options are possible. The characters are extremely well written, and as in Black Chapter (another excellent must have), they are well thought out and come with "I want" extras whether its their cyberpathic link that enhances their team work or their useful NPCs (including a Russian female equivalent of Mad Murdoch).

For the money you get a well designed PDF, all of the hero lab files, separate graphics of all the main characters and the cardboard figures to use in play. What's not to like... If you play M&M3e then this is a must have!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Due Vigilance- SixGun
by Sean F. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/01/2013 15:12:46
Excellent art and layout. Well-written write-ups. Solid mechanics. This is a fantastic book for any GM running M&M and wanting a mercenary crew with high-tech gear and weapons for their heroes to fight.

It's also an excellent book for any GM wanting to get more into the complexities of having a merc team as part of the super-powered landscape. I absolutely love the relationship chart for the team; what a fantastic way to give the GM the necessary shortcuts to portray the dynamics right out of the box!

Well worth the price, and a fine addition to your superpowered RPG bag of tricks.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Due Vigilance- SixGun
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/01/2013 11:57:35
It had to happen.

We have groups of superheroes working as part of legitimate law enforcement or as vigilantes. We have groups of supervillians busy about their schemes for world domination... and so now we have a bunch operating as a private military company available for hire to, well, anyone who can pay their fee.

They are a fascinating bunch, these heroes-for-hire. There's plenty of background for the GM to take aboard and use to weave SixGun into the plot. Allies or enemies? That's up to you. You could even decide that they are your party of characters - they are well-developed enough to make fascinating pre-gens, and indeed the background suggests a campaign-full of plot ideas even as you read through it. Group dynamics, in particular, are detailed comprehensively and should prove entertaining in play.

There are several adventure ideas supplied, as well as complete individual backgrounds and character sheets for each member of the group as well as a comprehensive overview of the group itself and how it came to be. There are also some 'supporting cast' characters - a pilot, a cyber-doctor who runs their maintenance and even a potential client - each with their own plot hooks and tie-ins to SixGun themselves.

For those who like to lay it all out on the table there are paper 'standee' miniatures for all characters (and a neat stealth aircraft); and there's enough details about Private Miliary Companies to enable you to use them effectively in your game even if you haven't been tracking their rise in real life. Overall an excellent resource with loads of potential!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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The Oktobermen Special Edition (M&M)
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/10/2013 12:59:47
Beware, for the Oktobermen haunt the night committing mystical crimes for their own benefit. If a group of occult-themed supervillains fits into your Mutants & Masterminds campaign, the Oktobermen may be just what you need for supernatural scenarios.

Due Vigilance 1: the Oktobermen with Smoke and Mirrors is a character collection for Mutants & Masterminds. The art throughout is full color with each of the major characters getting their own illustration. HeroLab files for all of the characters and a set of cut out, stand-up figures for the team are included as well. The product begins with the group background and a colorful and useful relationship chart showing what each of the six members of the Oktobermen think of each other. Then it moves into the team members themselves, arranged alphabetically, which means that the team’s leader, Spring-Heeled Jack is the last member detailed (which struck me as strange).

The team’s members range from PL 10 to PL 12 though half of them are tricky and support characters rather than straight up combat characters. Using them to their best advantage will take careful reading and looking and how the characters’ powers interact with each other. That being said, the characters are quite interesting and have a very superhero occult/supernatural horrorish vibe as you would expect.

Springheel Jack, the leader, is a half-demon alive for centuries who is seeking to gather enough souls to be ‘promoted’ to full demon and has organized the Oktobermen to back his plans to do such. They all have their own agendas as well but are willing to work with Jack . . . for now.

Smoke and Mirrors are a separate pair of characters, Smoke, a vengeance spirit, and Mirrors, a supernaturally empowered killer, who work together. They are usable as a separate duo or they can be allies or members of the Oktobermen.

A wide variety of plot hooks and discussions thereof are included with the characters along with a short scenario framework. The characters here have a wide range of scenarios they can be used in a campaign with a strong horror theme.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Oktobermen Special Edition (M&M)
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Due Vigilance- Black Chapter
by DT B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/07/2013 16:47:16
Looking for something a bit different? Look no further. Black Chapter gives off a nice "B.P.R.D. meets Midnight Sons, with a dash of The Librarian" vibe. Each character is well presented with a great background, well rendered art and a clean graphic design that makes it appealing to the eye. The Library, as an organization, can easily be adapted as Patron or Hunter with few tweaks, and the inclusion of the organization's basic information (including rules for benefits, locales, and some gear) makes this PDF a steal at 10.99! If you haven't gotten it yet, do yourself a favor and snag a copy!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Due Vigilance- Black Chapter
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Wargames 2: Superspies and Commandos of the Cold War
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/06/2013 13:18:09
Vigilance Press has been dedicated to bringing cross-system materials out in a way that few other companies have. This requires an understanding of many different game systems, and more importantly, a core concept that remains consistent, so that each game or supplement can express that core concept in the "language" of their own game. Wargames 2, reviewed here in its Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Edition format, is a good example of how that can be done successfully.

Wargames 2 posits a superheroic world that has been plunged into the Cold War, and focuses primarily on the 1980s. The Cold War is interesting in comic book worlds. During the actual 1960s and 70s, comics were going through the Silver Age, a time frame we associate with innocence and wonder. However, when we look back on the Cold War period in the post-Soviet-collapse world we live in, we see a great deal of moral ambiguity and even tragedy. Wargames 2 tries to walk this line closely. Although there are goofy world-spanning conspiracies like the SPECTRE-a-like PHANTOM, there are also darker groups like the Fourth Reich and more "realistic" situations portrayed, like providing counterintelligence. In general, though, it tries to make espionage seem more effective in a comic book world, looking to exceptionally well-trained and well-outfitted superheroes for its inspiration rather than mutants or gods, and looking at heroism like a job or something you enlist for rather than a calling.

The overwhelming majority of the book is worldbuilding, describing the bases, personnel, key leaders and agendas of national agencies and independent organizations operating during this alternate 1980s. It's very thorough and keeps to that line between goofy and serious as closely as it can.

The stats of the characters are well-thought-out, though there are a few oddball things that require you to have the Ultimate Power sourcebook to really figure out. (These are minor and easily altered, though, and at this late date who hasn't picked up Ultimate Power in one sale or another?)

If there is something I could suggest to improve this book, it's that there's not a clear direction for me on how I should run this game differently from my normal Mutants & Masterminds game, which assumes a much broader variety of characters that are brought together by the "superhero team" concept rather than the "1980s espionage" concept. What techniques still work and which ones need to be changed?

In general, Wargames 2 is a solid attempt to look at the Cold War time frame through a superheroic lens and bring some excitement to a superheroic field that's (nowadays) well supported in the comics but much more rarely so in comic book RPGs.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wargames 2: Superspies and Commandos of the Cold War
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Devilish Duos: Smoke and Mirrors
by Marc P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/03/2013 08:01:52
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.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Devilish Duos: Smoke and Mirrors
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Due Vigilance- Black Chapter
by Marc P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/03/2013 08:00:25
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.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Due Vigilance- Black Chapter
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Due Vigilance- Black Chapter
by Jae C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/03/2012 15:03:44
I first got interested in the Library when I was listening to Vigilance Press' podcasts of Beacon City and began to think how I'd use the concept in my own game... However this is even better than I thought it would be. What you get is some excellent and well-written characters, nice illustrations, a full set of hero lab files and a set of cardboard figures. The concept of The Library is well thought out with plenty of adventure hooks. The characters are interesting and look fun (there is some nice humour too - Talespinner's blurb "I suppose I could have used Fifty Shades of Grey, but there are regulations against that sort of unnecessary cruelty…" sort of sums it up for me.

Overall this is a fun addition to your M&M game, especially if you like the idea of having a mystical thread running through your whole campaign - there is enough vagueness to allow for easy adaption to most campaigns, the gismo's are well thought out and actually beneficial (Communications by library card anyone?) the background elements are sufficiently universal and the characters gathered from a number of nations that it will easy slot in whether you're running a campaign set in America, Britain or Estonia.

In my personal campaign, welcome to the Library of St Catherine's located in the Stacks deep beneath the British Library... Overall it's already one of my favourite add-ons and I can't recommend it enough.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Due Vigilance- Black Chapter
by Eric D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/01/2012 10:48:45
Black Chapter is a companion book to Vigilance Press' previous book the Oktobermen, but doesn't require you to own both to use this product. This book presents a mystic powered "response team".

It was written by Jack Norris (who contributed to the DC Heroes & Villains books, Emerald City Knights #4, Threat Reports compilation and Threat Reports for Ku Tu the Immortal and the Jade Spider), and was illustrated by Alex Williamson, Jesse Justice, Denise Jones and James Dawsey. It was edited by Nathan Kahler, and the art direction and graphic design was done by Ruben Byrd.

First thing that I noticed was the cover art, which I think is great. The art through out the book is well done, and carries out through out the entire book.

The writing is very well done, and there are many literary "easter eggs" or references presented through out the book (some not as noticeable on the first pass, such as the names of the weapons that the agents provided at the end of the book use, I hadn't noticed them on my first pass through, until they were pointed out to me), with my favorite reference being the quote provided by Tale Spinner!

I have learned that Jack Norris wanted to revisit the idea of the Oktobermen, and attempt to put a different spin on some of the characters in the Oktobermen (one example I can give with certainty is the Literay Magic used by Tale Spinner of the Black Chapter and Book Binder of the Oktobermen). I was surprised (in a good way!) to see that they were both similar in some aspects, but that their main power arrays were very different.

The book is a self-described "building book", meaning that it is easily portable into any existing setting/campaign with minimal effort. The book provides an organization, The Library which is a mystic storage/retrieval organization, which is an specifically labeled as good or evil, so it gives flexibility in using it. It goes on with the history of the organization, and gives some notable examples of "branches" of the Library that can be used as written, or as a model for your own game. To go along with this, features and equipment that a Library member could/would use are also provided.

The next section is the actual team of characters section. This has such information as team dynamics, which is helpful in fleshing out how the members of the Black Chapter actually interact with each other. This is somewhat similar to the flowchart that was in the Oktobermen, but there is no chart for the Black Chapter. This information could provide use to a GM who isn't familiar with the group, but wanted to use them in their own game.

It then goes into team tactics and sub-team make up for the Black Chapter. I really liked this, and the literary inspired names for each sub-team. As stated, it gives different tactics and strategies that each team could use and which members of Black Chapter would be suggested for different missions (i.e., diplomatic missions would have a different team structure than an assault mission). This gives the Black Chapter more uses than just the "bad guy of the week", but allows them to be a recurring ally/enemy, and provides for different usages.

The book also provides several different adventures hook ideas, and even another villain to use. The characters themselves have several different "built-in" hooks that are left intentionally vague so that players and GMs could build off the members of the Black Chapter, either as other characters or adventure plots. Caballero is an example of a "hook" that players could use, as it gives "companion" weapon ideas to his main weapon/power. And the character of Tower, an example of a literary vampire, provides a possible link to using Dracula himself (which would also relate to the Threat Reports pdf if one was interested in using him).

The team itself has a good mixture of power levels, allowing a more versatile use of the Black Chapter as heroes progress in power levels. The team itself also has a good balance of very different power structures and concepts, so none of the members of the Black Chapter feel redundant. The team members have a leader, who is a reincarnating sphinx, a swordsman who wields a magically created sword (and is linked to 6 other similar weapons), a "literal" vampire, a dragon in a human body, a yeti monk (who I like to refer to as the ninja yeti!), an alchemically transformed, psychotic powerhouse, the literary mage, an arachnid inspired infiltrator, and the team's secret weapon, an immortal, crazed monk.


Also provided are some Black Chapter specific standees at the back of the book, and the hero lab .por files are also provided. The only "negative" thing that I personally could find between the book and the hero lab files are that the character portraits and information were not put into the hero lab files, but that's just being picky at this point.

The Black Chapter is also an organization that can be used with the Oktobermen, as the back story of the Black Chapter is linked to some of the Oktobermen, but this does not mandate that you need to use both together.

Overall, Black Chapter is very good stand alone product, but is also a very good companion to the Oktobermen.

I would give the Black Chapter an overall rating of 5 stars. The layout and presentation is superb, the artwork (especially the cover) is great, the character design is excellent (with some being based on literary characters), and the writing is very well done as well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 4 (ICONS)
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/27/2012 13:31:14
The fourth and presumably final issue of the Field Guide to Superheroes runs only about 2/3 as long as the others in page count, but serves as a worthy conclusion to the series. As with the other issues, Vol. 4 presents a series of superhero archetypes, throughly discussed and then illustrated with a hero who embodies that (and perhaps other) archetypes. Vol. 4 features ten archetypes. This volume also implements a number of significant improvements, most noticeably the new stat block format and the use of typefaces that have lower-case letters (this may account for most of the lower page count). The presentation is very attractive, although there are still some editing issues; for example, the book can’t seem to decide whether “superheroes” is one word (per the cover) or two (as in the footer). Also, at least one of the characters in FG4 shares a name with a character in Adamant’s official products, creating potential confusion. As usual, Dan Houser provides excellent artwork at the rate of two characters per archetype. One appears, unnamed, in connection with the archetype; the second appears with the specific character write-up. If you have the other issues of the Field Guide, you’ll definitely want Vol. 4. If you haven’t checked out the Field Guide yet, be aware that the earlier volumes have some different layout conventions than Vol. 4. Just before I posted this review, Vigilance updated the PDF with bookmarks, a helpful addition.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 4 (ICONS)
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Action Scenes: Museum Mayhem (ICONS)
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/02/2012 11:27:32
A lunatic curator has taken hostages in a museum, and wants to transform himself into an Egyptian-inspired demigod. Can the heroes prevent the ritual and save the day—or, if necessary, take down a new demigod once the ritual is complete? That’s the story behind “Museum Mayhem,” the first “Action Scene” product from Vigilance Press. As the singular “scene” implies, the product essentially presents one encounter, although the players’ choices and the heroes’ actions could actually stretch it out to two or three distinct encounters. The authors have taken care to anticipate a variety of possible player responses to the situations presented, and they’ve given the GM several ready-made options for adjusting the encounter on the fly.

A substantial number of new NPCs populate this adventure, from the big bad guy (in both “superheroic” and “demigod” modes) down to his lowliest minions (who include cultists, animated museum mannequins, and mummies). The module also includes stat blocks for three clusters of NPCs—government troopers, robots, and ninjas—that aren’t involved in the actual adventure but that illustrate the possibilities of the new Summon power presented in the module. The Summon power alone is worth the purchase of this product, and I’m sure that the Summon power will find its way into the ICONS campaign world that I share with my sons.

Unfortunately, the copy editor(s) let a number of errors and inconsistencies slip by. Those errors (including subject-verb disagreements, extra or duplicated punctuation marks, missing punctuation marks, missing space between paragraphs, slight capitalization and spelling mistakes, and a single, initially confusing reference to the “Minion” power rather than the “Summon” power) don’t inhibit use of the product for gameplay, but when you’re averaging one to two such errors per page, you need better proofreading. Also, I was perplexed by the positioning of the coat check at the opposite end of the museum from the front entrance. A coat check normally goes near the front entrance; you don’t want patrons traipsing through the museum in soggy raincoats to get to it (never mind the potential for theft). But these are minor annoyance rather than serious problems, and I enthusiastically recommend “Museum Mayhem” for all ICONS GMs, and even players interested in the Summon power.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Action Scenes: Museum Mayhem (ICONS)
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USHER Dossiers (ICONS)
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/02/2012 11:18:20
Weighing in at a whopping 137 pages, this sweeping book outlines an entire world history for an Earth populated by metahumans. It’s really the only product of its kind for ICONS. The first part of the book presents a timeline of metahuman activity in the world. It’s a lush, detailed history, although there are some inexplicable (even by comic book logic), such as Menagerie’s use of electronics in 14,000 BCE; this isn’t just an issue of knowledge (which can somewhat be waved away using superpowers) but of manufacturing infrastructure. Even so, the timeline is a fun read and a great background for a superhero campaign set in the players’ present or near future. I especially enjoyed the incorporation of developments on other planets and the way they are drawn into contact with Earth events. Naturally, the timeline incorporates material from Vigilance Press’s “Amazing Stories of World War II” series (but not its Cold War “Wargames” series), and even incorporates Jason Tondro, author of Vigilance Press’s “Field Guide to Superheroes” series, as a character within the storyline. The timeline ends in 2007, two years after the world’s known superheroes have driven off a briefly-successful alien invasion. That timeline, by the way, occupies over half of the entire book.

The second part of the book surveys a number of organizations composed of and/or relevant to metahumans. Naturally, USHER receives the most attention, and is pretty thoroughly explored.

Time travel and parallel dimensions have become standard tropes of superhero comics, and the USHER setting book includes a list and discussion of “known alternate timelines.” This does not, of course, preclude the existence of “unknown alternate timelines” for the GM to create!

The last 25 pages or so present character stats and stories for significant metahumans in the USHER setting. For some reason, this part of the book indulges—quite unnecessarily—in an abundance of profanity. The sudden explosion of expletives in this section really turned me off to the product. I can see no good reason why Old Glory and the Savant, two very important characters in the setting, should drop almost a dozen F-bombs between them over the course of half that many pages. With the turn of a page, the book goes from typical comic book fare to a Lewis Black routine. As the parent of two sons (ages fourteen and eight, as of this writing) who want to take turns GMing ICONS, I wish publishers would put some sort of warning label on products that go this direction, in sort of the same vein as the Marvel/MAX and DC/Vertigo distinctions, or like the voluntary “explicit” labels on music and podcasts. This isn’t enough of an issue to impact the star rating below, but a “heads up” to parents (and prudes) would be helpful.

Occasional glitches mar the production values here and there, or seem to. The note “Pic -- two b/w hero pics (photo style)” on p. 4 (of the PDF; the pages aren’t actually numbered) is confusing, and seems to be an editorial instruction to insert a picture—an instruction that wasn’t actually followed and ended up in the final edition. Such a long work presents many opportunities for grammatical errors and such; sure enough, it’s hard to go a page without encountering a misplaced comma, an appositional phrase lacking its final comma, an adjective used where an adverb is needed, a dangling modifier, inconsistent or incorrect capitalization, an anomalous line break (or missing blank line between paragraphs), an incomplete sentence, misspellings (even of proper nouns unique to the setting), and that sort of thing. Probably the most embarrassing mistake in the book appears in the organizations chapter, where USHER’s name is given in the relevant page title as the “United Headquarters for Emergency Response”—leaving out the “S” for “States.” On the other hand, Dan Houser’s artwork is excellent, as always, and other artists contribute some good material to the book as well.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
USHER Dossiers (ICONS)
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